Cape Town, Wednesday, Parshah Vayigash (2 January, 1901)

To my dear wife, Taube Kretzmar, and dear children, May you all live in much happiness – to my sons, David and Noah, and daughters, Leah and Freda.


Dearest wife – I have received your letter dated fifth day of Kislev (7th November 1899), safely and read with pleasure. I thank God for His Mercy that He grants us health – I can also inform you from my side as I find myself TG quite well and PG I should hear the same from you. Whereas you write that you doubt that I will be able to read your handwriting, I can write you and tell you that I am not such an ignoramus that I should not be able to understand your letter in Yiddish, but if you don’t believe me, what can I do to convince you? I should send you a pilpul (a Talmudic discussion): what I say to the congregration to the pulpit – then you would say it’s a lie! So I’m asking you to believe me just like this, without swearing an oath. And it’s all the same to me whether you write it like this or like that. By that I mean, that you feel unhappy and insulted that I don’t write you about my business… even my father wanted to know and I did not answer him. As we know that you are an educated woman and you can read between the lines so the result is that you are thinking all sorts of things are happening to me. Anything can happen in the world. Maybe even he became a gabbai in a big shul and it does (illegible line) or even maybe in this time he has become a general. So it of course does not suit him to tell everything. Maybe even he may have other businesses which may not be nice to talk about in the goldene Africa. Anyway, as long as you don’t know what is being done… Meantime, I can tell you, openly, that I am indeed the same person as before, as at home, with the same beard, perhaps a little longer. The same as davens minchah and maariv , shabbos with Lecha Dodi with all the details as laid down. It is known to scholars that the external things affect the internal, and this I will convince you when I send you a photograph of myself. Then you’ll see that there is nothing impious on my face.


About the business situation, I don’t know myself what to write and I don’t want to write untruths. And to write the truth I must have patience and not be a bore and write the same things over and over again. So it cannot be so bad; so I will write to you how things are with me today. I buy goods from a wholesaler in different parts of the city and I carry them around town to sell , to those to whom I deliver and to others who come to the shop. So (meile) if they buy I make a profit. And if you get a lot of customers and whatever he needs he orders and you go and get it for him on credit for weekly payments like the Rebbetzin in Birzh. who traded the same way. Usually you get a good price as you’d say in the shop – at the highest price – and if the Lord helps you sell and get the money later, so if you sell for £7 to £8 a week, you know that half of it is profit. This, of course, needs time, until you acquire the customers who are good and honest because there are here a lot of crooks. So we have to have patience and PG He shall grant success as the Lord granted the earlier ones.


So in the meantime I am still in the city because you cannot run around from one corner of the city to the other. You have to see that the customers are concentrated in the one area so it also takes less time to serve them. So if God will help us and I’ll get more good customers, I’ll travel around with the train because a country customer is sometimes better than a town one – but in the meantime, I’m in town, and although I consider you as a clever woman, I nevertheless did not want to show you half a job in my letters. I was hoping to write that business would be all right. It is already two months since I started and I cannot write you all the details in every letter. There is no choice for me and I must write and I hope that with the help of God everything will be well. Because this is a business with some income and may God give us success that we may have good customers and all will be well. in English it means ‘weekly pay’, (in Yiddish ‘a weekly’), and this is already my business since beginning of Cheshvan ( the month after Rosh Hashanah), and you don’t need to worry about it. And now I close my writing and please answer my letter as to how everything is going with you, be well and in good cheer, your ever loving Tuvye Kretzmar


I greet cordially my dear parents, my brothers and sister, may you keep well – I greet also my dear mother-in-law Neche, and my dear brother-in-law Moishe Shochket, and his wife, my sister Sarah, and the children, and my brother-in-law Aaron Morris, and my sister-in-law Reza, if you write me I will answer, and if you don’t feel like writing, I won’t either. I wish you all good luck, Tuvye Kretzmar

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar