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 (09-010.31-F) -  Shelf Number: MDV 581

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Date: May 19, 2003

Participants: Kaplan, Abram Davidovich. Interiewed by Dov-Ber Kerler.

Location recorded: Mohyliv-Podil’s’kyy, Vinnyts'ka Oblast', Ukraine

Language: Yiddish

Culture Group: Jews, Yiddish-speakers, Ukrainians

 Recording Content:   

This recording is a continuation of a formal interview with Abram Davidovich Kaplan. (Part 2 of 3. See MDV 582 and Accession # 09-010.20-F MDV 463)

Cities and towns mentioned on this tape: Mohyliv-Podil’s’kyy, Kyiv, Vinnytsya, Ozaryntsi, Slydy, Stalingrad, Rishon LeTsiyon, Kryzhopol, Pechera, Zhurin, Chernivtsi (Kleyn Tshernovits).

00:00:00 Kaplan expresses the view that Ukrainian Jews should care about their own history and laments how all the religious and scholarly Jewish leaders in today’s Ukraine are foreigners from USA and Israel rather than local Jews. Expanding on this point, Kaplan explains that organizations such as the Joint (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) and the Sochnut (The Jewish Agency for Israel) have unfairly encouraged post-Soviet Jews to leave the countries of their birth. He presents a series of reasons why he believes Jews in the former Soviet Union should not emigrate from their native lands: "I see it like this: one must not drive anyone away. In Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, indeed everywhere... Jews should still be living there because they have been living there for thousands of years already... so that Jewishness should be present throughout the world". Instead of making Jews leave their homes, states Kaplan, the Joint and other organizations should help them stay and maintain a good standard of living there. Kaplan further states his belief that if the leaders of these international Jewish organizations want to know the truth about Jewish life, they should come to the shtetlekh and smaller communities to see what happens there. Kaplan then details the activities of the town’s contemporary Jewish Sunday School, which is run by an educator from Vinnytsya who teaches Hebrew among other subjects. While Kaplan was born in 1933 in Mohyliv-Podil’s’kyy, his parents where born in smaller villages nearby. His mother Minikhe Velvls (who worked as a teacher of Russian language and literature) and her family came to Mohyliv-Podil’s’kyy from Ozaryntsi, a village 10km away. His father Duvid b”r Avrum (who worked as a soap maker) and his family came from Slydy. His paternal grandfather was “like a Rov” and was a bal-tfile (prayer leader) in his town’s synagogue. When the family moved to Mohyliv-Podil’s’kyy in 1924, this grandfather worked as a cantor. Kaplan takes great pride in his 30 years service in the army (starting in 1951) and is proud of the fact that his twin brother Lev/Leyb and grandchildren have also served. Kaplan grew up in a traditionally religious Jewish home, but did not learn in the local kheyder (religious school for boys), but with a melamed (private teacher) named Tseburskii for four years. From these lessons he learned numerous stories, how to pray, and how to read and write in Yiddish. While in the army, Kaplan says that he forgot how to read, write, and speak in Yiddish, only re-learning how to speak the language since returning to Mohyliv-Podil’s’kyy and working in the local Jewish community. His formal education was exclusively in Russian-language institutions.
00:31:17 Kaplan also sings two songs: A Postekhl (A Shepherd) and Azoy neyt a shnayder (So Sews a Tailor).
00:32:27 Kaplan shows the interviewers his Party membership card for the Communist Party. In the army, Kaplan says he experienced no anti-Semitism because of his serious sense of duty, a quality he now brings to his work in the Jewish community. Kaplan knew many other Jews in the army, including his commander. Anti-Semitism, Kaplan says, however, has been, is and will continue to be in the world, even in Germany and Israel amongst the Jews themselves. Kaplan also answers a series of questions related to sociolinguistics and dialectology, sharing the meaning of various words and idioms. He also remembers various culinary traditions, including his mother’s gefilte fish and homemade horseradish, pitse (calf’s hooves), mandlekh (soup nuts), latkes, mamelige, melay (a baked cornmeal bread), homemade wine, vaynshl nalifke (a kind of cherry liquor) and specific holiday recipes related to Passover and Chanukah. During the war, Kaplan was at first in the ghetto in Mohyliv-Podil’s’kyy and later sent to the camp in Pechera. From there, his family fled to the town of Zhurin, only to be brought back to Pechera before fleeing to Chernivtsi (Kleyn Tshernovits). In the latter town today, Kaplan relates, there are only five or six Jews left, two of whom were recently killed by their neighbors who, upon seeing the Jews assemble their belongings to emigrate from Ukraine, murdered them and stole their money.
01:02:19 End of Recording