Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Teves 5761 - January 10, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
Memories of Days Gone By

by Anni Rephun Fruchter

Some weeks after Pesach 1929, I came home from school to find my parents in the dining room with exciting news. In the summer vacation, Mutti (`Mother' in German), my brother Sholom and I were to travel to Kolbuszowa, Poland, to meet and visit Mutti's mother, the Babdje Chave, and Papa's mother, the Bobbe Chaya, and all of our family there whom we had never seen. My youngest brother, Osher Yeshaya, would stay home, as he was a baby and it was a long trip.


We were already packed and waiting for a taxi when Mutti reminded herself, "I forgot the special sewing basket." "Don't take it," said Papa. "You are meant to have a vacation; besides, there is no electric lighting in Kolbuszowa."

"Please get it, anyway. I'll only do sewing in the daytime." In our house, nothing was ever wasted. When the elbows on a sweater were worn out, Mutti took a thick needle and heavy silky thread and darned it with a patch that had a design. For my father who was a Levi, it would show a table with a silver pitcher. For Cousin Yehuda, a red flag with a gold lion. For Dovid, a harp. For me, a rose in several shades of pink.

Papa quickly ran up the steps, brought the basket and took us to the train station. As the train to Munich came in, Papa took Mutti's hand in both of his, and kissed Sholom and me on our foreheads.

It took most of the day to get to Munich. There we waited several hours for the train to Rsheshov and traveled all night and most of the next day. From Rsheshov, we took a local bus to Kolbuszowa. It was a bus ride impossible to forget. The bus lurched on the unpaved road and finally stopped at the bottom of a hill. Everyone had to get off -- no simple matter since there were peasants with cages of chickens, roosters and geese and a tied up nanny-goat. Some of the men pushed the bus up the hill and then everyone got back in.

Mutti's brother, my Uncle Dovid, waited for us at the bus stop in Kolbuszowa. He was over six feet tall with very blue eyes. His beard had beautiful waves and sparkled like spun gold. "Uncle Dovid, you look just like Dovid Hamelech!" I cried out, because this is how I had pictured the king in my mind.

He walked with us to his house, where we washed on homebaked bread, had soup, and drank mashlinke -- buttermilk. Then we rested for an hour and walked to the home of the Babdje Chave. To this day, her greeting to us is engraved upon my heart and mind. She rose as we came in and, embracing Mutti, she said in a melodious voice, "I'll tell you what Yaakov Ovinu said to Yosef when they were reunited: `I had despaired of ever seeing you again and now I have lived to see your children' ". Then she kissed us.

A moment later, a young woman came in carrying a honey cake. She put it on the table and said, "Chava, lieb eich eier gast," and was gone. Then a boy with a bottle of raisin wine, a woman with a box of pralines -- and each person repeated the same phrase. Soon the table was covered as though it were Purim.

The next morning we went to the "Gute Ort" (`the Good Place' -- a euphemism for the cemetery) to visit the grave of my grandfather, Reb Osher Yeshaya. Mutti said Tehillim and then softly knocked on the stone and spoke tearfully to her father. This was more than my brother Sholom, aged 4 1/2, could stand. He tugged at Mutti and said, "Mutti, please don't cry! When Moshiach comes, we will come here and take Zeidy with us." This was soon the talk of the town.

From there we went home to eat breakfast and then walked for more than half an hour to visit the Bobbe Chaye. She was the widow of Reb Sholom Rebhuhn who was said to be a direct descendant of the Shelo Hakodosh. They owned two fields and a forest which were worked by hired help while my grandfather had spent his days learning Torah. It was known that Bobbe Chaya davened three times a day, said Tehillim every morning and also the Letter of the Ramban.

We arrived at her house which was surrounded by a large garden with cherry trees. Her face shone as she greeted us. There was a table laden with cake, soda water, apples and strawberries. "Shalom," she asked, "do you know how to make a brocha?" She sounded quite unsure. In later years, I realized that many people in smaller Polish towns did not have any idea how many strictly Orthodox vibrant communities existed in Germany. Sholom made a brocha over everything. "Bobbe," I said, "you know I'm seven. I also know the brochos. I even learn Chumash."

"A maidel is nischt wichtig -- a girl is not important," Bobbe answered, and for the rest of that day's visit, I was patently ignored. I recited the brocha quietly over everything I ate and was deeply offended. On the way back to the Babdje, Mutti said, "I understand how you feel, but believe me, the Bobbe loves you no less than Sholom. Boys and girls are equally important, but in different ways. They are not the same, and don't forget that Sholom is named for her husband. I suggest that when we visit again, you go over and kiss your Bobbe, who is a tzadekess." And that's what I did.

At that time, I was unaware of the origin of the family name of Rebhuhn. During the Middle Ages, there was a blood libel, one of many, to be sure. A gentile child was missing before Pesach and a priest claimed to have had a vision which revealed that the missing child was behind the oven in the Rappaport house. He came, followed by roused peasants, but when they looked behind the oven, a covey of rebhuhner, partridges, flew into their faces. Due to this miracle, the family changed its name. Through different passport officials variations of the spelling came about, yet all are said to be Levites.

That week we visited Mutti's other brother, my Uncle Meilech, and Tante Malisch. Uncle Meilech kept a store and had horses and a wagon and a yard full of chickens. He had a legendary love for horses and the story went that when he was twelve, he would always disappear from cheder on market day to roam among the horses. If he saw a thin horse with no bag of hay over his head, he would take the feedbag from a well fed horse and transfer it to the nebech. Once he was caught and taken to jail for the day. Upon hearing this, Babdje quickly baked a large eierkichel to derchappen his heart (to cause a change of heart, akin to removing an ayin hora). Uncle Meilech grew up to be modest, quiet, beloved and respected by all who knew him.


When the first World War had broken out, Uncle Dovid, of military age and a strapping young man, was summoned to appear before the draft commission. The Babdje took him to many Rebbes to plead for a blessing that he be declared untauglich, unfit, but no Rebbe would say so. The last Rebbe they went to asked him to roll up his shirt sleeve. He looked at his muscular arm and said, "He will be a soldier and a good Jew always. When he is drafted, let him take his tallis and tefillin."

"Rebbe," his mother cried, "what are you saying? How can he be a soldier and a good Jew?"

At that point, my grandfather, who was still alive then, tried to buy off the drafting commission. All of the members voted my uncle `untauglich,' but the military doctor leaped to his feet and screamed, "If he is unfit, who will you consider fit?" He called in some officers and my uncle was drafted on the spot. But he found favor in the eyes of his superior officer and was allowed time to pray every morning. Wherever he was stationed, Jews came and brought him kosher food. He was made a military policeman and was very kind to his charges.


Friday evening after candle lighting, two men dressed in bekeshes and streimlach walked into the house. At first, I didn't recognize them; it was Uncle Dovid and Uncle Meilech on their way to shul. They kissed their mother's hands and their melodious voices rang out with "A gutten Shabbos." As arranged, Sholom and I went with them.

I will never forget the beautiful Lecho Dodi. I looked up and saw an immense fish painted on the ceiling. Uncle Dovid later explained that it was not a simple fish. This was the Levioson, who would be served to the righteous Jews when Moshiach came!

On Shabbos, Uncle Meilech gave a big Kiddush in our honor. Our reunion was a celebration of the generations, a time to renew ties, share memories and enjoy the company of family.

Editor's Note: We call upon other readers to share their memories. Doing so is a chessed to one's own family and to the entire community. Even small details can sometimes prove very valuable and important in unexpected ways, and in general such recollections strengthen our link to preceding generations which is the cornerstone of our mesorah. All submissions are thoroughly edited and checked before publication, and do not have to be written "professionally." Submissions may be mailed to: Yated, POB 18191, Jerusalem 91181 Israel; or Faxed to: 972 2 538 7855; or Emailed to:


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