** Webmaster Note: The following
translation was generously provided by
David's daughter, Yael Burko Glaser. We have presented it here exactly as it was
translated for us.
Between Dream & Reality
I was very
young when my family left the
where I was born, and moved to Vladimirets. I am completely
unfamiliar with our departure from the village and our settling
down in the new place. My first awareness, the first recognition
of the world that each one of us nurtures in his mind, was
evidently in Vladimirets. I remember it as a remnant of a dull
vision, the vision of a winter day, frost flowers covering the
glass windows, windowsills with artificial flowers, flowers that
were made of cotton and paper cuttings. I am not even sure that
in those early days I was aware of these flowers. It is possible
that they were planted in my memory much later, and only in
later years did it all become a complete picture in my mind.
Through the lightly frosted windows one could sense what was
happening in the distance. In my mind's eye, I can see a bright
red sunset, with inflamed skies. I am sitting by the window,
looking at the view with excitement. This is the earliest
picture I have in my mind. From here on, new views seem to open,
to become more coherent and more familiar.
point on, I remember the Vladimirets sky in more detail, but not
through a frosted glass window. I remember clear skies, cloudy
skies, odd shaped clouds such as trees or animals, shapes that
lasted for a minute and then disappeared again. The whole town
is a memory in my mind, with its streets, its fields, the
children and the adults.
remember the days of the First World War during my early
childhood. I somehow remember its end, and the memory is between
a dream and reality. In my mind, I see throngs of soldiers. I
was still too young to determine to what regiment they belonged.
I remember one soldier carrying wood for heating. Suddenly,
there were some unclear frenzied sounds. The soldier dropped his
wood to the ground and started to run, followed by many others,
who were running too. When I came home, I heard the adults
talking and saying that the enemy army had retreated.
one day, as we were sitting around the table, when my brother
was telling us about a dream he had. In his dream, there was a
very dark night, and suddenly, the sun was shining at midnight.
Someone, a clever soul, found an explanation to the dream. The
night was the war, the sunshine was the peace - the war will
soon end and peaceful days are approaching…
vision is in my mind that is certainly more of a reality. A
camel was towing a broken down military vehicle. This happened
in the days of the Bolsheviks, those who were called the 'Borvesse'
(the barefoot) ones.
of my brother Moshe is another one of these stories, where much
of them I know from rumors. Moshe used to go to Dombrovitz to
buy various products, mostly salt. Salt was very valuable during
the war days. One night, some military men, who considered the
‘salt businesses’ as illegal smuggling, punishable by death,
apprehended Moshe. The family was very concerned and frightened.
At that exact time, my uncle Chonye, (my Bubbe Charna's
brother), was hosting an important army officer. Chonye worked
relentlessly until he convinced that officer-guest to interfere
in the matter and save Moshe.
these part dreams and part reality memories, there are those
definitively clear and familiar memories. The house we lived in,
the yard and the neighborhood. I remember the house that
belonged to 'Elkale the Piekarnitchka' (the baker), a short
woman, hence her nickname. I know that a Polish family
previously occupied my Bubbe Charna’s house. Charna was the
famous midwife, known for her generosity. We moved into the
house, together with Uncle Leib Teitelboim and his family, only
after the Polish family had vacated the place. There were five
huge rooms in the house, with a common kitchen used by both
families. The yard had storage sheds and cellars, all full of
grains, potatoes, barrels of pickled cabbage, goose fat, and
barrels with frozen meat. There were fruit preserves in bottles
and large jugs. Our family was quite well off.
business, trading cattle, was evidently a successful business.
However, the lifestyle at home was very simple and modest. My
mother used to bake the bread at home, in the big oven. The
flour for baking came from the flourmill, a windmill. First, we
carried the rye seeds to the mill, and then we carried the flour
back home. I remember the mill being out of town, beyond the
Jewish cemetery, on the road to Dlogobola. I used to watch the
movement of the mill's blades. It seemed to me like they were
powerful enough to move even without any wind. Many people were
always waiting at the mill. I liked to come there and watch the
wonders of this 'factory'. The mill owners enjoyed the fees paid
for their work, as well as the flour that remained between the
also oil presses in town, powered by horses. Special oil was
made there, mostly linseed oil. Cattle feed, called
makucha, was made from the crushed
residue. It was said that the oil had invigorating powers, as
well as appetite enhancing qualities.
furniture in our home was very modest. We had couches that were
not upholstered, a table, and very simple benches. There was a
barn in the yard, with one or two cows and some chickens. I
remember Hershel Zelig's house, next to ours, with its beautiful
tall fruit trees, which reached out from his garden into ours,
resting on our roof. Hershel would often tell us: “As a rule,
the fruit that's on your side - belongs to you”.
neighbor's generosity was not enough for my friends and me. In
keeping with the saying, 'Stolen water tastes sweeter', we
preferred the fruit we could get without permission. My friends
were Chonyo and Leible (Uncle Wollok's sons) and Yossle and
Zalman (Aunt Hinda's sons). My father was taking care of these
children; he was their guardian, since their parents were in America.
However, my father was also away on business much of the time.
The children were growing up not knowing that to 'fear thy
father' meant something. I rather liked their attitude. I
remember that one of my Wollok cousins liked pumpkins. He would
pick them in the neighbors’ gardens and spread them on the roof
to ripen in the sun. All the neighbors, the garden owners,
ignored his wrongdoings. They were reluctant to have anything to
do with this boy. When our neighbor, Hershel, would go to pray
Mincha and Maariv - we, the group of cousins, used to climb over
the fence and pick fruit from his garden.
profession became popular at the end of the war (World War 1) -
making alcohol, in order to sell it to the 'Goyim' (the
Gentiles). Many families adopted this profession. They produced
alcohol from potatoes and from grains. We had a real workshop,
in a special structure, attached to the house, hidden in such a
way that passers by could not notice it. There were
several primitive machines in that
workshop, a few big barrel size tanks, some ovens, as well as
some other equipment. The grains were cooked and the vapors
distilled through special pipes, cooled down to liquids or to
drops called 'the bitter drop' – all very valuable merchandise
that would be sold.
that the strong smelling waste by-product, called 'Briyha',
would reveal the existence of the secret place, they used to
secretly take out the waste at night, and bury it in the ground.
I was not allowed into that workshop which was called 'the
Shtieble' (the little house).
the door to the Shtieble was left open. I seized the opportunity
and I went in. I was standing there, watching the working
equipment with great amazement. I saw a small tap. I found a
small bottle. Just for the fun of it, I filled up the bottle. I
managed to close the bottle tightly. I took the bottle, my
little treasure, to bed. I hid it under my pillow… The next
morning, when I left for the Cheder, I did not forget to take my
treasure. On my way, I kept sipping and tasting the liquid in
the bottle, trying to figure out what it was. By the time I
arrived at the Cheder, the bottle was empty and my head was
spinning. When I got to the Rabbi’s house, I lost my balance and
fell down. Everyone present was alarmed, trying to help me
regain consciousness. The empty bottle was found in my pocket,
still smelling of alcohol, indicating to the 'first aid' people,
who noticed the same smell on my breath, what I had been up to.
I was taken home, where I was questioned and interrogated. I
confessed and innocently told the whole story.Some people, upon hearing the story, joked and said "We
can predict that this youngster will like 'the bitter drop' when
he grows up", meaning - this one has a future of a drunk. Other
jokers had the opposite opinion, saying, "Since a few drops had
such an effect on him, he will always stay away from the taverns
when he grows up". As for my parents, they had their own
approach. Thereafter, to be on the safe side, they locked up the
workshop with seven locks.
thinking about the Cheder era of my life, I think about a very
special period. We did not have color pictures. Our books were
full of just letters and words. Perhaps that is why we used our
imagination to add the missing colors. The Cheder I went to was
a source of great teachings of values and a place of inspiration
to people's souls.
Cheder was with Yaakov Velichover. He was a good-spirited man,
with an understanding of the child's soul. He gave us great
freedom. We started learning before winter, just after the High
Holidays. Yaakov Velichover let us build a Succah, and allowed
us much time for playing. The second Cheder I went to was with
Henoch, the Melamed (the Teacher). Here we already studied well
into the long winter nights. It was like a step up for me, going
home in the dark, with a lantern in my hand. There were many
inspiring hours in the Cheder. Learning with melodies, tunes and
inflection was very valuable. However, the desire for learning
was not so great, and we would often get involved in mischief.
We were pranksters, looking for any excuse to disrupt the day's
program and to 'kill the day'. When Rabbi Henoch went to pray
Mincha one evening, the children opened the container of
kerosene in the kerosene lamp, and poured some water into it.
The rabbi came back, saw the light flickering, and started
working to fix the lamp. We enjoyed the time of idleness and
inactivity until he realized that the liquid had to be changed.
That particular evening was full of adventures. One boy was
injured. As we described it, ‘his head was opened’. We
administered first aid. We washed and cleaned his wound. One of
the boys took a piece of bread, kneaded it in his hand, and then
stuck it on the wound, like a band-aid. True ‘medical’ care!
There was a
story about one of the boys, Yossle dem Glezzers (the
glassmaker’s son). According to the story, on his way home from
the Cheder, on a stormy snowy night, Yossle's lantern stopped
shining. Yossle was lost and wandered to a nearby field. He fell
to the ground and was covered by snow. His family, panicked and
concerned that he did not return home, started searching for
him. He was found the following morning. When Yossle recovered,
he said that he had fallen asleep in the snow and had dreamt
about Elijah the prophet, who told him not to be afraid. Elijah
told him to be calm, and assured him that nothing would happen
to him. Everyone in the Shtetle was talking about that story,
especially the children.
Each of the
rabbis we studied with was unique, each with his own virtues and
shortcomings. Rabbi Yankle Velichover was treating the children
gently, forgivingly. Rabbi Henoch was tough with the children.
The children used to say that Rabbi Henoch favored me, since his
wife was my father's sister. I never noticed it. Henoch was a
chain smoker. He had a long yellow beard, and I could never
determine whether he was born with yellow hair or his beard was
yellow because of the cigarettes.
Cheder, the Talmud Torah Yeshiva, was already a higher-level
school. Our rabbi was from the Shtetle of Sarny.
We called him 'the Sarniker'. He was learned and knowledgeable,
and very strict. There were stories about him, saying that when
he was young he started to read secular 'forbidden' books.
Someone even tried to convince him to leave Judaism. However,
this attempt had the opposite effect on him. He decided to
Lachzor Be'Teshuva (to Return in Repentance). It is well known
that "in the place where penitents stand, even the righteous
ones cannot stand".
that he would dedicate himself to teaching the Torah to
children. He taught us Talmud, but his specialty was teaching us
to love the Book of Books, the Bible. I remember that when he
taught us about the merchants in the marketplace in Lod, I was
able to visualize a market similar to the one in Vladimirets,
with all its merchants and traders. We did not need the movies.
Our imagination presented us with pictures whenever necessary.
Since the 'Sarniker'
was not from our Shtetle, he was dependent on the students'
parents for his meals. We called it 'Essen Kest'. Each week he
was another family's guest. The student whose guest the rabbi
was would bring the rabbi's food to the Cheder each day of the
one day, when the rabbi had a severe toothache. There was no
dentist in the town. 'Feldsher' Shidlovsky would do the tooth
extractions. His tools were primitive, but he had 'good hands'.
Our Rabbi was moaning and groaning, and we felt sorry for him.
We tried to convince him to go to the 'Feldsher'. In addition to
pitying our rabbi, we were looking forward to a few free hours.
Torah Yeshiva was in Laser-Leib's apartment. He allocated (free
of charge) two rooms for the Yeshiva. Unfortunately, our poor
rabbi had the misfortune of being a victim of the Feldsher's
mistake. The Feldsher extracted a healthy tooth, instead of the
bad one. The rabbi walked quite a distance back from the
Feldsher's to the Yeshiva, suffering a double torture: The
ailing tooth was still there, and the pain from the tooth
extraction was now added. Meanwhile, at the Yeshiva, all hell
broke loose. One of the boys had brought in the rabbi's lunch -
a bowl of hot potatoes and a pitcher of cold buttermilk. As the
boy walked in, he bumped into Yossele Baril. The two started to
fight. Yossele grabbed a hot potato, and threw it at the boy. A
piece of the potato landed in the boy's ear. He started to
scream, dropping the pitcher of buttermilk to the floor. The
suffering rabbi walked in during all that mayhem. Well… we ended
up getting the whole day off.
Undoubtedly, the Cheder was very influential in nurturing a
Jewish child’s soul, even though, in our days, it had lost some
of its original values. On the other hand, my memories of
Hassidism are very positive. My father was associated with the
Stolin Hassidim. After their rabbi died, the people praying in
the Stolin Hassidim’s synagogue separated in their ways. Some of
the people followed the rabbi’s son, Rabbi Elimelech from
Carlin, and others followed the rabbi’s other son, Rabbi
Yochanan, from Lutzk. Each group claimed that only its rabbi
received the father’s blessings to continue his legacy. Our
family followed Rabbi Yochanan from Lutzk. My father and my
older brother used to travel occasionally to visit the rabbi in
Lutzk. Once every three years or so, the Rabbi would come to
Vladimirets. This was always an exciting and moving event. The
Shtetle would start its preparations several days before the
visit. The Rabbi would usually arrive on a Friday, accompanied
by followers from different towns. The town’s people, dressed in
their best festive clothes, would come out to greet him. The
synagogue services were attended by both the Rabbi’s followers
and by others, curious Jews who wanted to see the Rabbi. When
the visiting Rabbi was Rabbi Elimelech, he would receive a room
at Reb Asher Israel’s house. Rabbi Yochanan would
always be Schuch’s guest, in the home that was near the
synagogue. The Rabbi would walk from the house to the synagogue
with all his followers dancing around him, singing with
excitement and deep devotion. I was always wondering about this
contagious excitement and happiness. All that was still before
anyone had had any wine. The happiness had come from their inner
souls, like a kind of an awakening.
Friday nights, each of the Rabbi’s followers rushed home to have
a quick dinner, so that he could rush back to the synagogue
where, along the eastern wall, a table bearing the best of food
and treats was set up for all the guests. People at the table
would sing Chassidic songs as well as other songs that the
guests had learned in different places. One of the important
things during those evenings was to master the new melodies and
songs. Yehoshua Bera and Avraham Veiner, both with a good ear
for music, used to stand next to the Rabbi, teaching and
learning songs. The Rabbi would hardly eat. He pushed away each
of the plates he was given, so that hundreds of hands could
reach over and take what was left on them. Whoever was lucky
enough to grab something, shared it with the people close to
him. The Stolin followers never did any studying on those
nights. They were completely immersed in singing and dancing.
Rabbi went back to his room great happiness resumed in the
synagogue, with more singing, dancing and hand clapping. The
same rituals were repeated the following morning, on Shabbat.
Grabbing some Kugle leftovers was very important. On Motzaei
Shabbat (Saturday night), all the out of town guests would leave
and return to their homes. The Rabbi would stay in Vladimirets
until Tuesday. Wonderful parties were held each night at the
house where he was staying. The greatest party was the farewell
party, held on the night before his departure.
I want to
tell about a prank, this time conducted by the adults rather
than the children. This incident does not diminish the beauty or
importance of the Rabbi’s visit, but rather enhances it, adding
vividness and genuineness to it:
of Schuch and of Reb Asher
were next to each other. Reb Asher Israel was the Shub - Shochet UBodek
(the slaughterer and the examiner). At the farewell party for
the Lutzker Rabbi, the Chassidim decided to play a little
practical joke on Reb Asher. Since my father was a Lutzker’s
follower, I was told by a few Chassidim, “Come with us, David,
we’ll do something important for the Rabbi”. They took me over
to a tall ladder, which was leaning on Reb Asher Israel’s house and told me “Go up
the ladder. You will find a hole in the attic’s wall. Go through
the hole, where you will find some indiks (turkeys) and
chickens. Catch as many as you can, and bring them to the person
who will wait at the top of the ladder.”
not take a risk to do something for the Rabbi? I went up to Reb
Asher Israel’s attic,
where he kept his chicken coops, and took some ‘loot’. One of
the Chassidim went over to Reb Asher
with the fowl, woke him up and told him that he had some
chickens that needed to be slaughtered. Reb Asher
Israel, who obviously could not
recognize the chickens as his own, did as requested and
slaughtered them all. Good food was cooked with the ‘loot’ that
same night. Rabbi Yochanan’s Chassidim viewed this prank as some
kind of victory of their own rabbi over the followers of the
Yochanan left town, Reb Asher Israel was told about what had
happened. He was paid handsomely, double the price, for his
chickens. He had no choice but to accept the ‘absolution’
Elimelech and Rabbi Yochanan used to go out for walks in the
field. I was very attracted to these walks. I used to run after
the Rabbi and his Chassidim, always impressed with their seeming
to be thinking deep thoughts, with a kind of noble expression on
their faces. Two Chassidim were by the Rabbi’s sides, holding
his arms. The Goyim who passed by were impressed by the sight.
They stared at the people for a long time.
I was among
those who were close to the Rabbi, able to learn all the tunes
and melodies. We would practice and rehearse them until we knew
them well. My uncle, Leib Teitelboim, once went to visit the
Rabbi for one of the holidays. He learned a new melody there.
One Friday night there was a Chassidim’s party where my uncle
wanted to sing the melody, but alas, he forgot the tune.
Although there were many other tunes that everyone sang, he was
very frustrated. He went home quite saddened. Later that night,
we heard beautiful singing coming out of my uncle’s room. We
were sure that he had remembered the tune and he was singing it.
We were amazed when, the following morning, he told us that the
tune came to him in his dream at night. He was amazed to learn
that we had heard him sing late at night and that we were sure
he was awake.
and the Chassidic atmosphere continued to be a part of our
being. As we were getting older, we started pondering our
future. What was the purpose of our life in the Shtetle? Those
who left to study in Yeshivot would come home for the holidays
with some sadness in their eyes. Those who left for Vilna would
come back rejoicing and full of hope, influenced by the new
trends that were prevalent in the world in those days.
I was at a
‘crossroad’ point in my life. My affluent parents envisioned my
future in the Shtetle. They expected me to continue in the
family tradition, but I felt attracted to something else,
although I was not yet clear as to what that ‘something’ was.
a Ken (literally - a nest, used as the name for the place where
youth movement activities take place) of HaShomer HaTzair was
established in our Shtetle. They preached for values with which
we were familiar from the Chassidut: Fraternity and comradeship,
unity, mutual assistance, joy of life, moral values. They taught
many songs and melodies. All those attracted us. The youth
movement was like ‘a new jugfor
old wine’. We felt there was a purpose to our life. We became
enthusiastically active and devoted. Concurrently, HaChalutz and
Beitar were also established in our Shtetle. We felt we were
following our parents’ footsteps - we chose new ‘rabbis’ for
ourselves. Each youth movement vied to gain more members. We
tried to keep our Ken cleaner than the others did, with more fun
activities than the others did, with singing, a special necktie,
a badge, etc. I, the one who was the singing expert, worked
relentlessly to recruit new members to our Youth Movement. The
children, sought after by each youth movement, were not very
interested in ideology issues. They came for the fun things.
I was sent
to an out of town Directors’ meeting, where I was given a
special badge - Chazak VeEmatz (Be strong and of good courage!).
Upon my return to the Shtetle, I was considered a ‘national
hero’. Everyone knew that it was given to me in a special
ceremony. Moreover, I also had a document certifying the fact
that I had received the badge. I also had the honor of shaking
hands with the heads of the famous directors and organizers of
the Moshava (the farming community established to prepare the
Chalutzim (pioneers) for agricultural life in Eretz Israel). So
there I was, proudly walking around in Vladimirets, with that
enviable badge (over a colored cloth background) pinned on my
expanded its activities, new directors and counselors were
active: We viewed Shlomo Reznick, whose sister was the first to
immigrate to Israel, as closest to Eretz Israel; Shmulik
Burak was also one of the important people in the Ken. Even I
was the head of the Ken for a certain period.
an era of activities: Trips, ideological discussions, games. We
suddenly discovered beauty in our vicinity – the scenery of the
fields, the woods, and more. People started going out to
Hachshara (preparation for being pioneers and living in
joining HaChalutz. We invited out of town lecturers. We very
much wanted to impress people and make our movement more
significant in the eyes of the town’s people.
viewed many things, even those that had already existed in the
past, in a different light. They seemed different to us. Take
for example, Chassidic singing. The melodies that the Chasidim
used to sing in the synagogue sounded different when young
people hiking in the woods sang them. We started admiring the
Goyim who were toiling the land. We were craving difficult
agricultural work. Even the post-office became something special
– many of us would go there on Shabbat to receive the news –
through letters and newspapers. We were now ‘more connected’ to
the big world.
other hand, some things became less ‘radiant’. At the Shabbat
table at home, there were ideological arguments, discussions,
differences of opinion, especially if the young people belonged
to different organizations. I remember my father bemoaning and
saying “We only have one Shabbat per week, one and only. Please
do something to keep from desecrating it. Please stop your
disputes at the table”.
grandmother Charna, the midwife, lived to a very old age. She
was more than one hundred years old when she died. She stopped
working as midwife when she was ninety years old. Her daughter
Breindle, my mother, took over the job. Indeed, my mother
inherited not only her mother’s profession, but also her traits
of kindness and generosity.
Charna’s days, people were afraid of Ayin Hara (the evil eye).
They never disclosed how many months pregnant the woman in their
family was. This was true when my mother took over.
Nevertheless, she knew who was ready to give birth, even though
people kept it a secret, by just looking at the women. Late at
night, I would sometimes hear knocking on the door and a
whispering sound calling Breindle, Breindle. My mother would
immediately get up. She usually knew who would be the one
tapping on the door. If the knocking on the door did not wake me
up, I would wake up when my mother came to take the small
leather bag with all the midwife’s instruments, which was
hanging above my bed. Usually I was among the first to know of a
carried out this sacred mission of delivering babies for fifteen
years. I use the term ‘mission’ since most of the times she did
it without being paid. Depending on the families’ means, she
sometimes received a small sum of money that she would save and
use for charity only. She never took money from poor women.
Friday my mother used to finish her housework early. She then
went around the Shtetle, giving out food and money to needy
families. We never asked her who she went to, and she never told
us who the needy families were, so as not to embarrass the
including my mother, used to do charitable work. We probably
never appreciated it at the time. When I think of it now, I
admire their fortitude and humbleness. They never sought
publicity or respect for what they did.
this about my mother, helps me understand my cousin Yoel’s
story. Yoel escaped and survived the Vladimirets slaughter
during World War ll. When he came to Israel, he told
me that he had been at my parents’ house on that Friday, the day
of the extinction. With the rest of the people in the house, he
had been expelled to the big empty lot where everyone was
gathered. He remembered my mother telling him: “Let us not fear,
Yoel. It is true that we are being led to our death, but
remember that we are getting there just before the time of the
blessing of the Shabbat candles. This is a great privilege”.
Yoel told me that she had spoken about us, her children far
away, the whole time, saying, “Who knows what has happened to
were young, we did not appreciate the things we saw. Times just
seemed more or less normal. We were immersed in the youth
movement activities. We thought we discovered a new world, a
world our parents could not understand.We were not interested in our homes and the values
therein. We were seeking travels and sailings.
no river in Vladimirets. There was a very big lake in the town
of Ojiro, about 12 kilometers from us.
In the middle of the lake, there was a wonderful island with a
beautiful forest. We used to sail to the island, light bonfires,
sit around them and sing. We would put up tents and stay late,
until the wee hours of the morning. It was an era of dreaming
and romanticizing. We felt closer to heaven than to earth. This
was the time when courting started and the first young couples
The time of
the Hachshara brought us down to earth. Those days meant hard
work. I went to Hachshara in Ludmir. My parents were unhappy
with my planning to go far away from home and work so hard.
While trying to convince me not to go, they made sure I had a
new set of clothing, as befitting an affluent child. Soon after
I arrived at the Hachshara I lost my new clothes. I became equal
to all the others. I worked as hard as everyone else, slouched
like everyone else, and went hungry like everyone else.
time came for me to join the army, I had to go back to
Vladimirets. A few of us left together for Vladimirets. Since we
had no money for the fare, we walked fifty kilometers from
Ludmir to Kovel. We did not know our way, so we followed the
horses and carriages, those carrying flour from Ludmir to Kovel,
through the woods and the open fields. Our clothes were raggedy
and dirty, our eyes were red after a sleepless night. I tried to
comfort my friends by telling them: “Listen, if we are lucky,
all our troubles will be over when we get to Kovel. I have a
cousin who lives there. I do not know his address, but perhaps
we will run into him. And then… we’ll be fed and we’ll get money
for the fare we need to continue our trip home”. On and on I
went, telling my friends about this cousin’s wealth and
in Kovel, a town by an intersection of roads, in the early hours
of the morning. Scruffy looking people, like us, were a common
sight in the town. At about
the morning, as we were all standing on one of the streets, I
saw my cousin, standing and talking with a few Jewish men, all
elegantly dressed. “I found him,” I told my friends, “there he
is”. My friends already knew whom I was talking about. Without
hesitation, I walked over to the group of men and, perhaps
impolitely, called out “Hey, Moshe”. I was shocked when Moshe
simply ignored me. I did not understand why he did it. Deeply
insulted, I walked away, vowing that even if he would later
offer me the best of everything, I would never accept it. The
only thing that bothered me was what I should tell my friends
who were anxiously waiting in the distance, expecting help and
rescue. Well, I told them that I made a mistake. I said that the
man was not my cousin. We all continued our trip by foot.
following Pesach, my cousin Moshe came to Vladimirets. With a
kind smile and an embarrassed look, he approached me. “You
Redhead, how dare you smile at me” I yelled at him. He proceeded
to explain to me and to the family that he had been in the
middle of important negotiations with those men. My greeting had
been offensive. I had looked frighteningly terrible. He was
shocked and embarrassed. However, he had immediately realized
that he was wrong. He started looking for me, wanting to invite
me to his house where I could wash and eat, but I was nowhere to
be found. He kept telling us how upset he was. He had not
intended to be bad. Eventually, we made up. I was getting ready
to leave for Israel. I did
not want to bear a grudge.
of 1934 was the summer of the big fire in Vladimirets. Like many
other houses, our house was also burnt. We moved to Kundes’
house, outside of town. For me, it was a summer of soul
searching. I was about to leave my home, my family and my
Shtetle. The sights of the burnt town, the piles of ashes, all
contributed to deeper thoughts and ponderings. I went to say
good-bye to people who could not come to me. I went to many
homes. I remember saying good-bye to Velvle Kanonitch who was
sick and bed ridden. I remember his sad, heavy looking eyes and
his words: “Listen David, I doubt that I will ever have the
strength to get out of this bed. However, God is kind, even with
the sick. He gave the terminally ill the ability to bless. You
should know that the blessing of the sick is a great blessing.
My blessing to you is that you should succeed wherever you go,
in everything that you do.” My eyes filled with tears. To this
day, I sometimes think of that scene of my saying good-bye to
Many of my
contemporaries, as well as those who were not my contemporaries,
considered me fortunate. I felt it especially on the day of my
departure. The house was full of family members and friends.
Even the empty lot around the house was full of people coming to
bid me farewell. I saw silent sorrow in their looks, as if
asking ‘…And what will happen to us?’
escorted me for quite a long way. Some even traveled with me all
the way to the train station in Rafalovka, to see me off on my
way to Eretz Israel.