As remembered by Max Shneiderman, Los Angeles
Translated by Fanny Pere
I came to America in the year between 1904-1905. I was nineteen years old at the time, but memories of my shtetl have remained deeply imbedded in my heart.
As meager as was our way of life living in Kazanhorodok, I know only one thing for sure that Kazanhorodok was a poor, beautiful shtetl, with its river, water mill and wonderful woods, scented by its young, tall pine and oak trees.
The older folk used to tell about plans for a much desired railroad that would cut through Kazanhorodok to enable more productivity. But they needed to bribe a certain person of authority there, and unfortunately the sum needed for the bribe was so large, that no way could the entire shtetl come up with it.
That is how Kazanhorodok was left without a train, and so the shoemakers, tailors and carpenters had to go to Luninetz the neighboring town that was fortunate to have the railroad to look for work to sustain themselves. This led to a rift that festered between the two towns. But the poor inhabitants of Kazanhorodok made a living from each other, and from the Gentiles who occupied the small villages that were close by.
There were fairs four times a year, twice in winter and twice in summer. These fairs were called Nicaul and Troyze. This is how life was, and we managed to get by. Certainly there were no great wage-earners and the whole salary frequently went for just bread and potatoes. There were many ways of preparing potatoes, many variations, some quite ingenious. I remember that they used to cook fish-potatoes. That meant there was no fish in the pot, but the housewives used to chop onions and use pepper, etc., mixed into the potatoes, and this was called fish-potatoes (Kartufles).
There were two rabbis and two shochtim (ritual slaughterers) in Kazanhorodok the Horoduk rabbi's shochet and the Staliner rabbi's schochet. The number of non-chasidic people (mitnagdim) was small, but they had their own non-chasidic rabbi Reb Itchi, the son of the rabbi from Lachver, who was a very learned and intelligent rabbi. Reb Itchi didn't earn a living merely by being a rabbi, but also had a store where he sold materials for tailors.
With a schochet, the non-chasidic Jews were not particular they ate from any of the shochetim. Altogether, they didn't flaunt their differences with the Chasidim, but when it came to davening (saying prayers) in the same Bet Midrash (House of Study), they sometimes came to blows.
The respected teachers of the shtetl were Kalman (Shlomi's) and David Katzman. Kalman was a grain handler in the little village of Tzna, which was near Kazanhorodok. David Katzman was a saddler and harness maker. He used to leave Kazanhorodok for a couple of weeks at a time, going over to the larger towns to work for the Gentiles, getting their reins and harnesses back to shape. Katzman and Kalman used to teach the modest and simple folk in the shul on Saturday. They would sit around large tables and tell beautiful, heart-warming stories about the great rabbis. Their stories were educational, and at the same time moralizing, and they touched the hearts of the poor, toiling Jews.
There was not too much love from the Kazanhorodoks for the Luninetzer Jews, because they were envious of them. But one thing the Kazanhorodok Jews had over the Luninetzer that they could be certain of that after one hundred years the Luninetzers would have to depend upon them and come to them. The cemetery was in Kazanhorodok, and the Kazanhorodok Jews never caused any difficulty with the burial of the dead.
In the cold shul there were various paintings on the ceiling and walls. Also a cut-out Holy Ark, about fifty Bibles large, middle-sized and quite small. For Simchot (celebrations) the musicians would play in shul at evening time. The shul looked like a fortress, with a high dome.
My great-grandfather, Hankel the musician, used to sit there in a corner by the eastern wall and pray. Since I was his first great-grandchild, I would always go with him to daven. He was a relative of the rabbi from David-Horodok, Chernavilar Magid. Since he was a young boy, of respected and proper parents, he taught himself music and felsich. As an orphan, he chose music as a profession. He was a special mentch, very charitable. He died in 1896. Also my Bubbe Basha was a very charitable person and took care of the poor. Every Thursday she would go all over the shtetl, gathering food for the poor. She also organized other women to help with this and to also donate, not only to gather from others in the shtetl. She would parcel out much from her own food. This is how she conducted herself and after leaving for Luninetz did the same mitzvoth there. Understand that portioning out the challah for Shabbat was done quietly and discreetly, to make sure that the poor Jews would not feel ashamed. A small shtetl with Jewish hearts!
By B. Silverstein
Translated by Fanny Pere
Welcoming Shabbat really began on Thursday in the village. They already worried in advance as to how they were going to provide for Shabbat.
In Kazanhorodok there were really very few families that didn't need to borrow in order to get food for Shabbat. Kazanhorodok didn't have too much money to give away. With God's help, every woman used to buy a few pounds of flour, a piece of calf's meat (or other parts derived from the calf). Some would buy part of a carp, a calf's foot for cholent, but the red meat our butchers would carry to Luninetz. On a special Shabbat there was usually fish. From the few pounds of flour our Kazanhorodok women would first of all bake a few pletzlach to eat Friday morning. Also a pirogue filled with blackberries or other preserves, three large challahs and small ones for the young children. Of course also a tin of kichlach for the special day of Shabbat.
Our women also did not forget the poor of the village and each one would bake two extra challahs for them. They felt very good about the mitzvah of bringing the challahs to the poor and for making them respect the Sabbath. Chopping, filling and cooking the fish, getting the cholent ready to be put into the oven, kept them very busy. Of course there had to be also a kugel for Shabbat!
For our Kazanhorodok women, nothing was too much work for respecting the Sabbath cooking and baking; washing the floor; polishing the candles; hanging a clean covering over the hearth; and spreading yellow sand around the outside of the house that was part of the preparation. The women shared the job of picking up the challahs for the poor for the Sabbath, asking for donations for the poor, the Talmud Torah, the Book of Psalms, and other various needs. How good the house smelled on the Sabbath! Of course the heads of the householders stopped working and all of their stores were closed.
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