In Yiddish and Hebrew words herein, ch always represents the guttural sound of clearing the throat, as in cheder, Chanukah, and in proper names, Chayyim and Chayye (both in two syllables). The sound of tsh the combination of the letters (ess-shin) is always so spelled here, as in tsholent. The last letter of the Hebrew/Yiddish alphabet is here transliterated as s, whenever it was so pronounced in Sokolievka: so s in Bess Medrash, (the colloquial pronunciation of Beis Midrash, not as the as in Beth, and not as t as in current Israeli usage. The letter tsade is transliterated tz. Sokolievka is pronounced as if spelled Sokoleefka, accent on the leef. That is the Ukrainian form. The Russian form, sometimes seen, was Sokolovka. Justingrad: the J is pronounced like a Y, u as in pull or full, accent on the first syllable.
This term refers to a specific type of settled Jewish community in an East European region, usually surrounded by a rural area and smaller villages populated by a majority of another nationality. During the period of this history, there were large urban Jewish communities in cities like Odessa, Warsaw, Vilna, Vienna Berlin and elsewhere which were quite cosmopolitan in culture; but somewhat as rural America long colored the civilization of big-city industrial United States, so the shtetl dominated the image of East European Jewish life for centuries, until its annihilation in the Hitlerian Holocaust 1933-1945. In Sokolievka the word was pronounced shtaytl, plural shtaytlach.
- The Wegodner Manuscript is in the possession of Dr. Morris Wagner, (grandson of Levi Wegodner) of South Bend, Indiana. Our photocopy was most kindly sent us by a grandaughter, Chassia Lutsky (Mrs. Irving Lutsky) of Jerusalem, after we learned of its existence from Mr. Harry Criden, of Kfar Blum, Israel. Levi Wegodner (pronounced Vigódner) was the writer's name as he came from Sokolievka; but in Buffalo it was Americanized into Louis Wagner, as appears on his tombstone in Cheektowaga, with dates 1863-1936, where his wife's name is given as Hudel, 1863 1936.
Except for the first sentence, which is in literary Hebrew, the text is in colloquial Yiddish, with a sprinkling of Russian words for government titles and proverbial
|Diana and Leo Miller (1967)
expressions (adapted to Yiddish pronunciations), and a few Americanisms. It consists of twenty-three pages, in good fair handwriting, albeit with individual peculiarities in letter formations. Its spelling reflects the Yiddish pronunciation prevailing in that part of the Ukraine, especially in the switching of the h, dropping it where it otherwise should be, adding it where it shouldn't: ingert for hungert, Odel for Hodel, heltern for eltern.
Dates: As often in such memoirs, dates are imprecise. Also, conversion from the Hebrew (lunar) year, beginning in September or October of the civil year, presents a problem when the month is not known; so the equivalent civil year given here could be off by a year. From its foundation till after 1919, Sokolievka was under the Julian calendar, and thirteen days behind the Gregorian.
We have translated the text very literally, omitting a few repetitions, and in a few instances correcting the sequence of sentences according to the sense. Matter in brackets, italicized, are our additions to Wegodner's text. Return
- The 'chazzan' Tzalel was also known as Rav Bezalel Odesser, mentioned by Sholem Aleichem in his story Arba Kosos, 1900. His portrait is reproduced in Aaron Rosen, The History of Hazzanuth (Yiddish and English), published by the Jewish Ministers Cantors Association of America, 1924, p. 47, 55, with an anecdote, page 71. Return
- Rabbi Gedalyahu Aharon Rabinowitz figures later in this history. Rabbi Yehoshua Heshil Rabinowitz, a descendant from at least nine generations of rabbis, and ancestor to several, was also rabbi in Uman, and emigrated to the United States. He published scholarly works in Hebrew: (Hebrew)1926, includes biographies of his ancestors from which we have gleaned valuable details; (Hebrew) (1933); (Hebrew) edited by Rabbi Shmaryahu Leib Hurwitz, 1930, with his autobiography; and a Passover Haggadah. A lively account of his career, Der Monastrishtsher Rebbe, by Avigdor Panitsh, appeared in the Yiddish newspaper, Allgemeiner Journal, June 5, 1981.
Simchas Torah is one of the most festive days in the Jewish calendar. The occasion makes the story all the more poignant.
'Yeeden' (literally Jews) in direct address in Yiddish means simply Gentlemen. It often means simply men, with overtones supplied by the context.
Some fine distinctions: 'Rav' is a title used before the name of an ordained rabbi. The Rov means the rabbi whose name is understood in the context. A 'rebbe' is a teacher, not necessarily a rabbi, but when rebbe' follows the name of a town it usually designates a rabbi of a particular tradition, e.g. 'the Tolner Rebbe'; the first e pronounced as in met, the second e and in mother. Any righteous man is a 'Tzaddik' but customarily it refers to a rabbi of charismatic personality, not mentioned by name, but designated by the town where his sect began, or where he himself became noted. 'Reb' is a courtest title applied to any man, like Mr. 'Rebbitzin' is a wife to a Rabbi or to a Rebbe. Return
- 'Cheder' in the shtetl was the (religious) school, where boys were taught or tutored by a 'melamed', (plural, melamdim'), commonly in the 'melamed's' home, concentrating on elementary Hebrew, on the prayer book ('siddur') and the
'Chumash', the Five Books of Moses. A 'bahelfer', or 'beihelfer', was usually an older teenaged youth, serving as teacher's classroom aide, and as escort for younger children to and from the 'cheder'. The 'Bess Medrash' (local pronunciation), literally House of Exegetics, was a community building serving both as a house of worship and as a center for adult study circles including Mishnah, Talmud, and other advanced studies. Return
- 'Bakaleyena', groceries, and 'galanterie', fancy goods, must be understood in the context of the 1860's referring to spices and notions not locally produced, at a time when most foodstuffs and household goods were local products and not sold through middlemen. Apparently Levi Wegodner's uncritical respect for his father's acumen, a respect typical of that age, was not affected by his recollections of what actually happened. Return
- The 'chappers' and Nicolai's cantonists (draftees): Many years later, as late as the 1920's, which I was a child in Talmud Torah (Hebrew School) in Brooklyn, my teachers shuddered physically when they recounted incidents heard from their grandfathers who had lived though the era. (L.M.)
At a time when Russian and Ukrainian peasants used every shift to evade conscription into the Tsarist army, which was regarded as lifelong deportation from one's home, every Jewish community was made communally responsible to supply the required number of recruits. With no official birth date registers, the requirement that boys of twelve be supplied was met by seizing children as young as eight, torn from their mother's arms, or kidnapped from the village streets.
As a refinement, in 1850 Tsar Nicolai decreed that if any Jewish community failed to come up with the required number on time, three men aged twenty or over would be pressed into service, and one additional recruit for every 2,000 rubles of taxes which might be considered in arrears. A year later it was ordered that for any recruit who failed to appear, a relative would be seized in his place, even though head of a family. The fugitive, if apprehended, would be drafted on top of the required quota. The official representatives of the community were subject to be taken themselves if they failed to carry out the conscription: to be either murderers themselves, or to be martyrs drafted as penal recruits of whom there were many.
In a country where they were given no human rights at all, were treated as outcasts, untold thousands of Jewish youth filled the mass graves of Tsars' interventions in Central Europe and the Crimean War.
Alexander Herzen, the Russian writer, left this eyewitness account from 1835, his questions to a Tsarist army officer and the answers:
Who are you taking and where?
Oh, don't ask, for it is heart-rending. Well, I suppose my superiors know all about it; it is our duty to carry out orders and we are not responsible, but looking at it as a man, it is an ugly business.
Why, what is it?
You see, they have collected a crowd of cursed little Jew Boys of eight or nine years old. Whether they are taking them for the navy or what, I can't say. At first
the orders were to drive them to Perm, then there was a change and we are driving them to Kazan. I have taken them over a hundred versts. The officer who handed them over said it was dreadful, and that's all about it; a third were left on the way (and the officer pointed to the earth). Not half will reach their destination, he added.
Have there been epidemics or what? I asked, deeply moved.
No, not epidemics, but they just die off like flies. A Jew boy, you know, is such a frail, weakly creature, like a skinned cat; he is not used to tramping in the mud for ten hours a day and eating dried bread then again, being among strangers, no father nor mother nor petting; well, they cough and cough until they cough themselves into their graves. And I ask you, what use is it to them? What can they do with little boys?
I made no answer.
When do you set off? I asked.
Well, we ought to have gone long ago, but it has been raining so heavily
.Hey, you there! Tell the small fry to form up.
They brought the children and formed them into regular ranks; it was one of the most awful sights I have ever seen, those poor, poor children! Boys of twelve or thirteen might somehow have survived it, but little fellows of eight and ten
No painting could reproduce the horror of the scene.
Pale, exhausted, with frightened faces, they stood in thick, clumsy, soldiers' overcoats, with stand-up collars, fixing helpless, pitiful eyes on the garrison soldiers who are roughly getting them into ranks. The white lips, the blue rings under their eyes looked like fever or chill. And these sick children, without care or kindness, exposed to the icy wind that blows straight from the Arctic Ocean, were going straight to their graves.
Memoirs of Alexander Herzen, chapter 13, translated by Constance Garnett. Return
- Obviously, the family had migrated from Berdichev, which was a major Jewish center. In 1899 it had 50,000 Jews out of a total population of 62,000. Return
- This brother, known as Fetter Froyim (Uncle Ephraim), was well known to me as a child in Brooklyn. His son, Isidore Wegodner, was a survivor of the terrible Triangle factory fire (1911), in which the heavy loss of life was a spark which stimulated the successful labor union organization of the needle trades workers in New York. (D.F.M.) Return
- To 'daven' is to recite or participate in the recital of the set liturgy, consisting of psalms, piyyutim (post-Biblical religious poetry) and other ritual texts. These rituals for weekdays, Sabbaths and holy days fill several volumes, but observant Jews, by dint of frequent repetition, can often recite much, or even most, from memory. We here use 'davenin' for the noun, 'davening' for the present participle. (Pronounce the a as in art, the e as in mother). Kiddush, the blessing over wine, is a ceremony to distinguish the start of the Sabbath or of a major holiday from ordinary working days. Return
- The large size of Meierka's 'cheder' suggests that it may have been a community, rather than an individual melmed's enterprise. Kaddishlech: plural of 'kaddish'l', an affectionate word for a male child, who would grow up to recite
the 'kaddish'ritual in memory of his parents after their demise. 'Meitkelech', for undershorts, is a diminutive from 'meitkes', trousers, but 'penselech' seems to be an Americanism derived from 'pants'.
'Arba-kanfors': in Numbers 15:38-40, the Children of Israel were instructed to wear 'tzitzis', knotted strings, or fringes, on the four corners ('arba kanfos') of their garments as a constant reminder of their religious faith and duties. Accordingly, observant Jewish men, as a symbol of this constant awareness, wear a garment (more often, an undergarment) consisting of an oblong cloth, with an opening to go over the head and neck, like a bib covering the front and back, with the 'tzitzis' at each of the four corners. 'Arba-kanfos' is the Hebrew name for this undergarment, which in Yiddish is called a 'leib-tzu-dekel', (body-covering). When worn as an outer or publicly visible garment, it is called a 'tallis-katan', (small tallis, tallis being the large prayer scarf or shawl worn by men during the synagogue service; plural, 'talleisim'). 'Yarmelka' a small skull-cap, worn indoors, by observant Jewish males, covering the head as a sign of awe and devotion before the omnipresent deity. Return
- Nebech: an interjection, 'the poor thing. To read the krias-sh'ma, in this context is ironic ('krias-sh'ma is the recital of the Creed at bedtime); here, to read the Riot Act. 'Nagid', a man with status because of being somewhat better off financially than the shtetl average; 'nagidish', the adjective' 'nagidishe', plural form. Gemara: the Talmud. Return
- Gedalyahu Aharon, Shimshon: see notes 16 and 29 below. 'Shochet', the ritual slaughterer of meats and poultry, from the religious point of view a status position in the community. 'Gabai': a synagogue official, a trustee. These fellow pupils indicate that Levi's father, with his general store, did have status in the town. Stavitsher: a recent arrival from the shtetl Stavitsh (Stawiscze), north from Sokolievka.
Yaakovka was the youngest son of R. Gedalyahu Aharon and grew up to be rabbi in Cherkass. Return
- 'Bova Metzia': commonly the first tractate in the Talmud studied by beginners. It deals with disputes arising from conflicting claims to personal, movable property. The passage which supplied the nicknames was probably not the very first lesson, as it is somewhat after the beginning of the tractate. Wegodner's transcription, which I follow in English, reflects the local pronunciation of the passage. 'Kohen' means a descendant of the ancient priestly caste of Temple days. 'Lekesh' suggests a rather silly fellow. Abba the Kohen of Bardala and Shimon Ben Lakish (Resh Lakish) were expounders of Torah and Mishna in the third century. Return
- 'Bukser' is the dried fruit of the carob, also called St. John's Bread, which flourishes in Israel and Crete. Children chewed it for its sweetness, and being of tough fiber, it takes a long time to chew and yield its sweets. It is associated with the festive day of Chamisho Osor B'Shvat (Fifteenth of Shvat). Return
- 'Sholem Aleichem', peace be with you, or equivalent to How do you do as a greeting. (Not to be confused with the great Yiddish author who used that as a pen name.)
Rav Shimshon is not otherwise identified by Wegodner, but perhaps refers to Reb Yaakov Shimshon Chodorov, son-in-law to Gedalya Aharon, who lived for a time in Sokolievka. Return
- President of an American synagogue: Levi Wegodner allows himself a wry comment, suggesting, inferentially, that a synagogue official in the Old Country would have known more than what the weekly calendar called to his attention. Note three fathers: probably not including the Rabbi Gedalyahu Aharon. Return
- Family surnames had generally come into current use among East European Jews by the nineteenth century, but in ordinary shtetl conversation were rarely used. Nicknames were more common. These might refer to one's trade (Meyer the tinsmith); to one's appearance (Lebele the lame); or most often, to a relative. David Chayyim's means David the son of Chayyim, Gedalya Elyakum's was Gedalya son of Elyakum. Return
- Konela: by American survivors also spelled Canella, Kenaler, etc., a much smaller community, not far from Sokolievka. Its emigrants joined the Sokolievka societies, not founding their own. Return
- A 'prizba' was a low embankment, protecting the base of the house. 'Mincha-maariv': evening services in the synagogue, 'mincha' about sundown, 'maarive' at dark. Shofar': a horn, usually from a ram, but could be from a goat, anciently used as a bugle, still sounded as part of the liturgy in the synagogue on High Holidays. Return
- In Genesis 22 is told how Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar in obedience to his God, but since his devotion was clear, a ram was substituted instead. This story, in its peculiar fashion, may have been composed among the ancient Hebrews to justify their abolition of the practice of human sacrifice, especially of children, common to their neighbors, and perhaps common to some of their ancestors. (L.M.) Return
- Mordechai the Rov is not otherwise identified here, but may have been the 'dayan', or judge by Jewish law, also called Reb Mot'l, attached to the household of Reb Pinchas'l. Return
- Goy: the Jewish townsfolk lived side by side with their non-Jewish neighbors in worlds apart. A 'goy' was simply one of the other people. It is not of itself pejorative, but too often the context of events has made it so. Return
- 'May he be the kapporah': anciently the 'kapporah' was a ritual scapegoat, an animal sacrificed to atone for sin. The phrase is equivalent to may he go to Hell literally, not metaphorically. Return
- 'Nebbish' has passed into American colloquially for a pitiful person. 'Leren', the verb, and 'lernen', the noun, do not mean simply to learn or studying. The Talmud ('Gemara') is a compilation of debates and opposing views on many matters. The commentaries printed with it supply more dissents and controversies, often with very fine distinctions. 'Lernen' therefore means ruminating, analyzing, and returning again and again to the same issues. Somehow nei-
ther the physical punishment nor the medieval pedagogy in the 'cheder' ever inhibited the traditional Jewish devotion for book learning. (In the Talmud Torah in Brooklyn which I attended from 1920 to 1925, no child was ever punished, physically or otherwise). Return
- Buki was a shtetl fifteen miles away. It still exists as a town today, but its Jewish population had to flee during the 1917-1920 pogrom era. Among these were the (originally Sokolievka) family of Abraham and Yocheved (Novominsky) Feldstein, at first to Uman, then to join a long settled Boston community of other Novominsky kin from Buki.
A Yiddish book on life in Buki, My Shtetl in Ukraina, was published in New York, 1921, by M.J. Novominsky, under his pen name M.J. Olgin. His brother Mordechai Novominsky ('Mot'l) taught pupils in Sokolievka, and during the 1919 pogroms was murdered there together with his children. Return
- We have checked with several grandchildren of Levi Wegodner, but none of them knows of any continuation beyond the point where the manuscript now stops. The last sentence appears to refer to events in the Ukraine during the 1880's and 1890's (since he and the closely related Cridens came to the United States long before the events of 1919): but we have found no written records for those years in Sokolievka. Return
Mashabei Sadeh Memorial Book: Notes
- The booklet is 24.5 x 17.5 cm., hard-bound in heavy cardboard. It has a binder's leaf; a frontispiece drawing, verso with a motto; title page, verso with credit to Baruch Bernstein for his editorial work; text on pages 5 to 64 (some pages blank), with 9 sketches by Abba Fenichel. On sixteen unnumbered paes are tabulated as many names of pogrom victims as could be gathered, 268, a list quite incomplete; and 49 photographs of some of these and some of other related persons (including two American soldiers killed in American wars), and photos of several monuments.
Pages 5 to 8 inclusive, and 63-64, deal with the details of the Kibbutz school children's work on the project and its reception by Yad Vashem. These pages are not translated here, but are still available in the reproduction of the Hebrew text. Parenthetical passages in the Hebrew relating to the mechanics of composition are also not carried into the translation. Footnotes, wher pertinent, are incorporated into the translation.
We have translated the text very literally, in a few instances correcting the sequence of sentences or paragraphs, according to the need of an English version. Matter in parentheses are our clarifications of some technical details. Matter in brackets, italicized, are our additions to the Mashabei Sadeh text. Return
- Among the emigrants to the United States, those who settled early in the Buffalo area used Sokolievka (in variant spellings) and Sokolovka. Early arrivals in the New York area called themselves 'Justingrader' in their mutual aid landsmannschaft, while later arrivals formed a Sokolifker-Kenaler organization. Return
- Gedalyahu Aharon Rabinowitz was born in Linitz in 5575 (1815). As a child
he had been betrothed by his father to the daughter of the Rabbi Shmuel Abba of Slavita. The marriage took place in 5591 (1831), and until 5599 1839) he lived in his father-in-law's household, continuing his studies. At the end dof 5599 he returned to Linitz as rabbi and 'maggid' (preacher). Despite the pleas of that community that he stay there, in 5612 (1852) he decided that he was called to serve the then tiny community of Justingrad. He continued there for sixteen years, venerated by many thousands of Chassidim in the Kiev and Kherson gubernias. This popularity aroused the hostility of the Tsarist regime, which feared any development not under its control, and an order was issued deporting him to Yaroslav. Alerted in time, on the eve of the Sukkos holiday 5628 (1868) he fled just two hours before the Tsarist police came to his house. As a pious Jew, he hid the first two days of the holiday with a nearby family, then escaped to Romania where he lived in Padilavi for ten years, dying at 63 in 5638 (1878). A posthumous book, Chen Aharon, published his thoughts. His son Pinchas took over his Sololievka post. He had three other sons who were rabbis and seven daughters, all wives of rabbis
Shmuel Abba's family name was Shapiro, and his daughter's name was Bayla Return
- During 1917 1921, the Ukraine was ravaged by a many-sided series of civil wars, until firm control was finally established by the Moscow Soviet regime. Short-lived governments were repeatedly proclaimed by competing cliques of Ukrainian nationalists seeking to seize power in an independent Ukraine: these waged war against Moscow and against each other. There were campaigns fought against the central Soviet forces and against Ukrainian nationalists by white guard armies, such as those commanded by Anton Ivanovich Denikin, who aimed to restore the unified Russian empire of the Tsarist era. There were invasions by the armies of the newly restored Polish state, and by interventionist expeditions from France and Britain. Many irregular forces operated under various revolutionary slogans, of many shades.
Daniel Terpilo, using the name Zeleny (pronounced Zelyoni), was ataman of 2,500 or more irregulars, and, in between carrying out mass murders in Jewish communities, took sides against the Bolsheviks and against anti-Bolshevik Ukrainian nationalists at various times. At least forty bloody pogroms were perpetrated under his command. Return
- Eruv: Under the rabbinical interpretations of the kinds of labor forbidden on the Sabbath day of rest, it was a debatable question as to whether the ban on transporting of items also limited what one might carry on one's person. By setting up an Eruv, the area enclosed by nominal boundaries was interpreted as being within one's domicile, and this legal fiction simplified the issues. Return
- Gargers: noise makers, to drown out the name of Haman at the reading of the Book of Esther at Purim services, commemorating the defeat of this ancient attempt to wipe out the Jewish people. Return
- Bet Hamidrash Hagadol: the same as Wegodner's 'Bess Medrash'; 'Hagadol' means the big. Return
- Buttermilk: One is never quite certain whether the particular Yiddish or
Hebrew words used on different occasions connote buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt. Tomatoes (next page): Adella Feldstein told us she never saw one till she came to America.'Klei Kodes' is an ironical term, which may be translated somewhat as Holy Pots and Pans. The use here suggests something of an anti-clerical tendency from the early 1900's. The 'chazzan' chants the liturgy, and both vocal ability and individual artistry were and still are highly prized. A'Ba'al Korei', or master reader, was a man skilled in reading from the Torah scrolls, which have no vowels, only consonants, and require practically knowing the Pentateuch by heart. Return
- 'Badchonim' were not synagogue personnel but professional jesters, skilled in tossing off extemporaneous rhymed patter. A 'Dayan' is a judge, making rulings under Jewish law. The communal bathhouse was a major social center as well as the hygienic facility, in the absence of running water plumbing in the home. There must also have been a 'mikveh', serving the same functions for the women, as well as a bathhouse, adjacent to the Rabbi's synagogue.
About 'melamdim' between 1910 and 1918, Seymour Logvin writes, My first 'cheder melamed' was Mayer Hersh der Royter, so called from his fiery red beard. He was very strict with the pupils and would use a 'kontshik', a leather strap. The next weas Benny der Shtimmer, so called because he talked through his nose. My mother took us out of his 'cheder' when we began to talk the same way. Then we started with Mordechai Novominsky. He was a modern teacher of Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian. We had one more whose name I cannot remember, also a modern teacher, but then started the pogroms.
His younger brother Irving Logvin adds, on the 'kontshik', My pet dog used to sit and wait for me at the door all day. The 'melamed' knew that all I had to do was whistle the dog in, so we had a stand-off. Return
- To the despotic Tsars, any religious leader whose appeal whose appeal was as authoritative as that of a Chassidic rabbi was considered eligible for even greater persecution than what might be the lot of any ordinary rabbi. Return
- 'Matzah sh'murah': Baking of matzos for Passover is always done under very special conditions, using specially reserved utensils, and select flour (only flour and water are used), to make sure that there would be no contamination from contact with utensils or materials used during the rest of the year. 'Sh'murah', meaning guarded indicates very, very special. Return
- Our interviews with octogenarian survivors confirms that in Justingrad and Buki homes were often larger than in many other shtetlach, where one and two rooms were not uncommon. Return
- Vilna Ga'on: Ga'on is an honorific title given to some rabbis, as the great is attached to some names of kings. Eliyahu (ben Shlomoh) Zalman, 1720-1797, was the most influential rabbi of the misnagdim', relentlessly opposing the Chassidim. He is remembered to this day not by his name but simply as the Vilna Ga'on. His picture in a home would signify a misnagid' tendency there.
Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885) was a famous British Jewish philanthropist active in defense of oppressed Jews in the Turkish Empire and elsewhere. Return
- 'Shalom Zachar', means greetings to the male; also called a 'Ben Zachar', a male child. Heis arbis, chickpeas cooked and peppered, served hot (or cold, despite the name) are positively addictive; a pity they are being forgotten. Return
- 'Baruch sheptarani' is a play on the words of the formula recited by a father at his son's Bar Mitzvah, Blessed be He who has freed me (i.e. from responsibility for his son's deeds; from age thirteen he is responsible for his own behavior). Return
- Ducklings: the actual word was the Yiddish 'katshkelech', also so used in Sholem Aleichem's story, Shir Ha-Shirim. 'Motzi': Observant Jews have a large repertory of formal blessings, thanking God for many different reasons. The most frequent is the blessing over bread, blessed be He who brings forth ('motzi') bread from the earth. Return
- Lulav: long, narrow palm leaf spear clusters, bound with myrtle and willow twigs, held in the hand together with a citron ('esrog') in Succos holiday rituals.
Chanukah has always been more of a folk holiday than a solemnity, and innocent gambling, for dry beans instead of money, has always been a standard children's game. Depending on the alphabet letter engraved on each of its four sides, the way the 'dreidel' falls as it stops spinning determines the winnings and losses of beans.
Bow and arrow: Lag B'Omer means the thirty-third day in the count of forty-nine days between Passover and Shevuos. The observance relates to the unsuccessful uprising against Roman rule led by the Bar Kochva, about 131-135, and supported by the martyred Rabbi Akiva. According to one tradition, Lag B'Omer marks one day in which Rabbi Akiva's pupils won a victory in what was a long series of defeats. This tradition seems to have been bowdlerized by some later rabbis (who, for reasons both good and bad, wanted to play down the idea of armed struggle) into a story that a plague raging among Akiva's students ceased on that day. Further tradition says that when the uprising was crushed, Rabbi Shimon Ben Yocha'I, disciple of Avika, hid in a cave for many years. His pupils came to consult him, surreptitiously, and they carried bows and arrows in case they had to defent themselves against a stray Roman patrol. (To me, this tradition of an outing into the woods, continued into modern times, connected with archery and a pilgrimage to a cave, suggests roots with affinities to Stone Age hunters gathering for rituals at caves like Lascaux and Altamira. (L.M.)
Wooden sword at Tisha B'Av: a custom not known to us from other sources. Return
- Chanukah gelt: gifts, of a few small coins, given to children by adult relatives and friends. 'Gelt' simply means money. Return
- The word in the Mashabei Sadeh text is dlaat, translating some Yiddish word, but we are not certain which Yiddish word, or what vegetable used in Sokolievka it stood for, squash, pumpkin, or whatever. Return
- Ox goring cow: This refers to a well-known discussion in the Talmud, treating of negligence causing claims for damages. Sholem Aleichem somewhere wrote of the 'cheder' pupil who said pathetically, If an ox gores a cow, I get slapped. Return
- The domineering father: individual personal reminiscence seems to have slipped in here, likewise with the mother later. Return
- The memoir distinguishes between 'rebbe', traditional 'Siddur-and-Chumash' tutor and 'moreh', teacher of secular subjects. Return
- Keinehora: Yiddish usage has many stock phrases to ward off ill fortune when mentioning names of people. This one is the colloquial slurring of Yiddish 'kein' (let there not be) and Hebrew 'ayin hara' (the evil eye). T'nach is the standard abbreviation for the Hebrew Scriptures. Esav: Although Esau's conduct by modern standards was in important respects highly commendable, obviously the 'cheder' taught children to condemn him, for reasons too complex to explore here. Hence the choice of the name Yitzchak, Jacob's father's name, rather than the name of Jacob's twin brother Esau.
'Chayyim' means life. 'Hadassah' is an alternate name for Biblical Esther. Return
- From our observation, children of all nations in Europe today are expected to be silent in the presence of their elders. In the Passover service in the home, the 'seder', the youngest child is called upon to open the proceedings by asking the four questions. Return
- Honey was spread on the bread by way of mimetic magic to sweeten the new year. 'Tashlich' is Hebrew for thou shalt cast away' (thy sins), and is the name given to a religious service held in the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah while standing in the open at the brink of a body of running water.
'Kappores', plural of 'kapporah', literally scapegoat or atonement, were (and still are, where the practice continues) live chickens brought home by the mothers, and swung over the children's heads with an informal but traditional mother's prayer that the life of the chicken (implicityly, a sacrifice) should secure the life of the child. This rite was still performed by my grandmother over us children in Brooklyn in the 1920's, leaving an unforgettable memory of cackling tumult and flying feathers. (L.M.) Return
- Children under thirteen were not required to abstain from food in the Yom Kippur fast, which lasts about twenty-seven hours, but they vied with each other to see how long each could hold out. Ne'ilah: Awesome as was Kol Nidre, the opening lines chanted on Yom Kippur even, even more awesome and even dread, was the final closing hour of Ne'ilah at dusk of the next day, the time of the last appeal for forgiveness and for life. Return
- Succos begins five days after Yom Kippur. It is customary to eat dinner in a temporary shack, with a roof that can only be partially covered, the 'sukkah', commemorating the temporary shelters used in the desert in the Exodus from Egypt towards the Promised Land. Return
- For reasons obscure to me, during the morning service on Hoshana Rabba, it was customary to hold small bundles of leafy twigs, about eight or ten inches long, bound with twine, and beat them against the prayer stands or against the back of the seat in front of one, till the leaves fall off, and the twigs are discarded. I never understood why, and as a child, it offended my sense of caring for plants.
so that my mother used to always express surprise when I came home from synagogue with my bouquet intact. (L.M.) Return
- Simchas Torah flags: Simchas Torah, Rejoicing in the Torah, marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of re-reading the Five Books of Moses in the synagogue, and the beginning of the new cycle. During the evening and the morning service, the scrolls of the Torah are carried processionally around the synagogue, and children follow, carrying paper banners, often decorated by lithographed pictures. The 'aliyah' is an honorary going up to the dais where the Torah portion of the week, or of the holiday, is being rad, subdivided into seven (at times, more) parts, allowing for an equal number of worshippers to have the honor to recite the blessings for this reading. Except on Simchas Torah, one must have attained Bar Mitzvah age for this honor. (Reform synagogues now accord the 'aliyah' to women as well as men, but this was unknown in Sokolievka.) Return
- 'Al Ha-Nissim' explains the occasion for the holiday, and 'Ma'oz Tzur' is a very beautiful Chanukah hymn. 'Latkes' are a species of potato pancakes served hot, and when traditionally fried in chicken fat, have a rare flavor such as cannot be conveyed by the word pancake. In the cold climate of Eastern Europe, they were enjoyed as they hardly can be in today's well-heated homes. Return
- In many shtetls, Purim was celebrated with masquerade costumes, and by performances of amateur comic street plays, although apparently not in Justingrad. Return
- The nostalgic idealization of Passover from childhood memories has its basis in fact, but for adults it was also a season of fear and trembling, because it was a preferred season for anti-Jewish incitements and violence, such as the 1903 Kishinev pogrom.
To enforce the ban on 'chometz' (non-Passover foods, in commemoration of the hasty exit from ancient Egypt by the Jewish slaves who had time only to prepare matzos, special pots and dishes were reserved for use at Passover time only. The four cups of wine are the number prescribed for use during the 'seder'. The 'afikoman' is a piece of matzo which the person conducting the 'seder' sets aside (hides) at the beginning, which is intended to be stolen by one of the children, who collects a reward or forfeit as price for restoring it at the end. Whatever was its origin, it serves as a device to keep little children awake during the rather long evening proceedings. 'Chol Ha-Moed' is the period between the first and last days of Passover (and also of Succos), which are ordinary working days. Nut games: filberts and such, used like marbles. Return
- See note 43 above. Return
- Boundary days: see Exodus 19:12 Return
- On the seventeenth day of Tammuz the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Babylonian forces and on Tisha B'Av the Temple burned. During these three weeks, pious Jews dispense with certain pleasures and conveniences, as during the mourning for a close relative. Return
- Jewish synagogues and houses of worship are each entirely independent, not subject to any higher authority. Tolna and Kontakozov Chassidim were followers of Chassidic rabbis based in or originating in those towns. The 'Bess Medrash' and the 'Shulech'ls' were probably not Chassidic, but not necessarily actively of the 'misnagid' persuasion.
The Feldstein family attended the Tolner synagogue. The Logvin family favored the 'Bess Medrash' which was near their home. Return
- But women and men sat separately, with a curtain or screen or balcony of separation. Nowadays, depending on the branch of Judaism followed, this division may vary from traditional to none at all. Return
- Town head: This is not clea. Local government officials were not Jewish in Tsarist Russia. Jewish communities voluntarily taxed themselves for communal purposes, and chose communal officers for these. A 'chevra' was any association, ranging from any amporphous group assembled for a single purpose to a formally constituted organization with officers and treasury. 'Bikur-cholim' means visiting the sick. 'Gmila-Chassadim' means fulfilling righteousness. Return
- Called a doctor, a questionable recollection for most of these years; at times, a recent graduate might practice there for a short time. The 'rofeh' called was more likely a 'feldsher', a barber-surgeon who did cupping. In this procedure small one ounce cups of heavy glass were emptied of oxygen by inserting a faming wadding soaked in alcohol, so that the partial vacuum made the cup adhere to the skin of the back or chest, and produced a circular patch of reddened skin lasting several days. The thought may have been to extract the humours causing the illness. The practice was still in use among immigrants to the United States until the 1930's. We have inherited two sets of these 'bankes' (cups) from the Feldsteins and from the Millers. Chicken soup: the infallible remedy for all illnesses in the shtetl. Return
- 'Apikoros', (from Epicurus), an agnostic, or anyone who might be questioning tradition. Return
- 'Maskil', an intellectural, non-traditional but still Hebrew and Jewish-oriented. Since no meat or poultry would be used unless it had been ritually slaughtered by the schochet, that post was likely to mean relative affluence as well as prestige. Return
- In the East European shtetl, Hebrew was the holy language, reserved for ritual and worship, whether in the synagogue or in the home. The vernacular for daily conversation and business was Yiddish, which in the latter half of the nineteenth century also became the language of popular printed literature and the theater. The Zionist movement disdained Yiddish as jargon, and revived the use of Hebrew as a living language, so that it has become such in daily life in Israel (with a modernized vocabulary added). The Holocaust wiped out the Jewish populations in the regions where Yiddish predominated, and post-revolutionary conditions in Russia have further restricted its use. In the United States, the relative freedom of access to national culture and economic life led to rapid Americanization of the Yiddish-speaking immigrants. Where in the 1920's there were four daily Yiddish
newspapers in New York, in 1983 only weeklies remain. Rather as a nostalgic inheritance from grandparents, Yiddish literature is being taught now in a number of universities and there are several Yiddish theatrical productions mounted each year in New York. Return
- In the title of this textbook, published in Warsaw, 1904, Jacob (Magnus) Krinsky described his as the natural method. Return
- These teachers were idealistic university students on vacation, trading lessons for meals and lodging, seeking to effect a political awakening.
Notice the first appearance of schooling for girls. Adella (Logvin) Felstein had tutors (including young women tutors) at home. Among her papers, after her death, was found her application form to enter a Russian school, which, however was denied her. She kept it all her life, in a packet with keepsake photos given her by friends when she emigrated to America. Return
- From the first, the Zionist movement divided on ideological lines, some of which persist to this day. These have included (among others) general Zionists and labor or 'socialist Zionists; and Zionists who preferred a cultural center rather than a nation-state. These trends have at different dates given rise to many different organizaions. 'Tz'ire Tzion' means Youth of Zion. 'Baalebatim' has several meanings, here substantial householders and perhaps small employers. 'Seimovtzim' were a movement during and after the 1905 Revolution, which sought to win the right to hold elections for a legislative body ('Seim) to serve as a vehicle for quasi-national autonomy for the Jewish communities. Zashkov was a town near Sokolievka, to the north, whose families were closely related. Return
- These words of Rabbi Pinchas'l have reached us from a number of sources far dispersed in time and location. They were surely deeply impressed on the minds of the local people. Return
- 'Shabbos Chazon' is the Sabbath when in the synagogue is read the fifth chapter of the vision ('chazon') of Yeshayahu (Isaiah). By the Gregorian calendar that 6 of Av was August 2, and the massacre took place Sunday August 3. The eyewitness account derives mainly from Yehudah Blank and Bennie Berkun.
Reb Pinchas'l was seventy-six at the time he was murdered. The Mashabei Sadeh booklet includes a Hebrew epitaph composed by his son-in-law Rabbi Yehoshua Heshil Rabinowitz, the Monastrishtsher Rebbe, in an acrostic based on his name in Hebrew, which may be translated but not reproduced in English: The Pride of his flock, the Crown of his congregation, the Sage among the Prodigies, the Symbol of Reverence. Return
- The account of the Denikin atrocities is partly based on the testimony of Joseph Zilberg, published in Reshumoth (in Hebrew) edited by A. Drujanow, Berlin, 1923. To escape the atrocities committed during Denikin's retreat, some of the survivors fled to nearby Zashkov, where the nearby Ukrainians demanded the banishment of these refugees as a price of continued toleration of the Jews of Zashkov, a toleration which had been bought by paying them off. No sooner had
|Above is reproduced the birthdate attestation prepared by Adella Logvin in her efforts to be admitted to advanced schooling. Translated it reads: Excerpt from Birth Records. /In the first part of the birth record of Jews born in the town Justingrad, Lipovitsy county, under no. 8 for 1892 is recorded: 'On February 28, 1892 a female child born, name Hudel; father David Lovin, of Sarny; mother Blume Leah'. This excerpt is issued for admission to school. This is an accurate excerpt from the birth records. This signature and seal are of sh. B. Shaporonskii, state rabbi, town of Ilkitsy, Lipovitsy county. This signature, by a semi-official, in another thown, suggests that it could not be obtained in Justingrad at that time, March 15, 1909.
Although all members of the family from the time of their arrival in the United States use the form Logvin, all papers we have seen dated before 1914 show Lovin, which was also the form inscribed for David Lovin, as an official, on the façade of 'Bess Medrash'.
these refugees scattered to Odessa and elsewhere, than pogroms followed, inflicting ruin on Zashkov itself. On May 6, 1920, thirty were killed by the forces of Hetman Stepanyuk. On May 14 a Friday deadline was set for all Jews to depart. On Saturday, twenty who had not managed to get away were seized and buried alive. (Rushumoth, page 321.)
During the December 1919 Denikin pogroms, the Logvin family left their home (near the 'Bess Medrash') and hid in a decrepit hoval at the end of their street, hoping that its very poor condition would not attract attention. The pogromists came nonetheless. Breaking in, they struck Shammai (Seymour) Logvin, then a mere boy, on the head. He fell unconscious and bleeding. His grandmother Blume Leah ran to help him, so she was seized and strung up by rope to the roof beams. Meanwhile pogromists outside set fire to the roof thatch. In the confusion of flame and smoke the family managed to save both Blume Leah and Seymour, escaping out the back way. Blume Leah was, however, permanently blinded by the effect of the hanging. (See the 1912 family photo in this volume.) Return
- Detailed accounts of these events are readily available in the Jewish Encyclopedia Judaica and other reference works. Return
- There were many eyewitness accounts published during and after the events of 1919. Shtogrin was tried and executed by the Soviet authorities. See: Elias Heifetz, The Slaughter of the Jews of the Ukraine in 19191, New York, 1921; A. Tsherikover, Anti-Semitism and Pogroms in the Ukraine, Berlin, 1923 (in Yiddish); The Pogroms in the Ukraine under the Ukrainian Governments (1917-1920), published by the Committee of Jewish Delegation, 1927, page 111, cited testimony by S. Grinberg, S. Sinder, K.L. Brodsky and S. Schneiderman on the Zeleny progrom of August 2-3, 1919. Return
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