This week's Yizkor book excerpt on the JewishGen Facebook page #belarus #yizkorbooks
Two very different things loomed large in Zalman Wendroff’s memories of growing up — his hard-to-approach but awe-inspiring mother and the centrality of the family’s large samovar. (Wendroff went on to become a well-known Yiddish writer).
In “On the Threshold of Life,” a chapter from the Yizkor book of Slutsk (Belarus), he recalls being told how proud his father was on the day of his circumcision “but my mother did not demonstrate much joy. She knew – another child, another worry on her head.” His mother, who almost single-handedly ran a soap factory, was a “stately woman, proud, authoritative, always calm and controlled” who, when she did not like something, tersely pronounced “This is not good.”
“I loved my father very much, but did not fear him in the least,” Wendroff writes. “My love for my mother was more like awe of G–d, mixed with real fear. This G–d–fearing sense was like a stone wall between us…”
As for the samovar, it “was ‘large’ not only in size, but in the role it played in the house.” The large samovar was only used on festive nights and on Shabbath. The Shabbath nights “re the only evenings when Wendroff’s mother feels that she is still alive on this earth.” Worried about money, she saw the Friday night large samovar as “one of the means of maintaining the reputation of an ‘open house’” at which neighbors, acquaintances, important people, scholars, and maskilim [“enlightened” people”] could gather together.
Silver Spring MD