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Letter from Rabbi Broyde 2
The ocean voyage took five and a half days. We landed in Cherbourg, France. There we were met by a representative of the steamship line. He arranged transportation to the international train to Poland. It took us two days to reach Horodgia, our destination. Fortunately my mother gave me some cake for my brother and myself, so I had some food on the train.
When I arrived in Mir, I was uncomfortably disappointed that there was no running water or sanitary conditions. The change of climate and the atmosphere had an effect on my skin, which became blotchy and itchy. Thank the Lord, I withstood it all and I delved into a spiritual atmosphere of learning Torah and Talmud for six years.
I corresponded with my family by mail only. There was a telephone in the town's post office, but it was very difficult to communicate using it. You had to speak Polish, which I couldn't. You had to make an appointment, which took hours. You had to yell into the phone, before the other party could hear you. There were no commercial flights from Mir. I did not see my family for six years.
Unfortunately World War II broke out. Otherwise, I probably would have stayed another year or two. I was fortunate to get home.
Letter from Rabbi Broyde 3
I was a youngster, a novice in the Mir Yeshiva, some 60 years ago. The 400 students were mostly between 20 and 40 years old. Most of them were Polish, a large number of Russians, about 40 Americans, 40 Germans, a dozen Englishmen, three from Ireland, Canada, Austria and Belgium, two each from Sweden, Holland, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, and France and one South African. It was like a League of Nations, although the Poles and Russians dominated the group. All the student body, except the Poles and Russians were considered foreigners. Most of the foreigners had to have either a Polish or Russian student as a tutor, as the Mir Yeshiva was considered a school of higher learning. The older students were scholars and guided others in their studies.
The dean of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Finkel, lectured twice a week. Rabbi Kamai, of the town of Mir, lectured once a week. These men were talmudical lecturers. The overseer principal was Rabbi Levovitch. He lectured about five times a week. When he spoke, the whole student body stood around him and his lectern. The signal to indicate that he was about to lecture, was when he suddenly turned around in his place, facing the student body after morning prayers. Then there was a mad rush from all the students to be closer to him. My first encounter of this experience knocked me for a loop. I thought something happened to him and everyone ran to assist him. After that incident I was usually one of the closest. He was greatly revered and had a very piercing look. Nobody made any radical change or move without consulting him first. We felt and knew that his opinion and advice was wiser.
The daily program was from seven thirty in the morning until nine thirty in the evening. This included prayers, studying, , breakfast, tutor studying, afternoon prayers, a recess where everyone took a half hour walk, lunch a second session of studying until nine thirty and evening prayers. Groups of five to ten students would eat in town, with meals prepared by Mir townspeople. Usually two boys were share a room, rented from a Mir resident.
The yeshiva gave most of the Polish and Russian boys a stipend each month, besides coupons for bread and meat. The foreigners usually got money from home. Holidays and festivities were both somber and joyous. It is all like a pleasant dream, never to be forgotten.
January 24, 2000Note: Rabbi Yudel (Judah) Broyde, passed away in Jerusalem in 2008
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