The Yiddish Thing - Life In The Shtetl - Kupiskis, Lithuania

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Kupiskis Wall of Memory Holocaust Memorial
July 13, 2004

Recently, a new Jewish Radio Station was created called ChaiFM 101.9 in Johannesburg, South Africa (  One of the interesting weekly programming choices on ChaiFM is hosted by Eli Goldstein and called “The Yiddish Thing – Life in the Shtetl”.  The program focuses on shtetls in Lithuania and other countries as well as towns in South Africa where Jews lived and discusses issues of the Yiddish language, culture and music.  In the past, Eli has interviewed individuals about Rokiskis, Lithuania, and other shtetls as well as former Litvak SIG President Howard Margol. 

With the capability of audio streaming, and the ability to text, e-mail or call into the program, anyone, anywhere in the world, can participate in the program which means it has come to have a worldwide audience.

During the Sunday, June 14, 2009, program, Mr. Goldstein conducted interviews with three separate individuals.  The first segment was an interview with myself and dealt with Kupiskis, Lithuania, my ancestral shtetl.  Then, there was a segment with an interview with Aaron Lansky, founder and President of the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA.  
A final segment featured Elona Steinfeld, who is involved with the Country Communities Project, South African Friends of Beit Hatefutsoth, which has produced a series of books dealing with the small places in South Africa where Jews lived.  Her focus on this program was Parys, South Africa.  She and I had met whilst she was doing research on the place my family had settled in South Africa, Bot Rivier. 

During my segment, I read from an unpublished autobiography of Miriam Sachar Fendel.  The excerpt had shown the pain felt at parting when family left Lithuania for other faraway places.  Another reading was from a short story about Mendel-Leib Rabinowitz who was able to answer a kashe (a question about the torah) from two young students, Ephraim Oshry (later Rabbi Oshry) and Shlomo Kodesh. 

I had a call in from Cedric Ginsburg, Professor of Classical, Near and Far Eastern and Religious Studies at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, South Africa.  Whilst he was not a Kupiskis descendant, he was interested in the Holocaust and its impact on the shtetl and asked about the Yizkor Book for the town.  I could provide him with information on how to get a copy of the Yizkor book which had been written by the late Stanley Mayersohn.  Other individuals e-mailed me and called after the program, all interested in their actual connections to Kupiskis.
One of the serendipitous contacts was Les Melamed who missed the program as he was in the process of flying home to Canada at the time.  Upon reaching home, he sent me a photo of his great aunt's tombstone in Parys, South Africa.  His great aunt, Rachel Alufovitz Wunsh,  was born in Kupiskis and coincidentally lived and died in Parys, the town which was also under discussion on the program. 

It happened that the short story I read on the program was about Mendel Leib Rabinowitz whose wife Mina was Rachel’s sister.  Mendel Leib’s entire family had been killed in the Holoucast in 1941, but here was a branch of his wife’s family who survived as they had managed to reach South Africa years before.
Rachel Alufovitz Wunsh, Born Kupiskis, Lithuania
Sister of Mina Alufovitz Rabinowitz
Parys, South Africa

This information was transferred to Elona Steinfeld, who can now add this to her research on the families of Parys, South Africa, and use it in the next Country Communities book which will encompass that area.

The availability of such programs as this can be added to the arsenal of tools which genealogists can utilize to learn more about their ancestry.  This particular program and the segment about Kupiskis can be listened to by clicking here.
You can also learn more about Kupiskis by going to JewishGen’s ShtetLinks site. The site includes a section about the Holocaust and excerpts from the Yizkor Book as well as many photos and information about Kupiskis families.

For those interested in learning more about various shtetls and also places in South Africa, the next program on ChaiFM will cover interviews with Deena Berton, Board of Directors, LitvakSIG, who is researching the shtetl of Pikeliai and Abel Nathan and his brother Dr. Mossie Nathan of Vrede, South Africa, on Sunday, June 21, 2009, at 16:30 p.m. Johannesburg time, and 10:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time in America.

1 comment:

  1. I neglected to thank Linda Cantor, President, JGS (NY), and a Kupishoker descendant for very kindly recording my interview on ChaiFM.


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