Cape Town, Tuesday, 20 February, 1901, Rosh Chodesh first Adar

To my much beloved wife, Taube, may you live in much happiness, and to my dear children, may they live in wealth and comfort.


Dearest wife, I have safely received your letter, although I don’t know what is going on with you. But as the saying goes, ‘the heart is like a clock’ (it tells you!), it indicated to me that all was not well, only I did not know what. I waited every week for your letter and did not receive them in time, and this made me still more anxious so that I could not stand it anymore. So you must please forgive me if I may have written some harsh words. I certainly did not intend to cause you any heartache, and I can well understand that it has cost you plenty in health all the time that I have been away until today, even more than me. So if I may have written some harsh words it was because my heart was very full – so a harsher word came through. But now I ask you a thousand times for the love of God that you should not worry and I thank God that he sustained you and the children and see that you care for them as necessary. I am also taking care of myself. You must not be too economical as you have already passed through bad times. It has drained my marrow. So you should see that you live like a person and not calculate every bite, and you must not try to combine the midday meal with the evening meal so that it will come out cheaper. I hope that God will provide.


If the cow does not give any milk then you must not keep her, you must either slaughter it or sell it. And in time you can get a cow in milk. My father is sure to buy you a good cow, and if you want to have it slaughtered, you don’t need many preparations. You will send it to Moishe Schochet – he will attend to it, and if it is kosher there is no risk and you could sell it to a butcher. See that you arrange a good cow in milk so that you are not without milk, and don’t worry about me at all. The merciful Father has already shown His kindness to me – I am not working as hard as previously and I am earning more than in Russia TG, and I am not longing for the Russian life, with the geese and flax.


How is this year with you? Your brother Moishe writes that you can make a living. For every kopek profit that you have to get from Peter (goy) you have to tear  out half of your heart, and here I am earning TG my rouble as God provides, without any heartache. There are days when I make about five roubles, sometimes four or three or two roubles. If I would have had a shop with goods at your prices, I would have been a whole GENERAL And now when everything is expensive in spite of it, one lives and eats and we are busy and God provides parnassah – profit. Livelier and quicker than with you.


When I came to Cape Town I had £5, I have spent £1½ and I have sent you £ 1½ and I was left with £2, and today my capital consists of £10. £8 I deposited with Lipman Rubin, £1 I have with me and £1 I have to pay off at the end of the week. I thank the Lord for that. At this time it is nothing. I hope with God’s help that He will provide more in future. So you must try and live like a mensch. If the Lord will hear our plea, then we will pay our debts. Please write me a quick reply, and tell how you stand for money for Pesach – if you need I will send you if it should find you short. I had already completed my letter before I had received yours, and I don’t feel like rewriting it all again. Write me the date when you receive my letter, whenever you write a reply so that I can …


I have no fixed business yet and you move around in order to earn a kopek e.g. I bought bottles and bags at the boat and became a glazier and now started something different to trade in and if it will not be satisfactory. I’ll try something PG. I am writing to you every week. We must hope and wait until God will provide us with a fixed business and in the meanwhile one has to be content, I am sending £2 with this letter. PG you should be well and use it in good health.


I am TG keeping well. PG I should hear the same from you and the children, be well and live happily as it wishes you, your ever true husband while we wait on your good reply Tuvye Kretzmar

P.S. I am sorry but I will be sending you the money in the following letter. By the time I had sold my goods, the bank was already closed so I could not get a draft so I’ll send it next week. I also greet cordially my parents Tuvye Kretzmar

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar