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January 27, 1984 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-01-27

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

10 Friday, January 21, 1984

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Volume Chronicles Jewish Life in European Towns

By DAVID FRIEDMAN
(Copyright 1984, JTA, Inc.)
WASHINGTON — The
Nazis, in murdering six mil-
lion Jews during World War

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II, also destroyed the vigor-
ous Jewish presence that
had existed in Eastern
Europe for 1,000 years. The
hundreds of Jewish com-
munities in small towns and
large cities where Jewish
culture in all its forms had
thrived were wiped out.
But the people who came
from those communities,
both Holocaust survivors
and those who were lucky

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enough to have emigrated
before the war, have wanted
to preserve the memory of
not only their martyred
relatives and friends but
their hometowns.
Beginning in the Dis-
placed Persons camps in
Europe after the war and
continuing until today in Is-
rael, the United States,
Argentina and wherever
Jews now live, "landsleit"
have gotten together to pro-
duce memorial books about
the community in which
they were born. These books
serve in a way as the
tombstone that the
Holocaust victims never
had, but they also help
preserve the history and
traditions of each commu-
nity.
Since most of these
books are Yiddish or He-
brew, Jack Kugelmass
and Jonathan Boyarin,
two anthropologists con-
nected with the Max
Weinreich Center for Ad-
vanced Jewish Studies at
the YIVO Institute for
Jewish Research, have

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translated selections
from 70 such books in
"From a Ruined Garden:
The Memorial Books of
Polish Jewry" (Schoc-
ken).
Although the shadow of
the Holocaust hangs over
this book, most of it is
enjoyable reading. In sec-
tions called "Our Towns,"
"Townspeople," "Lifeways,"
"Events," and "Legends and
Folklore," the editors -
translators provide a good
glimpse of the lifestyle of
Polish Jewry from the be-
ginning of the 20th Century
until the 1939 German in-
vasion of Poland.
The authors of the memo-
rial book wrote about the
town personages, both those
that were important and
those who were just local
characters. There are also
many interesting vignettes
on how Jewish religious
holidays were celebrated,
the economic life of Jews
and particularly the dis-
crimination they suffered in
Poland, and their cultural
life. Various local disputes
as well as the closeness of
the communities are de-
scribed.
Many of the stereotypes
American Jews have about
the shtetl will be shattered
by this book. One interest-
ing selection is from the
"Sefer Mir" which tells how
American Orthodox Jews
sent their sons to the
yeshivas of Poland and
Lithuania to study. In Mir,
which had the largest con-
tingent of Americans, 48,
there was one major dis-
pute. Some of the Ameri-
cans wanted to play football
before class, a sight that had
never been seen by either
the Jews or non-Jews there,
and were forced to stop.
The- final two sections
of the book deal with the
Holocaust and the return
of some of the survivors
to their former homes.
There is M. Rapoport's
account of his return to
the town of Bilgoray, the
day before Rosh
Hashana 1944.
"I was born in Bilgoray
and lived there until the
war, and now, walking
around in broad daylight I
barely recognized the city.
Lubelski Street, where the
synagogue had been lo-
cated, the great study
house, the little study
house, the bath house, the
slaughterhouse, the Zik-
hron Yankev Cheder, the
old graveyard, the old rab-
bi's house, the new house of
the Belzer Rebbe's son of
blessed memory, the meet-
ing houses of Trisker and
Rudniker Hasidim — ev-
erything was a void, and in
midday there was no living
soul to be seen.
Zachary Baker, librarian
of the Yiddish department
of the Montreal Jewish Pub-
lic Library, compiled a
bibliography of East Euro-
pean memorial books which
takes up the last 52 pages of

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— Addison

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the book. It is hoped that
there will be more collec-
tions of translations from
these books.

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