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By Bernard Abrahams

The following is the first chapter of Bernard Abrahams’ Yiddish-language memoirs Mayne zibetsik yor i.e., My 70 Years (Johannesburg, South Africa, 1953, pp. 13-26). The author, originally named Avróm B. Shmulovits, was born 1880 in Krozh (known as Kražiai in Lithuanian) and immigrated to South Africa in 1899. He and his wife, who had no progeny, later moved to Israel. Translated by Michoel Ronn. All comments in square brackets and footnotes are the translator’s.

Krozh - The Lithuanian Shtetl Where I Was Born and Raised – Communication Between the Shtetl and the Outside World – The Source of Income of Its Jewish Families – Jew and Gentile – Shtetl and Village – Summer and Winter – Tsarist Decrees – Contrabandists and Horse Dealers – The Shtetl’s Factory – The Learned Moshe-Khaym-Notes

Krozh – a small Lithuanian shtetl[1] where I was born on the fourth day of Chanukah, 5681 (1880) – lies in a secluded, remote area, approximately 50 verst [i.e., 33.15 miles] from the East Prussian border.[2]

Krozh derives its name from the Krozhanta River,[3] which flows out from a spring some 10 kilometers from the shtetl, and winds past the shtetl on its way to Kelm[4] and Shidleve,[5] where it flows into the larger Dubysa River. The bathhouse was built right next the river. When the Krozhanta would freeze in the winter, people would travel to Kelm via the river. This seems to be the source of the Yiddish saying in Lithuania, “from Krozh straight into the bathhouse.”[6]

Krozh is one of the oldest shtetlekh [i.e., pl. of shtetl] in Lithuania. When the Jesuits were expelled from England in the 17th century, they went to various Catholic lands, including Lithuania, where they settled in Krozh. In Krozh, they immediately built an impressively large, fortified church, surrounded by a thick wall 20 feet high. In 1890, the Russian Orthodox population of the shtetl and its environs demanded of the government that the church be transferred to them. The government agreed, since most government employees and peasants were Russian Orthodox and had no church of their own, whereas the Jesuits had another church as well. Towards the end of 1892 the government decided to carry out its decision. The Catholics resisted forcefully. The government then dispatched a disciplinary unit – Cossacks – under the personal leadership of the governor of the province of Kovno. The icons and other items were forcibly removed to the other church. In the ensuing melee, hundreds of peasants were wounded, and others were arrested and exiled to Siberia. But the church remained closed. Only in 1919, under the independent Lithuanian government, was it opened once again.

Krozh was also the home of the gymnasium [i.e., an academic high school], one of the oldest in the entire region, which shows the importance of Krozh as a cultural center. Later, the gymnasium relocated to Kovno yet it retained its name: The Krozh Gymnasium.

The Jewish community in Krozh was established at the time Jews began settling in Lithuania. I do not recall the existence of any very old community ledgers. The cemetery, though, is the best testimony that Jews resided there for hundreds of years. The old cemetery was a thick overgrown forest, with practically no tombstones, since most of its tombstones had been made of wood and had long since rotted. The few remaining stone tombstones were worn away, not leaving even a trace of a letter, and were scattered about, barely visible from their sunken position in the ground.

In the journal Reshumot[7] is printed the biography of the last official Rabbi of Vilna, Rabbi Shmuel [1720-1793] and also notes that he was a student of Rabbi Eliezer, who was the rabbi of Krozh some 200 years ago and who died in Vilna in 1759 (sic).[8] On Rabbi Eliezer’s tombstone in the cemetery in Vilna, among many other honorifics, he is referred to as “the philosopher.”[9] His is the only tombstone in the old Jewish cemetery of Vilna bearing that title.

Rabbi Jacob Joseph [1848-1902], also known as Reb[10] Yankele Kharif [i.e., Reb Yankele the Sharp], the former Chief Rabbi of America, was a native of Krozh. In the shtetl, there still existed the ruins of a little house which people would point out as his father’s home, where his father had had a wine cellar or a whiskey brewery. Rabbi Moyshe-Zvulun Margolies [1851-1936], a contemporary of Reb Yankele Kharif, was also born in Krozh, and assumed Kharif’s position after his death.[11]

Apparently the local gymnasium, referred to earlier, had a strong influence on the youth, since Krozh also produced leaders in secular knowledge even prior to the general Enlightenment Movement. The emigration from Krozh also supports this assumption; even before the mass Jewish immigration to America, the rush towards the outside world was felt in Krozh, as people streamed towards the broader world – to the big cities in Russia and also in Germany. Only a paltry few young people pursued a worldly education in the big cities, while others went there just to escape the narrow confines of the shtetl. In this way, Krozh always had its colonies sown about the globe.

Roads to large cities did not pass through Krozh. Being distant from any railways or highways, Krozh did not have a post office. Those who connected the inhabitants of Krozh with the outside world were “Avigder the Postman” and “Zalmen the Postman,” as they were known in the shtetl. Once or twice a week they would ride to the nearest post office a few verst away, taking with them letters to be sent out and bringing incoming mail upon returning. Their “tariff” for each letter was three kopeks, and they also sold stamps. This connection to the outside world was sufficient for the Krozher Jews. No one felt then that there was a necessity for any improvement since correspondence with the outside world was rather sparse and infrequent. Immigration to America was then still small, and such a place as Africa was completely unknown in the shtetl and its name had never been heard. The Jews in Krozh had time and patience and were not rushing anywhere. In case of an urgent situation, they would use a special courier.

The communication and transportation methods were by horse and buggy. The wagon drivers assumed the function of agents for the shopkeepers. The closest mercantile center was Shavl [i.e., Šiauliai], which was eight mayl [i.e., 37.12 miles] away. The wagoners would travel there weekly, carrying payment for previous orders and bringing back fresh merchandise. The needs of the small shopkeepers rarely change, while the larger shopkeepers supplying the local landowners found it necessary to periodically join the wagoners on their trips to the city to purchase jewelry, dry goods, and other merchandise for their customers. Such a trip would generally last four full days. Taking into account the weather and road conditions, they planned out their trips to return on Friday – as early as possible, allowing time for the porters to unload the merchandise and bring it into each customer’s store – to have time to make it to the bathhouse in honor of Shabes, as all Jews do.

The wagoners, hard working Jews, would do their job conscientiously and honestly. A misplaced or lost item was a rarity; theft out of the question. Therefore, it was easy enough to trust the wagoners with several hundred rubles, which was frequently the money the shopkeeper had.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a post office and a telegraph station were opened in Krozh itself. The post wagon, which replaced Zalmen and Avigder, would approach the shtetl with the joyous sound of its bell clanging. Those who were awaiting mail and those who were plain curious would joyfully head towards the post office to await the arrival of the postal wagon. Very seldom was there a registered letter, which would be a sure indication of money within. And if a registered letter did arrive, the sum of money was quite small. The senders were recent immigrants to their new locales and their earnings there were still too meager to be able to adequately support their families left behind.

The sources of income for the exactly 80 Jewish families in the shtetl were the peasants in the surrounding villages. Aside from every Sunday and non-Jewish holiday when hundreds of non-Jews would descend upon the shtetl for the prayer services held in their two churches, they would all travel into the shtetl yet another time during the week for market day. Wagons loaded up with grain, flax, pig bristles, calves, sheep, chickens, butter, eggs, raw hides, and other village supplies, would crowd the streets, the market place, and every yard. At dawn, when it was still dark, the long rows of fully loaded caravans were already winding their way in. Step by step they would drag their way over the long roads – sometimes entire villages of non-Jews. With obtuse peasant patience, they would follow their wagons on foot, goading a cow that was tied to the wagon because she had outlived her usefulness and no longer yielded milk or because the peasant needed money and, in such a situation, with a dejected heart, sold his cow.

The market people and merchants – most of whom were inhabitants of Krozh – would head off at midnight to greet the wagons. Jew and peasant would meet, recognize each other in the gray morning twilight, and greet one another warmly, calling each other by their names. They would then proceed together into the shtetl to negotiate business. In general each peasant already had his merchant, his buyer, and each Jew his supplier.  As needy as the Jews were, as strong as the need for income was, there was no usurping of or undercutting each other. When someone approached a wagon to examine its wares and negotiate, everyone else remained at a distance.

As soon as the peasants sold all their merchandise, they became the buyers. The shops that were half-dozing all week became full of customers. Women, men, and children, and at times entire families, set out together and pushed their way through the narrow entrances and into the small shops, filling them with much noise and the scent of the fields. They would touch the merchandise, scrutinize it, pass it from hand to hand, and draw in others customers’ opinions, loudly consulting with them. Pointing their fingers to their hearts, the proprietors would quickly try to persuade the customers to trust that it would be impossible for them to sell for any less. They would try and convince the constantly haggling peasants that the merchandise was good and sturdy. The familiar peasants trusted them. Some peasants had done business with the same shopkeepers for years; the buyer knew the seller, his father, and his grandfather. They called each other by their first names and by the name of their fathers, asked about each other’s family, and treated each other as friends. Such acquaintances would often be invited into their homes, where they would be given a glass of tea and some refreshments, and the desired merchandise would be brought in for them to choose from. The other peasants, who had no personal relationship with any of the shopkeepers, would go from shop to shop, everywhere searching, rummaging, haggling, and, ultimately, often returning to the shop where they started. The peasant was by nature insecure, knew that his experience was limited, and was therefore untrusting, especially when he needed to purchase a item not for everyday use, such as a suit or a dress for his wife or his betrothed daughter.

On market day, the shopkeeper’s entire family was in the store. Generally, one person was sufficient “to watch the open door,” as they used to say, and it was usually the shopkeeper’s wife – the virtuous Jewish woman as extolled in Proverbs.[12] On market days it was often even necessary to hire help, because even more necessary than selling was guarding the merchandise; among all the shoving and crowding, one had to make sure that the peasants would not pilfer anything, which was a common occurrence.

On these weekly market days, anything and everything was traded, bought, and sold. The Jewish craftsmen, tailors, shoemakers, and furriers from the shtetl and the surrounding shtetlekh, who had no shops of their own, would display their wares in the middle of the marketplace either by hanging them on walls or setting up booths. These Jewish craftsmen would work an entire week for the market day. It was the day for business, and for the village gentiles a day to enjoy some good whiskey. The taverns were full on those days. The Lithuanian peasant did not despise alcohol; they would drown their joy and sorrow in a glass of hard liquor.

At dusk, the wagons would begin their return from the shtetl. The non-Jewish women would then drive the horses back to their villages because their husbands were for the most part drunk and lying down with their rear ends facing upwards.

As soon as the last wagon departed, an uncanny silence descended upon the shtetl, as when all the guests have departed following a large wedding. But now was when the real work began for a few days. The egg buyers would sort the eggs, large and small, and pick out the bad ones by candlelight. The good eggs were packed into crates and delivered to Shavl, to the wholesalers; from there they were sent by train to Germany, to Libau, to Riga, or even to London. They would sort and pack up the pig bristles, the pelts, and other merchandise that were not for local consumption. This work was mostly done by the wives and the older children, while the husband himself set out to catch another market in a nearby shtetl.

Few of the dealers had their own horse and wagon. Most traveled with hired wagon drivers, or they would set out early morning on foot, awaiting a passing acquaintance, with whom to catch a ride to the market. The return trip was much worse because the wagons were overloaded with products and rarely had room for a passenger. So they followed the wagons on foot, swapping stories of fine bargains that were made and of losses incurred. On the way, they would quickly pray the afternoon and evening services, either individually or together, and drag their weary bodies home.

In this manner, week after week quickly passed by for the Krozher Jews, burdened with the worries of earning a living. Therefore, when Friday midday arrived, everyone started to prepare for the day of rest – of spiritual elevation. The day of rest was also the day of holiness. It was very difficult to believe that the same oppressed and worried Jews, burdened by the yoke of earning their livelihood, could be completely transformed for one day a week into such free, cheerful, Shabes[13] Jews.

Immediately upon the conclusion of the Shabes [on Saturday night], the smaller market dealers would congregate at the homes of the few wealthier merchants, from whom they had bought merchandise during the market days or perhaps taken a loan from one Saturday night to the next. They would drink a glass of tea, settle up their accounts, and only then would they would finally know how much they had earned the previous week.

At dawn of the new week [i.e., Sunday morning] the tailors, with sewing machines on their shoulders, would set out for the surrounding villages. Traveling by foot, these village-tailors would reach the most distant villages to obtain some work for a day, a week, or longer. They already knew which peasant was marrying off a daughter or where a there was an upcoming celebration necessitating new clothes to be sewn for the village family. They received their fee in barter – all sorts of village produce.

At the beginning of each week, also setting out for the villages were the peddlers – poor, small-time merchants. They would carry a sack on their shoulders containing thread, needles, imitation beads, toys, and various small wares. Going from village to village and from house to house, they were welcome guests everywhere. The gentiles knew them, knew that they could not give them food from their own pots, and knew they traveled with their own pots and spoons. These village travelers, just as the tailors, would return home on the eve of Shabes with heavy sacks on their shoulders and a few coins in their pockets. From early Friday morning, their wives would be expecting them – awaiting their breadwinners – in order to be able to prepare all the food for the holy Shabes.

As difficult as it was to earn a livelihood, life and family sustenance were bearable during the summer months. The children ran about barefoot and half naked. There was enough ground, so they sowed vegetables, potatoes, carrots, and beets, sustaining themselves from the blessings of the earth. Poorer women went to work in the fields of others, weeding the shepherd’s purse and other such nuisances so that the vegetables should grow better. There was an abundance of fruits and vegetables. If someone owned a goat, they would comment about him that “He lives like  Rothschild.” The goat sustained itself at the community’s expense by grazing in the streets, chewing the straw off of somebody’s roof and munching the grass from the surrounding courtyards and ditches of the shtetl. From such a goat, one nonetheless had milk from which one could make a bit of cheese – one was not left hungry.

Blueberries and red raspberries grew abundantly in the nearby forests. On the long summer days, the villagers would hike into the forests and pick to their hearts’ content. From the berries they would cook all sorts of soups and syrups for winter, to be used by the ill and feeble. Towards the end of the summer, they went to the forest to pick cranberries – a hard reddish-green berry – and then cooked them with apples and sugar into a thick marmalade to smear on bread or just to eat as a refreshment. Some of the syrups were for healing only, which were cooked while whispering, “Master of the Universe, may we never need this…”

In the summer, children thrived off the days, or more accurately, off the nights. As soon as darkness fell, they would sneak into gardens, snatch some cucumbers or some young carrots, thereby trampling more vegetables than they took. Similar was done in the fruit orchards; the children would intentionally climb the tallest trees, would ingeniously make their way between wire fences, eat their fill of apples, pears, plums, and cherries – very often, still half ripe – which would ruin their teeth and give them stomach cramps, thereby forcing them to take that sole steadfast mothers’ remedy – castor oil.

As soon as the fruit began to ripen, many families would travel to the orchards, which they leased from landed gentry (both near and far) as soon as the first blossoms appeared on the trees. These orchard leasers would spend the last months of summer with their wives and children in the orchards. They would put up a booth, sleep on straw, and cook their meals on an improvised oven – a fire in the middle of a few bricks. The orchards needed to be guarded carefully as there was no lack of interested parties who were willing to steal a few sacks of fruit. The family was divided into shifts to guard the orchard through the nights. During a windy or stormy rain, they were not concerned with catching a cold or becoming ill, rather they were worried that, G-d forbid, the tree branches should not break, the raw fruit should not be blown off the tree, thereby destroying their livelihood for the following six to eight months. Since the orchard leasers were poor people and the orchards were leased with borrowed money, they were especially fearful they would not be able to repay their loans if nature would ruin the orchard.

When the weather was erratic – hail, winds, and gales – much of the not completely ripe fruit would be shaken from the trees and had to be sold quickly at any price. Before the start of the autumn rains, the hardier fruit, which had fully developed on the trees, were first individually picked to avoid banging and bruising, which could cause it to rot. Only then was the fruit sorted, brought into the shtetl, and individually spread out in the attics and cellars, to wait for winter, when fruit would became expensive and they would be sent to the large cities. In the shtetl itself, people could not allow themselves such a luxury. They were satisfied with the spoiled or frozen fruit, and even those were eaten with sense of guilt, “Who am I, after all, to be allowed to indulge in such pleasure?”

Winter was difficult – extremely difficult– for the majority of those in the shtetl. Immediately following Sukes [i.e., Sukkoth] when the heavy rains began, the streets of the shtetl turned into one large swamp. It became impossible to go from one house to the next. The villagers made footbridges by tossing bricks and stones together in the mud and hopped from one stone to the next like goats. But in the evening when the entire shtetl was enveloped in a thick darkness and rays of light were barely visible filtering through the cracks of the shuttered windows (which made the darkness seem even stronger) the stones placed in the mud during the day were useless. You would tap with your stick, searching for the stone so that you could hop onto it, but it was gone, haven sunk into the mud or been moved from its spot by some peasant’s wagon. Your feet would sink into the slimy swamp, leaving a galosh or a shoe behind, but you would be happy to have at least gotten out safely. Some sort of a pavement made out of sharp stones lumped together ran along the length of the street – purportedly a sidewalk. This sidewalk would only get you from one house to the next house on the same side of the street but not across it, which was only possible with a pair of sturdy boots.

Immediately following Sukes, everyone took out their winter clothes, old cotton jackets, worn-out fur and cloth coats, and fur hats, which were then patched, mended, and reworked. As long as the piece of clothing was warm, it was good for the winter. From under the beds would be dragged out the old boots, which had dried out over the summer. The boots were then sent for repairs, where they were bathed in cod liver oil to make them soft so that you could then warmly tread through mud and snow well booted.

The winter would descend upon the shtetl in a difficult and unsettling manner. The poor, the elderly, the widows, the orphans – they did not even have any old clothes in which to outfit themselves. The sun that had warmed their thin bodies in the summer now had to be replaced with warm food. Their appetites were even greater in winter. Wood was needed. Disease was contracted easier and lasted longer. As bitter as was the poor man’s summer, his winter was ten times worse.

Certainly Jews are traditionally compassionate; they do not forget the poor and those suffering more than them. Young girls were hired as nannies; older women as maids. The boys were apprenticed to craftsmen a tailor, a shoemaker, or a carpenter. The widows were employed as washwomen, cooks, and kneaders in bakeries. Anyone who knew how to tailor was quite fortunate. Some money was lent to the poor women, and they were given merchandise on credit. In front of their own or their neighbor’s porch, wrapped in rags, and while warming themselves with a coal-heated pot, they would stand all day at the market and promote their wares in their hands, selling beans, bagels, frozen apples, anything in order to somehow earn their wretched livelihood.

In the morning, these poor women would drop off their children in kheyder. Their really small children remained wrapped in their snug feather beds; a neighboring woman would come in for a moment, look around, and give the child something to eat. At nightfall, these mothers would pick up their children from kheyder, and the joy of family would return to their impoverished homes, where often a few families lived together. The evening transformed itself into a new day: the stove was heated and a warm breakfast was cooked. The father would sit despondently, the mother would busy herself at the stove, and the children would look forward to something to eat. For a few hours the family would have each other’s company, and then – night again, and the next day – another day, a day without light, without warmth, without joy.

The Society for Visiting the Sick generated revenue from donations tossed into the charity box on Mondays and Thursdays following the Torah reading and provided the needy when ill with a feldsher [i.e., a kind of medical assistant] and medicine.

Although little was required for living and sustenance was inexpensive, the poverty was great and the issue of a livelihood was a constant source of torment. Respectable householders and Torah scholars who abhorred sin were often forced to transgress government regulations. Want drove them to it. So they did business without permits – without consent from the authorities. They paid the annual bribes to the local inspector, who would let them know when the higher-ranking inspector would be coming. They would then hide the bit of illegal merchandise in cellars and attics or conceal it under their bedspreads.

Being near the Prussian border, a few took to smuggling, though that meant risking the possibility of spending years in exile. They endangered their lives because nothing could stand in the way of hunger. Most contraband activity was in tea. They would pass the customs house with a certain quantity of tea for which they paid the appropriate taxes, but under that pretext and with a nice “gift” to the officials they were able to smuggle in thousands of kilograms of tea duty free. In the evening, the tea was brought into the shtetl, weighed, packed into smaller packages, and sent away to the big cities. Scores of shtetl Jews were involved in the process: girls weighed it and made the small packages, carpenters made the crates, wagoners brought it to the big cities, and even the village dwellers en route often helped out by concealing the merchandise.

Periodically the customs officials would barge into the teashops, searching and checking the books. But seldom was anything found: the police and the higher-ranking inspectors had already warned the Jewish dealers so that they would not get caught. These higher-ranking inspectors would often send out controllers to conduct an inspection, but beforehand their messenger would inform the bribe givers that an inspection would soon be taking place. As soon as the telegraph was brought to the shtetl, a telegram replaced the messenger. A telegram as follows would arrive: “Prepare everything for the wedding. The in-laws have already departed.” Or even a telegraph in the following style: “Suddenly died. Prepare yourselves for the burial.” The meaning was well understood, and the Jewish dealers would get rid of any condemning evidence. If a mishap occurred sometime [and they were not warned in time], everything was smoothed over again with a bribe that was delivered to the higher authorities.

Dealing in contraband tea, which often made those who took large risks quite wealthy, lasted until a law regarding wrappers went into effect. From that time onwards, individually packed packages of tea were not allowed to be sold. Each packet needed to be wrapped in a government-stamped wrapper.

Another Jewish source of livelihood was tavern keeping. The whiskey breweries were also often in Jewish hands, though the Jews in my shtetl never reached such heights in business. They drew their meager income from owning a tavern, selling liquor to non-Jews so that they could have a drink and to Jews so that they could make a blessing.[14] As soon as the government monopolized the liquor industry (as they had done to the tea industry) and legislated that liquor only be sold by government stores, thousands of Jews in Russia and scores of Jews in my shtetl lost their sources of income. Nevertheless, on market days and at the fairs, people still sold liquor by the glass, without a license. When someone was caught doing this, he was put in the local jail for a week or two. This type of incarceration was not considered shameful because nobody considered these dealings as wrongful; the honor of these convicts was not diminished. It was a struggle for survival, a struggle against the Tsarist regime’s decrees persecuting the Jews.

A very special place in the life of the shtetl was held by its few horse dealers, who dealt with England and Germany. A few of them would be away from home for months at a time. They would be in Koenigsberg, Berlin, and London, and would return home for the Jewish holidays. They were among the top ten wealthiest families in the shtetl. They were not very learned yet they were very observant, as were all the Jews in the shtetl. Upon returning home for the Jewish holidays, they gave generously to local causes, lived respectfully, and paid for the honor accorded them. Among these ten wealthy families were some who loaned money to the nobles at interest, were partners in farms or estates, purchased forests [for their timber], or were involved in larger trade.

The wealthiest person in the shtetl [of Krozh] was Khaym-Note Zaks, an elderly Jew with a distinguished appearance. He also owned the only factory in the shtetl. “Khaym-Note Zaks’ factory,” as it was called, engaged a score of workers. There, swine bristles were sorted and brushed and then packed up and sent to Germany to be made into brushes.

Khaym-Note Zaks was a hard man and strict with his workers. He lived like a nobleman in a large house surrounded by buildings and stores, as well as a small house of study, which bore his name.[15] In front of the street where his house was located was a large garden with fruit trees and flowers – the only such garden in the shtetl. The painted picket fence and the numerous types of colored glass jugs set all around added a special charm to the garden and drew everyone’s attention.

The hours of Khaym-Note’s brush factory were long. Work began at the first sign of daylight and ended deep into the night. A waker used to go around when it was still dark and knock on the windows of Khaym-Note’s workers’ homes to wake them, as done for Slikhot.[16] On Saturday nights in the winter [when Shabes, the Jewish Sabbath, ends early in the evening], the workers had to go to work. Their wages were meager, yet everyone was happy to be able to work for Khaym-Note, because the work was steady the entire year. Though they suffered, they kept quiet for there was only one factory in town…

However strict Khaym-Note was with his workers – and he had them performing back-breaking labor – he would often show his kindness by helping the needy with loans. He was involved in communal affairs, but not like a wealthy authoritarian [who throws his weight around].

He was a simple person, with little education or Torah scholarship. Because of this, he endeavored to provide his children with a good education. One son became a pharmacist. The other was a Torah scholar, a maskil [i.e., a follower of the Haskalah movement, which sought to educate Jews in secular studies]. This son, “Moyshe-Khaym-Notes,” [17] as he was called in the shtetl, had a very fine library – the first private library [in Krozh] to also include secular books. A few young people, including myself, used to borrow books from him, which he lent us out of true friendship. “Moyshe-Khaym-Notes” later broadened his knowledge by becoming a homeopath [18] and developed a large practice treating the non-Jews from the surrounding villages.

[1] A shtetl literally means a “town” in Yiddish, was typically a small town with a relatively large traditional Jewish community in pre-Holocaust Central and Eastern Europe.

[2] East Prussia is a historical region and a former province of Prussia on the Baltic Sea. From 1919 to 1939 it was separated from Germany by the Polish Corridor. In 1945 the area was divided between Poland and the Soviet Union.

[3] Referred to as the Kražantė River in Lithuanian.

[4] Referred to as Kelmė in Lithuanian.

[5] Referred to as Šiluva in Lithuanian.

[6] In the original: fun Krozh in bod arayn. In general, in Yiddish, the expression “tsu firn in bod arayn” (i.e., to lead straight into the bathhouse) means to dupe someone; hence, perhaps the full expression being referred to is “to lead from Krozh straight into the bathhouse.”

[7] “The Last Rabbi of Vilna,” by Khaykl Lunski, Reshumot: Sedrah Hadashah, Dvir Publishing, Tel-Aviv, v.2, pp. 62-68.

[8] He died in 1769. See the next footnote.

[9] The inscription actually states “adept… in philosophy.” For the complete transcription of his tombstone, see Shmuel Yosef Finn’s classic work on Vilna, Kriyah neemanah (Vilna, 1915, pp.124-125).

[10] Reb is a title used in Yiddish to address someone with whom one does not feel comfortable addressing simple on a first name basis. A loose translation would be “Mister.” Reb does not denote that the person is a rabbi.

[11] Rabbi Margolies did not replace Rabbi Joseph but was considered by many to be the foremost Orthodox rabbi of his day in America.

[12] Proverbs 31:10.

[13] The Jewish Sabbath.

[14] Jews are required by Jewish law to make a blessing before and after drinking or eating. See Kitsur Shulkhan Arukh, particularly chapters 50 and 51.

[15] Klayzl in the original. Hence, it was called “Khaym-Note’s klayzl.”

[16] Selikhot (pronounced Slikhes in Yiddish), which literally means “forgiveness” in Hebrew, are a series of penitential prayers recited early in the morning in preparation for Judaism's High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

[17] Since surnames were not used on a daily basis in pre-World War I shtetl life, “Moyshe-Khaym-Notes’ was used to identifying Moyshe as Khaym-Note’s son.

[18] See “The history of homeopathy in the Russian Empire until World War I (

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