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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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avram sadikario

We celebrated all the holidays. For Rosh Hashanah we went to the temple for two days, from morning to afternoon. They read a lot in the temple. And for Yom Kippur it was all day. The hakham used to blow the shofar. The Yom Kippur fast would begin the soon as three stars appeared and we fasted until three stars appeared the next day. [Editor's note: According to the Shulchan Arukh, the fast begins 18 minutes before sunset.] We went to the temple for the whole day. We were there all the livelong day.

We made a sukkah on Sukkot. Not every house made one, because there was a lot of poverty and not everyone had a yard where they could put one. That's why there was one in the temple. We had our own sukkah and in our neighborhood many people made their own. We didn't have a lulav and etrog at home.

We had one chanukkiyah and we sang every night of Chanukkah. I still sing this for Chanukkah. I don't believe, but I do this as a custom: Maoz cur jeshuati leha nae lesabeah tikon bet tefilati Vesham toda ledabeah et ahim matbeah nicar anabeah az egmor beshir mizmor hanukat amizbeah az egmor beshir mizmor hanukat amizbeah. [O God, my saving Stronghold, To praise thee is a delight! Restore my house of prayer, Where I will offer thee thanks; When thou wilt prepare havoc For the hoe who maligns us, I will gratify myself With a song at the altar. Translation from Hebrew by Philip Birnbaum]

My father would save watermelons and other melons for Las Frutas [Tu bi- Shevat]. He would buy special melons in the summer and store them in the basement. We had all the fruit that could be stored on Las Frutas. All of it was put on the table and you could take as much as you wanted. The children got money for this holiday. It was a very nice holiday.

Purim was also a good holiday. We children got money. And we received and gave tavazikas [Editor's note: Sephardic Jews of Macedonia exchanged platikos di Purim] Mother would make something sweet and something salty and we would give it to someone else; this was tavazikas. And we had 'las paletas,' a noise-maker made from three pieces of wood. We drew in the middle and we moved it when they read Haman's name. There were three or four different kinds of them: one that was turned by hand, one that was hit. We played with this at home, not in the synagogue. We would visit people on Purim. For instance, my father went to visit his daughters and son in their homes. It was the custom that the older people go visit the younger people. And the kids would get a little bit of money, a few dinars. A few dinars was a lot. We had a coin which we called 'dvaestoparac' [1/20 of a dinar]. The younger kids got a few of those, one or two dinars at the most. We ate a lot of sweets for Purim. We went to the temple but it was a short service, not comparable to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The month between Purim and Pesach was called Las Tuendas, which means work. The whole time there was work cleaning the house. G-d forbid how much cleaning. Women and girls had to do the cleaning. And in the end we all went around the house with our father looking for the crumbs [before Passover]. And then we carried them to where they put the trash. Some of the things we made kosher. We took a big pot and put boiling water in it and put the things in and that is koshering. The things that couldn't be boiled we hid in a special house, so that they were far away. You cannot touch chametz on Pesach. We had special dishes for Pesach and when it was over mother collected them and put them away again.

For Pesach we all got new clothes. We waited for this. Maybe during the year we bought things sometimes, but for Pesach one simply had to have new clothes. We had these things made by the tailor. My mother didn't sew pants and such things. She sewed small things. My mother didn't know how to use a sewing machine but my two sisters did. And my sister-in-law knew. They were younger than my mother. We got pants, suits, shoes, shirts, socks. Everything that you see and do not see was new. For Pesach everything had to be new.
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rena michalowska

I also remember how my grandmother lit the candles [for Channukah], but I don't remember getting presents, maybe some pennies. But I remember Purim very well and the triangular cookies shaped like Napoleon's hat. I can remember their taste to this day. I don't know the recipe, only that it was shortcake made with honey. Those 'humentash' [Yiddish], or Hamman's pocket [ear] were filled with poppy seed mixed with raisins, sugar and honey. My grandmother made those, as the celebrations were held mostly at her house.
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Matilda Cerge

I went to the Jewish community for religious classes. All of the Jewish children had to go to religious lessons on Kralja Petra [Street]. I don't know the names of the teachers. There we learned about the Old Testament and the Jewish language. Clearly, I didn't learn any of that, because it was such a short time. In general I know that we Jewish children had to go to our own religious classes when the Serbian children had theirs.

This was once or twice a week. There was a predetermined time when the Jewish kids gathered in the small hall [upstairs in the Jewish community]. This is why even today I love to go to the community, especially the small hall, upstairs on the second floor, where we had our religious classes. I love this building especially because I went there as a kid. I also fondly remember the hall downstairs where we had the Purim parties.
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Hana Gasic

Purim was also eagerly celebrated in our family. For this holiday we would have a big family meal with extended family members, though after my uncles left for Israel the family was considerably smaller. My mother would prepare special pastelikus (little meat pies) which, unlike normal pasteles (meat pies), were prepared in small individual portions, as well as borekitus (pie made from filo dough with various fillings) and roskitus (cake with walnuts). Each year my father would make special little cloth bags for my brother and me, which we would wear around our necks and the adults would fill with money. Sometimes, we would even be able to collect money from relatives a few days after Purim.
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Teofila Silberring

So Purim was a fun holiday too. Then I remember the holiday of Pesach. We packed up what was called 'chummes' [chametz], that means crumbs of bread. Because at Pesach you're not allowed to eat bread, only matzah. And in Kazimierz there was this bakery. We used to go, there was this big wooden paddle, and you threw the 'chummes' on it to burn it. I used to go with it, because I liked going there. What tradition that was, what it was based on, that I don't know. And there was Seder, this dinner, I remember; there were definitely matzot. That was celebrated in traditional fashion, and afterwards Father went to a coffeehouse.
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I liked Purim too, because you got presents. You got money. We used to dress up, I remember.
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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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Gracia Albuhaire

Right after the war we celebrated Pesach, Purim and other holidays, but there was no sugar for sweets. People moved and there was nobody to prepare them. The factories were no longer working; the families had left.
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We used to make mill-clacks on the holiday. There is a song which says: 'Avanarisha, rash, rash, rash...' and then we started with the mill-clacks and such yelling and screaming began at school that you can hardly imagine! The evening before we disguised ourselves with whatever we found - we wore the clothes of our grannies and mothers, we painted ourselves and we prepared masks. And in groups we went about from one house to another singing that special song: 'Hak Purim, hak el feia lel aldim!' We sang the song and the housewife gave us 'mahpuri' [money]. If she had mahpurim she would give us some, if not she would treat us with sweets!
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