They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland before the Holocaust / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $6.49
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 86%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (21) from $6.49   
  • New (10) from $32.00   
  • Used (11) from $6.49   


Intimate, humorous, and refreshingly candid, this extraordinary work is a remarkable record—in both words and images—of Jewish life in a Polish town before World War II as seen through the eyes of an inquisitive boy. Mayer Kirshenblatt, who was born in 1916 and left Poland for Canada in 1934, taught himself to paint at age 73. Since then, he has made it his mission to remember the world of his childhood in living color, "lest future generations know more about how Jews died than how they lived." This volume presents his lively paintings woven together with a marvelous narrative created from interviews that took place over forty years between Mayer and his daughter, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. Together, father and daughter draw readers into a lost world—we roam the streets and courtyards of the town of Apt, witness details of daily life, and meet those who lived and worked there: the pregnant hunchback, who stood under the wedding canopy just hours before giving birth; the khayder teacher caught in bed with the drummer's wife; the cobbler's son, who was dressed in white pajamas all his life to fool the angel of death; the corpse that was shaved; and the couple who held a "black wedding" in the cemetery during a cholera epidemic. This moving collaboration—a unique blend of memoir, oral history, and artistic interpretation—is at once a labor of love, a tribute to a distinctive imagination, and a brilliant portrait of life in one Jewish home town.

Copub: The Judah L. Magnes Museum

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews
“Brimming with rich narrative detail. . . . This unique project is a blend of memoir, oral history, and visual interpretation.”
Religion & Ethics Nwswkly
“When Kirshenblatt paints Jewish rituals and life, whether in joy or sadness, he preserves . . . the collective memories of the Polish Jewish community.”
Journal of American Folklore - Suzanne MacAulay
"An inventive, lively collection."
Publishers Weekly

Memoirs have become a vital genre in Holocaust studies, and while all are important, the uniqueness of some makes them especially important. Mayer Kirshenblatt (b. 1916) grew up in the small Polish town of Apt, a center of rabbinical culture, and in 1934 emigrated to Canada. When he was in his mid-70s his wife and daughter urged him to paint a visual record of the everyday life of his youth. Kirshenblatt's paintings are amazing-a cross between a childlike realism and the embroidered fantasy of memory; they convey a sense of boyhood innocence tinged with grief. The subjects range from people shopping in town stores and chopping wood to celebrations like weddings and the festival of Succoth. Kirshenblatt has an eye for quirky visual and social detail, as in his picture The Kleptomaniac Slipping a Fish Down Her Bosom.These exactingly reproduced paintings are enhanced by Kirshenblatt's equally fresh memoirs, transmitted to his daughter, Barbara (co-editor, The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times): from jokes that emanated from the women's mikve, or ritual bath, to the mechanics of the local laundry. This collection of pre-Holocaust memories will be a lasting contribution to our understanding of Eastern European Jewish life and culture before its destruction. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Mayer Kirshenblatt is an artist living and working in Toronto. His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at The Jewish Museum in New York, Koffler Gallery, and Canadian National Exhibition, as well as in an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian
Institution. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is University Professor and Professor of Performance Studies at New York University. She is the author of Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage (UC Press) and Image Before My Eyes: A Photographic History of Jewish Life in Poland Before the Holocaust (with Lucjan Dobroszycki) and coeditor of Art from Start to Finish and The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Storehouse of Memories
1. My Town
From the Ancient City Gate
Along the River
The Jewish Street
Competition Was Keen
Getting Around
2. My Family
Dominoes, Cheesecake, and Cigarettes
A Turkey as Big as a Calf
Rivke the Cossack
The Soup Pot Never Left the Stove
The Courtyard
Going Bankrupt
3. My Youth
Robbed of My Youth
Teasing Snails from Their Shells
A Place to Belong
No Future in Apt
4. My Future
A Cold and Stormy Crossing
A Heavy Heart

A Daughter’s Afterword
Note on Language
List of Illustrations


Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)