All posts tagged Pogroms

The Author’s Two-Step

Published September 6, 2016 by rochellewisoff

My journey continues, putting one foot in front of the other. When I began to write PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME I knew I had a story to tell. I pitched it as “The Dark Side of Fiddler on the Roof.” I wrote, rewrote and edited Havah Cohen Gitterman’s story, thinking I would stop with this one book. However, the voices in my head compelled me to continue the saga with FROM SILT AND ASHES. 


At a point where I thought I’d completed the first two books I began to write AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN. However, I had to stop to go back to the first book..and the second book. For five years the third book languished in an unopened Word doc. file. When I returned to my 60,000 word, unfinished manuscript, I found that my characters had grown, changed and gone in different directions than I’d originally anticipated. Not to mention that, after ten years I had also grown and changed as a writer. Perhaps 20,000 of those original 60,000 words survived the overhaul.

My agent, Jeanie Loiacono and W& B Publishing turned up the heat this summer by giving me a July deadline with the promise of a contract. Setting aside all writing time to devote to Havah, I sent Friday Fictioneers into reruns.



My story has a happy “ending.” The manuscript has been submitted and approved. Contracts with both agent and publisher are signed. Artwork for the inside of the book is complete and I await the proof copy to make any last minute edits.

Below are the divider pages for AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN to whet your appetite. 

Solomon's Lament Title Page

Ghosts of the Fallen- Part I








[parPomp and Consequence - Part III

Go on Living- Part IV

Thank You, Jeanie!

Thank You, Jeanie!

Character Study – Havah Cohen

Published March 15, 2015 by rochellewisoff

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he

has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

–Henry David Thoreau

Friday morning as I decorated cakes at work, I received a text message and an email from my agent, Jeanie, that began with, “I hope you’re sitting down” turned my world upside down. With several hours left to my work day, I tried to keep focused on tasks at hand while vacillating between smiles and tears. A nine-year-old dream that began with a story and nascent writing skill was about to come true.


 Click here to read all about it. 

Framed Havah

HAVAH COHEN GITTERMAN Original artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields


Barefoot, wearing only a nightgown, Havah Cohen escapes the brutal massacre that takes her parents and two brothers on a frigid November night in 1899. To keep her mind off her razed village as she runs through the woods in search of safety, she recites the Kaddish, the prayer said in memory of the dead. Who else will perform this mitzvah, blessing, for them? Just before sunrise she collapses on the synagogue steps in a nearby village called Svechka, Moldavia.

Havah is the daughter of a free-thinking rabbi who saw nothing wrong with women having the same education as men. To avoid the inevitable disapproval in her new surroundings, Havah tries to keep her knowledge a secret. However, Arel, Rabbi Gitterman’s son, finds her irresistible because of it. If only Arel wasn’t betrothed to Gittel, Havah’s adopted sister.

Both PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME and FROM SILT AND ASHES revolve aroundHavah, her life, her loves and her challenges which she faces with stubborn passion. Althoughshe has a strong faith in God, she pushes the boundaries of religion and traditions.


Published by W&B Publishers

Represented by Loiacono Literary Agency









Published March 3, 2015 by rochellewisoff

At a writer’s conference four years ago a prominent New York agent took an interest in PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME. She asked me to add twenty-thousand words to it and then send her a hard copy.

For months I made a point of rising three hours before going to work at 7:00 am to write. Heart pounding, I sent the fruit of my labors only to have it returned in a matter of weeks. In her rejection letter she said it was “too much like FIDDLER ON THE ROOF” and it was “a story that everybody already knew.”

Ironically, I’ve told others that my book could be subtitled “The dark side of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.” On the other hand, does my novel tell a story that everyone knows?

Often, when I’m asked what my book is about and I answer that it’s about a woman who survives the pogrom in Kishinev, the capital city of what is now known as Moldova, the next question is, “What’s a pogrom?” It is that the question that convinced me to continue writing.

“‘Kill the Jews!’ Frenzied shouts came from the tailor shop sending icicles down Havah’s back. Sounds of machines toppling and tearing cloth ripped through her.”PSKFM

 On April 19, 1903, as Christians celebrated Easter, the pogrom began at noon. Fueled by the rumor that a Christian child had been murdered in a Jewish ritual and the blood used to make unleavened bread, a frenzied mob rampaged through Jewish neighborhoods for two days.

Reportedly, local police made no attempt to interfere with rioters wielding iron bars and axes. Those who were taken into custody were soon released.

By the time the violence ended two-thousand families were left homeless, five-hundred were wounded and fifty Jewish people were dead.

“Crushing silence, heavy and cruel, closed in on Havah like a burial garment. She opened her eyes. Her soul pleaded for a sound. Children’s laughter. She longed to hear it. Craved it like sweet raisins. But only more quiet answered her plea.”PSKFM

“Crushing silence, heavy and cruel, closed in on Havah like a burial garment. She opened her eyes. Her soul pleaded for a sound. Children’s laughter. She longed to hear it. Craved it like sweet raisins. But only more quiet answered her plea.” PSKFM

No one needed to identify the last corpse in the row for it was draped in his father’s tallis. He took off his hat, scraped a handful of dirt from the street and sprinkled it over his bare head. With a muffled sob he fell beside Evron’s body, clutching the prayer shawl’s fringes. Then he uncovered his brother’s face for one last goodbye, kissed his cold forehead and replaced the cover.

“No one needed to identify the last corpse in the row for it was draped in Itzak’s father’s tallis. Itzak took off his hat, scraped a handful of dirt from the street and sprinkled it over his bare head. With a muffled sob he fell beside Evron’s body, clutching the prayer shawl’s fringes. Then he uncovered his brother’s face for one last goodbye, kissed his cold forehead and replaced the cover.” PSKFM

News of the bloody pogrom sent shockwaves around the world. Rallies were held in London, Paris and New York. President Theodore Roosevelt urged the Czar to denounce the massacre. The Czar refused.

The New York Times reported:

“The anti-Jewish riots in Kishinev, Bessarabia, are worse than the censor will permit to publish. There was a well laid-out plan for the general massacre of Jews on the day following the Russian Easter. The mob was led by priests, and the general cry, “Kill the Jews,” was taken up all over the city. The Jews were taken wholly unaware and were slaughtered like sheep. The dead number 120 and the injured about 500. The scenes of horror attending this massacre are beyond description. Babes were literally torn to pieces by the frenzied and bloodthirsty mob. The local police made no attempt to check the reign of terror. At sunset the streets were piled with corpses and wounded. Those who could make their escape fled in terror, and the city is now practically deserted of Jews.” (“Jewish Massacre Denounced,” New York Times, April 28, 1903, p 6)

Historians have called pogroms such as these the dress rehearsal for the Nazi Holocaust. Over a hundred years have passed since Kishinev and other such pogroms. Do we remember them? Is this really a story that everybody already knows?  

18 January 2013

Published January 16, 2013 by rochellewisoff



We are a growing community of blogging writers who come together each week from all parts of the globe to share individual flash fictions from a single photo prompt. The prompt goes up early Wednesday morning  CST to give each writer time to compose a story by Friday. Some use the photo as a mere inspiration while others use it as an illustration. Use your imagination and think outside the box.

WARNING! This is an addiction for which there is no 12 step recovery program.


Write a one hundred word story that has a beginning, middle and end. (No one will be ostracized for going over or under the word count.)


Make every word count.


  • Copy your URL to the Linkz collection. You’ll find the tab following the photo prompt. It’s the little white box to the left with the blue froggy guy. Click on it and follow directions. This is the best way to get the most reads and comments.
    • Make note in your blog if you’d prefer not to have constructive criticism.


Should you find that you’ve made an error you can delete by clicking the little red ‘x’ that should appear under your icon. Then re-enter your URL. (If there’s no red x email me at Runtshell@aol.com. I can delete the wrong link for you).

Thanks to Blogspot bloggers for disabling their  CAPTCHAs

The photo this week is mine. It’s a still life of “stuff” that I used as a model for a watercolor which is the book cover of my short story anthology, THIS, THAT AND SOMETIMES THE OTHER that debuted in November 2011. You can find it in the right hand margin of this blog. 😉 In any case I’m interested to  see how many stories it will inspire this week. 

Copyright-Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Copyright-Rochelle Wisoff-Fields


get the InLinkz code

This week my story is not so much fiction as autobiography.  My maternal grandfather came to America in 1903, as my mom was fond of saying, with nothing but the clothes on his back. After coming through Ellis Island, he slept under park benches in Central Park and eventually hitchhiked to the Midwest. At least this is the story I’ve gleaned from my mother and cousins.  Grandpa wasn’t a warm fuzzy person and it’s only been the past few years through research for my novel that takes place in turn of the 20th century Eastern Europe that I’ve drawn some conclusions. They may or may not be accurate but I’ll never know because I was too afraid of him to ask. 

Click here to learn about the world from which my ancestors escaped.  

Genre: Memoir


   Every Sunday my mother dragged me to my grandfather’s house. She said I should get to know him, learn from him. After all he’d survived Russia’s pogroms. My family history.

            But I asked no questions. He offered no stories.

            One week mom took a vinyl copy of Fiddler on the Roof for him to hear. His timeworn torso sank into his recliner as he listened to Tevye the milkman sing.

            “If I were a rich man, yaba-deebee-deebee-bum.”

            Forty years later I still remember how my austere grandfather’s granite-hard eyes transformed to liquid quartz.  

            “My father sang…just like that.” 




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