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Sami Fiul

My parents strictly observed all high holidays, however. Every holiday, that is before the war [World War II], we were happy that we could celebrate it properly - we had money for food, challah, and the like, and all the family was together-; that wasn't the case, however, after the war. My parents worked hard day after day all year round, from morning until evening. But even so, they observed the high holidays, like Purim, Chanukkah, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah. We would go to the synagogue, or the 'schil' as we used to call it, in clean holiday clothes. The meals were special, of course, and we, the Jewish kids who studied in laic schools, were free as well, so that was one more reason to be happy about holidays.
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Regina Grinberg

Following the death of my grandmother, the life of the family did indeed change. Some people died, others left for Palestine. Gradually every family started celebrating the holidays alone, and Pesach became a holiday for the immediate family. I remember a Pesach when I was 14 years old. My father did not have a son and he was very unhappy. My mother would tell me, 'please, say the prayer.' I knew how to read because I had graduated from a Jewish school, and my mother would give me the book to continue reading because my father tired easily; he was already 56 years old at that time.
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ester josifova

We observed all other Jewish holidays as well. We had dinner at six o'clock on Yom Kippur and went to the synagogue. We stayed there until eight o'clock in the evening. The next morning we went to the synagogue again and either spent the whole day there or went several times a day. We didn't eat anything the whole day. We sang and after that we went home. The song was about the hardship of the Jewish people.
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More than 30,000 Jews lived in Sofia in the first half of the 20th century. The richer Jews lived in the city center and the poorer ones in Iuchbunar [4]. There were many people in Iuchbunar who needed help to survive. There were many refugees from Aegean Trace and Macedonia who were forced to emigrate after the Balkan wars. This district looked like a ghetto compared to the center of the city. The richer Jews had an interesting way to support the needy ones. They had small boxes at home into which they put as much money as they could afford during the week. A sexton used to come every Friday to take the boxes to the synagogue and returned them empty later. Our family also had such a box at home. The funds were mostly collected for the education of the children of poorer families. This way these children could be sent to study abroad.

My father and some other men sent the future conductor of the Jewish choir in Sofia to study in Vienna and provided for his education. He was the son of a humble washerwoman. My mother-in-law's brother from Pleven studied commerce in Vienna with the financial support of the local Jewish community. Many of the poor Jewish girls couldn't get married because their families couldn't put together dowry for them. They received money from these voluntary donations. When a great Jewish holiday was forthcoming, for example Pesach or Yom Kippur, the rich Jews used to send hens or other poultry to the synagogue, and they even bought matzah. The chocolate factory 'Beraha' also made matzah. Some people didn't have white tablecloths for Pesach and all the poor Jews used to receive a white tablecloth with at least twelve table-napkins.
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Magdalena Berger

Our family was less religious than Father's parents but we were certainly
not a typical Neolog Jewish family in Sombor: we were considerably more
observant than most of the other non-Orthodox Jews in Sombor at the time.
We kept kosher and bought all of the meat from the kosher butcher. I
believe that my father maintained these traditions more out of respect for
his parents than out of ideology.

My family observed the Shabbat. Father's store was closed on Saturday and
although my brother and I went to school on Saturdays, we were not allowed
to write or do other things that violated the Sabbath. On Friday, Mother
lit candles and we had a Shabbat dinner. Dinner usually consisted of a
goose, goose liver, charvas, kiska, fried eggs and onions. For the second
Shabbat meal we ate cholent and cold zucchini. The Shabbat leftovers were
then eaten the rest of the week. We rarely had beef, mostly only poultry,
and we made challah at home. I recall my father saying havdalah at the end
of each Sabbath, using a flat, braided, brightly colored candle.

All Jewish holidays were observed in our house. Before Rosh Hashanah we
would buy a chicken and perform kaporot at home and then take the dead
chicken to the butcher. On Succoth my family had a small succah on our
terrace. Not many other people had one but each year my father put one up
and decorated it. He would cut up strips of colored paper and hang paper
chains around the succah. We would eat in the succah during this week. We
had the family Seder at our house, which my father led. The Haggadah was
read in Hebrew and I believe that we had copies with a translation in
Hungarian. As the youngest child, I was always responsible for reading the
Ma Nishtana (the four questions about the meaning of Pesach). We celebrated
Purim but I cannot remember where the Purim Ball was held or exactly what
the service in the synagogue was like. On Hanukah we lit a menorah
(candlabra) and the children played dreidel (spinning top), gambling for
walnuts. I don't remember getting presents but I know that it was common
for most Jewish families to light Hanukah candles.
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Matilda Israel

After the death of my husband, Marcel read the prayers. When he was young, in 1975, he went to study in Yeshiva in Israel for six months, where he learned both Hebrew and many rituals. Our sons learned Ladino. At first Michel refused to speak Ladino, but then they both started speaking it. Unlike my childhood years when many people gathered during the holidays, Salvator and I always celebrated the holidays at home with the children.
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David Elazarov

Before the war two thirds of the Jewish population lived in Sofia. There was hardly a purely Jewish neighborhood in Sofia, but I remember that many of the people living on Pirotska Street were Jews. There were also Bulgarians, Turks and Armenians in the neighborhood. As children we played football and hide-and-seek. We gathered with the other Jews and celebrated the high holidays. We gathered on Pesach, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah was my favorite holiday, because there were still flowers, green trees, and fruits... We gathered, ate, drank and sang songs in Ladino.

We always helped each other. There was a feeling of community and desire to help the other Jews. Because even when there were no persecutions, Jews were regarded as different, alien. We also sensed that feeling.
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Victoria Behar

My parents' families weren't deeply religious, but all Jewish holidays were observed mostly by all relatives getting together. My father went to the synagogue twice a year - on Rosh Hashanah and on Pesach. I also continued this tradition, and so does my family. Especially after my husband died in 1995, my peers and the older Jews from Bet Am became my family. At home I keep some things to remind me of the past - photos and albums, the videotape sent to me by the Steven Spielberg Foundation after my participation in the Shoah project [Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation]. The people at Bet Am take good care about us and help us, and we receive aid from various international Jewish organizations. I wouldn't want to bother my sons, their families, my grandchildren. Such are the times nowadays...
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We observed almost all religious traditions at home. All holidays were properly celebrated, for example, on Yom Kippur our father didn't allow us, children, to eat either. It was hard, but we obeyed. My father was a very strict man. But he went to the synagogue only on Rosh Hashanah and on Pesach. We celebrated the holidays mostly at home. I loved all holidays very much, especially Pesach, because then we received new clothes and shoes, and I loved eating burmoelos [5]. Traditions were observed in the family circle. We celebrated the high holidays at home. I remember that we used to organize a children's fancy-dress ball on Purim.
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My aunt Rosa lived in Pernik, Uncle Avram and my father in Sofia. They weren't very religious and only observed the high holidays, mainly at home, where the whole family gathered. My father only went to the synagogue on the high holidays, and mostly alone. He very strictly observed Yom Kippur and fasted. On Pesach we had the seder. My mother's family was more religious; they ate kosher food, observed Yom Kippur, and the whole family gathered on Sabbath.
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Edita Adler

They are not very religious. My sister never observed the tradition much, except going to the synagogue on the high holidays.
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At home we continued to observe the high holidays and the tradition: there was the traditional Saturday meal, my mother made cholent, that is bean stew, with veal and pearl barley. The food wasn't kosher, but we observed the high holidays.
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He was Neolog and not very religious, but he went to the synagogue on Saturdays and on the high holidays.
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He was Neolog, only went to the synagogue on Friday evenings and on the high holidays and didn't observe the kashrut or dress traditionally.
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He wasn't a very religious man. He was Neolog [1], a rather modern man for those times, but on Sabbath he went to the synagogue and didn't work. Of course, he also went to the synagogue on the high holidays. He fasted on Yom Kippur. Also, on Saturdays there were traditional dishes served at lunch. I don't know if the kashrut was observed in the house, but I know, he never ate pork.
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