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THE SHIMANOWSKI FAMILY
IN NEW YORK
we remain forevermore a
prey to such atrocities? How many weary days was I scraping together those two rubles for a pair of new Tefilin!” (phylacteries.)
“Esther Leben! How my heart aches! If I only had the means I would flee to the end of the earth. Surely, there cannot be another spot on God's earth where the Jew is so oppressed. Woe, woe is me! But there is a God, the same God who hath delivered his people from Egyptian bondage!”
Thus spoke Chatskel Shimanowski to his wife Esther one morning, after being forced into bribing a burly officer of the peace of Ostrolenka, Poland, where they lived.
Malkeh, their little daughter and only child, had gone on an errand for her mother and on the way was assailed by some rude non-Jewish boys. The father, hearing his little girl's pitiful cries, hurried to her rescue. A crowd had gathered and the policeman, without the least investigation, dragged the Jew to the station. Poor Chatskel, anticipating the consequences, for he knew with what injustice the Jew would be dealt by the magistrate, bought his freedom of the officer with the two rubles above-mentioned.
From that time the Shimanowski family worked more zealously, and lived more economically, than ever before, for they had an aim and that aim was America.
“Well, Esther Leben, with the aid of His blessed Name, we are at last at our destination. Oh, how thankful I am to the Lord of the universe that our tiresome and wearisome trip is over. I thought I would never outlive it. His Name, blessed be it, shall forgive me for uttering such ungrateful words, for naught happens without His design; but very great was the agony I suffered, and chiefly on account of you, my good wife, and of our Malkeh. I. did not murmur for fear of aggravating conditions, but when I saw you and the child suffering, and myself lying prostrate, thus not being able to render assistance, my soul rebelled and my heart felt as if it would break.”
These were the first words spoken by Chatskel Shimanowski on landing in New York at an early hour on a Friday morning, after a most unpleasantly long voyage from Ostrolenka, Poland, not to mention the indescribably annoying ordeals the Shimanowski family was forced to go through on the way from their place of residence to the German frontier, and from thence to Hamburg. They experienced a stormy and disaster-threatening sea journey, which was trying enough to people who are accustomed to traveling and who are provided with all the comforts money can supply; but how much more so to poor people of the kind of Chatskel Shimanowski, of his spouse, Esther, and of their sixteen-year-old daughter, Malkeh, who never in their humble lives were on a railroad train, and a steamer they knew from hearsay only. They had often heard of the woes and tribulations of steerage travel, described in letters by some friends residing in America, but they could never have realized the hardships and deprivations which they went through, particularly Chatskel. He was of a frail constitution, and so pious that he would rather have perished of starvation than
indulged in food not prepared in accordance with Jewish rite. It can therefore be easily imagined what they suffered, and how rejoiced they were when they entered Castle Garden.
No matter how gruesome a feeling we experience when passing through a long tunnel, the moment the smiling sun greets us this feeling entirely vanishes. So it is with a wearisome sea voyage: the moment we leave the ship and behold the spot of our destination, our thoughts are occupied with the surrounding present, with the future, and we are not over desirous of looking back to the past when its pictures are not of an agreeable nature.
This was the case of Mrs. Esther Shimanowski. She was of robust physique and of a philosophical turn of mind, and after her husband had relieved his aching mind by his thanksgivings, she pettingly put her hand on his shoulder and consolingly re