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elvira kohn

During the communist times, I was in the JNA, I was a member of the Party. I worked and socialized with others who were in the Party; that was my life, that was my world. Today people say terrible things about communism, but it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe in certain aspects it was better than it is today; only, we aren't allowed to say that, it just doesn't sound right.

Immediately after the war, I went to the Jewish community on Palmoticeva Street to become a member. Through the community I re-established relations with my aunt Adela in Brazil and my cousin Zlata in Israel. I've never been to Brazil, but to Israel I went several times.

The first time I went in 1950 to visit Zlata. It wasn't easy to get permission to leave the country because I was among the high-ranking officers in the Party. At last, after many attempts and rejections, I spoke with one officer-general who helped me get a permission to go to Israel. I left from Rijeka on a boat, and arrived in Haifa. It was an amazing trip because there I met with Zlata and her family and I also saw many people who had been interned on Rab with me. But, I never developed any deep feelings for Israel. I was also invited to Zlata's son's bar mitzvah and I went.

Then there was her son's wedding, and I went again, and I think I visited Israel another couple of times. Had I not been in the JNA and the Party, I would have considered to move to Israel. But I was in the army, and I was very much connected to it, and I couldn't help myself. In addition, my mother wasn't so young any more, and it was a risk to go because I didn't know what kind of job I could get there. The Party never criticized me for going to Israel. Everyone always respected me because I always openly admitted that I was Jewish and never hid my origins.

Both my mother and I became members of the Jewish community. I attended celebrations for holidays, if I was in Zagreb. Because I traveled a lot, I couldn't become more active in the community. The fact that I was in the army and went to the community at the same time had no consequences. I never directly told anyone in the army that I went to the Jewish community; that was my personal and private business. If I was in Zagreb for Chanukkah or Purim, I went to the celebrations.

I took my mother to the synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and waited outside. I didn't enter because I didn't want the wrath of the Gods, so to speak. There were services for holidays that my mother always attended, and I know that there were people who went, and the people who conducted the services, but I'm not in the position to say much more about it. When I went, I mostly went to the afternoon meetings and tea parties, or to the meetings organized by the women's department.
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There was a Jewish community in Vinkovci and in general there was a rich and lively Jewish life. We celebrated Chanukkah and Purim together and had parties on holidays. Those took place in the cultural center in Vinkovci, not in the community building.

I assume that there wasn't enough space in the community building for such celebrations because a lot of people came to celebrate. The Jews were the ones who organized and participated in the celebrations, of course. We gave performances on Chanukkah and Purim. It was customary to dress up and put on masks for Purim. We danced, sang Jewish songs and socialized with other Jews, our friends, and always had a good time.

Within the Jewish community there was also a Jewish Youth Club and I was a member. We used to meet in the community building and talked, learned some Hebrew and some Jewish history, exchanged knowledge and ideas, or just spent time together. Sometimes we had visits from the youth of the Jewish Community Vukovar or from other Jewish communities, or we went to visit them.

Then we interacted with our fellow Jews and spoke about Jewish life in other places. That was always interesting and I enjoyed meeting with Jews from other places. We had many lectures and discussions on ideas about creating a Jewish state. I suppose that we were Zionist-oriented and nurtured the Zionist ideology. There were no summer camps, not that I remember, but we organized inter-town visits and exchange.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

Of the other holidays, I remember Purim, because I always made a bit of money. You see, that's a holiday where people give each other various presents [sending food to friends - mishloach manot, giving gifts to the poor - matanot la'evyonim]. And we - some of the unorthodox, left-wing young people - would play tricks. We'd stuff a pot full of all types of trash, for instance rotten potatoes or something like that, and pack it up nicely. And I was the purimshpiler, the one who dressed up. [Traditionally at Purim parodies (Purim Shpil, Yiddish for Purim Play) are performed. The strolling actors (Purimshpiler) who entertain are rewarded with gifts and refreshments.] I would make myself a mask out of cardboard, take this long shirt from my father, and go round the houses. And people used to play tricks, using people in disguise, like me, to give presents like that. And the people who received them would always give you a grosz [change of zloty] or two. So it all added up.
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Rafael Genis

On Purim Mother baked triangular pies with poppy seeds called hamantashen. Usually she made 30 of those and all of us knew that we would get three each. We didn't take shelakhmones, as we had a very large family. Mother could barely manage cooking for us, not to mention the presents.
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Krystyna Budnicka

I remember the Purim rattles that my father made for the younger children. And I remember the beautiful window decorations in the Jewish shops for Purim. Everybody would gather in our flat on Muranowska Street for the festivals. There were so many of us that we children had a table to ourselves.
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mario modiano

One thing I really enjoyed during the holiday of Purim where the 'novyicas,' the little brides made of sugar. [Las novias de Pourim: it means the bride and groom of Purim; those were colored candy dolls especially made for Purim to give to Sephardic children as presents during the holiday. There are some left in the exhibit of the Jewish Museum of Greece. They were used instead of Oznei Aman used in the Ashkenazi tradition.
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henryk prajs

In the poor families there was nothing at all, just the prayers. If one was a strong believer, he would go to the synagogue in the evening to listen to the Esther's prayer [The Book of Esther, or Megillat Esther, is read aloud during Purim], because it [Purim] was a celebration of Esther's miracle. But it was no holiday.
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Apolonia Starzec

I remember a holiday when you eat a lot of dried fruit, New Year or something. [The interviewee probably means Purim].
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Bluma Lepiku

We spoke several languages at home. My grandmothers and my parents communicated in Yiddish. Besides, my parents taught my sister and me German and Estonian. Actually, we learned Estonian playing with other children, and our governess Jenny was teaching us German. We also spoke Russian at home. Young girls from Pechory, a Russian town located on the border of Estonia and Russia, used to take up housekeeping jobs in Estonia. We also had one such housemaid. We heard our mother speaking Russian to her. My sister picked some Russian, but I couldn't speak any Russian.

Our father was not involved in raising the children or any household duties. My mother was responsible for raising the children and keeping the house. My father brought money home, and it was my mother's part to take good care of it. My mother was always alone at home at night. My father played at night-time. My mother and my grandmother became good friends. They went to theaters and concerts together. My grandmother liked my mother dearly. However, my two grandmothers did not get along. This is the case, when they say they were at daggers drawn with one another.

My mother was raised to strictly observe Jewish traditions. My father was not particularly religious, though his mother was a very religious woman. We followed the kashrut at home. My mother did the cooking herself, and all food was kosher. As for my father, he did not follow the kashrut. He had meals at restaurants and told us he commonly ordered pork carbonade or chops with fried potatoes and a shot of vodka. He believed having a delicious meal was more important than kashrut. As for my mother, she followed the kashrut strictly. We never had pork at home: we only ate beef, veal and poultry.

My father ate this kind of food at home. My mother was religious. My mother and my grandmother went to the synagogue on Sabbath and Jewish holidays. There was a large choral synagogue [7] in Tallinn. Men were on the lower floor, and women sat on the balcony. Mama always celebrated Sabbath at home. She made a festive dinner, lit candles and prayed.

On Saturday afternoon my grandmother invited us to a festive lunch. My grandmother was a terrific cook, and I still cook what I liked eating at my grandmother's. She always made Jewish kugel with ground potatoes, onions, pepper and spices, all mixed and baked in the stove. I remember how my grandmother's kugel was rolling in fat, and when taken out of the stove, it was 'shedding' the drops of goose fat like tears. Kugel and chicken broth - this was so delicious! I think Jewish cuisine is the most delicious. My grandmother also made potato latkes, fried pancakes. My grandmother served them with bilberry jam. It goes without saying that there was gefilte fish, stuffed goose neck and the herring forshmak.

There were sweets, too. My grandmother made teyglakh, rolls from stiff dough with raisins. Alcohol was also added into the dough. They are cooked in honey with spices. They taste delicious. We also liked aingemakht from black radish. Ground black radish was also cooked in honey with spices. This was a festive dish, and we liked it as well. As for common meals, my father used to make ground black radish with goose fat.

We visited my grandmother to celebrate Jewish holidays. The whole family got together. My mother's younger brother Michail, my grandmother's sister Martha Fridlander and her son Hermann, my grandmother's friends also joined us. There were at least 15 people sitting at the table. All traditional Jewish food was on the table.

We always had matzah on Pesach. My father conducted the seder. He broke the matzah into three pieces hiding the middle part, the afikoman, under a cushion. One of the children, whoever managed first, was to find the afikoman and give it back for a ransom. I remember once finding the afikoman. I received a bag of walnuts in return. We celebrated all Jewish holidays. On Purim my grandmother made very delicious hamantashen pies filled with poppy seeds with raisins, honey and walnuts.

On Yom Kippur my grandmother and my mother observed the fast. They spent a whole day at the synagogue. When they returned, they could have the first meal of the day. They usually had some fruit for a start and then had a meal about two hours later. I remember this. We also celebrated birthdays. My grandmother used to make a bagel for each birthday member of the family. They were beautiful bagels! They were decorated with oak-tree leaves made from dough, sprinkled with sugar powder and ground almonds. Bagels of this kind remained fresh for a week. My grandmother made her last bagel shortly before she died in 1948.
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Daniel Bertram

From our time in Kazimierz [11] I remember Purim. As a child I always went to Krakowska Street with my parents. We stood on the pavement and thousands of people in masks walked down the road. It was a masquerade, in Hebrew 'adloyada'. Some just wore masks, some were all dressed up. We even met one dressed up as a cat. Mom recognized him as the furrier. We didn't dress up; we just stood on the street. But Mom bought my brother and me masks. I was staying with Granddaddy and my uncle then, on Mostowa Street, I was in the first grade of elementary school. And my uncle told me to sing, so I sang what I knew from school - 'A birdie flew along the street', or something.
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Boris Dorfman

My grandparents had twelve children. All of them lived in their own houses. They observed Purim and Pesach and other holidays along with their parents. I remember a Simchat Torah celebration in my grandparents' garden where up to 200 guests got together for a festive meal. There was gefilte fish, chicken broth, goose liver paste and other delicious food especially made for the holiday. My grandmother had housemaids, cooks, a laundress, a gardener and a coachman. My grandmother's daughter Liya supervised their preparations for holidays.
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feiga tregerene

I liked preparations for Jewish holidays most of all. We staged amateur performances, which were sketches from the Jewish life, for each holiday. Purimspiel was the merriest performance on Purim. Once I even played the role of Queen Ester, the savior of the Jewish people. Our mothers and older sisters made costumes for holidays in our favorite teacher's apartment, which almost became a sewing shop. Our teacher enjoyed preparations to holidays as well. We also gave performances on Simchat Torah and Chanukkah. I enjoyed going to school, and my school years were happy and flew by quickly.
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As for our Jewish holidays, I liked them so much! Christians were not supposed to be invited to our celebrations. Our Jewish world was rather secluded. My friends knew about Jewish holidays and sent me greetings, but they never attended our celebrations. My favorite holiday was Pesach, of course. We started preparations almost immediately after Purim. In my childhood I didn't quite recognize Purim, except that I liked the delicious 'Haman's ears' [hamantashen], triangular pies stuffed with poppy seed. When I went to the Jewish school, this was when I discovered the fun of the Purim carnival and merry performances.
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Aleksander Ziemny

Both in Rabka and in Cracow I saw Purim revelers on the street, for instance, and I was generally aware that it was a happy holiday, in memory of Haman and Esther, but nothing more.
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