|MY FATHER'S TAILOR
"We lived in the center of Lodz in an apartment with four or
five floors, and the windows faced the street. Our address was
ul. Kamienna 10. We had a bedroom, a living room and a
workspace. The building had a "dazoltza." In the big houses,
we had a gentile "shtrush." He took care of the house,
cleaning and whatever. At twelve o'clock, he closed the house.
Nobody can get in, nobody could get out. And when you came
late, you had to ring the bell. He came out and you had to
give him a tip to open the door.
My father was a tailor. He
had people working for him. When we were put into the ghetto
he became a supervisor of a tailor shop and made German
uniforms. Before the ghetto and the war my father had a tailor
shop in his home. We had four machines--one lady working and
three men. We had a man who was a presser, who specialized in ironing. They sent
him material and we did the work and got paid for what we did.
We made clothing from scratch. This was my father's specialty.
My mother helped my father sometimes with the sewing, but
mostly she took care of us kids, the kitchen and other things.
I had a sister named Manya too. She was about two years
younger than me."
LODZ BEFORE THE WAR
"Lodz had the biggest Jewish
population in Poland, bigger than Warsaw. This was because
Lodz had two big factories, two Jewish factories. There they
made textiles. Lodz had been known as the second Manchester
(England.) They made the material and they shipped it out all
over the world.
We didn't live too far from the big synagogue. There were also
little synagogues, shtiebels they called it. Most of
the elderly Jews, they didn't drive on Shabbos, they didn't
write on Shabbos, so they got together there. In the shtiebel
they had a torah, and I remember that my zaide,
he had a beard and payes, he went there three times a
day, went to the shul. My father at the beginning was
religious, but later he had to make a living. So sometimes he
had to work on Shabbos.
The Hasidim, they went
around on Friday. They went around like Orthodox Jews and knocked
on the windows. 'Close the door, (it's) Shabbos, Shabbos!" At
Shabbos, you had to close the store."
What was it like to be a Jew in Lodz?
"No problem. It was the same thing to be a Jew in Brooklyn,
the same thing. We didn't feel much anti-Semitism because we
lived in a Jewish section. Lodz had a very big Jewish
population. One time I did get harassed. I was about twelve or
thirteen, I think it was in 1936 or '37. I was going to my
aunt's wedding and I had to go to a children's tailor to get
measured. My father either didn't make children's clothing or
was too busy. The children's tailor was in a Polish section of
the city. So I went to get measured for the suit. I think I
had to go twice to get measured. All of a sudden, three
goyim jumped on me and they tried to beat me. I defended
myself. But one almost scratched my eye out. And they ran
away, the Poles. I went home. My cousin--he's now in
Canada--and my dad said, "Come, show me what happened." I said,
"Dad, they ran away. It's no use to go there now. You won't
find them." So I almost got a licking from my dad because he didn't think
I defended myself. I think I still have a scratch on my eye
Left-click on the earphones icon and listen to
a second telling of the story above as told by Alter Pisarek.
"I went to cheder when I was
about four years old, for one or two years. I learned the
alef-beis, and I learned to sing different things, songs too.
Later on I went to a private school, a Hebrew school. I
learned History, the Chumash, the Rashi, and that kind of
I remember that it was so cold in the wintertime. The cheder
had been on the first floor, and my cousin, my dad's cousin in
Canada, he took me to school. In the wintertime it's very
dangerous. The streets are full of ice in Poland. We had
severe winters. And he took me to school because I was a
little schmendrick. I remember on the first day that
the cheder was still closed, and I sat like that (with my arms
folded, bent over), waiting 'til they opened the cheder. The
first thing I learned was the Shema (he recites it from
memory.) I had to memorize that. After the first day of
cheder, I went home and I memorized it, the whole night. I
went the next day to cheder. I figured the teacher would ask
me what I learned. He asked the others, but he didn't
ask me. I went home. I was crying. I didn't show my dad that I
was crying, but I had been crying. I said to him, 'I memorized
the whole night, Dad. And he didn't listen to me. He listened
to the others." That's the experience I remember from the
cheder. Then I went to the public school, and then the ghetto,
and that was it."
MY BAR MITZVAH
"In1939, before the ghetto, before the war broke out, I had my
bar mitzvah. I had to say a 'drasha,' a speech. I can't
remember the speech (laugh). It was held in my home. We didn't
have a rebbe. My zaide was like a rebbe. That's what I
remember. They served cholent. I had to go to the
bakery and get the cholent and take it home. My mother was an
excellent cook. Any dish she made had been good, excellent. My
father never complained. And she'd make beer and put it in the
salad. There was a sweet beer, a non-alcoholic beer. We had a