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elvira kohn

In our house in Vinkovci where I lived with my grandparents, my brother and my mother, the family respected Jewish customs and traditions. We weren't very religious, but there were certain elements of the Jewish religion and traditions that we respected. There was no pork in the house; that was strictly forbidden. We never had pork.

Otherwise, the meat we ate wasn't kosher; at least I don't think it was slaughtered according to the strict kashrut rules. My grandmother and mother cooked on Friday for Saturday so we didn't cook on Saturday. They prepared challah for Friday night and for Saturday. We lit candles Friday night and had a festive meal, usually fish, chicken soup and chicken. We had red wine.

On Saturday, we always ate cholent, which was prepared the day before. Most of the food was kept in the well in the backyard because otherwise it would have gone bad. We had a young servant girl named Ivka from Brcko who didn't live with us, but occasionally came to help my mother and my grandmother. She wasn't Jewish so she mostly helped us on Fridays and Saturdays. For example, on Saturday she went to the well where the cholent was kept, brought it in and heated it up for us for lunch.

We also lit candles on Chanukkah. For Pesach, we ate matzot, and I remember that my grandmother made delicious matzot cake. We had a seder dinner. Of course, we celebrated all the holidays, like Rosh Hashanah, and we always had a nice lunch or dinner. We fasted on Yom Kippur. It was more of a tradition than strict religion in my family. Like it is said: the customs have kept Judaism, and not the prayers.
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My grandfather wanted us to speak German in the house since that was his mother tongue. My grandmother spoke Croatian with us and he was displeased when we spoke Croatian and didn't speak German. However, we mostly spoke Croatian in the house. For Jewish expressions we used the Yiddish pronunciation; for example, we said Shabos [Sabbath] barhes [challah], matzos [matzah].
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baby pisetskaya

At Sabbath my mother baked challah. My grandparents had special crockery for Pesach.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

Panic broke out, the Jews wanted to flee, but because it was a Saturday and they couldn't flee, they got all their things together on their carts, so that they could leave for the country in the night. And the Germans targeted that and let a few bombs off in that direction, right by the synagogue. The first bomb was a direct hit on the synagogue building. It was a massacre, I remember that I was in shock.
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For Sabbath Mama always made chulent. She was a chulent specialist! But I think I liked fish best. We always took the chulent to the bakery on Friday, after they'd finished baking. The baker still had the oven hot then, you see. You put it in the oven, and then on Saturday I, as the oldest, had the duty of going for the pot. My parents didn't work, so there was a bit of free time then. We tidied up then, so that it was clean. Sometimes we'd go for a walk, to different places. There was this wood, Siedlce Wood - about 3 or 4 kilometers from the town, we went to that wood often. And there was a river too - the Toczna it was called. A very narrow river, almost a ditch. But there were places where it was wider. By the watermill, for instance, the water built up there, and during the week we used to go there with our friends to swim.
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He was hardly religious at all. He didn't work on Saturdays [Sabbath], but he didn't go to synagogue either. I don't even think he went to synagogue on Yom Kippur.
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nisim navon

Kashrut (dietary law) was strictly observed in our household. There were
separate dishes for milk and meat and these two were never to be mixed. Our
grandmother and our mother made their own goat cheese. Before the onset of
winter, a milkman delivered a large quantity of milk, and we used it to
make a barrel full of cheese which lasted the entire winter. In preparation
for winter, we also made our own wine, collected winter staples such as
onions and garlic, and pickled vegetables. We would buy meat in those
butcher shops which sold meat that Rabbi Zaharija Levi slaughtered and
koshered. There was also a closet for Passover dishes, which was only
opened for the Passover holiday. There was no kosher restaurant in
Pristina, so eating in the local restaurants and cafes before the war was
something we simply did not do.

Shabbat was observed each week in our family. No one worked from sundown on
Friday until sundown on Saturday and we did not use lights. However, if by
some chance we needed to do one of these things, we would go out to the
street and look for a non-Jew to do it for us. Friday the women would
prepare food for the entire Shabbat. The meal usually included fiuzaldikas,
pastel (cake), fidjoni (cooked beans) and pitijas, an airy bread that
served as challa. The members of our family living together gathered each
Friday evening for the Shabbat meal. Our grandmother and the other women in
the house would light candles. Usually this was a bowl of oil with a bunch
of wicks, some of which were lit in memory of dead people. Our grandfather
Jakov would make kiddush (the prayer over the wine). Each Shabbat morning
we went to synagogue and back to the house for lunch. Our mother's father
gathered the children at his house to make havdalah (prayer service marking
the end of Shabbat). We called the spices barmut.

All of the holidays were observed by our family in a similar matter to
Shabbat, all at home. There were few communal celebrations. For Rosh
Hashanah we used to eat apples and honey. For such occasion my uncle Muson
had a roasted head of lamb on the table, and I cannot remember if our
grandfather also had one. The shofar (ram's horn) was blown in shul either
by Rabbi Zaharija Levi or by Jehuda Judic. Before Yom Kippur we would buy a
chicken and our grandfather would perform kaparot in the yard of our house
and then give the chicken to Zaharija Levi who would then give it to the
poor in the community. (Kaparot, literally meaning "atonements," is the act
of swinging a chicken over one's head and asking that its death substitute
for the death of the one making the prayer.) Our family always built a
succah (harvest festival booth) in the yard.

Before Pesach the women would buy wheat and take it to a water mill where
it would be ground into flour. They would gather in our grandmother's yard
and would make both matzot and bojas outside in the garden where she had a
bread oven. The women also ground some of the matzot to make matzo flour.
The Passover Hagaddah was read by all the family members in Hebrew. We
would go around the table taking turns reading. During the reading of the
Hagaddah, one child would sling a satchel with the bojas over his shoulder,
then all the other children would follow him around the table, recreating
the exodus from Egypt.

During the week of Passover, we would eat inhaminadus, bemulos de massa,
cuftes, sivuikas, pitas from matzo (with spinach, meat, leeks, etc), meat
patties with leeks or spinach, sweet matzo pitas, etc. I can still smell
those roasted onions stuffed with ground matzo and meat and hamin, cooked
wheat and meat, that we ate for Passover.

For Purim, the community would have a small masquerade party for the
children in the Jewish community building. After shul on Purim day, the
children would return home in their costumes and hang small white cloth
bags around their necks. They would then go to visit their relatives and
each one would add a few dinars to the little bag around the child's neck.
At the end of the day they would count up the money to see who had
collected the most. Baklava was frequently eaten on Purim, and presents
were given to the poor people in the community.

There was a small metal box in the house where coins were put before the
Sabbath, holidays, and other times during the year. Once a year a Jew from
outside Pristina (maybe from abroad) would come to open this charity box
and take the money, which was being collected for Israel.
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Mico Alvo

On Rosh Hashanah, or on [Yom] Kippur my father would go to the Beit Saoul synagogue, which was a very large synagogue. That was it. He would never go on Saturdays. My father was very fond of tradition. It was a matter of tradition, the fact that he was a Jew and not a Christian like everybody else. He was a bit different from the others. So he kept that, the tradition. But to get into the logic that he shouldn't eat pork meat or that he shouldn't write on Saturday, he wouldn't do that. My father used to say that when you do something you should always trust your conscience, to know whether your consciousness approves of it or not. Not because God would punish you, but whatever your conscience dictated.
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Rafael Genis

According to the law on restitution we were given back the former premises of the prewar Jewish community. I sold that house and used the money to help poor Jews. Actually, the community is based in my house. I am the bookkeeper. I distribute the sponsors' aid coming from the Joint [18]. We celebrate Sabbath and Jewish holidays. I fulfilled my task: I put the monuments to the perished Jews on the places of their execution. I mostly used my savings for that as well as the money from the sponsors, collected by the relatives of the perished.
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My elder brother was a member of Betar [3] and enrolled me there. I didn't attend the meetings of Betar, where the methods of foundation of the Jewish state were discussed. Our Grandpa made brown shirts for me and my brother. I became a member of Maccabi [4], we often arranged all kinds of sports game and contests. We still celebrated Jewish holidays and Sabbath at home and we did it not to hurt our parents. On holidays I went to the synagogue with my father though I didn't believe in God at that time.
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We celebrated all Jewish holidays at home, though for me they looked the same as Sabbath. Of course, each holiday had its traditions and attributes. On Rosh Hashanah there were a lot of deserts on the table and shofars were played. I started fasting on Yom Kippur since an early age. I've been doing that all my life, except for the time on the front.
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Usually on Saturday, after the synagogue, we went for a walk in a park. I loved singing. When I grew up, I joined a children's choir organized in the synagogue by photographer Poser, a passionate lover of singing. On Saturday after the service and lunch we had our rehearsals or just sang in the synagogue.
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My mother cooked chulent for Sabbath. Meat, potatoes, carrots, beans and at times plums were put in a large pot and placed in a hot oven. On Saturday my parents went to the synagogue. When we grew up, we went with them. Father bought a seat there. His tallit and prayer book were kept there in a small cabinet beside his seat. My father knew many prayers in Hebrew. Upon our return from the synagogue, we sat at the table and our housekeeper - a Lithuanian lady - took the chulent from the stove with the help of a large oven fork. Before we started eating, Father said a prayer. I still remember the feeling of that festivity and ceremoniousness during Sabbath in my parents' house.
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Sabbath was mandatory in our house. Mother baked challot and made very tasty dishes. We also had chicken on Sabbath. Whether it was bought from someone or taken from our husbandry, it was taken to a shochet in the synagogue. When I grew up, it was my duty to take hens to the shochet. I brought it home, and the others plucked it and threw the feathers in the stove. Mother only used goose down and feathers for pillows. I remember she always plucked goose feathers. When we asked for her permission to go outside, she gave us a task to get one glass of down and after that we were free to go.
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Our house was on the central street called Kvedarnos. That street name has been kept. Our town was Jewish. More than a half of the three-thousand strong population were Jews. It is hard to remember everybody, but I still can recall some last names. Gorol sold hardware, tiles, rolled iron; Katz dealt in textile. There were three restaurants in our town, owned by the Jews Lurie and Rodinkovich and a Lithuanian, Eliosius. Every Friday, Lithuanian workers went out partying. There was also a Jewish intelligentsia. Jacques was considered to be the best doctor. We bought the medicine in Friedman's pharmacy. There was one synagogue in our town. It was attended by Jews every day, especially on Jewish holidays and Sabbath.
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