Shtetl history that's fascinating! #general


KKirshner@...
 

I was on my way to see the movie, "Elizabeth" and had to kill time before the
show started, so I stepped into Barnes & Noble bookstore. I did not anticipate
the treasure I would find as I entered, a thorough, beautifully written book
about a 900-year old shtetl in Lithuania. In fact, it isn't a shtetl from
which I know I have any family. (Although that is certainly a possibility
somewhere back in time.) I started to read the book and couldn't put it down.
I left the store by way of the cashier. Synchronistically, as I approached the
counter to purchase the find, all of a sudden, Kletzmer music started playing
throughout the store. It seemed like finding this book was destiny. I have
been unable to put it down since and want to recommend it to all Jewishgenners
& LitvakSIGers. It is There Once Was A World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the
Shtetl of Eishyshok, by Yaffa Eliach; published by Little Brown & Co. It's
about more than one shtetl. It's about life in a shtetl, it's culture, socio-
economic and political structure. So
much of what I read was confirmation of what my maternal grandmother had told
me about her shtetl life and Gramma Liba KHIDEKEL BERMAN was of equidistance
NE of Vilna as Eishyshok is South of the city. Another interesting find was
that there were a lot of KIRSCHNER citings in the book and it included a
shtetl emigrant named, Walter KIRSCHNER, close friend and financial backer to
FDR.

When my father was in the US Army in WWII, he was originally a paratrooper
with the 89th Airborne and broke his foot and was put into the Infantry
(--355th Infantry, part of the 89th Infantry Div. attached to 4th Armored
Div.--) as soon as it was healed. My brave grandmother Rachel BARON KIRSHNER
went to see FDR to discuss this injustice and to ensure my (Orthodox-raised)
father could receive Kosher food she wanted to send him (e.g. salami), while
his whereabouts in Europe were top secret even to his family. She slept in a
bus station in Washington, DC after arriving >from Altoona, PA, and then went
to the White House in the morning. Although she did not get to meet with FDR,
amazingly enough, this little immigrant woman >from Vilki had a private meeting
with FDR's top aide, Harry Hopkins. Although my grandmother was very
brilliant, articulate and dynamic and her persistance and maternal instinct
were credited with getting her to have her say with the President's top man, I
wonder now if hearing the name "KIRSHNER" helped open the door? I doubt she
even knew of Walter KIRSCHNER, but with the information about him in this new
book, now I can't help but wonder if it played an unsuspected role. Now
there's no way I'll ever know, but I will continue to be intrigued reading
this book! -- Karen Kirshner, NYC KKirshner@...

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