Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Sivan 5761 - June 6, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
Post Holocaust Memories

by Anna Rephun Fruchter

Jersey City, New Jersey, a bleak factory town. We moved there in 1938 because that's where the parnossa was. Hardly anyone would have chosen to live in this city for any other reason. For six days a week, countless smoke-stacks emitted black smoke, effectively hiding the blue sky. Most of the residents were Polish and Italian immigrants. The city abounded in bars and liquor stores.

Jews were a small faction of the population. And of this small fraction, an infinitesimal number were Shabbos- observant or gave their children a Jewish education. At that time, less than 5% of all Jewish children nationwide in America received a religious education. This in a free country where the Bill of Rights grants each person, citizen or not, the freedom to adhere to the tenets of his religion! In dark, medieval Europe, during the Crusades, and in Spain during the Inquisition, everywhere in the world, Jews sacrificed their lives, often literally, to transmit to their children their unique Torah heritage, love of learning and the observance of our eternal laws.

When we first moved here, there was only a kosher bakery but no kosher butcher or fish store. In order to buy what was needed for Shabbos, every Thursday afternoon Mutti and I would travel to the East Side. First we took the Greenville bus to the Hudson Tubes, which took us to New York, then two more trains to the East Side, and then the walk to Delancey Street, all in all, a two hour trip.

Our very first trip is still etched in my memory. We entered a busy fish store. A very large fish, still alive, lay on a board; one third of it was gone and slices were being hacked from it. At every cut, the fish thrashed and trembled.

"Evver min hachai!" I shouted, tears spurting from my eyes. I ran out of the store and Mutti followed. Seeing my anguish, she said softly, "It's only a fish, not an animal. The distinguished elderly man who is the owner of the store says that you are permitted to cut up the fish before it is completely dead. This is not evver min hachai, Anni. Do you wish to be his Rebbe?"

I realized that I had to go back and apologize, difficult as it was. But it was weeks before I could eat fish or enter that store again!

It was easy for my brothers to learn Yiddish in the yeshiva, for me, somewhat hard. I started by reading the Morning Journal. I discovered Yiddish literature by Sholom Aleichem and Mendel Mocher Sforim, which would be frowned upon today, of course, but I enjoyed the reading experience. I enrolled in high school and after finishing it, I got a job in the accounting department of the B. Manishewitz Company. But this time, I was familiar with all the office machines from the job I had had after school hours in a furniture store. I realized that with so many applicants for the position, it was not my expertise but the fact that Papa worked there and spoke for me, that landed me the position. All in all, it was a great chessed from Heaven, since there were very few places that were closed on Shabbos and Yom Tov and still paid decent salaries. Besides, the Manischewitzes supported yeshivos and many charitable institutions and helped many individuals. They also employed many deaf-mutes at machines they could handle. Throughout my life, I was never able to buy any matzos that were not Manishewitz, remembering their many kindnesses to so many people. Within the year, I was promoted to head bookkeeper with a salary increase.


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