Kholmech Sign and Book of Letters
Letter 88: "If there is a possibility to go to the United States I would"


Dear sister Baska and dear brother Menakhem,

 Live as we do with pleasure and with loving children.

 I have a chance to write a letter to you. Even so I didn't have to write, because I didn't get anything, I didn't get an answer to my letter to you, which was sent to you before Passover. Secondly, how can I not write a few words with Lablen or Manyin, and those are the people from America. Even so we had a personal regard and we heard about everything that is happening in your life. But we we would like to have a letter from you written by your own hand. I would be even happier if I could see that. But that's ok, that's in the past. Therefore I am asking you a second time, when you get a letter from me, write immediately about everything.

 Now about myself. Thank God I make enough to live. I work as a foreman in the shop where they make leather products. Because I am a foreman, a chemist, I have a good salary, 200 rubles in a month. Here this is considered to be the highest pay. In the factory where I am working, we are renting out [something?] and we charge a 150 rubles a month. There are five partners. Four of them were sent to Siberia. Lufka Chernyak [Louis Shearn] visited my factory and he will tell you everything in detail.

 At home everything is fine. Mirrile works at the factory and he makes enough for a living.   Before that he wasn't doing that well. All that time he didn't make enough and I had to help him. Mirrile has a son, a very sweet baby; he is already 3 months old. Label visited Mirrile and he will tell you about his life and his wife. We have received several letters from Hanna in which she states her life is ok. She has a wonderful husband and he makes enough to live. [Here Mirrile is referred to as a male. Is this Michael? It seems unlikely, because Michael had a daughter many years before, and there is no later mention of his having had a son. More consistent with the context of the letter is that Mirrile refers to Neesen. However, Neesen is later referred to by name in the letter. This letter confused us, but it has to have been written after 1925, because Hanna was married in that year]. About the arrival of Lufka you cannot imagine how much pleasure he will bring to his family and all of his relatives. One can't describe what was happening in the house. At that time they were in their dacha in Belitz, not far from Gomel, because aunt and uncle were in the dacha. We went there every second day to spend some time after work, at 5 pm and we were there until 12 at night. Aunt's children from all the directions were there. And from Moscow came Neesen and [?] the wives and children, and [someone else came] with 4 children. Hanna and her husband are in Gomel. In other words Aunt had a great pleasure and she was very happy all the time. And we made a lot of [?] in their dacha during that time. They have the pictures and you will be able to see it. I am also there. This will become a good recollection of life. [?] is their friend and I can write about it a lot but they will tell you everything. We often recall you.
 This Saturday they will leave and we will have dinner for the entire family and all the relatives. That was like a wedding. We were dancing and drinking. Manya Levin is a very merry person. She sings and dances. I like her a lot, as did everyone else. She is a real American lady. She has a merry life and that is how it should be. I gave them my photographs and also sent them to you. I don't know if you received it and I will send you one more. If you receive it, give it to Aunt Rachel [or Rakhil) Friedman and sent them my regards. If there is a possibility to go to the United States I would go. Lufka would take me and give me a job. He told me. He likes me a lot. We were friends when we were children. I would like that very much.



Letter 89: "We just got a card from our dear grandchildren who shine like the sun"

In Yiddish


Shalom and Blessings and success on the heads of my offsprings, my brother-in-law and Batsheba   blessings to my children and grandchildren, beloved ones Yakov and Gershon - live a long life - Amen. Also, Nissen and Shayne Bayle - I bless you today with life.

Chaim Benne was here for Shavuos and just left. Nissen stayed on for a short time to rest here.

On Sunday, May 14th, we got the card from my dear grandchildren who shine like the sun, clearly a pleasure to see. But my joy was mixed with sadness and worry because we hadn't gotten a letter for such a long time and I know your devotion to me. What was the reason for the delay? During the winter, I often wrote letters until my heart refused to write anymore. Then, I thought to myself, only God knows what's going on with you. I was thinking that there's no one to write to. I figured that I'd write to Rochel so she should write to me about you. Only the card came with Menachem's writing so I knew that he and the children were alive.

Only I don't know about Batsheba. If letters arrive and if there's no writing from her, things aren't so clear. But on the 1st day of Shavuos we got your letter and I read it, but I don't believe that Batsheba's writing is her own.

I read it a few times and finally believed to God that you're still alive. But, nevertheless, I believe there was a big problem which kept you from writing.

My children, it shouldn't be this way. I should take part in both good and bad parts of your life as though you were near me, and even if I can't see you face to face, the letters are a substitute for this. Then your letters arrive, and I feel as though I see and am talking to you face to face.

Letters should always be constant. You must write me about everything good, bad, or otherwise, I don't know what to think. When you write, I know you're alive and I realize that a person goes through  difficult times. Look what we survived in Russia before we reached the present time.

Write me the reason you didn't write in detail and what was the reason Menachem didn't work? What was the reason for this and what kind of sickness did the children have? How's your health - write the truth.

If you write the truth, I'll believe you, but if you don't write, I'm not at ease and I imagine the worse. God knows what's happening with you, write everything, especially about yourself.

We often have letters from Michael and Hanna. Also, Shaynke, Michael's daughter, writes her regards. She's a good student. Hanna writes everything. She's buying items for her household, little by little. She has friends and she's not lonely.

Chaim also established himself well. He works with five partners in the store. They make suede in all colors from goat and calf skins and their merchandise is well known, and this brings them a lot of work in their factory. The factory works on electricity, but things are tight because they have to pay for the building and also for material.

Luckily, they have a reputation as honest people and they are able to borrow on credit. Chaim supports us and Hanna's wedding cost him 400 rubles. He outfitted all of us and, thank God, Nissen works with him, but he still can't find a bride.

About our situation, from last Pesach to this one, things were so-so. We had a little business but now it's slow. If we sell merchandise, it's hard to make a profit, but we do make enough for food.

My thinking is that God should send us a match for the children. I think little about myself, but mostly about Michael. We can't afford clothes. It's very expensive here. Yard goods, tailoring and shoes cost a lot. Luckily, we didn't lose money and probably God will help.

Regards to Chaya Rochel, Aaron and their children. Write if Menachem's father is still alive. Yakov and Gershon should also write a letter. Write about the pictures you sent. Which one of them is Yakov, which one is Gershon? Who is older?  Be well, as wishes your father,

Aaron Moishe Rapoport

Write if you got all the cards I sent from Yekaterinoslav. I'll write you cards again.


Letter 90: "A person must live, and not for himself alone"

In Yiddish

[1925/1927 ]

The Parsna of the week,
the 3rd day of Cholomaid Pesach December 11th.

My dears, live with good fortune with your dear children-you should all live, Amen!

I stayed home for the second day of Pesach and everyone is. Thank God, healthy. I find myself in Gomel, working in a factory and I'm the overseer of all the work, especially in chemistry. Besides this, I'm also in charge of all the electrical operations in the new government regime.

Before this, the factory was ours. We worked honestly and kept all the workers busy, especially during Elul. The expense of operating the factory cost us 6 thousand rubles and we were very profitable with a lot of work, but now, the government took it over and pays us rent and we work as their employees. I make barely enough and support my family in any way I can.

Michael also has financial difficulties. We'll soon also take in Nissen with me in the factory and Gershon will come in a month after Pesach, and if things go well, we'll write and let you know, my dears.

Our father, should be well, wrote you everything. He usually does. There's a lot to write about since it has been such a long time. There have been many changes as always happens among people, but thank God, we survived everything.

If you're healthy, you can survive. Thank God for everything and everyone is working. Gershon will also be taken care of.

Worse than everything, we've alienated ourselves from you. How can you not write for such a long time? Even a few words about your health? Especially since you know that is our only enjoyment both for us and even more for father.

It's enough that you're so far from us. God knows when we'll see each other again. Our only enjoyment is when we get a letter from you. You don't know how much health you could have saved us if only you'd have written us a letter in the past 2 years.

It should only be good and we should hear good things from each other. You can imagine what it was like when we suddenly got your letter. It was a holiday and simcha. We cried and couldn't believe it. We read it several times and sent it to Gomel. Now, we're sending it to Masha [This name is mentioned for the first time], and after that, to Hanna.

When I came home, father watched out for me and had complaints against me for not bringing your letter with me from Gomel. He would like to have read about you once in a while. When someone reminds him of you, tears fall from his eyes. Today, you understand, my dears, how precious you are to him. His only enjoyment is getting a letter from you, and when I was in Gomel, I wrote him every week. I knew that this was his only joy because he has no other "naches" in life.

The financial situation in his life is grim and he has a lot of aggravation The real bad news is that things don't look very good. I don't stop thinking about him, he is my main concern. You can see how hard I work and this is more for him than for myself. I constantly think of him and the whole family but despite this, I've managed to save a little money and I gave it to Nissen. His wedding cost me 300 rubles. I also bought him a very nice bed for over 80 rubles, and the party cost me 60 . I bought him a coat for his wedding and gave him money from this month's income for other small things. I gave him 35 rubles for Pesach and, up to the wedding, he stayed with me for 2 years. Thank God I was able to help everyone during this time because with me, the family is dear. What is the whole life?

A person must live, not for himself alone. This is my nature and when I get married, I'll certainly feel the same way.

After Pesach, Shayne [This Yiddish endearment, meaning "pretty," has been used in other letters in reference to Baylya. There is also a picture of Baylya with Chaim and Neesen, perhaps taken in Gomel] will come to me. We'll have to clothe her. It's a pity on her because she has no joy at home. She slaved for years and never saw the world which we all should do.
When she comes to Gomel, we'll look for a matchmaker for her because sitting at home is not a good plan for her. In the city, a match can be made but you must dedicate yourself to this. This will keep us busy and is a priority with us. Our Shayne is a nice girl with a good character and no luck. She has no one to support her. Is her father rich? Can he help her? Thank God that I do well and we must hope that all will be alright. If Shayne had 500 rubles, she could get married because without money, one can't marry.

With us, 500 rubles  is good money. Without money, I couldn't provide her with what she needs. I have to get married myself and money is scarce, only I'll try as hard as I can to borrow money with interest.

I'd also be happier if your situation were better. As I understand it, your situation isn't the best either.

Thank you for helping father sometimes. It's very nice of you. In time, when you can't send anything, God will reward you for your goodness. Thank God that we have such a brother-in-law. He's truly like a brother. We read his letters and we have good regards from Menachem, knowing that he is a very good person. Menachem, you will probably be overwhelmed by what I write, but you earned it. Live, brother Menachem. Please forgive me for writing this to you, but I consider you as my own brother. Sometimes, you can have a brother who is not as devoted. Everyone told us good things about you Menachem and you'll probably get conceited because I'm telling you this directly but please pardon me for calling you "du" in the familiar form because I consider you my own brother.

It happens sometimes that a real brother isn't as devoted as an outstanding brother-in-law. This is what it should be like and I feel good about this.

You should see the joy we got today from the grandchildren who wrote to us themselves. Father reaps naches and this gives him health. He reads it a few times. This is dearer than money. We imagine what kind of fellows they are when we look at the pictures. If we're healthy, we'll be together.

Now, my dears, I ask you to promise all of us to write often. It happens sometimes that you wait to write but don't do it. If you postpone writing for a day, it turns into a week, than a month and sometimes even a year and you still don't write. You must see to it to write even a card about your health and then a sealed letter with details about your situation, how everyone lives, who got married and everything else. We will repay you with quick answers.

I'm sending you 2 pictures of me in 2 poses. In one card, I'm in a fur coat with a hood which I just had made.

You can write to Gomel under Yosef's address and if you send it registered it'll surely arrive.

Be well as wishes your brother and uncle, Chaim. Regards to all.


Letter 91: "There's a father who worries about you"

In Yiddish

September 1 [ 1926/1927]

God should be with you and your dear offsprings, and God should bless you and your dear wife, Batsheba, and God should bless your dear beautiful boys who are my grandchildren, Gershon and Yakov - they should live long and in health and happiness and have all good things in life and God should remove hatred from you.

We are, thank God, well. I was in Yekaterinoslav from the 7th of Tevos to the 23rd, Saturday. Before this time, I wrote you a letter and another registered letter, and 3 cards since I came home.

The cold weather this year was great with much wind and snow during the day and at night, it would freeze over. This would make us sleepy and we didn't write the whole time.

We waited for your letter in the mail and the whole winter went by not hearing from each other. The whole time there has been no letter from you and I don't know what to think.

Already, 9 months have passed from last Purim to after Succos and there was no letter. Maybe it became a habit for you to only write once a year, but since I got no answer to my last letter, I'm now walking around without my mind from worrying.

Before, I never wrote often, but this winter I did and you should have reminded yourself that somewhere, there's a father who worries about you. You have children yourself and you know the heart of parents.

How can you let me worry? Hanna writes often and Michael also writes often but from you, there is nothing.

The children got the $15 before I came home. We baked matzoh at home. It was good, white and thin. We also made wine, meat, and schmaltz. Chaim and Michael didn't come home for Pesach this year. In Chaim's place, they are getting new material and there's much work so they can't leave.

Nissen works in Chaim's place. This winter, the sales were quiet, but taxes were also smaller. Again, we got a license to operate the store from October 1 till April 1, and another one from April to October.

I don't even think about income - better, worse, it doesn't matter. The only thing lying in my mind is that I have no letter from you and I want to know what's going on with you. I ask you, my dear children, If you're still alive, please write. Thinking about this is costing me my health. Write the truth, and the children should write too with their own hands.

Hanna also wrote you a letter, and I can't believe you'd forget about your old father. I know the type of person that Batsheba is and the gentleness of Menachem. Probably, something happened which is holding you up from writing.

I would better believe good things and that a letter from you will be a blessing.

Regards to Chaya Rochel and Aaron. Let them write a few words. I've been waiting impatiently since the time I sat in Yekaterinoslav. I had great enjoyment being with Leah, Michael's wife. She is a very gentle person and is also smart. Her father is also a fine person.

Shaynke, their daughter, studies well and gets very good marks. Her report cards have "very good" written on them.

This winter was, until today, cold and snowy, but today it's warm. It's already wet in the streets. The river is still frozen over even though it's late into the winter.

The scarcity is great. Cornmeal and chicken cost 2 rubles, meat cost 35 a pound. This winter wasn't too expensive and wood for the fire wasn't too hard to get.

Be well and write letters often even a few words. We live for and expect only this from you.

Your father,  A. M. Rapoport


Letter 92: "Trade here is awful...They hardly have enough to eat"

May 20 [1927]

My dear Menakhem, Bessie, and also Yashka and Gershunka.

 I wish you to be happy. It's been very long since I have received your letter. It is hard to say whose fault it is, but let's forget about the past. I will not try to find out who is guilty. What's passed cannot be returned. A lot of what has happened over this time cannot be fit into one letter. That's why I decided not to write too much. When L. Chyernyak comes back from his trip, he will tell you all about each of us in detail. Now, I would just like to ask you to send me a letter with Chyernyak who will give it to me personally and to tell me about yourself in detail, but concisely. All that you will not be able to fit in the letter, he will tell me when I see him. We are all waiting for him to come back anxiously. We want to know about your health, your life, and about your dear children and about something else... everything we hear from you will be new to us. You will probably carry out my request, although I don't think I have to ask you, because you yourself would be interested in corresponding with me, in order to learn about each other's life. You probably already know that they [Chyernyak?] are leaving on June 16, therefore make sure to contact him, my dear.

 What can I write about myself? There is nothing to brag about, only that I got married. It's been 10 months since the wedding, and soon I will become a father. That is all my success...

 Besides that, everything is not very good: in financial affairs and matters of health. I suffer from stomach ache. I need nutritious food, but I don't have money to get it. What can be worse than to be unemployed for 2 years? It wasn't that bad when I wasn't married. I had dinner with Chaim, and for the rest, I could get some money, off and on. And now it is totally different. It is impossible to live like this now, without making any money. If you wonder why I've got married, 1 will explain. If I waited for things to get better and decided to get married then, I would have never got married. I sat and waited for 38 years! I don't have a real profession, and without some qualification, it is hard to get a job. It is not like the old times when one could get credit and open some trade. I can't even think of that now. Trade here is awful. Take, for example, our relatives. They hardly have enough money to eat, and only because I buy goods wholesale here and then send them what I bought. And Chaim helps them with clothing. They would not have survived without our help. I could no longer be a bachelor. The only way was to get married.

                   [The following page was separated, but the handwriting and paper match].

...and finally, I decided to get married, exactly at the time when I was unemployed.  I didn't get a kopeika [cent] from her for a dowry.  If I only had some kind of a job, my life would be great.  My wife is a nice woman in every respect.  She is very smart, educated, from a good family.  Plus, she does everything around the house and has an occupation too.  She is a very good seamstress.  Before she became pregnant, she had been earning a little money.  Before the wedding, she lived in a very good apartment which was not very costly,  being situated in the center of town, it costs 8 rubles a month.  Now we both live in this apartment.  We bought some furniture, so I don't regret getting married. She is very faithful. Someday, I will send you a picture of us both.  My wife's name is Zhenya.  She will write you something in the next letter.

I have a favor to ask of you.  If it's possible, could you buy a wool jacket for Zhenya.  It's really hard to find something like that here.  She needs it very much. If you get it, send it with Chernyak.  Don't mail it, of course.

 I wish you to be well.  Your brother and uncle, Nissen.


Letter 93: "I think it was our fate that people we love fly away from us"


...He bought very nice furniture, and he was given a lot of presents also.  In other words, he became a real master of the house.  Only if God helped his situation a little, then everything would be fine.  On the other hand, our Hanna was very lucky.  She married a good man.  They have already settled very well.  We get letters from them very often.  She asks me to come visit them, because she feels lonely there.  I forgot to tell you that Hanna gave birth to a girl.  It's a pity I cannot go to her.  The first reason is that it is very far away, and the second is that it is very expensive to go there.  That is what stops me.  But maybe I can go to her in summer, because I miss her very much.  It seems that I haven't seen her forever.  I think it was our fate that people we love fly away from us.  We can't do anything about it.  I don't know what else to write, my dear.  It seems, I have already told you everything.  Write, my dear, what is new, how is your health, if you have enough money.  In other words, write about everything in detail, because every little detail is interesting to us.


Letter 94: "I would wet the paper with my tears...Probably there was something that kept
                    you  from writing"

In Yiddish

5/18 The last day of Chalamoid Pesach [1927]

Full fortune I wish my loving son Menachem and his wife, my devoted daughter Batsheba. Live also, my dear grandchildren Yankele and Gershon, should be with long years

I and Chaim, Shayne Bayle and Michael find ourselves, thank God, well.

Nissen and his wife are in Gomel and thank God well. Hanna and her husband and newborn daughter, whose name is Golda, are in Marionpol which is en route to the Azaviski Sea in the provence of Danzig. Her husband is a lumber representative and is on a business trip. He earns enough to support the family and they live well together, thank God.

Michael, his wife, and their daughter Shaynke are, thank God, well in Yekaterinoslav

Two weeks before Pesach, we got the $25 which you sent and a week later,your letter for which we waited for over 2 years. Two years ago, we held Hanna wedding in Yekaterinoslav because I wanted to see Michael and get acquainted with his wife and their daughter. Hanna's groom was in Marionpol so we decided to put the chuppah in Yekaterinoslav. I spent 6 weeks there and reaped full  naches. Michael's wife is a dentist and has a busy practice. She is very smart. She's a good homemaker and cooks and does what is necessary in the house.

Their daughter Shaynke goes to school and is in the 5th grade. She is considered one of the best students and studies well. Their father-in- law is a fine person. Her brother is a doctor and a professor of surgery and they all have fine characters. The whole time I was there, I wrote you letters every week, both cards and sealed letters and didn't even get an answer from you.

Only last year, before Pesach, I got $20 and then a card from Yankel and Gershon and
they sent their regards. Then there were no more letters and no more dollars, and no more cards.

After a half year passed with no letters, and I know your devotion to me, I couldn't believe you'd let this happen, that you could contain yourself from writing for such a long time. I didn't believe you were alive. I couldn't write anymore. I didn't know to whom I was writing when I took pen in hand. I would wet the paper with my tears and my eyes would get dark.

And the more time passed that I didn't write, the more I wondered whether you didn't care about our health. We often asked the Vinitshers who live in New York about you. We also asked Chaim Israel Levin and Dadya's [Here the Yiddish translator did not recognize the Russian word for "uncle"] daughter, Esther, about you. Israel Levin wrote that you were still living and you came to them for a visit. Also, Chaya Rochel wrote that you're alive, but I didn't believe anyone's word.

This still shouldn't have kept you from writing a card letting me know that you're alive. Even today, I can't believe my eyes, seeing your letter, that this letter is really from my children.

I can also give you a mazel-tov for my newborn children, they should live with long years, that is, Batsheba, Menachem, Yankele, and Gershenke. Everyone here sent us a mazel-tov for your letter and I can, until today, still not comprehend the reason for your silence up to now.

You should write how the time goes with you, whether good or bad. The letter is instead of seeing each other. How good it would be if you lived here. I would know everything, both bad or good, even if the times weren't the best. In a person's life there are various problems. You have to overcome them.

Probably, there was something that kept you from writing. If you would have written the truth, I wouldn't have had so much anxiety as I had from your silence. When you were silent, I gave up hope that you were alive.

We didn't need anymore aggravation than that which we had from the gangs and later from sitting without income, not being sure of whether you're alive.

And now, thank God, we have enough to live on. Chaim, should be well, learned tannery work. He makes leather, cleans and colors it, and other such related things. He earns very well and has a very fine character. He supports me along with Shayne and Hanna. He outfitted me with all nice things. The wedding cost 400 rubles.

Only Nissen has no work. He already married in Gomel. His wife is a dressmaker a very good wife, smart and accomplished in all areas.

Until now, she earned a living. Only now, she's pregnant and it's hard for her to sew and he doesn't earn anything in his business. Now, in Russia, his business will disappear and it's a shame. Everyone is Russia now must do only manual labor and there are no jobs.

Chaim helps out with whatever he can. Hanna's husband is a mathematician. Likewise, dear Aaron Elia's son, is a pleasant person and he helps Hanna out. Nissen's wife is from a fine family. Her father was a slaughterer. Her brother is also a slaughterer.

Every week, I get letters from Hanna and Chaim. He just came to us for Pesach. He will write you a letter.

Yakov and Gershon, my dear grandchildren, God should lengthen your years. It's my good fortune that you sent me your regards and I ask you further to write more letters and remind the aunt that she should do the same.

Here in the store, I work hard because Maylech is a hard worker and both of us try to keep things going. I know what we need.

Nissen is in Gomel and Chaim sent him matzoh for Pesach. Today, when he came, he brought me a fur hat and galoshes and he dressed me from head to toe. Last year, when I was in Gomel for Nissen's wedding, he made a suit for me for Saturdays and weekdays, along with a fur coat.

Probably, when he gets married, he'll be devoted to us body and soul. His apartment is in Gomel and this summer, he'll marry Aunt Shayne's daughter. Gershon's Hanna got married last year and already has a son. Ruba Rochel already married off all the children and they get a lot of help from America.

Gershon sits in Retchiche and has barely enough to live on. Regards to Chaya Rochel, Aaron and all his children, should be well as wishes your father and grandfather.

[Aaron Moishe]

Letter 95: "He's always ready to help the family, to give his last penny"

In Yiddish

          ...about my materialistic situation, I have nothing to brag about. Since the wedding [Whose?] up to last month, I didn't even earn 1 kopek. We lived only from what made last year which was enough. The month of August, I didn't work again and lived on what I earned the past month. I break even in my work and my expenses and it's very hard to live on that.

Chaim promised to take me into his factory. I would have steady work but now nothing came of it because he's not the boss there. Another 12 people work with him and everyone of them has a say in this matter. They decided not to take me in but there's hope that I'll get work in another place. It's not a sure thing, but one must have hope in life. Every person lives his few years with hope.

A few months ago, uncle came as a guest to us. He was here for 3 weeks. He lives in Odessa. He is a tall, proud fellow, but 2 years ago, a misfortune happened. He sliced off the top of his left foot and walks on his heel only. Then, he cut off his right hand up to the elbow, and in general, his health is 50/50. He has enough to live on because he collects money for his disability and he also gets wages from his job.

Michla was here for a month and she went to her aunt in Bobroysk. She wants to find work. It was over a month that she was my guest in our family. She was fixing her teeth. We wanted to fix her up with a shiddach, but it didn't work out, so after visiting her aunt, she's going back to Choimetz [Kholmich]. It's a pity on her. As she says, "my future mate hasn't come, but one will in two words." Chaim furnished her with a lot of things. She needed a lot. From the aunt's three children, Baylya the prettiest and the most developed. She's also the most capable. She manages the store very well without help. All she gets is aggravation from the other two.

I won't write you about Chaim. Firstly, he usually writes you himself and secondly, Zaybke probably wrote you about him. I can only tell you that he's very good to me. He's always ready to help the family, to give his last penny, and he does as much as he can.

Hanna lives very well, thank God. She has a very good husband and he gives her the best of everything. She has a good life with him. Her face looks better. It filled out and she became a pretty woman. She has a gorgeous little girl who is a darling. They live in Marionpol. I ask you to write to her. Her address is: [?]

Now, I'll write you about our own, each one briefly. I'll start with Uncle Neesen [Not Bessie's brother]. Uncle Nissen lives very ordinary. He is in no condition to work because his health is weak. The aunt is a good seamstress and she earns enough for them to live on. He built a new house near the street and everyone gave a little money towards the house.

Chaim gave 75 rubles. The rest  also gave, including Uncle Yashe and Uncle Aaron. He has 2 children, a boy and a girl. The boy is 10, the girl is 8. We are all close to him. He's the closest to us. Aunt Sonia works to support him and she makes 35 rubles a month. They survive on this.

Aunt Tzierke is in another city. Uncle Chaim is there on a job. They lived well but now things aren't too good. They have 2 capable daughters.

Uncle Laybke's children are Golda and Manya. They married workers and live quite well.

There's no more important news to write. If possible, please send pictures of yourselves. You probably saw our pictures of me, Chaim, Sonia, Laibke which Mania showed you. We took the pictures together. The rest of us will take pictures and will send you a letter. Chaim and I will send you a card. Sonia and I will take a picture together.

Be well and strong, your brother, Nissen. My wife sends you regards and also to the Aunt Chaya Rokhel.


Letter 96: "Your silence has cost us a lot of strength...If I would have wings, I would
                    fly to you"


My  dear brother Menakhem and my dear sister Baska, and my dear nephews Yashka and Gershunka,

 We hope you have happiness.

 My dear, my dear, a long time has passed and still we haven't had letters from you. We sent several letters to you but still haven't gotten any answer. We don't know what to say. We are very worried about your silence. Your silence has cost us a lot of strength. My dear Baska, maybe something happened in your life. God save you from it. Or maybe you forgot about us. You forgot that you have a father, and brothers, and sisters. But, no, I don't believe that you, Baska, forgot about us so soon. Who else do we have besides you? You shouldn't forget about us and you should write to us often. Your letters are the best thing in our lives. When the mailman comes and we don't have any letters from you it becomes very sad in my soul. If I would have wings, I would fly to you, I would come to you and I would talk to you personally, and I would share all the thoughts that are in me, because there is no one I can talk to. Hanna left, and Neesen and Chaim also, so no one is left home. They even didn't come for Passover; we were all by ourselves. Our eyes were filled with tears, but what can you do. Hanna writes to us very often. She writes that her life is very good but the sad thing is that we are not there. What else can I write to you my dearest, I don't know. There is is not much of anything happening around here. Everything is as before. I feel good. I spend the time the usual way. I didn't make anything for myself on the holiday. In the shop, things are going well, though kind of slow. The new days in life are exactly the same as the previous day. Please write my dear, what is happening in your life, if you make enough to support yourself, how are the children, how is the school. Write about everything. We want to know everything. Write often. Be happy and I kiss you,

Your sister, Sonya
and I am waiting impatiently for a letter from you. I am sending my warmest regards to all of the relatives.
[This brief note follows]
 There is nothing new in our life. I feel good. I spend my time not in very interesting ways. The holiday [Passover] was very boring because Hanna was not here, and Neesen and Chaim didn't come for the holidays, plus we didn't get letters from you, so I feel very bad. My thoughts about you and about everyone else are very sad because it is a holiday and we shed so many tears for those who are not with us. Please write to us what is happening in your life, how you make a living, how you feel, write about everything, and write often. Every news we would like to know. Be healthy and happy. Your dearest sister who kisses you,
 I kiss my nephews Yashka and Gershunka, and send regards to all relatives who are there.


Letter 97: "...the long silence. How can it be explained?...Please have mercy"


A postcard to "Mr. Schechter" in America from
Neesen Rapoport in Gomel

My dear Menakhem, Basya, Yashka, and Gershunka,

 Be happy.

 I and my entire family are very upset by the long silence. How can this be explained? We cannot think what has happened. We are worried a lot. Please have mercy on us and let us know immediately how is your health. How is everyone in the family?

[some words obscured on tape]

If it is not too difficult for you after receiving my postcard write to us a letter. But if somehow you cannot do it, send a postcard to me at home separately:

N. Rapoport
Smernov St

 When you write make certain Barsheva writes a few words, as soon as possible and in detail. I and my wife Zhenya and our son sends regards. We are all healthy. We do not make enough money to have a normal life. I am a few months unemployed so financially I cannot say anything good.  I have a wonderful son . To write about him in this postcard is impossible--not enough space. I and Chaim together will send you a letter. We will write about everything and everyone, because not everything is fine in their lives, they are barely making enough money to survive, and they are are very worried about you. Only Hanna lives ok. She has a very good girl who just turned one year. Chaim is not married yet but he has a good life. Be healthy and write,


Letter 98: "I don't believe you are that busy that you cannot spare three minutes to
                   write a letter...Your letter is priceless and more important than money"

Russian/ Yiddish


My dear Menakhem and Basya, and my dear nephews, Gershunka and Yanka,

 May your life be happy.

 You probably received my last letter and my last letter from home also but I still didn't hear an answer from you. Why is that? Even so we had a personal regard from you which gave us a lot of happiness and pleasure. We never expected such happiness, and we didn't suspect that Label and Mary are coming. From them we find out everything about you, about every little thing about your life. It seemed that after such personal regards from them, it may seem to you that you don't have to write. But in reality that is not so. The relationship between us are the letters we receive and when we have letters from you especially when we have letters very often from you, you don't seem to be that far away. And we feel happier when we have a chance to share among all of us our lives. And when you have a habit of writing letters more often than you have a wish to write about everything and you expect to have the same back. In other words, the conclusion from all this, don't be silent as you were for one and one-half years. Because of that we were very worried, and we were thinking about all the horrible things that could happen to you. I don't believe you are that busy that you can not spare three minutes to write us a letter. Maybe something stuck in you. Maybe because you think you can't help us, that is what is stopping you. But no my dearest, even if you have a thought about it, that because you can't help us you don't have to write us, I would like to give you a small example. When you send us $25 but we don't receive the letter first, what do you think was more pleasant to us, more important to us, to have your letter or the money? I can assure you that your letter was much more important for us. Your letter is priceless and it more important than money. I cannot describe it in a more creative way, but the letter brings us happiness.

In Yiddish

...we aren't fooling ourselves. We know where we stand. We can't expect things from everyone or from you. We just can't reach our goals. we can hope for everything only when our pockets are empty and our hopes are cold. With what can we comfort ourselves, only with letters which is our only hope for joy.

The hope should be that we should all be well and there should be opportunity and we should cheer each other up with frequent, good letters and we should reap "naches" from each other.

Now, my devoted, I'll write briefly about myself and about each one separately and about mother's family. Probably, Labke and Mere will write you about the others in another letter.

I'll start about myself. I live an ordinary life and the fact is that I met a girl. I wrote about her in my last letter. Laybke will explain this to you further. We have a fine, capable son.

Laybke will tell you more about this and about my living condition, and if she still remained.

In Russian
 We are very lonely here. We are not sure when there is a hope to see you again. Then we should throw away from our mind the hope, so we are going to write to each other. We know about each other from our letters. And its easier for you to come to see us than for us to come to see you. Hope is good if there is sense in it, if there is a possibility. But for today we have to be satisfied only by our letters. And this is our hope and happiness. We have to be be healthy and have this hope with us. To write each other everything, and to bring happiness to each other through frequent letters. And through the letters we will both have this happiness.

 Now my dear I would like to write you about myself and about everyone from the mother's part of the family. About the rest of the family, you will probably already know from Label. He will tell you about the rest of the family in more specific way. I will write about myself. I can tell you that I have something to brag about. I found the right person in my life. Now why this person is right: she is a great woman, my wife.  I wrote about her in my previous letter and additional information Label can tell you. We have a wonderful son about whom Label will tell you also, and he'll tell you about my apartment...

[The letter does not appear finished, but rest is missing]


Letter 99: "Your silence caused us a lot of hells"

Dear brother Menakhem & dear sister Baska & dear nephews Yashka & Gershunka,
        Live happy my dear.

       Finally we received a letter from you for which we patiently waited, and the money. We are very grateful that you don't forget us and that you remember to write us a letter. You cannot imagine to what extent was our happiness when we received this letter from you. And this letter gave us a lot of joy. We had a holiday when we received the letter. Several times we read and read again the letter. And it seemed to us you were talking to us when we received this letter. And when we were reading your letter we all cried.

         It was hard to believe that it was with your own hand that you were writing this letter because we didn't know what to think. "Your silence caused us a lot of hells." We were imagining all kinds of possibilities and may God save us from this, maybe something happened to you or maybe you forgot about us. But I cannot believe that you, Baska, would forget about us so soon.

      Who else do we have besides you? And you forced us to wait for such a long time for your letters.

     How come? You were so busy that for two years you couldn't find time to write a letter? But that's ok, what was, is past. Now we know that you are living and that you are fine. Try for the future to write more often, because we have such pleasure receiving letters from you and I will try to do the same.

    My dearest, I don't know what to write. We are alright. We are making barely enough for our life.  For clothing, Chaim is sending us money. He is a very kind person. Last year I was in Gomel and I had a gold crown put in, and it cost him [Chaim] a hundred rubles. He altered my dark navy suit for 60 rubles and bought me a coat with a fur collar and a few other things, so altogether I cost him him 300 rubles, which was beyond my expectations. I don't know how to express my gratitude to him. If it wouldn't be for him, I wouldn't have anything. For whatever we are making, it is impossible to buy anything. It is unpleasant to take from him because he has other things to spend his money on without me. He is helping out Neesel because he doesn't have a job. You probably know he got married and he has a wonderful life. She is a good dressmaker.


Letter 100: "Well, what can I say, it is our destiny to be far from each other"


My dear brother Menakhem and my dear sister Baska, and my dear nephews Yashka and Gershunka,

 Have a happy life, my dears.

 We sent you many letters but we still have no answers from you, and we don't know what to think about this. Even so Label gave us regards from you and he told us that you feel good and that you have very good children, but you can't imagine how worried we are when we don't have letters from you. You can't imagine, my dear, our happiness, when we have a personal regard from you and we personally find out about your life. It seems to me like that time when I was talking to you, the time I was next to you; at the same time it hurt me that we are so far away from each other and we do not have such happiness to see each other like Aunt Chilnya. Well what can I say, it is our destiny to be far from each other and not to have happiness from being together. And so what we have left is letters. Why don't you give us this pleasure and write us often so we won't be worried about your life when we don't know what is happening in your life. Please I beg you. Share your life with us, write to us often, and keep the relationship going because we don't have anyone but you and I don't want to say that you forgot about us. But I hope in the future it won't happen and that you will remember that you have sisters and brothers here.

 Now what can I write to you, I don't know. There is actually nothing good about my life. But I think Label told you about everything. Personally my life is nothing new. I feel alright. Now I am in Gomel. I am ready to go home. I was here for five weeks. Chaim did everything I needed. [Seemed she was ordering clothes]. I came here deliberately to see the Americans so they can tell me in person about your life. And it was a very happy moment in my life. Hanna writes to us very often. She writes that her life is ok, nothing to complain about. She has a very good looking daughter and she named her after mother.  And Neesen  has a wonderful boy. But something is not that good with him. [Financially? Personally?]. But Chaim's life is alright. From Mikhail we have started to receive letters very seldom. He writes that his health is not very good. But what else can I write?  I don't know. It seems to me that I wrote about everyone, and probably you know from Neesen about everything, so there is nothing left for me to write about.  Please, my dear, write what is in your life, how you feel, how are your children, how their school work. Write about everything, every small detail. Be healthy. Be happy...Your sister,

...who loves you very much. I send my regards to all of the relatives and to all of our family. Regards to all of them.


Letter 101: "Ten years have passed by and we didn't correspond all that time..."

In Yiddish

Dear sister Bashabi and dear brother Menakhem, and dear nephews

 Live forever and be happy.

 Ten years passed by and we didn't correspond all this time and I don't know who is actually guilty. Probably we all are guilty but it shouldn't be like this. I remember when we are all together we were devoted to one another. And you my dear sister brought us up and we shared a lot of bad things. And I feel very bad that we are separated. Here people are saying that those who are in America cannot help us. That's why they don't write. But that's wrong. It shouldn't be like this. No one is asking for help. Your letters would be enough for us and would bring us great pleasure. And it is more dear than any kind of help and money. I hope in the near future it will be like this and we will start to write to each other often.

 What kind of job does Menakhem have? What kind of factory does he work in? How are the children doing in school. When I look at the photograph and at the children in the photo they look well. And you and Menakhem also look well.

 Now about my life. I work for the leather factory where we make the base for shoe and boots and I am a foreman there. I and the director must make the chemical substance [for something].   My wife is a daughter of our Aunt Shayna. Her name is Manya. And she stays in their apartment.....

[Rest missing]


Letter 102: "You, Baska, were the most devoted among us. You gave all your life and all
                      your health in your young years for all of us, and now you threw us out from
                      your memory"

In Yiddish

To my favorite and dear brother Menakhem and to my favorite and dear sister Basya, and to my dear nephew and niece.

 Have a happy life and a lot of pleasure.

 My dear, I didn't know what to think before I received a regard about you through Shlayman, a regard and a photo. I was very worried. No enemy can tell what I had in my mind. All this time I didn't have a letter from you or a regard of any kind. More than ten years, we didn't have a letter from you. I received a regard of Levke when he was here a few years ago. But that isn't enough. I need to receive at least a few words from you. If you would at least write something on the back of a photograph in your own hand it would give me hope that you are alive and healthy. It is wonderful and I feel very happy and my soul feels good that I received such a beautiful photo and a regard from Basya. It seems that I had a talk with you personally. I have a regard from you and you are present in this photograph. There is a saying we have that the eye can see you but the tooth cannot grasp it. It means that anytime I wanted, I looked at your picture. Unfortunately you are not with me in person and I can't talk to you. It is impossible to describe what I feel. And I cannot say that much. I cannot describe my happiness when I received this photo.

 I don't know how to thank you for all of this. But one photo is not enough. I'd like to see a letter from you and more than one photo. Do not forget that you have brothers and sisters and everyone of them wants a photograph. Everyone envies me that I am the master of this photo and why I am in such a privileged position compared to them. Is it possible that my father was better looking than their father. We also had the same father who was handsome, but there are two circumstances that explain why I have it. First of all, I am the first one who received a photograph and that's why I have it. Secondly, I said that I am the oldest brother and I must have it.

 I am waiting for a bigger photograph from you, and I wouldn't refuse it. I and Mirrile hope that you recall us often.

[Next passage is unclear]

...I hope that God would not forgive us and would not leave us without his mercy, and I think that God did not forgive us, but you are far away from us now, from myself and from the rest of the family...

  You, Baska, were the most devoted among us. You gave all your life and all your health in your young years for all of us, and now you threw us out from your memory. And you lost the feelings that relatives have for each other. You didn't find the time or find the need during the ten year period to write. I beg you and Menakhem and the children immediately to write me about everything. I have a lot to tell you about my life. And I will try to put this in a few words.
 About others in the family, Sherroun [Louis Shearn] will tell you. My health is not very great. I had two operations, something with the stomach. During the second operation they cut out 70 cm of my large intestine. I have to keep the right diet and not eat rough food. Now I often have pain in my stomach. I cannot always follow the diet I need simply because I do not have enough money. And I cannot change this because I don't make enough money. The income is the same but the spending is much more expensive. I am not lucky about my wife. I have three children with her but I cannot not live with her, but I do have to support the children. I have two boys. The oldest is 7 years and 3 months. The second son is 4 years old and a girl is two years old. Very good children and I feel pity for them. I cannot help them much. I live with Chaim. The children are with my wife. So now you can imagine what kind of life I have.

 Chaim's life is a little better. He makes enough for his life and he is healthy. He feels alright, thank God. He doesn't have any children. He had two girls [and they died, it appears].  His wife Manya is a sister to us.  She also feels well. Hanna is in Marioopay. Her life is also not very well. Her health is not very good. She has two girls and they are very sweet. The oldest is 8 and the youngest is 3. Her husband works and he is also healthy. Sonya divorced her husband because he became mad and he is now not a human being. She works but doesn't make much. Healthwise, she is not very good either. Her factory sent her for two weeks without cost to rest. And her health has improved. Mirrile works and supports herself. [Here Mirrile is referred to as a female, not a male as in earlier letters. This is a problem we couldn't solve, and may be due to a translator's error]. She works with Sonya at the factory and lives with her. Baylya has two good sons. She also works for the factory and she lives very well. All who are there make a good living. Her husband is very sweet. Yanke [Yashka] lives in Moscow and he has a good life. He spends all the money he makes and he has a good time. He has excellent furniture and he has enough to wear, but he doesn't care about anyone else.  But he is alright. Mikhail also works but his health is not good. He has asthma. He has one daughter who is 17 and she is a very good girl. [Mikhail was married in 1914. If the daughter is 17, this fact helps to date the letter to the early or middle 1930s]. She is studying to become an engineer. He has a wonderful wife. She is a dentist and they make a good living.

 I am coming to the end of my letter and I am asking you one more time to write and write often. Please send your address.

Stay healthy and be strong. Your brother, Neesel
Here is my address:

International St
House # 79

Send regards to Aunt Hirahem [Rakhil] and Uncle Aron


Title Pages, Dedication, Frontispiece
Preface, Introduction, Poem
Letters: Early years
Letters: Middle years
Letters: Later years