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August 07, 1981 - Image 17

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-08-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Friday, August 1, 1981

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Recovered Yiddish Memoir Printed

By ALLEN A. WARSEN

Carole Malkin, an author
residing in Berkeley, Calif.,
recovered and revealed her
grandfather's handwritten
Yiddish memoir. Titled
-D "The Journeys of David To-
back," the book was pub-
lished by Schocken Books:
David Toback was born in
1875 in a small village in
Russia. His father, Leibish
Hershik, was a poor miller,
whose mill, rented from a
Russian landlord, was built
top of a hill "to catch the
rid."
Toback received his early
education from various
tutors at his parents' home.
But none of them, he writes,
taught him - much. "I knew
more about the sting of a
switch than the aleph-bet."
On reaching Bar
Mitzva age, Leibush
Hersh gave his son 132-
year-old tefilin which
originally belonged to his
great-grandfather,
known for his righteous-
ness and saintliness.
At 14, Toback was sent to
Proskurov to study at the
local yeshiva. For a while he
stayed there with his rela-
tives, inhospitable and un-
friendly people. He portrays
them as follows: "Every
time I came in, I received
aunt Babbah's sarcastic
loaruch haba' (blessed is
your arrival): She and
Nuchem (her husband)
hardly looked at me except
when I had to eat.
"I tried to win their affec-
tion, but it was impossible.
Nuchem ignored me, and
Babbah twisted everything
I said or did into something
that exposed my evil inten-
tions. To her I was capable
of every crime, even theft."
Not surprisingly, Toback
soon left both his relatives'
place and Proskurov and
went to Kishinev where he
enrolled in its then famous
yeshiva.
Kishinev, the city that
years later became
notorious for its pog-
roms, in 1889, states
David, was cosmopoli-
tan, inhabited by White
Russians, Tartars, Turks
and Jews who lived in
peace and harmony.
At the yeshiva Toback
was placed in the highest
kita (grade) and was as-
signed days — "that is for
each day of the week a
different family took re-
sponsibility for giving me
dinner."

His rebbe, Reb Abraham
Ber, a Karliner Hasid and a
pious man, was respected by
e students who studied
th him. Toback recalls
iat when Reb Ber "entered
a room, to me it was as if a
celestial being had come
from the heavens, and sud-
denly the world was clear,
simple, full of light." Reb
Ber, moreover, observes To-
back, would take "delight in
telling tales to his students.
Now that I consider the ,
matter, I realize that I owe
much to his influence that I
am capable of writing down
my memories."
The people, at whose
homes Toback was assigned
days, unlike his relatives in

Proskurov, befriended and
treated him like a member
of their families. Often-
times, he heard his hosts
and their guests discuss
various problems either in
Hebrew or Russian. Yiddish
they regarded as a contemp-
tible jargon. But when the
discussants got excited and
came to shouting insults,
Yiddish seemed the best
language after all."
At 21, Toback had to
report to the Russian
military draft board.
Among Jews, he notes,
ingenious efforts were
made to avoid the draft.
Following is a typical
example: "Beside me," he
writes, "was a youth with
long payess. His face was
so emaciated that resem-
bled a dry fig . . . The
soldier who called the
numbers announced my
companion's and mine
too . . When the young
man rose, it was with a
mother on each side . . .
Everyone envied his dis-
creptitude. In contrast I
walked unassisted. I

"

overheard
someone
comment about me, 'He's
a healthy, well-built
young man with strong
muscles. Poor thing, he's
finished . . .' We entered
the examination room
where a military council
sat around a table . . .
The young man was to be
first . . . The doctor
asked him, 'What is your
problem? Why are you so
emaciated?'
"He answered in a quav-
ering voice, 'I don't know.' "
" 'Are you married?' "
" yes.'
" `Do you have chil-
dren?' "
" 'Yes, two,' said the
young man and seemed
about to faint from the exer-
tion."
"His interrogator an-
nounced, 'If such a soul can
have children, he can also
be a soldier. The soldier's
bread will revive him."
"David's name was called
next."
" 'Are you healthy?' "
the doctor asked.
" 'Yes,' came the reply."

Bermant's New 'Patriarch'
Believable But Very Dry

By HEIDI PRESS

Categorically, it can be
stated that Chaim Bermant
is a talented writer. His
books have good plot de-
velopment, his characters
are believable and he is
convincing in his display of
knowledge of the particular
subject around which his
tales revolve. However, his
style takes away a little
from the impact. It is dry
and the reader will find he
will have to force himself to
get to the next page.
Bermant's latest work,
"The Patriarch," bears all of
the characteristics listed
above. The story is a
chronicling of the life of
Nahum Rabinovitz-
Raeburn, a Russian immig-
rant to Scotland who amas-
ses and loses fortunes as
much as he derives joy and
displeasure from his chil-
dren.
For their time and cir-
cumstances, the characters,
mainly Nahum's children
and step-children, are real
enough, although they, at
times, tend to lean toward
the fantastical, but we can
forgive Bermant for that.
Nahum is an observant
Jew, and where neces-
sary as embellishment or
to enlighten the reader
more to Nahum's religios-
ity, Bermant brings in
references to the
Humash, Talmud and
other sacred Jewish
tracts. The man knows
whereof he speaks.
Yet, what is nagging, is
that with so much going for
him, why does Bermant kill
his piece with such a dry de-
livery? If a reader feels it is
an effort to turn the page,
then his whole purpose in
tackling the work is lost. It's
a shame because Bermant is
such a knowledgeable ob-
server and interpreter of
Jewish life.
Published by St. Martin's
Press, the story recounts

Rabinovitz's journey from
the Russian shtetl to Glas-
gow, Scotland, where he
hopes to make a fortune. To
better his chances, he
anglicizes his name to
Raeburn and embarks on a
shipping career, naming his
first ship The Tikvah. Late
in life he marries and the
book details his hopes fulfil-
led and dreams shattered
for himself, his wife, his
children, and later his sec-
ond wife. An ardent Zionist,
Nahum considers moving to
Israel.
It is unfortunate that it
takes so much patience to be
able to read Bermant. His is
a talent that should be rec-
ognized.

" 'Have you been ill re-
cently? Have you suffered
from brain fever?'
" 'No,' David answered."
"David received a 'blue
ticket' (freed from mili-
tary service)."
Shortly afterwards he
married and in 1898 left for
America.
There, Toback at first
worked in a men's shop
pressing pants. Then he
opened a kosher butcher-
shop from which he retired
at a ripe age to relate his
life's experiences.
David concludes his
memoir as follows:
"So for whom have I
written all this?
"I'm going to put all in a
closet, and when I die it goes
into the garbage. And yet if
there is one thing I have
learned well in my life, it is
that 'the wheel turns.' All
that is required is patience.
My youngest daughter
Miriam has recently given
birth to a son. Perhaps my
new grandson . . ."
It was his granddaughter,
Carole, who prepared the
manuscript for publication
and she donated it to the
Jewish National Library in
Jerusalem.

TEL AVIV (JTA) — The
Italian Olivetti Co. has won
what is described as Israel's
biggest _computer supply
bid, to install computer
terminals in Bank Leumi's
330 branches throughout
Israel.
The deal is reportedly
valued at about $15 million.
The bank management
said they had decided on the
Olivetti offer over a com-
petitive bid from the Ameri-
can IBM firm, as the Italian
models were more suited to
the bank's requirements
over the next decade. The
bank uses IBM equipment
for its main data processing
work.
Installation of the com-
puter terminals in all
branches will take about
two years, bank sources
said.

Despise not any man, and
do not spurn anything; for
there is no man that hath
not his hour, nor is there
anything that hath not its
place.
—Rabbi Ben Azai

NEW YORK (JTA) —
The Long Island regional
office of the Anti-
Defamation League of Bnai
Brith reported last week
that since the close of the
1980 audit period (Dec. 8,
1980), ADL has received re-
port of a total of 70 anti-
Semitic and racial incidents
in Nassau and Suffolk
Counties as of the end of
July, a total nearly 70 per-
cent higher than that of the
entire 1980 reporting year.

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