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elvira kohn

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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Semyon Falk

My grandfather prayed at home every day. They only spoke Yiddish at home and Ukrainian with their neighbors. They celebrated Sabbath and Jewish holidays at home. On Yom Kippur my grandmother and all children over six fasted. My mother told me that they didn't make a sukkah at Sukkot. My grandmother baked matzah on Pesach. My grandmother baked bread for a week ahead during the year and challah for Sabbath. They didn't follow the kashrut since it was impossible, being the only Jewish family in the village. However, they didn't eat pork or mix meat and dairy products.
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baby pisetskaya

I remember, that when I was pregnant my mother forced me to fast at Yom Kippur: my parents continued to observe some Jewish traditions.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

Yom Kippur, on the other hand, was a serious holiday. We didn't tend to observe the fast. But I remember that people who had quarreled with each other apologized. We had this one quarrelsome neighbor, I remember that at Yom Kippur she would always come round to Mama and apologize. And afterwards the quarrels started again ...
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He was hardly religious at all. He didn't work on Saturdays [Sabbath], but he didn't go to synagogue either. I don't even think he went to synagogue on Yom Kippur.
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nisim navon

Kashrut (dietary law) was strictly observed in our household. There were
separate dishes for milk and meat and these two were never to be mixed. Our
grandmother and our mother made their own goat cheese. Before the onset of
winter, a milkman delivered a large quantity of milk, and we used it to
make a barrel full of cheese which lasted the entire winter. In preparation
for winter, we also made our own wine, collected winter staples such as
onions and garlic, and pickled vegetables. We would buy meat in those
butcher shops which sold meat that Rabbi Zaharija Levi slaughtered and
koshered. There was also a closet for Passover dishes, which was only
opened for the Passover holiday. There was no kosher restaurant in
Pristina, so eating in the local restaurants and cafes before the war was
something we simply did not do.

Shabbat was observed each week in our family. No one worked from sundown on
Friday until sundown on Saturday and we did not use lights. However, if by
some chance we needed to do one of these things, we would go out to the
street and look for a non-Jew to do it for us. Friday the women would
prepare food for the entire Shabbat. The meal usually included fiuzaldikas,
pastel (cake), fidjoni (cooked beans) and pitijas, an airy bread that
served as challa. The members of our family living together gathered each
Friday evening for the Shabbat meal. Our grandmother and the other women in
the house would light candles. Usually this was a bowl of oil with a bunch
of wicks, some of which were lit in memory of dead people. Our grandfather
Jakov would make kiddush (the prayer over the wine). Each Shabbat morning
we went to synagogue and back to the house for lunch. Our mother's father
gathered the children at his house to make havdalah (prayer service marking
the end of Shabbat). We called the spices barmut.

All of the holidays were observed by our family in a similar matter to
Shabbat, all at home. There were few communal celebrations. For Rosh
Hashanah we used to eat apples and honey. For such occasion my uncle Muson
had a roasted head of lamb on the table, and I cannot remember if our
grandfather also had one. The shofar (ram's horn) was blown in shul either
by Rabbi Zaharija Levi or by Jehuda Judic. Before Yom Kippur we would buy a
chicken and our grandfather would perform kaparot in the yard of our house
and then give the chicken to Zaharija Levi who would then give it to the
poor in the community. (Kaparot, literally meaning "atonements," is the act
of swinging a chicken over one's head and asking that its death substitute
for the death of the one making the prayer.) Our family always built a
succah (harvest festival booth) in the yard.

Before Pesach the women would buy wheat and take it to a water mill where
it would be ground into flour. They would gather in our grandmother's yard
and would make both matzot and bojas outside in the garden where she had a
bread oven. The women also ground some of the matzot to make matzo flour.
The Passover Hagaddah was read by all the family members in Hebrew. We
would go around the table taking turns reading. During the reading of the
Hagaddah, one child would sling a satchel with the bojas over his shoulder,
then all the other children would follow him around the table, recreating
the exodus from Egypt.

During the week of Passover, we would eat inhaminadus, bemulos de massa,
cuftes, sivuikas, pitas from matzo (with spinach, meat, leeks, etc), meat
patties with leeks or spinach, sweet matzo pitas, etc. I can still smell
those roasted onions stuffed with ground matzo and meat and hamin, cooked
wheat and meat, that we ate for Passover.

For Purim, the community would have a small masquerade party for the
children in the Jewish community building. After shul on Purim day, the
children would return home in their costumes and hang small white cloth
bags around their necks. They would then go to visit their relatives and
each one would add a few dinars to the little bag around the child's neck.
At the end of the day they would count up the money to see who had
collected the most. Baklava was frequently eaten on Purim, and presents
were given to the poor people in the community.

There was a small metal box in the house where coins were put before the
Sabbath, holidays, and other times during the year. Once a year a Jew from
outside Pristina (maybe from abroad) would come to open this charity box
and take the money, which was being collected for Israel.
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Mico Alvo

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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On Rosh Hashanah, or on [Yom] Kippur my father would go to the Beit Saoul synagogue, which was a very large synagogue. That was it. He would never go on Saturdays. My father was very fond of tradition. It was a matter of tradition, the fact that he was a Jew and not a Christian like everybody else. He was a bit different from the others. So he kept that, the tradition. But to get into the logic that he shouldn't eat pork meat or that he shouldn't write on Saturday, he wouldn't do that. My father used to say that when you do something you should always trust your conscience, to know whether your consciousness approves of it or not. Not because God would punish you, but whatever your conscience dictated.
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Grandfather Haim didn't participate in Community affairs at all, as he wasn't one of the important members of it.

I cannot say that his was a religious family. Here things were loose. There were many that were religious, but there wasn't any fanaticism, none at all. Of course everyone would keep the Yom Kippur fast. Grandfather Haim might have gone to the synagogue every Saturday, because every neighborhood had a synagogue. And this way it wasn't difficult to go. Thessaloniki had about forty synagogues [4]. The elders would go. Haim used to go to the synagogue Sarfati, on Gravias Street, because it was close to his house.

My maternal grandfather I remember used to get up at five in the morning every day. He would read until six and he would then go to work. Haim didn't do that. He was more liberal. Still, they kept all religious feasts. Other traditions that Haim kept, but my father later didn't, was that unlike my father, Haim ate kosher food, didn't mix milk with meat etc.
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Rafael Genis

We celebrated all Jewish holidays at home, though for me they looked the same as Sabbath. Of course, each holiday had its traditions and attributes. On Rosh Hashanah there were a lot of deserts on the table and shofars were played. I started fasting on Yom Kippur since an early age. I've been doing that all my life, except for the time on the front.
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My aunts remained religious till the end of their days. They didn't do anything on Sabbath, celebrated Jewish holidays, went to the synagogue on holidays, observed the kashrut, fasted on Yom Kippur and donated to charity in a local synagogue. Ella died in 1998 in the USA. Golda happened to see Israel. She went there with her son's family and died in the Promised Land in 2002.
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Sami Fiul

My parents always fasted on Yom Kippur, and I also fasted as a child, all day long: I remember I never longed more after apples or grapes than on that day.
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Krystyna Budnicka

On Yom Kippur, a Sunday, I went to mass in the morning, and in the evening I lit a candle in the synagogue for my loved ones. I'm sure my mother understands me. From her perspective such earthly matters are simpler.
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Regina Grinberg

On the whole, we had a very good time during holidays such as Purim, Chanukkah and Fruitas [11]. On Fruitas the other children and I received purses full of fruit from my aunts and other relatives. Everyone in the neighborhood bragged about how many purses he or she had received. On Yom Kippur, as is tradition, we fasted. On Purim the entire family - some 80 or 90 people - gathered in one of our family houses. I particularly remember our stay at Tanti Viza's home. We lit candles in all of the windows and waited for the masked people to come, having prepared sweets and fruit for them. Finally, they came singing and playing tambourines. I dressed in a Bulgarian folk costume that my mother had bought for me at Varshets resort [92 km north of Sofia] when we went to the mineral baths there to treat her rheumatism. We also went there once with Tanti Blanka. I must have been five or six years old at that time.

Besides the folk costume I also put on a mask for Purim. I was always angry because I expected the others not to recognize me, but they always did. Once I dressed up as a Japanese person in a kimono, which was great fun. We sang, danced and played. Rabbi Azus, who had come from Turkey and served in the Shumen synagogue, was always present at our family gatherings. He sang at every wedding and family meeting. We danced while he sang. He often joked that he had become a Farhi family member. This is what I remember most from my childhood.
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Leontina Arditi

My parents weren't very religious, especially my father - he was an atheist. My mother used to prepare matzah and tarhanah [dough, turned into sheets of pastry which are left to dry out and then sliced to thin stripes resembling macaroni] for Pesach, but we used to eat pork at home and my parents always made fun of themselves when they ate pork. We always observed Rosh Hashanah. My father wouldn't go to work. We would put our new clothes on and pay visits to people. We didn't observe Sabbath in our family, but we used to go to my grandfather's, my mother's father, whom I hardly remember. We observed the religious holidays only as a tradition. We gathered with my maternal relatives at Purim and we, the children, wore masks. For example, [as a 'disguise'] I wore my father's coat turned inside out. I should say my father respected all religions. I remember him talking to me for hours about the Catholics, about Joan of Arc and the history of France.

I've never entered a synagogue in my life. Neither of my parents ever took me to one. Well, I recently went to Sofia's synagogue to see how they restored it, but that's it. I've never studied Ivrit, but my parents taught me morals with their behavior, and I'm thankful for that. I've never seen quarrels at home. Well, my father was very jealous, all the more so because a Russian guardsman once fell in love with my mother. All this passed quickly, but when in a certain moment I did something wrong with my life, my mother called me and said: 'Las judias son onoradas' [Ladino, meaning 'The Jewish women are honest.
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