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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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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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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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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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Rafael Genis

On Chanukkah Mother baked potato latkes, we played with a spinning top and of course were agog to get Chanukkah gelt. We had a very beautiful silver chanukkiah on the window sill. Every night Mother lit a candle, adding another one with each day.
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Krystyna Budnicka

I recall Chanukkah: candle holders stood on the windowsill. I don't remember any gifts, [though] I know that today children get gifts.
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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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Eva Ryzhevskaya

He lived in a house in front of our house. There was no synagogue in Pismennoye, so Abram prayed and read the Torah at home. Sabbath was always observed in his house. On Friday night Abram's wife lit candles. She didn't do anything after she had finished praying. Abram spent Sabbath at home. He put on his tallit and read religious books. I came to them to put on the light in the evening, light the stove and help about the house. Abram always invited us to come to their house on Sabbath and on Jewish holidays. Our family got together in his house. On Chanukkah Abram gave us petty money [Chanukkah gelt] and we were agog to get presents from him.
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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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tili solomon

My favorite holiday was Channukah. We would light candles: first my father, then my sister and I. They say only boys should do it, but there were only girls in the house. During the eight days of Channukah we made red beat borscht at least once; it had varnishkes, a sort of bow-tie pasta made of potatoes. Our maternal grandparents always gave us money, not gifts. They called it Channukah gelt. When we got a bit older, my sister and I tried to avoid going to our grandparents' on the very days of Channukah because we were ashamed to receive money. I had two cousins, one of them was older than me, and the other younger, who weren't embarrassed at all and had no problem with going to pick up their share. If we went the following week, the two of them laughed at us, 'Who didn't go on Channukah doesn't get the Channukah gelt!' Eventually, our grandparents gave us the money: it didn't matter that we hadn't visited them when we were supposed to. Of course, it was a small incentive for us, but it was something to remember over the years. Our parents sometimes gave us Channukah gelt too.
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Rahela Perisic

Since Lusci
Palanka did not have a temple we went to Sanski Most for Rosh Hashanah,
Sukkot and sometimes for Pesach. While there we stayed with our relative
Avram Atijas and his wife Mazalta. For us children Chanukah was the best.
I loved to light the candles. I remember before Pesach my mother would take
all the dishes to the garden where she cleaned each plate. She also had a
special trunk with dishes only for Pesach. Regardless of the fact that
there was no temple in Luka Palanka my family always washed before the
Shabbat and wore nice clothes. My father wore a dress suit as if he had
come back from temple. Then he would read a prayer and after dinner we
would go for a walk.
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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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Renée Molho

At Chanukkah we lit the chanukkiyah, and that's it. And we sang 'Chanukkiyah dance with your aunt, Chanukkah dance with my grandmother.' That's all we did.
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Hana Gasic

We all went to El Kal-the word we used for synagogue-on the High Holidays and on Pesach. As a child I remember not wanting to miss the shofar (ram's horn) blowing. These services always seemed to interest me, probably because they were a novelty that occurred only a few times a year. When we went, we children sat upstairs in the balcony with the women. Before Yom Kippur, my mother would take me with her to the old Jewish cemetery with buckets and rags to clean off my grandparents' graves. My mother also made sure to settle her disputes before Yom Kippur. Relatives and friends who my mother had argued with during the year were once again welcome in our home and in our conversations. During these holidays, we would usually eat lamb with chestnuts, depending on the chestnuts' availability and when they fell. My mother and father always fasted on Yom Kippur, but they never made my brother and me fast. When my father would come home from El Kal after Yom Kippur, the first thing we would eat were lokumikus and white coffee, a coffee consisting of more milk than coffee.

In general, the holidays always meant a better quality food and a special atmosphere. On Pesach my father would attend the Seder in the community. Twenty or so men who were involved in religious life participated, but few others would attend. We children and other spectators did not participate in this activity.

The Jewish community in Sarajevo erected a big succah every year. It was built in a nook in the community that appeared as though it had been specially designed for this purpose. The community always made sure that it was decorated with fruit and that it was covered with branches according to the tradition. I do not remember that anybody had one at home.

Shavuot was the holiday that we celebrated the least. My parents celebrated those holidays that were most closely tied to children, and maybe because of that we did not celebrate it. Or maybe because it is in May, at the end of the holiday season. Hanukah, Purim, and Tu B'shvat, or, as we called it, Hamishoshi (in Ladino it was also called Frutas), all met this child- oriented criterion and were joyously celebrated in our home. On Hanukah my mother would set up the hanukiah with oil and wicks. We children would light the candles and we would be given the honors based on whether we had been good students and children. My father would sing afterwards, but I do not know exactly what he sang. Each year we would get a new spinning top, both from the community and from my parents.

Hanukah gained popularity as a holiday, both in the Jewish community and in the wider Sarajevo community, in 1958 after the Sarajevo Theatre performed a production of "The Diary of Anne Frank." I believe that there was a scene concerning Hanukah in that production which sparked interest.
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Anna Ivankovitser

My mother's parents were very religious. My grandfather and grandmother went to synagogue at least once a week, and they prayed at each meal, in the morning and before going to bed. There was a big choral and two or three smaller synagogues in Polonoye. My grandmother always went out wearing a wig. She wore it at home, too. She had long, beautiful silk and velvet gowns. She also wore a golden Magen David around her neck. My grandfather wore a black jacket and a hat. At home he wore a yarmulka on his head. He had a small beard. They always celebrated the Sabbath at home. My grandmother lit candles and cooked a festive dinner. My grandfather read a prayer. I don't remember them singing. My grandmother strictly followed the laws of kashrut. They celebrated all the Jewish holidays. At Pesach they bought matzah, made stuffed fish, chicken, goose cracklings and stuffed chicken necks. They baked strudels with jam, nuts and raisins, sponge cake from matzah flour and special Pesach cookies. All the adults and children over 11 fasted on Yom Kippur. There was Chanukkah gelt at Chanukkah and concerts of klezmer musicians at Purim. They celebrated some other holidays, too, but I don't remember which ones. They spoke Yiddish in the family, and they knew Russian and Ukrainian very well.
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