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A Letter from Yakov Eisenberg

From: Sefer Vladimirets, 1963

Author: Chaim

** Webmaster Note: The Hebrew paragraph was translated by Laia Ben-Dov as sponsored by George Zilbergeld.  The actual letter was written in Yiddish and was translated by Diane Moore.  Notes for clarity or explanation have been provided in brackets.

Please note that the 1st paragraph was written by the editors, not Yakov Eisenberg, and that he was writing in response to a previous letter, so we are only getting one side and one piece of a conversation.

Additionally, the term “brothers” does not mean siblings, it references being as close as brothers, of the same soil, the same intertwined history.

When putting together a yizkor book, people often submitted what little they had, a few photographs, a final letter received before the terrible news arrived.  That is most likely why this letter was included.

A  LETTER  FROM  YAKOV  EISENBERG

This letter, written by Yaakov Eisenberg, of blessed memory, was sent to Mr. Yehuda Bas, after he immigrated to the United States in 1938.  There are hints in the letter at the blood libels that threatened the Bas family that year.  The importance of the letter, presented here with small omissions, is that it shows clear lines illustrating the outstanding personality of its author – Yaakov Eisenberg, of blessed memory – a personality in which the noble characteristics of charm, popularity, a good disposition, insight and resoluteness were united.  Yaakov Eisenberg, of blessed memory, also was an unofficial public affairs worker in the town before the War, and every matter that was complicated and difficult always found him ready and willing to volunteer and donate the strength of his initiative, his energy and understanding to its solution. [This paragraph added by the editors.]

February 15, 1939 

My brothers, Yudke [Yehuda Bas] and Abraham [Bas], it isn’t even fair for me to address Yudke first and afterwards Abraham.  My only basis is the letter Abraham wrote to Yaakovl [Yaakov Bas], that the 3500 versts [A verst (Russian versta, âåðñòà) is an obsolete Russian unit of length. It is defined as being 500 sazhen long, which makes a verst equal to 3500 feet (1.0668 kilometers).] of Atlantic Ocean and the 25 years that have torn Abraham from us, have made him forget.  Only through Yudke has everything been refreshed and brought back to life.  It’s my intention that through Yudke the honorable A. Bas will be reminded of the writer of this letter. 

Only, Yudke, you mustn’t think that because my letter is written to you and Abrahaml together, I want to embarrass him a little, and spare you.  Make no mistake – I only have a different language for you.   But first let me discuss a little with Abrahaml. He already wrote me greetings a couple of times; he should excuse me for not answering until now.  I simply didn’t believe that he still thought about anything or anybody in Vladimirets.  Only now do I see that some old memories have awakened in him.

Honored Abrahaml, you surely won’t get angry that I address you so familiarly.  Consider that this is our old language.  So everyone knows that I, no, better said, that our families, Eisenberg and Appelboim, have been close to your family from the first day they came to Vladimirets, about 30 years ago, until today.  And especially I, who have already undergone sorrow and joy in your family, together with your Mama, may she be well - - - nothing is done in your house without me, that I don’t know about.  Of course it won’t surprise you that I know when you have written a letter once a year and when every month...but on the other hand, what is the whole megillah? 

So you should know that the only solution that you ask for, that your mother shouldn’t long too much  for Yudke, is only for you to write her a letter often, because a letter from an American son means a lot.  And that will be the greatest joy for your mama in her old age. 

Writing oftener, and from time to time “to shmeltzen” [to schmooze] with something... For our first time after 25 years, that will be enough for now.

Stay  well, as is wished for you by your friend,

Yakov Eisenberg

Now Yudke, we’ll turn to you  - - - and to the real matter: you remember, Yudke, that before your departure I said to you that you shouldn’t forget in what a time you left here; that people must think outside their families, and do something too for the community.

Remember, little brother, how the American money was of good use, when word came from the prosecutor  that Benny should pay 500 zlotys, or else they would take him straight to Rovno.  And  we have saved 100 zlotys from that money, and such a windfall does a lot in the shtetl.

I shouldn’t write so much to you.  You are after all one of us, and you know and understand everything. 

And don’t be embarrassed, there is no reason.  You aren’t demanding anything for yourself, God forbid - - - Where is   Vovtshak?   Chaimke, where are you?  Where is Chaim?*   You said to me so strongly.   And your brother, my former comrade Abrahaml? “Abraham, Abraham, and he said, Hineni.”*  And Motl Rosenberg?  “Yudkah, Chaim, Chaim Yudkah!*   It’s getting on to Pesach, do something, so the poor Jews of Vladimirets will remember that their brothers in the faraway lands  won’t let them die in the hard places of exile where fate has scattered them, to undergo the bitter Gehenna [hell] of life.   Friends, don’t forget, don’t forget, and hope that God will help you in this, that you yourselves will quickly and easily reach a good shore, and become rich, and will be able to give of your possessions with a word - don’t be ashamed, it isn’t a disgrace to pray for that.  Would that in future we not, God forbid - - - I end my writing with heartfelt greetings to all acquaintances, and to the Kantor family especially.  Abrahaml, write if you will, and I will answer soon.  Yudke, be strong and of good courage!  And  write  soon!

Your good brother,

Yakov Eisenberg


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