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Welcome to the Social Hall!

Here we will be social. We will share memories and experiences. We do not come here to vent or bash- just to schmooze…and enjoy the cookie parade.

Content will be uploaded regularly and reader submissions will be enjoyed.

All the Best!

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Kalte Shabbes

As a kid I heard from my beloved neighbors in our building about a folk-legend among the Gentiles in the German countryside where they would ask the Jews if “Beha-Bechukosai” had passed. The week that those Parshos were read was known as the “Kalte Shabbes” by the village farmers- Jew and Gentile alike. Only once that Shabbos had passed would it be safe to plant.

Now I have come across this in the publication of the YU Museum, “Aschkenaz”, that accompanied their 1986 exhibit of German-Jewish artifacts.

In the many conjugations of proverbs around that Shabbos listed there, some refer to the fact that the Jews will be cursing that week- meaning the cantation of the Mosaic rebuke in Bechukosai (Lev. 26). Was this just the way to mark the Kalte Shabbes or did they consider the Torah portion ominous to the crop? (See here.)

If you are intrigued or enchanted by the Landjude of the German countryside and the simplicity of village life, I suggest a book called, “The Marked One” by Jaob Picard. It is a collection of short stories about simple people. Also, Dr. Hugo Mandelbaum’s “Jewish Life in the Village Communities of Southern Germany”, his reminisces of childhood. Not to mention the famed “Gluckel of Hameln”, the autiobiography of an 18th century matriarch.

Finally, Emily Rose’s “Portraits of our Past” uses the type of documentation that seems to be in abundance in Germany (for those who know how to access it), to trace the urbanization and emigration of her family over more than a century.

The man in the background

In the above photo, we see a Rabinic figure leaving the Friedberg Anlage with his lulav. Behind him are two men, one looking over his right shoulder as he steps off the curb.

The man’s life was recounted in excruciating detail, but in a noble effort to record everything she brought with her from her hometown, by Tillie (Wertheim) Stein. The man is her father Vogel Frederick Wertheim, a horse trader from Lauterbach- one of the rural hamlets around Frankfurt. He relocated to Frankfurt in the mid 193os when rural life became too difficult and dangerous. Eventually the family rented quarters on St. Nick and 157th Street and 161st at Ft. Wash.

Erna made Atlanta, Ga. her home and passed away a few years ago.

The many traditions and the devotion to the Jewish faith that she painstakingly recounts in 350 pages was diffused among her offspring of American stock. (Below, Vogel at the stable in better times.)

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re: German Hamman(taschen)

I should have posted this around Purim. It seems there is a minhog to make a “Haman” for the Purim Seuda. It can be a cake or a piece of meat, but it must be contained in a noose. I did not encounter this minhag, but I have seen it in writing.

My neighbor emailed me the following:

“I found a photograph in one of my mother’s old albums. It shows her Haman at a Purim exhibit at the YU Museum, when it was still in Washington Heights.

Unlike the Haman recipe in the new cookbook, which is for a flat cookie shaped like a gingerbread man, my mother’s Haman was very 3-dimensional. I’ve attached the photo, which shows part of the display section, then a close-up of the Haman (I apologize for the blurriness, but it was probably taken with an Instamatic camera), then of what my mother had written on the back.

It was originally exhibited in 1979, which is when she baked it and the museum shellacked it for posterity. It seems as if it was exhibited again in 1985. It was also exhibited at a major exhibition called “Ashkenaz”, in 1986 or 1987, as can be seen at the top of page 256 in the book “Ashkenaz”, put out by the Museum to go with the exhibition; there is a description only, not a photo. As I mentioned, hers did not have prunes, only raisins, and her name should have been spelled “Hetti”. (The Hamans made for unmarried daughters may have been the flat ones that are in the cookbook; my mother never said anything about that.)”

I will add that the Gruenebaum bakery in WH always had a cake/yeast dough hamantasch with prunes, besides the cookie variety.haman2

Snowy Pesach

Sorry for the lapse in posts, I know you are all waiting. (echo)
This picture was taken many years ago by my father as the chometz was burned in the snow. I didn’t know the year until this past shabbos. Guests at our table included a savant, and he claims it was 1982 that Erev PEsach was snowy. (This week I heard a radio DJ describe our curerent season as “sprinter” i.e., spring-winter.)

Anyone remember the Russian Seder that the JCC ran in Schuster’s Hall for many years? The choir would sing for them at the end of davening before heading home to their own seders.

Russian Jewish emigration to America is basically finished, according to my barber. Here in Brooklyn, some of the legendary Jewish schools for Russian immigrants are ENTIRELY filled with Bucharian and other Sephardic students. This includes Be’er Hagolah and the now defunct RaTZaD. See my post about Russian Jews in the neighborhood here and here.AS00006_4

A Piece of Art

I am not a researcher. Not more than the average guy with a healthy appetite for history. Yet in the few times that I have hit a dead end, it was FB that came through in the clutch.

Many years ago, (23 to be sure,) a close neighbor passed away. She had no children and her closest relative was overseas. So he received the inheritance and the neighbors received the job of cleaning out her apartment. Because I was a favorite neighbor of this woman from my childhood, I received two pencil-sketched pictures of German street scenes.

Recently, I noticed that many people of German descent have this style of picture hanging in their homes. So I sent photos of this drawing to a museum curator in Frankfurt (the city pictured) but he was clueless.

Not long afterward I joined a FB group for German Jews and after posting the picture I received the name of the estate pictured and the artist’s inscription from a curator in Berlin that can read the cursive well.

The artist’s name: “Tintner”. A quick google search reveals a woman from Vienna named Karoline Tintner. She has a few paintings for sale on ebay, but she is not selling them. She was deported in 1943 and perished in a concentration camp.

The piece of art has now become a treasure for me, and it stands as a memorial to two different women. My neighbor Hilde Lehmann and the artisit Karoline Tintner. Both in a better place now. Pictured above

Recently I came across an article by Werner Cohen, a prolific survivor from Berlin, and the uncle of the Israel’s in WH. He writes about how the ” Jewish” newspapers and the Jewish museums in Germany are staffed by Gentiles – almost exclusively. Link to Jpost article here and his blog post here.

A Dinner Story

Last night was the Breuers Yeshiva annual dinner. Meta shared a cute story. It was getting too difficult for Rav Breuer to attend the dinner. The hotel staff advised the family about a cargo elevator in the hotel, large enough to drive the Rav’s (Jerry’s) car into and alight in the ballroom itself. And so they did. When the Rav entered it was all the fuss! (audio here)

The dinner once held at the Hotel Roosevelt, later at the Hotel Americana and then for many years at the Hilton at Rockerfeller Center  (today called Hilton Midtown), and finally at the Marriot on Times Square- before moving to New Jersey.

The Hilton Midtown writes on their website that theirs is the largest ballroom in Manhattan!