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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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baby pisetskaya

They had a big house that could easily accommodate all members of our big family: my mother's brother Foma, his wife Genia and daughter Asia, Aunt Rachil, her husband David and their children, Boris and Ania, and us. At Pesach my mother baked matzah, cooked gefilte fish and chicken broth and made keyzele [matzah pudding], and brought it all to Luba. We spent the seder, led by Luba's husband Michael, all together.
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At Sabbath my mother baked challah. My grandparents had special crockery for Pesach.
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My grandfather told me that his family followed the kashrut, observed all Jewish holidays and fasted.
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My grandfather told me that his family was very religious: they followed the kashrut and observed all Jewish holidays.
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His brother Max lived in London. I don't know how he happened to get there, but I remember that he always sent us parcels with matzah before Pesach. The boxes were labeled 'kosher le-Pesach' ['kosher for Pesach' in Hebrew].
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Jankiel Kulawiec

The food at my grandparents' was always kosher, but at our house it wasn't always. I remember there was a fuss once because someone told the rabbi that my father bought hind cuts of meat [not kosher]. And that cost about a third of what kosher meat cost. I don't remember how it ended, but I know that somebody informed on my father to the rabbi.
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Mico Alvo

Grandmother Mathilde was involved in a couple of charity associations. I remember them coming around the house to collect the contributions.

She only went to the synagogue on special occasions or if there was a bar mitzvah. The men used to go more often to the synagogue, like grandfather did sometimes. Women went too, but in our family they didn't. I don't remember her reading a prayer in the house. In comparison with grandfather, I think that she was less religious than him, as she was also younger than him. She kept the kashrut, she would buy kosher meat but they would mix the pots and they didn't have separate plates.

There were these candles in the house which we light when there is a religious holiday. She would keep this tradition and light them. We always had a mezuzah. It has a small piece of parchment inside with a prayer written or the name of God, I don't know for sure. You have this in the house, every house has one. They had one on the front door, but they also had one in every bedroom.
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Daniel's friends were mostly Jewish. Where he lived, there were Christians on the ground floor. And he had great relations with them. They would go up to his house and have coffee, or they would go down and visit. They were called Hatzi, and the father was a tobacco merchant. During the religious holidays they wouldn't go around each other's houses. But if it was the name-day of one of them, they would go and congratulate them.

Daniel wasn't so religious but he kept the traditions. I remember that every day after he got up, he'd first have to read for half an hour. I don't know what he read, but it was before he had his coffee. And then he would get ready, drink his coffee and go to work. He bought kosher meat, that's for sure.

I don't know if he kept the kashrut, maybe he did at the beginning but later on, not as much. I don't remember them having separate dishes for meat and dairy products. But he definitely bought kosher meat. He never made a habit of going to the synagogue every Saturday. When it was a religious holiday he would go. He went to the Beit Saoul synagogue [16] because it was close to his house.
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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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We didn't have any religious objects in the house, and we didn't say any prayers. Only on religious holidays we would go to the synagogue. My mother never went to the synagogue. She would fast, but she wouldn't go to the synagogue. She bought kosher meat, but we didn't have separate plates etc. They were brought up in the French manner, which suggested that religion is a matter of conscience; they had very good principles.
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Rafael Genis

Sabbath was mandatory in our house. Mother baked challot and made very tasty dishes. We also had chicken on Sabbath. Whether it was bought from someone or taken from our husbandry, it was taken to a shochet in the synagogue. When I grew up, it was my duty to take hens to the shochet. I brought it home, and the others plucked it and threw the feathers in the stove. Mother only used goose down and feathers for pillows. I remember she always plucked goose feathers. When we asked for her permission to go outside, she gave us a task to get one glass of down and after that we were free to go.
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There was a large flap table in the center of the kitchen. The whole family - ten people - got together there for breakfasts and lunches. Mother made a rule for everyone to have meals together at a certain time. If someone skipped lunch, they didn't get anything. Mother didn't have time to serve meals separately to us, therefore during the meals all of us got together. We had simple food, but it was nutritious and plentiful. There was meat at home, though we mostly ate the parts that couldn't be sold - like heads and legs. Mother often cooked meat in jelly. There was a large platter with potatoes in the center of the table and each of us could take as much as we wanted. Mother made soup for lunch - it was either potato or vegetable soup or borscht and lots of the freshest and tastiest bread. In general we were full all the time. The kashrut was observed at home. We never ate pork or mixed dairy and meat food; we had separate dishes starting from pots and pans and down to the cutting boards.
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My father, Yankle Genis, was born in 1888. He only finished cheder and a Jewish elementary school, but he was literate. He knew how to read, speak and write Yiddish, Russian and Lithuanian. Before I was born, Father served in the army. He was a lancer. He was drafted for prequalification. Since his childhood my father helped Grandpa and also became a butcher. There was a butcher's at our place. Father made kosher meat for Jews; he removed all tendons and vessels. Rich Jews ordered meat and he sent me to them to deliver it. Father cut the meat and sold the rest of it to the Lithuanians, including sausages.
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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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