What memories can you share with us about your family? (continued)
My father belonged to a Jewish organization for working people, and that is where he davened. For the Yamim Tovim he davened in the magnificent shul in our town. There was a shul, a beis medrash and a kloz. Reb Toivale was the Rav of the shul, and Reb Chatzkele was the Rav of the beis medrash and the kloz.
I recall one incident, when my mother bought a chicken and sent it to the slaughterhouse to be slaughtered. When the maid took a look at it she said to my mother, “You must immediately send it to the Rav to see if it is usable.” My father sent me to Reb Toivala, a very Orthodox rabbi. Reb Toivala instructed me to tell my father that the chicken was good, but the liver could not be used. These two Rabbanim were head of the beis din as well.
Although we grew up amongst the gentiles, we stuck to our beliefs and we didn’t adapt to the goyishe ways.
What kind of education did you receive?
The first five years of schooling were typical. Then we were expected to go for a higher education. Although there was no actual high school in our city, our teachers taught us on a very high level, mathematics.
We came home at three o’clock in the afternoon. My mother’s maid would prepare something for us to eat. Then we had to attend cheder until six o’clock in the evening. We learned to write Hebrew and to daven, as well as Tanach.
I loved to read whatever I could get my hands on. My parents were very well educated. They could both read and speak the German and Polish languages. In the public school that I attended, there was a big library, and our reading was censored.
The teachers demanded that each child come with fresh, clean clothing every day. We had a woman who would come each morning to our house and wash us down with warm water.
My father did not want me to be a tailor. His aspirations for me were quite high. He was sure I would further my education and become something great one day.
What was Shabbos like at home?
At my grandmother’s house, by 12 o’clock midday the house was all ready for Shabbos. I recall how my grandmother would sit with her Tzena Urena and read from it. One Friday when I came over to her house, I found my grandmother crying. When I questioned her, she explained to me that she had just finished reading the story of how the brothers of Yosef Hatzaddik sold him.
My grandmother cooked and baked all the delicacies for Shabbos for the whole family. The grandchildren would come over to help her.
The Jewish girls who worked for my mother were let out early on Friday to prepare for Shabbos. The gentile girls would keep longer hours.
On Shabbos, my father attended a shul which was specifically meant for working people: bakers, cooks, butchers, shoe makers, et cetera. After the meal on Shabbos afternoon, the house was closed, all the guests would leave and my parents would take a long nap. In the late afternoon when my parents were rested, they would dress up in nice clothing and the family took a shpatzeer — a walk — around the city, to meet with all their friends and neighbors.
When Shabbos was just about over, we headed home. My mother would say G-tt fun Avraham… and my father would make Havdalah.
How did you spend your summer vacation?
My mother had a sister living in the next town, just a few miles away. She would send me for one week each summer to stay with her. The rest of the summer we spent at home like the rest of the children in town. We swam in the summer and went skiing in the winter through the mountains.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.