Survivor Testimony: Market Days and Trade in Plonsk

Tuesday… that is market day – the most important of all. The farmers from the nearby villages, the tailors and the shoemakers bring their produce to the town, and the stall owners selling clothes and haberdashery bring their wares to the market and take their usual spaces. Stalls with candies and toys are displayed beautifully. A musical box with a parrot, small tables for games of chance – everything draws the eye. Once in a while, the peddlers come from Warsaw: they have no stalls, but simply spread their wares on the ground and, in loud voices (in the Warsaw dialect), announce their finest wares and cheap prices.

Sometimes the beauty and success of the market is hampered by storms and incessant rain that falls suddenly and then woe to the stalls and the wares!

As evening falls, the square empties out – just here and there signs remain in the form of papers, wrappings and empty boxes that the wind has blown into the corners of the market.

Wednesday is an ordinary day, and the market is comparatively quiet. Occasionally, something happens: there is a skirmish between the porters and the wagon drivers, or a group of acrobats come and give an impressive performance in the middle of the square. 

On Thursdays, stalls with vegetables and all kinds of fish appear in the market, and their aroma envelops the area. From early morning, the women strive to do their shopping and prepare for the Sabbath. Here and there you see women and children hurrying with trays full of food to be baked in the ovens of the nearby bakeries. The tantalizing scent of cooking streams out of the houses. On Thursdays, the women are busy in their kitchens until late into the night, for the following day is market day again, and most of them help out with trade there.

On Thursdays, the market takes on a special character, one of buying and selling and preparing for the Sabbath. As evening draws near, the market empties of stalls and their owners, and the shops close quickly, because the beadle is already coming, knocking on the doors with his hammer and announcing the arrival of the Sabbath. The hassidim appear in their Sabbath clothes, hurrying to the shtiblech and the Synagogue. Girls in Sabbath dresses, their hair washed, walk around the market until their parents return from prayers. The Sabbath spreads its wings, and with it the market falls silent; only the joyful sound of zmirot (songs in honor of the Sabbath) can be heard from the houses.

Saturday morning. The market looks festive: it is empty and clean, as if it has been scrubbed in honor of the Sabbath. The elders and children walk along the pavements, all dressed in their Sabbath clothes. In the afternoon, the group grows larger and larger until evening, when the Jews return home to recite the blessing over the havdalah candle and pray for a good and successful week.

Tzipporah Tenenboim, "The Plonsk Market Changes Her Form," Sefer Plonsk Vehasviva, pp. 286-287