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November 29, 2015 / 17 Kislev, 5776
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They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories Of A Jewish Childhood Before The Holocaust

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         Most memoirs written by former Jewish citizens of Poland talk in detail of the Shoah, such as the book I wrote about last week, The Zoo Keeper’s Wife. But as I have said many times in the past, “The Jewish history in Poland consisted of nearly a thousand and not just the six years of the Shoah.”



Picking Up the Shabbat Chulent From The Baker, p.210.



         They Called Me Mayer July, is a memoir of Jewish life in Poland, by Mayer Kirshenblatt, born in Apt in 1916, who left Poland at the age of 18 in 1934, before the German invasion and the start of the Shoah. Memories of his early years are very vivid, full of colorful characters, places and events. There is an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words and Mr. Kirshenblatt uses his skill in painting to tell the story of a way of life that has all but disappeared.



Yom Kippur Eve in front of the synagogue of Apt, p.54.



        Though the events depicted in the paintings took place more then 70 years ago, the memories were kept in Mr. Kirshenblatt mind as he only started to paint them at the age of 73 at the urging of his daughter and co-author Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. Each of the paintings is accompanied by a story, the memory from which the painting sprouted.



The Hunchback’s Wedding, p.274.



         There is the story of the hunchback’s wedding, the kleptomaniac, birth and death, religious and secular events all of which made up the life of Jews in Pre-War Poland. Mr. Kirshenblatt also added a few paintings of events that occurred during the Holocaust as told to him by survivors of Apt. “You cannot talk about Jewish life in Poland, Mr. Kirshenblatt said, “without mentioning the final sad chapter.”



The Tombstone Carver, p.153.



         Mr. Kirshenblatt has been traveling the world with his book and paintings. I first met him at the last Krakow Jewish Festival, explaining his mission to show future generations how the Jews lived in Poland “lest they learn more about how they died, than how they lived.” An exhibit of his paintings is planned for the Jewish Museum in N.Y. for 2009.



In The Sukkah, p. 244.

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