Character Study – Mendel and David Cohen

Published February 8, 2016 by rochellewisoff
Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Although Havah’s older brothers, Mendel and David Cohen, perished at the beginning of Please Say Kaddish for Me, they are ever alive in her heart. Two very different personalities, Havah adored them both. Her memories of them are a constant thread throughout Please Say Kaddish for Me, From Silt and Ashes, and the imminent third novel in the trilogy, As One Must One Can.

            Her eldest brother, Mendel, eight years her senior, wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a rabbi.


            By the tender age of twelve, Havah had developed the attributes of a young woman. Despite her disappointed protests, her father agreed with her teacher that her Heder education should come to an end. The boys would never learn Holy writ with such a comely distraction.

            Her brother Mendel became her lamed, her teacher. While she missed her classmates’ challenges, she enjoyed mornings with Mendel and flourished under his tutelage. A strict teacher, he never allowed her any leeway because of her gender or kinship.

~~Taken from From Silt and Ashes


            David, who was two years younger than Mendel, was a gifted artist. In Please Say Kaddish for Me, Havah tells Shayndel that he could paint a flower so real that you would swear you could smell its fragrance.

            David was the mischievous brother who mercilessly teased his little sister. She regrets that shortly before his murder, they had quarreled. 


            With a suppressed sigh she covered the braided loaves with clean towels and set them on the back of the stove to rise. “The last time I baked Hollah, I couldn’t put raisins in it because my brother David ate all of them. I wish I hadn’t gotten so mad. I said horrid things.”

“Were they the last words you spoke to him?” Fruma Ya’el unfolded a linen tablecloth, snapping it so it billowed and dropped to cover the table.

“No.” Gathering the bowls and utensils, Havah hobbled to the sink. “I can still see him with Mama’s clean dish towel over his head, walking bent over. He sang all raspy like an old lady, too. ‘Little Bubbe Fuss Bucket. All astir over a raisin. A raisin. A shriveled little raisin. Oy, yoy, yoy.’” 

She took a kettle of hot water from the stove and poured it over the dishes. “I could never stay mad at him. If only I’d known—”

Gittel grabbed a dish towel. “Would you have done anything differently?”

A soap bubble floated up from the water. Havah popped it with her finger. “No.”

~~Taken from Please Say Kaddish for Me


            Each night of Hanukkah, Havah and her brothers took turns lighting the candles. Papa led the recitation of the blessings. To this day, when she heard distant thunder Havah swore it was Papa’s resonant voice chanting prayers in heaven.

            One year, her brother David, then twelve, ate so many macaroons he spent half the night in the outhouse.  The next morning, fourteen-year-old Mendel, always the teacher, seized the opportunity to expound on the evils of gluttony. David’s green-tinged cheeks flushed while six-year-old Havah giggled into her napkin. 

~~Taken from As One Must One Can (2016)

Published by Argus Publishing

Represented by Loiacono Literary Agency



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Check out my author page on the Loiacono Website.  For all of the character studies thus far, click on the link Rochelle Wisoff-Fields Art and Blogs or my website RochelleWordArt.


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