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The Book of Marmaros

After many years' work, we present the Book of Marmaros to the She'erit Hapleita of Marmaros Jews all over the world.

The book reflects in brief the history of Marmaros Jewry from when the first Jews came to Marmaros until the Great Destruction.

We have tried to make a point that even the smallest community should have its place in the book and serve as an honourable monument to the 70,000 Martyrs and 160 Kehillos Hakedoshos that were destroyed during 1940-1944 by the Nazi beasts and their collaborators.

The book is written in our Eternal language, Hebrew, but we want to present at least two chapters of the Foreword to the English reader.

One chapter is a description of the way of life and folklore of Marmaros Jews. The other chapter is on the Holocaust, describing the particular fate of the Marmoros Jews whose deportation and extermination started already in 1941 by the Hungarians.

We want to stress the barbarism of the Hungarian gendarmerie with the help of the local population, who in a bestial and cruel manner drove the Jews to Kamenetz-Podolsk and exterminated them there.

This chapter must be well engraved in the memory of our future generations.

Zochoir es Asher oso Lecho Amolek!

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Vocations, Education, Customs, Folklore
and way of life of the Jews of Marmaros

The Marmaros settlements, especially the rural ones, were built as follows: On both sides of the main street dividing the village, generally stretched wooden houses. The Jews lived near the main street and a few on the smaller side streets. There were few stone houses. The richer residents would build a stone house, here and there. These houses were referred to as, “wall”. Along the length of the street were merchants, artisans, tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, taverns and the like – all, or most of which were owned by Jews. The non-Jews lived on the side streets, or, more often, in the mountains and fields near their agricultural land.

Only owners of large estates could make a living from agriculture. The cultivation of the land was given over to tenant farmers. There were Jews who cultivated their own land, especially the plot near the house. Every Jew usually had a cow, chickens and a vegetable patch. The sources of livelihood were: small scale business, craftsmen, coachmen and labourers. What they were lacking towards a full livelihood, they made up for with belief, faith, making do, pressed circumstances and cutting down. Many wandered far off to labour as wood cutters.

The small number of wealthy people who were in each place, owned large estates, pasture land (Palanines), wood merchants, lumber factories, animal traders, forest contractors, flourmill owners, fruit merchants, etc.

The dress was Chasidic. On Shabbat, almost everyone wore a shtreimel (fur-tail hat) and kapota (long black coat). The women wore long clothing; skirts down to the ankles, heads clean-shaven under their head kerchiefs, they wore a kind of white scarf so that the kerchief should not slip off. There were few women who wore wigs, simply through lack of means.

Only after World War I was there a change in dress, somewhat more modern but without any breach in modesty. The language at home was only a piquant Yiddish, but of course, every Jew had a knowledge of the language of the local population: Rumanian, Ruthenian or Hungarian, according to local requirements. The language of culture, during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was Hungarian. There is no need to point out that there were not, G-d forbid, Shabbat violators in any town and the women all adhered strictly to the laws of family purity. The first building in any community was the mikva (Ritual bath).

In the community's early days, there were few Torah scholars. Few were proficient in learning, but all observed the commandments, with beard and payos (side curls) all followed the Chasidic way of life, all rose

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early and went to public prayer in the synagogue; evenings as well. The simple Jews, among them the craftsmen, woke early to study “Chok” (compilation of Biblical and Talmudic sources) to recite Psalms. On Shabbat afternoon, Psalms were recited publicly. They studied Midrash and went to the Mikva. The “immersion of Ezra” was very prevalent among Marmaros Jews. Even simple Jews observed it. The artisans in Marmaros stood out in their piety and “fear of heaven”. Within the book are many examples of this. Religious life flowed naturally as something self-understood. Torah observance and performance of mitzvas was natural, original, without conspicuousness or publicity. On the contrary, they could not stand anyone who tried to be noticed or anyone who attempted to don a cloak, not befitting his proper position. Marmaros Jews had a critical sense and preferred simplicity and modesty. They could not suffer the pride of the rich nor did they like those who tried to dominate their fellow Jew. Yet, they respected Torah scholars. When a scholar or “grandchild” of a Chasidic Rabbi arrived to collect money, even the poor, who lacked financial means, tried to participate with a cash gift.

Only in the cities and in the larger communities was the education organized and institutionalized by the community-at-large. Only in a few places were there Talmud Torahs (Torah schools) run by the community. Children were educated in the cheder (one-room schoolhouses). There were beginning teachers who taught ABC (aleph bet), “Ivre” (reading), until starting Chumash (Bible). Then there were Chumash and Rashi teachers, Talmud and Tosafists, Code of Jewish Law-Kosher codes, or Ritual codes. In the higher classes in Marmaros, they mainly studied the Kosher codes. In the cheder they also learned Hebrew writing and math. The cheder was a private enterprise. The teachers barely survived on the tuition. The parents, even the poorest, made every effort to pay. It was a tragedy if a child “missed” even one day, and although the teachers never used the weapon of the “strike”, and it was rare for a child to have been sent home for non-payment of fees, yet the parents felt it a moral obligation to withhold bread from their mouths in order to pay for their children's studies.

People of means would bring expert teachers from distant places and there were pedagogues whose name went before them and those who could afford it gave a good deal of money to bring an expert teacher. Classes began at 5 a.m. and continued until 21hr, with recesses for breakfast and lunch. Even when the cold reached 20-30°C below zero, the children trudged, lamps in hand, to the cheder. When the pashas “Mishpotim” was read (around mid-February), they stopped studying in the evenings.

Some of the children also attended government schools, but they generally avoided sending their children to these schools. In many cases, they preferred to pay the fines placed on them by the authorities, rather than send the child to school where he would waste half a day with general studies and would have to sit with bared head.

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The hope of every parent was that the child would study Torah and become a scholar. This was the “lullaby” of every mother: “the child will study Torah for that is the best property”. But not everyone could realize their dream. Some of the children could not go on to Yeshivot and learn a trade, tailoring, shoemaking, carpentry and the like, also many of the poor needed the participation of their children in earning a livelihood in various trades.

But it can be said that most parents sent their sons to Yeshivos, near or far. Most of the Marmaros young men studied in the large local Yeshivos: Sziget, Chust, Vishveh and other smaller Yeshivos. The poor boys had to find, not only a place of study, but also a “way to live”, in order to support themselves. There were cases where an organized group of boys travelled to a new place and founded a Yeshiva. Throughout Hungary, in those days, there were Rabbis in small towns eager to teach Torah to others. They would invite a group of Marmaros boys and they would establish the Yeshiva. In smaller communities, one could eat “days” or receive “weekly stipends” or “monthly stipends” from lay leaders and for the weekend, take a tour of the area or join the Shabbat quorum in places where there were not 10 for a minyan.

In the large Oberland Yeshivot in Hungary, like Pressburg and others, they were not happy to accept boys from Marmaros with the claim that they “assimilate” too quickly, among the Hungarian boys. The Marmaros boys wore Chasidic garb, black hat, long side curls, while the Hungarian boys generally wore European clothes, short side burns. It was not the desire of the Rabbis heading the Yeshivot that the Marmaros boys should “assimilate”. There were, in fact, cases where, after certain Marmaros boys removed their Chasidic clothing, they were “lost” and left the proper path. Not all of them had strong enough convictions from the home and when they went out into the world, they could not hold their own and left the path of Torah.

In many Yeshivot, they instituted the “food-donor ledgers” in which were inscribed the names of the donors to the Yeshiva, throughout the country. Twice a year, a “semester-end”, before the High Holidays and before Passover, the boys went from community-to-community with the food-donor ledger to collect donations. Generally, these were Marmaros boys who accepted the responsibility of the ledger and, of course, received a small percentage. In Rumania, for example, the “food-donor ledgers” became a good business because it was necessary to acquire a permit from the government office of religious affairs to make collections with the ledgers and whoever received such a permit, often by giving bribes, could collect donations freely throughout the country.

In the Hungarian and later in the Rumanian Yeshivot, it was an accepted fact that the Marmaros boys were clever, sharp-witted, according to the rule, “beware of the sons of the poor for from them will Torah emanate”. And, in fact, the Marmaros young men were respected in the Yeshivot and tutored the other boys. They were known as “repetition boys”, namely

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one who repeats the lessons for the weaker boys. Many were able to send some of their earnings home to help their parents' financial straits.

Very few parents sent their sons to high schools or to institutions of higher learning. Here and there was a Jewish student to be found. It was not acceptable in the Marmaros communities that a boy should go off “to study”. It was a breach in the honour of the parents. Better that he become a craftsman, a tailor or shoemaker, as long as he would not afterwards, G-d forbid, become a “goy”, one who divests himself of the Torah and the commandments.

Yet, among the Yeshiva-students, there were many “auto-didacts”, who taught themselves the spoken language, could read newspapers, etc. In most places, these were the people who ran the local council or the village's business affairs. There may have been a non-Jewish council head or as they called him, “the judge”, or Bino in Hungarian, but he was no more than a “figure-head”. The affairs were handled by the Jew with a Yarmulke (skull cap) on his head and his tzizis (fringes) outside who, in any language, would proceed with the business at hand. Not one of them ever studied in a high school. All of them were self-taught and were masters of Hungarian, German, Rumanian, Czech, Ruthenian, according to the needs of the situation.


Sabbaths and Holidays

Oh, how difficult it was for so many Marmaros Jews to “bring” the Sabbath into their homes; that is, to obtain the Sabbath needs. In many homes, the approach of Thursday put terror into peoples' hearts, because on Thursday, one had to buy the flour to bake the Challahs and prepare the “yeast” dough in the evening (Rushtina). In many homes, it was a “mission impossible” to have enough for Shabbat. During the week-days, they made do, in many homes with corn bread.

There was a famous joke that if you ask a child from Marmaros what blessing is made on bread, he would reply: “on week-days, shehakol (made from corn) and on Shabbat “who brings forth” (real bread). “True, one Jew helped the other. There were always pious women who collected Challahs to distribute to the poor, but things were hardest for the “middle class” which didn't accept charity.

But when Shabbat came, the house was filled with light. The mother wore her apron and head kerchief, set aside for kindling the Shabbat candles; the children's shirts were neat and clean, often having been patched time and again, but nevertheless, white and pressed. All the many worries of the week-days were left behind. They chanted or sang “Welcome Sabbath angels” and “whoever sanctifies the Shabbat” with the traditional melody. Afterwards they went to a Shabbat celebration “Bata” where they sand, danced, heard wondrous stories concerning great Rebbes, and were overjoyed

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with their lot. Shabbat returned their equanimity to them. From the holy Sabbath, they drew spiritual strength, belief, faith – for all the days of the week in accordance with: “all the six, are from this one day blessed”.

On the High Holidays, few could afford to make the trip to the Rebbe in whom they believed. There ware many stories of how Jews travelled or rode on horse back over the mountains and vales to reach Kasov or Vizhnitz: each to his own Rebbe. This is not the proper place to expand on this. Suffice it for us to appreciate that the trip to the Rebbe involved great difficulties, sometimes danger to life and limb, but one can say that after this exhausting trip when he would reach the Rebbe's court, he felt great spiritual elevation and heavenly joy. The difficulties of the way only added to the satisfaction and spiritual pleasure when he was finally greeted in person by his Reeb - - infinitely greater than it might have been after a short airline flight.

There are many stories of groups of Chasidim who travelled or rode together on horse back to their Rebbe across the mountains and on the way, had discussions of moral concern, told Chasidic stories and thereby transformed the trip itself into anticipatory-preparatory pilgrimage towards receiving the presence of the saintly Rebbe and great spiritual awakening for the High Holy Days.

Of the other holidays, outstanding were the last day of Passover and Simchat Torah (the last day in the Sukkot cycle of holidays). Then there was true joy in the Marmaros communities, something hard to find in the world of luxurious living. Completely impoverished Jews with a shtreimel having only two hairs left, as was said in jest, and an ancient and faded Kapota, would dance in the village streets, sealed off the road and stopped the traffic on the streets, or at night, upon returning from a holiday celebration, they would dance all the way home and wake all the neighbours. Non-Jews did not dare interfere! Even the “Porits” who lived nearby did not deter the Jews who were happy on their festival; a happiness emanating from faith and belief, from the very fact that I am a Jew and that we are different from the “goyim”. True, we are in exile, that we have to bend to every “Porits” when we need him so that we are not harmed, but Shabbat and holidays are different. We laugh at them all, for who is like unto, your people, Israel, one nation on earth? Sometimes, after imbibing some wine or whiskey, the people would become tipsy and when the “Torah-rounds” were handed out on Simchat Torah, there might actually be some brawling when they would “honour” a respected community leader with the 6th round of: “He who helps the poverty-stricken”, but this was unavoidable. It is interesting to note that for this very reason, in many communities, they gave this 6th round to respected young men who spent their time studying Torah and it became a great honour to be selected for this round of: “He who helps the poor”. Here we must also note that on the last day of the holiday, the people would gather in the Rabbi's house or in the home of the head of the “Holy group” (Chevra Kadisha, for the care and burial of the dead), since on that day, the deceased were

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memorialized by Yizkor and there was a by-law in many places that in the home of the Chevra Kadisha, there had to be “jam and fruit preserves” in order to send those who were ill.

In contrast, the end of the holiday brought anxiety into the hearts of many, concerning the problems of the morrow. What does one do tomorrow? Where does one start? For all the difficulties and unpleasantness were put off until “after the holidays”. They, therefore, refused to part from the holiday. They delayed the evening prayer until late at night as they sang and danced in their rich Yiddish: “Good friend, dear friend, when will again be Passover?” “If G-d will grant health and life, there will again be Passover”.

There were talented individuals who knew how to cheer up the people and as the holiday was ending on Simchat Torah, they would stand up on the platform and remind everyone that in anticipation of the forthcoming winter season, everyone was duty-bound to prepare dry kindling wood, new shoes and galoshes, potatoes in the cellar, white flour for the Shabbat Challahs, etc., and he would end: “But the poor are excused from all of this”.

It was not, in fact, easy to return to the weekday cares when one did not have an established, regular source of livelihood. The Yeshiva boys began to pack their few belongings into their wooden suitcases, the mother baked cookies, “for the way”, the father fumbled in his pockets for some pennies, his last, for travel expenses, anything so that the boy would go off to a Yeshiva to study Torah. Understandably, there was also a better to-do class who went to the Yeshiva well dressed and well equipped, with a sum of money in hand. But they made up a small part of the community.


Emigration and Wandering Far-off and across the Sea

Despite the crowding and poverty in the various Marmaros communities, before World War I, there were very few people who took the wandering staff in hand and emigrated to another country or across the ocean, with their families. Even those who travelled abroad to seek a livelihood, left their families behind.

In other parts of Eastern Europe where Jews lived under crowded conditions, many Jews emigrated. From Russia, Lithuania, Galicia many Jews went to Western Europe, to countries such as England, Germany, Belgium, France, etc., as well as to South Africa. Not so the Jews of Marmaros. For example, in the Jewish areas of London, in the Eastend or White chapel, there was a concentration of thousands of families from Eastern Europe. Jews from eastern and western Galicia flooded almost all the large cities of Germany and founded Chassidic Shtieblach (mini synagogues) there. South Africa had a massive immigration from Lithuania. In all these countries, there were no Jews originating from Marmaros. Only a few individuals emigrated to America.

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Within the Greater Hungarian Jewry of pre-World War I, there was not an atmosphere of emigration at all. The Jews were well enough established financially and Marmaros Jews, who were part of this Jewry, despite their crowded conditions and their poverty, did not have the “courage” to emigrate. All of them were Torah-observant, with a Chasidic appearance, with beards and side curls, and they harboured deep apprehensions as to their ability to retain their Torah-mode of living; that they never, G-d forbid, come to Sabbath violation or succumb to forbidden foods and the like, and they certainly did not dare to take their families with them for fear that they might not find the proper educational possibilities for their children; and perhaps, they also lacked the emotional and intellectual strength necessary for coming into contact with a new world, foreign to them. The simple, modest woman with the kerchief on her head, was by no means able to adjust to a new society and would be miserable in a world completely foreign to her and so they chose a life of distress as against


Post World War I

With the fall of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Marmaros was torn into two parts. The area south of the Tisa River was annexed to Greater Rumania which arose after the war, and the area north of the Tisa River became part of Czechoslovakia, a new country that came into being.

This is not the place to analyse the difference between the two countries and the differences between both regimes: let it suffice to make several short points concerning the life of the Jews:

Rumania was an agricultural country with rich and productive soil but industrially backward, while Czechoslovakia was industrialized; culturally advanced but poor agriculturally and in natural resources. Some of the quicker to seize business opportunities took advantage of this difference and began import-export businesses and became quite wealthy, and other, living near the borders of both countries, did not hesitate to do some smuggling as well.

Rumania had a long anti-Semitic tradition and the Jews felt the pressure immediately. The anti-Semitism in Rumania, even during normal times, was cruel and sometimes brutal. In the universities, in the institutes of higher-learning, the students were free to vent their violence against the Jews. At the head of the anti-Semitic movement stood the infamous Prof. Cuza. The students attacked Jews openly, in public thoroughfares, in trains. Often these attacks were perpetuated before the very eyes of the authorities appointed to keep law and order and they did not intervene. The students also destroyed synagogue, in 1927 they wrecked stores, trampled on Jewish property. The students put terror into the hearts of Rumania's Jews, not to speak of the period when Hitler came into power in Germany. At that

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time, known anti-Semites, Coga-Cuza, came into power in Rumania – the men of the “iron-guard”. Yet, the Jews somehow got along with the Rumanians because of the “bribery” that was prevalent there.

In contrast, the new Czechoslovakia of President Massaryk was a democracy, with a strong and stable government. But even there, there was no lack of anti-Semitic manifestations and discrimination against Jews. In Czechoslovakia, there was no brutal anti-Semitism but “salon” anti-Semitism, hidden in democratic garb, present here as well; For example, taxes in Czechoslovakia were very high, especially for merchants. Since Jews are generally merchants, they suffered terribly from the tax load placed upon them. The “financial agents”, who were responsible for tax collection, tormented the Jews to no end. There were cases where they stopped Jews in the middle of the street, took them into a hallway of a nearby building and demanded that they empty their pockets to their last penny. There were also cases where they detained a Jew at the tax bureau and ordered his family to bring a large sum of money there and then, otherwise they would not free him. They refused to allow a passport to be issued for medical treatment abroad if all the taxes had not been paid – all of this without recourse to the law or a fair trial. (See “Saul the Choice of G-d” by Reb Yisroel Erlich, page 177 where he tells that Rabbi Saul Bruch, the Rabbi of Kashoi once came out openly against the Czech government for their refusal to issue a passport and for their condescending, insulting attitude towards the Jews and the Rabbi became entangled in a controversy with the authorities).

In any case, after World War I there was a great change in most parts of Marmaros, in terms of emigration. From the Rumanian portion, there started a massive emigration, first of all within the country itself. Communities in the area which was formerly also part of Rumania, were thirsty for communal functionaries, Rabbis, ritual-slaughterers, teachers, sextons, cantors, etc. There also started a serious emigration abroad to America, Latin America and, in the thirties, Aliya to Israel. There was the “Sidkow” Aliya, based on the efforts of an emissary from Israel, who came to bring back agriculturists to Israel. Many families did go. They also went to settlements of Baron Hirsch in Argentina – tens of families went. On the Czech side, there also was an internal emigration. Many moved to the cities in Bohemia and Moravia, like Prague, Brono, etc.

Within the youth, the various Chalutz (pioneer) and Zionist movements began training young people for Aliya. Preparatory farms were set up to train the young people in agricultural work or handicrafts. In the Czech sector, there was a great awakening for Aliya and many people made Aliya to Israel. Details can be found within the book.

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On the Rumanian side as well, preparatory forms were established by various organizations. Within the book, statistics can be found concerning the extent of Aliya from each community. Generally speaking, it can be said that Marmaros Jewry made a great contribution to the up-building of the land in all areas, even before the establishment of the State. On this, in a separate chapter.


Communities, Groups, Ways of Life, Folklore and Customs

Within the book, we try to give a picture of each community, its Rabbis, lay-heads and everything connected to communal life. We would like to give a general, concentrated review here about the organization and structure of the communities and groups. The Marmaros communities fell under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Bureau. That is, they belonged to the organization of orthodox communities whose structure was determined by the regulations set by the great Rabbis in the year 1868, after their separation from the progressive congregations: Status quo, Neolog and Reform. In every settlement there was an organized community, one, of course, since all members of the community were Orthodox.

The community leadership were generally elected by secret ballot. Communal taxes did not exist and so every married resident had the right to vote. They elected a head assistant and 7 trustees, or more. From time-to-time, there was, understandably, a contest among several Chasidic groups or between heads of different families, for the position of community head and, as often is the case, there were strong differences of opinion for which the intervention of the Orthodox Bureau was required in order to quell the controversy.

The income of the various communities was based on two sources: “Gabeleh”, that is the ritual slaughter-fee paid by the butchers who owned butcher stores; tax on the sale of kosher meant and, in smaller places, there was also an income from the sale of “yeast” for bread baking and challahs, in which case, the community placed a special tax on the sale of yeast. Since most of the store keepers were Jewish, it turned out that even non-Jews paid this tax on yeast. The funny part about it was that they often realized this and it was strange to hear from the non-Jewish women who came to buy the yeast: “Why do we have to pay such a high price for years in order to help support your Rabbi?” But, after the fact, they accepted it. (Under the entry Sitchl are details concerning the method of paying the “Gabeleh” for the slaughter of animals and chickens).

In every town there was a burial society, grave diggers group (Melatzs), Talmud study society, Mishna study, good-deed's workers society, visiting the sick. The consciousness of mutual help for one person to aid the next, was very developed and everywhere there were men and women who both openly and secretly helped the needy and the infirm.

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Joyous occasions and Weddings

As was mentioned above, on the last festival days, on celebrations during the Sukkot weekdays, or on Purim, it was usual to get together and rejoice either at the Rabbi's house, where there was a Rabbi, or a Dayan, or at the home of the head of the burial society, or any other respected citizen. Very few made a Bar-Mitzva party when their sons became 13. It was usually enough merely to bring honey cake and liquor to the synagogue on the Bar-Mitzva day – certainly no gifts were given.

On the other hand, everyone, even the poorest, made a wedding feast, each according to his means, when their children married.

As was already pointed out, most families had many children and it was not easy to marry off one child after the other, especially those who were blessed with daughters, and this was a source of deep concern for the parents.

Let us perpetuate the atmosphere of the Jewish wedding as we knew it and as we remember it in the communities of Marmaros:

First of all, the preparations for the wedding, although only the few, the wealthy, would present the groom with a gold watch or give engagement gifts to the prospective bride, but bedding, pillows and blankets, sheets and towels, etc (shtofir) had to be given by all parents. This was mostly the obligation of the bride's parents.

In order to prepare pillows and quilts stuffed with goose feathers, the neighbouring women and girls would be invited, during the long winter nights, to a “feather-plucking” party. This was called “Klakeh”. (The origin of this word is for linguists to investigate). They would serve French friends, sing and entertain each other with stories until they prepared the necessary amount of feathers.

Not everyone printed wedding invitations. On the day of the wedding, two girls, dressed in their best clothing, would go from house-to-house and say: “The bride invites you to the wedding”. To weddings of the rich, one came by invitation only, or it might depend on one's personal relationship with the families. When a bride was the daughter of poor parents, and certainly if she was G-d forbid, an orphan, all the girls of the town would go to help the bride rejoice. Before the ceremony, the girls and women would dance with the bride. The Badchan as well would come to the place where the bride sat and in rhyme, would sing words of moral teaching to the bride. He requested that the bride rise from her chair and ask her mother for forgiveness. If the bride was an orphan, he said sorrowful things until she would burst into tears. Among other things, the Badchan would describe in rhyme how the angel “Duma” goes to the parents' grave and arouses them. The deceased is frightened lest he would have to be judged again by the heavenly court. But the angel reassures him that today his child is being led to the bridal canopy. One can imagine the sobbing and wailing of all those who came to rejoice with the bride.

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Then the Badchan turned to the house where the groom sat for the reception made for him. The groom was also given words of moral teaching on the occasion of his wedding. The Badchan would also praise the bride and groom. The Badchan, who was knowledgeable, would cite from the Midrash and would use abbreviations such as talis (prayer shawl) “before the ceremony let him go repent” (a Hebrew play on the Hebrew letters). The entire chapter of the sacrifice of Isaac would also be said in verse. Many citations of the Midrash were set to verse by the famous Sziget Badchan, Hersh Leib Gottlieb. (see entry).

The honour of performing the ceremony was given to the Rabbi, the Dayan or any scholar familiar with the laws of marriage and divorce. The seven blessings were not divided, again, the Rabbi or ritual slaughterer recited all the blessings.

After the ceremony, there was a feast at which gifts (for the groom's speech) were announced. Every guest, according to his status, would present a gift to the young couple – items of value or actual cash. After the meal and grace, the Mitzva dance with the bride. Only the leaders danced. The Badchan invited each one to dance with verses in his honour. Then, he invited the bride and groom to dance. Here, the Badchan dwelt at great length on the praises of bride and groom and explained their responsibility in building a Jewish home. He explained that a lot would depend on their good fortune: “Father and mother give bedding, but the drop of luck in in G-d's hands”. The mood was very lively – they would dance until sunrise. When parents were marrying off their youngest, they would be given a broom or rake to dance with.

On the Shabbat preceding the wedding, they would lead the groom to the synagogue to the “calling-up” when the groom was called to the Torah, it was customary to throw sweets and nuts at him.

If the groom was from another community, when the wedding day came, the local boys would ride towards him in a carriage and the boys accompanying him would not free him until they received cake and brandy. He could then go over to the carriage of those receiving him.

On the Shabbat after the wedding, the women led the bride to the synagogue and on the first Shabbat, the bride did not pray at all. They would tell her that ”she had to count the number of windows in the synagogue”. Apparently, the origin of this nice custom was so as not to embarrass those who were not able to pray. Indeed, there were such. In solidarity, even those who could, would not pray.

Generally, there were customs, laws and tradition, interwoven into daily life which the women of Marmaros knew how to keep zealously, although they never had a formal schooling. Age-old traditions were preserved by them in all areas: Kosher laws, Shabbat, Holidays, family purity. If a doubt ever arose, they would immediately run to the Rabbi of the community.

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It is possible to expand upon certain specific, unique characteristics, indigenous only to the Jews of Marmaros, for example: the atmosphere and the spirit in the town on the High Holidays, the days of penitential prayers, the ten days of repentance, etc. But suffice it to have described several general features in order to be able to have some concept of Jewish life in a world which is no longer and will never again be!


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