New multimedia encyclopedia embraces a golden age.
Emanuel Ringelblum knew Jewish Eastern Europe the way the Stage Manager in “Our Town” knew Grover’s Corners. The Tevye era was modern for Ringelblum, whose doctorate was on the Jews of Warsaw — only up to 1527.
Born Uriah Rapoport in Minsk, my grandfather changed his last name to Harris when he immigrated to the United States in the late 1870s at the age of 9. I was told he stayed with the Harris family only for one night, but kept their name for the rest of his life.
I have nothing against the name Harris, but “Rapoport” connects me to a past before my grandfather. I looked up the name. There were many distinguished Ashkenazi rabbis named “Rapoport” in Eastern Europe, even in Minsk. My great-grandfather was not one of them: he was in the lumber business.
Had it been in the theater of war, it would have amounted to a surprise attack. After all, it's not every day that a celebrated general comes to a yeshiva that educates Russian Jewish youth deep in the heart of Brooklyn. And it's rarer still when that general drops a bomb, so to speak.
The junior high students of the Be'er Hagolah Institutes didn't know what hit them.
Just a loaf of bread. That's all the four members of the Slawin family wanted when they knocked at the door of a farming family in the Polish countryside one night in November 1942.
"We were cold. We were hungry. We were afraid of being discovered," says Leo Slawin, who was then 11, fleeing for a week with his parents and older sister since their shtetl, Dunilowicze, was liquidated by the Nazis. "We wanted to ask for a piece of bread."
Instead, Celina Anishkewicz, a devout Catholic, took the four Jews into her home.
Grodno, Belarus — Tsilia Brido remembers her early Belarus Passover in her Polotsk hometown, her grandfather leading the seders in Hebrew, women from the neighborhood baking their matzahs in her family’s large wood stove.
“It was before the war,” she says, referring to World War II. Belarus was the first of the former Soviet Union’s republics to be invaded by the German army.
Brido remembers the seders ending after 1941, first under the Nazis, then under the communists.