Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Mark Webber - December 13, 2004

Religious Life

And was your family religious?

My family were religious. Everybody was religious. Um, there was no Conservative Judaism or Reform Judaism there and most of the--I would say uh, 99.9 uh, 99 percent um, closed their businesses on Saturday, and there was just no uh, commerce, and people were going to shul or the shtiebelekh, and um, observing it. There were also degrees of uh, being how religious you were. For instance, my father was not a Chasid, and uh, in a way that contributed to his rift with his uh, parents and his family because they were Chasidim uh, the beards, and all this. My father shaved every day, and uh, we didn't--he didn't go to uh, services every day. But uh, Friday, we locked up the business, and uh, we went to shul--that is, my brother and I and my father. Girls did not go there either, to shul uh, every day, or even--not even on Shabbos. And uh, Saturday, was also uh, we went to shul, and after that we had dinner at home, and, um...

What was, what was Friday night like?

Friday night was--it was all cozy, but you know um, there was no such a thing as having families coming over to be invited to eat. I mean, occasionally uh, my father would invite somebody from the uh, shul. A soldier--there was a, there was like a um, a battalion of uh, soldiers staying in town, and many um, among them were Jewish people from, from out of town and, and so they came in to daven and um, and some of the people uh, invited them to be guests and have dinner with them. And we were all sitting around the table and the regular foods uh, like gefilte fish, and uh, chicken, and uh, meat occasionally and um uh, my father--after we finished eating um, we didn't uh, sing any Zemirot after the meals. And uh, he was a modern um, person. He was a staunch uh, Zionist. He was quite active in the uh, Zionist uh, movements. Uh, and um, and then uh, I had to read for my father--go over what I studied in the cheder--not the public school, but the cheder, and I had to--it consisted of reading the parashat, that part of the Torah that uh, was on that particular Saturday, and uh, I had, I, I had to interpret every sentence into Yiddish. It wasn't just a matter of reading it, but reading and explaining what it means.

Were there ever any disagreements?

No, no. Usually, is only--that was the style of teaching, and uh, you had to memorize an awful lot of things, even in the public schools. Every week we had to uh, memorize a Polish poem, or some other thing, so at any time we could stand up and recite fifty uh, different kinds of poems from memory!

So, so this would happen on a, on a Friday. But um, you said there was a rift in, in the uh, in the family over the business and over the religion.

Both probably together. My father and grandfather were the only candy-makers in town. And uh, the rift started uh, probably soon after the marriage. My father uh, loved uh, to read uh, Yiddish, and uh, Yiddish literature, and this was a taboo subject in the Chasidic movement. I remember a story once my father told us, that uh, he was uh, caught by this father reading a Yiddish paper in the attic of their house, and uh, my grandfather grabbed that paper from him and slapped him in his face. And I deduced that um, that my father was an embarrassment to his father, because he felt uh, that uh, he sort of stepped out of the um uh, tribe.

So your grandfather was, was he a Zionist? I would guess not.

No, no, no. Um, there were no Zionists in the um, Chasidim. There was a religious movement uh, called Mizrachi, that uh, they were quite uh, observant people, but more modern way, and they were uh, Zionists.

So was there a particular branch of the Zionist movement that um, that your father affiliated with?

My father was affiliated with the general Zionist uh, movement. However, my brother was a member of Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa'ir. There were all these different splinter groups, and um, in every family it was sort of like a change of, of culture in among the Jewish people. And there was even one person in Detroit--in Pułtusk that had um, an ice cream store, and he had uh, just was--just come in uh, from Warsaw, and he kept his store open on Saturday. So I would imagine, five years later, there would have been some significant changes among the younger generation of the Jewish people.

Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa'ir was uh, leftist?

That's uh, almost Communist.

Almost Communist.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn