They didn't want to talk about it.

Rachelle Berliner

My father, Samuel Isaiah  Leaf born Shmuel Schaie Lieberman in Svisloch (Wolkovysk Grodno)  Belarus. He spoke five languages when he came to America - Russian, Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew and English, of course. (Later, in America, he taught himself Spanish and French by studying books he got from the Library.) He immigrated to the United States in 1906. He was in a Yeshivah training to become a Rabbi when his father came and told him to come home, he was going to America, and his brothers were to follow after. Mendel immigrated under the changed name of Max Leaf) immigrated in 1911 and Morris in 1913 or 14.  Morris did not immigrate through Ellis Island. Morris traveled East to West by first traveling to Japan which would mean he landed on the West Coast and then got to New York where he remained. The  sisters - and there may have been two - would not leave their parents Shimshon and Alter Neome Ain  LIEBERMAN -and they remained in Svisloch.

Max and Morris lived in New York with the Ain family of Svisloch when they first came to the United States. Sam, however, moved to Savannah from NY. A cousin in Savannah, Sarah Leaf Bernstein, sponsored them to America. Sam served in the army in  WWI and was discharged in Atlanta where he married. He continued to study the Torah and was the walking encyclopedia for the Rabbis in Atlanta. They would call to find out where certain passages were, and Sam would tell them. However, he would not attend a synagogue unless it was a family occasion. I know it wasn't because of disbelief, there was a bitterness because of the memories of his early years in Svisloch and the Pogrom that caused the lose of his parents and sister(s).

There are copies of two letters written in Yiddish and translated to English -  one from Sam Leaf to his cousin Abraham who remained in Svisloch; the other from Morris also to Abraham. Sam's letter talks about Swisloch or Swislowitz asking for any news.

In conversations with my father, Sam, if I asked "Where did you come from . . . Russia or Poland?" He would answer, "Yes" with a smile and tell me that his town was in either, depending on where the borders were at the time. It was so over my head as a child trying to understand something which I couldn't comprehend . . . we lived in America. Borders didn't change here. Georgia was Georgia and these were the only borders I knew about.

I would often tease him because Mom would say "kugel" and daddy would say "keegle", so if I asked him to tell me which he said, he would always smile and say, "pudging". But he wouldn't talk about where he lived as a child.

Rachelle Leaf Berliner


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