Chapter the eighteenth.
Jews of Kiev. - Khsidim. - Palmreading Gypsy-women [hanttrefer] and a young rogue. - A tale about a Rebbe. - Rebbes and finery. - Rebbe Dovid of Toln. - Dovid melekh Yisroel khay-vekayem. [er lebt un iz bashteyik]. - Rebbe Osher of Karlin. - The grand marriage ceremony held at the courts of Rebbe Osher of Karlin and the Rebbe of Trisk. - Khsidim as Cossacks. - Mr. Yisroels Cossack March. - A legend with a nice ending. - The Zhitne Market. - Jewish hope. - A breeze of liberty. - The Police sergeant Mikhaylov and a revolutionary boy. - A well known tragedy of Jewish parents.
In those days Kiev had lots of Khsidim, but not organized in a 'kehile', not part of a 'koylel'1.
The majority of the Khsidim in Kiev had no knowledge about Khasidism. They didn't have a clue what it meant to be a Khosid and what Khasidic teaching was about; they didn't travel to their Rebbe, like here in Poland, out of great love, because of love for the Khasidic 'koylel'.
The only thing that still made the Khsidim of Kiev Khasidic was their belief in miracles.
For example, a Rebbe could be a healer of the sick, a 'matir-asurim', [remover of chains>exorcist?]2, or he could make sterile women bear children. Once their Khasidic believes had been reduced to believing in miracles, they of course also started believing in magic spells [toter], shepherds [R. ovtsar], women reading the cards and Gypsy women, in anyone who could read palms etc. etc.
You would often see Gypsy women in the streets of Kiev. They would stop a wealthy Jew, normally a Khosid, and ask him for permission to read his palm, which was normally granted without hesistation. The gypsy would look in his hand and tell what would happen to the Khosid.
Once there was a sickly young swindler in a suburb of Kiev, who could perform miracles. Jews went to this little devil to ask him to cure a wife or a child or to ask them where something stolen could be found.
The father of this scamp would stand at the door of the house, cashing in fifteen to twenty kopecks from each visitor, or a bottle of vodka and there would be a big crowd.
It should be added that all of Kiev was swept off its feet and that it wasn't only Jews visiting him.
The street were the little swindler lived was blocked completely with coaches and carriages and people moved about like ants in an anthill. The miracles he performed were formidable.
I must confess that even I, being quite an expert in the field of miracles and having heard lots of miracle stories from Leybke the Shul announcer3,had never heard the like before. Even the most fantastic miracles and stories about Khasidic Rebbes could not compete with the marvels of this sickly swindler.
Take for instance this "true" story about a Rebbe I remember told by Khsidim at my father's table.
The Heavenly Court of Justice had sent a Khasidic Rebbe two souls who had sinned while on earth and this Rebbe had to judge them.
The rebbe thought about it for a long time and finally thought up the following judgment: The one soul was to be tortured by the Angels of Torment for a long time, to roam Gehenem after. The other soul was to enter Ganeydn, to proclaim there in a loud voice to the fully purified pious ones all the sins it had committed during its life.
The second soul began to cry loudly and begged the Rebbe to show mercy, saying it would rather be sentenced with the judgment passed on the first, because it would be most ashamed to proclaim all its sins in front of all the saintly in Ganeydn.
Spoke the Rebbe: "No use, thus I have judged".
The soul went out wailing and crying so loudly that the whole city heard it and everybody started crying along.
But this didn't mollify the Rebbe and the second soul, poor sod, went off to Ganeydn to face its disgrace.
But this judgment of two souls by the Rebbe cannot compete with the miracles performed by the little peasant.
People recounted that the Governor of Kiev himself had come to the peasant boy to ask who would win the Russian-Turkish war. That was at the time of the Russian-Turkish war4itself. The scroundel had assured the Governor that our side would win and the Governor rode home contented.
From the very first this laxness in morals fusing so smoothly with credulity surprised me in the Kiev People. Somehow I couldn't understand that.
One Shabbes a neighbor of mine, a rich man, a Khosid, sat after a meal with his Khasidic guests smoking cigars out on the porch. I happened to pass by and they called me up. I joined them and listened to their banter. They were speaking about all kinds of miracles and about Rebbes. But when a Gypsy-lady came past, they all showed her their palms, asking her to tell them their futures.
As I have already said, there were a lot of Khsidim in Kiev, but only a few Khasidic prayer-houses. It was in those days that I became convinced that Khassidism wasn't just a fad that would fade away, as I had always thought.
Before I had reasoned that the numbers of the Khsidim would gradually go down and that the Khasidic spirit would fade out in favor of Haskole and the like. Now I realise that Haskole and Khasidism can exist side by side.
No way that Haskole can extinguish the cozy crackling fire of Khasidism.
I had a close acquaintance who was manager at a leading haberdashery shop. He once told me that they made several thousand rubles a year on fancy-goods ordered by the household of the Rebbe of Makaryev5, like baubles [bzhezhkes ?], lace, ribbons, and pieces of embroidery for ladies wear.
The Rebbe was in the red with them for fifteen hundred rubles then and the Rebbe's daughter-in-law had just bought trimming for a dress for hundred and fifty rubles.
"Really", he said, "the goods weren't worth more than forty rubles. They give whatever I ask . You can make a pretty penny of them, they hate driving a bargain, they don't haggle." He looked at me and burst out in laughter, and I couldn't blame him.
It is well known in what style the Rebbe of Toln6used to live. At home he sat on a silver chair, with the name Dovid engraved on it. He went out in an expensive carriage with thoroughbreds [odler-ferd - eagle-horses].
Once he visited Kiev and the city was all excited. All the Jews came running to see the great Rebbe and when the Rebbe drove through the streets in his expensive coach people ran after it shouting: "Dovid Melekh Yisroel khay-vekayem". (David, king of Israel is alive and here).
From somewhere a Jew appeared who denounced him to the authorities. Such a person is always at hand. He had reported at the right place, that Jews were shouting in the streets: "Dovid Melekh Yisroel khay-vekayem".
The police came and arrested the Rebbe, writing in their report that the Jews called him "King David". They locked the Rebbe up in the Prison of Kiev. The story caused a enormous upheaval among Jews and cost them several ten thousands of rubles.
The banker Kupernik,7 the son of the lawyer, put a lot of effort into getting the Rebbe out. Eventually the Rebbe of Toln was set free, but after that he stopped going out on tours.
Taking about Dovid the Rebbe of Toln makes me think of the Mr. Osher, the Rov of Karlin8and of the truly imperial marriage ceremony held for Mr. Osher's daughter with the son of the Rebbe of Trisk9.
I was only a boy at the time but knew all about this great marriage ceremony, that had excited everybody.
They had invited every Rebbe and every musician and every 'badkhn'10in the whole Jewish Pale11, and the army of Khsidim was beyond count [un vegn ksidim-soldatn iz shoyn gor nishto vos tsu redn.].
There were tens of thousands of people, all of Karlin was packed with people. All houses, even the streets, were packed with Khsidim.
In the streets were big tubs with vodka, and cookies and all kinds of snacks. All over town Klezmer bands were playing and 'badkhonim' entertaining. People were dressed in silk and satin caftans, wearing shtrayml hats12.
On the day of the wedding all Khsidim stood in rows [in shpalirn] along the streets the bride and groom would pass through on there way the khupe-ceremony. Two carriages were used, one for the groom, the other for the bride. Thirteen horses drew the carriage of the groom, to symbolize the 'sholesh-asore mides', the thirteen virtues.[?]13. Shining silver and gold everywhere. They said the horses were reincarnations of great people. I forgot the names of all the great souls that so chauvinistically had come back as horses.
The rich people from Pinsk and Minsk had succeeded in getting the Governor14to grant permission to make Khsidim into "Cossacks" for the occasion. They wanted to have their own. They wanted a whole squadron of Khsidim, dressed up like "real" Cossacks, with long peaks and whips [R. nagayke] to escort the groom's carriage.
In the good old days they could get such a thing organized and the Khsidim had their Cossacks.
Our dear Mr. Yisroel15had composed a Cossack March and Simkhe16, the son of the Rov of Kamenits, went on a special trip to Kobrin before the wedding, to practice the March with the future "Cossacks".
I remember the march to this very day, because every 'simkhes-toyre' the Khsidim would sing it while walking the road from their Khasidic prayer-house to my father's. I give here the score of this Cossack March:
Mr. Yisroel's Cossack March, which he, Mr. Yisroel, wrote especially for the "Cossacks" of the Rebbe of Karlin, to be sung while on horseback on meeting the bride and groom.
While at it I'll give the score of a dear old tune of the melancholic Jewish type written by Mr. Yisroel. It is catchy song that sticks in the mind.
Those Cossacks maintained order, ensuring that, God forbid, no catastrophes would occur.
After the 'khupe', the marriage ceremony, the musicians played in all the streets; Khsidim danced wherever the musicians played and all over town the earth was reverberating from the happy shouts and the dancing.
Tens of thousand of people were dancing, all of Karlin was dancing from one side of town to the other, the sound of drums and cymbals rang through the air. You could see the pleasure on everybody's face.
It lasted three days.
It happened to be good, fine weather, which was taken a be a special sign. After that the Khsidim and their Rebbes started to return home, but quite a few stayed during the whole Shabes until dinner time [shabes yemey hamishte].
But these dear and funny Rebbe stories from the past have run away with me and I have strayed from my subject. I was telling you about this swindler with his miracles. But, if the reader will forgive me, let us forget about him and return to Kiev.
How Jews lived in Kiev in those days [vi azoy yidn hot zikh demlt gelebt] may be illustrated by a legend, which during that period was widely known by the local Jews.
Throughout this legend you can somehow feel the mild breeze of freedom which sprang up during the reign of Alexander-II17and it is well possible that a grain of truth lies at the its bottom.
As usual the big Russian merchants begrudged the Jews their increasing success in business. The Jews had brought the city to life, business was prospering and because of this Jewish activity quite a lot of Jewish money ended up in the hands of the ruddy Russian businessmen.
Yes, they loved Jewish money, but the Jews themselves they rather saw dead. The old story.
Thirty nine merchants assembled, according to this modern legend, and sent a letter to the Czar, saying: "Whereas Kiev is a holy city and no Czar ever allowed Jews to live there and before Czar Nicolai the First18no Jew was ever seen in its streets, therefore we beg our Lord the Czar to renew the old and holy ukase19and to remove accordingly from here the Jews, who have rushed in from the North, the South, the East and the West."
All thirty nine merchants signed the paper. But there was a fortieth signature on it, namely that of the head of the city [shtot-golova] Demidov20, a multi-millionaire.
Soon after the head of the city received a telegram from the minister, in name of the Czar, in reaction to the letter: "Until now I always thought I had thirty-nine "duraks" [R. durak - fool] in Kiev, but know I see that I really have a full forty fools there.
Demidov became deeply depressed because of this telegram. The Czar himself had called him a "durak". To him it was the worst beating a man could get. He was too ashamed to go out in the streets. He felt he had to escape from Russia. Demidov's wife, an intelligent woman, was completely shaken.
"Flee!", she shouted, "Let's get away from here!"
Demidov sold all his sugar factories, his houses, his estates, liquidated everything and went abroad with his family.
At this point the legend takes a typical Jewish turn.
When Demidov and his wife were already abroad they talked over this terrible telegram and they came to the conclusion that it was well possible that they really were fools.
"What we ought to do now is to get to know the Jewish people, its history and literature.", they said with tears in their eyes.
She was sobbing and added: "It clearly said so in the telegram, that we were fools, "duraks"; so, "duraks" we are."
Well. I don't have to tell you that ever since they took a great interest in Jews and their history and before long they became great fans of the Jews, adamant supporters of the People of Israel. Demidov's wife wrote an important book on Jewry, had it published an distributed it to all important people in Europe with a note, saying: Look here, this is what the Jews are; we should kiss the dust beneath their feet.
"A stick came in, a stick went out
and so the end of this story came about"
[a shtekele arayn, a shtekele aroys - di mayse lozt zikh oys. A well known saying.]
[Comp. az me warft a shtekn in der vant, blaybt er shtekn > shtekl/shtekn = vant]
When Chertkov21became Governor-General of Kiev they stopped the 'obloves', - the hunts for Jews which to this very day haven't stopped at all, they have become even more frequent.
He was a good but strange person, that Chertkov.
The reason was that he once met with a fine "procession" of Jews in the Podol quarter, being herded by policemen. There were old people, young ones, women and children.
The Governor-General had stopped the policemen and asked them who the arrested people were.
"We caught them during the man-hunt, your Honor-Excellency [R. visoko-prevoskhoditelstvo], was the answer he received.
Chertkov face took on an expression of disgust. "Its animals one hunts.", he said wryly.
From then on "obloves" were forbidden.
This good news was promulgated within one day throughout Volhynia and western Russia and it started raining Jews, bless them, from all directions.
It can be said without exaggeration that during that year about thirty thousand Jews came to Kiev. People went into business, traded, brokered, opened up shops, bought and sold.
Jews lived in good harmony with Christians, as is always the case when no third party is agitating. Trade brought both groups together and that was it. The Jew woke up the Christian, forced him to be more energetic in business, to use his mind more.
The main trade in bakery products was on the "Zhitne" Market22, a place like the "Riyod" in Brisk or the "Iron Gate" in Warsaw. Sometimes I would buy from Jews, other times from Christians, depending on where I could get a better deal.
I knew the Russian bakery shops well and I even was on friendly terms with them. During the summer I would get into discussions with Christians, a habit I have, talking about Jews.
In their opinion here was one thing wrong with Jews: they didn't care about cleanliness. Kiev is a tidy city and Jews don't know how to be tidy. As an example they pointed out to me a Jew, worth half a million: This Jew has a heap of dung laying in his court, the stairs are filthy and the air is foul. You can tell from a distance that it is a Jew living there.
Generally speaking it was true, I couldn't gainsay that. But when I came to Warsaw I was relieved to see that the Jews of Warsaw were tidier than the poor class Poles; they have no idea about cleanliness.
In those days Jewish community workers succeeded in getting the government to open up vocational schools for Jews all over Russia as well as to initiate settlements [koloniyes]23. For this purpose a lot of money was collected at the time.
Polyakov24had sent a note to Mr. Yisroel Brodski25, saying that he should to organize a fund in Kiev for the vocational schools and with this note he sent a check for fifty-thousand rubles.
Bronski put the matter in the hands of Mr. Shmuel Levin26, ordering him to call a meeting of the well-to-do in Kiev.
That was organized soon enough and during the meeting Bronski set an example by donating ten thousand rubes. From the others they collected another fifty thousand rubles, so together with the amount given by Polyakov the total was one hundred and ten.
This feat caused a general stir affecting all layers of the Jewish population and the hopes of the Jews were great. At least there was some hope that revitalized people for a while, something to be grateful for, because things became worse afterwards.
During those years a revolutionary mood took a hold of people. Wealthy youngsters went "mixing with the people", sacrificing their lives in the hope of hastening the coming of the Meshiekh. It rained arrests.
I was called over by a rich neighbor of mine. Actually it was quite a simple story, but unusual in those days. His boy, a fifteen year old 'gymnasium' student in the fifth grade, wanted to save Russia and to make the Meshiekh come. May be I would succeed in talking it out of his head to commit such a heroic act.
When I arrived I found the Inspector of Police Mikhaylov arguing with the boy. Inspector of Police Mikhaylov was begging him to say at the military police [zhandarmski], where he had to bring him, that he knew nothing of the whole rigmarole, that it meant nothing to him, while the boy kept refusing. He was going to say that the present order of things was no good and that ...
Police Officer Mikhaylov had already pocketed five hundred rubles from the boy's father and for that he was to save the boy from the gendarmerie. But what could he do if the boy put his own head under the guillotine?
Now it was my turn to have a shot at it, replacing Mikhaylov, who hadn't achieved anything, even though he had spent two hours on it, knowing that he had to hand the boy over to the military police soon.
I am sorry to say that I didn't have any success either, though the boy had always respected me. He was not to be convinced by my words, he stuck to his own opinion: the people are of greater importance than an individual. They could burn him or cut him into pieces, he didn't care, as long as it would be for the benefit of the people.
His mother fainted and after they had brought her to she fell on her knees in front of him and begged him with tears in her eyes to have pity on her. But he, though he went deadly pale not being able to stand the sight of her fainting and her tears, stood his ground. And, a shame to confess it: I went home without having accomplished anything, nothing at all, I had failed completely to convince him.
The boy had a character of steel, truly surprising.
He was of course arrested and brought to Moscow. His father followed him there. He was willing to give thousands just to see him every now and then, but he didn't succeed. The mother died soon after.
The boy was in prison for quite some time. After that, when his case came to court, they returned him to Kiev because he was a minor, to be placed there under police supervision.
When he returned home he was already a bit shaky, rattled, but when he found that his mother was there no more he became deeply depressed and stayed that way
All the same the Jewish community went forward. Some rich Jews put up a lot of money to found a Russian-Jewish newspaper which was to combat the anti-Semitic "Kiyevliyaner", a paper that, like all anti-Semitic smut-papers, poured tar and sulfur on the Jews daily27.
This new paper, named "Zarya" [R. dawn] came out in a bigger format. The newspaper performed its task in a magnificent way and was read in wide circles28.
People read it and felt proud about its daring articles, especially the peppered parts, directed against the anti-Semites - The Jewish heart was beating again.
Once again: No matter how shortlived the invigoration was, thanks for that hope.
1kehile: an organized Jewish community, forming part of a koylel, an organisation of kehiles.
3Leybke the Shul announcer: Comp. Vol. I, Chapt. VIII, p. 144-146. He lived in Kotik grandmother's kitchen with his wife, the cook. Also Vol. I, Chapt. XV, p. 215:
"fun sheydim, tayvlonim un nisht-gute mit waser-menshn un kishef-makhers hob ikh gevust fun der boben mit leybke dem shul-rufer, un in di ale zakhn bin ikh geven a goen, a boke. in yedn pitsele fun di ale shreklekhe nisht-hartsike zakhn un mayses min eyn-hores bin ikh geven oysgetseykhnt bahavnt."
4Russo-Turk.War: 1877-1878; March 1878: Peace of San Stefano. Vasilchikov ??? [He was governor general of Kiev in 1861.].
5Rebbe of Makaryev ???
6Rebbe of Toln ???
7The banker Kupernik, the son of the lawyer Lev Abramovich Kupernic (1845-1905)
8Mr. Osher, the Rov of Karlin ???
9the son of the Rebbe of Trisk ???
10badkhn, pl. badkhonim - entertainer at a wedding, specializing in humorous and sentimental semi-improvised rhymes.
11tkhum>tkhum hamoyshev - the Pale of Settlement assigned to the Jews in Czarist Russia.
12shtrayml - a fur edged hat, worn by Rebbes and Khasidic Jews on the Sabbath and holidays. Other groups wear a 'spodik'. a high fur cap.
13sholesh-asore mides ???
14the Governor of Karlin/Minsk/Pinsk ???
15r' Yisroel, a Kostker Khosid, born in Serdlets, Poland ,who lived in Kamenits with Kotik's grand-parents and father after the death of his father in law, Mr. Eliezer. He was married to Sore-Beyle (who had tw brothers) and they had a daughter, Zisele. He died in Warsaw after the Polish uprising of 1863. In Vol, I Chapt. V we learn: "keyn notn hot er nisht gekent, ..."
16His father was: Abraham Dov Halevi. A son Simkhe is not mentioned by name elsewhere, but in Chapt. 25 we'll learn that he was a Rov in a small town in Poland.
17Alexander II 1818-1881; czar of Russia (1855-81). The Governor-General of Kiev Vasichikov supported the extension of residential rights of Jews outside the Pale.
18Nicholas I - Nicolai Pavlovich 1796-1855; Czar of Russia (1825-1855); father of Alexander II.
19The ukase or edict of 1804. In 1843 all Jews were extradited from Kiev.
20Demidov: Probably Pavel Pavlovich Demidov, Principe di San Donato, 1839-1885. Author of: "Evreiskii vopros v Rossii", St. Petersburg : M. M. Stasiulevicha, 1883. Translated into English by J. Michell: "The Jewish question in Russia." London : Darling, 1884. In German: Wo hinaus? "Mahnwort an die westeuropaeischen Juden", Charlottenburg, Rudolf Isaac, 1891. A General work on Jewry by his wife I have not found. [or: Anatole, prince de San-Donato, fils du Nicolas, 1813-1870, épousa la princesse Mathilde Bonaparte (1820-1904), dont il se sépara]
21General Gregory Chertkov - aide-de-camp to Nicholas I, Adjutant General to Alexander II, lost both legs to gangrene in 1874. [???]
22R. Zhitniy Rynok
24The Polyakovs were a dynasty of businesspeople. meant is Shmuel (Samuel) Polyakov: Worked on the construction of rail-roads in Russia, employing Jews from the Pale of Settlement. Comp. Chapt. XXII.
25See Vol. II, Chapt. XVII.
26See Vol. II, Chapt. XIVII. [Levin a social-democrat ???]
27The daily newspaper 'Kievlianin. literaturnaia i politicheskaia gazeta iugo-zapadnago kraia' [Literary and Political Newspaper for the S.W.-Region] was published in Kiev from 1864 untill 1918. After 1873 the editors/publishers were M.K. Pikhno and D.I. Pikhno.
28The Zarya (1880-1886), editor/publisher P.A. Andreyevsky
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