by Nisan Amitai
Translated by Sara Mages
When Shmuel Trachtman, the renowned author and scholar retired, he settled in Akkerman and established a sophisticated and modern bathhouse. His house was almost the first house that those, who came to Akkerman by sea, encountered. Those who came in a different way - were drawn first to the impressive shop in the corner of Ismailsky and Moskowakaya streets that its owner, Y.P, was famous for his ignorance and rudeness.
Mr. Trachtman used to say that those, who came to Akkerman for the first time, might come to wrong conclusions. Those arriving by sea - will definitely say: if the manager of the bathhouse is a very educated man, the richest man in town is probably a lot more educated than him. On the other hand, those who come to the city by land will definitely say: if the richest man in the city is such an ignorant, the fellow who runs the bathhouse is probably worthless!…
A Jewish shopkeeper was convicted in Akkerman because he opened his shop ten minutes before the time allowed by the order of Tablani days, the days in which special prayers were held for the life of the royal family. The man asked for the services of the lawyer Zwilling. When the case was discussed in court in the presence of three judges, Zwilling asked permission to verify the time by comparing his watch to the judges' watches. It turned out that each watch showed a different time. Your honorable judges, Zwilling said, if your watches are so far from being accurate how could you blame a poor shopkeeper whose watch is undoubtedly not as perfect as your watches? the trial was cancelled.
After the revolution of 1905 there was a significant tendency for baptism among young Jewish men and women who sought a university education. A liberal priest, who was a novice at the Armenian-Gregorian Church in Akkerman, was a very convenient man. Candidates for conversion arrived from Odessa in the Turgeneiv ship, quickly got rid of the matter, and returned on the same day and in the same ship to Odessa as proper Christians. A matter of no importance. Jabotinsky denounced these knights and called them converts, members of the Armenian-Gregorian faith.
Grain export was the main industry in Akkerman. At the beginning, several merchants did rather well, but over time they fell victim to market fluctuations and became destitute. Each one of them. When a merchant sent a shipment to Odessa, he wrote the purchase price in his notepad in Yiddish or in Hebrew. Later, he also wrote the proceeds from the sale. If there was a loss, the registration in the notepad showed: remained in Odessa (in Hebrew).
Zusman was a God-fearing Jew and never missed a prayer. When the trading season was at its peak, he used to get up very early when it was still dark outside. By law, it too early for the Shacharit prayer, and it was impossible to pray later in the market place. Zusman solved this problem successfully. He wrapped himself in his Tallit and Tefillin before he went to sleep, and by doing so he fulfilled his duty before nightfall.
Once, there was a great commotion in the city. It was when scientists notice that a comet was moving and getting dangerously close to Earth. The collision of the comet with Earth was considered possible and people were very excited. The matter was discussed at length in the synagogue between Mincha and Maariv. Those, who explained the news, held the audience spellbound. Only one wagon owner remained skeptical. Imagine - he said to another wagon owner - that the two of us meet on a narrow road in a very dark night. Do you think that we will pass unscathed? All the more so, God is the one who leads his world in the wide open space.
K.B. bought a pair of new horses and was about to go on a journey around the city's streets to show them off. However, to his great embarrassment the horses refused to move. A crowd of spectators gathered quickly and a few of them gave him various tips. K.B., who was very angry, answered them: please present your ideas in writing and don't forget to paste a stamp.
Akkerman was abuzz the day Plehve, the Russian Interior Minister, was murdered. It was possible to hear discussions about the startling news in every corner. Women even forgot their shopping at the butcher shop and wanted to learn additional details about the event from each other. One woman said with sympathy: this is a hard way to make a living - a difficult livelihood.
After Plehve's murder the following legend was widespread in Akkerman.
The late Dr. Herzl decided to call Plehve to the Heavenly Court because of his persecution of the Jews. He sent Moshe (Moishe), the Gabbai of the Kishinev synagogue who died a martyr, to call Plehve, but Plehve refused - again and again - to come. At the end, Dr. Herzl told Moishe: go now for the last time. If you can't bring him in one piece, bring him in pieces, but this time he must come.
During the Russo-Japan War, the public followed each newspaper edition with anxiety. One young man, rich but uneducated, subscribed - according to the spirit of the times - to the Saturday edition of Odeskia Novosti which contained a photographic section with many pictures of warships. In his clumsy way the young man spread the paper upside down and immediately called his family: please look - another ship capsized.
Chaim-Yankel Kitzis and Shalom Levinton were two prominent exporters in the community. Each one of them paid his financial obligations differently. As exporters of grain they used to buy from the local merchants. When a merchant gave his goods, he came to receive his payment. Kitzis received him with friendship, conducted a long conversation with him, and eventually influenced him to come and get what's due to him the following week. A week later, the same episode was repeated. Finally, at the end of the third week, the merchant received his payment in the form of a check to Trabuti and associates, Odessa, for payment in twenty one days. Shalom Levinton wasn't so. Without exception, each merchant, who came to get his payment, received an envelope that contained an invoice and all the money that was due to him without unnecessary talk.
It seemed that Levinton belittled the merchant's dignity in favor of the latter. People used to say that Kitzis loves the Jews and Levinton didn't like them.
by Chava Barnea (Dorpman)
Translated by Sara Mages
A. The band
As we know, Tarbut Gymnasium was the crown glory of our city and this was largely thanks to Yakov Berger - the talented man who headed it. Certainly, quite a lot will be written in this book about the many achievements of this man, but I intend to devote my words to the Gymnasium's brass band which was conducted by Yosef Pelikof. Several members of the band are currently living in Israel, and we often reminisce about the many performances of the band which had a reputation in the city.
I especially remember the band's performance in the marches that were held in the Romanian national holiday. The students of the Hebrew Gymnasium marched dressed in uniform, together with the students of the Gymnasiums and state schools, along Mikhailovsky Street accompanied by the sound of our band. The principal, Mr. Berger, invested considerable efforts before each march because he knew that the Gymnasium's performance might determine the Jews' honor in the Gentiles' eyes. We, the students and also the musicians, were infused with the spirit of mission because we knew that many Jews and non-Jews will stand on both sides of the street and closely watch our performance which will be the topic of conversation by all.
However, the Gymnasium's band wasn't only tested during these official marches. I now remember the traditional trips on Lag BaOmer in which all the youth movements in the city participated, every man by his own camp and every man by his own standard, to the rhythm of the band's marching songs…
At this opportunity we should remember the man who contributed to the development of the musical activities in our city: Moshe Cohen, who organized the municipal choir HaZamir that appeared in various dances with great success. He himself had a fine and pleasant voice. However, the choir only existed for a short time. He taught us solfège and endowed us with the first sounds of the Hebrew songs that were popular in those days. The choir, which was under his direction, participated in the various parties that were held in Gymnasium to the enjoyment of the many guests..
Second row: Pelikof Moshe, Rosental Yakov, Britawa Siyoma, the principal Y. Berger, the band's conductor Yosef Pelikof, Yasha Wienstein, Wisniewski Yasha
Third row: Yoske Zeplin, Frumer Musya, Kaplinsky, Zukerman Sheptel, Goldman Zemba, Frank, Lushek Filya, Abramowitch Musya
Fourth row: Gewet Siyoma, Girshfeld Binyamin, Lev Yasha, Toyrman Yitzchak, Rabinowitch, Kogan Izaya
B. Purim eves in my family
My extensive family in Akkerman excelled in a way of life that was based on Jewish tradition and customs which charmed of the youngsters in the family. It was especially expressed on Jewish holidays. It was customary that each branch of the family had a possession on a certain holiday, meaning: it hosted the whole family in its holiday. The holiday of Purim belonged to aunt Beila from the Shteydakot family, and I remember that I, and my entire family, waited impatiently for the traditional visit to the home of aunt Beila. The traditional pleasant atmosphere in this house probably caused it.
The preparations for the holiday began two weeks earlier, and the swallow that heralded the arrival of the holiday was aunt Beila who used to come to our home to ask my mother zl all kinds of questions about this and that, until she reached the point. And what was the point? - to remind us that the holiday of Purim belonged to her and, God forbid, all of us, young and old, shouldn't forget to come to dinner.
My mother, who knew from the outset the reason for this visit because it was repeated year after year, responded with a cheery face: My dear Beila, how can I forget? After all, it's well known that Purim is your holiday. We'll come, all of us will come!
And indeed, Purim feast at my aunt's house was a real experience. The parlor was properly polished, the big chandelier above the table shed a lot light, the traditional delicacies for Purim were delicious, and the big table was tastefully set. My pretty aunt and her tall and beautiful daughter Chana knew how to add to the festive atmosphere the way they welcomed their guests. The good atmosphere aroused everyone to participate in a sing-along until the arrival of the promised dessert, which has become a tradition in every Purim feast. The cantor, meaning Yisrael, sang along with everyone and didn't make an impression that he was the star that everyone waited for his performance… However, when his turn came, he proved that he was indeed the star. He was an expert in reading the works of Shalom Aleichem, and every year he also added something from his works to the delight of all the participants in the meal.
And so, we sat in an atmosphere of holiday and happiness to the wee hours of the night and enjoyed the splendor and taste of Purim in my aunt's house.
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