“More pogroms. And so close.” Rabbi Yussel Gitterman’s sightless eyes filled with tears.
Eighteen-year-old Arel Gitterman pulled his coat around his ears and shivered, partly from cold and partly with rage. What had they done to make the Christians hate them so much? “We should retaliate. We should gather all of the young men—”
“Shah! Such nonsense!”
“Ouch! Papa, is it unreasonable for men to protect their homes?”
“Remember, my son. A soft answer turns away wrath.”
“How can you say that, Papa? Last night innocent people were murdered in their beds all over the countryside. Did they have time to make an answer—of any kind?”
Hershel Levine’s green eyes flashed. “The lad makes sense, Yussel. There is much cruelty in the world. Sometimes one has to wonder what the Almighty is thinking.”
“So, Hershel, my old friend, do you think the three of us, an old cantor, a blind rabbi and a boy who’s barely able to squeeze out a whisker are going to seek revenge on those animals with their guns and Czar Nicolas, may his name be blotted out?”
Arel gritted his teeth. “Reb Pinkas said he heard the Christians burned down a synagogue. A rabbi died trying to protect the sacred scrolls. Papa, it could just as easily have been you.”
“Reb Pinkas is up early bearing his tales. Yes, it could have been any Jew in this land, my Son.” Yussel patted his shoulder. “It’s dangerous to be a Jew in this Pale of Settlement. But now let’s tend to matters at hand. It’s Shabbes, the Sabbath, and we have a synagogue to prepare for morning services.”
“Yes, Papa.” Arel knew from experience arguing with his father would not accomplish anything. Still his anger boiled because they were Jews who lived in poverty under the tyranny of the Russians. Prisoners in their own country, unable own land and denied education beyond their Hebrew schools.
For the next few moments Yussel’s cane tapping along the frozen ground was the only sound. Each man lost in his own thoughts, they approached the synagogue, the largest building in the Jewish quarter of Svechka.
To call a backward village “The Candle” was a contradiction. Arel supposed at some point in time the Russians considered it a place of enlightenment.
~~Taken from Please Say Kaddish for Me by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
Published by Argus Publishing
Represented by Loiacono Literary Agency
To the best of my knowledge, the shtetl or village known in Please Say Kaddish for Me as Svechka only exists in the author’s imagination. Like Anatevka in Fiddler on the Roof it represents the many villages scattered throughout Eastern Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Shtetl is Yiddish for “little town.” These villages ranged in size from several hundred residents to several thousand. The Jews usually lived within the town while the Gentiles tended to live on the outskirts. Central to the Jewish community was the Synagogue and Kahal, the community council. Most of the shtetl Jews were artisans and shop owners while the scholars were the revered minority. Both Arel and Havah, the children of rabbis, have grown up in their respective shtetls, Natalya and Svechka, as members of the elite part of their societies.
Enjoy a little taste of what their world was like.
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