By Ruth R. Wisse (ed.)
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Additional resources for A Shtetl and other Yiddish novellas
Before long there was quite a circle of them, made livelier still by the arrival of Itchele the bootmaker, a clean-shaven young man in a tan jacket and patent leather shoes, with twinkling eyes under the narrow peak of his cap. They began to spar playfully, wrestling and comparing their flexed muscles. Just then the young wives walked by on their way to the synagogue, all decked out and carrying ivory-bound prayerbooks carefully wrapped in white kerchiefs. The fellows ogled and shouted, the women blushed and lowered their eyes, scurrying past as if through fire.
One strike followed another; not a workshop or factory was spared. Saturday mornings, when the weather was fair, youths in their best jackets and boots carried on in the street while the synagogue stood silent as a tomb. The sexton complained that there was barely a minyan,* and when Yoyne the scribe, returning home from the Hasidic prayer-house with his followers, caught sight of the young men in the street, he was overcome by a terrible sadness: "Lord of the Universe, I, for my part, forgive them .
Go ahead and shut it down then," nodded Yekl. "I seem to have missed something," continued Reb Oyzer. "Am I such a tyrant, God forbid, that the workers want to put in only the exact time required, to the minute? They're not doctors, they don't need to consult their watches all day. After all, their time isn't all that precious. . You want to know how I treat my workers? I'm not like the rest, you know. I'm a man who studies a shiyur* every morning and then I have to pray, so I'm certainly not busy keeping watch over them.