Tales of Bialystok:
A Jewish Journey from Czarist Russia to America
by Charles Zachariah Goldberg
Translated from the Yiddish by Phyllis Goldberg Ross
Published November 15, 2017
Charles Zachariah Goldberg left Bialystok in 1906 at the age of 20 in the aftermath of a deadly pogrom in Bialystok, then a part of Czarist Russia. Published later in life, living in Connecticut, these are his remembrances and stories about growing up in Bialystok, tales of the dreadful, and of the humorous, of family life, and of his journey to America. He writes in a voice all his own, familiar, plainspoken, direct and honest. Originally written in Yiddish for publications in the New York City area in the 1930s and 1940s, Charles Zacariah Goldberg stories capture both the immediacy of his experiences and the tales told him by others.
Zachariah Goldberg was one of the millions of Jews who made their way from czarist Russia to America more than a century ago. In his case, though, he captured some of his experiences and impressions in letters and stories. Collected here by his daughter, Phyllis Goldberg Ross, they offer the memories of a witness with one foot in the Old World -- his native Bialystok -- and the other in the Goldene Medine. Thus, his short accounts combine some of the supernatural quality of Hasidic tales with the un-prettified testimony of the greenhorn immigrant. Goldberg's reports remind us of just why the Jews had to flee eastern Europe, and the dangers they were willing to risk to earn a chance for a new life.
David B. Green, Senior editor, Haaretz English Edition, and author of its "This Day in Jewish History" column
Mary Fillmore, author of An Address in Amsterdam
March 27, 2018
These tales -- A Jewish Journey from Czarist Russia to America -- have been translated from the Yiddish, and sitting down with them is like sitting down with your great-great grandfather, not a literary genius. But that's why they are so gripping: the voice of an ordinary person who has seen both the delights of living in a village surrounded by his own people, and the horrors of the pogroms. Mr. Goldberg's voice is unquenchable, fascinating to listen to, and full of the everyday, real life experiences that made up the immigrant story. The tales are varied, from the horrific to the enchanting to the outrageous. The injustices to which the Jewish people are subjected are catalogued with terrible specificity -- but so are the ingenious strategies they use to escape them. Read them and weep and laugh, and you'll come away with even more respect for the remarkable people who made their lives here after escaping the mass murder that preceded the Holocaust.
A Reader's Review
Since one of my grandparents went on a similar journey as the author, I found this book poignant in bringing back my fond memories of my grandfather. As the author and a peer, he too lived through the pogrom of 1906, moved to New York, had fond memories of his hometown and became a proud American.
This book is a collection of short stories about Bialystok, his struggles and his life in NYC and Connecticut.The author resided in an impoverished section of Bialystok, belonged to an armed self defense group who fought back against the Czar’s organized butchers during the pogrom and had to escape from Russia in order to emigrate. His stories brings back an era when Bialystok was an industrial, cultured, Jewish city in Russian Poland and the challenges that awaited him in moving to the US.
Another Reader's Review
My mother's rabbi reads one story from this collection every time she meets with her special group of elderly listeners. They adore these stories. I think it would be terrific if rabbis (and other cultural leaders of course) everywhere would read these accessible stories to their groups of listeners. The young, the middle-aged, and the elderly would all be able to relate to the sometimes hilarious, sometimes scary, always entertaining, and thought-provoking memories recorded here. All sorts of questions and discussions could follow, and some listeners might be inspired to do further reading on their own from this and other first-person narratives from not only Yiddish culture but all cultures. Good history books give excellent summaries; first-person narratives like these deliver the beating heart of real life.