Aaron B. Rappaport: Early Days in Zheremitz and Baravina

Aaron B. Rappaport: Early Days in Zheremitz and Baravina

by Ruth Rappaport

My paternal grandfather, Aaron B. Rappaport, was born in 1894 in Zheremitz, a tiny shtetl 10 kilometers west of Berezin. His father, Gershon Rappaport, operated a mill there on the River Sharnoroka. When it burned down, Gershon moved to America in 1903, leaving his wife, Chasha May Rappaport, behind with my young grandfather and his siblings. Chasha and the children later moved four kilometers north to a slightly larger town, Baravina, where there were better educational opportunities. It wasn’t until 1911 that they joined the family in Ulster County in upstate New York.


In the United States Aaron Rappaport became a renowned Yiddish writer (besides repairing sewing machines). He published several books, including Deborah the Prophet. He and his wife, poet Malka Lee, were at the center of a circle of Yiddish writers, poets, and playwrights. As residents of the Sholem Aleichem Houses in The Bronx, a cooperative apartment community of Jewish artists and intellectuals, they were at the forefront of Yiddish culture from the 1920s until the 1960s. They also built and operated a “bungalow colony” in High Falls, New York, next to the farm that Gershon and Chasha had built. The cottages, known as Lee-Ra Colony, were popular among Yiddish poets, artists, and left-wing intellectuals.


Aaron and Malka had two children, Joseph and Yvette. Joseph married my mother, Naomi Chaitman Rappaport, who, in the late 1940s, was a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University in New York.

As part of an assignment, Naomi interviewed my grandfather about growing up in Zheremitz and Baravina, the transcripts of which you see here:

Aaron B. Rappaport: Early Days in Zheremitz and Baravina


Please note that Aaron stated the wrong name for his birthplace, Zheremitz. He called it “Berezina” because it was near the Berezina River.


Aaron B. Rappaport died in 1964.

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