Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Skalat: Seventy-Six Years later

The Skalat synagogue, which when I visited
nineteen years ago, was a warehouse.
We met as usual in the Holon cemetery at five-thirty on the day after Shavuot - the second day of the holiday for those in Exile - to commemorate the final destruction of the Jewish community of Skalat seventy-six years ago. There were twenty-seven of us, largely children and grandchildren of the Segal and Sarid (Weissman) families.

There were four actual survivors - Yocheved, Bronia, Lea and Giza. Giza and I discussed her uncle Munio Pickholz, the brother of Rosa the Teacher whose story is told in the two Skalat yizkor books. She was happy to hear that I had finally identified the family of Rosa and Munio, whom I believe to be third cousins of my father.

Mention was made of Mali (Malka) Tenenboim who died last year. She was from Skalat as was her husband Reuven who grew up in nearby Zbarazh.

Zvika Sarid led the program, as usual. Zvi Segal read Psalm 130 and everyone said kaddish together. Zvika read a testimony from Chaika Kavar (Sass) that appears in the yizkor book.

He also read two questions and answers from an interview (a school project) that his eldest grandson did with Yocheved. I bring them here with permission. The translation is my own.

Were you angry with God?

Yocheved and her great-grandson David
My mother said [when I was young] that there is a God in heaven and he directs things from above. We, the humans, do not always understand, therefore I was never angry with God. On the other hand, I did not understand what He was doing. There were many observant [Jews] in town and some said that they were no longer believers. Master of the Universe, how can such a thing be that they come and take us away and where is He and why does He not watch over us? I was of two minds [as a child] but I was concerned [with survival] and did not go into the question deeply. Reality was difficult and I was just a child. I had no childhood and [by then] I had no mother to ask. So I thought that perhaps part of the heavenly plan was that some of should survive to tell the story... and that is what made me observant. Such a difficult time...

Will you bless me?

David, my dear first-born great-grandson, it is a privilege to bless you on your sixteenth birthday. During the Shoah, we could not even dream of [future] family - children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and here you are growing up right in front of me, the realization of a dream. Therefore I wish for you that your own dreams come to fruition, that you succeed in your every endeavor, that you fulfill your own self, to [continue to] develop in health and to be an example to your younger siblings. And that you succeed in your own way.

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