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The one time he was absent, the seder was diminished. Leybl was a short man with a grey beard and a ruddy complexion. His mustache had the color of amber from heavy smoking and snuff. Several days before Passover, he delivered a small package of matzoh and a bottle of wine, foods required by law. Leybl felt that he should provide these of his own. The rest he ate with us. We all had our seats at the seder table, my father wearing a kitl that is a white robe reclined on the couch the way free people did in ancient times.

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Opposite him, at the right side of the table sat my mother, surrounded by Reyzl and Beyle. Esther, the baby, sat next to my father on the couch, and Pinye and I sat at the narrow end of the table. He sat opposite us separated by a row of five silver candlesticks. From time to time, the chanting was interrupted by comments. During the meal, Leybl regaled us with stories about Hasidic rebbes he had known.

Leybl was a Kozhnitser hosid Hasid — that is a follower of the Hasidic rebbe of Koshenitz.

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He was proud to have known the old rebbe, the grandfather of the present one, and he spoke about them with reverence. Though my father was at that time in the mid-twenties, he was already a leader in the Orthodox community of Radom. Several years later he was elected to the City Council. So instead of going to sleep, my parents set the table again and celebrated a seder with Leybl. During the meal, they found out that he had an argument with his wife because in his opinion she had not been strict enough in her preparations for Passover.


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They quarreled, and instead of conducting the seder, Leybl left home. Leybl was proud and macho also in religious observances. At the seder where we all ate maror the bitter herbs consisting of a piece of fresh horseradish root , Leybl took such a large piece that he nearly chocked on it. His face turned red, his eyes were tearing.

Long after all of us had finished, he was still chewing the root. This book is a courageous act of restoring the dignity of the lives of Polish Jews and redeeming the memory of that era. I highly recommend it for those who wish to understand. I loved this book! It really told the story of Jewish village life before the holocaust.

Pre-war Jewish Life | Facing History and Ourselves

But since Ben Zion Gold married us almost 50 yrs ago at Harvard Hillel House, it had special meaning to me and to my wife. This book is a compeling read. It describes in minute detail the religious, social and economic structure of the time. A moving account of a vanished civilization. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. At first it seemed to be okay. It just to boring for me.

Pre-war Jewish Life

My Relatives are from Poland. I want to learn from them and people that tell stories of this era. For some it might be a good book to read. I did not finish. As the Holocaust recedes further into the past, it becomes increasingly difficult to treat it as more than an abstraction. It becomes defined by numbers: Six million or more dead, numbingly large.


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Yet, how can one who did not live in that era imagine what it truly meant, and even more so for a goy such as myself? Ben-Zion Gold's memoir is truly a treasure, because of its portrait of Jewish life before the Holocaust. He describes his boyhood living in an Orthodox household in Radom, Poland in the 's. He paints rich pictures of family members and gatherings and a host of unique individuals. He depicts his religious schooling, cut short by the war. The last few chapters briefly describe how Gold survived the war, and the impact of his ordeal on his faith. His candor and insights are deeply appreciated.

Gold originally wrote his story with his daughters in mind -- to tell them about the family in Poland, all of whom were murdered well before his daughters' birth. Fortunately for us, he has expanded the tale in such a way as to make it accessible, even to those of us with no familiarity with Jewish life or customs. I was particularly grateful for how terms are defined on first use. The Holocaust becomes so much more meaningful now.

The rich legacy of long-time Harvard Hillel rabbi

With Gold's story, we see the faces of those who perished, their personalities, community and culture. We understand a little better what was lost. I highly recommend this book.

History of the Jews in Poland

This simple, understated memoir has turned out to be one of my very favorite books. I'm not even Jewish, and the story of this man's journey through life moved me to tears. His honest account of his crises in faith is inspirational at a very deep and powerful level. See all 8 reviews.

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