The other day I received a book that is fascinating to a small group of people, but since I'm one of those people it is tailored to,    it amounts to a window opening onto a long-gone world. It is the Yizkor Buch, Remembrance Book of the Jewish community of Zambrow, Poland.

I am a member of the United Zembrover Society, apparently one of the few active landsmanschaften groups in the Americas. The people who belong have familial roots in the city of Zambrow. My mother, as well as her older sister and her mother, were born in New York City. But other members of the family (and I'm not exactly sure who but there were many from the extended family) lived in Zambrow and then moved to the United States or South America or Israel. Those who stayed in Poland for the most part perished during the Holocaust. The name Jainchill (this is the Anglicized version of the name; there are variant spellings) means "woodpecker" and the Jainchills did call Zambrow home.

The members of the society (of which I am not really an active participant but I follow along with the emails and newsletters) decided to hire a man to translate a Yiddish book or rather a collection that had been collated into a book. This Remembrance book was largely in Yiddish and most of us (included myself) couldn't read much of it. So it was translated, and constituted quite a bit of work.

Then it was published in a small run and made available to our Society. I knew I had to order a copy, if it was there for me to read. How could I pass up the opportunity to learn something about the community of my roots? After all, I am a historian, having written the three Lost Synagogues books and having taught social studies classes for the better part of twenty years.

So the book arrived at our house. And so far I have flipped through it and even shown it to some visitors. My sister in law came to New York from Maryland for a few days and I showed it to her. I do have a sense of pride in it. But I am also quite intimidated by it.
And not just because it is over 500 pages long. There are many pictures in the book so a cursory read can just involve glancing at the photographs. But there is more to this emotion, this attitude. I know I should delve into the book and learn about the community. I should hear in my mind the many voices of Zambrow. I did see where there are entries and information about Jainchills (even with their variant spelling).

The book covers a world that is gone. It is a world that I have read about but will never quite know. The book could therefore open doors for me. But it is scary to dive into this book, into this long-gone world. I am thinking of ways to ease myself into this book. But even that is a daunting task. Do I just start at page one? Should I pick a very interesting chapter? Look for a Hanukkah story in there, because Hanukkah is approaching?

I keep looking at this book and wondering what to make of it. I feel privileged and blessed to own it, to have the opportunity to read it and appreciate it. But I feel so foreign to it. Does that sound odd? For that is how I feel.

I will write more about this book and its meaning as I read more of it. Stay tuned.

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