Bernard Berenson of Butremanz
IN 1888 the Harvard Monthly published a short story by Bernard Berenson, a recent graduate of the University. The story concerns the terrible fate of a young shtetl prodigy who, having enjoyed the culture of the gentile world, is overtaken by the revenge of the kahal. One day this young man, Israel Koppel, suddenly falls ill and is plunged into a deep coma. The chevra kedusha hastens to bury him. But when his father, himself a beadle of the brotherhood, comes home from the cemetery to a troubled sleep, he dreams that he is confined in a close space, in darkness of smothering density, so that he can scarcely move. At last the father awakes to a horrified realization. He demands that the coffin be opened, and when the lid is lifted, Israel Koppel’s battered, anguished face and contorted limbs testify to a hideous error: he has been buried alive.
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