This is a picture of My Great Great Grandfather Sheppard “Shepsel”Slobotzki Shepsel which means “Little Lamb”..
He owned a tavern in the late 1800’s in Poland that my Grandmother remembered from her earliest memories. I filmed her many years ago for a good hour and took her back there under my guidance and penetrating questions. It was like a guided meditation and i asked her to describe the tavern and the furnishings and the food. It was quite something .
The family name was Slobotzky and i presume it was from a famous “Yeshiva” (religious school of Talmudic study) called Slobodka a town in Lithuania near Kovno.. .It was known colloquially as the “mother of yeshivas” and was devoted to high-level study of the Talmud.
Yeshivas stemmed from 1863 and the Slobotka Yeshiva was famous throughout the Jewish world of Talmud.
In my research i have found the family came from Bialystok once upon a time.
Not only did he run the tavern but was the manager of the Czar’s forest and responsible for allowing wood to the peasants according to my Grandmother …He had a flaming red beard which accounts for the red i once had in my beard…
One day i found a miniature photo in my Grandmother’s drawer and i asked who this was and she told me and i borrowed the photo and had it blown up 10 times and sent it to relatives around the world.
In the late 1800s, unemployment of Jews in Eastern Europe was as high as 40%. One-fifth of the Jewish community in Poland was reduced to begging. The economic opportunities for Jews in Eastern Europe were always minimal. And not only for Jews, but for everybody.
Nevertheless, the early Polish kings offered Jews certain unique economic opportunities when they first came to Poland. Among them was that Jews were entitled to obtain liquor licenses.
All of Eastern Europe, even today, has a strong history of alcoholism. Even in Italy or France, children can drink a whole bottle of wine at a meal. In Poland and Russia, alcoholism has been a way of life for the past 1,000 years, long before the Jews arrived. Jews were remarkably immune from the disease of alcoholism. The religious life of the Jew protected him from it — not that it was forbidden to drink, but Jew alcoholics were rare.
Today i am a case in point.I like a glass of wine every now and then ..It is pleasant especially with a meal or watching a sunset in Spain but i rarely get drunk and never more than two glasses which in itself is rare and yet i see around me as i travel in life so many alcoholics…and this is a great pity because i have seen the damage it has wreaked on families. There are very few alcoholics among Jews.
Alcohol was always heavily taxed by the government. The kings and noblemen of Russia and Poland saw in the increase and control of the alcohol business a chance to gain more revenue.
Even though selling alcohol became a Jewish business (although non-Jews of course engaged in it as well) it was not the type of business that would endear the tavern keeper to his patrons. People spent their last kopek on drinks and then went home with nothing to buy food for their children. They then turned the wrath for their own shortcomings onto the people that took their last kopek from them. In most cases it was the Jewish tavern owner. Whenever a pogrom started, the first place attacked was usually the tavern. It was the front line of the Jewish and non-Jewish relationship.