This brochure celebrates the lives of Kalman Reisen and his five children: Rebecca, Abraham, Sarah, Hirsh and Zalman; in particular, it tells the story of the brothers Abraham and Zalman, whose names are among the most prominent in the history of the modern Yiddish culture, and in the history of the YIVO Institute as well. It is also a story of an East European Jewish family which, typically, was fated to live through wars, revolutionary upheavals, emigration, and the horrors of the Holocaust.
As histories of such families go, the Reisens hailed from a shtetl, a small town named Koydanovo in Belarus, not far from Minsk. Koydanovo was a proverbial Jewish town with all the usual characteristics: a market square crowding with kromen (stalls), Jewish houses on its perimeters, a tserkov (Russian orthodox church) with five onion-shaped cupolas on the one end and a shulhoyf, a synagogue yard surrounded by the town's synagogues - all four of them, plus a Hasidic shtibl and the rebbe's house - on the other. Six streets ran from the square in opposite directions, and where the streets ended, a forest, a field or a village began. One street stretched all the way to the train station, and that was the promenade: families used to walk there on Shabes and watch the "courier" trains passing by without stopping.
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