by Pauline Wengeroff, translated by Henny Wenkart

My First Days at Kheder

The school memories of a little girl in Lithuania

What was it like to start kindergarten if you were a Lithuanian Jewish girl 165 years ago? In this rare autobiographical portrait of female Jewish life, Pessele Epstein, 1833-1916, (later known as Pauline Wengeroff), is five years old; her big sister, Chore, is seven. The girls’ father, a Talmud scholar whose lineage includes more than ten generations of heads of yeshivas, is a well-to- do contractor for the Czar. He can afford—as only a wealthy Jew could—to send his seven daughters to kheder. The following selection is Wengeroff s earliest Jewish memory:

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