A Gypsy Story from Podzelva

By Aviva Neeman



Podzelva is where my great grandmother came from. She was born to Moshe, the brother of the Vilna Gaon. Rabbi Kremer, married her father's Yeshivah friend, Rabbi Neumann, and that's how she became my great grandmother. I even have the middle name Miriam after her.


There were many gypsies in Podzelva, and one day her mother left her, my great grandmother, who was a child, at home and told her not to open the door for anyone, especially not for Gypsies. Well, the girl stayed at home, in that frosty morning and a gypsy old woman knocked on the door. The girl felt sorry for the old woman, opened the door, and the woman was half freezing, so the girl sat her in the kitchen and poured hot soup for her. The Gypsy was grateful, and told the girl that she had nothing to give her, but she'll tell her what's in store for her. She told her that her future is to live in a far away country, and she told her she will be married twice, to two old men, and she’ll have children but also lot of sorrow, and that at least two of her children will grow up. She told her she will be well known and much admired.


Indeed, my great grandfather came to live with his family in Jerusalem – his Yeshiva friend came too, and he died young. So my great grandfather tried to find a good Shiduch to  Mir'l, his daughter, but she refused all the good Shiduchim he found for her. She told him that her father always wanted to find her a husband like his friend Rabbi Neumann, so he said. Anyhow she refused all the good men he found for her, and in the end when he asked her why she refuses the best young men he could fine, she told him that her father wanted him to be the model of the man for her. He said he was too old for her, but when she refused them all, her mother asked him to marry her daughter. Indeed, in Old City Jerusalem, where he was Av Beith Din, all the children they had died, and in the end the two young ones survived. One of them was my grandfather, I was born after my great grandmother died so everyone wanted me to be called for her. As I was born during Passover, I was named Aviva, and my middle name was after my great grandmother.  But I know well the name Podzelva and also the story of the Gypsy, and that my great grandfather  listened to her opinion with great care, seeing that she was taught like her brothers by her father.


Aviva M Neeman lives in Tel Aviv.  Aviva wrote  a book, soon to be launched, called Hebron SheLanu ("Our Hebron") about her mother's family from Hebron since before 1777.