The scene is Lodz, the third-largest city in Poland but still a small town at the beginning of the novel. Lodz was incorporated as a city in in the 15th century, and the first chapter almost seems to take place five hundred years before the rest of the novel.
The few dozen Jews who were permitted to live in Lodz were tailors whose services were essential to the gentile community... Jewish corpses were transported by peasant cart to the community of Leczyca, of which the Jews of Lodz were officially a part.
The Jews of Lodz were at odds with the Jews of Leczyca, who were mostly impoverished tailors. While the Lodz Jews were kept busy the year round sewing for gentiles, the Leczyca Jews starved between the seasons when Jews order new gabardines. The Leczyca tailors, therefore, smuggled themselves into Lodz and agreed to work for lower fees. To protect their livelihood, the Lodz Jews denounced the interlopers to the authorities as bunglers and botchers who undercut legitimate guild members and taxpayers. Their humble petition also pledged a donation of tallow for the church and a prayer for the continued well-being of that illustrious sire the prefect.
The prefect's subordinate, the subprefect, sent constables to round up the interlopers. They confiscated their shears and irons and ran them out of town. Those who tried to sneak back were hogtied and flogged.
The Leczyca Jews then refused to bury any more Lodz Jews until they received a ducat per corpse in tribute. The Lodz Jews responded by refusing to pay their communal levies. The Leczyca town elders struck back and pursuaded the authorities to post a soldier in each Lodz Jewish household. The soldiers made themselves quite at home. They sliced their pork with kosher knives, talked smut, made free with the women and mocked the men at prayer. Passover, when it is forbidden for a gentile to be in a Jewish home lest he render it impure, was coming, and the Lodz Jews were forced to lay aside the work they had to finish for the gentiles' Easter and to beg the Leczyca rabbi to have the soldiers removed from their homes.
The Leczyca elders forced the Lodz Jews to remove their boots and humble themselves before them in their stockinged feet. The Lodz Jews also paid an additional tribute and swore on the Torah never again to turn over a Leczyca citizen to gentile hands. The soldiers were duly withdrawn, and the Leczyca Jews began to settle unimpeded in Lodz.
But when a Jew occasionally stumbled into German Wilki, flaxen-haired youths pelted him with rocks and set their dogs on him with the ancient cry "Hep, hep Jude!"This is the fundamental difference in the world of Yud Yud Singer. Yud Bet Singer is the world of soul states, Yud Yud Singer is the mundane and often brutal world of reality. In spite of his reputation, which we'll talk about later, Yud Bet Singer is incredibly unsentimental. But Yud Yud Singer has the heymisher warmth of a cold shower.
And within this brutally realistic world, we see that Jews are incredibly brutal to each other, the only brutality that surpasses their brutality to one another is the brutality of gentiles to them. Here is the description of Heinz Huntze, the German industrialist who rose from the peasantry to own a factory with German workers for whom Avraham Ashkenazi, the brothers' Tateh, works as a sales rep.
The fact was that here, in his huge plant, Heinz Huntze was king of his domain. The fate of thousands--men, their wives, and children--rested in his hands.... If a young man got a girl pregnant, it was within Huntze's province to decide whether or not they should marry. It was entirely up to him, too, to decide whether the mill kept going day and night so that the workers could earn a whole extra ruble a week and their wives could fatten their soup with lard instead of plain oil or whether it shut down until the workers walked about with tongues hanging and their wives had to sell their bodies for a loaf of bread.
It was his alone--the plant, the workers' red cabins resembling barracks, the surrounding fields where his employees planted potatoes and cabbage, the forests where their wives gathered bark and fallen twigs for firewood, the church where they worshiped, the infirmary where they were taken when a machine loped off their fingers, the cemetery where they were buried, the choral societies where they sang of home.
Like every monarch, he despised those who dared be his equal. He seethed with rage at mention of Fritz Goetzke, a former employee who had erected a mill as imposing as his.... What was worse, Goetzke wouldn't let himself be intimidated. Huntze had already squandered a small fortune trying to push him out...
Huntze trembled with rage at the thought of it. "I'll beat him to death!" he shouted in the Saxon dialect that his daughters had forbidden him to use. "Things can't go on this way!"
Sitting next to him, his sales representative, Avbaham Hersh Ashkenazi, shook his head. "Herr Huntze, enough," he pleaded. "The most practical thing is to make up with him. It is written that sholom, peace, is the foundation of the world."
Huntze nearly sprang from his chair.
"You want me to make sholom with that shithead, that louse? I'd sooner croak, Reb Abraham Hersh.
He fully understood why Huntze was so irked that some upstart, a former employee, would dare compete with him, but business was business. Money talks, and Goetzke had the money to do lots of talking. Besides, he had backers ready to extend him unlimited credit. He wouldn't be undersold, and a price of war would benefit only the buyers. The one result would be that both factories would go broke. It would make much more sense to get together, to form a partnership and join forces--Huntze and Goetzke.
This time Huntze did spring from his chair. "I won't hear of such crap!" he roared, pounding the table and switching over to an earthly Lodz Yiddish. "Not another word, Reb Abraham Hersh," he said, stopping up his employees mouth. "I'll never go partners with that swine. . . ."
...He shrugged and merely uttered a few parting words in an intimate tone. "Her Huntze, when you have calmed down, think over what I've said. Only this can save the business."
Abraham Hersh Ashkenazi got his way.
Heinz Huntze ranted, raved, and stamped his feet, vowing that he would sooner go begging than take in that swine and snotnose Fritz Goetzke, but in the end, Abraham Hersh prevailed. He shuttled between Huntze and Goetzke, reasoning, appeasing, quoting parables from the holy books, until he arranged the partnership linking the two houses into one mighty firm bearing the name Huntze and Goetzke.
On account of the billing, the partnership almost ran aground at the last minute. Each partner was adamant that his name should come first, and Abraham Hersh had to employ all his tact and diplomacy to get Goetzke to yield the honor to Huntze.
His reward was his appointment as sales representative of the combined firm.This was the key to Jewish success in the old country, it is, quite sadly, the key to success for many minorities in America, and one day, when antisemitism is truly rife again, (and who, left or right, doubts that day is coming again), it will again be the key to Jewish salvation. Know your place. Anger and pride are luxuries for the privileged. Keep your head down, and make those humiliating compromises nobody else is willing to make. When you get yelled at, you simply take it, you move on, and when the person with greater privilege than you is ready to hear what the practical option is, present it to him as though you're walking on eggshells.
But now, here, is the portrait of Nissan, a young boy and budding communist:
Yes, he hated his father, and along with his father, he hated his holy books that spoke only of pain and were steeped in morals and melancholy; his Torah, so complex and convoluted that it defied all understanding; his whole Jewishness that oppressed the human soul and loaded it down with guilt and remorse. But most of all, Nisssan hated his father's God, that cruel and vengeful being who demanded total obeisance, eternal service, mental and physical self-torture and privation, and the surrender of all choice and will No matter what you did for Him, it wasn't enough. He was never satisfied, and He punished, condemned, and raked man over the coals.
It was because of God who demanded so much that their house was so dark and decrepit. It was because of God that his mother was sick and prematurely aged. It was because of God that he and his sisters went barefoot and hungry. It was because of God that there was only worry, gloom, and despair in the house. And he hated God even more than he hated his father. Out of this rage at the Almighty, he intentionally jumbled the prayers, tore paper on the Sabbath, glanced at the cross on the church, ate dairy without waiting the required six hours after meat, didn't observe the fasts, and read heretic books at Feivel the rag dealer's.In the early 20th century, it was impossible to prevent children from hearing the ideas of the outside world. For the better part of five-hundred years, the Shtetl was mostly an air-tight intellectual compartment for the simple reason that Jews were so persecuted that the outside world seemed like a place of terror. Three hundred years before Hitler was Bogdan Chmielnicki, the Cossack who murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews, and a hundred years after that was the Ba'al Shem Tov, who by founding Hasidism gave Jews a new mystical outlet to sing and dance their troubles away, particularly the poorest and most persecuted. But the nineteenth century, tolerance began to spread, even into the Pale of Settlement, and with new tolerance came new ideas. A hundred years earlier, a boy from a poor family might have discovered Reb Nachman of Breslov rather than Marx.
So let's now move from the portrait of the Communist as a young boy to the portrait of the Capitalist as a young man. Simha Meir Ashkenazi, soon to be Max Ashkenazi, and how he started his process of inheriting the Kingdom of Lodz from Heinz Huntze by marrying into small-time wealth that he was aiming to turn into big-time wealth.
...He envisioned himself as one of the magnates of Lodz, attended by mobs of flunkies awaiting his every command.
But he also knew that Rome hadn't been built in a day. All of Lodz's industrialists had started with handlooms and worked their way up to steam.
He was also keenly aware that his own progess need not be so gradual. Lodz was no longer what it once had been. Everything moved more quickly now. And he would skip the first step. He was, after all, the son of Abraham Hersh Ashkenazi, the son-in-law of Haim Alter, and the possessor of 10,000 rubles (plus interest). With such a start, you could do something, assuming you grasped the essence of business. With sucha . sum, you could begin with fifty, not five, handlooms.
He had already deduced the full measure of his father-in-law's character. He was soft, weak, lazy--devoted to luxuries and comfort and wholly under his wife's thumb. Even as a boy Simha Meir had known that Haim Alter wouldn't fit in the New Lodz. He also knew that eventually, he, Simha Meir would somehow become part of the factory. He had observed it in all its disorder, and he knew that one day it would fall upon someone of business sense, innovation, and daring to turn it into the profitable venture it could be. It was for these reasons that he had refused to accept notes in lieu of cash as part of his dowry. and the wisdom of his judgement was becoming evident now.
Clearly his chance had come. He was sick of hanging around the house, swaying over the Torah like some schoolboy. He knew that the season had been a disastrous one for the weaving industry and that cash was short. He, therefore, expected little opposition to the terms he now broached to his father-in-law.
At first, Haim Alter blustered, accused his son-in-law of having a heart of stone and of being totally corrupt.
Simha Meir kept silent. He suddenly grew inordinately devoted to his studies. Haim Alter avoided him, but as his creditors began to grow more and more insistent and Samuel Leibush could no longer keep them at bay, Haim Alter came around and agreed to all of Simha Meir's conditions.
For the sum of 10,000 rubles, Simha Meir became a one-third partner in the factory. At his insistence, a contract was drawn up between the pair which was filled with provision, clauses, and various "whereases." It took so long to complete that Haim Alter was slavering by the time the money flowed into his fat, eager hands--money that had been his in the first place, money for which he had gone into hock to purchase a brilliant scholar and prodigy for his only daughter.
"You're a hard man, Simha Meir." He sighed as they left the musty notarys office and shook hands on their new partnership.
Having gotten what he wanted, Haim Alter now sought to keep his son-in-law out of the factory and to send him back to his studies. But Simha Meir had other plans. "If we're partners then we're partners in fact, not in name only," he said with assumed righteousness. "I wouldn't let Father-in-law carry the entire burden. I'll hold up my end of the bargain"We then follow into how his jealousy of his brother marrying into still greater wealth leads him to greater greed.
More than ever he spent sleepless nights, scheming how to squeeze even more profits out of the factory. He knew that there was no future in handlooms. They were only a stepping stone. His destiny lay in steam. But in the meantime, he had to find ways to effect new savings.....
His next innovation was to drop his workers' wages a half ruble per week. This would save more than 1,000 rubles a year, not counting the amount he could earn by lending it out at interest....
The workers wailed and pleaded. Their wives came to grovel at Simha Meir's feet, but he wasn't moved. "Whoever wants can quit any time he pleases," he said, tucking his hands into the pockets of his trousers and rising up on tiptoe. "I'd just as soon convert to steam anyway."The union organizer of the workers in Simha Meir's factory is Nissan, the young communist whose gloomy father was Simha Meir's teacher:
Simha Meir's decree had promptly caught Nissan's attention. He remembered Simha Meir well from their days at his father's table. Even then he had hated him for his arrogance, slyness, and ruthlessness. Now he was a manufacturer proposing to starve the families of Jewish workers. And although he didn't work for him, Nissan took the matter as a personal affront and challenge. Every injustice affecting Balut was also his injustice...So now comes the strike:
For a whole week the factory stood idle, yet no one came to grovel at Simha Meir's feet. Just as before the women of Balut had reviled their husbands for their inadequate earnings, so they were the first now to bemoan the good old days when the men had brought money home. "Murderers!" they shrieked at their mates, "Have pity on the little ones at least. . . ."
But the men held firm.
Simha Meir went around in a daze. He couldn't sleep without the rattle of the looms. Life lost all flavor without the daily routine of work. Thursday passed, and the men still didn't report for work, and as if out of spite, orders for goods started pouring in from all over....
"I pawned my pillows for a piece of bread," a weaver moaned.
"I bartered my copper candelabrum for potatoes," complained a second.
"I hocked my prayer shawl and phylacteries to prepare for the Sabbath," said a third....
For days Simha Meir sat calculating, totaling his daily losses at a time when orders were pouring in. It was maddening. True, he had never believed in handlooms. At the first opportunity he would switch to steam. But in the meantime, he had to save every groschen he could lay his hands on. A factory standing idle was intolerable, particularly now that people were clamoring for goods, and Simha Meir didn't cease wetting the tip of his pencil and scribbling figures on every scrap of paper, every tablecloth before him.
From the other side, if he gave in now, it would cost him dearly. Outside of the 1,200 rubles (not counting the interest) he would be losing annually, the nervy beggards demanded a shorter workweek, free candles, and all kinds of other preposterous concessions. Besides, eating only intensified the appetite. Once they got a finger, they would demand the hand. True, he was financial losses, but once they came crawling back, these losses would be more than made up. He would get his revenge. Then, after a few more years of hustling, he would switch over to steam and throw them all out on their behinds.
"I can bide my time," he told the other merchants in the taverns, sipping beer and chewing on peppered chick peas. "Let them get a sniff of hard times. . . ."
And hard times they sniffed in Balut. Each day Samuel Leibush reported the latest news to Simha Meir.
In the small Balut groceries with the swarms of flies buzzing about the bins of candy, the grocers wouldn't issue so much as a slice of bread on credit.
"The account books are already swollen from credit," they cried, pointing to the stained, greasy pages. "No more bread on account. The bakers don't extend us credit."
The weavers dug up article to be pawned--a torn pillowcase, an old-fashioned wedding gown, a winter shawl, even a woman's prayer book. But soon they ran out of pawnable items. The days stretched seemingly without end and the children kept tugging at their aprons: "Mama, bread!"...
Without their husbands' knowledge, women began coming to Simha Meir, begging the loan of a few guldens to tide them over the crisis.
"My old man will work it out," they said. "The children are starving or a crust of bread. To whom then shall we turn if not to you? You are like a father to us, after all!"
Simha Meir gave them neither sympathy nor cash. Money was like a bird, he knew. Once it left the hand, it seldom came back. but he was more than generous with advice.
"Those outcasts (meaning union organizers like Nissan) will be your husbands' death," he said with feeling. "They'll rob them not only of this world but of the world to come."
"May their mouths be twisted around to their backsides for the cunning words with which they duped our men," the women cursed....
The aroused housewives began to trail Tevye and Nissan through the narrow streets and belabored them with curses....
By the third week Simha Meir began to knit his brow and pluck at his beard nervously. His losses were enormous. Customers threatened to switch over to other manufacturers. He began to wonder whether he had gambled and lost. In such cases, the best course was to cut your losses and wait for a better opportunity. But at the last moment he got a sudden flash of inspiration, one so clear and obvious that he almost laughed aloud." ..."fetch me Lippe Halfon. Tell him I need him right now. Very important."....
When Simha Meir finished, Lippe Halfon reached inside his portfolio for a sheet of paper, and in Russian, he carefully noted down the names of the troublemakers. "They're as good as out of your hair already, Gospodin Ashkenazi. Now, as to the matter of the fee--"...
"Naturally no one must know about this," Simha Meir said, escorting the Litvak out.
"Naturally," Lippe Halfon agreed. "Mum's the word."
Late that same night policemen dragged Tevye and Nissan out of their beds. Although it was late, the news of the arrest spread through Balut. People congregated in the streets, and the policemen scattered them with their curved swords...
The prisoners were thrown into a cell among drunks, thieves, and men without proper papers. "Why did they shove you in stir?" the thieves asked Tevye and Nissan.
"We don't know. We haven't done anything," the two men replied.
"Jerks." The thieves laughed. They flung rags at the two prisoners' heads and made them take out the slops.
After two days Tevye and Nissan were led to the office of the police chief himself.
"Tention!" that worthy cried. "Don't you dare twitch even a whisker!"
They didn't understand and tried to mumble something about being innocent, but the policemen expedited their chief's order with whacks to the ribs. "Like this!" they taught the terrified men, pounding their chins and bellies with fists.
The chief fingercombed his bristling side-whiskers and came up so close to the men that he nearly trod on their toes. "So that's how things are?" he asked with the air of a cat toying with a mouse. "Rebels, is it? Rising up against the authority, eh?"
They tried to explain, but this only excerbated the chief's rage. "Silence, sons of bitches!" he roared. "You'll rot in chains! I'll strip the hide from our backs for trying to overthrow a peaceful governmnent!"...Trumped up charges for trying to overthrow the government and indefinite prison time. This is the authoritarian process by which reactionaries in Czarist Russia would dispose of their civil disobedients, and in doing so turned sensitive socialists who just wanted the world to be a fairer place into hardened communists who kill without mercy.
Now comes a description of what was done by Huntze, now a Baron, as an old man to pay the enormous bills of his children who demanded the lifestyles of aristocrats. What follows is horrific and not for the faint of heart, (SEVEREST TRIGGER WARNING), it is the terrifying reality of what probably happened in so many places during the industrial revolution. It is an important portrait because it both establishes the broken world in which Max Ashkenazi and Nissan rose to eminence, and also the world to where capitalist and communist Jews exactly like them both rose to eminence everywhere.
(Again, SEVEREST TRIGGER WARNING)
..True, Baron Huntze could have cut down on expenses at home. Tens of thousands of rubles could be saved annually without the slightest inconvenience. But Albrecht was reluctant to propose this to the baron. Actually, this was out of the old man's hands--it was the work of his daughters, sons, and sons-in-law.
The only remaining source of savings lay in the help.
Here, savings could be effected. True, wages didn't constitute the major source of the operating expenses, but there were so many workers, thousands of them, and only one treasury to carry them all. If each worker drew a little less, the savings would be enormous. In the course of a year all these losses could be made up. Those workers who objected were free to quit. There was no lack of available help in Lodz. Each day hordes of peasant men and women poured into the city in search of work. They would be content to work for pennies, particularly the young girls, who were every bit as capable as any man. The automatic looms required only hands to work the levers, and female hands were no worse than male. Besides, the young country girls were subservient, didn't drink, and were conscientious about the work.
The next day Albrecht directed his foremen to fire as many men as possible and hire girls in their place--the younger the better. Next, he instituted an overall 15 percent cut in wages.
"Good work, Albrechtschen," Huntze said. "Since I've had a new carriage made with the coat of arms and all, I'm giving you my old one along with the team and driver.
"The very next day the new changes were instituted. More and more men were discharged and replaced by peasant girls in flowered head kerchiefs who were paid a third of the men's wages.
Long lines of men, mostly Polish peasants, who anxiously fingered their blue caps waiting for their final wages, queued up before the paymaster's window. "Where to now, Jesus?" they muttered, ahving already doffed their caps long before reaching the paymaster's grille.
The German workers, who hadn't been let go and who lived in dormatories built on the factory grounds, cursed into the goods they were weaving, twisting their oaths along with the yarn and gazing around to see if the foremen had overheard.
At Albrecht's suggestion, the foremen's pay wasn't cut. This assured their loyalty, and they supervised the workers with redoubled suspicion. The humble Polish girls were too frightened to resist when the foremen led them to a bale of goods in the corner, and the foremen sniffed around like bloodhounds to catch the remaining men in a dismissible offense.
Nor did the change in personnel bother Melchior, the attendant, and his friend, Jostel, the watchman. The former frisked the workers as they left the factory to make sure they hadn't filched anything, and the latter was responsible for the plant's security. Together, they had a moneylending sideline going. Theere were men who liked a beer or two after work: others lost their week's pay gambling; still others had to visit the leech about some venereal affliction without telling their wives.
None of this could be deducted from the salaries the men turned over intact to their wives, and they turned to Melchior, who charged only ten kopecks' interest per week. He, Melchior, also collected tips from businessmen who came to visit Huntze and earned additional income procuring for Director Albrecht, who kept bachelor quarters close to the factory. Only the very youngest and freshest girls would do for Albrecht, and Melchior was very popular with the female sex because of his position, his splendid forest green uniform, and his gigantic proportions. As if this weren't enough, he played a clarinet and had a steady supply of wine at home that he collected from the Huntze palace following the parties and balls, and the female workers flocked to him providing him a splendid crop of girls to choose from himself and for the director. The girls inevitably came back from Albrecht's quarters with bruises about their necks and arms and a cheap dress or a ruble in payment. The director paid Melchior handsomeley for his good taste and the endless variety of girls he provided him, and everyone, except possibly the girls, was content.
The workers to whom he, Melchior, lent money would have been astonished to learn that the rate of interest he charged them came to nearly 500 percent, but they didn't bother their heads about such things.
Melchior's friend Jostel had his own little rackets. He took money from the commision salesman whom he admitted into the factory; from buyers of waste who pulled up with huge wagons at the factory gates; from peasants who came to cart away the manure from the stables; from drivers who delivered the raw materials; even from peasants who made the mill their first stop upon their arrival in Lodz.
He also lent money at interest, but to the wives of workers when there was no bread in the house, when a husband had drunk away the week's pay, or when the midwife had to be paid for an abortion resulting from an illicit affair.
Just like Melchior, he enjoyed females visiting in the quarters he maintained in a corner of the factory. But he was already too old for women, and he could only enoy little girls who were willing to kiss an old gandpa for a piece of candy and even play games with him. Not all the mothers were willing to send their daughters to Jostel in lieu of repaying their loans, but there were always enough who did so without the knowledge of their husbands. They recalled their own childhoods when they, too, had allowed themselves to be fondled by such an old "uncle," be it the village teacher, a storekeeper, or whoever. They knew that they hadn't been seriously harmed by this since they had married, borne children, and become good wives.
And they sent their little daughters to Uncle Jostel, cautioning them to do as they were told and to tell no one afterward.
Now that notices were posted int he factory announcing the 15 percent cut in wages, business for the two entrepreneurs was excellent. In the dormitories where the workers lived, times were harsh. The wives no longer added fat to the soup, and they kept serving the same millet with potatoes, which left their husbands unsated and irritable so that out of frustration, they beat their families and got drunk in the taverns. The wives sought to earn some side money, and they sold themselves to the young bachelor weavers who boarded in their kitchens. Children were torn from their dolls and put to work in the factories to bring home a few guldens.
The factory pastor made frequent visits to the workers' quarters. he escorted their children to their final rest with prayers to the Eternal. The police came to search for chickens and piglets appropriated from neighbors. Even dogs started disappearing. It was rumored that the weavers trapped them for their Sunday dinners.
More than usual now the weavers came for loans to the two factotums. Because of the rapid rise of business the userers raised their rate of interest by several groschen. Melchior didn't stop blowing his clarinet for the stunning young women who visited his rooms and served them wines left over from the baron's parties. Old Jostel had all the little girls he wanted for his peculiar games.
The mill worked around the clock to make up its losses. Just as Albrecht had predicted, it was curing itself without resorting to outside means.
"By the end of the year things will be back to normal," he assured his employer. "Possibly even sooner."
"You're a clever rascal, Albrechtschen," Huntze groaned, treating him to a cigar. "JUst don't break my couch with that fat behind of yours. . . ."
"Oh, I won't, Herr Baron," the director assured him, his bulk quivering over his employer's joke.And then come more Jews, now from Moscow:
The liberals advised the new tsar to fllow in his father's ways and to institute even more liberal policies which would win him the support of the people and stifle the revolutionary spirit, while the reactionaries under Pobedonostsev urged him to be stern and root out all the enemies of the monarchy and the church. The minister of the interior, Ignatiev, belonged to the liberal faction, but he lived on a grand scale and spent far beyond what his estates earned him. He assembled the Jewish millionaires of Petersburg and proposed that they raise a half million rubles on his behalf, for which he woudl serve as an advocate for the Jews at court. If his demands weren't met, he would go over to the side of Pobdonostsev.
The Jewish millionaires could have raised the sum, large as it was, but they were reluctant since once the precedent was established, the courtiers would keep bleeding them under threat of depriving the Jews of the few rights they now had. This view waas shared by the rabbis.
Out of rage, Ignatiev did just as he had threatened, and he pursuaded the tsar to bar the Jews from Moscow.
Moscow Jews by the thousands were expelled from the city, along with their wives and children. Some of them went to America, a greater number took refuge in Warsaw but most went to Lodz, the center of Polish industry and commerce.
Traditional Lodz Jew were outraged. The elder Litvaks wore short gabardines, derbies, and fedoras. The younger were clean-shaven. They didn't sway at prayer. They were more like gypsies than Jews. It was rumored that they could cast spells. When a Litvak moved into a house, all those who could afford to moved out. The Lodz men wouldn't include a Litvak in a quorum. The Lodz women wouldn't lend a pot to a Litvak neighbor lest she render it impure. Lodz youngsters taunted Litvak children:
Litvak swine, choo choo choo
Go to hell, do, do, do. . . .
The local resentment grew even more intense when a new wave of settlers arrived from the towns and cities of Lithuania to compete for a livelihood. In contrast with their profligate Moscovite cousins, the Lithuanians were dour, dry, and notoriously tightfisted. All they brought with them to Poland were their teapots and razors with which to shave once a week.
...They couldn't understand Polish Jews, who thought nothing of eating meat daily. They stared in disbelief when locl housewives roasted a goose for the Sabbath and baked trays of cookies. They wondered how the Polish Jews could go to a restaurant to drink beer or whiskey, munch on chick-peas, order chopped liver. They gaped when grown women went into a confectionery for a bar of chocolate.
"Polish gluttons," they sneered, "savages. . . ."
"Lithuanian onionheads," the Polish Jews responded.