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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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My grandfather wanted us to speak German in the house since that was his mother tongue. My grandmother spoke Croatian with us and he was displeased when we spoke Croatian and didn't speak German. However, we mostly spoke Croatian in the house. For Jewish expressions we used the Yiddish pronunciation; for example, we said Shabos [Sabbath] barhes [challah], matzos [matzah].
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baby pisetskaya

My mother and I cooked delicious food. We often had guests and life was fun. We helped and supported each other. When our relatives' children were getting married we went to their wedding parties.
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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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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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At Sabbath my mother baked challah. My grandparents had special crockery for Pesach.
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We all lived in Grandfather Menachem's house. Daughters and daughters-in- law helped my grandmother with the cooking, and my grandmother also had housemaids to help her around the house. I remember one called Nastia and another one called Asia; they were Ukrainian girls.
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My mother was good at housekeeping, knew all Jewish traditions and could cook traditional Jewish food.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

For Sabbath Mama always made chulent. She was a chulent specialist! But I think I liked fish best. We always took the chulent to the bakery on Friday, after they'd finished baking. The baker still had the oven hot then, you see. You put it in the oven, and then on Saturday I, as the oldest, had the duty of going for the pot.
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Mico Alvo

My mother was a great cook and everyone in the family would say, 'Come to eat at Adina's, the food will be great.' Adina used to cook a lot of Sephardic dishes, just like Grandmother Mathilde and Grandmother Rachel did. They used to cook the way that they had learned from their mothers. She also tried new recipes. She had a book to learn new dishes, a so-called 'Tselemente' - a cook book. And she also made many other things like marmalades, sweets and all the rest. She also made pickles. They would prepare the pickles in the house at the time; they would make tomato sauce, sweets, marmalades - all home-made. That's why I keep mentioning that there was so much to do in the house. I wonder how she could manage with all these chores!
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Daniel had two sisters. I remember one of them, who was younger than him. She was called Flor Saltiel. She was Dario's mother who married my mother's sister Lily. They were first degree cousins. The father of Lily and the mother of Dario were brother and sister.

They were very close to each other, but less with their siblings because they had children and grandchildren and there wasn't much time left for the others. When there was a religious holiday, especially on Easter, the whole family would go and visit the brothers, the aunts, and the cousins.

They were giving these haminados eggs [hard-boiled eggs with dried onion peels, salt and pepper] then. It was when they would really spend time together. Some would rent a carriage to go there, three or four of them together, in order to have more time to spend with the family.
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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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Rafael Genis

Petras served in the Soviet Army and worked in construction. Even though he has a Lithuanian name, he identifies himself as a Jew, respects Jewish history and traditions and celebrates Jewish holidays. Mostly, it is my wife Constantia who influenced him. She is Catholic, but she is not religious and she doesn't go to church. Nevertheless, she treats Jews with deep respect. She learnt how to cook Jewish dishes. For 20 years, whenever I had some free time, I told her and my son about Jewry, Jewish traditions and holidays. So Petras and Constantia are also interested in them. Now we always celebrate Jewish holidays together, though I'm not a religious person and don't go to the synagogue - by the way, there is no synagogue in our town - I just respect Jewish traditions and history and observe the holidays as a tribute to commemorate my kin.
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Apart from the holidays, I remember numerous bar mitzvahs: first my brothers', then mine. The shammash taught us how to read prayers and put tefillin on the right way. We were supposed to read the prayer ceremoniously at the synagogue on the bar mitzvah day. There was a celebration at home afterwards: as usual there was a lot of food, meat dishes, a whole bunch of cookies and deserts. Usually, only members of our family and my aunts were present at the feast.
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