KONOTOP Jews Past and Present


For example, when the merchant or other entrepreneur became bankrupt, his colleagues, even competitors, gathered some money, which could help the businessman to overcome his difficulties without the need of returning any of the money. But if everything became normalized, that loan of mercy/charity, called “dmilaskhesed,” was always repaid. It happened with the owner, who grew sugar beets. Due to bad weather conditions a part of the yield was destroyed and he couldn't pay his debts, which he had previously borrowed from the bank. Nine Jewish businessmen provided the money. Charity for professional beggars was given in the form of excluding even a shadow of humiliation. Those were people with physical and psychological handicaps. There were twenty professional poor people that didn't ask for alms. Alms were given in such a way — the poor people visited every house of prosperous Jews once each week. Each housekeeper established his own special day and she put some coins on a dish, 3 or 5 kopecks. The visitor took his coin without saying a word. The plate with money was at the entrance to the kitchen. Poor men could buy a French roll with the money. In one week he spent about a ruble. Others may have spent less, 60-80 kopecks. Once a strange act of charity happened. Among the poor people was a beautiful, but a blind girl, and a crippled man. Those heartfelt people decided to express their pity. They collected the money to buy a small dwelling and utensils, and celebrated their wedding. They delivered and brought up two sons. As a rule, members of the community were moderately religious. The synagogue was being visited only during big holidays and fasts. Saturday liturgies were visited by only a few people. Of course, there were some atheists.

The cases when people converted to Christianity or other religions practically didn’t have a place in the town. Even that act automatically freed them from lawful limitations. People didn't mention the fact that if they became Christians they automatically became free from any limitations that had restricted the Jews. Mixed marriages were prohibited, because it touched upon religious changes. The situation changed only after the Soviet revolution, but in the first years after the Revolution, they were still very seldom. For example, when a Jewish girl married with a Ukrainian boy, the whole [Jewish] community stopped any relationships with that family. It happened in 1921 and both young persons were members of the Komsomol organization. Another case happened in the same year. A Jewish girl married a Russian and she made him change his religion.


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