04/3/14

A Shtetl in the Caribbean

Read more and contribute to the realization of the project at:
http://www.cinecrowd.nl/een-sjtetl-de-cariben?language=en

Mark Wiznitzer: “Language and culture are so intertwined. My father left Vascauti (Vashkivtsi, Vashkowitz) 40 km from Czernovitz in Bukovina in 1927.He attended cheder and did not have the opportunity to complete his education because he left Romania with his older brothers while in his mid-teens. But he eventually learned to do business in 7 languages, including Japanese. But Yiddish was his first language, in which he wrote to his brothers using Hebrew letters. My maternal grandmother, having finished gymnasium in Dresden where my mother was born, and her Polish-born university-educated husband, spoke German. But their other European languages came in handy as they had their other children in France and Belgium, and settled first in Colombia, and ultimately in Curaçao. To assimilate, my grandfather added “Montevenado” to his name, a Spanish translation of his surname. And so the name on his gravestone in the ancient Jewish cemetery Beit Haim Blenheim reads “Max Hirschberg Montevenado”. My mother, having received a Dutch education in Curaçao was fluent in several languages. But she did not learn Yiddish until she and my father made it through WWII in Japan, where they lived with my father’s cousin from Czernovitz and socialized with other Jews from Eastern Europe, as well as Iraq and Syria. When my parents returned to Curaçao in 1946, Yiddish came in handy as the language of the growing Ashkenazi community, which had reached a sufficient critical mass to resemble a “Shtetl”. In Curaçao we Ashkenzi Jews were callled “Polacos” because the first to arrive came from Polish Galicia, ironically from Snyatin, immediately across the Cheremosh river from, and the nearest town to, my father’s birthplace. My childhood classmate, Sherman de Jesus, lived near our community’s Shaarei Tsedek synagogue and social Club Union. He was fascinated by our community early on. A successful documentary producer and director, he is now completing a film project on the Shtetl in the Caribbean. At the link above, there is a clip of some scenes shot so far in Bukovina, Belarus and Israel.”