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Shiphrah-Leah, the zogerke of Kletsk

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

In the Yizker (memorial) book written by former residents of the shtetl Kletsk, now in Belarus, I found the following short description of a 'zogerke' - a term usually denoting a female prayer-leader – who was serving the community as a professional mourner. The picture, taken from the Yizker Book, is of the Kletsk cemetery. The whole book - in Hebrew and Yiddish - is available online as part of the New York Public Library digital collections.

In Kletsk lived a couple of thousand Jews, and in the cemetery there were no fewer, and still the 'Zogerke' Shiphrah-Leah knew exactly when was the yorstayt of this or that great-grandmother or grandfather and other relatives. In winter, in the worst frost, she would come to announce that tomorrow is the yortsayt [anniversary of death] …

My mother used to give her a clean, pressed handkerchief, and the next day at sundown she would bring it back, soaked through wet with tears which she had shed by my grandmother’s graveside, pleading with her to be an advocate for the whole family... She had earned her fee fairly.

Cohen, Aaron, ‘Folks-mentshn’, Pinkes Kletsk, (Tel Aviv, 1959.) pp. 308-309 (p.309.)

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