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August 22, 2014 / 26 Av, 5774
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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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On that first Thursday evening, Henya-Bluma asked him what time they would be closing the store on Friday, since candlelighting was early. He answered that they were not in a Jewish neighborhood and that the grocery store would be open on Shabbos. When Henya-Bluma protested that she had never worked on Shabbos in her life, he told her that she would have to get used to it.

That Shabbos Henya-Bluma sat behind the counter of the grocery, absorbed in her Tchina. A customer entered the store and placed her selected items, as well as the money to pay for them, on the counter. Henya-Bluma told the woman that she had been unable to find her eyeglasses that morning and told her which button to press to open the cash register. She told the customer that she had an honest face and to just leave the money in the register. When the customer asked for change, Henya-Bluma told her she trusted her to help herself to the change.

When Henya-Bluma’s husband learned about this, he became livid with rage. He pushed her into the house, locked the doors from the outside and went to finish the shift at the grocery. That night he didn’t come home, and when he did arrive in the morning, she had a strong hunch that he had been unfaithful to her. When a wife suspects infidelity, she is usually right.

From then on, he was abusive and aggressive toward her — besides locking her in the house whenever he was away.

Henya-Bluma had two uncles who had come to Chicago around the same time as her. One of them – a rov and sofer – had been a surrogate father to her since her own father had passed away. Chaim-Nuchem Winarsky was very well known and respected in the Orthodox community in Chicago of a century ago.

When her situation became unbearable, Henya-Bluma penned a long letter to her Uncle Chaim-Nuchem, explaining her sad predicament and asking for his advice. When the mailman came to deliver their mail later that day, Henya-Bluma quickly handed the letter to him through an opened living-room window.

 

To be cont’d…

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