Character Study – Svechka, Moldavia

Published August 18, 2016 by rochellewisoff

“More pogroms. And so close.” Rabbi Yussel Gitterman’s sightless eyes filled with tears.

Eighteen-year-old Arel Gitterman pulled his coat around his ears and shivered, partly from cold and partly with rage. What had they done to make the Christians hate them so much? “We should retaliate. We should gather all of the young men—”

“Shah! Such nonsense!”

“Ouch! Papa, is it unreasonable for men to protect their homes?”

“Remember, my son. A soft answer turns away wrath.”

“How can you say that, Papa? Last night innocent people were murdered in their beds all over the countryside. Did they have time to make an answer—of any kind?”

Hershel Levine’s green eyes flashed. “The lad makes sense, Yussel. There is much cruelty in the world. Sometimes one has to wonder what the Almighty is thinking.”

“So, Hershel, my old friend, do you think the three of us, an old cantor, a blind rabbi and a boy who’s barely able to squeeze out a whisker are going to seek revenge on those animals with their guns and Czar Nicolas, may his name be blotted out?”

Arel gritted his teeth. “Reb Pinkas said he heard the Christians burned down a synagogue. A rabbi died trying to protect the sacred scrolls. Papa, it could just as easily have been you.”     

“Reb Pinkas is up early bearing his tales. Yes, it could have been any Jew in this land, my Son.” Yussel patted his shoulder. “It’s dangerous to be a Jew in this Pale of Settlement. But now let’s tend to matters at hand. It’s Shabbes, the Sabbath, and we have a synagogue to prepare for morning services.”

“Yes, Papa.” Arel knew from experience arguing with his father would not accomplish anything. Still his anger boiled because they were Jews who lived in poverty under the tyranny of the Russians. Prisoners in their own country, unable own land and denied education beyond their Hebrew schools.

For the next few moments Yussel’s cane tapping along the frozen ground was the only sound. Each man lost in his own thoughts, they approached the synagogue, the largest building in the Jewish quarter of Svechka.

To call a backward village “The Candle” was a contradiction. Arel supposed at some point in time the Russians considered it a place of enlightenment.

~~Taken from Please Say Kaddish for Me by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

YUSSEL GITTERMAN -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

YUSSEL GITTERMAN -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Published by Argus Publishing

Represented by Loiacono Literary Agency


To the best of my knowledge, the shtetl or village known in Please Say Kaddish for Me as Svechka only exists in the author’s imagination. Like Anatevka in Fiddler on the Roof it represents the many villages scattered throughout Eastern Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

HERSHEL LEVINE - Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

HERSHEL LEVINE – Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Shtetl is Yiddish for “little town.” These villages ranged in size from several hundred residents to several thousand. The Jews usually lived within the town while the Gentiles tended to live on the outskirts. Central to the Jewish community was the Synagogue and Kahal, the community council. Most of the shtetl Jews were artisans and shop owners while the scholars were the revered minority. Both Arel and Havah, the children of rabbis, have grown up in their respective shtetls, Natalya and Svechka, as members of the elite part of their societies.

Framed Arel in Svechka

AREL GITTERMAN -Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields



Framed Havah at 16

HAVAH COHEN – Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Enjoy a little taste of what their world was like. 

 Note: If you’ve read and enjoyed either or both of my books, please leave a review on and any of the other sites. I ask for Amazon primarily because of the scope of influence. Thank you.



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Check out my author page on the Loiacono Website.  For all of the character studies thus far, click on the link Rochelle Wisoff-Fields Art and Blogs or my website RochelleWordArt

12 comments on “Character Study – Svechka, Moldavia

  • I was born and raised right on the border between Italy and Austria. Hungary and Austria have been one once and there are still signs of it everywhere. Hungary is such a beautiful country. The music, the smell, the food, the people and the puszta. I am part Jewish, a fact that had been hidden from me until the age of 14. My Grandmother, the wonderful woman who raised me, had to hide in the Alps during parts of WWII.
    I don’t belong to any religion, but I love to read about my heritage. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Bridget,

      After WWII it seems there were two schools of thought. Some hid their Jewishness while others, like my mother, would never forget or let their children forget who they were.

      Naturally it’s my hope that in your reading about your heritage, that you’ll include my books.😉 Thank you for sharing a bit of your history and for your kind comments.



      Liked by 1 person

  • Oh, I dearly loved this little vision. Love the effect of the tapping of the cane and the “light”… even the Sabbath prep… life went on ~ goes on despite the persecutions..Ain’t so! So much grief… and still an issue in today’s world. Words just don’t convey the understanding I have within my heart for this one. Excellente! Bravissimo! Aho! Amen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Jelli,

      One of my favorite lines in FOTR, “Why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous? We stay because Anatevka’s our home.”

      Thank you so much for your glowing words. Naturally I hope that you’ll read the rest of the book.😉




  • This is wonderful, Rochelle. That combination of the extract from your book and the music is perfect. The music is so beautiful, but melancholic too, though perhaps this is in part because we know what happened to many of these towns and their residents. You have captured so well exactly what Fiddler on the Roof manages to achieve too – depicting a catastrophic event while showing us character and story.
    Wonderfully done.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Dear Lynn,

    When I was pitching Please Say Kaddish to agents, my opening line was that it could be subtitled “The Dark Side of Fiddler on the Roof”😉
    Perhaps it’s that part of me who has descended from this culture that adores the violin and history.

    Thank you for such a wonderful comment.




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