Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. 5-6

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Preface to the English Edition

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pp. 7-9

The imaginary city of Zora’s uniqueness inheres in its being “a city that no one, having seen it, can forget. But not because, like other memorable cities, it leaves an unusual image in your recollections...

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A Note on the Translation

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pp. 11-12

Kotik’s memoirs themselves have been translated from the Yiddish original. The introduction and notes have been translated from the Hebrew edition, with changes introduced to meet the needs of the English...

Abbreviations

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p. 13

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Introduction: “Life as It Was”—Yekhezkel Kotik and His Memoirs

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pp. 15-98

“This is not just a book—this is a treasure, a garden. A paradise full of blossoming flowers and singing birds.” “I am crazed with delight!” “A simply monumental creation . . . it is a necessity that each Jewish home with an interest...

My Memoirs, Yekhezkel Kotik

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Instead of an Introduction

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pp. 103-104

I am going to tell of what I have seen, but have no idea of how to go about it. What is old, people say, is important for what is new, and in order to build the new, one must know the old. If this is so, the reader...

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Sholem Aleichem’s Letter to Yekhezkel Kotik

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pp. 105-108

My most esteemed, though regretfully, unknown colleague, Yekhezkel Kotik! With one stroke I dispatched two letters—one to you,2 the other to Niger,3 asking him for an exchange of books...

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1. My Town

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pp. 109-158

Kamenets, the town in which I was born, is famous for its old, historic tower, called the “Slup.”1 No one knows when it was built. It was thought to be a remnant of an ancient fortress. This tower, rising high up, was built...

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2. My Grandfather

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pp. 159-176

M y grandfather, Aharon-Leyzer, was a wise and competent man who wielded enormous influence in the township. He was born in 1798. His father, Velvel, the son of Aharon, had been the...

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3. The “Panic”

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pp. 177-183

One of Aharon-Leyzer’s daughters was married off during the days of the “panic.” Suddenly, a rumor spread throughout the surrounding townships concerning a new decree, forbidding marriages below the age...

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4. My Father and His Attraction to Hasidism

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pp. 184-200

Moshe, Aharon-Leyzer’s son, was a particularly bright boy, and when he turned twelve, Grandfather began to invite matchmakers. He told them to find for his son the daughter of a rabbi...

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5. Yisrael, the Polish Patriot Hasid

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pp. 201-210

One of the most interesting figures among the hasidim of Kamenets was Yisrael. He lived at Grandfather’s home with his wife and daughter. Yisrael had a brilliant mind, and already in his youth he was considered...

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6. The Handshake

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pp. 211-217

Grandfather loved to quote a particular proverb—“May the earth spew forth the bones of one who gives up his own child.”1 In fact, there was an extremely close relationship between Grandfather...

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7. The Scandal with the Assessor

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pp. 218-221

In those days the levying of the excise tax passed from the government to Baron Yozel Günzburg.1 He leased it for a specific sum of money paid annually to the government.2 The clerks Günzburg employed...

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8. My Melamdim

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pp. 222-232

When I was two and a half years old my mother handed me over to Yaakov-Ber, the infants’ melamed.1 She didn’t have the patience to wait until the summer when I’d turn three, but enrolled...

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9. The Kidnappers

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pp. 233-241

Precisely at the time I turned eight, the infamous decree was issued,1 whereby all eight-year-old boys2 were to be conscripted into the army with the aim of converting them to Christianity...

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10. The Great Dispute

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pp. 242-250

he young generation of Zastavye were great troublemakers. They lived too much of the good life. They were wealthy, and behaved arrogantly and insolently because they lacked for nothing...

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11. My Mother’s Unhappiness

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pp. 251-258

My mother’s presence in Grandfather’s house was like a thorn in his flesh. She simply did not fit into the household. She had grown up with a completely different type of father, Rabbi Leyzer...

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12. The Lords

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pp. 259-273

Grandfather wanted to acquaint his sons with the estate owners in the area, but failed in his efforts. My father refused to have anything to do with them. He found their dissolute ways distasteful...

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13. Berl-Bendet’s Life on the Estate

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pp. 274-279

My uncle Berl-Bendet had four daughters and a son. He and his wife were only twelve-and-a-half years older than their eldest daughter, Brakha. Their five children were born within five years...

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14. How We Celebrated the Holidays

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pp. 280-291

Like all the yishuvniks, Berl-Bendet and his entire family spent all the High Holidays in Kamenets.1 They put up at Grandfather’s, and three rooms were set aside especially in their honor. He would haul along...

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15. The Rebbe Is Dead!

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pp. 292-305

In my father’s eyes all joyful family events and worldly pleasures paled in comparison to the delights of Hasidism. There was no greater enjoyment for him than to sit around the table with his fellow hasidim...

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16. The Fate of a Prodigy

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pp. 306-312

In summer evenings, when I was twelve, I loved to go to the study house after our release from heder. There, between the afternoon and evening prayers, I would mix with all the lads learning in the study house...

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17. The Garments of Those Days

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pp. 313-316

From Beynush-Leyb the melamed, with whom I barely advanced but tread the same ground over and over, I passed on to David the blind, who was sightless in one eye. He was no less of a...

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18. My First Revolt

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pp. 317-324

In Kamenets there lived a miserable, poverty-stricken, and excessively pious hasid. He didn’t work to support himself and his wife didn’t give him a moment’s peace. She kept nagging him to become...

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19. The Izbica Hasid

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pp. 325-330

Father employed a man named Y. V. to assist him with the bookkeeping and such other tasks as he was asked to perform. This Y. V. was an Izbica hasid.1 He was given a room within the compound...

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20. Marriage Negotiations

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pp. 331-339

Father began to think about a match for me. The matchmaker had already brought him all sorts of proposals from wealthy men who were ready to pay a dowry of one or two thousand rubles, including...

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21. Liberating the Serfs

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pp. 340-348

In 1861 the famous proclamation liberating the serfs was issued. 1 It happened to fall on a Saturday, and on that very day the ispravnik arrived in Kamenets. On Sunday at twelve noon, when the market was...

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22. The Jews after the Polish Rebellion

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pp. 349-355

During the rebellion, the situation of the Jews, as mentioned previously, utterly deteriorated. They lost their means of livelihood. The stores were empty, for neither the gentry nor the peasants came...

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23. “Keep in Step!”

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pp. 356-359

In 1865 Father thought that it was high time for me to get married, since I was by then already an old bachelor of seventeen and it was disgraceful to be seen in public in such a state. He therefore...

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24. The Debate

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pp. 360-366

Father spent Rosh Hashanah at the rebbe’s court in Slonim. Immediately after my wedding, Father started treating me as an adult. He no longer told me what to do, and assumed that I knew for myself...

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25. “Children, Gather the Coins!”

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pp. 367-374

My wife begged me to go on praying in the shtibl, if not for my sake then for hers. On Friday night, in the midst of the prayers, my cousin Simha asked me to come to his place to debate the hasidim...

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26. The Impact of the Bible on Me

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pp. 375-382

My family held that, on account of my studies, I would not be able to support my wife and children, and since my wife was such a competent person, it was decided that she become a storekeeper...

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27. The Cholera Epidemic

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pp. 383-387

The cholera epidemic arrived in Kamenets from Brisk,1 as though it were a living creature, and spread with frightening speed. In Brisk two thousand people died between the months of Elul and...

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28. Grandmother’s Death

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pp. 388-397

Even before settling in Wakhnovitz, we suffered a great catastrophe. Late one night, someone pounded on the shutters of our house. “Moshe! Moshe! Get up! Mother is dying!” We immediately broke into a loud lament...

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29. Hasidism and Mitnaggedism

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pp. 398-410

I ought to have concluded the first part of my memoirs with Grandmother’s death. However, I feel obliged to explain the roles played by Hasidism and Mitnaggedism. The reader may have noticed how often I kept referring to the struggle...

Appendix A: Yekhezkel Kotik: List of Publications

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pp. 411-412

Appendix B: Selected Bibliography on Yekhezkel Kotik and His Memoirs

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pp. 413-415

Appendix C: Yekhezkel Kotik’s Genealogy

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pp. 417-419

Notes

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pp. 421-479

Works Cited

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pp. 481-511

Glossary

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pp. 513-517

Indexes of Names, Places, and Subjects

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pp. 519-540