Yussel Gitterman

All posts tagged Yussel Gitterman

VOICE OF A SPANISH DANCER – COMING TO MY SENSES

Published April 3, 2017 by rochellewisoff

COMING TO MY SENSES

        There is a scene in my second novel, FROM SILT AND ASHES, where Yussel Gitterman tells his grandchildren that the Almighty is merciful. His fifteen-year-old grandson, who has survived the violence in Eastern Europe, lashes out. “When we light candles for the dead, it will start a bonfire. How can you call that God’s mercy?”

            Yussel, who is blind, answers by pressing his hand over Lev’s eyes. He then challenges the boy to see his surroundings with his ears, nose and skin.

 “Tell me what you hear, Lev.”

“I hear Bayla and Evie’s giggles.”

“Anything else?”

For a moment Lev stood still, bit his lip and cocked his head. “Kreplakh’s (dog) snoring under the sofa. Tikvah’s (infant) bawling.”

“Good, Lev. Now what do you smell?”

“What do I smell?” Lev’s voice scaled up an octave with each word.

“You have a nose?”

“Sure.”

“And it works?”

“All right. All right. I smell…mm…sponge cake and apple pie. Coffee. Aunt Cate’s lavender perfume and Uncle Wolf’s nasty cigar.”

“You see, Lev, not all smells are pleasant. Not all sounds are sweet. But…we are alive. That, my son, is God’s mercy.”

            For the past couple of weeks, the weather in our area has been, to say the least, wet and gloomy. Although the rain is much needed, day after day of grey skies has had me digging holes in my outlook.

            Inspired by my friend, Valerie Davies’ blog https://valeriedavies.com/2017/03/26/simple-pleasures-they-may-not-be-what-you-think/           and thinking about my book’s passage, which is one of my favorites, I’ve decided to take Yussel’s challenge.

            I exercise at least five days a week—sometimes less, sometimes more. More often than not, depending on the weather, I walk to the fitness center, a little over a mile away. This way I am able to do both weight bearing and aerobic exercise.

            To some, swimming laps might seem like the penultimate boredom. Not to this Spanish Dancer. The gurgle and swish of the waves is music. I note the difference in watery tones as I vary my strokes and the way the water billows when I exhale. As I flip-turn like an Olympic swimmer to change directions, I’m weightless, buoyed by the current. Unlike an Olympic swimmer embroiled in a race, I take my time when I somersault and enjoy the patterns the ripples make. As I suspend for a few seconds I note the way the water blossoms overhead.

Spanish Dancer Human

Spanish Dancer Jellyfish

            Once showered and dressed, I’m ready for my mile trek home.

            Spring is upon us and splashes of color are everywhere—bright yellow Daffodils and Dandelions—Redbuds and Dogwoods, stunning against a Payne’s grey sky. I fill my eyes with them.

The scent of charcoal from someone’s fire the night before hangs on the breeze. Exhaust fumes and a hint of cigarette smoke taint the rain and grass scented air. I wrinkle my nose. “Not all smells are pleasant.” As I near home I breathe in the scent of hyacinths from a neighbor’s garden.

            Crossing a bridge I, listen to the voice of the water as it flows over rocks. Although I don’t know one bird’s call from another, I can tell that there are several different species singing their arias. Robins, geese, crows and owls are among the few I recognize. A lawnmower starts up in the distance. A rooster crows. Two dogs bark as I pass their turf. A chainsaw grinds and a rake scrapes the sidewalk. “Not all sounds are sweet.”

            I am happy to be alive.  

 

Character Study – Svechka, Moldavia

Published August 18, 2016 by rochellewisoff

“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

YUSSEL GITTERMAN -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

YUSSEL GITTERMAN -Original Artwork © 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.

HERSHEL LEVINE - Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

HERSHEL LEVINE – Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

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.

Framed Arel in Svechka

AREL GITTERMAN -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

 

Framed Havah at 16

HAVAH COHEN – Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Enjoy a little taste of what their world was like. 

 Note: If you’ve read and enjoyed either or both of my books, please leave a review on Amazon.com and any of the other sites. I ask for Amazon primarily because of the scope of influence. Thank you.

Shalom,

Rochelle

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COMING SOON!

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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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