This week's Yizkor book excerpt on the JewishGen Facebook page #yizkorbooks

Bruce Drake

There are two threads that run through “My Home Town, Kalvarija” from the Yizkor book of that town in Lithuania: an account of the reasons that so many people started to emigrate elsewhere and how memories of the shtetl led to so much longing for what had been and was no more.

Israel Matz was born in Kalvaria in 1869. After emigrating to America in 1890, by which time many Kalvarier Jews already had deep roots in New York and elsewhere in America. He became an accountant, then entered the pharmaceutical business and founded the Ex-Lax Company in 1906. He was a dedicated Zionist throughout his years and worked to keep Hebrew as a living language, and just a language devoted to rituals and prayers.

Unlike others who disembarked upon the day of his arrival, there were no family or friends there to meet him, but others “began to console, encourage and express sympathy for me. After all, Jews are merciful and sons of the merciful!” As a prelude to recounting his memories of his home town, he recalls: “When they asked me, “Where are you from?” and I answered, ‘From Kalvarija,’ the sympathy changed into a sort of expression of envy. If this was so, they said, you are already taken care of—Kalvarier Jews here are all well off.
I think you will enjoy reading his descriptions of life in Kalvaria — both the joys and the hardships.


Bruce Drake

Silver Spring, MD


Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel

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