Cape Town, December, 1899

To my dear and honoured father, Yehuda Leib Kretzmar, and my chaste and modest mother, Beile, may they live well for many years, and to my scholarly brother, Yaacov Kretzmar, and my younger brothers and sisters, may they all be blessed with all the best. And to my dear and beloved wife, Taube Kretzmar, and my dear children, David and Noah, daughters Leah and Freda, may they live in pleasure and happiness.


My dearest wife, I have received your letter after waiting a long time because you have already received many letters from me and I have received nothing from you so I was very happy to hear about your good health – but alas, what you write me that you have been upset about me that I am in such unfortunate circumstances and that I am in a strange medinah (environment) and without a kopek of money and that I may postpone my breakfast to lunchtime, I want you to know that I have the means to manage.


My dear wife, I thank God, who feeds all his creatures, up to him I have always made my expenses and have even saved about  £2. I have sent you £1½, surely you will have received it together with the five roubles which I lent to Moishe Katz, and I wrote that he should pay you back in Russian money.


I have spent  £½ on clothes – a small pillow and a blanket and a bed I have bought. May God grant that I use it all in good health. I hope it does not get worse. We are living five men in one room, and we have utensils and a primus stove, it is the cheapest thing that I can use for cooking. Fish in Cape Town is not expensive – may God grant us the good health and good business. The £5 that I brought with me to Cape Town in order to go to Johannesburg I still have, and further I hope that God will provide. May the Lord grant good health – there is plenty of work. We just don’t make any plans and at such a time if you can manage to live and to send something to the family it is very good. Because no one has made a contract with the Lord. And when salvation will come to all the Johannesburgers, I hope my position will also become easier.


I am well TG, may God grant that my letter should reach you in the best of health and in future I ask you to write me longer letters. I will give you an instance of your own – you used to complain that when I arrived home I told you no news – now I wish that you would write me more about yourself. From your letter that you wrote c/o Lipman ‘a big blot’. Write me what David is doing, and Yehuda Zvi Rubin from Kesselshik – in one word please to write about you in particular. I am closing my writing. Keep well and stay well in pleasure as is the wish of your son and husband and father and relation and I remain waiting for your reply, Tuvye Kretzmar


To my brother-in-law, Moishe Schochet Morris, and his wife, my sister and their children, may God bless them all. Many thanks my dear brother-in-law for your letter and the signature of your daughters, each one separately, and may we all get good news from each other.


My friend, you wrote that according to your opinion, you don’t understand all the diplomacy in the Transvaal. I am very sorry that they started this without asking your advice – believe me, I’m doubly sorry about it. Firstly, if it had not been for the war, I would have gone to Johannesburg. And secondly, how can I take it quietly when the widow Victoria has all the expenses involved in it. I can only see that every day boats arrive fully packed like cattle, in their thousands, and every one of them is well dressed in different uniforms. Some of them have red clothes only, another group is dressed in white, and others in black and green, and all other colours and all new-made, with plenty of arms and ammunition and food and horses and mules by the hundreds. As it is said, ‘there is no poverty in the place of plenty’ (for war there is always money), because who can weigh and measure the enormous amounts that are being spent until all this arrives at its destination. As the posek says ‘nobody can find what is in the heart of the kings’ (query proverbs), and therefore if I don’t know their calculations and I don’t know their aims, I have to keep quiet and not open my mouth because I have to keep in neutral until peace and salvation will come. And so I remain your dear brother-in-law, Tuvye Kretzmar


I greet cordially my dear mother-in-law, the chaste and modest Neche, and my sister-in-law, Chana Reza, I thank you very heartily my dear mother-in-law for the prayers and the psalms which you say for me, because that can help a lot as here in Africa the chasan gets 100 rouble for davening three mousafs, so to pray constantly is certainly good. I thank you very much for it. And to you, my dear sister-in-law, I thank you for looking after my sons. TG he will reward our happiness, then everything will be right.


Cordial greetings to the whole family, to Yisrael Yaacov Greentuch and Schneier Zalman Katz and Aaron Katz and David Katz and Zvi Rubin and their families, and Aaron Leib and his family, I wish you all the best of everything, your friend, Tuvye Kretzmar

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar