This was one of the brightest and
most beloved institutions in Zambrow, and it served as
a model for the entire region.
In 1916, at the time when Jewish
Poland was able to breathe free a bit, Jewish sports
clubs began to be established. Zambrow did not miss
this opportunity either. The Germans, who occupied
Poland at that time, did not prevent this from
happening. At that time in Zambrow, Mr. Hurwicz was
designated as the representative of a society for
providing wood for industrial purposes. As a
sportsman, he could not abide seeing the Zambrow
youth without sports. He therefore called for a
meeting of several young people, with Leibchak Golombeck
at their head, and he clarified the goals of the
Maccabi sport club for them, of which he was then a
member in Warsaw. His plan appealed to the
listeners, and the Maccabi organization was
temporarily set up. The group developed vigorously, and it grew from
week to week. The principal virtue lay in that the
club, from its outset, was non-partisan politically,
and it accepted each
young person, whether
he was a Zionist Ė or a Bundist. The language of
discourse was Hebrew, in accordance with the orders from the
central authority in Warsaw. Of particular note was the
celebration of the Ďdedication of the flagí in honor of the new
standard, which was indeed tall and very appropriate Ė more
beautiful than the flags of the surrounding towns. Every month,
tens of new members joined up, men and women, and all stood out
with their white and blue hats, and their sports clothing.
Drills and exercises were held in the location of the ĎGorliní
brick works, which belonged to Shlomkeh Blumrosen. The gentiles
viewed this Jewish military [sic: cadre] sternly, and even
suspected it of harboring evil intent towards the Polish state.
However, they could do nothing.
commandant of Maccabi, for this entire time was Leibchak Golombeck, a tall and skilled sportsman
who was committed to Maccabi with his life and soul,
and he defended its interests with pride. Later on,
the chair was taken over by the lawyer Czerniawsky.
Maccabi demonstrated its power and discipline not
only once in the city. Maccabi received the Cantor
Sirota, with fanfare, and celebrated the holiday of
the Balfour Declaration; everyone completely decked
out in full uniform with the banner held high, in a
stiff cadence, standing erect, with heads held high,
they marched through the streets of Zambrow
with song and rhythm.
Gymnastic Exercises - I
The gentiles kept shouting: ĎZydowsky
Wojeskoí Ė Jewish Military...
So clouds closed in over Maccabi. The
mobilization of the best of the youth into the Polish military,
the majority of the Maccabi membership, literally ruined its
ranks. Apart from this, the Polish authorities looked askance at
this Jewish sports club, and robbed it of its rights. Many
emigrated Ė to the Land of Israel, Argentina, the United States,
etc. Not a few contested the internal political frictions; at
that time in Poland, there already existed sports clubs on the
right and on the left, from the Bund and Poalei Tzion. The
authorities did not permit the use of the name ĎMaccabií that
was a symbol of Jewish rebellion, but rather the ĎJewish Sport
Club.í The last leaders of the club were Beinusz Tykoczinsky and
A. Shmuel Gutman/ Maccabi
In the year 1916, the Germans employed no small
number of Jewish workers in the barracks, Jewish recruits, and
the officers in the German army would treat us especially well.
There was a German-Jewish officer who helped us to organize the
sport activity, apart from the good instructor from Lomza.
I will never forget the big fest???, very early
on Sunday morning, with our blue-white banners, when we marched
through the streets to the Uchastok.
The Christians looked at us askance. The young toughs would
shout ĎZyduzy do
Palestiny!í "Maccabi" and
"Maccabi Youth" then secured the Jewish street, and thanks
to this, the political parties began to organize themselves,
right and left, religious and secular.
A Maccabi Group
ĎHaPoelí Workersí Sport Organization
'HaPoel' -- The section of Young
ĎHaPoel' -- The Section of Workingmenís Sport
Maccabeans on an Excursion
A Group of Girls In Athletic
Grandmother Shafran with her Grandchildren and
Great-Grandson, Joe Zukrowicz
At A Banquet
Standing (from right to left):
Baruch Surawicz, Elazar Williamowsky, Simcha
Chaim Kaufman, Aviezer Kaplan, Zerakh Gottleib,
Ephraim Williamowsky, Yudl Tykoczinsky
Sitting: Elia Cybulkin,
Fishman, Yitzhak Gorodzinsky,
Max Tykoczinsky --- Chaim Gorodzinsky, Itzek
From My Childhood World
By Yom-Tov Levinsky
Words, Songs and Folk Expressions
Here, in alphabetical
I bring only a part of the
expressions, words and bits of song that I heard during my ten childhood years in Zambrow,
approximately between 1901 and 1911. The larger part of these I have never heard in any other
place. A part of these I have indeed heard elsewhere, but often with a different meaning, with a
verbal explanation giving it an opposite meaning. I present this material as I heard it, and the way it was
articulated in Zambrow.
Ot Azoy Nart Men Op a Khosn!
Many times, a prospective bridegroom was
promised a dowry and financial support Ė and after the wedding, he was given nothing, because there was
nothing to give. The newly married husband would then go about insulted and angry, with his
head lowered. Groups of people would then sing along:
Ot Azoy, Ot Azoy,
Nahrt Men Arayn a Khosn!
MíZogt im tzu, a sakh nadn
Un míGit im nisht kein groschen!
In this way, in this way,
A bridegroom is taken in!
He is promised a large dowry
And not a groschen is given to him!
Here I record only a few of the names that used
to be appended, when the people in question were called to mind:
Abraham Berel Klin (A Village Idiot) Ė Nemt dem Tukhes un Loyf
Alter Shpalter Kryzl Killeh,
Makh a Brokheh Ibber der Mekhileh!76
ĎMosheí Ė Moshe Ė Tshysheh,
(The second half has its roots in a Russian
tune, where a Cossack of low rank is encountered).
ĎAbrahamí Ė Abraham = Kopovrom Ė Lokshn Drovrom!78
ĎBaylahí Ė Grobbeh Baylitseh!79
ĎMendlí Ė Mendl-Fendl!80
(Along with the sobriquet:
Hayst er Mendl Ė Meg Men Essn fun Zayn Fendl81).
Hayst er Nissl Ė Meg Men Essn fun Zayn Shissl
ĎBerelí Ė Berel-Shmeryl,
Makh a Brokheh Ibber der Metzitzeh!82
Flesheleh bronfn, bul-bul-bul!83
An added name for a Jewish man who is a Hasid and who has no means of making a
living, a sobriquet especially popular among Mitnagdim in Poland. Among the Ger Hasidim,
this name was utilized very extensively, after the Ger Rebbe Rí Itcheh Meir z"l.
ĎIn Bod Arayn!í
This would be called out in the streets by someone when the
baths were being heated (see further on ĎMontik
in Bod Arayní).
Aynlaygn di Velt
Do whatever is possible in order to salvage, or
carry out anything that is difficult to accomplish.
ĎIn Shul Arayn!í
Shammes would call this
out every Friday, at candle-lighting time, in the middle of the
street, so that Jews hurry up to participate in the
welcoming of the Sabbath.
Children would sing the following, when they
began to learn the alphabet:
ĎAlef Ė Beyz, Alef-Beyz,
Kokh mir op a topp flaysh!
Nisht kein sakh, nisht kein bissl,
Nor a fulleh shisslí!
ĎAlef Ė Beyz, Alef-Beyz,
Cook a large pot of meat for me!
Not a lot, not a little,
Just a full bowl!
This song also comes from Lithuania, where the
poem is known as: ĎAlef-Beyz
Ė A Teppl Flaysh.í
Ahmol iz Gevehn a Mayseh
When telling stories to little children, if one
wanted to gull them and thereby amuse them, one would say:
Ahmol iz gevehn a myseh,
Mit a kelbeleh a vyseh,
Mit a kiíeleh a roiteh Ė
Du bist a groiser shoyteh!
Once there was a story,
With a white calf,
With a little red cow Ė
You are a big fool!
Ahmol Hot Er Gefiert
In the fifth year (1905) the revolutionaries
(Ďstrikersí) would tell of the well-connected nature of the capitalists in Russia, the newly rich, the
Governor General, and like persons, as follows:
Ahmol hot er gefiert a vegeleh mit mist
Heint iz er gevoren
Der grester capitalistÖ
Долой самодержцеи России!
Ahmol hot er gefiert
A vegeleh mit koyln,
Heint iz er gevorn
Der hersher ibber Poyln. .
Ahmol iz er gevezn
An Opgerissener Nahr,
Heint is er in Russland
Nikolai der Tsar
Once, he wheeled around a
small wagon with excrement.
Today he has become
The greatest capitalist...
Ėdown with the
Down with the autocrats of Russia!
Once, he carried around
A small wagon with coal,
Today he has become
The ruler over Poland.
At one time, he was
A complete fool,
Today, in Russia, he is
Nicholas the Czar
Children would sing it differently,
ĎOy vey Ė Dalai Politsei Ė
Lokshn mit farfl ohn an ei!í84
Chaim Shmuliís Covered Wagon
A Painting by Zeidenstat,
Children would make fun of the boys who studied
and using the sing-song of Gemara
study, they would say85:
Ohmar Rí Meir Ė Hot Er Tzebrokhn di Eier!
Ohmar RíEliezer Ė Tzebrokhn di Glezer!
Ohmar Abaye Ė Hot Men Gekoyft Nyeh!
Rí Meir said Ė He broke the
RíEliezer said Ė He broke the
Abaye said Ė They then bought new
The first cooked meal in the morning. At about
eleven or twelve in the morning, the Heder children would go home to eat their Ďonbysen.í
The morning food and drink, on an empty stomach, was called: ĎIbberbysen,í
and the evening meal Ė ĎVechereh.
A beautiful, tall woman who had an attractive
figure. From the Polish, Osoba. Rarely was this term used to describe a handsome man (see Parshayn):
ĎZi hot genumen a
mann an osobeh.
ĎOpgenahrt, kishkeh-nahrt, Moshe Yokhes, kish mir in tokhesÖ88í
If someone was deceived, the entire group would
leap to its feet singing:
Made scrawny and dried out, from the Polish word
suchy Ė meaning dry. One would hurl an imprecation: ĎOpgedart,
opgesuchniet zolst du verrn.í
(May you become dried out and scrawny).
Akvit Ė Whiskey, from the Latin, ĎAqua
Referring to very young children before they
age, from the Polish okrawkióbits
and pieces, cut off?
ĎBazolyetí Ė Wet. When a child wakes up wet from
[being asleep in] bed. .
[beginning with] ĎБоже, царя
í Ė God Watch Over the Czar.í The children, as well as the adults would shorten this to ĎBozhetsa.í
was also sung when there was a reception for a governor or a general. At the singing of
this piece, the Ďстраший-старшийí
(most senior police officer) would always bear witness, and
he would perform Ďчестъí.
This means: he would stand at attention, and with sword in hand, he
would place his right hand on the right side, in salute, by his ear.
golyuba (a royal holiday)
in which all the
Heder children would be
assembled in the Bet HaMedrash,
and later, when there was a Russian school for Jewish children Ė
the students of that school [as well]. The Hazzan would sing the Russian National
Anthem with them on the
Batronchik (or Patronchik) 89
and so forth Ė following the
alphabet. I no longer remember the remaining verses.
This is an added name for a Yeshiva student
studying away from home, and who requires support in the form of daily meals. It is derived from
the word Ďpatroní Ė indicating the need for a sponsor, or ombudsman: such a dependent Yeshiva student
would retain the child of balebatim,
for a specific salary, to be his Ďpatron.í Ė to impart to him
acceptable forms of religious observance, and behavior, and to study a page of the Gemara with him. One would sing: ĎAz Okh und Vey Tsum
Batronchikís Yorn/As Er Darf Fun der Haym Avekforn/ Oy Vey,
míVert Farlorn/ Shoyn Besser Az míIz Nisht GeborrnÖ
[The sentiment comes from] the folk superstition that a stork
augurs the coming of children. However, this too was modified: ĎKalleh
der Bocian Ė Kinder BrengenÖí
from [Isaac Bashevis] Singerís book, ĎA World that No Longer Existsí (p. 215), he documents
another version: ĎBocian
HaMelech Ė Di Nest Brennt!í
A stork (in Polish, Bocian).
When the Bocian
would come flying, in spring,
and settle on the roof to build a nest Ė the children would sing: ĎKalleh,
der Bocian vet kinder brengen.
Someone who talks too much, from the Russian ĎBolbotukha.í
ĎEr iz a Bolbot. Di
moyl farmacht er nisht.91í
A woman is a ĎBolbotukheh.í
One would engage in the witticism: Ven er iz a ĎBaal Bitokhn,í (saying little and trusting in God), then she is a BolbotukhehÖ.í
Banumenish 92í The term Ďbanumenishí
was often applied to the Devil, or any one of his emissaries,
not wanting to utter his real name.
A comic description of a small gentile child: ĎA
banumenish, nokh nisht fun dríerd oyfgevoksn!
A small closed copper vessel, with a small
opening on top, with ears by which it could be held. It was used only for preparing tea. From the
Ė a tin can.
If you wanted to curse someone, one said: Ďgo to
hell and bake bagels!í This is derived from what a bereaved person ate, upon returning from a
Bavarian Beer, a type of beer that was obtained
from the beer brewer, in bottles.
Borshtz mit kartoshkehs
Zambrow children would line themselves up like
soldiers, go out into the street, imitating and singing like the Russian soldiers, as they used
to march through the streets.
Once would sing:
Ay sil, zakusil! (I have eaten and stuffed myself).
Borshch mit kartoshkehs!
The others would respond in chorus:
A comic expression referring to the Christian
rite of sprinkling holy water, considerably altered from the Polish,
Ė A kiosk in the marketplace, where soda water was sold.
An ink stain on the paper. Also, a Ďbulbehí
was a potato, as in Lithuania, where it became known in the folksong, ĎZuntig
bulbehs, Montig bulbehsÖetc.
Baym Vant Un In Mittn
Children would fight over who would sleep up
against the wall, and who Ė in the middle. So it was said:
Ver es ligt bei der vand
Vet hobn a goldeneh land!
Ver es ligt in mitn Ė
Vet hobn a goldeneh shlittn!
Ver es ligt beim eck
Vet hobn a shissl mitt...[dreck].
Whoever sleeps against the wall
Will have a golden land!
Whoever sleeps in the middle --
Will have a golden sleigh!
Whoever lies at the edge
Will have a bowl full of....[shit].
Baíagalah uVizman Kariv Ė 93
Oyb baíagalah Ė it is then a wagon
Iz bizman koriv Ė a sleigh!
A liar, because he is always Ďbaking upí fresh
lies. ĎHe managed to bake up this lie on a cold oven.í
shikseh hot a bruderaĖ iz er ehrger far ihr. Zol em die erd
araynnehmen un tsen mohl aroysvarfn94.í
A gentile brother, with the Hebrew suffix Ďraí Ė
someone who is wicked. Ď
Boruch Ata! Ė If someone began to recite a
blessing, but could not proceed, people would reply: ĎFiddl
Gut Morgn Korev!....
A deaf Jewish man, who sold dairy produce was traveling
confidently from the village to the city to sell butter and
cheese, [while] at the time his wife had given birth to a baby boy. Another person encounters him and says: ĎGut
Morgn Korev! The deaf man
replies: I am traveling into the city! Ė Is it far from the city? Ė He
replies: My wife had a baby boy!
Ė Will you give me a good price?
He replies: Three gulden a pound.
Gimzhet Ė A light rain is falling.
An Outing on Tisha BíAv Ė Notice the covered
heads, which serve as a protection against
the age-old custom of youngsters throwing prickly nettles into
the girls' hair on that day.
The [sic: Jewish] Zambrow children suffered the
greatest trouble from the priest and his servants, who would incite the gentile hooligans, and
would sic their dogs on the Jewish children. If a Jewish child should happen to draw near the priestís
woods, he could not be sure of his life. The fat-bellied priest would seize the child, pull on his ear,
and often knock off his hat. As a result: when the [church] bells would ring, for a holiday, or a
gentile funeral, the Jewish children would take revenge by saying, in time with the pealing of the
bells: A kraynk, a
kraynk, zoll lygn, zoll laygn, dem galakh, dem galakh, in ponch (belly) arayn!95
A foolish girl, from the Old German ĎGluka ĖĎ a
cackling chicken, that sits on her eggs! ĎZi
iz a groyseh gluka, farshtayt nisht fun danen biz
Literally: the yolk of an egg. In the shtetl,
however, it was a term applied to a blond Jewish man.
A blond girl. Rarely, this term might also be
applied to a blond boy. This comes from the Russian ĎTchetchoí
Ė a doll, a sensitive child, or from the Polish, caca-cacko!
Geshmadeteh Haldz Zyn
haldz is geshmadet!97í
A nickname for a glutton, who cannot control
himself, and eats everything Ė Ď
Insulted someone. It is an alteration of ĎMorenu.í
Once there was a ĎMorenuí
who did not have the honorific title of a ĎScholar.í When he was
called to the Torah, he was not accorded the courtesy of being called ĎMorenu
haRavÖí Ė so it was said
that his ĎMorenu
dignity had been touched.í
Also, with irony, it might be said of an individual,
who is unworthy of the formal courtesy extended to him: ĎA
Shayneh Meryna!í It is
from this, that the childrenís song is derived:
Bak Mir Op a Pletzeleh!
Bak Mir Op a Platz!í
ĎPretty little honorable kitten:
Bake me a small flatbread!
Pretty honorable [big] cat,
Bake me a full-sized flatbread!í
Someone with an inflated opinion of himself. It is possible that
this is derived from the ancient practice of anointing the King
or the High Priest with oil. Accordingly, their forehead was
ĎGrobbeh Kopchekheh' Grobber
A nickname for a woman or a man, who is
thick-headed, and cannot grasp what is being discussed. This name, in the city, was applied to a
specific lady cook, a widow. It is possible that it was her husband, who was called the Ď
Gramzhet Ė He is eating without appetite. He
chews, and chews, but does not swallow.
Used to describe someone who looked bad, and was
green and yellow. On
Shavuos, the house
would be decorated with all manner of greens.
Gesirkheh (Gesrokheh) Ė A bad odor, bad behavior, that
denigrates a person.
ĎA kind ohn a mann
Iz a groyseh gesirkheh,
Hot zi farshemt
Di gantseh mishpokheh!í
'[To bear] a child without a husband
Is to make a big stink,
She brought shame upon
The entire family!í
(From a folk song, which was sung in Zambrow
about fifty to sixty years ago, quite possibly when such an incident occurred).
Gret Ėdirty underwear. ĎMann
used on Purim to smite Haman, which the children would fashion
out of metal or wood. The older children would make a sort of rifle
out of thread spools, or make a shingle gun out of a roof shingle.
Three kopecks, from the Latin duodecem = twelve.
This means twelve half-groschen,
which would make six whole
groschen, or three kopecks.
The poor people in town would receive a half-groschen
as alms. However, half-groschen
were in short supply, so
would buy a 'didkehí
of the Tzedaka
Ė this would be twelve chits
with the stamp of the community affixed on them, along with the writing: ĎHalf
of a Large,í meaning a half-groschen.
The poor person would collect these chits, and exchange
for six real groschen.
In time, the six
groschen piece also became known as a Ďdidkeh.'
Girls would say to the musicians: ĎHave a didkeh, and giver me a dance.í
This is rent, which also was paid in Zambrow.
Not once did poor Jewish people have trouble with the landlord for not paying rent. Because of
this, children would sing:
ĎKumt arayn der baleboss
Mit der groyser khaliapeh,
Git men em nisht kayn direh gelt,
Shtelt er aroys di kanapeh!í
The landlord comes in
With his big mouth,
If he is not given the rent,
He sets the couch outside!
And then the entire Heder of little boys would chime in:
ĎOy direh gelt dem baleboss,
Direh gelt dem часовой
Oy direh gelt, oy, Боже мой
Oy, oy, oy, oy oy!
Oh, pay the rent to the landlord,
[Pay] the rent to the
Oh, the rent, oh my Godí
This is a phrase from a well-known folk song,
which comes in different variations. In Lomza, instead of saying Ďkhaliapehí
(= big mouth) Ė they would say Ďshliapeh,í
from the Russian, шляпа
The leftover parts of a bird, which the poor
would buy for the Sabbath meal: the head, the guts, wings and feet, or a small scrawny diminutive
chicken. This is what the Russians called the Polish eagle, which to them, looked like a sawed off
scrawny chicken, when compared to the double-headed Russian eagle. It is from here that the ĎLitvakí
pejorative is derived, used to belittle the dignity of a Polish Jew:
Ė A special descriptor for diarrhea.
The recess in the Bet HaMedrash,
and Musaf services, especially on the High Holy Days. Women, who would go to synagogue to
pray on the Sabbath or Festivals, would take their
when the reading of the Torah was commenced, and they would go
home to feed the little children.
To gorge, to eat quickly, by taking large bites:
ĎEr hot arayngehakt
a ganzen lebl brayt.í
ĎMoishe und Aharín zitsn beim tish, hakn bulkehs, essn
(From a Yiddish-Russian
ĎHaktsehs und Broktsehsí
Cut him up and break him into pieces. When
someone has stubbornly refused to give in on a matter, one said:
haktsehs und broktsehs,í
meaning that if you cut him up and broke him up into pieces, he would still not go along.
Heint ayns, morgn tsenÖ
Gentiles would stop to make a mockery of a
Jewish funeral procession, when everyone else was crying and wailing. Because of this, Jewish
children would retaliate. At a gentile funeral, the Jewish children would say:
Heint aynem Ė morgn tsen
Alleh teg Ė zoll men ess zehen!
Today one Ė tomorrow ten
May we see this Ė every day!
Avadeh iz gevehn a vasserfirerÖ
Avadeh iz gevehn a vasserfirer100
(a play on the Polish word
woda Ė meaning water).
If someone said, among other things, ĎAvadeh
is er gevehn!í then the
rejoinder would be: Ď
Vu Ė Voss Ė Vehn?
a. If one of the children would interrupt a
conversation and ask: ĎVu?í
He was answered by:
In tokhes bei der ku!í
ĎIn the cowís ass!
This would cause him to fall silent.
b. If another boy would ask ĎVehn?í
The answer returned was:
tateh hot dir geshmissen,
Khíhob alayn gezehen!í
ĎYour father whipped you,
I saw it myself!í
c. If the question was ĎVoss?í
The reply was:
iz a gandz.í
is a goose.
d. If one said ĎMali-Voss?í
The reply that came back was: ĎMalyi
vozí is a small wagon
One would ask: ĎVi
Azoy?í The answer
Gei in kutseh101
Ė Lay an egg.
Heint ayns, morgn tsvei,
Un farbeiss mit a gomulkeh shnei!
Today one, tomorrow two,
And have a snack of a ball of snow!
When a group of children would be asked: Ver vill?
-- they were all supposed to remain silent. The one who blurted out and said ĎIkh,í
caused all the children to mock him with the refrain:
ĎIkh? Gay in kikh,
Farbren di shikh,
Ikh vell essn lokshn mit mikh (milkh),
Und du vest essn proshakehs mit khazer.
I? Go to the kitchen,
Get your shoes burned,
I will eat noodles and milk,
And you will eat baking powder with pig.
Wojtek Ė The name of a simple gentile, and
often used to describe a young boy attending Heder, that
does not want to learn. Fun would be made of an
ignoramus, who in reading the Shema, would say
veSawojtekí instead of
This was the way the dead were referred to,
because they were all dressed in white shrouds, as if in uniform, like soldiers. ĎEr
iz gegangen in vysen polk arayn,102í
indicates that the individual being referred to has died.
Zokhn Ė Tribulations. A Jew is sick, or a gentile perpetrates Ďzokhn,í
or Ďhe is sick.í When a wealthy person falls ill, and distributes tzedakah, so
as to earn some consideration in heaven, it would be said in the shtetl:
ĎAz der noggid toot kreynken und zokhn,
Hot der oriman voss tsu kokhn!í
When the rich man suffers
illness and tribulation,
The poor man has something to cook!
A satirical reference to a
daughter. Especially a gentile daughter. "May his Ďzokhenishí
be the redemption. She is already twelve years old."
Ė reveille, tattoo). The reverberation of the trumpets at night, would
serve as a timepiece for the Jews: a signal when to go to sleep. The pious would rise in the morning
with these signals, to attend the first morning prayer
go to open up shop.
The trumpeting of the military guard in the
barracks, at night Ė as a signal that it is time to go to bed, and also before dawn Ė that it is time to get up
(from the Russian заря
A little gentile son, with the suffix Ďrehí, meaning wicked (in
Yiddish Ďroí) is the way all the members would be counted out in
the family of a wicked gentile: der tatero (or fottero),
Zyreh -- see Yayreh
Zhomb Ė A frost. ĎSíhott
gekhapt a frestl, und shpetter gevorn a zhomb.103í
and so he was forbidden to
scratch himself. The third has polyps, and he was not allows to pick his nose. One time, soldiers
were going by. The first then remarked, rubbing his affected eyes: soldiers are going by! The second
then asks, scratching his head: Where? Where? The third then answered, picking his nose, right and
left: There! There!
There were three brothers. One had affected
eyes, so the doctors ordered him not to rub them. The second had an elflock
A big mouth, ĎEr
hot geíefent di khalipeh un ongehoybn shiltn.í
See above: ĎDireh
Gelt dem Baleboss.í
Large bread loaves made from white flour (Challah
flour), often four-sided
like a long brick. This would be sold to the gentiles, when they would
come for a fair or a market, or be going to church on Sunday. The name comes from the Yiddish, ĎChallah.í
If the Challahs
in the oven didnít come out right, one would say: Ďthose are khalaytsehs,
The wedding of a wicked gentile, having the
suffix Ďrehí appended, and intended to reflect the sound of Ďkhaleriaí
tatero, mamero, shvestero, brudero).
A small Challah,
which would be baked either on Fridays, or before Festival
Holidays, for children. This would also be shortened as Ďbandeh.í
It comes from the Latin root, Ďbon
diaí meaning Ďgood day, i.e. Yom Tov Ė a Festival Holiday. In the shtetl,
it also served as an Ďadded name,í There was a woman, a seller in the market, who was called
by this name (see: Ď
A half groschen, in the parlance of the charity
Tatero Ė A gentile father, with the suffix
Ďrehí meaning he was wicked. Similarly: Mamero.
Ė See Tatero, Zunero, etc.
Narodzenie), the observant
gentiles would blow small trumpets at night. The Jewish children would
then sing along with the same tune and cadence:
Winter, during the nights of Christmas (
Mamulu, ess dem kugelu!í
Tomer Iz Gevehn a Yiddeneh! Tomer vet
er nisht velln?í105
Another person might wittily reply:
Tomer (Tamar) was a Jewish
If someone expressed doubt by saying, for
Ė In the Zambrow dance class, the
dance master would admonish the boys and the girls, who were not dancing well, and said to
them in the tune and cadence of a waltz:
ĎHerrn und Damen, a klog tzu eikh!
Goyishe keplakh vaksn auf eikh!í
Ladies & Gentlemen, woe unto you!
You are developing gentile
The girls would then retort, using the same
ĎHot nisht faribl, mir gehen nisht gikh,
Vyl mir hodn tserisseneh shikh!í
Please donít blame us for not
Because we have torn shoes!
(Heard from my mother)
Di Maydlakh Gehen TantzenÖ
Once in a while, a significant amount of time
would go by, until the girls would save up money, [to pay] for the musicians, and they wanted to go
dancing. A short dance cost a
ditkeh Ė three kopecks. Occasionally it would happen that the girls
barely made it to get the money together Ė and the musicians would suddenly vanish. So they would
say: ĎDi Maydlakh
Gehen Tantzen Ė Geht der Klezmer fiÖ106
(See tzvantzig kopekehs).
This would also be used in the Bet HaMedrash,
when the congregation was already present Ė and the
person supposing to lead the service, or the Maggid,
went off elsewhereÖ
Topp Tsimmes Flieht!
A Ďrecognition gameí used to be played. Each one
would lean a finger against the hip of the leader. The leader would ask various questions. What
flies Ė or not. He would raise his finger at each question. The players, however, needed to remain
alert: ĎA little bird flies!í Ė pick up the finger; a stork flies Ė pick it up: An air balloon flies!
Ė pick up the finger. A pot of tsimmes flies Ė do not pick up the finger. Some, however, would raise their
finger also, when they were not supposed to, and would be fined with Ďpitkehsí
(a sort of penalty [see below]).
Someone who tears things. Someone who quickly
tears a garment or a shoe, ĎEr is a groyser torakh.í107
A nickname for someone who is half deaf, who can
hear a little, but doesnít quite hear it all. It is derived from the name Tuvia, which in Polish is
Tobiasz, which was then modified into ĎToyb-Yashí Ė ĎToyber Yash.í
A cloister. A parody of the Hebrew Tefilah [sic:
is from the Hebrew Ė meaning something unseemly (Job 1:22).
An epithet for a fool. There was a foolish young
man in the shtetl
that was given that
nickname, because instead of a Ďvant
zaygerí [i.e. a wall
clock] he would say Ďtshamzayger.í
On that basis, other fools were called by that name as well.
A diminutive and scrawny little boy, who is not
qualified to be a soldier. It appears to be a word that comes from the Russian barracks108.
Tshifshukh Ė Szczypior (Pol. A Green Onion)
The green leaves of onions, which were sold at
the beginning of the summer, from which a sort of salad was made to be served with meat (with
vinegar, sugar, and hard-boiled eggs). Children would make flute-like whistles from the Ďtshifshukh.í
A deranged fool. ĎEr
is a chelyemok!í ĎMokí
by itself was also used by the Galician Jews in an expression: ĎKyreh
Mok,í where ĎKYRHí is the
acronym in Hebrew for
ĎKeysar YaRim Hodoí
[The emperor, may his glory be exalted]
Someone who is cunning, who does not let himself
be deceived, but leads others around by the nose.
A clumsy, ungainly young man, especially a tall
over-nourished [sic: fat] young man, who is a
Equivalent to a calf, that matures quickly into
a young cow. In the
shtetl, however, this is
what a cello was called, the large bass fiddle of the
musicians, because in Polish, Ďczeloí
is the same as Ďczelicaí
Ė a calf, a
Signifying Jewish children, a modification from
ĎIhreh = Ayerehí
[sic: yours], in contrast to gentile children, who were called ĎZyrehí
Ė modified from ĎZeyerehí
[sic: theirs]: Three ĎYairehí
went for a stroll outside the city, and they were
assaulted by four ĎZyreh,í
with dogs and clubs.
Wild-growing small pears, that grow in the
forest, or near the road, and become ripe to eat at around
Sukkot time. The gentiles would sell them by the sack. The same name
was derisively applied to the gangs of laborers, who during Hol HaMoed,
would come down from the nearby villages and towns, to look for work, and hire themselves out for a
period of time.
In secret code language,
used in the shtetl,
this was used to identify immigrants attempting to get to America
illegally, without government passports. Agents from ship companies, or Ďmakhers,í
would conduct them over the border into Prussia. There, they
would acquire a ships ticket to travel on further, as
far as Hamburg, Bremen, Antwerp, etc., to the [sic: trans-Atlantic] ship.
Equivalent to Ď
Children used to sing a song about a little
orphan, who suffers tribulation at the hands of a stepmother:
ĎShikt zi em nokh mehl Ė zogt
zi es iz gehl;í ĎShikt zi em nokh tsuker Ė zogt zi es is bitter,113í
etc. A cradle-song was
popular, about a baby orphan, that mothers would often sing
beside the cradle, to cause their babies to go to
ĎThe mother lies on the ground,
Her feet already splayed out,
The little orphan lies in the cradle
With eyes all cried out.
There is no more mother,
There is no solace!
Who, my child,
Will smear butter on your bread,
Who, my child,
Will take you to
There is no more mother,
There is no solace!
Who my child,
Will polish and adorn you,
Who, my child,
Will lead you to the wedding canopy?
There is no more mother,
There is no solace!
der Botchaní Ė See ĎBotchaní
ĎKallehíleh, Kallehíleh, Vayn, Vayní!
Children would twist the word and mimic the Ďbadkhaní
at weddings and say, using the same tune that he would use to sing to the bride:
ĎKallehíleh, Kallehíleh, Vayn, Vayn,
Der Khossn vet dir shikn a teppeleh khrayn.
Vest du farrotzn dyneh yoongeh tsaynÖí
Bride, Bride, cry, cry,
The Groom will send you a
small pot of horseradish.
And you will redden your
When a girl would burst into tears, passers-by,
or neighbors, would sing this to her, but instead of
they would substitute her
Sleeping, especially applied to a gentile or
general to a neíer-do-well:
ĎEr kholyet a ganzen tog, und toot gornisht.114í
ĎKhlayení Ė Drinking hurriedly, and in large
amounts. Ď A Yid
trinkt, a Goy khlayet.115í
Kapporeh-nik, Kapporeh-nitseh Er
hot geshikt zein kapporenik koyfn mehl116.í
A gentile youth, or gentile young woman. It is
derived from: ĎMein
kapporeh zoll er zein!í Ď
Disorder Ė ĎBei mir
iz a groyser lahd, nokh heint di shtub nisht farkehrt.117í
A collar that was called a ĎHertzl,í
starched and hard-pressed, that was worn around the throat, instead of an outside shirt.
ĎLieb dir dein gast!í
This was the wish extended to people who were
obligated to host a guest for the Sabbath or a Festival holiday,
such as: a daughterís prospective bridegroom, an in-law, etc.
Usually, a child was sent with a small bottle of wine, beer, or
soda water, to a friend, or neighbor, for the Sabbath, after the
traditional nap, and the child was instructed to say: My mother
sent this along and said
ĎLieb eikh eyer gast!í
On the Riverside
(paddle) of water,
riviera Ė a water (or as
it was said in Zambrow: ĎLirní instead of ĎRirn.í ĎA fliask,í instead of Ďa
Leibtsunak Ė leibsudak, leibtsudek119
A word equivalent to the Ďarba
kanfotí Tzitzit garment, called a Ďtallit
A euphemistic description for someone with a
runny nose, like the frozen drops of water that hang down from the roofs and eaves of a window.
[Literally: a small candle].
Ė Drab singing of no taste.
ĎA Yid zingt zmirehs, un a Goy
Mordeven Ė Meisterven 121í
This would be said in connection with someone
who doesnít have mastery of a skill, or about a youngster, who was trying very hard to fix
mordevet shoyn a gantsen tog, untígornisht farricht.
is a mazhgoleh.í
Sort of a large potato, which cooks up quickly,
but does not taste good. It would sometimes be said of a fat young woman, Ď
Ė Being sloppy. Not writing either
cleanly or legibly.
An ugliness. One would say of a particularly
unattractive girl: ĎZi
is dokh a mazhepeh!í This
is derived from the name of a Cossack
in the time of Chmielnicki123
who was known as a hater of Jews, and had an ugly face.
ĎMatchekí (pol. Maciek)
A popular name for a gentile. This also served
as a synonym for a dissolute youth, who was not observant, and does not want to study (see
further on). If one did not believe someone, one would say: ĎMotchek
zoll azoy lebn, vi síiz emess!125í
was a retort, when someone gave an inappropriate, or inadequate
An ill-formed rhyme or song, like a gentile (ĎMotchekí)
trying to speak Yiddish. ĎSíhot
a za taam, vi Motchkehís gram!
an old bachelor, who never got married.
The name of an unfamiliar person in the shtetl:
ĎBa Motchkeh Teppern
oyf der khassenehí Ė meaning: it never will happen. It appears that
there was once a
zeht oys vi a mokhchak128.í
A young, impoverished youth, someone straitened,
who would go around [soliciting alms] from house-to-house. His mother would be called a ĎMokhchekhehí
and the entire family Ė ĎDe
It is from this, that the expression is derived for those who
have been abandoned, who walk about in tatters: Ď
Makhn an Ďahverí
Fetid air. From the Hebrew Ďavirí
-- air. If one desired to identify which boy in the Heder had passed wind, they would walk around and tap on the
Ďlampí (the ear lobe), and stop at the one whose lamp was Ďlit (or was hot),í which was cause to pull
hard on his ear.
An ugly girl, and it would be applied sometimes
extra specially to a gook-looking girl, so she not fall victim to the Ďevil eye.í
Mamero Ė See Tatero, Zunero,
Montik in Bodd Arayn!
Occasionally, a special messenger would be sent
out to announce in the streets: ĎIn
bodd arayn!í at those times when the baths would be heated up in
the middle of the week. When the revolutionaries would end there singing with the refrain:
ĎMutik un mutik in kampf arayn!í
The little boys would sing afterwards:
ĎMontik un montik in bodd arayn!
Into the battle with spirits high!
Into the baths on Monday, and Monday!
Mashgareh a miuskeit, a mashgara129í.
A mask, which was especially applied to a mask
worn at Purim time, which was made by the Heder children themselves. Sometimes the word would be
transferred to describe an ugly face: ĎSíiz dokh
orel is a Ďmayvin al dibbur, kol oyss!130í.
A gentile, who understands Yiddish, comes into
the store, causing one person to warn the other, in folk-Hebrew, not to blurt out anything
Ė why. Children would
wittily translate the
Hagaddah as follows:
Farvoss, ikh bin gevehn oyfn groz,
Iz gekummen a hoz,
Un mir opgebissn dem noz
Un khívayss nit farvenn un farvoss?í
ĎWhy, I was on the grass,
Along came a rabbit,
And bit off my nose,
And I have no idea why?í
ĎYou will die tomorrow.í When impolite youths
would encounter a wicked peasant, working in the field, they would jokingly wish him: ĎDai
Bozhe, makhar tamuss,í
instead of ĎDai
Bozhe, na pomoc.í May God help you! Uncomprehending, the peasant
would reply, as was customary: ĎPan
Bog Zaplací Ė
may God repay you in kind. The better type children would not
engage in this sort of attempted banter.
euphemism for a small mouse, not wanting to call it by name,
From the word Ďmoshav.í
Not rhymed in, ĎBei
im in shtub iz a myshev.í
One would joke: In the Pentateuch, it is already written that Jews
have a myshev:
ĎAnd the time the
Jews dwelt...í (Exodus 12:40).
or a tumult. ĎHe cooked up a kasha and made a whole mishimonkeh out of it.í One would also say, relating to the water in a
running brook which was sandy, and had not been allowed to stand: There is, after all, a mishimonkeh in the quart [bottle].
A special name for a Jewish lady who talks a
great deal, and it is impossible to get rid of her [incessant] tongue. It is possible that there
was a woman, of this sort, who had that name.
A dead person. Plural is Ďmeskehs.í
Children would tell: ĎMeskehsí
would come into the
wreckage of the burned down synagogue, to pray. When they
read from the ĎTorahí they also call the living to an Ďaliyahí
from among those passing by in the street. Children believed
that such an individual, once called, did not emerge alive again from
When this was recited in the Hagaddah,
and especially on
Shabbat HaGadol, one would
koo!í (see Khalleh Bondeh).
ĎMírynehí Ė Modified from Ďmorenu.í
(See ĎGerirt di
лета] (Traditional Russian
On official government holidays (ĎGoliubkaí)
when the representatives of the Jews would have to assemble in synagogue to extend respect to the
Russian authorities, and children had to sing the Russian anthem along with the Hazzan, the ĎMnogi
lietaí was also sung from
time-to-time. That is, Ďмногие лета,
многие лета, православни царí
(Many years, many years, Russian Czar of the True Faithful.) Using the same tune, the children
would add the following verse:
ĎMoshe mit Aharoníen zitsn beim tish, hakn
bulkehs, un essn fish!
íĎAlleh Yiddn in Yerushalayim, essn lekakh,
Moses and Aaron are sitting at the table,
gorging rolls and eating fish!
All the Jews in Jerusalem are eating honey cake
Nu Ė Nu
If someone said ĎNa!í the rejoinder was:
Na-The-Na! If somone said ĎNu!í the reply would be:
ĎMake a Motzki!í This was because whoever had
washed his hands, and wanted to make a Motzi, and found no bread on the table, would shout at
his wife, ĎNu!í Ė not wanting to break the discipline of uttering a word that was not in the Holy
Tongue. It was because of this, that he was answered in this way.
Svorakh Ė A runny cheese, from the Russian Ďтворогí
An elision of the Hebrew words, ĎEsrim
víArbaí (twenty four),
referring to the twenty-four books of the
ĎHe is studying
Svarbeh already Ė he is
studying The Prophets. The implication is that he is in an upper class, having completed his study
of the Pentateuch.
Little fish, which was bought mainly during the
winter, chopping them up and making Ďhalkehsí from them. They were also cooked whole, without
heads, in sweet and sour. They would make fun of a cross-eyed woman by saying: She looks at
pike fish, and buys
stinkehs. A skinny and
small man would be called Ďstinkeh.í
which on Tisha BíAv
would be thrown at the heads of girls, and into the
beards of the older men. It was also called Ďberelakh.í
Elided from Ďshishkehs,í
which were prickly fruits that had thorns
because the cobblerís thread was treated with pitch at the tip, so
that it would be able to negotiate through the hole that he made with his awl.
A shoemaker who would butt into everything was
called a Ďsmoleh kop
Podvereh Ė Podwůrek Bíkitsur
haDovor Ė a podvereh a myseh133!
A backyard. In the folk argot, the expression: Ď
The beginning, the start (Polish). If one
bought, or sold something on a Saturday night, which brought a substantial profit, was called: ĎMakhn
a gutn poczhantek.í This
was considered a good omen for income to be earned during the rest of
the week. In Lithuania, they used to say Ďpoczatek.í In Polish, this would also be elided to Ďpierwszy
A folk descriptor for a big belly, from the
ĎEr hot bakummen a
ponts.í (See: ĎA Kraynk dem Galakh.í)
A stomach ache. In the summer, when one would
stuff oneself with unripe cucumbers, one got a Ďponcewkeh.í
Ė stomach cramps, which was very similar to dysentery.
A big Ďpletzlí [sic: a boardlike bread] made
from ruddy ??? flour, with onion shaken over it, which was baked over an open flame fire, when the
oven was being heated to bake bread. From the Polish Ė
A vulgar way to express the act of sleeping too
much. ĎHe sleeps until the day is half over, and does nothing.í See ĎKholyen.í
A folk or childrenís expression for small
potatoes, approximately the same as Ďbulbehsí
To shiver from the cold. ĎTsitriní
from the [Yiddish] word Ďtsiterení
To have died. It is an expression used when a
wicked gentile dies. ĎDer
orel is farvorfen gevorrn
Fort a Khossidl tsum Rebbín
Children of Mitnagdim would make fun of a Hasid who travels to his Rebbe, leaving his wife and children without anything to eat:
ĎFort der Khossid tsum Rebbín Ė
Nishtduh di kinder broyt tsu gebbn,
Fort er mit aleh khassidokehs
Lozt der vyb un kinder Ė makkess!í
And so the Hasid travels to the Rebbe Ė
There is no bread to give the
He travels with all his
Leaving his wife and children Ė
The gentile toughs would sing:
Jeszcze Chasyd do Rabina
Oj-Oj co to jest,
Czy to Chasyd
Czy to pies?
Again a Hasid to a Rabbi
Children yell: thereís not!
Oy, Oy, what is there,
Is it a Hasid,
Or is it a dog?
Farsarget Ė Farpachket, Farflekt: 137í
hoyzn zynen farsarget mit blotteh.
Speaking Yiddish in a Polish accent, in contrast
to the Zambrow Litvak-Yiddish: ĎShe is from Pultusk, so she speaks with the vowels stretched
out.í ĎNi kim
shoyn,í gai shoyn, levooneh, ekh,
etc, instead of: Nu kum shayn, gay shayn,
A Barashkov winter hat that looks like it had
farfel shaken over it.
The root for this is the word Ďperson.í
a. A passenger in a wagon. The wagon drivers
would say thus: ĎIn
der boyd forn 13 parshayn.
b. A handsome man. ĎEr
iz a parshayn, shayn vi di velt!í
Small plump pletzls,
baked from a cheap, dark flour, which was called Ďposzlienda.í
In the shtetl,
there was a renown elementary school Melamed,
who was also my
Rebbe, Rí Israel Chaim
Fleischer, who was called: ĎYisroel
Chaim mit di podliashkehs,í
apparently because he was fond of eating them.
and then used to hit the victim.
These were blows that children would administer
to those who lost a game. A handkerchief was rolled up in the form of a Ď
ĎHot opgetohn, gevashn di
hent, gezogy, ĎAsher Yotzar,í un poter141.í
An expression used to belittle someoneís doing.
In folk argot: ĎPitch-potch
umafli laíassot.í This was as good as:
A Russian Ruble, a kerbl.
This is how we talked among ourselves, so that gentiles would
not understand us: it is worth Ďa faygl,í
There was a Russian eagle printed on the Ruble note: a
--This was how a loaf of bread was
called if it was half-black.
A Flok Arayn...
Children would overhear a variety of old-wives'
tales in the Bet
HaMedrash, between the
afternoon and evening prayers, or in the street, in the
evenings, while they were playing. After the story was told, one of them would get up and say: ĎA fleck
goes in Ė a fleck goes out Ė the story is finished!í
Someone who prattles incessantly, or someone who
canít keep a secret. (See bolbet).
Fliokh Ė Fliokendreh
A female busybody, who runs around, and does not
sit at home.
The powder from rotten wood [sawdust?], which is
used at the time of a ritual circumcision, to stem any bleeding from the cut. The Shammes would bring prukhneh to the home
where a Brit Milah
was to take place.
A kennel for dogs. During winter, when it would
be intensely cold in the house, one might say: it is as cold as a psharniyeh.
An expression applied to a woman who feigns
piety and goodness, but in truth she is being false.... possibly from Hungarian?
A flute (???) that does something hurriedly, or,
words uttered that were not properly thought out.
Tsushteln a Benkeleh Ikh
vell dir shoyn tsushteln a benkeleh farn tatn!143í
or, ĎFarn Rebbn!í
Children would tremble upon hearing this. On occasions when
when the father, or the Rebbe, did put down a child on a bench and strap him, the children would
stand around and sing:
To tell to a father that his son is going in a
bad direction, so that he will lay him across a bench and spank him: Ď
Oyf drei brokhes!
Fun oybn a latteh,
Fun untn a shmatteh,
Dos benkeleh shtayt,
Der rut shmeisst!
Der tokhes reist!í
ĎThe spanked rear end
hould be for a triple blessing!
A patch on top,
The little bench stands,
The switch whips!
The rear end hurts!í
Tsigeleh Migeleh Ė We would sing...
Tsigeleh Migeleh, veks in krigeleh
Az der tateh shlogt der mamen
Geyen di kinder tantzen!
As der tateh fort avek,
Geyt di mameh aryn in bet.
Az der tateh kumt tsu forn,
Vert di mameh a kimpetorn.
Khapt der tateh a fyertop,
Un makht der mameh a lokh in kop!
Veynen di kinderlach: oyĖvey!
Shrayt der tateh: síiz gut azay!
Baby goat, wax in a jar
When the father beats the mother
The children go off to dance!
Should the father travel away,
The mother takes to the bed.
When the father travels back,
The mother becomes with child.
The father grabs a coal scuttle,
And makes the mother a hole in the
Should the children then cry out:
he father shouts: itís good this
A quill that had a cross-shape at its tip, and
wrote well. Other quills were: a Ďshiflkehí
in the shape of a ship, a Ďlamed-federíí
in the form of the letter Ďlamed,í etc.
With every game they played, the children used
to count, who was to go find the hidden people, who has to locate a place to stand, etc.
Accordingly, there were different ways to count:
1. Using a line from the prayers, in which the
one Ďtaggedí with the last word goes free.
2. Using another line from the prayers, in which
the one Ďtaggedí with the last word goes free.
3. The coppersmith: each player puts a finger on
the hip of one person, and another person counts: ĎOnce there was a coppersmith, who had a
kettle to hammer out, and he did not know how many nails to drive in. He hammers in one,
hammers in two, hammers in three Ė go out free. And the one on whom the last word falls,
indeed goes free.
Kuri Fenneh, Otvo Drotvo, Kuripotvo ik Pan Ė Bobek Frets.í
The one who was designated with ĎFretsí
5. Pulling on knots. We used to bring together
the four corners of a handkerchief, making a knot on one of them. The one who drew the corner with
the knotĖ was the one to play, or goes looking.
Tsimmes Ė I told you and told you and told
Az khassidimlakh firrn zikh bínimess:
A gantseh vokh, arbeitn zey dokh,
Un Shabbes essn zey dem tsimmes!
When Hasidim comport themselves appropriately:
They work for the entire week,
And eat their
tsimmes on the Shabbat!
(From a song of the Mitnagdim about Hasidim)
ĎKozholkehsí Ė Turning somersaults, or cartwheels
(head over heels).
makht fun ihm Kozheleh Baran,í
He is making sport of him. Taken from a Slavic folk tale.
ĎKotcherehs mit Lopetehsí
If someone writes, using large and ungainly
letters, it would be noted that: ĎEr schreibt Kotcherehs mit Lopetehs!í These are two implements used by
bakers. The first is used to shovel out the ashes from the oven, and the second Ė to seat the
bread dough in the oven and to remove it when it is baked.
When someone would begin reciting ĎEl Melechí Ė
the children would rejoin with:
Mir ohn epply, dir a makkeh in keppl.144í
[Isaac Bashevis] Singer
records another variant:
ĎEl Melech, katchkeh drelekh, mir ohn broyt, dir a makkeh in
(from ĎA World That No
Longer Exists,í p. 180).
This was how one referred to a collapsed and not
??? loaf of bread or Challah. ĎKolatsí
also refers to oil seeds from which the oil had been pressed
out, and had been pressed into bricks, and sold as cattle feed.
Ė a cure used to rinse out eyes that didnít feel
well, and especially to drink when one has a Ďkopvaytikí.(a headache).
A special type of flower, or leaf, which is
drunk, and is steeped in hot water to get Ď
Kapintl Ė A chapter of Tanakh, instead of Ďkapitl.í
Carrying a child on oneís back, in the manner
that one would carry a Ďbaraní
(a ram) to be sold. There was also a childís game by this name.
A woven basket similar to a trough Ė in which
the fisherman would hold fish for sale.
What dos the little chicken say when she crows at
daybreak? She recites song! She says:
ĎEier layg ikh, borvess gay ikh, kukeriku!í
ĎI lay eggs, I go barefoot,
An epithet for a fat girl147,
Ė Polish for a mare.
also Krom Kreml
(from the Russian клет).
In Lomza, this was called a Ďboodl.í
A coin, worn down from rubbing, that the children would play
A deep depression in a river, from which water
flows. It is dangerous to swim near a kesslgrub.
kesslgub near Shimsheleh, every summer, attracts a living thing Ė
therefore, at the beginning of the summer, the custom was to drown a cat, or a dog
there, so that it would be possible to bathe in that vicinity.í
Kosher food provided for the Jewish soldiers to
eat, who were on duty in the shtetl,
so they would not have to eat Ďtrayfí
Ďfrom the kessl.í
Special emissaries were sent to nearby and distant towns, such
as Rí Shamehlejzor (Shammai-Eliezer), to gather
money to underwrite ĎKessl-Kosher.í
Kesslpoyk Ė A large kettle drum in an
This was the name given to a woman who loved
cats, and who devoted herself to them, as if they were little children.
From Polish, meaning Ďa step.í It was used to
describe the fly on a pair of pants, that is closed with buttons. ĎYour fly is open, button yourself up!í
To crawl around on your hands and feet. Small
before they are able to stand up and walk.
royeh aufn orel!150í
Ė one would say, so that he not comprehend what
is meant (see above: ĎMavin
To keep an eye on the gentile, lest he snatch
something away from the store. Ď
ĎRoiter Kollnerí shmirah,151í
Refers to a Russian policeman, a стражник,
who wore red stripes at their collar. He was also called a Ďschmirrerí
from the word Ďshomer,í
Reiback Ė Reibekhtschallah is
????, a doughy substance):
A grated potato baked in a tin form, the way either kichel or
Small dumplings made from grated potatoes, that
are cooked in water, soup, or milk.
ĎReibní Ė Araynreibn
To consume, with gusto. ĎA bit of bread was left
over Ė so the children consumed it with gusto in the darkí (from a folk song, about a stepmother).
Shvestero Ė A wicked gentile sister. See tatero, brudero.
The water in which feet were soaked, that became
brown, and acquired a bad odor. This was called ĎSchuster-kvass.í The wives of the shoemakers,
whose husbands were not making a living, would say to their husbands angrily:
ĎSchuster-Kvass, Zoll dir lign a Khalass!
Schuster-Broyt Ė Zoll di lign tsum toyt!
Shoemakerís soda Let it lie in
Shoemakerís bread Ė Let it lie with you till death!
Shurdeh Burdeh Killeh....
[A game] played with circles and stripes. Two
long lines were scored into the ground, and two other lines were drawn perpendicular to them, crossing
them. One side would defend the area, not letting others through to reach the marked area. Should
someone get through, his partner would make three circles in all three corners, and he would then
lose. He would be called Ďshurdehí
(for the first circle), Ďburdehí
for the second, and Ďkillehí
Ė for the third. If he loses a second time: he is called: ĎKil-noyeh,
Ė An elision from the
Hagaddah of ĎKi lo naeh, ki lo yaeh Ė
It would also be used in other games.
Elided from shturkats.
A burning little package that would be carries while singing,
leading a bride and groom to the wedding canopy, or on Simchat Torah at night, when one would go to the
was said of someone who did not know how to offer a reply.
A young Heder boy, who was not yet
toilet-trained. In the plural it is Ďshtunkfasses.í
ĎChaim Reuven the
Melamed had a Heder filled with
Rebbe would tell us that
in olden times, children would receive severe punishment from
victimís pants would be pulled down, revealing the private
parts, with grain sprinkled over them, and the little chickens called in to
pick at the grains on those parts. The little boy would be held down by the others, not permitting him
to move! When the children would act up, the Rebbe
would threaten us by saying: ĎRemember, I will
call on the little chickens shortly, and then woe unto you!í
A socialist. This is how the organized
socialist-workers were called in Zambrow, in the Ďfifth yearí (1905), because of the strikes that the workers
would often call for. In folk talk: ĎStryger.í
A special half-white bread, baked out of sifted
roseate flour. In other places (Lomza) it was referred to as
Ďhalf-satin bread,í because the flour was sifted through a sieve
made of satin thread.
Sholom Aleichem would be the initial greeting when
encountering a stranger, followed by the question: ĎAnd where might this Jewish person
come from?í Children would sing as follows:
ĎSholom Aleichem, foon vanen a Yid?
Sholom Aleichem? A guter Yid!)
Halber tokhes obgebrieht!
Aleichem, from where is
(Or Sholom Aleichem?
A good Jew!)
With half his behind scalded!
A person Ďacting like an apostate.í Meaning that
he does not wash before eating, does not pray, and even violates the Sabbath.
A derisory term, derived from the the Polish
which refers to a Catholic procession, especially on summer Sundays.152
un Yents,í ĎHe bought a
and a dlonieh,
and ended up paying a lot of money for ití (heard from elderly Jews).
Someone who is a snoop, who goes about sniffing
into everything, to see if there is something not in order. There was a chorister with the Hazzan, one of the first members of the
chorus, which he had brought in from Odessa, and he was called
this, because of the way he behaved.
If someone would say: ĎHe is a strong as Samson
the other party would make a joke of it and say: mittn lekhl ariberí
(over the hole).
20 Kopikehs Kost a Sherl
Boys and girls, at a wedding, would dance the
ĎSherí (a shereleh),
and pay the musicians twenty kopecks for playing it. Little boys, from underneath the
window, would sing:
Tsvantsik kopikehs kost a sherl
Doss iz dokh gantz tyer!
Az a bokher tantst mit a maedel
Brennt in ihm a fyer!
The Sher costs twenty kopecks
[But]when a boy dances with a girl
This is rather expensive!
A fire burns inside of him!
this was the term used to describe a Jewish person who would do
a Ďdealí with a train conductor, paying him a specified sum, in place
of buying train tickets which cost a great deal more.
A wagon driverís assistant, an apprentice, that
is learning how to handle a horse and wagon. In other cities
bima after performing the Dukhan (priestly blessing), it was customary
to say: ĎShkyakh Kohen!í,
to which he would angrily reply: ĎBrekh
a beyn!í (Break a Bone) or
(may a calamity befall you) in place of ĎBaruch tihiyehí
(may you be blessed)154.
An elision of ĎYasher
Koach,í being a means of
expressing thanks. When a kohen would descend from the
Those more liberal sorts, who would afflict
themselves by not eating or sleeping, in order to lose weight, would call the nights they did this ĎTehillim
B. The Jewish Agricultural Calendar in Zambrow
of Young Girls
A Sewing Circle, Operated by
of Young Girls
When we were driven from our homeland, and
became scattered and spread out across the world, we also lost our relationship to Mother Earth.
In the lands of the Diaspora, we no longer committed ourselves to working the land. However, a little
bit at a time, we acclimatized ourselves to the climate of our surroundings, and together with
the Torah portion of the week, and the Festivals, we fashioned a Ďgreen calendar,í meaning: the
vegetables and fruits of the season became woven into the Jewish calendar and Jewish customs. I will
here recall that Ďgreen calendar,í from my little shtetl
of Zambrow, in the first decade of the twentieth
The Month of Nissan. Observant Jews go out into the fields to bestow a blessing on
the trees that are beginning to bloom.
Parsha of Shemini.
When the parsha
of Shemini is read, the stork comes flying in
from warmer climates. This was a sign to the огородникй155
to conclude their negotiations
with the nobility and with the priest, concerning the
maintenance and care of the garden or orchard. At the same time, a Jewish man, from deep inside Russia
would come to negotiate in the Zambrow gardens. Accordingly, he was called ĎThe Stork.í
Karpas. So we would begin
to consult with one another what to use for karpas at the Seder
Ė which green vegetable is most appropriate of the
Passover at hand Ė parsley, a baby carrot, or a small potato altogether?
Pepper. The Zambrow Rabbi
forbade the use of pepper, during Passover, because the pepper merchants would adulterate the pepper with
flour, to add weight... but how can you eat fish without pepper? What kind of taste would that have? So
we got clever: We brought pepper from Lomza, bearing a Hekhsher from the Lomza Rabbi, because the
Lomza Rabbi permitted the use of pepper on Passover: Moshe Aharon Hefner, the big-time
colonial merchant would bring pepper, and personally have it ground.
E. On the First Day of Passover, the wagon
drivers, and other owners of horses, would send their horses out onto the field to pasture, after the
winter days. So it was said: On the First Day of Passover, ĎAz
míBencht Tal Ė Fihr aroys dem pferd fun shtall156.í
In the days before Passover Eve, a type of sour
grass would sprout in the fields, that the gentiles called ĎHallelujahí Ė following the song from
their Easter prayers.
Rosh Chodesh Radishes.
After Passover, the small radishes begin to ripen, either red or
white. They were called ĎRosh
Chodesh radishesí or Ďriebelakhí
Ė because they become ripe at the beginning of the month. The children of the
gardeners would bring the first bunch of radishes, as a gift for their Rebbe in Heder.
Lag BíOmer. The children
would say ĎLakh-Boymerí
because the trees laugh, and are happy when they grow. The teachers would go for a stroll
into the forest with their students, and have a good time there.
The Parsha of Emor. This
weekly portion that comes out before Shavuot, always comes when
the Jews were shearing wool off of the sheep that
they would lease from the nobility. The first of the wool would be used Ė to spin ritual fringes (tzitzit),
Emor (Emmer) Ė shert men di lemmer.157í
Shavuot. A Festival
Holiday of Greens: On the eve of the holiday, we would go to
tear up bluszcz
??? with which to decorate the windows, and to
spread out on the floor. Bread was even baked over
bluszcz instead of spreading coal out underneath. A pale girl, a Ďgrinzukhí
was called a Ďgriner Shavuessí in Zambrow.
Akdamot. The Ďpoktchorehsí
from the surrounding villages would provide Jewish Zambrow with butter, sour cream and cheese for Shavuot. It
was not necessary to buy from a gentile. Those who had goats for milk, would tether them near the
synagogue, or Bet
HaMedrash, on Shavuot in the morning, so they could hear the recitation of ĎAkdamot,í
Ė this being considered a good luck charm leading to the production of much milk....
The Parsha of Korakh. It
is summer time. The first fruit appears in the city. On this
week, the black berries come up in the woods. One would
say: Today, the earth swallowed up Korakh Ė and has in turn given us berries. Children would
Ďmake juice:í They would pour berries into a small bottle, with a little bit of sugar, squash it
all up with a small piece of wood, licking it, and thereby coloring their mouths and cheeks black. At the
time of the reading of this weekly portion, the following would also appear: red cherries, and
the horseradishes to be used for khrayn.
And it was, therefore, said: these three mentioned items,
are the acronym (in Hebrew) of the portion, ĎKorakh.í
The Wheat for Shmura Matzo. At this time, a report was received
that the wheat in the fields was ripe for harvest. Accordingly, the observant
Jews would organize themselves, travel out into the fields of the gentiles, buy up parcels of land
that had wheat growing on them, and they would dry it out and polish it for Shmura Matzo for Passover. The Golombecks,
who had their own fields, would provide wheat for Shmura Matzo for a not insignificant number
of Jews, and this was their mitzvah.
Tisha BíAv. And here comes
The children would, towards evening, in time for the recitation of ĎKinot,í
go to the cemetery, picking the prickly growth from the bushes,
for the purpose of throwing them that evening into the hair of
girls, and into the beards of the Jewish men. Accordingly, on Tisha BíAv,
the girls would go about with their hair tied up in kerchiefs,
and the bearded Jewish men would be watchful about their
Little Diaspora Apples.
The black ĎGolshe-Eppelekhíripen
by Shabbat Nahamu,
from whose juice ink is made for writing Torah Scrolls. We would
call them ĎGoluss-Eppelekhí
(Little Diaspora Apples) Ė and this was appropriate for Shabbat
Nahamu, when we are comforted with words to emerge from the blackness of exile.
Apples. The best offer of
hospitality was a small apple. ĎShabbes-Oybstí
Ė would mean to be honored with a juicy apple. Sour apples were
called Ďthe apples of Sodom,í and the little apples that grew wild alongside the roads, and on the
cemeteries, were called ĎKvoress
eppelakhí (Apples of the Cemetery). A lout would be ejected from the Bet
HaMedrash as if he were a sour apple.
Rosh Hashanah Apples. Red,
juicy apples would be stored until Rosh Hashanah,
over which the Second Night blessing of ĎSheHekheyanuí
would be recited, after which slices of apple would be dipped in honey. In the later years, green
grapes and red watermelons would be brought in from Warsaw and Bialystok.
Small Kol Nidre Pears. The
gentiles would sell sacks of miniature pears, that grew wild in
the woods, at the end of the summer. The poor Jews
would dine on these. That is why they were called ĎKol
Nidre pears.í Between Yom
Kippur and Sukkot, they would be spread out on a bed of straw, up in the attic, and permit them to age. They
would turn brown, and were not particularly good to eat, at which point they were called ĎYengalkehs.í
Skhakh. The branches of
pine trees would serve as skhakh for the sukkah. Accordingly, these trees were called Ďskhakhí
all year round. By contrast, without drawing a parallel, during
Christmas, when the gentiles would decorate these trees with all
manner of tiny lights, and colored paper, it was then called an ĎIdol-Treeí making reference to the
Wisznia.í The sukkah would also be decorated with the
skhakh of the kolina.
This was a special variety that had kolinas as large as cherries. The gentiles
would bring this for sale at Sukkot
time and call it ĎJewish Cherries.í
Hoshanot. During Hol HaMoed Passover, the children would make
whistles out of the leaves of the willow tree (the tree of Hoshanot).
The wood would be carefully pulled out of the twig, and make a flute out of the soft core. One the eve of
Ėgroups of children would go
off into the distant fields, near the swamps, cut off the
twigs and small branches from the willows, and bring them into the city to sell them as Hoshanot.
Small Garden of Eden Apple. This is what the gentiles called an
Etrog. Fyvíkeh the Shoemaker would carry around the community Etrog throughout the holiday, from house to
house, so that the womenfolk would be able to Ďbless the Etrogí
in the morning, and then grab something to eat. He watched it like a hawk (with seven eyes as it
were) Ė so that no pregnant woman accidentally bite off the tip before Hoshana Rabbah.
Simchat Torah. During
Hol HaMoed Sukkot,
the new Gabbaim
were selected by the various
study houses. The new Gabbai would then treat the
congregants with wine-flavored apples for the Hakafot.
The Parsha of Noah. We
would begin storing up fruit and wood for the winter. The double windows were installed, cellars were filled with
potatoes, carrots, beets, and the small windows were plugged up with rags and straw Ė so that the
fruit should not freeze.
Putting Up the Kraut. The
gentiles would bring wagons full of cabbage for preservation.
For this purpose, neighboring ladies and members of the
family would get together Ė to help cut up the cabbage for soaking in a large barrel. So we
would eat and cook Ė sauerkraut for the entire winter, and half the summer. The women would not permit
the children to eat the Ďglombehs ???í from the ??? cabbage Ė on the belief that it dulls the
senses for purposes of learning.
The Parsha of Miketz. Very
cold frosts. The children, however, would think about the warm
fields of Egypt, where the Pharaohís fat and lean cows
took their pasture, In Heder, the children would make a translated ditty out of ĎMiketzí:
Maczek kupí Czapkehí
Ė [sic: from Polish], meaning, Maczek, buy a hat because it is cold. This
always falls out a
Hanukkah time, and the
children would further expand the acronym to be: ĎMelamdim
Kummen Tsum Hoyz,í Ė
meaning that the students
from the villages, who would return to their homes in honor of
tsimmes would be made from parsnips.
Nuts from the Land of Israel. At about the same time, Ďnuts from
the Land of Israelí would appear in the stores, also called pistachios Ė because
they are mentioned in the portion of the week. Jacob told his sons to take this, and bring it as a
gift to the ruler of Egypt, who is selling them grain.
Children would say that these nuts grew on the
cemetery, and when such a nut is opened Ė you see the head of a Jewish man.
ĎLittle Hanukkah Candles.í Under the eaves of a roof, and on
windows, little stalactites of ice would form. The children would call them Ďlittle
Hanukkah Cheese. During
Hanukkah, especially hard cheese was sold, which was salted, peppered, and covered with czarneszka ??? So we called it ĎHanukkah
Cheese,í which Judith gave to Holofernes to eat.
A Special Entreaty for Trees.
On the Sabbath when blessings were recited to usher in the new month of Shevat, a special entreaty was recited
for trees Ė that they grow and blossom in the Land of Israel, and that they not be harmed by the
Shabbat Shira. Buckwheat
groats were scattered under the windows for the little birds Ė
as a memorial to the Manna that fell in the desert, as is read
in that weekís portion.
Khrayn for Passover. In
the same portion, one reads the words Ďtishlakh
kharonkhaí [sic: send thy wrath] Ė which served as a reminder to bury
the horseradish in the sand, so that it be ready and good for use on Passover for the Seder.
Perlkasheh Cholent. On
that same Shabbat Shira, pearl groats [kasha] would be put into
Immediately after this Sabbath, one would begin to air out and
gather the shmura-wheat, pouring it into pristine white linen
receptacles, and hang it up on blocks from the ceiling Ė until
of the Fifteenth.í This
was the name given to such fruits as bokser (carob pods), figs, dates and raisins, that were bought in honor of
the fifteenth day of Shevat [Tu
BíShvat]. The fruits themselves were called khamishosser [elided Ďfifteení]: Ďgit
mir far a kopikeh khamishosser158.í
Aaronís Cane. Children
believe that this was the week in which Aaronís cane bloomed in
the desert and gave forth almonds. In the Land of
Israel, this is actually the time when the almond tree does bloom.
Goat-Bokser. On the
fifteenth day of Shevat, the nanny goat becomes a celebrity in
the Land of Israel, because ĎGoat-Bokserí is eaten there. We
ĎLamnatsayakh Mizor Shir Ė Kozheneh Bokser Essn Mir.159í
In the cradle song, one
also sang: ĎDi
tsigeleh iz gegangen handlen Ė Rozhinkehs mit Mandlen.í
An Etrog Prayer. The
Hasidim would go out into the woods on Tu BíShvat and offer a prayer there on behalf of the Etrog, asking that it grow well, for the
rest of the season, and that we be privileged to have a good Etrog become available
on the following
The Very Intense Cold Frosts.
The most intensely cold frosts would come during Shevat, and therefore it would be said: ĎShevat
nie Bratí Ė ĎShevat is no
Brother Ė It is cold. Also, it was said:
ĎShevat halt dem PRĒT: Frest, Regen, Tuman
[Frost, Rain and Fog] Ė three
good icons of the month.
Shabbat Khazak. ĎParshat
of Vayakhayl-Pekuday Ė Makht men a Seudeh,160í
because this is the time of year when the young boys
stop studying at night. In the
when the Reader would conclude the Pentateuch, the
reading in the Torah, with the words, ĎKhazak,
all the children would respond: ĎKazak,
khazak, a shissl pasternak!161í
Indeed, on that Shabbat, a parsnip tsimmes would be made.
With the arrival of the month of Adar, the
Ďgreen calendarí of my birth shtetl comes to an end Ė a place that to our everlasting sorrow, is no
C. Purim in the Shtetl
With the arrival of Purim Ė everyone in the
shtetl began to disguise themselves, old and
young, the important people in the town from ĎHakhnosas
Orkhimí or ĎHakhnosas
Kallehí would disguise themselves literally as if they were generals:
red long trousers, with a wide blue belt over them, as long as the external garment, and a red jacket
with gold epaulettes and shiny buttons. A mask on the face, and a tall hat on the head, with a sword
at the side. Dressed in this royal garb, they would go from house-to-house, in order to collect monies
for the benefit of brides from poor families or for other poor Jewish people. After Purim, they
would donate these clothes to ĎHakhnosas
Orkhim,í where the Shammes, Binyomkeh Schuster, or the Gabbai Hershl Tukhman (Hershl Pokczar) would lock them up in a bureau until Purim of the
following year. When Ďstrikersí would appear in the
who wanted to dethrone Nicholas II, the Ďстраший-старжникí
(most senior police officer), Bomishov162
suspected that these people in
costume, with their swords, were in earnest, and want to become generals and admirals. He therefore
issues a prohibition against costuming. Accordingly, the Rabbi took responsibility, and locked up the
costume wear at his own home in the shtibl of the
The children would [also] dress up in costumes
on Purim. They would tear our a double quarter from a Ďkoyetí mostly the colored outer pages;
they would fold the lower half into a mask, to put under their chin, making two small holes above,
for the eyes, a triangular cutout in the middle for the nose, and a small wide cut Ė for the mouth.
Anyone who could draw would add a couple of eyebrows, and a moustache. Others would paste on
some cotton or ??? a beard and side locks Ė and lo Ė it became a mask. In the parlance of the
shtetl, this was a Ďmashgara,í
which comes from an Italian word that is as good as mask Ė
Ďmascara.í Italian street players, who used to entertain at the fairs in Poland, brought this word [into the
country]. Accordingly, the children would put on the
and go from house-to-house, singing:
ĎHeint iz Purim,
Morgn iz oys,
Git mir a groschen
Un varft mir aroys...í
ĎToday is Purim,
Tomorrow it is over,
Give me a groschen
And throw me out...í
The Purim actors (Purim
Shpieler) injected a
special form of joy into the shtetl.
The women in our courtyard would tell us how at one time, a group
of boys and girls got together and decided to perform on Purim, in the Womenís Synagogue of
the White Bet
HaMedrash, by putting on
the play, ĎThe Selling of Joseph.í The proceeds would be
for the benefit of the poor. The men played all the female parts. All the women did was prepare the
costumes and the scenery. The singing of the artists reverberated through the shtetl for a long, long time. My mother, may
she rest in peace, would sing along the words of Joseph the Tzaddik, at the
time that his father came to him in Egypt:
ĎKhíbin gekummen kein Mitzrayim a boymeleh
Kum tateh Yaakov, lomir baydeh tanzení...
ĎI have come to
Egypt to plant a tree,
Come father Jacob, let us both
However, the women would add, it is not
permitted to put on a theatrical performance in a holy place like the Womenís Synagogue. Because of this, all
the performers were punished. Some of them even died prematurely, and Hershl Tukhmanís wife, who
sewed the clothes for the costumes, was punished, in that she was unable to bear
I recall that, in Purim of the year 1905, when a
revolution reigned in Russia, the Yeshiva students decided to put on the play, ĎDavid and Goliath,í
in the Rabbiís large salon, as usual Ė without his knowledge. His son, Chaim-David (today Rabbi and
Yeshiva Headmaster in Chicago), took out the special costume clothing from the bureau, in
order to dress themselves up as Philistines. At that time, I was
six years old. I was barely able to squeeze
myself into the premises, and saw the first ever play of my life. After the songs of the Jews and the
Philistines, King Saul emerges, wearing a golden crown, sits down on the royal throne and sings:
ĎIch bin der Koenig Shaul, Har fun der Velt,
Ihr zent meineh yoiatsim, ir zent far mir
||I am King Saul, ruler of the world,
You are my
advisers, you stand before me.í
And then Ė a large, tall gentile emerges,
costumed and moves like Jozef the
who lodges in the bathhouse, and heats it up on
Friday, living the entire week off the proceeds of earth and clay pot lids, heating them up in the
bathhouse oven, and on the Sabbath, going from house-to-house, heating ovens, and getting, at each location, a
bit of Challah
and a shot of whiskey, the
first glass of tea, and on Sunday a kopeck as well.
And so, Goliath the Philistine stands there, and
sings in front of the Jewish soldiers:
Ich bin Golyass, gor der groyser held,
Ikh bin der shtarkster fun der gantser velt,,
Ver sívet gayn mit mir milkhomeh haltn,
Dem vell ikh dem kop tsushpaltn,
Dem vell ikh in dríerd farbaltn.í
I am Goliath, a truly great
I am the strongest in the world
Whoever chooses to do battle
I will split his head [open],
And hide him away deep in the
A deathly fear possesses everyone: who is it
that will [dare to] challenge such a great hero? A little boy appears, wearing the cap of a Hasid, with curled side locks, and a small
black kapote, holding a shepherdís sack and walking stick, and shouts
into Goliathís ear: You, Goliath, you Goliath. I will do battle with you, I will split your head, and
I will hide you deep in the ground.
A shiver runs through everyoneís bones: This
diminutive DavidĖ is he going to assault such a large gentile? So the hero Goliath entreats him going
up to him like Jozef the drunkard:
'Klayn Dovidl, klayn Dovidl, avek fun mir,
Khígib dir a potch Ė fliestu tsum tir.í
ĎĎLittle David, little David,
get away from me,
Iíll give you a slap Ė youíll
fly to the door.í
And here, Goliath adds a line, unique to
Zambrow: ĎIkh gib
dir a potch Ė fliestu kayn Gacz,
Ė because Gacz is a small shtetl near Zambrow.
Goliath has not yet indicated that he has
finished his song, and a stone has already smitten and entered his head. He falls down. David beheads
him, meaning his mask, and the Jews are victorious. Saul was at war Ė and wanted the witch to raise
Samuel from his grave. The witch is made up as a Ďketzlmamehí
Ė a Jewish woman in the shtetl without a husband, who would raise a
house full of cats. It was said of her that she was a witch,
and had dealings with devils, and in this instance she was called ĎMartiszkaí
( this is how a monkey is called in Russian). She raises the
Prophet Samuel, who comes out of a barrel, all in white...
After the play, one went around from one to the
next, with hat in hand, and asked for payment for the play: Ďplease make a charitable
contribution, make a charitable contribution, donít embarrass yourselves in front of fine people Ė take out a
twenty-fiver, we can give you change.í
The following day, the police came to the
Rabbiís residence to investigate who here had put on Ďrevolutionaryí theater. It had the appearance
that they were informed by David Yudesí the son of the elderly midwife, who was a Feldscher and a barber, who was in cahoots with
the police, and even legally carried a revolver with him.
D. The Fifth Year (1905)
Three Reputable Workingmen: Shlomo Pekarewicz (a butcher), David Podruzhnik
(a house painter) and Chaim Burstein (a tailor).
The children are not identified.
It was the Sunday of the Parsha of Noah.
I was being taught at Bercheh the Melamed,
and I was six years old. News had arrived that the Czar had signed
the constitution [sic: into law] and that a demonstration was to take place on the Ostrow
Road. Secretly, it was also passed along that Yossl
son of Meir-Yankl Mordikamen) is making a flag on which will be
drawn the head of a pig, over which will be the Russian crown...
Bercheh the Melamed was, indeed, the spiritual
leader of the strikers, the Jewish revolutionaries in Zambrow. He therefore sent out all the children
from his Heder,
to go run and tell all the other Melamdim, that Heder should be canceled for the
day: when the Czar has signed the constitution Ė
that certainly is a time of festival
celebration, and one should not be learning in school. I ran
along with several other young boys, with Ruvkeh,
Berchehís oldest son, to Pinia the Melamed.
Pinia rained down a murrain on our heads. His son,
however, who was also grabbed up in this event, and sympathized with the revolutionaries, dismissed
his fatherís Heder,
and told the little children to go tell their fathers and mothers that redemption
had come, that Ė Thank God Ė we have aconstitution.163
The streets are redolent with revolution. So we,
the little boys, go running to the Ostrow Road, through the swamps, near the bridge, to see how
the constitution is being received. The road was black with children covering it, workers, young
and old. It was already dusk. A cold wind was blowing. Our teeth were chattering, but I held
on fast: I remained to see what was going to take place here. Suddenly, Itzl Rosenberg arrives, the
older son of Malka Cymbel, a shoemaker, and he takes out a red handkerchief from under his jacket,
ties it to a stick, raises up this standard on high, and shouts out: ĎTsar
daloy!í Ė the equivalent
of ĎDown with the Czar,í we donít need him any longer, after all, he, Malka Cymbelís son, knows better.
Everyone responds with the shout: ĎHurrah, Hurrah!í Another person adds the shout: ĎTsan
Kedoshim!í and the throng
again responds with ĎHurrah, Hurrah!í The wooden bridge literally
swayed. It was as if from under the ground, the ĎOviezdnerí sprouted, the most senior police
officer, Bomishov, a squat rotund gentile, who was given the appellation: Ďkelberner
with a red chin, and the nose of a drunkard, holding one hand at the hilt of his sword, and the other on
his revolver, and orders the crowd to disperse. He does not know how to deal with this situation: to
disperse this illegal demonstration doesnít seem quite right, after all, the Czar has signed the
constitution. However, not to disperse it, is also difficult to digest: where is his prestige and might?
Meanwhile, a group decided that they would pick up the police senior, and one of them shouted: Ďkelberner
zodek!í to which the
entire throng responded with, ĎHurrah, Hurrah!í...
Hebrew alphabetical order has been retained..
Pick up your rear end and run there! Itís
value lies in the rhyme in Yiddish between Klin
A nonsense rhyme: O ld, splitter, curl,
hernia/Make a blessing over the forgiveness!
A ĎCossackí Ė brave
A nonsense rhyme
the Yiddish pronunciation of the name.
Fat lady Baylah.
Nonsense rhyme of
Fendl Ė a pot.
A rhyme of: If his name is Mendl Ė it is
permitted to eat from his pot/If his name is Nissl Ė it
is permitted to eat from his bowl. Often used as a way
of validating the ritual appropriateness of eating food
prepared by someone else, possibly not familiar to the
A nonsense rhyme
ending with the racy line of ĎMake a blessing over the
sucking of the blood after a circumcision.
A nonsense rhyme,
with the call for a small bottle of strong drink.
A nonsense rhyme for: ĎOy vey Ė call the
police Ė Noodles and farfel without an egg!
rhyme that makes sense only in Yiddish.
From the Russian
word , Ď%,R,D,í
meaning Ďevening.í ĎWieczeraí
ĎShe took a handsome man as a husband.í
ĎDeceived , deceived in the gut,
Moshe Yokhes, kiss my ass...í A rhyming taunt that is
effective in the original Yiddish, but loses its impact
ĎIt is woeful and
painful to the life of a Batronchik/That he must travel
away from his home/O, woe, one can become lost/It would
be better already to no t have been born...í
Bride, the stork
will bring children.
prattles constantly. He never closes his mouth.
A shrimp not yet
grown up out of the earth!
A nonsense rhyme.
The gen tile woman h as some kind of
brother Ė he is worse than she is. The earth should take
him in, and eject him ten times over.
An illness, an illness should lay him
low, right in his belly.
She is a big fool,
and doesnít understand anything from hither to thither.
The word Ďgeshmadetí in Yiddish
means to have converted away from Judaism. The inference
here is to the lack of discipline and control of a
gentile, i.e. his gullet has become like a gentileís
gullet, and is insatiable.
The fat head.
He wolfed down a
whole loaf of bread. Moshe and Aharon are sitting at the
table, wolfing down rolls and eating fish.
sure Ė he was a water-carrier.
Authorís footnote: a
warm nest under the oven where a hen might lay an egg,
from the Polish, kucza.
He has go ne into
the ĎWhite Division.í
A bit of a frost settled in, which later on became more intense. Polish:
An elflock, also known as the Polish plait usually results from deficient hair care. Uncombed hair becomes irreversibly entangled, forming a
matted, malodorous and encrusted or sticky moist mass. It may be caused by or accompanied with lice
infestation (pediculosis) and lead to inflammation of the scalp. The disease may be easily prevented
by standard hygienic practices, such as washing and combing of the hair. Treatment involves cutting
the affected hair.
Maybe he wonít be agreeable? A homonym play on
the Yiddish tomer and the Hebrew
The girls are going
dancing Ė the band is ???
He is very hard on everything.
RJR,:@, meaning a scrawny bird, scarecrow, or bugbear.
A possibly hybridization between
R,:@&,8 (a man) and the ending
Possibly derived from ĎYavan,í
the Hebrew name for Greece. The re is a documented Yiddish epithet, Ďa
to a Russian soldier.
Someone uncouth, ill-mannered.
Not to be confused with ĎEndekists,í who were m
embers o f an anti-Semitic Polish political p arty in the 1930's.
When she sends him for flour Ė she says it
is yellow; when she sends him for sugar Ė she says it is.
He sleeps away the whole day, and does
A Jew may drink, but a gentile guzzles.
May he go in my place! He sent his stand-in to purchase
I have a big mess on my hands, I haven ít
swept the house out yet.
Literally, the board on which noodles were
Literally, a skin covering.
A Jew sings songs, and a gentile just
Heís been working at this, for the entire day, and
Possibly a reference to Ivan Stepanovych
Mazepa (1 639-17 09), Cossack Hetman of the Hetmanate in Left-bank Ukraine, from 1687-1708).
Bohdan Zynoviy Mykhailovych K hmelnytsky,
commonly transliterated as Khmelnytsky;
Bohdan Zenobi Chmielnicki (c. 1595 - 1657) was a
hetman of the Zaporozhian Cossack Hetmanateof PolishĖLithuanian Commonwealth (now Ukraine).
He led an uprising against the Commonwealth and its magnates (1648Ė1654) which
resulted in the creation of a Cossack state. During 1648-9, his anti-Semitic rampage
resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Jews. In 1654, he concluded the Treaty o f
Pereyaslav with the Tsardom of Russia, which led to the eventual loss of independence to the Russian
Ivan Gonta (died 1768) was one of the
leaders of the Koliyivschyna,
an armed rebellion of Cossacks against the Polish-Lithuanian
Motchek should live so long, if there is
any truth to this!
A rhyme in itself, saying: It makes as much sense as a rhyme by Motchek.
He look s like an abandoned waif.
Such ugliness, like a grotesque mask.
He understands everything being said, to the letter!
In Polish, a szyszka
is a pine cone.
In short, it wasnít much of a story!
It would seem this subtle difference in pronunciation is
attributable to the difference between the Polish letter Ā (with a trailing Ďní sound)
and the m ore familiar Latin Ďa.í
Related to the English Ďpaunch,í which itself comes from
the Anglo-Norman Ďpaunche,í
and Old French, Ďpanceí.
Hence the connection to the Romance languages.
The uncircumcised one kicked the bucket.
The trousers are soiled with mud.
Stretched out, as the vowels in the words.
There are thirteen passengers in the covered
The riding crop of a Cossack.
The sense of this, is that Ďhe did what he had to (i.e.
used the bathroom), washed his hands, recited the proper blessing (Asher
Yotzar), and was
done with it.í
Literally, a gas bag.
I will place a bench for you, before your father!
Me without apples, you with a shot in the
Me without bread, you a blow to the
Polish for chamomile tea.
Translatorís note: It is an insight into the
values of the speakers that here, the girl is no longer
because she is fat, she becomes Ďa
appellation that carries with it a derogatory sense.
The Russian is the word for a cage, while the
Yiddish is the name given to a marketplace store. In Lomza, it would appear that they preferred a
derivative from the word we k now as Ďbooth.í
A kessel in German is a pot, related
to the English word Ďkettle.í
Keep an eye out on that uncircumcised one!
The Hebrew cognate for being a watchman or a guardian.
Using the Hebrew cognate Ďshmadí
to refer to the
act of leaving the Jewish faith.
Authorís footnote: From I. B. Singerís ĎA World
that No Longer Exists.í p. 79.
The hostility of the Kohenís
rejoinder is somewhat
mystifying, but may lie in a proverb suggested to me by the Yiddishist Chaim Werdyger. The
sanctity surrounding the Dukhan requires that the priests, offering the blessing, remove their
outer footwear (see Exodus 3:5). It is possible that pranksters may have given rise to the following
Yiddish saying: ĎWhen the Kohanim
their boots ar e stolen away.í If true , it could exp lain the
angry reply. Another school of thought suggests that this might be a stratagem
to divert the ĎEvil Eyeí away from someone who has just been blessed by the Kohanim.
When the blessing for dew is recited (ĎTalí),
lead the horse out of the stall.
At the time of the parsha of Emor, the lambs are sheared.
Let me have a kopeckís worth of the khamishosser.
Contrive to rhyme, it combines the Hebrew
prelude to a Psalm: ĎA song of the Com poserí Ė with the Yiddish ending, ĎWe are Eating Goat-Bokser.í
and Seudeh are meant to rhyme in this
statement, that a feast is made for this portion, ending the reading of the Book of Exodus.
A rhyme intending to catch Ďkhazakí
referring to a bowl of parsnips.
Because of ambiguity in the pronunciation, this sometimes also appears as Bomishoff.
The time line is interesting. History tells
us that Czar Nicholas II signed what is known in history as ďThe October ManifestoĒ on Sunday, October
30, 1905, Ďpledging a constitution, and extended franchise, and civil liberties.í The news
apparently didnít reach Zambrow until one week later, Sunday, November 4. The level of instability is
evident in this one Ė of several Ė episodes of serious unrest:
Oct.31: A bloody pogrom breaks out in Odessa - the police stand
by while five hundred Jews are murdered, and intervene only against Jewish self-defense units
The ass of a calf.