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baby pisetskaya

My grandmother made ground horseradish and cooked geese for the seder. I also remember that at the beginning of the seder at Pesach my grandfather put the afikoman under a pillow and I had to find it. I was too small then to remember more details about it. At Chanukkah my grandfather made little bags into which he put golden coins and hung those bags around our necks.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

We observed the holidays traditionally - at Pesach, for instance, the table was covered, and there was matzah. We didn't recite any prayers, but there were candles lit. Even afterwards, when Granddad died, I remember that we made sure not to eat bread at Pesach. But I remember that we baked three poods of matzah for the whole family. A pood was 16 kilos, I think [Russian pound, 1 pound=16.38 kg]. And there were what were called 'shuvalnias,' which were places where matzah was baked officially [kosher matzah bakery, a locally used word], and other places where it was baked, which the Jews called a 'zborne.' In these 'zbornes' [neighborhood matzah bakeries, a locally used word] the Jews baked matzah together; neighbors helped each other. And at the Mokobockis' there was this old stove, and when the time came to bake the matzah, my aunt koshered the stove, the rabbi came to check that it had been properly koshered, and then there was one of those 'zbornes' there. And the poorer Jews helped each other and baked matzah together.
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Mico Alvo

Daniel had two sisters. I remember one of them, who was younger than him. She was called Flor Saltiel. She was Dario's mother who married my mother's sister Lily. They were first degree cousins. The father of Lily and the mother of Dario were brother and sister.

They were very close to each other, but less with their siblings because they had children and grandchildren and there wasn't much time left for the others. When there was a religious holiday, especially on Easter, the whole family would go and visit the brothers, the aunts, and the cousins.

They were giving these haminados eggs [hard-boiled eggs with dried onion peels, salt and pepper] then. It was when they would really spend time together. Some would rent a carriage to go there, three or four of them together, in order to have more time to spend with the family.
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We kept the three main religious holidays very systematically when Didi was a child: Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Pesach. Didi found it completely natural. I mainly like tradition but I don't like all these silly things. You will not eat this or you will not eat the other. I find these things very silly. They say you shouldn't use the phone on Saturdays. Well, what kind of silly things are these? All these things that rabbis did to empower themselves, I really detest them.
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Rafael Genis

Then seder started. Father reclined on the pillows at the head of the table and carried out the seder. Mother was sitting by him and Grandfather Nakhman beside him. The youngest child asked the questions - first it was me, and then it was Abram. I still remember those four questions. Some of the kids found the afikoman and got a present for that. Then Father put a goblet with wine, opened the door and called Elijah, the prophet, in different ways. I didn't believe in his existence, but I liked the process of the holiday. Even now I don't know who drank the glass of wine which was meant for the prophet Elijah. I think Father did it.
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I loved Pesach most of all, the preparation in particular. Almost right after Purim the housekeeper started cleaning, turning the house upside down. We took the carpets, bed linen and mats outside and shook them out. We put beautiful curtains on the windows, festive tablecloth, polished the furniture and the floors. A large hamper with matzah was brought from the synagogue. Kosher Pascal dishes were taken from the loft. These were nice gilded, silver and porcelain dishes, which were used only for Pesach. The other utensils - pots and pans - were koshered in our yard. We got the presents on the eve of the holiday. My parents were practical people, and gave us the things that we really needed - new boots and clothes.
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Krystyna Budnicka

I remember Pesach, the moment that the door opened for Elijah to enter. I know that I knew the questions [the ma nishtanah] that had to be asked during the seder. At Pesach we used to eat macebrajka [pron. 'matzebrayka'] - crushed matzah crumbled into beaten egg, seasoned with a little salt and pepper and fried, a kind of matzah omelette. My mother used to fry it in goose fat; these days I fry macebrajka in margarine.
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Janina Duda

It was my job to varnish it for the Easter [Pesach] holidays and clog up those holes from the woodworms, to save the cupboard.
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Easter [Pesach] holidays were the same. There was seder, so I said, ‘Ba ladem alisztama halajla haze’ [‘Mah nishtana ha-lailah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-leilot?’: ‘Why is this night different from other nights?’, first question at seder], because there were three girls in our family and the youngest one was too small. [Editor’s note: the four questions are traditionally asked by the youngest child.] Mother made cake for the holidays and I licked the bowls clean. This was in the period when Father worked, there was money at home, so Mother baked cakes for holidays… Yes, all holidays. We celebrated all of them at home.
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Margarita Kamiyenovskaya

According to my father, my grandparents were religious. They went to the synagogue on Sabbath and Jewish holidays. They observed the kashrut and marked holidays at home. They must have tried raising their children to be religious. My father got some sort of religious education in his childhood. He diverged from religion when he was an adult.
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Lily Arouch

Pesach was a very big celebration. We might not have been religious, but in our house tradition was sacred. First of all I remember that around Purim, which is exactly a month before Pesach, preparations had to begin. In those days we didn't have a mixer or anything like that, so when the sugar arrived in crystals, I remember my mother and my grandmother trying to break it up with a mortar and a pestle in order for the sweets to be prepared. The sugar had to be Pascoual [6] in order for the sweets to be proper. After that there was a huge box, it was more like a trunk, where they stored the Pesach pans and pots for the rest of the year.

On the eve of Passover these were taken out and all the rest of the household stuff was put away. The big trunk was sent to the matzah factory. Back then we didn't have the matzah cut in maneuverable sizes, bought in boxes; the matzah came in big pieces of differing size, in the trunk, covered with a white cloth. It had to last for the entire Passover period.

This matzah had to be cut down in order for all the sweets to be prepared, like the burmoelos [7], a very traditional sweet of Thessalonica. We kept the seven days of Passover and the whole tradition of it. For Passover, only one of my father's sisters, Ester, would come; the other three had big families of their own.

Ester lived near us and she came with her husband, Sabethai Pardo, and her two children [Nina and Alberto]. My mother's sister Laura joined us as well with her husband - the rabbi's son - and we all sat together around this traditional table.
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Henrich Kurizkes

In 1956 our son Alexander was born. We didn't give our children Jewish names due to the Soviet environment. However, we never failed to observe Jewish traditions. Of course, there was a ban on them in those years, but we couldn't care less. Besides, it wasn't so hard in Estonia. For example, there were official supplies of matzah to Estonia from Riga or Leningrad. In the late 1980s, the Jewish community of Estonia [50] addressed the authorized representative on religion and the Estonian government provided flour for matzah for Pesach from its stocks. Perhaps this is why we have this attitude to the country and believe it to be our motherland.

Even through the most difficult postwar years and until 1990, we always had the Passover seder at home. Our friends visited us and we celebrated our holiday. The children were involved in the celebrations and knew what each holiday was about. They learned Jewish traditions and the history of the Jewish people. It was very natural for them. My son and daughter had many Jewish classmates. My wife and I never felt shy because we were Jews and felt no different from the others and our children knew and understood this.

The original Estonian residents had a different attitude toward Jews than the newcomers. Usually those who had moved to Estonia after it was annexed to the USSR had anti-Semitic attitudes while Estonians thought that since they were persecuted and humiliated in the USSR like the Jews, they believed they were in a similar situation to the Jewish people. They believed us to be equal: Estonians were unhappy and so were Jews, so it was a good idea to support each other. We had many Jewish friends, but we also had Estonian and Russian friends. We didn't care about nationality, we believed human values were more important.

We also celebrated Soviet holidays: 1st May, 7th November [October Revolution Day] [51] and Victory Day [52]. Of course, Victory Day was special for our family. We survived this horrible war and were happy about it. Other Soviet holidays were our days off and we took the opportunity to spend time with our children, have a fancy meal and socialize with friends. My wife and I worked and rarely had time with our children.
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We wore uniforms at school: grey suits and light colored shirts. They were made by individual orders. There were no poor children in our college. There were also many Jewish children in college. We never faced any anti- Semitic demonstrations from our Estonian schoolmates. Jewish children were well respected at school. Our tutor always told Jewish children about the forthcoming Jewish holiday and we were allowed to stay away from school on this day.

All of my school friends were Jewish. Of course, some of my friends were Estonian. We used to play football with Estonian boys, our neighbors. However, we never visited them at home. My real close friends were Jewish. I don't know how it happened to be this way. All I can say is that my parents never put any pressure on me in this respect. This was my choice. This was the way it happened to be.

My parents were moderately religious. Of course, all Jewish traditions were well observed in our household. Mama followed kashrut. She only bought meat from a Jewish butcher. She also bought hens at the market to take them to the shochet. The shochet worked near the synagogue. Mama took care of the housework even when she went to work.

My father didn't follow the requirement to do no work on the Sabbath. Saturday was another working day for him. However, we followed all the rules on Jewish holidays. Mama kept special dishes for Pesach. They were only used once a year, on Pesach. Also, when these special dishes were not enough, our everyday utensils were koshered in a rather complicated way, so that they could be used on Pesach as well. I remember that they had to be soaked in water for at least a week. [Editor's note: only certain dishes and utensils can be koshered, and this is done in different ways, depending on the material. However, there is no tradition of soaking dishes for a week in order to kosher them]

There was a sweet shop in our street. It was owned by Genovker. There was a cookie shop, which was thoroughly cleaned before Pesach to be used for making matzah. My father's acquaintance Yitzhak supervised the process of matzah making. I remember him showing me how a thoroughly rolled piece of dough was put in an electric stove, and the baked matzah came out the other end. Then this matzah was sold at the synagogue and my parents always bought a lot to have sufficient matzah for the holiday. There was no bread at home at this period, and we only ate matzah.

There was a tradition to have two seder evenings on Pesach: one on the first and another one on the second day of the holiday. We always visited my mother's older brother Marcus on these seder nights. He had a big apartment. My mother's brothers all got together with their wives and children. We sat at a big table and Marcus conducted the seder according to all the rules.

My parents fasted on Yom Kippur. The children could have food, but adults strictly followed the rules. [Editor's note: children under the age of 12 for girls and 13 for boys are not required to fast.] My father was a heavy smoker, but on Yom Kippur he didn't even approach his cigarettes for a whole day and night.

My parents had their seats at the synagogue. My father bought nice seats for himself and mama. My father didn't know Hebrew. He had a thick prayer book in Yiddish and German. On Yom Kippur, my friends and I went to the synagogue with our fathers. I was standing beside my father on the ground floor while mama and the other women were on the upper tier.

Later we, the kids, left the synagogue and headed to somebody's home. The households were wealthy and there were cooks in the families, and we were always greeted by a cook: 'Hey, kids, come on over! You must be starving!' and they treated us to all kinds of delicious food. We also celebrated Rosh Hashanah, Chanukkah and Purim following all Jewish traditions.

As for the holidays organized by the Jewish community in Tallinn, I only remember Simchat Torah. The community arranged a celebration at the synagogue. The children wore carnival costumes and had little torches. We danced and sang and ran. There were also some treats and it was a lot of fun. There were also concerts and performances at the Jewish school on Jewish holidays. Of course, we attended them. All Jewish children knew each other. Tallinn wasn't that big: there were 120,000 residents in the town before the war and about 5,000 were Jews.

I was a member of the Jewish organization for young people, Hashomer Hatzair: 'The Young Watchman.' We had meetings every week. We were told about the history of the Jewish people, and we also had quizzes, tests and various games. We always had a good time there. Besides, from 1937, every Saturday night, all Jewish children who didn't go to the Jewish school, visited Doctor Aba Gomer [14], the Rabbi of Tallinn, and he taught us Jewish history and traditions. Aba Gomer was a Doctor of Philosophy, a very intelligent and interesting man. I enjoyed those Saturday nights with Doctor Gomer much. He spoke to us for an hour and then the rebbetzin, his wife, treated us to tea and cakes.

I was to turn 13 in 1937. Don Shatz, my father's good friend and a very religious man, who went to the synagogue twice a day, started preparing me for my bar mitzvah. I had classes with him at his home every day. I learned a piece from the Torah, but I had to chant it when I had no voice or ear for singing. So I was allowed to recite it. I would say, I had a bar mitzvah and a concert that day. Misha Alexandrovich, a wonderful singer and cantor, conducted the service at the synagogue. He had studied singing in Austria and the cantor of Riga paid for his studies. In the evening we had a celebration for my bar mitzvah. Our apartment was small so we got together at my uncle Iosif's home. He lived in a big apartment near the central park in Tallinn.
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My father's parents were not Orthodox Jews, but they observed all Jewish traditions in the family. In those times it was impossible to imagine a Jewish family that didn't celebrate the Sabbath or Jewish holidays and didn't raise their children as Jews. My grandfather and grandmother went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.
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Isroel Lempertas

We did not mark Jewish holidays. Grandfather Faivush came over to us and carried out Paschal seder. Grandfather reclined at the head of the table clad in festive apparel and kippah. A piece of matzah -afikoman' was hidden under his pillow. I was to look for it. Usually Duvid was the one who asked grandfather traditional four questions about the origin of the holidays. [Editor's note: It is always the youngest son that is supposed to ask the questions, so according to the tradition it should have been Isroel.] I also remembered Chanukkah. Potato fritters were usually cooked in our house. The children usually played with a whipping top. Grandfather Faivush gave us Chanukkah money. I do not recall celebration of other holidays. When grandfather Faivush died, we stopped marking even those holidays. It was not because we were lazy. It was because of my father's atheistic principles. Because of that neither I nor my brother? Duvid went through bar mitzvah.
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