The Barrel Maker

This story is central to my own background. I asked my dad about this story recently. It’s one that always comes up at any Jewish family gathering. He told me that his dad (my grandpa) told him, and that my grandpa’s dad told him this story. In Minsk, Russia, our family was very orthodox Jewish. It was around the turn of the century when this story occurred. This story is a long running one too because my family has always been taught to have a firm handshake, also known as “Levine Hand Strength.” My great-great grandpa was coming from work in Russia one day and a Russian Cossack soldier, typically known to be anti-Semitic, stopped him. After stopping him, he yanked his beard very hard and called him a Jewish slur. Apparently, my great-great grandpa was a prideful man who admitted humility, so his way of showing this, he thanked the Cossack and put his hand out to shake. According to my dad’s grandpa, the barrel maker crushed the Cossack’s hand and blood came out of the finger tips. My dad likes sharing this story because it’s something that helps him reconnect to his heritage and I feel the same way whenever I hear this story at a family gathering. It’s also important to our Jewish background and to remember not let people be bigoted towards a specific group of people. We also reflect on this story of how lucky we are to have gotten out of Russia during this time because if we had stayed, we would’ve endured the Holocaust and other acts against Jews. My dad still doesn’t know if it’s a true story but it’s still a powerful one to tell.