Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
In my diary I did not include sections on education but recorded things that happened to me from my youth until the last period; what my parents saw and told me and their parents until the fourth (great grandparents) generation.
In my first meeting with Rav Hagaon, Rabbi David Sperber in his apartment in Jerusalem, he told me about the family chain going back to Rabbi Gershon Sperber the first זל who lived in the to town of Bratashani, East Galicia. He was a Talmud Chacham Gadol. Hagaon R’Yakov Laber-Boim זל with full rabbinical authority confirmed our grandfather R’Gershon זל as Rabbi. R’Gershon did not use this authority but earned his livelihood in trade. Rabbi Sperber and I are the sixth generation after Rabbi Gershon. His son Abraham (I think they called him Eli) was the fifth generation.
These memories I recorded in notebooks throughout the years, written in pencil in many places, in the Hebrew language by a simple Jew, without literary style, with errors and some corrections, according to my spiritual understanding and knowledge.
Why this work, what possessed me all these years to write these memories? Strangers would have no interest in them. But the family, especially my children and grandchildren would find great interest in reading and learning all the details that I and our family experienced. It is an important reason why we existed.
Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents did not leave written memories of what happened to them and to their parents. They left nothing of their experiences, businesses, dates of death or private thoughts or contemplations. I remember and record their names but who knows if those who come after me will remember their names? As time goes by their names and their memories will disappear and everything will be forgotten. There will be no first memory.
Accordingly I gathered all the material I had written in my youth in several notebooks, in pencil and in ink. I saved all of them thru the years as I and my family wandered from city to city, village to village in the provinces of Galicia and Bukovina. I moved 12 times in a period of 20 years while working as a clerk in this period for three bosses. It was particularly difficult to guard my writings during 1914-1918, WWI. I wandered, a refugee of the sword, serving in the army for a year and a half in different places and countries. I made aliya in 1924. In 1937/8 my son David bought me a gift of a typewriter in Hebrew. On this machine I was able to copy all the material from my notebooks. This came to 236 pages with 100’s of words on every page.
In these pages the memories of my life are written. Without doubt all the good things will be recorded. Is that prideful on my part? What about my sins and errors of omission? All will be revealed. “There is no man who has not sinned.” Already the writer complains. We don’t want to remember the sins said Rav Kachana. No man blames himself as evil.
I am old and am now 75. If I struggled to record my memories, I wonder if they will survive. My sons are engaged in their lives and in earning a living and it could happen that the memories will be buried and all will be forgotten.
The hope that consoles me is that my grandchildren from my son Aaron and my granddaughters from my daughter Taube will follow my feelings toward Torah and education. The first born of Aaron, Menachem, is 15 and Shimshon, the second son is 13, the girls of my daughter are the same age. Maybe they will be interested in these memories after I die and will have the ability to take care of them, to read them, edit them and discard the unnecessary. Perhaps they will continue to write their memories and the generation that comes after them. May the candle of God shine on the family of the sons of Aaron, Cohanim. All will be rewarded forever.
Tel Aviv second of Iyar 1941, my 75th birthday Abraham Hacohen Kish Keusch
Comment: In תשז' 1947 we received the lamentations of the “Song of Job” about the Holocaust and my family. My son and daughter and their families and the city of my birth, Zablotov, did not survive. Again I raise the question of the survival of these memories. What will become of them? Will any of the Keusch family in America have any idea of the continuation of our family? I find satisfaction that my son David has two sons. The first is already studying in the Bilu School according to my tradition. I hope the second son will also get a religious education. My son Jacob married a woman who was educated in a religious school and I have hope that the grandchildren will fulfill my desires.
The idea of writing my memoirs was due to the events in my life from my youth until my old age. I learned from my fathers and their fathers.
In כה אדר תרגז (1887) in the small town, Yablanov, Kolymea where I lived, I received a telegram from Zablotov, from my mother that my father was seriously ill and I should immediately come home. When I got there, I found my father on his death bed. Saturday night כז (27) he died.
Naturally I remained with my family during the Shiva; my mother, two brothers, one older and the second younger, and two sisters.
After three days of Shiva, I asked my mother and older brother R’ Naftali זל to check where my father זל kept all his writings, letters, etc. We looked all over and found nothing. I knew that my grandfather R’ Nathan Keusch זל worked hard from morning until night to earn a difficult living. My father זל not only worked very hard earning a living, from three in the morning until late at night, but was busy with problems of “דשמיא” (heavenly help)? He had no time to write or discuss.
It’s hard to realize that my father and grandfather left no will, no writings, and no letters. There was no reference to the first head of the family R’ Gershon Sperber who received ordination from the Gaon Elisa.
In the five generations before my father זל, from the first R’ Gershon that lived, they were all capable of writing books on Halachah and Agadah. It is hard to believe that they left no wills, no personal writings. If our generations, who may not have the ability to write books, will not leave records of the happenings of their lives and their fathers, within time these memories of our family will disappear.
Consequently, I swore in Zablotov to take upon myself the burden, which is not simple, to write in my spare time, about myself and my family.
When I moved from the town of Yablonov, [from Nison St.] to live in the town Kolomea I had the same position as a clerk (pakid) in Mr. Mitchanavitch’s wood wharehouse. In the afternoons, I found time to begin my task of writing in special notebooks, sometimes in ink and sometimes in pencil. I moved from Kolomea to the province of Bukovina. I was the clerk in charge of cutting down trees and storing the wood. I did not find free time to write then and for several years after. Only during the days of World War I, when I was called to serve in the army, did I find time to write in pencil of the things that happened to me when I moved and there were breaks. All that I had written I brought with me when I made Aliya to Israel in תרצז (1924). When I received the typewriter from my son David, I typed all the material that I wrote from the day I started recording my memoirs.
I have to record all the events of my family. I must record not just the positive things but also my many sins and those of my family. (Note: We left out two lines with quotes from rabbis that are unclear. Dave and Ruth)
I have reached the age of 90. No one in my family reached that age. I wrote without a literary style, without a clear language and with many errors, struggling to write these many pages. Who will know about this? My sons and grandchildren and all our family, from my father’s side and from my mother’s side זל fell victims together with the Jewish people in two terrible Holocausts. My only brother is in America for over 60 years and has no idea or knowledge of our family. My two sons here are busy earning a living in these difficult times. It is very possible that I and all my family will not be remembered.
Maybe there is some hope for me and my writings to survive with my grandchildren here in the country. Yair and his brother Avi are being educated in a religious school and Yair finished the religious high school [Tzeitlin]. He started to be interested in these memoirs. It’s necessary to throw out the chaff from the wheat. Rabbi Meir Ramon found that the fruit is to be eaten and the skin to be thrown out. So I will throw out the useless material, correct errors and will copy the clean material into a special notebook. I will continue to write about the family and about the coming generations. May the memory of my family be continued and never be forgotten, that will be my reward.
Tel Aviv B’ month of May תשטז 1956 [written by hand] Abraham Hacohen Kish Keusch
(Grandfather had numbered corrections at the bottom of each page, which we tried to insert it in place. RDK)
Content last updated Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 05:57 PM Mountain Standard Time