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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 1921.) 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 candles. 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 Russia. 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 dinner. 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.