Pages From The Zabludow Yiskor Book:

Zabludow; Dapim Mi-tokh Yisker-Bukh , editor: Nehama Shavli-Shimush, Published by Former Residents of Zabludow in Israel, 1987 (Hebrew) Translation from Hebrew by Ziva Rosenhand
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The Old Synagogue of Zabludow: 1635-1939, a Model by Moshe Verbin, Kibbutz Yakum

Holocaust Chapter


Parting (Separation)
by Eliyahu Ben Moshe-Baruch ve' Bluma Zesler, (Haifa, 1986)

September 1938, two weeks before Rosh Hashanah.

I'm going to part with the people of Zabludow before I make aliyah (immigration) to Israel. I was born and raised in that town, there I got the moral values of Judaism, norms of behavior, a lot of love, and human warmth. During my childhood I breathed its smells, sounds, and its spirits, and they haven't left me even until this day.

Weekday, twilight time, and fall is nearing. I'm going from house to house to part with the people of the town and to get blessings for the way. Every stare, handshake, and kiss penetrate and carve into my soul. Outside it is already getting dark, and I have to hurry to the bus that goes to Bialystok, where I finished my studies in the high school. And what a wonder, in the town square, where the bus is standing waiting for me are people from Zabludow. My eyes are fixed on them, and I feel as if they want to join me on my long trip, and not leave me on my own. Their hands reach out to me, waving hello, and they are blowing me kisses. And who would think that this will be the last glimpse of them, and I will never see them again. Those hands accompany me all my life. They reach out to me in my dreams, in days of happiness, and of sadness, and they scream "don't forget us, we are part of you!"

I am leaving the town, whose lives are going along as usual, even though in the big world the winds of war are already blowing. The town Zabludow is still in some sense like 'Hundred years of Loneliness' by Garcia Marks; full of legends and strange stories, customs and traditions, that have nothing to do with the bursting of the modernization of the twentieth century. And still, in a quiet and non-feeling way a revolution happens in the town of Zabludow -- Especially in the area of education. Thanks to the genius rabbi, Jochanan Mirsky, of blessed memory. Also the worlds outlook is changing. Zionism is replacing left wing philosophy. Zionist youth movements and training camps of Hapoel Hamisrachi who brought the first settlers to Eretz Israel. Also in everyday life there are external changes influenced by the regional city of Bialystok. From her and to her buses flow in and out of the city with very high frequency.

In Zabludow you can still manage without a watch, almost every child knows how to look at the shade of the sun and tell the correct time. You can easily know the day of the week, the coming of the holidays, and changes of seasons. There is almost no need for a calendar. Life is proceeding in a circular motion like the hands of a watch. Starting at one certain point and return after one full circle.

In Zabludow you wake up on Sunday to the ringing of two church bells, the Catholic, and the Parboslavic, each of whose bell chimes differ. You wake up and you know its Sunday: come the farmers from the area, their shoes on their shoulders, hurrying to prayers. With the end of prayers they scatter to the tavern and to the bakeries, that most of them are owned my Jews, to eat and drink, and the wine is spilled like water. Smell of heavy liquor is in the air, and a day such as this is able to end up in fights, knife stabs, and even murder, this is a day full of tension. Monday: gallops of the horses and wheels of wagons screeches from the weight of the merchandise, wakes you up at dawn. And you remember it's market day! And there isn't a bigger pleasure than to browse in the market. And what's not there? In the horse market the dealing is with the best horses. Fixing horse shoes, looking at their teeth to determine their age, touching and checking. They want to buy the best, and in the square itself to the length of the left side next to the store walls sit the baboushkot, with their products; high quality butter, all kinds of cheese, eggs, vegetables, also wild berries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, and what not? It's hard to detail the bounty of the merchandise; carts overflowing with potatoes, apples, pears, onion-all the agricultural products from the villages, and of course, carts loaded with firewood for use in the winter. Market day is a fun day, especially for the children, for even the clown is not absent with his music box, nor the fortunetellers, the beautiful gypsies with their colorful clothes, and the photographer. A happy day and the house is full of goodies.

Tuesday: more relaxed. We clean what the horses and cows left on the big stones of the square and the children are looking for horseshoes, because they say that the horseshoe brings luck.

Many men are preparing to set out in the opposite direction, to the nearby villages and the distant markets in the towns and bigger cities away from Zabludow and, like in the stories of Mendele Mocher Sefarim (Mendele the bookseller), they drag themselves in the night, in the rain and in the cold in order to bring from far away their daily wages home. These are tough lives. The men come home at the end of the week tired and weary. Sometimes their success brightens their faces. Sometimes they come home downtrodden and dismayed.

Wednesday: the Sabbath is nearing. Visiting the Rabbi's house to buy yeast (its part of his livelihood). The yeast is sold by the Rebbetzin (Rabbi's wife), whose head is wrapped in white kerchief. She stares at everyone in order to know who didn't come, - meaning that a certain family will be left with no challot (Sabbath bread) for Shabbat, and the family is in distress. There is consequently need to supply this family their needs anonymously, because the town is like a big family; no Jew will suffer the shame of hunger; the responsibility is collective.

The baking for Shabbat starts already on Wednesday, and continues until the late hours of Thursday. The smell of challot and yeast cakes is felt in every street and people's mouths water. There are a lot of houses which are also baking bread.

Thursday: is dedicated also to cleaning, scrubbing the wooden floors, waxing the floor of the living room in red floor wax, and of course for cooking.

Friday: last preparations for the approaching of Shabbat and the ritual of the cholent (Shabbat Stew). They prepare it with attentiveness according to the traditional recipe, and in the special pot. On top of it comes the lid, potato peels, tied in rope, writing the name on the pot, and in the hours of the afternoon it's ready to be taken to the hot ovens. In Zabludow there isn't a street without a bakery, and each one of them has its own uniqueness.

And who doesn't remember Friday night? The whole family is sitting around the table, the candles are lit, and the challot are covered. Everyone is dressed in Shabbat clothes. The Jew who returned from a long, weary journey bent over and downtrodden, sits like a king, and his wife like a queen, perhaps for one night, for a fleeting moment- and the children are princes and princesses, that way they'll remain until the end of Shabbat.

Shabbat: waking up early with heightened spirits. In the morning they set out for Synagogue, and what a wonder, the same Jews, crouched during the weekdays like as if their stature grew. They stride with broadened shoulders, in their best clothes, as if their worries have left them. Everyone in a different world, each holy, upon returning from morning services their heavy cholent is awaiting them with the rest of the delicacies.

Afternoon most people stroll to the boardwalk. In the main streets there are some pretty narrow sidewalks, where people walk back and forth for hours. They meet, stop, and talk until the dark hours. The week is over and at the end of the Sabbath, when weekdays are approaching, sadness falls over you, a deep sadness, a typical Jewish one. The town goes out of it's routine in a wedding, or G-d forbid, a funeral; almost everyone accompanies the couple to the Chupah and they take part in their happiness- and the whole town accompanies its dead, and sheds tears with open hearts. No one is apathetic, neither when a fire breaks out. Young, old and children are running to the place where the fire broke out, holding buckets full of water, and more than once they realize that after running the bucket is already empty. Before I left the town there were already fire fighters, that's the story of the week.

And the seasons of the year: there are so many yearnings for those who remained alive, the smell of spring still makes one drunk, and that's the smell of blossoming lilacs in May. The cherries are in blossom as are all the rest of fruit tress; the whole town is colorful. Doors open women and children again sit in their spare time on the bench, or on the front porch. Some kind of laziness, mixed in with romance wraps you and some unexplainable hope in the heart. You would want to separate yourself from the town, to fly to the big world, but you know, here you'll stay, stuck all your life, and only a few will succeed to leave its boundaries. Some will go to Eretz Israel, others to far away countries, few would travel to the big city, and those who do, would be the best people of the town, and then the town would be impoverished from its spiritual and material resources.

The summer- the very hot summer sometimes brings unpleasant smells, life is taking place mostly outside, harvesting the crops and the smell of the hay is in the air. On Saturdays the forests around are full, people are escaping from the heavy heat to the forest, taking with them food and hammocks, after a tiring walk its possible to rest in the shade and enjoy the wind and the smell of pine. The town also has a river, bathing and swimming are not a common sight, but you can see women and young ladies bringing their dirty laundry, scrubbing the laundry on a wavy board in the rivers water, and the laundry comes out fresh and with a good smell. Sometimes, during the summer, after a very hot day, it rains with big, thick drops, and then there is relief. The nuisance of the summer are the flies, and there are many, fighting them endlessly with a sticky, sweet paper, that the flies are attracted to, with glass jars full of water and underneath sugar that attracts the fly, with a rubber stick or just a plain towel they try to get rid of them through the window or door.

In the summer fruits and vegetables are plentiful. You can also refresh yourself by drinking cold sour milk that they bring from the cellar because there is no refrigerator; there is neither ice nor running water. Usually this is a happy season.

The autumn: brings sadness and gloominess, heavy rains come down sometimes throughout the whole week, the town is in fall, sunken in mud, and the yellow leaves float in the puddles. The water doesn't flow, because the town does not have sewer systems. Life goes slowly, when evening comes the streets empty, and the people stay more and more in their houses, but the Jews who earn their living from peddling are still wandering to far away places with their carts, in spite of the harsh weather.

In the winter: the town is usually covered with snow, and wrapped in white, the youngsters love this, and the coldness doesn't scare them, they slide on the ice in the few ponds and ride sleds tied to the horses, that are the winter transportation. It's a pleasure to take a walk in the evening when the stars reflect on the frozen snow. Sometimes the cold gets to minus 33 degrees Celsius. The house is warm, the big stoves, covered with white tiles are working all day. The stove is the center of the house; the common dish is soured cabbage with a side dish of potatoes. In spite of the cold youngsters take walks in the evening outside and love blossoms in the winter because they warm the heart and the body. During the walk you hear here and there music or songs that come from houses. The common sound is that of the mandolin, also there are two pianos in the town, and one violin on which is played by Chiale Baker, the student of famous violinist Shmuel Lev Zesler. Shmuel Lev Zesler has performed a lot abroad, but tends to come home before Rosh Hashanah. Then his father's house windows open up and from them comes out the beautiful tunes of the Kol Nidre, many people from the town gather round his house, listening quietly, and wipe the tears away.

Its hard to finish without mentioning the holiday atmosphere, each holiday and its special character. The holiday that is carved especially in my memory is Passover. The preparation for the holiday starts in Purim, baking of the matzos turned into a festive ceremony. They would Kosher enough bakeries and most of the families used to bake their matzos by themselves. For that reason, families would get together, depending on the turn they helped each other. The baking was also done by turn; the whole holiday stood in a sign of renewal and cleansing. Clownish types would say: it's a miracle that the holiday of Passover exists, otherwise they would die from dirt. There is no holiday that didn't leave its taste and smell in everyone from the town for life.

I brought up here, on the tip of the fork, a whole world that stayed deep in my conscious and in my subconscious which spilled on these pages, almost in an unstopped flow. This world that got destroyed and erased in a brutal and cruel way by the Germans, in which my whole dear branched out family was eliminated; to them and to the people of the town I dedicate those lines.

Each and every one of them I will remember with great love and ache until my dying day.


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