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[Page 189]

Sources of Livelihood

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Donated by Brooke Schreier Ganz

The change of regime did not bring a great improvement in their livelihood. Indeed, the borders to Bukovina and old Romania were removed, but, on the other hand, the routes that led to Hungary, Austria, the west, the capitals of Budapest and Vienna, Bohemia and other lands had been cut off. If I judge by my eyewitnesses, Father had been one of the successful shopkeepers prior to the war, whereas his shop shrunk to the point where it completely closed during the time of the Romanian regime. The reason is not important here other than the fact that his livelihood never supported him again. Instead of recovering, he became poor.



On the average, every second house had a door opened to the street with a sign atop inviting customers. Most of the shops were grocery stores, whereas the minority were for clothing, liquor, flour and wheat, and especially for corn. There were butcher shops to sell kosher and treif (referring to the “hind quarter” that remained) meat, under the ownership of a “kosher” seller but in a different place.


Woman Stall Keepers

In the center of Borşa next to the bridge, there was a row of stalls with fruit from the soil, gardens, and fruit trees of Borşa: apples, pears, plums, and vegetables. Women stood next to the counters. For the most part, they were widows who were responsible for the livelihoods of their households, and went out to the market after the death of their husbands. Eventually, some men joined them, and even one teacher, whose cheder had been emptied of its children.


Craftsmen and other Areas of Livelihood

Jews extended their diligent hands into almost every area of trade. Since the Torah talks about the praise of the clothes that “did not wear out”[1] when the Children of Israel wandered through the desert – we will be begin with the clothes makers, the tailors: Eliahu Rubinstein, David and Chaim the sons of Moti, Chaim–Leib “der Schneider” who sewed his suits by hand for many years until the Singer machine began to penetrate his tailoring shop. Yaakov Mendel Perl was a tailor of women's dresses. In order to attract attention, he would say that he was in contact with women, and that the women seemed to him like that model (that he did not yet have in his salon), in his word “vi kletzer haltz” (like beams of wood). Women tailors included Mindel Leah and her sister.

Carpenters: The brothers Menashe and Leizer. Mordechai Savoy and his son Avraham, and others.

Shoemakers: Alter Chaim (The Lamed Vovnick[2]) and his son Avraham Wolf, Alterl Genad, Leizer Polak, Shmuel Leib Fruchter, Hirsch Apter and his son Meir, Mordechai Hirsch, and others.

Tinsmiths: Nachum Leib and Tzuken.

Furriers: Azriel Stein, Alter Leizer the son of Zion.

Watchmakers: Mordechai Shlomo Apter, Yitzchak Peril, Mechil the watchmaker.

Blacksmiths: Aryeh–Leib Shlomowitz, Eliahu Malek, and others

There were two glassmakers, oven makers, builders, a tzitzis [ritual fringes] maker, a bookbinder, a barber, a single pharmacist, a Torah scribe, a wagonwright (a wicked gentile). There was also a physician, “di draterin” (a women who fixed earthenware vessels with metal wires), bookkeepers (there were no stone carvers in Borşa. Gravestones were brought from Mosief or Vişeu), and an umbrella fixer. The umbrella fixer would go through the villages of Maramures fixing umbrellas near the house that requested him. The grinder did the same.

There was a Jewish man in the Cisla strip in Borşa, from among the simple folk, good and upright, named Feivish. Was he poor and destitute? These descriptions are insufficient to describe his poverty. His trade was porting. At first he bought a donkey – the only one in town – and why a donkey? Because a donkey is smaller than a horse, eats less than it, and works twofold. Thus he thought. After time, it became clear to him that it was the opposite: it eats more and works less. What did he do? He sold it and began to carry his loads on his shoulders. G–d saw his suffering, and gave him a son who caught on very quickly. He absorbed everything in his veritably phenomenal mind. His father searched for a “purpose” in life for him, and gave him over to the shoemaker. All the neighbors ganged up on him, saying, “A thief such as yourself, do you not fear G–d? You have a precious stone in your house, and you gave him over to the patchwork house?!” When Feivish saw himself surrounded by enemies who wanted to swallow him alive, he turned to the shouters, “On the other hand, send him to study, and you support him, if you are worried about his future.” At that moment, his donkey brayed, and the neighbors realized themselves that he was sending them to their houses, to see if they would withhold help from the son of Feivish. What happened with the son? He studied the trade of Rabbi Yochanan the sage[3] in such a fashion that all the shoemakers were proud of him. Now he lives in Israel, giving over his pride to others, as he himself fixes the shoes of the residents of Israel who tread upon holy ground.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Deuteronomy 8:4. Return
  2. Jewish tradition states that there are 36 secret especially pious people in every generation. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzadikim_Nistarim Return
  3. A mishnaic sage who was known to be a shoemaker, and was called Rabbi Yochanan Hasandlar. Return


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