Chapter 1
Early Childhood, Family & Education

Early Childhood




Chapter 2
Religious Life

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5
Kretinga & Neighborhood

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8
Emigration & Journey


Chapter 1 : Early Childhood, Family & Education

Subsections :  Early Childhood  | Cheder  | Yeshiva  | Family


Early Childhood   [back to top]

In the years of mass emigration form Lithuania, I often heard immigrants refer to their town of origin as "in der heim," at home, even by those who were already established with their families in this country a number of years. This nostalgic reference to the place of their birth seemed rather strange to me. I could not understand why they still regarded it as their home, despite the great hardship most of them suffered there and the fact that they were obliged to emigrate abroad, in order to find a better and more secure home and livelihood in England.

It was only on reaching a maturer age that I began to understand this longing for their native town, where their parents and generations before were born and lived out their lives. The memories of their old home, with all its associations, the relatives and friends and the communal institutions with which they were connected, were obviously deeply embedded in their hearts and minds. Such sacred memories of theirs, as I then realised, could not easily be forgotten by them !

Having been the sixth child born to my mother, of blessed memory, arrival into this world could not have made a great impression upon the family; though it might have been marked by the fact that this occurred on the day after Rosh Hashonah. I assume that, conforming with the practice at that time, I underwent the process of being "swaddled," my entire body bound with a broad bandage during the first months of my infancy. This was supposed to have been a preventative measure against rickets, which was then prevalent amongst children. This mode of "dressing" an infant, appeared to have gone out of practice in the early years of 1880's, due to the fact that a more effective remedy was discovered for that complaint. The former practice, however, had the advantage over the modern method, at least, which is in vogue at the present, inasmuch as the mother did not have the trouble and expense of providing a "trousseau" for her newly-born infant !

I hardly have any knowledge of my ancestors. For apart from my parents of blessed memory, I have some childish memory of my maternal grandmother Bobbe Rhoda, Oleho-Hasholom. I only saw her when she was lying sick in bed, in a semi-dark room; and remember exchanging only a few words with her, which she spoke in a very faint voice. She kept on moaning now and again, because of the pain and discomfort she suffered from at the time. She evidently succumbed to her illness and passed away shortly after that. My other grandparents probably died either before I was born or when I was a vey young child, since I have no recollection of them at all. I was told that both of my grandparents were learned and very pious men.

There were not any specific happenings during the first five years of my life, except for some childish illness with which I was laid up for a time. My "medicine" consisted of numerous glasses of highly sweetened (milkless) tea, which I was pressed to drink, and to which I took a strong aversion. I often had to be coaxed and sometimes even bribed with a kopeck before I could be persuaded to drink the stuff !


Cheder   [back to top]

At the age of five, I started going to cheder. And as father had to leave home at the time, he arranged with a relative of ours to take me there for my first lesson, having supplied him with some copper coins. These were for the purpose of acting the role of the angel, by dropping them on the Hebrew primer whilst I was repeating after my rebbe: Kometz Alef-O, Kometz Bais-Bo etc. At my second lesson the following day, I was already able to read complete words, at which I felt quite elated. I doubt, though, whether any further progress by me was very spectacular!

My Rebbe, Isser Nachman's (Nachman was the name of his father-in-law) was a rather delicate looking man, of small stature and slender build. He had a thin, scraggy ginger beard and freckles on his face. The latter became very profilic in the summer; and I often got into trouble on account of it, from losing the place in the Siddur ( prayer book) out which I was reading. As I was in the habit of gazing on Reb Isser's face and its striking features, with which I seem to have been fascinated, as were many of the other boys in my class !

My rebbe's wife had the rather quaint name of Maitze. She was a frail and undersized woman, a good few inches smaller than her spouse. She had a perpetual worried look on her face---not without reason, I imagine. They had two very nice children, who were apparently well brought up, as I never heard them cry nor make a noise in the house; nor would they come into the room whilst we were having lessons.

Reb Isser's house consisted of one fairly large-sized room, where the Cheder was held, and used as the living room of his family after Cheder hours; and, of course, on Sabbaths and Festivals. There was also a small sized bedroom and a tiny kitchen. The rooms were sparsely furnished, the main one containing a large table and a backless form on each side of it, and a chair at the top of the table, on which the rebbe sat when giving lessons. There was also a book-case or shelves fixed into the wall for the Sephorim; and besides some plain wooden chairs and a few odd things, a small bedstead in the far corner of the room, for one or both of the children. The bedroom was also plainly furnished, containing two single beds, a chest of drawers and a few small articles. There was a complete absence of cupboards or wardrobes, all the clothes being hung on hooks fixed to the walls. Not unlike the majority of houses in town, the floor-boards were void of covering of any kind. Reb Nachman had a room to himself, some annexe at the rear of the house the interior of which I have never seen. But I should not think that this was better furnished than the other rooms of the house. The walls and ceilings were white-washed, and usually renewed yearly, Erev Pesach (on the eve of Passover).

Having been too young for a proper appraisal of Reb Nachman's character or rather characteristics, I can only say that he impressed me as being quite a peculiar type of man. He was an old widower, of a very taciturn nature and rather grouchy, with a set frown on his face; and not once have I seen a smile on his wrinkled visage. He always gave me the impression that he resented the "invasion" of the house by a lot of noisy youngsters. I had no idea as to whom the house belonged, nor did I know the conditions under which the old man shared his domestic life with his daughter in that domicile. My own guess is that upon the marriage of his daughter, it was arranged between the parties concerned that Nachman's son-in-law took up his residence, together with his newly-wedded wife, for a given number of years, at the home of his father-in-law, under the terms of "sein auf kest." This meant that the father provides the young couple with free board and lodgings, in lieu or as part of the dowry settled on at the betrothal. There was usually a marriage contract executed in those days when a couple became engaged to be married, in which was stated the amount of the dowry promised by the girl's father. Reb Nachman was probably bereaved of his wife before the expiration of the period of "kest," and he therefore remained with his daughter and her family and lived with them for the rest of his life.

It would, of course, be wrong to draw conclusions from my childish impressions of Reb Nachman and to assume that he was merely an old, grumpy ill-tempered man, lacking in common courtesy and being devoid of human kindness. His taciturnity and apparent misanthropie demeanor, was likely due to the mental stress he sustained through the loss of his wife. Or he might have suffered at the time from pain and discomfort due to some ailments which aged people are often subject to, relief from which was not easy to procure about eighty years ago. I know this much, that Reb Nachman was a devout, G-d fearing man and, to my knowledge, had never missed attending the regular services in Shool(synagaogue) three times daily, beside the regular shiurim (religious lectures)at night.

Recalling my Cheder days at Reb Isser's, what strikes me most is the penurious life my rebbe and his family led. I cannot help wondering how he contrived to provide the bare necessities to feed them, even on a near starvation diet, out of the exceedingly small income from his profession of melammed, a teacher of beginners. I don't quite remember what his fees were, but I believe, it did not exceed five or six rubles for a zeman, (a half yearly term.) I have never seen the family sit down to a set meal during the week. The mother and children were likely fed on scraps in the bedroom or kitchenette. Occasionally I saw my rebbe eat his lunch whilst giving a lesson; a small bowl of "bob," boiled broad beans, which he peeled with his pocket knife. He appeared to be enduring this one course "repast" vey much, washing it down with a glass of cold water. The only substantial meals the family might have enjoyed, were those they had on Friday night and Shabbat, as well as on the Festivals.

This low standard of living was apparently common amongst these melamdim, who had little or no pedagogical training. That calling was generally adopted as a last resort by men who failed at everything else to earn a livelihood for their families. I believe that it was more like an act of charity than anything else on the part of my father, to have sent me to Isser's cheder for two or three terms, in order to receive from him some elementary instructions of Hebrew.

After being in my "preparatory school" for twelve or eighteen months, and I was able to read Hebrew fluently, (I doubt, though, whether grammatically) and had almost mastered the translation of the first book of the Pentateuch, father sent me to a more advanced cheder, that of Reb Chaim Leibe, where I remained for the rest of my Hebrew instruction---until we left Krottingen for Sunderland, roughly a period of five years.

Reb Chaim Leibe was a middle aged man, who appeared to be of a very pleasant disposition; and I felt quite at ease when he first examined me. The test , I assume, was in order to find out how far I had advanced in my studies at Reb Isser's cheder. From his remarks I gained the impression that he was satisfied with the progress I had made. Then, together with the other new pupils, he examined us in the parts of the Chumash (Old Testament) we had already learnt. And after grading all the newcomers, we were assigned to and joined some of the existing classes in cheder.

Reb Chaim Leib`s house was much more spacious and better furnished than that of Reb Isser`s. It seemed palatial in comparison with the latter and there were many more pupils and of a more advanced age than those at Isser`s cheder. My new Rebbe`s earnings were probably twice as much as that of my former Rebbe. Besides, his wife carried on a small business from their home, that of baking lekach (honey cake) and sponge cakes. We boys also enjoyed some of the benefit from this business - the pleasant aroma of the freshly-baked lekach and occasionally being treated to some of the scrapings which stuck to the bottom of the tin!

There was hardly any difference in the method of teaching between the two chedarim. Both teachers taught us to translate the Chumash word for word from the Hebrew into Yiddish, repeating, parrot-wise, after them in sing song fashion. Grammar was entirely ignored by both my Rebbes, nor were we taught to write Hebrew. I thus remained ignorant of even the rudiments of Hebrew grammar or how to write in Hebrew anything but very simple words, which I sometimes copied out of the Siddur by myself.

There was also but little difference between my two Rebbes in the exercise of discipline by them. Some of the boys often displayed a lack of interest in the lessons, whilst others misbehaved themselves. But, unlike the sterner teachers in some of the chedarim, who resorted to corporal punishment, Isser`s and Chaim Leibe`s corrective measures were that of "imprisonment" of the culprits, making them stand in the corner of the room for a given time, varying with the nature of the offence.

For the first few months our class continued with readings out of the Siddur mainly with unfamiliar and more difficult parts than I had been used to, such as Pirkei Aboth (Ethics of the Fathers), the "Song of Songs" and a number of selected Psalms etc. We soon started on the second book of the Pentateuch, Exodus, with some commentary of Rashi and so gradually progressed through the whole of the Chumash. During my last couple of years in cheder, our class learnt regularly the whole of the current week’s sedra. We also did some translation of Tenach, commencing with Joshua, which I found to be very interesting and even thrilling in certain parts.

The hours spent daily in my second cheder were considerably more than the first one. We started at nine and finished about six o’clock in the evening, except on Friday, at noon, and, of course, being off all day on Shabbat. Classes were adjourned for an hour during the week-days when we went home for dinner. Some of the poorer boys brought their scanty meals in the morning for their dinner, spending five or ten minutes over this their mid-day meal and passed the rest of the time in play.

We were not occupied all the time with lessons whilst at cheder. So when the Rebbe, who was the solitary instructor, was taking a class, the rest of the pupils were free to play about, out of doors in fine weather, or else indoors, in a small room adjoining the large one where the cheder was held. Those who were backward with their lessons had to remain in the class room and were set to do some revision. Looking back to the years at cheder, I have to confess that I cannot recall a single instance of having distinguished myself in any way at either of the two chedarim I had attended. My weakness in this respect showed up badly when my father examined me on Shabbos when he was at home, on the week’s work at cheder. I used to feel embarrassed when I was unable to give the correct answer to the questions father put to me.

Yeshiva   [back to top]

It was in later years that I fully realised my father’s disappointment in connection with my Hebrew studies. He had naturally entertained the hope that all his sons would show promise of Jewish scholarship, even though to a lesser degree than that of his own. But that aspiration of his only materialised in the case of my eldest two brothers, Bere Arye and Hirshe, who had a long course of study at famous Yeshivot, Shavel and Tels respectively. Both of them were apparently naturally endowed with great intellectual powers, in addition to their strong desire for learning, which seemed to have been inherent in their nature. By assiduously applying themselves to their studies, they attained a high standard of scholarship, mainly in Talmudic lore. In addition to that, though not included in the Yeshiva curriculum, they both studied Tenach and its principal commentaries, as well as Hebrew grammar. They did this privately, without the aid of a teacher, and mastered these subjects whist being engaged in their regular Talmudical studies at Yeshiva. The time they spent on these "extraneous" studies seemed to have no adverse affect upon the latter, with which they pursued assiduously without intermission.

My other elder brothers, Shmere and Elye, who were their juniors by a few years, were likewise Yeshiva bachurim of a kind. They belonged to that category of youths who learned semi-privately at the Battei-Midrashim in some neighbouring towns. They attended Shiurim and were assisted in their studies by some of the older bachurim. This was the general course followed by the young novice until he qualified for acceptance into a Yeshiva. But my brothers` terms as novitiates were cut short before reaching that stage, due to the fact that Shmere accompanied my father when he left for England in 1888, whilst Elye left Lithuania together with us the following year. They therefore were deprived of the chance of a course of study at one of the Yeshivot. Both of them, however, increased somewhat in their knowledge of Talmud by attending regularly the Gemara Shiur conducted by father after we settled in Sunderland.

Bere Arye and Hirshe remained in Lithuania after our departure from Krottingen for England. The former had already married and settled in Vorno, whilst Hirshe stayed on waiting for his re-examination in connection with army recruitment, which was adjourned the previous year. He had hopes of being exempted from service on his forthcoming medical examination. The reason for him taking the risk was that of saving Bere Arye having to pay a penalty of three hundred rubles, to which he would have been liable in case of Hirshe`s failure to appear for his examination. He, unfortunately, passed the medical exam and consequently was drafted into the army. But, to our immense relief, he made a miraculous escape from the barracks a few hours before he was due to be transported to one of the uttermost districts in Russia. So after hiding for a time, he managed to get across the Russian frontier into Germany and straight away came to Sunderland. Bere Arye had it all organised: his escape and hiding places, and finally assisted in smuggling him out of the country.

Reverting to "Yeshiva-bachurim", usually after barmitzvah, a father would send his son to a nearby town to continue with his studies. It was presumed that by living amongst strangers and by associating with other students, the youth would be inclined to study intensively and would be encouraged to attend Shiurim, which were usually held in the Beth-Hamedrash. He would also receive assistance from lads who were more advanced in their studies. In some cases the reason for sending boys away might have been due to the economic condition of the parents, especially those with large families. For these Yeshiva-bachurim were maintained by the prevailing system of "essen teg" (literally eating days). This meant that the local Jews fed a boy for a day in the week. Those who could afford it, would often extend these invitations to two and sometimes three students. Acceptance of such hospitality by Yeshiva-bachurim was not considered in any way derogatory or humiliating, since this was carried out on a reciprocal basis. For the parents of those youths usually fed Yeshiva-bachurim, who came to study in their town.

It was not always smooth sailing for the lad who embarked upon his new career as a Talmud student. Obtaining the right number of "Teg" might be difficult. This often happened when a boy went to a town where he had no relations or friends to assist him to secure the full quota of "days" for the week. In that case he would have to rely on the shamash to do so. That gentleman, who usually acted as a "booking agent" (free of charge) for newly arrived yeshiva-bochurim, was not always inclined to unduly exert himself in this matter. Some of them held the view that it would not do dem yungen bocherel any harm to have a "leidigen tog" , a vacant day, which was subsidised by a few coppers out of the communal fund, so that the lad would not have to starve. Occasionally a vacant day would be observed as a fast day!

An even greater problem than this was the question of obtaining free sleeping accommodation. One who was unable to do so and could not afford to pay for this service, had no alternative but to sleep on a bench of the women’s gallery in the Beth Hamedrash. My brother Elye had actually been faced with such a contingency when he launched out upon his scholastic career. He went to Salant, about eight or ten English miles from Krottingen. On his arrival there, he followed the regular procedure of going straightaway to the Beth Hamedrash and introduced himself to the Shamash. Elye supplied that official with all the information required , in particular the town from which he came. He made a mental note of it and promised to help Elye find the "teg" he required.

About a week later the Shamash told my brother that he was unable to obtain for him "teg" for the whole week. Fortunately Elye had sufficient cash to pay for a couple of weeks board and lodgings. This was from money he received when paying farewell visits to relations before leaving home, in addition to money from father. However, as Elye was not resourceful enough to make good the deficiency, besides being reluctant to spend his nights on a hard bench in the Beth Hamedrash, and as he had sufficient money left to pay for the journey, he returned home by the first available conveyance.

Father wrote to his friend in Dorbyan, a shtetl of about the same distance from Krottingen as Salant, and asked him whether he could assist Elye to secure the full quota of days for him there. He immediately replied that he would gladly do so and that father could rely upon him that Elye would be provided with all he required.

After staying at home about a week, Elye once more packed his luggage, a change of underwear and some sephorim (books), and left for Dorbyan. On his arrival there he went straight to the home of father’s friend, whose name I cannot remember. The latter received Elye very warmly and informed him that he obtained six days board for him and also arranged for his lodgings. The seventh day, Shabbat, he invited him to be his guest.

I have known of one case at least in connection with Elye's "Teg", in which the dictum in Ecclesiastes XI.I. was exemplified: "Shalach lechem choal-p'nai hamayim..." (Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days). For some fifteen years later, one of his "hosts" who treated him to a "Teg" emigrated to Sunderland and who happened to be in very straightened circumstances, was generously rewarded by my brother for the hospitality he had received from him in Dorbyan.

With regard to the cost of preparing a lad for higher education, firstly one required the necessary equipment for the journey such as a case for the luggage. This was usually a wooden box, which was home made. It required little skill of carpentry to construct it, being made of plain wooden boards, roughly put together, unless one could afford to have it made by a cabinet maker or joiner. Besides the cost of the wood, about two shillings, the accessories, hinges and padlock also had to be bought, running to a further cash outlay of a shilling or one and sixpence, whilst the other parts, a hasp, staple etc were made out of odd pieces of leather picked up, free of cost.

The above was roughly the cost of my brother, Elye's equipment when he set out to become a Yeshiva-bachur. I have but the vaguest idea of the circumstances surrounding the setting up of my elder brother, Shmere in higher education. All I remember is that he studied privately at the Beth Hamedrash in Plungyan, some 15 miles from Krottingen. When he first came home for Yomtov, he brought us some presents, namely baigels. That town was noted for the excellent baigels baked there. But those he brought home were rather stale by the time they came. These pastries, shaped from white dough into rings, are boiled and then baked in the oven and are only palatable if eaten on the same day, when fresh and crisp. Afterwards they turn into a substance like rubber!

Besides the cost of the equipment, there was the cost of transport, between six to nine pence, according to the distance of the journey from home. One also had to be provided with cash for incidental expenses or for other contingencies, either during the journey or after reaching one's destination.

A number of Yeshiva Bachurim from nearby towns studied in our town, in Krottingen, in our Beth Hamedrash. I have no idea as to their number nor can I recall any particulars concerning them, save for two bachurim, who made a lasting impression on me. One thing that both these bochurim had in common, was that their faces were very pale and emaciated; they thus commanded all the more respect and appreciation by the members of the community ! For woe-betide the young man who was of the portly built type, or robust-looking and of florid complexion. Such Yeshiva-bachur commanded but little appreciation or sympathy; and many a good lady was even dubious about the Mitzvah of giving him a "teg!"

Besides the different types of Yeshiva-bachurim, as described above, there was another class of Talmudic students, who were called "Prushim." These were young married men who, after enjoying a few years of marital bliss, separated (as this name denotes) from their wives and sojourned at another town for a certain time, in order to devote themselves to intensive study. They did so either at a Yeshiva or privately. The reason for this was that they were either urged by a strong religious impulse to increase their knowledge of Torah, or else they aimed at reaching a high standard of Talmudic rabbinic law, to enable them to qualify for Semicha and, after ordination, to enter the Rabbinic profession. The latter was generally taken by men who were either unfit for, or felt disinclined to engage in business. Such a step was only taken when the would be student's father-in-law was able and willing to support his wife (and children, if they had any) during his absence from home. Or alternately, if the wife could maintain herself by carrying on some business on her own while her husband was away from home.

It was a common practice in those days for wives to maintain themselves in order to afford their husbands ample time for studying Torah, either at home, or else, to become a "Porush". But that applied mainly to shopkeepers, the management of which business was usually shared between the husband and wife. It was not even uncommon for girls, when approaching marriageable age, to have a shop of some kind opened for them by their parents, and upon their marriage, her husband came into the business, carrying it on jointly.

There was evidently a large number of Prushim in Lithuania during the latter part of the last century. A new Yeshiva, almost exclusively for Prushim, was founded in Kovno in 1872, by Rabbi Isaac Blazer, under the auspices of Rabbi Yitzchok Elchanon Spector. A Berlin banker, Herr Lechman, donated seventy five thousand roubles towards this yeshiva.

Family   [back to top]

After the passing of my mother, my aunt Eta, mother's sister suggested to my father that I should stay with her for a time. Her family, besides herself and Uncle Idel, comprised of two sons and six daughters, the eldest of whom, I believe, had then been married, whilst Simcha, the younger brother was away from home studying at a Yeshiva. I was surprised that aunt had chosen me instead of Tevke to be looked after, since he was only four years old, whilst I was double his age. I gathered from my aunt in later years that the reason was because I was the most delicate one in our family and she thought it advisable for me to be in her charge for a time. She undertook this task despite being a large family and father already engaging a housekeeper to look after us.

The house in which Aunt Eta, Uncle Idel and their family lived was very spacious and altogether superior to the houses occupied by the vast majority of the local Jews. Two of the rooms were very large and lofty and what was quite unusual in town, the walls of the rooms were papered, instead of being whitewashed. I felt rather sad at first when my aunt called for me and took me to their home, mainly because of being separated from the other members of our family who were at home at the time, namely our father, Elye, Rivka and Tevke. However the kindness and affection showered on me by everyone soon cheered me up. My aunt treated me as if she were my mother and the fatherly love manifested towards me by my uncle and the attention of my cousins quite overwhelmed me.

After a few days, I became interested in my cousins occupation of dressmaking. I used to enjoy watching them working at the sewing machine. Later on, seeing how keen I was to try my hand at it, my cousins actually taught me to operate on it with small pieces of material. I was delighted when I learned to sew a straight line. By the time I left aunty's house for home. I was quite an expert machinist, being able to do some simple hemstitching. How happy and proud this made me feel!

What impressed me more than anything else was the refined and harmonious atmosphere which prevailed in that home. I cannot remember ever hearing a harsh or disagreeable word uttered by any of them. My uncle Idel was a man of learning and deep piety. He had a noble and engaging appearance and bore a strong resemblance to Dr Herzl, whom I saw at a Zionist Congress.

Uncle Idel was one of the two shochtim (ritual slaughterers) of Krottingen but at the time I lived with the family he had retired because of a heart complaint. He passed away in 1895, six years after our departure. I could not understand how a man of so benign and gentle disposition as my uncle, could be a shochet but in those genuinely orthodox communities of Lithuania, only men of learning and great devoutness were considered fit enough to perform the necessary ritual of Shechita.

All my cousins adored their parents and because of their father being an invalid, they all manifested the greatest solicitude for his physical comfort and mental repose, Although he was subject to pain from time to time, he gave no outward signs of it. He sometimes stayed in bed for a day or two but just gave the impression of taking a couple of days rest. In order to maintain his strength, Uncle was advised to suck about a dozen newly-laid eggs every day, which he did regularly whilst I lived with them.

Uncle always spoke in a quiet, gentle tone of voice and he invariably had a smile on his face when addressing anyone, be it a member of the family or a stranger, even if it was a beggar at the door. I can still picture him sitting in the lobby, in the warm weather, at the entrance to the house, with an open tome on the table in front of him and a small box-full of copper coins beside him, awaiting the regular round of beggars who came round on Fridays, their usual pay day. He had a welcoming smile for each one of them and after handing him a coin or two, wished him a hearty "gut Shabbos" when showing him out.

My cousins, Chaim and Simcha, who were then grown-up young men, were apparently well advanced in their Hebrew education. Chaim, the elder one (the father of Lily Weitroub, formerly Kelly) was at home during the time I lived with their family, probably because of his father being an invalid, whilst Simcha continued with his studies at a Yeshiva and only came home for Yomim Tovim (festivals. He qualified for Semicha at a comparatively early age but did not adopt the rabbinical profession. On his marriage to a sister of Chaim's wife, he became engaged in some business, as a shopkeeper. Both brothers settled for the rest of their lives in the shtetl of Laukeve, Lithuania and besides the local Rav and Dayan, they were the most learned young men there.

Yeshiva bachurim who were engaged in intensive Talmudical study for a number of years, had neither the time or opportunity to train for a profession or commercial career. On reaching marriageable age, they had no choice but marry one who had an income of her own. It wan not uncommon for parents of daughters, who were approaching marriageable age, to set them up in business, usually opening a shop of some kind and after they were married, their husbands would join them in the business, out of which they managed to make a living. There was a further alternative for young men to marry a girl and to live with the bride's parents for a certain number of years, "sein auf kest".

Although Chaim had not any technical knowledge of science, he was highly mechanically minded. The only skill one could acquire in that direction in a town like Krottingen was to become acquainted with the mechanism of the sewing machine. This was the only mechanical domestic appliance in use by Jewish housewives in town, of which there were quite a large number. Chaim became quite an expert in this. As soon as this became known in town, Chaim was appointed honorary consultant on matters in connection with that appliance. He thus gave freely of his service in that capacity to all those requiring small repairs or adjustments of their machines. There was a mechanician in town, which every shtetl could boast of, namely, a watchmaker, who serviced clocks and watches and naturally charged for it. hat gentleman was considered a sort of scientist and enjoyed equal status (by the lower class Jews) with the local doctor, advocate and apothecary.

Chaim being very skilful with his hands, often made me toys out of wood or discarded cotton reels. He also used to carve out of the latter complete, perfect sets of chess. He also provided me with a dreidle for Chanukah and a rattle for Purim and on Hoshanah Rabba, after being finished with the lulav, he used to make me variously shaped models out of its leaves.

The sisters had quite a successful dressmaking business which they carried on at home, being the only one of its kind in Krottingen. It was a rather superior class of dressmaking. Their clients included the wife and daughters of Graf Tishkewitz, officers wives and daughters and all the elite of the district, besides members of the Jewish community. They were thus in a position to reside in one of the few better class houses in the town. Consequently the girls managed to keep their parents and themselves in comparative comfort and thereby relieved their father of any financial worries he may have had when he had to give up his position as shochet, because of his illness.

Although none of the sisters received a secular education, they all had a perfect command of the German language and having devoted much of their leisure time to reading books, they acquired a good knowledge of German literature as well as of general literature translated into German. They also had a fair understanding of Hebrew, which they were taught by their father and brothers. They were the only family in Krottingen who subscribed to a circulating library, in Memel; and they had a parcel of books delivered to their house regularly every Friday.

At about mid-day erev Shabbat, their work was laid aside and they got busy with their preparations for Shabbat; Polishing the stained , varnished floors and generally brightening up their house, whilst one or two of the girls assisted their mother with the baking and cooking. Then they all dressed in their Shabbat clothes; and after the candles and lamps were lit, they joined their parents in the Friday evening prayers, whilst Chaim and I went to shool for the service. Uncle Idel was unfortunately unable to walk to Shool, though only a short distance from their home.

I would like to put on record the sublime, magnanimous qualities of one of my cousins, whom I have known best and who later became my sister-in-law through her marriage to my brother, Elye. I cannot pay adequate tribute to the exceptional attributes on nobility, generosity, kindness and above all selflessness of my late cousin and sister-in-law, Pesse. She was also gifted with a high degree of intelligence, culture and the most lofty ideals.

Pesse was the youngest of the six sisters and in her early girlhood, when we still lived in Krottingen, I remember her being known as the "Barmherzige Schwester" (Sister of mercy and compassion). She had then, when quite young, dedicated her life to the service of the poor an ailing people of the town. This was not an easy task in a place where there was no hospital or nursing home. There was an institute (a Catholic one, I believe) called a "Lazaret" for the treatment of infectious diseases, but I have never known it to be used by Jews. Pesse continued with these voluntary services after she came England. She passed away at a comparatively early age, on 25 May 1935.

My mother had another sister, named Menucha, of whom I have a small recollection since I was rather young when she left Krottingen after her marriage. However her wedding is quite vivid in my mind. I was privileged to join the party who met the Chosan (bridegroom) and Mechutonim (his parents) half way at an inn (which was a regular practice when they lived in a nearby town). The Chosan resided in Dorbyan. An even greater thrill besides the sledge ride was when the huge conveyance passed my cheder, whilst the boys were playing outside and saw me, with envious eyes, sitting in it, or rather clinging to that crowded vehicle, containing the Mechutonim from Krottingen. Those of the Chosan came in a sledge to meet our party at the inn, where refreshments were served. Then both parties mounted the respective sledges and set out for the wedding.

Aunt Menucha's Chosan, Bentze Daneman, was a smart and handsome young man. After the newly-wedded couple lived in Dorbyan for about six months, they emigrated to the United States of America. I never saw Aunt Menucha or her husband again or any of the daughters born to them.

My mother had only one brother, Uncle Boruch Lazer, (the father of George Lewis of Sunderland). He lived with his wife, Aunt Rouse, in Zedick, a small town in Lithuania and a few years prior to our departure from Krottingen, they came and settled there. Besides George, they also had three daughters, Sifre Zevia, Sore Taube and Rhoda. The first came to Sunderland and emigrated from there to Palestine and now lives in Tel Aviv with her three sons. Sore Taube, who was exiled with her family to Siberia , after the second world war has been permitted to come to Riga, where they are living under straightened circumstances. Aunt Rouse and her youngest daughter Rhoda tragically fell victims to the Nazis during the great Churban. George only learnt of their fate when he went to Russia to visit his sister and family in Riga. He came back broken hearted and subsequently suffered two heart attacks to which he succumbed in his 74th year.

Mother also had an Uncle Zalman Shulman, who with his wife Sorre Basse had a son and daughter living in Krottingen, That poor man, as a result of illness, became completely crippled, being quite unable to stand on his feet. He could only move about the house by propelling himself on the floor by his hands and feet, which was a most pitiable sight. In spite of this he appeared in a fairly cheerful mood. The room they lived in was always scrupulously clean and very bright. I remember only once seeing their son at home, dressed in a small military uniform. He apparently had just returned home after his discharge from the army. His sister, Esther Temme was of a quiet and shy disposition. We had little communication with them after we left Lithuania, except for an occasional letter from Esther Temme, after her marriage, asking for assistance from her Sunderland relations when she was in straitened circumstances.

On the paternal side of our family, two of my father's brothers, Uncle Leib and Uncle Yitzchok Chaim, emigrated to England two or three years before father and they both settled in Stockton. Leibe emigrated from Krottingen but Yitzchok Chaim came from Gorzed, Lithuania. I do not know why they went to Stockton.Uncle Yitzchok Chaim was well versed in Talmud and was ever engrossed in its study during his leisure time and he was often consulted on religious questions by the local Jews. Uncle Leib was very devout though only possessed an ordinary knowledge of Gemara common amongst Lithuanian baalei-battim (laymen). He later removed to Sunderland, where he lived for the rest of his life. Uncle Yitzchok Chaim unfortunately died at Stockton in his middle years after a painful illness. He passed away in July 1904. Both of my uncle's earned their living the first couple of years after their arrival in Stokton by glazing, walking through the streets with a crate of glass on their backs and looking for broken windows to replace. This was neither an easy or a very dignified occupation for them!

My father had two sisters, Aunt Golde Pesse and Roche Feige. Golde Pesse was married to Leibe Brewer and they had four sons and one daughter. Roche Feige was married to Shemuel Jacobson but was childless. Uncle Brewer struggled throughout his life trying to make a living. He first emigrated to America to try his luck but as good fortune evaded him there he came to England to join his family in Sunderland.

Aunt Roche Feige's husband, Uncle Shemuel, owned a flour and yeast business, which was quite successful. They lived in the same house that we did in a two roomed flat. Their living room was very nicely furnished. I considered them to be quite affluent not because of their superior furniture but more on account of the delightful smell of coffee which wafted across the passage into our house. The regular breakfast beverage served in the vast majority of homes consisted of chicory. Coffee only appeared on the menu of wealthy Jews, whilst this was mixed with chicory by the middle upper classes. Roche Feige was the last member of that branch of our family to come to England, towards the end of the last century, after she lost her husband, two or three years previously , having died in his early middle life. My Aunt continued carrying on the business after she lost her husband, which she did quite efficiently. Although this provided quite a comfortable living for her, yet she was anxious to join the family in Sunderland. With the modest capital she realised from the sale of the business, she more or less managed to maintain herself for the rest of her life.

In the morning following our arrival in Sunderland, we discovered another relative, a cousin of my father, named Chatze Avreme, who was the father of Jakie and Joe Cowen. He formerly lived in Libau, Latvia and had emigrated with his family to England shortly before us. He had two boys and two girls and they lived in very poor circumstances. He had a very hard struggle to eke out the barest existence for his family, either by peddling on his own account or working for someone on a near starvation wage.

Returning to my life in Krottingen, shortly after my return back home from Aunt Eta, Uncle Idel and their family, our father married again. This gave us all at home a great surprise, since we had not been given any hint about it by father prior to his marriage. Father arrived with our stepmother during the night or in the early hours of the morning, whilst it was still quite dark and he introduced her to us. We all got up from our beds, being fully awake from the excitement and surprise. After getting washed and dressed (it was too early to daven) we all sat at the table and were served with some appetizing refreshments, which were brought by our father and stepmother and which we very much enjoyed, despite the fact that it must have been hours before our usual breakfast time.

The lady whom father married was a spinster and presumably past her early youth, as judged by the prevailing standard at that time, about the middle of the 1880s. She came from the town of Riteve in Lithuania. Her father was a very learned and highly respected Baal Ha-bayit and her grandfather was formerly Dayan of the town. It was therefore only natural that our stepmother should have been reared in a strictly religious manner. She was, in fact, more than a match for my father in the matter of frumkeit. Besides father there were four of us at home at the time: my two brothers Elye and Tevke (Theo) and myself and our sister Rivka. We took kindly to our stepmother straightaway as she was most affable and kept calling us by endearing names and right away attended to all our requirements.