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Victor Baruh

I have very good and festive memories from the synagogue. The Jewish holidays always begin at sundown - with the rise of the first star. At the festal dinner on Saturday evening there was a chicken meal. I went to buy one at Zhenskiya Pazar [the biggest market place in Sofia; the name means Women's Marketplace. It is also simply called Pazara -The Marketplace.] and then I took it to the synagogue to be slaughtered by a shochet - the special person who is in charge of killing the ritual animals. There is another one, mohel, who does the ritual circumcision of boys. I had my brit milah but I didn't have a bar mitzvah.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

And nearby, on the square, lived the rabbi, on the second floor, I think. I don't remember him much, because I only saw him when he came to Uncle Mokobocki to kosher the stove for baking the matzah. He would heat the stove up to a very high temperature then.
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I was a fairly lively lad. I remember he had a small field, and he put us to work picking cabbages. And I had it in me to tell him that I'd come to learn, and not to pick cabbages! I was six years old, but I'd already heard that type of left-wing talk at home from my parents. I was already that bright! And he says to me that I'd remember it. And when it was time to go home, he let all the others go and kept me behind. Pulled my trousers down and beat me so badly with that whip that I could hardly get home. When Mama saw it, she asked what had happened. And when I told her, Father went to the teacher and read him the Riot Act. From that time on I didn't go to cheder.
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There was a rabbi present, too, and at circumcisions there had to be a mohel, who had permission from the rabbi do perform circumcisions. It was a small town and they took money for it; nothing was for free.
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He was a lefty as well, not very religious, but he knew the history of the Jews, knew the prayers, could read the Torah and argue with the rabbi.
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Mico Alvo

My father was a member of the 50-member Council of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Thessaloniki. I don't know when this was. It must have been until the war. Later on the Germans gave an order for all the Jews to leave. He was one of the fifty members of the Council because his was regarded as one of the most developed businesses in Thessaloniki. But I don't know why he wanted to be a member of the Chamber. Not that he needed them for any reason. He just wanted to get in. My father was chosen as a trader at the Chamber. Trade was considered more important than industry.
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When the colonels came [95] there was one of them that must have been a Jew who had left the army by then and was in the same class with Papadopoulos. He was from Yiannena [city in the region of Epirus, 370 km west of Thessaloniki] or Chalkida, I don't remember exactly which one.

The colonels, when they were about to get involved in the Community - because they put their hands into everything - asked him,: 'Who do you think should we put in charge there in order to have a good management?' He gave them a few names, mine was among them. Suddenly I get a notice saying that I am assigned to be a member of this committee for the Community. That's when I started getting involved with public affairs, and I have been since then and up until today.

At the beginning I was a member of the Landed Property Committee, together with three or four others, all of them business people. We did quite a good management not only with the Community's landed property, but we also looked for the landed property that was not yet in our possession, which we owned but which hadn't been regained yet.

We had two lawyers who were involved solely with these issues. We managed to find quite a few. Things were quite confusing but we managed to clear them up. I stayed there from 1970 to 1972.

When the colonels left and we had elections, the electoral body chose 20 members for the general assembly of the Community. Elections take place every four years. At some point after the communal general assembly, I was assigned a post as advisor of the Community Council which consisted of five people. I was the cashier. Later, after four years, I was elected president of the General Assembly.

Around 1990 I became a member of the Landed Property Committee. I served as its president for eight years. I wasn't working anymore so I had the possibility of going around every day, looking into the problems, the issues of the day, and to try to solve them if possible.

During these eight years, and I am not trying to boast, I managed to triple the earnings. First of all because things were being handled legally. Also, because the law had changed and the moratorium for rents had been abolished. I managed because I applied my system, always handling things in a gentle way, and without ever getting into a fight with any of the tenants. Even so the earnings tripled.

In the end, when I resigned they didn't want to let me go. I didn't agree with the spirit anymore. There were now many young people in the Council. I like to discuss things with people before making decisions. They had a different attitude. And so I took my hat and left.

It is now more than ten years that I've been at the Covo Foundation. I am also at the Nissim Foundation. I think we are assigned in these committees for life. They would replace us in case one retires or dies and then the Community suggests somebody else.
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One uncle of mine was a senator. He was the president of the Jewish Community. He was my mother's uncle, the brother of Grandmother Rosa. He was the eldest in the family. Leon Gattegno had a school here in Thessaloniki, a French school that was called Gattegno.
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I think that in Rachel's family there must have been rabbis as well. They were not well known rabbis, but the ones from the smaller synagogues. Her family was middle class, or lower middle class, just like Grandfather's. What I mean is that they would have enough money to make a living, but that was it.
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Rafael Genis

My Constantia is the best helper in all community activities. On Sabbath and on holidays she cooks a treat for the whole community and the Jews join us in celebration. We chat and recollect family stories. We celebrate holidays according to the tradition. I feel under the weather lately and I have to look for a successor as I understand that I have heart trouble and had an operation recently. I hope that my successor will be Petras, who will come back to Lithuania and help me.
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I went to school at the age of seven. The school was combined with cheder in our town. It was located near a large synagogue. We were taught prayers and compulsory subjects. I didn't enjoy studying at the school because our teachers were very strict. We were taught by two men - Balek and Shreder - who were focused on discipline and at times used a metal ruler. I was a good student, especially in Math.
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I loved Simchat Torah. Everyone got a Torah at the synagogue - some people got bigger ones, others got smaller ones and we all went around the synagogue singing and dancing. Then the rabbi read a prayer for everybody.
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Sami Fiul

I remember with a lot of joy and respect about one of the rabbis in Bacau, Alexandru Safran [8]. He was my religion teacher, and I went to his and his father's schil, which was not very big, every Friday evening, as a pupil. He was a very handsome man, thin, elastic, he must have been in his 30s when I knew him, and he had a beautiful well-trimmed red beard. He was a model among rabbis, and we were very proud of him, especially because of his rhetoric. He spoke such a beautiful Romanian, like few native Romanians did or do, you felt like pearls were coming out of his mouth when he talked. We, the children, always thought of him as a prophet. I remember him holding a speech in Yiddish at the schil where my parents went, Rebe Strul, two or three years before World War II and the Holocaust. I can still see him shaking as he said these words, words I will never forget: 'Alh sein blut!', that is 'I see blood!
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When I was about 7 years old, my parents wanted to build a [new] house, but they had no money for it, so they had to put a mortgage on the old house. And the custom was then, that you went to ask the rabbi for advice. And the closest [approximately 20 km] and most renowned rabbi was the one in Buhusi. He was an Orthodox rabbi, but I don't remember his name. So my parents went to see him, took my sister with them, and left me home, although I wanted to go as well. So after they got the advice they wanted, my mother, who was rather religious, asked the rabbi: 'Rabbi, this little girl always screams without any reason. What shall I do with her?' 'I shall say a prayer for her and she will be rid of this trouble!', the rabbi said. So he laid his hand on her head, said his prayer, and then the meeting was over. My parents were on the porch of that house with my sister, and all of a sudden she starts screaming as loud as she could! And my parents asked her, 'Girlie, why are you screaming, nobody did anything to you?!' 'Yes, but I just wanted to see if I can still scream after the rabbi's prayer!!
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