Translated by Tusia Dabrowska
We sit in silence, eyeing each other. The manager of the bed and breakfast, his office. Bed and breakfast. Big name. In the old days, they called it a “boarding house,” but “boarding house” sounds too bourgeois. Birkat haBayt, a blessing for the house, written on a decorative card above the bureau: “Let joy and peace reign in this house.” It wasn’t here before. It’s here in place of Isaac Leib Peretz. Or maybe Sholem Aleichem? Serious faces. The giants, classics of Yiddish literature—taken up to the mezzanine.
“Let’s go eat,” he invites me. “Supper is waiting. The others have already finished; it is fairly late. They prefer to eat an hour earlier, at six, so they rest before the evening news. Seven thirty, the holy hour. If some rabbi held a prayer, he would have a hefty crowd. Just that they prefer to sit in front of a television—that kind of prayer, at least nobody is nagging the Lord. Anyway, we even had a rabbi here, years ago. He came from America. He met with us, and let me tell you, they didn’t want to hear him. What do they care about a rabbi? Everyone here fancies themselves a rabbi. And women rebbetzin. But is that even a problem? In their generation? Though they have forgotten, so much time has passed. Since we installed the television sets in rooms, they come out only for meals—or not even that. The common room is a thing of the past.”
The common room, with its artless fresco, is located right behind the dining hall. Once it seemed to me a ballroom; that’s what I used to call it. Separated by heavy, arched doors—crystal framed in wood. Hard to peek in, sacral dusk permeated the inside. The most mysterious place in the house. Only for adults, but I was allowed to watch the bedtime children’s program before the evening news. A color television set showing a snow pattern because no one knew how to fix it. I’m alone in the dark ballroom until, next to me, in a neatly covered armchair, Sir Chaim whistles (…)The old days were always better. This is how the world is goes.
 I.L. Peretz (May 18, 1852 – 3 April 1915) —together with Sholem Aleichem, counted among the three fathers of Yiddish literature. An author, playwright and Yiddish language literature activist, Peretz was also fluent in Polish and Hebrew.
 Sholem Aleichem (March 2, 1859 – May 13, 1916)—the pen name of Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich. One of the three great classical Yiddish writers, Sholem Aleichem is known to international audiences as the author of stories that formed the foundation for the musical Fiddler on the Roof.