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Purim in Ozarow, Poland

"The festival of Purim coincided with the end of the severe cold. Under the effect of the reborn sun, the snow accumulated all winter began to melt little by little. This caused our village, tucked into the space between a hill to the north and a stream to the south, to be crossed by sudden floods. The waves became so big that to cross the Main Street it was necessary to quickly lay down big stones and planks in the middle of the road as an improvised bridge. The carters would help you in getting from one side to the other. You might have thought you were in Venice!

This lasted for more than a week, during which we lived with our feet in water, but in spite of everything the situation had several good aspects. Thus, with the aid of the flows, we were able to get rid of the straw mattresses and other rubbish which had accumulated at the backs of the courtyards during the winter. Using heavy rocks to weigh them down, we immersed bread boards and rolling pins to clean them better for the coming of Passover. So in crossing our village, the water accomplished a kind of purification.


Zangvil Waksman and his colleagues


Zangvil Waksman, front center, photographed with his colleagues
in a Polish army shoe repair detail during the First World War.

We can't speak of the joys of Purim in Ozarow without recalling the name of the great Waksman family, or the 'Nosyks', as everyone nick­named them. They lived in the Teherkask neighbourhood, between Wysoka Street and the western edge of town, where they worked as shoemakers.

Occasionally, they also worked as pavers, and it's thanks to the 'Nosyks' that we had squares and lanes that were more or less passable in our village. But their fame was mostly due to their being a widely admired group of singers and dancers. And at Purim everyone vied for them.

 We loved their Yiddish narrations, mixed with pungent Polish and Russian expressions, and their clothes turned inside out for the occasion, their gaudy coloured masks and their songs which everyone took up in chorus.

Purim was synonymous with a traditional religious holiday, a joyous atmosphere and popular celebration. Bands of children went about distributing gifts to their parents and in-laws, to friends, to rabbis, to the synagogue custodian .... Then came the reading of the Megilah of Queen Esther and in particular the chapters where the praises of the beauty of the Queen were sung, and we remembered Ahasuerus and Mordechai. And what a tumult the children's noisemakers made to drown out the name of the wicked Haman!

All that vanished, like the melting snow flowing through the alleys..." next


photo and written excerpts from "Memories of Ożarów: A Little Jewish Town That Was" by Hillel Adler. Translated by William Fraiberg.


Ożarów 8

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