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       rites of passage




by Yosef Fridman (Yosel Bubik); translated by Viktor Lewin
From the book Łosice; in Memory of a Jewish Community, Exterminated by Nazi Murderers

 The religious institutions regulated young peoples' lives in Łosice as they did in other shtetlach in the region. Even so, from time to time, a crisis would push its authority to the borders. Such a crisis occurred during the First World War with the funeral of the Bundist, Jakob Isres.

 At that time the Bund's influence was already taking the young in directions totally alien to that of their parents. This involved reading about Socialism and discussions about religious thought: atheism and monotheism.

 Jakob Isres married and not long after a son was born. The Rebbe of the shtetl was determined that the son would not follow in his father's footsteps. Jakob Isres took action, took stones and broke the Rebbe's windows, unlike a modern Bundist or activist of the day. The child was quickly taken to the shtetl for the circumcision and the business of the breaking of the windows was just as quickly swept under the rug in order to avoid going to court. We, as bystanders, would also easily have forgotten about this affair if not for the misfortune to befall Jakob Isres. A short time later he died during a typhus epidemic.

 The religious authorities in the shtetl decided to take revenge upon the deceased by ordering that he be buried by the fence. We didn't even believe that the religious of Łosice would be so insensitive. Why is this happening? This was the question asked in shtetl because, after all he died a natural death. Each side, the religious and the Bundists, were using the death of Jakob Isres as an example for others in the shtetl. All appeals by the Bundists proved futile, they locked the doors and decided that they would conduct a ceremony, which would conclude in the burial of Jakob in a nice place in the cemetery.

 We, today, cannot imagine the tumult, which resulted in the shtetl over this entire affair. It happened almost fifty years ago. Child and adult stood up, and at no other time were there as many people as there were at this funeral. There was an inner feeling of stillness, of protest against the decision by the religious authority.

 His upbringing, as the upbringing of others who were anti‑religious was illustrated by his example. Free of religious dogma, he smoked cigarettes, along with other so‑called "evil things". There were many as he, but the heavy fate fell squarely upon Jakob Isres.

 His friends, loved ones, and followers had performed the burial, but the religious authorities were determined to have things their way, for good reason, as the spiritual leader of the community. Fearing this, members of the Bund stood guard at the gravesite and at the cemetery. The shtetl was in an uproar ‑ the German police along with the Commander came to the cemetery to enforce the rules of the spiritual authority. I was then fourteen years old, and what can a youngster understand of such happenings! When I think of this event I can feel nothing but hurt. On one side of the grave was the police and it's Commandant, along with the Rebbe and his followers, and on the other side were the Bundists, with Abrahamel Sztriker. In the middle, in the grave was the interred, who had been so for a few days. All the witnesses were of the same mind that this fiasco should be concluded peacefully. The Rebbe, however, wanted to disinter the body and tried to convince the German Commandant, but he thought differently. His position was the opposite. Why should we take a man who had already been buried for two days and taken to another place? His decision/order was to leave him in peace, and to allow him to remain where he lay.  next ►►



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