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 (09-010.21-F) -  Shelf Number: MDV 472

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Date: May 26, 2008

Participants: Kaviner, Aba Davidovich. Interviewed by Dov-Ber Kerler, Moisei Lemster.

Location recorded: Khmel'nyts'kyy, Khmel’nyts’ka Oblast', Ukraine

Language: Yiddish, Russian

Culture Group: Jews, Yiddish-speakers, Ukrainians

 Recording Content:   

This recording is a continuation of a formal interview with Aba Davidovich Kaviner (b. 1921, Derazhnya). (Part 2 of 4. See MDV 471, MDV 473, and Accession # 09-010.48-F MDV 674)

00:00:00 This tape is a continuation of a formal interview with Aba Davidovich Kaviner (b. 1921, Derazhnya). Kaviner comments on how the documents pertaining to prewar Yiddish institutional life in the Soviet Union were likely burned or lost. He also briefly discusses the curriculum at his Soviet Yiddish school, and the two minor local Yiddish writers he knew, Moyshe Zibnberg and Itsik Sokol.
00:03:15 Kaviner talks about his Yiddish school teachers as well as the science and mathematics curriculum in those institutions. At the request of the research team, he shares the terminology used in these classes for mathematical concepts.
00:08:09 Kaviner comments further on the Soviet Yiddish school curriculum as it pertained to literature and language, explains the logistics in obtaining enough books for all the students, and notes the storyteller-performers who would come visit the school. Kaviner shares his mostly negative attitude towards Israeli Hebrew. He recites the lyrics of “HaTivka” (The Hope) in Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciation, then sings the song.
00:14:09 Kaviner shares a folktale-style story about the Jewish shepherd boy who wrote HaTikva and how it became the Jewish national hymn.
00:17:17 Kaviner talks about Mark Varshavski and Sholem Aleichem, and the genesis of the song “Afn pripetshik”. Speaking of other contemporary composers, Kaviner talks about the nature of Jewish identity in those people, such as Vladimir Vysotskii, who do not outwardly express their Jewishness.
00:20:58 Kaviner recalls the anti-religious propaganda and actions that were promoted in the Soviet Yiddish School as well as the “openly secret” nature of the yeshiva he also attended.
00:23:14 Kaviner shares his memories of prewar Jewish weddings that were celebrated in a traditional manner. The town’s rabbi was Mikhl Rozhanski, a very learned and handsome man, who spoke several languages and played the fiddle. He was arrested three times by Soviet authorities, but always quickly released. He was later killed during the war. The rabbi’s children went to the Ukrainian-language school instead of the Yiddish school because of a wider conflict within the town’s Jewish community. Kaviner states that he remembers many anti-religious songs from those years, but would prefer not to sing them.
00:28:09 Kaviner recites the words to the anti-religious Soviet Yiddish song “Rebbe Reb Shneyer”.
00:30:25 Kaviner reports that there were no Yiddish-language religious songs taught in his yeshiva, but he did participate in the choir in his Yiddish school, which sang patriotic Soviet songs.
00:32:47 Kaviner states that he met with writer Hershl Polyanker in Kyiv after the war. After briefly discussing his works, Kaviner tells a story about the writer’s release from prison and induction into the Ukrainian Union of Writers.
00:36:50 Kaviner returns to the subject of prewar Jewish weddings, commenting on the dances, religious ceremony, and role of the "bodkhn" (master of ceremonies and jester). He then tells a short story about the folk-hero Hershele Ostropolyer as a “bodkhn”.
00:41:26 Kaviner then tells three longer Hershele Ostropolyer stories. He reports that he read these stories in books, but that people would also tell such tales all the time, even in synagogue during services.
00:49:55 Kaviner also shares a folktale from the town of Chelm.
00:51:34 When asked about the stories and folktales about the Jews of his shtetl, Kaviner recalls the tales about the great peasant thief Karmaliuk, who would hide from the authorities in Jewish homes. The Jews of Derazhnya were thus call “Karmalyukes.”
00:56:05 Kaviner states that every Jew in his town had a nickname and shares several examples.
00:58:21 Kaviner briefly discusses Nakhmen Bratslaver and his influence in the history and development of Hasidism.
01:01:42 Kaviner mentions that he once met a “lomed-vuvnik” (one of the thirty-six righteous figures hidden among the Jewish people in any generation). He begins the story describing one of his town’s mentally-handicapped residents; the tape cuts off the story in mid-sentence.
01:02:28 End of Recording.