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27 How the New Immigrant Doychon Torres Got Rid of the Cheese He Brought with Him without a Kashrut Certificate YA ‘A K O V E L A Z A R Doychon Torres of Kavalla,* a town renowned for its dairy products, especially its excellent cheese, was a partner in a thriving dairy. But when an evil wind blew among the partners, business declined and their debts mounted from day to day. One day, his partner vanished and the creditors fell upon Doychon. In vain were all his pleas that his creditors wait patiently —perhaps the Master of the Universe would restore his luck and they would get their money back in full. If he were declared a bankrupt, though, they would not be able to recover even a third of their money. But Doychon’s entreaties fell on hard hearts. So he decided to follow the advice of the Turkish-Ladino proverb, “Para un din-zis, iman-zis”—“zis” is Turkish for “without,” and “din” means “religion.” The Jews of Turkey turned this into a proverb—namely, If a man has no religion (faith), don’t have any faith in him. So Doychon went to the harbor to see what ships were about to sail, no matter the destination. They pointed out a vessel. He returned home and went to the dairy and called together his sons. “Pack up our stock of kashkaval cheese** in a number of sealed containers.” He wrapped them in bags, went back to his house, got his wife, and packed some of their small valuables and essential items. When night fell, he boarded the ship with his family, his belongings, and his merchandise. The ship raised anchor and set out for no place other than Jaffa. To Jaffa, then; let it be Jaffa, Doychon told himself. What’s important is that these hardhearted folks * A port town in Thrace, about seventy-five miles northeast of Salonika. ** A sheep’s milk cheese. 192 will have to bear their loss and learn their lesson. There were several other Jewish families aboard, en route to Jerusalem , traveling via Jaffa, of course. After a few days, the ship cast anchor off Jaffa; the passengers were ferried ashore, where members of the Matalon family waited to transport them to Jerusalem. Doychon, whose capital was limited to those baskets of cheese, decided to try his luck in Jaffa, where he hoped to sell some of it. If he made a living he would settle there, since, as a not particularly observant Jew, Jerusalem had no attraction, and its sanctity meant nothing for him. The main thing was to make a living and ensure his family’s future. He would settle down wherever those two needs were met. He spent a few weeks in the immigrants’ hostel named for the philanthropist Isaiah Ajiman. During this time, he managed to sell very little cheese, since in those days Jewish Jaffa was very small and there were no more than a hundred Jewish families in the town. Because he could see no future for himself there, one fine day he took his family and moved to Jerusalem, taking his wares with him. He rented a small one-and-a-half room apartment on H.abashim Street in the Armenian Quarter and a temporary corner in one of the grocery stores on the Street of the Jews to sell his cheese. He went from grocery store to grocery store and also to the burekas-bujagas* bakeries of Shmuel Cohen,Yitzhak Hermoza, Shmuel Behar, and others. He offered them his wares; but in every place, when they learned that it was imported, they asked him to provide a kashrut certificate** from the rabbinate in the city where the cheese was made. “Vidi hal avoy,”§ said Doychon to himself. “We’ve jumped from the frying pan right into the fire. Where can I get certificates? How can I obtain them? I ran away stealthily§§ from my native city because of the hardheartedness of my creditors. If I ask for a certificate, they’ll find out where I am.” He tried to sell from a corner of a different store. There, too, many of the customers asked for a kashrut certificate. He approached the dairy owners, H.efetz, Mimran, and Parnes. Some asked for a kashrut certificate; the others offered him a ridiculously low price. He tried his luck with the cheese sellers and dairymen in the Muslim 27 / How Torres Got Rid of the Cheese  193...


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