Malka Altman grew up with three siblings and lived in Pervomaiscoe, Moldova, before the war. Her parents were also born in Bălţi (Belz). She never went through formal schooling and was trained as tailor. She spent the war years in evacuation. After the war, she worked at a fur factory and raised two children.

The Shtefaneshter Rebbe

Bălţi, Moldova

Malka Altman retells her husband’s experience during the First World War. As a herdsman in charge of supplying meat for the troops, he passed through Ştefăneşti. Encouraged by a non-Jewish woman, he sought out the Ştefăneşti rebbe. According to Malka, her husband joined the famous tish and stayed overnight. Malka's husband was not a herdsman per se. Rather, he was supposed to ask civilians to volunteer cattle to the Army. After his visit to the Rebbe, Malka's husband continued traveling on this mission in the hinterland. For some reason, it became impossible to hand the cattle over to the Army and the war fighting ended in the meantime. The Rebbe's prediction was thus fulfilled.

Malke uses the impersonal construction throughout her description of her husband's visit to the Rebbe, even when she is most likely referring to the Rebbe himself. For example, she says, "one shook his hand" or "one told him that he won't see the front anymore." Malka perhaps does not refer to the Rebbe directly out of respect. However, when Malka makes the Rebbe's promise more concrete, she slightly raises her voice to convey a direct quotation.

The town of Ştefăneşti in Romania was home to an influential Hasidic dynasty, which lasted from 1851 to 1933. Malka’s husband encountered Rabbi Avrohom Mattisyohu Friedman, whose legacy made Ştefăneşti one of the most important Hasidic centers in Eastern Europe. When the rebbe's followers joined him for tish (a meal or other joyous gathering around the rebbe), he was known not to speak, but to create an awe-inspiring atmosphere. He was also well-known for his miracle work revered by Jews and Christians alike.