This week's Yizkor book excerpt on the JewishGen Facebook page #belarus #yizkorbooks #JewishGenUpdates
Conflict between the older and younger generations is nothing new, and that includes the Jewish communities in the shtetls. But in my readings of Yizkor book accounts, these seemed to grow sharper in the early 1900s. Often this had to do with the involvement of many younger Jews in social action organizations like the Bund or the Zionist groups that had sprung up and were disdained by many older and more traditional Jews.
But this story in the Yizkor book of Mogilev (Mahilyow) in Belarus by the Yiddish writer and playwright David Pinsky, who was born there, looks at the growing cultural gulfs between young and old in a much more personal way. The first paragraph in “Altinke – Cute old one” sets the scene.
“The young people are bored to sit with the old and hear their ear ripping chant, the entire strange thing gnawing and disturbing, and they have – with the exception of a few young people, that are still left here – gathered in another room. There they breathed freely, smoked their cigarettes, conducted their conversations and felt far from the old.”
The central character in the story — “old grey Reb Zelig, small, settled, broad shouldered and joyful Jew, with a Chassidic essence” — bemoans this state of affairs and makes an energetic effort to bridge the barriers of age.
An introduction to the chapter describes the empathy with which Pinsky writes about an older generation that “goes by in front of the readers’ eyes, like a sunset, yet leaves over after itself something of a longing. The reader himself does not know, if it is good that the generation is going away or if it is bad…”
Silver Spring, MD
Researching: DRACH, EBERT, KIMMEL, ZLOTNICK
Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel