ūHgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/chapter07.htmlgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/chapter07.htmldelayedx+z’Jˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇˇ»†ÍĘ-EOKtext/html@‹Ć—Á-EˇˇˇˇbČ.HSun, 24 Aug 2008 15:56:17 GMT∑Mozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *+z’J-E The B'nai Khaim in America
Chapter 7 - The Vanishing Beard; The Sabbath; Holidays 

The Bible says: 

   Ye shall not cut round the comers of the hair of your 
beard, neither shall thou destroy the corners of thy beard. 
                                            Leviticus XIX: 27 

   Six days may work be done; but on the seventh day is the 
Sabbath of rest ... ; no kind of work shall ye do thereon. 
                                            Leviticus XXIII: 3 

   The untrimmed beard and observance of the Sabbath (and 
holidays) were the most conspicuous symbols of Judaism in the 
shtetl. The untrimmed beard has long since all but vanished as a 
symbol of Judaism, both here and abroad. Observance of the 
Sabbath and the Jewish holidays continues in various degrees. 
   Curiously, when American Rabbis and lay leaders deplore the 
growing tendency among Jews to abandon their religious 
observances, they seldom, if ever, mention the disappearing heard. 
When a Jew wears a beard today, it is for looks, not out of 
piety; the exception is the small Khasidic sect. Even orthodox 
rabbis, let alone lay leaders of the Jewish community, go beardless 
today. They rationalize this lapse from the Mosaic Law by 
arguing that the law prohibited cutting the beard with scissors 
or a razor, but not the use of depilatories, or clippers, or the 
electric razor! And so the "bearded Jew" is now a rarity. 
    I know of only one B'nai Khaim and two B'nai Khaim-in-laws 
who died here with their beards untrimmed: my father and my 
uncle Rabbi Avrom Kaprov and my uncle Shmuel 
Robboy. He is shown below sounding the shofar on Rosh 
Hashannah, in Cleveland in the early 1930's.
1. The Vanishing Beard- 
   Except for these three, the arendar and 
cousin Moti Trachtman, all the immigrant B'nai Khaim 
died smooth-shaven (except for an occasional mustache). The 
disappearance of the beard, however, was gradual, in stages, as 
was the case with my brother. 
   When Daniel, A2 B2 C2, came to Cleveland in 1912, at age 
35, he had a full beard. With the financial aid of 
relatives he bought a horse and wagon and went out huckstering, 
peddling fruits and vegetables. By the end of the year he 
tired of "croaking" his wares and left Cleveland for Buffalo. 
There were more "Sokolievker" there, and all were doing better 
than he. 
   The very first year in Buffalo he made three changes in his
life: he gave up huckstering and became a junk peddler; he 
changed his name to Gelman-"Gillman," his Buffalo friends 
told him, was "too goyish"; and he had his beard trimmed to a 
goatee. My niece tells me that when a copy of this 
photograph reached his family in Sokolievka, her mother hid it 
to cover up the disgrace. (The family was not reunited until 
   As his business in Buffalo prospered, Daniel took still another 
step towards "becoming an American": he had his goatee 
reduced to a "Charlie Chan." That was in 1915. In 
the next 15 years he acquired a scrap-iron yard, an "income 
property," and became President of the "Sokolievker" shule 
which he helped establish. In the spring of 1929 he shaved off 
his "Charlie Chan," leaving only a mustache to adorn his face.
   Finally, in about 1939, on vacation in Miami Beach, he cut 
off his mustache. Daniel Gelman, minus his mustache, died in 
1956 at age 80. 

2. Observing the Sabbath- 
   Lack of work skills was one reason so few immigrant B'nai 
Khaim were found working in factories. (See Chapter 4). Lack 
of physical stamina was another. Like most shtetl Jews, the 
B'nai Khaim were short, small-boned men. They were not 
fashioned for sustained, heavy factory work. Only a handful 
had engaged in heavy labor in the old country. The weak physique 
of the immigrant Jew was the culmination of 2000 years of 
persecution, discrimination, poverty and the ghetto life of an 
ancient people of sturdy peasant stock. And so, like most other 
immigrant Jews, the B'nai Khaim drifted into shopkeeping, peddling, 
go-between occupations of all sorts-occupations in which 
they had been raised in Sokolievka- Yustingrad-Knyazhe≠Uman, 
and in which, as a by-the-way, they could advance their 
material wellbeing independent of the will of a "boss." 
   Above all, it was the sanctity of the Sabbath that kept many 
from seeking work as factory wage-earners. When the B'nai 
Khaim came to America, in 1903-1923, the six-day work-week 
ruled in the business world, which meant that to work in a 
factory one had to work on Saturdays. But working on 
Saturday would be as mortal a sin as failure to observe 
kashroth. (See note #1) Observing God's commandments had been the 
cohesive power that held the Jews together as a people over the 
thousands of years since Abraham committed himself to the 
covenant of circumcision. Abandoning the commandments 
would mean the dissolution of these ties. We will recall how 
cousin Zalman gave up America and returned to Sokolievka 
rather than sacrifice his Jewish commitments (see Chapter 3 
above). Jews would not engage in occupations which deprived 
them of the millennial community identity. Observing the 
Sabbath gave them a visible sense of belonging. Next to Yom 
Kippur, the Sabbath is the holiest of Jewish holidays. It is one 
of the Ten Commandments. Yom Kippur alone supersedes the 
prerogatives of the Sabbath. You may fast on the Sabbath if 
Yom Kippur falls on a Saturday. Otherwise, the Sabbath is a 
day of joyful prayer, rest, and good food. 
   With the legal abolition of the six-day work week in the 
mid-1930's, Jews of America got Saturday as a free gift for their 
traditional rest day. What have the B'nai Khaim made of this 
free gift? Do they abstain from work on Saturdays? Do they go 
to shule on the Sabbath day? We asked these questions of the 
married males of our group: 

1. Do you work on Shabbos? 
2. If you don't, is it:
         (a) for religious reasons; 
         (b) because of the five-day work week
3. Do you go to shule (or temple) then?
4. Do you "say Kiddush"(blessings over the wine cup)? 

(See table #2 for the answers)

    Eighty-seven, or over 86 per cent, of the 101 married males 
who answered our questionnaire said they worked on 
Saturdays, and only five of the 14 who did not work on 
Saturdays said it was for religious reasons. The details also show 
the growing alienation from ancestral mores as we move from 
the first to the second generation of observers. Much larger 
proportions of the native-born populations than of the foreign≠born 
work on Saturday. Furthermore, when they do not go to 
work they do not necessarily go to shule.
    Our people fall away radically also from the traditional ritual 
of "saying Kiddush:" only 24 of the 101 male respondents "say 
Kiddush," in decreasing proportions as we move from the first 
to the second generation. In the olden days Kiddush set the 
joyful tone of this weekly holiday. Now less than a quarter of 
our people "say Kiddush"-30 per cent of the foreign-born and 
10 per cent of the native-born, counting B'nai Khaim males and 
husbands of B'nai Khaim females. 
    For our women folk we set up two tests of orthodoxy: lighting 
Shabbos candles and cooking on the Sabbath day. The 
distinguishing mark of female piety has always been the ritual 
lighting of Shabbos candles. Blessing the candles on the eve of 
the Sabbath is one of the three commandments specifically 
enjoined on the Jewish wife. (See note #2) The blessing of the candles 
ushers in the sacredness of the Sabbath. The Shekhinah herself, the 
radiance of the Divine Presence, hallows the moment. 

   We asked our married women: 
   1. Do you light Shabbos candles? 
   2. Do you cook on the Sabbath day? 
   3. Do you go to shule on Saturdays? 

   We did not question them on mikvah or on khalah. The first 
is impertinent in sanitary America. The second is inapplicable. 
Few women, in the cities at any rate, bake their own bread. 
They knead no dough from which they might pinch off a chunk 
for the fire. 
   The answers to our questions are given in Table 3. 
   Lighting Shabbos candles appears to have retained the highest 
loyalty of our women among their religious observances, particularly 
of B'nai Khaim women, both foreign- and native-born. 
In the case of kashroth, as we saw, only ten of the 26 foreign- 
born women were strict observers, and none of the native-born. 
Here we find 17 of the 26 foreign-born and 21 of the 34 native≠born 
women light Shabbos candles. Only three wives of the 
foreign-born B'nai Khaim males observed Kashroth strictly, and 
none of the wives of native-born B'nai Khaim; however, 40 per 
cent of both these groups light Shabbos candles. Still, only a 
little over 30 per cent of the foreign-born B'nai Khaim women 
and close to 60 per cent of female spouses do not light Shabbos 
   Similar results were obtained regarding cooking on the Sabbath 
day. Nearly 54 per cent of the foreign-born and 20 per cent of 
the native-born female B'nai Khaim do not cook on the 
Sabbath. This means that 46 per cent of the foreign-born and 
80 per cent of the native-born B'nai Khaim women do cook 
on the Sabbath. Even more striking is the fact that 70 per cent 
of the wives of foreign-born B'nai Khaim males and over 96 per 
cent of the wives of native-born B'nai Khaim males cook on the 
Sabbath. We selected cooking on the Sabbath as the work 
criterion for our married women, since the majority of them 
may not be holding jobs outside their homes. Probably this 
difference between B'nai Khaim females and wives of B'nai 
Khaim males in the matter of cooking on the Sabbath reflects 
the fact that a large proportion of our foreign-born males marry 
native-born women and, in part, the inclusion of gentile wives. 
   A surprisingly large proportion ofB'nai Khaim women, both 
foreign- and native-born, regularly go to shule on the Sabbath, 
nearly twice the proportion of males. This is so, perhaps, 
because men are away at work, or at their weekly sport. This 
tendency is paralleled by the larger proportion of shule 
membership among foreign-born women (80 per cent) than among 
foreign-born B'nai Khaim males (60 per cent), as shown in 
Table 4. For the native-born the proportion is 60 per cent for 
both sexes. 
   Approximately 60 per cent of B'nai Khaim males, both 
foreign- and native-born, belonged to a house of worship. 
Eighty per cent of the foreign-born females and 60 per cent of 
the native-born were shule members. More significant, however, 
than the large shule membership of the foreign-born females is 
the shift in the spectrum of shule affiliation between first and 
second generation from Orthodox to Conversative and Reform 
Temples, and from there to "none." Only one of the 29 native≠born 
B'nai Khaim males was affiliated with an orthodox shule. 
Of the 28 remaining, eight belonged to Conservative and eight 
to Reform "Temples." Twelve had no affiliation. The foreign≠born 
divided equally, six orthodox and six conservative, with 
none in the Reform Temple and with eight (!) unaffiliated. 
   Of the foreign- and native-born males, taken together, 40 per 
cent had no shule affiliation. Of the females, 30 per cent were 
unaffiliated. This again shows the more conservative character 
of our women. Of all the 211 B'nai Khaim and their spouses, 
73, or 35 per cent, did not belong to any shule-Orthodox, 
Conservative, or Reform. 
   It will be noted also that shule membership is largely a family 
affair-husband and wife belong or do not belong to a shule 
together. For example, the foreign-born male B'nai Khaim and 
their wives are represented about equally in the Orthodox and 
Conservative synagogues and equally in non-membership. The 
native-born B'nai Khaim males and their wives each have one 
member in the Orthodox shule, are almost equally represented 
in the Conservative and Reform shulen and also in the no-shule 
affiliation. The native-born and their spouses have the least 
representation in the Orthodox shule and the greatest representation 
in the no-shule category. In Buffalo, I am told, only the old 
now attend the Orthodox shule. It reminds one of reports from 
   3. The Holidays- 
   The Jewish calendar lists ten religious holidays which Jews 
observe in greater or lesser degree. Three of these ten, Rosh 
Hashanah (New Year's), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and 
Pesakh (the Passover) are the major holidays. Rosh Hashanah 
and Yom Kippur are called the High Holydays. The ten days 
beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur 
are the "Days of Awe"-the time when the Jew confronts his 
God with prayer to forgive and erase from his record the sins he 
had committed during the past year and to start the New Year 
with a clear slate. The awesomeness of these days is symbolized 
by the mournful sound of the shofar. (See note #3)
   Khotosi!, I have sinned (mea culpa!), they beat their breast.
But it has not all been sin, they plead. We have also done good 
deeds, and we are punishing ourselves by fasting a full 24 hours 
on Yom Kippur. Oh, God, be merciful! 
   There is only one other day in the calendar, Tishah B'av, 
which calls for 24-hour fasting. Tishah B 'av is the Day of 
Lamentation, commemorating the fall of Jerusalem and the slaughter 
and captivity of its heroic defenders. How far do our people 
in America observe these major holidays and the two major fast 
days? In Sokolievka, all the holidays and at least the two major 
fast days were sedulously observed. We asked: 
   1. On which holidays do you stay away from work? 
   2. On which do you go to shule? 
   3. Do you fast on Yom Kippur? 
   4. Do you fast on Tishah B 'av? 
   5. Do you conduct the seder on Pesakh? If you do, is it 
         (a) the traditional service 
         (b) merely a family dinner
   6. Do you eat only matzos during the Passover week? 

   The answers are given in Table 5 and they tell us that the 
B'nai Khaim in America, and their spouses, are High Holyday 
Jews: they observe mostly Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and taper 
off to the near-complete neglect of the others. Only 35 of 
211 in our list observed "all" holidays, and as many observed 
none. Two-thirds observed the High Holydays by staying away 
from work-male and female, foreign- and native-born, B'nai 
Khaim and spouses. Go to shule? Fewer attend shule than stay 
away from work-a common experience throughout all Jewish 
communitites in America. 
   How did they square with their God? Between 65 and 68 per 
cent of the B'nai Khaim fasted on Yom Kippur, except for the 
native-born males, only 41 per cent of whom reported fasting. 
Little more than 2 per cent fasted on Tishah B 'av to mourn 
the loss of the Jerusalem Temple. But most of them still celebrate 
the emancipation of their ancestors from bondage in 
ancient Egypt by observing Passover. Only 34 of our 211 respondents, 
or 16 per cent, said they did not celebrate the Passover 
in any way, religious or secular. But 122, or 58 per cent, 
celebrated it by conducting the traditional seder, and 55, or 26 
per cent, by entertaining or being entertained at a family 
       The 122 who celebrate seder are on par with the 125 who go 
to shule on the High Holydays and the 119 who fast on Yom 
Kippur. They are the hard-core B'nai Khaim who hold on to the 
most sacred of our family customs. Outside this core, beyond 
observance of the major holidays, our people are rapidly departing 
from family religious tradition.

Notes to chapter 7: 

(1) There are no hierarchical priorities among the several hundred original 
    Biblical injunctions, nor did the scores of thousands of expostulates in 
    the Talmud and other commentaries set up any. Yet, not all commandments 
    are equally binding. Many of them, valid for the times in which they were 
    promulgated, have long since lost their relevancy with historical 
    changes in social cultures. 
(2) The other two are mikvah, the monthly purification through 
    immersions, and khalah, throwing into the oven a lump of dough to burn 
    up as a substitute, evidently, for the donation of bread or grain to the 
    temple enjoined on the ancient Hebrews.

CandleMaker Kaprov
E-Mail: CandleMaker_Kaprov@Yahoo.com

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