Brukhe Feldman was born in 1938 or 1939 in Bershad. Her father died fighting in the war when she was three years old, and she was brought up by her mother. She spent much of her life working in a furniture factory.
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Kheskele - the Clarinetist
A Jew Must Eat Matzo
Postwar Religious Practice
Brukhe Feldman recalls a couple of episodes from her experience of religious life in the postwar Soviet era, Yom Kippur and Memorial services. In a childlike manner, Brukhe remembers how she thought she was about to get caught eating sweets in the synagogue on Yom Kippur. Upon shofar-blowing, Brukhe felt an ominous presence and therefore didn’t reach into her pocket. Brukhe also amusingly points out that she didn't know shofar-blowing signifies the end of Yom Kippur and fasting.
Insights into an active Jewish communal life in Bershad after World War II draw attention to the fact that religious expression did not only take place within the domestic sphere, but also in form of a continual active synagogue life.
This is particularly interesting for two reasons: it demonstrates the perseverance of the Bershad community to express its Jewish identity vis-à-vis Stalinist antisemitic persecution. It also shows the risk the community was willing to take to pass on their Jewish heritage to the next generation - children that were members of Pioneer and Komsomol organizations. The very fact that children attended synagogue services risked discrimination and repercussions at school.
Brukhe’s reflection indicates that she grew up with a strong sense of Jewish identity. Additionally, Brukhe portrays her mother in both clips as persistent in terms of passing on religious customs to her children. This underlines the community’s perseverance to live an expressive Jewish life after the dramatic experience of World War II.
Brukhe, just a child after the war, doesn’t remember her father, who was drafted when she was only three years old and was killed fighting at the front, but she diligently insists in this clip she honored his memory with the yizkor memorial prayer.