The genus Behar in "Genus" on BNT 1December, 2020
А movie about Behars, their roots and emotional family stories, and about the long way from the small town Bejar in Spain to Shumen in Bulgaria in 1492. Maxim Behar reveals exciting stories and messages from his family, along with the wills of his grandfather Moshe and his grandmother Matilda - words he will never forget!
Narrator: This is "Genes" - a show that collects family stories not to make people who once lived heroes, but to give you the opportunity to judge for yourself what their heirs are today. A show that does not tell ordinary memories, but parables in which the past meets the present to support the future. A transmission about the values that accompany us, about the people from whose lips we have heard them, about the signs we encounter on our paths to remind us that life is a string of promises that must be fulfilled. This is "Genes", and today we are with Maxim Behar.
Maxim Behar: Behar in Shumen or Behar from Shumen.
Narrator: Yes, we are now in Shumen, the town where the Behar family settled when they came to Bulgaria. But Shumen is far from the place where the family originates.
Maxim Behar: Actually, Behar comes from Bejar. This is a city in Spain, near Salamanca, where I was very lucky to be a few years ago, to receive the city's badge of honor from its mayor, to see the city they came from in 1492, I put big quotes in the verb "came", my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfathers and they fell into the Ottoman Empire. They came here from Spain. And just a small part of this story represents the Behar family.
Narrator: And everything in Spain starts with the end of the so-called "Reconquista" the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the power of the Muslims. At that time, the marriage between Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon united Spain, and the Holy Inquisition was headed by Father Torquemada. It was under his pressure that the two signed the Alhambra Decree for the expulsion of all Jews from Spain. With it, they break a series of promises to their Jewish subjects.
Maxim Behar: 1492. This is actually the key year of all the so-called "Sephardic Jews" or these are the settlers from Spain, then expelled by the infantry, by the Inquisition and my ancestors, Beharovtsi, fall here in Shumen or around Shumen, which at that time was the Ottoman Empire. They were accepted with open arms, so at least all historical books, memories, data show, as far as it was possible to describe at that time, of course.
Narrator: Forced to leave their homes, Sephardic Jews find their new home in the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Bayezid II of the time ordered: "Do not refuse the entry of the Jews or cause them difficulties, but accept them warmly." Moreover, Ottoman ships were sent to Spain to transport some of the refugees to the Balkans.
Maxim Behar: Leaving Spain, they did not know what was happening outside the country, there was no information. They did not know whether Jews were being persecuted throughout Europe during this time, or whether the religion was in some way restricted in other countries. And so, leaving Spain, they decided to take the names of the cities in which they lived so that they could really present themselves as Spaniards rather than Jews, not knowing what was going on outside the country. And so they arrived in these lands, the Ottoman Empire of the time, now Bulgaria, they arrived with their surname Behar.
Narrator: This is how the new surname Behar starts from the name of the lost birthplace.
Maxim Behar: Behar, who in those years, probably the end of the XIV, the beginning of the XV century settled in the Ottoman Empire are the so-called "Sephardi." Either these are the settlers from Spain who come with their customs, they come with their language Ladino, or when I was little it was called Spaniel. All the Jewish families in Shumen we knew spoke to each other in Spaniel, especially when they wanted for children not to understand, especially when they were talking about politics or some interesting things, only this language was spoken.
Narrator: Today the Ladino language is less and less common among the community of Bulgarian Jews.
Maxim Behar: None of us speak or few speak Spanish.
Narrator: Initially, large Sephardic groups settled in Edirne, Thessaloniki and other major cities of the empire.
Maxim Behar: The story of my relatives was probably very difficult and very contradictory, because they found themselves in a place, in an empire or among people who do not speak the language, do not know their customs, completely different, quite different, radically different, and yet they have managed to be one with them.
Narrator: The fugitives from Spain fit into the life of the empire relatively easily. It is said that Sultan Bayezid II himself stated that the Catholic King Ferdinand was wrongly considered smart after persecuting the Jews, thus enriching the Ottoman Empire at the expense of the unification of Spain. And this is not accidental, because the Jews brought the most important thing - knowledge.
Maxim Behar: 100 percent of those who moved to our lands at that time were merchants. We know about the Jews that they are good merchants, we know that they are musicians, writers, creators, artists. A composer needs only one instrument, they can travel the world with it. A trader only needs a good sense of bargaining, how to make them buy and sell something and stay honest. This is a very difficult craft by the way. Therefore, when they settled in these lands, they began to engage in trade. Every nation, every large group of people who moved from place to place loved to have their craft in their inner pocket.
Narrator: Sephardic communities are gradually beginning to settle in the interior of the Bulgarian lands, mainly in large cities - strong economically and militarily secure. At that time, Shumen was already one of the largest military cities in the European part of the empire. The city has a fortress, Tombul Mosque, and the first imperial military hospital.
Beta Haralanova: There is still no evidence for the history of the Jews about the exact year when they settled in the town of Shumen, but according to our research, not only mine, but also research of various historians and memories that have been transmitted, it is already known that in the middle of the 18th century Jews were spoken of in our city. Here came the first Jews from the city of Edirne as doctors who were in the Ottoman army. They settled in the area of the westernmost part of the city between the Kyoshkovets and the Tombul mosque in a so-called "large yard" in the beginning several families. Gradually their number increased, they came from the Vidin region, they also came from Southern Bulgaria and so the Jewish quarter was created.
Narrator: In Shumen the community quickly began to develop and soon after settling it built its own house of prayer - the first synagogue.
Beta Haralanova: Among the particularly active Jews in the middle of the 19th century was Menachem Navon. He also became chairman of the organization, of the local Jewish organization, a young man who knew foreign languages, who had studied in Edirne but had really succeeded, came here with his parents and managed to unite the youngest part of the city's Jews. Thanks to him, in 1860 the synagogue was built, it was really beautiful for its time, with very good acoustics, two-storey, one of the largest synagogues in Bulgaria.
Narrator: The synagogue was consecrated in 1860, and soon after, Menachem Navon took the initiative to open a secular school because a religious one was already operating in the synagogue's courtyard.
Beta Haralanova: In 1870 he managed to get in touch with Baron Hirsch and thanks to him, with a donation and connections with the Alliance Française, the first Jewish school for boys in Bulgaria was built.
Narrator: Baron Hirsch, who remained in Bulgarian history with his famous railway, is also a prominent figure in the international Jewish movement. With his help in 1874 the first school for girls was opened in Shumen. Later, grateful citizens built a fountain in his honor.
Beta Haralanova: He is one of the biggest donors for the construction of the school itself. From the beginning he gave 100 million gold francs, that is 1870, then he gave another 4 million for the construction of the girls' school and when in April 1896 he died, this fountain was built in the school yard in his memory.
Narrator: At the beginning of the 20th century, life in the Jewish quarter of Shumen was in full swing. Shops and workshops began to open in the central part of the city. Modern houses were built for their time, and the social profile of the Jews in the city was diversified.
Beta Haralanova: Mainly as traders, there were few manufacturers, there were goldsmiths, sarafs, to be more precise, there were also a few craftsmen. Naturally, a large part of the Jewish population living in this neighborhood is also from the poor population, which for the most part was in Shumen at that time.
Narrator: Few have already witnessed that time - a living Jewish neighborhood full of people and noise.
Niko Mayer: The Jewish quarter was a kind of ghetto, starting from the Tombul mosque and leading to the Kyoshkovete themselves. Located between the southern and northern banks of the river, as it was called "Bokludzha", Poroyna. One street passed through it from the station to Kyoshkovete and this was the main street of Shumen as well.
Narrator: The emigration of Jews to the newly created state of Israel in 1949-1950 will seriously bleed the Jewish quarter. Only a few families remained in Shumen, mostly young people, who promised each other to build their new lives not there, in the Promised Land of Canaan, but here, where their ancestors once found salvation.
Maxim Behar: When I was born, there were seven Jewish families who lived very close together. We went every Sunday on picnics in the corners, on the plateau, the fortress, we had picnics, and when it was a cold winter time we gathered at the houses in our small, very, very small, cramped apartments, all seven families.
Narrator: And Maxim, as is right for every grandson, has his own memories of his grandmother, the neighborhood and his native house.
Maxim Behar: My father, my grandmother Matilda, told me about their life here. My father was left an orphan at a very young age, he was only 3 years old and somewhere around 10, 11, 12 years, he was left alone with his mother and sister. The only man in the family had to work in the local oil mill from a very young age. And I know, my grandmother used to tell me, how she waited for him late at night at the window so that he could show up and she can be calm, to know that he had come home.
Narrator: Grandma Matilda and the children were left alone too early. Grandfather Moshe Behar left without being able to leave them an inheritance, even though he was a merchant. He bequeathed to them only what was left of him in the end - the good name. Not many people can leave such worthy words behind.
Maxim Behar: Written on February 5, 1930 in the Central Hotel, room number 40: "I, who did not know how to refuse anyone, but gave everyone what they needed to help them, now during these months to fall to the bottom of the sea. What shortens my life now is the constant thought of how to meet our debts. The doors that were open to us have already closed. Why? I don't know. They seem to have slandered us. I wish them well, too. We reap as we sow. My sons, knowing your character, you know that I will not be able to bear the shame of the people we have worked with for so many years, and I do not want to ask you in the name of my memory to don't worry about litigating in the courts with people who are stronger than you. When you seek your justice, do so only for good. "
Narrator: This is part of the death letter of Moshe Behar, who ended his life in a room in the Central Hotel in Sofia.
Maxim Behar: "Now, my dear sons, you can keep your name, the name of the company and gradually eliminate all debts where you can, and where you cannot, we will ask them to wait. You will raise money and you pay the debts ". Exactly what they did. "Ask those who can wait a little longer to do so to keep yours and their interests. You will give less to some, but you will give to all. Some may wait, but you will not leave any debtor without paying them." This is very strong words that I have read hundreds of times, of course, which belong to my grandfather Moshe Behar.
Narrator: Behind this letter is the story of Grandpa Moshe, an egg trader with offices in several European capitals, who, in the wake of the Great Depression, found himself with a large number of eggs bought on credit that he had to sell.
Maxim Behar: The system worked in such a way that he took loans from the bank, paid all taxes, fees, customs duties, imported the eggs, sold them, then repaid the loans and so on for years. But by 1929, all the banks had already shrunk their budgets a lot, they looked at things much more conservatively, my grandfather Moshe wandered the streets of Sofia and entered one bank, another, a third, a fourth. They all chased him to give him loans only a few months ago, now they refuse him. And he is very worried. Why is he denied? Because it is not clear what will happen with these eggs. This train may crash, he may sell them, he may not, it is a crisis. It is a product that breaks down very easily and is a very risky product, so they say "No loans".
Narrator: "Pacta sunt servanda". "Contracts must be fulfilled," said the ancients, and with this phrase laid the foundations of law. And keeping the promises we make is the foundation on which our society and civilization are based. And people like Grandpa Moshe.
Maxim Behar: Very instructive story, really. Because when my grandfather leaves because he can't overcome it, his dignity can't stand the fact that once a big businessman now everyone refuses loans and he owes money to other people, and doesn’t know how to look them in the eye. In fact, immediately after that, all the people to whom he owes money gather, the creditors collect money, release the eggs in question, sell them, get their money back, and all is reduced to zero.
Narrator: And the lesson that Maxim will remember from his grandmother Matilda is much more life-affirming. Such as the lessons that only a suffering wife and mother can give.
Maxim Behar: When I was little, here in the center of Shumen, on Slavyanski Blvd., my grandmother Matilda, his widow, who lived on our couch in the kitchen and had inherited a leather coat from her husband and was sitting on that couch. I will never forget her with that expensive leather coat, in the little apartment and the coal and wood kettle that my dad would pick up from the basement every morning and used to tell me, "Maxim, everything that can be settled with money, you shall not think." All this life I have repeated myself these words. And you know this Jewish wisdom or proverb that says, "If a problem can be fixed with money, it's not a problem, it's a cost."
Narrator: And the bas-relief of Maxim's father, placed at the entrance of the Madara factory in Shumen, reminds us that the promise must be fulfilled. Moncho Behar is the first director, creator of one of the wonders of the Bulgarian industry from the period of socialism – "Madara". The factory, which in Shumen is written with a capital "F" for factory, once produced components for all VIAZ and KAMAZ trucks, and today machines for agriculture.
Maxim Behar: I am proud that my father Moncho Behar managed this plant. To this day, I come here with wonderful nostalgia because it was a very important enterprise, very innovative. The first self-propelled chassis, I'm 90 percent sure no one knows what that means, but some platforms with engines in these platforms could carry heavy things from one place to another, agricultural production. And then it suddenly became a truck factory. The fact that someone was able to produce trucks in those years, maybe the late 60’s, early 70’s, in Bulgaria, was a miracle.
Narrator: Maxim's mother, Rachel Behar, affectionately known as Shelley, died in a car accident when he was a young boy.
Maxim Behar: During these 13 years, while we were together, I had a great memory of things she told me in the kitchen, in the small Shumen kitchen with this kyumbe stove, with coal, with wood. She always said, "Listen to the master." Master, master. And she didn't say the boss or the director or the manager. The master, i.e. the man who can… she was a seamstress. And the “master” for her was more than anyone else, probably a president, a prime minister, or anyone with abilities.
Narrator: Years later, Maxim finds a picture that brings him back to his mother's words.
Maxim Behar: An exceptional photo and I hold it in my hands. It is always at my desk in Sofia to actually remind me that I also have to listen to the master. On the back of this photo there is an exclusive inscription: "Memory of the workers and the Master from the sewing studio of Bezalel Philosopher", 1943. It was written by my mother and "The Master" is with a capital "M". Since then, the Master for men has always been with a capital "M" throughout his life. The person who knows more, the person is more capable and the person we all need to learn from. Maybe nowadays he is called a "Leader", but then he was called "Master". Nowadays I would put a capital “L” in “Leader”.
Narrator: And sometimes it turns out that there are people like that around us. People who show us the signs on the path of life. Years ago, Uncle Miko Meyer approached Maxim at the presentation of one of his books on the 111 rules on Facebook.
Maxim Behar: And then my uncle Miko approached me and handed me this note: "Rule 113: When you promise something, you have to know how to fulfill it." I probably promised him something and forgot about it afterwards. In a lot of work, commitments, travel, especially travel. And he wrote to me, "Before you promise something, think about how and when you can fulfill it." This note that reads "Advice from Uncle Miko Meyer", Shumen 2009 stands and will always stand on my desk in the office so that when I see it while I work, I will know that each of us can miss or forget something, but I want everyone to have an uncle Miko to remind them that when they promise something they must know if they will fulfill it and how.
Narrator: It is too transcendent to say that keeping the promises that Grandpa Moshe wrote about before his death is the family рredetermination that follows Maxim. But certainly, somewhere in the life and deeds of the people before you, the people before Maxim, there are encoded messages and values that can happen иf we have eyes to see them.
Maxim Behar: Each of us, inside us, carries what his father, his mother, his grandfather, his grandmother, his great-grandparents once were. And that's why I think it's very important for all of us to know our history, for all of us to look back and look at least once a week, once a month, and say to ourselves, "Yeah, that's me, actually. I am because my ancestors did something. " There are people who know their history and we must treat them with great respect. People with self-confidence are those people who know their history and will surely pass it on to their children, grandchildren, and they must know it, and only then will they succeed.
Narrator: This is “Genes”.
Watch the whole video here.