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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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Meta Tells of Early Dinners

I asked how Jerry oH juggled his business and the dinner and about tense moments before the dinners. I did not inform her that I would post her answers, but there is nothing here of a private nature. Good Shabbos.

 

“I remember an early Dinner Meeting on a Motzoei Shabbos in our apartment

on Cabrini Boulevard, so it must have been 1952.  Manfred K’stein and Harry Levi

came to discuss details for the forthcoming Dinner.  – You can come to my apartment

and see the picture of the first Dinner 1945!   Amazing.  Some members of the Kehilla

ran it, plus a Journal.  My husband involved himself in K’hilla work soon after he returned

from the Army, which would have been around ’45-46.  I have a small Roedelheim

Siddur that was given out at the Dinner January 26, 1958.

There was no Dinner Office until Harry Levi decided we have to have a central place

to work properly for the Dinner.  Before that, part of the work was done at Artus in

Englewood and part at Bechhofer Brothers on Beaver Street.  I remember taking the bus

to Englewood to do proofreading for the Journal.  –  In our apartment we housed a giant

Printer where lists and such were regularly printed.  My husband would do Dinner work

in the office and at home.  Once the Dinner Office came into being, he would be there

after hours till 11-12 sometimes.  People remarked on the light always on in the Dinner

Office.  His  business was running more or less – he had faithful employees, but Harry Levi

convinced him to take over the D.O., where he had spent so much time anyway.

He loved it, except for the fact that it was Uptown, he preferred to work Downtown!

People came in and out – it was a welcoming place – and the Dinners were a  big success!

My husband would spend the night before the Dinner in the Hotel; a room was rented for

him, so he could oversee everything from early on the next day.

The Dinner Meetings were wonderful, with lots of participation – and Mr.  Victor’s eggs

were raffled off every week!  After the Dinner Meetings we would sit at the computer till

midnight to produce the weekly Dinner News.  People ‘complained’ their mail boxes are

always full on Wednesdays with all the Dinner stuff, but they read them. It all helped for

the success.

Was there tension: oh yes, ask my family.  Before there was a D.O., all seating sessions

were in our house.  My father would usually receive one or two men of the Meeting.

My sons would alphabetize the Dinner cards, etc.  Yes, there was lots of activity and plenty

of tension with seating!

Today on Bennett

It was a quick gathering…

Like a flash mob, within minutes a crowd formed in front of shul. A crowd of faces that are the children of this street- of this playground and of this shul.
We knew another crowd would soon assemble in Clifton, but this crowd is the one to help him say goodbye to Bennett Avenue.
We too came to say hello and goodbye to each other, because we likely won’t meet soon. There is only one Edwin, and only one Edwin’s levaya.

When did this street become Hirsch and Sons?

I’m sorry for the sarcasm. It is still Bennett Avenue. The home of the greats. Our last layover before we transplant our 19th century German separatist Orthodox Kehilla to Jerusalem.
Maybe we thoug Edwin would walk before us, but now we know he will meet us on the other side, with the rabbonim and Dr Moeller.
Please G-d preserve us. Let us not become a memory, and let us not become stuck in our memories.

Yehi Zichro Baruch.

video here

Visiting the Rav

(Photo credit: The Jewish Press, Gary Lelonek- author of a recent book on the history of Tannersville. If anyone has the book, please check for a photo credit. Thanks.)

In this picture, Rav Breuer is seen at the summer home in Tannersville, New York. The shul there is situated on a hill in that very hilly town. In fact the shul- over 100 years old- is named “Anshei HaSharon” after the prayer of the High Priest in Jerusalem’s temple of old on Yom Kippur: “and concernig the people of Sharon (Anshei Hasharon) he would say: ‘May it be G-d’s will that their homes not become their graves!’” Someone in a stroke of wit named the shul after the people of the Sharon who likely lived in a hilly region prone to earthquakes.

Anyhow, when my father made the trip from the Catskills to Tanersville one summer to visit the Rav, Rabbi Breuer asked him where he was davening while in the mountains. My father responded that he davens with the Chasidim of the adjacent bungalow colony.

 

“Chasidim?” the Rav asked. He then began to list off all of the stages of piety that one must achieve before he reaches the level of the Chasid, per the talmud (Braysa Derabbi Pinchas ben Yair). “If they are really Chasidim, then I want to come and pray with them too!” the Rav exclaimed in irony. My father clarified that the community is only called that..not to imply they all have reached this level- as the Rav winked.

 

The Rav had a knack for dead pan humor. Once my father told him that he spotted a waterbug in the old keilim mikvah (who didn’t?) The Rav turned to him and said, “The mikvah is still kosher, I don’t think it could drink that much!”

 

The Rav was also careful with his words. At one of the memorials for Rav Breuer the following story was told. Rabbi Schwab’s son Yosef was completing his semicha (ordination) and the certificate was brought to Rav Breuer to sign. He read it and saw that the young man, not married yet, was called “HaChoson” (the betrothed), a respectful way of calling a young Benedict- but technically inaccurate if he was not even engaged to be married. The Rav asked if he was engaged. He wasn’t, and the Rav began to rip up the document for its use of hyperbole- until they had to wrest it from his hand in protest.

 

This is where we come from, people!

Nittel Nacht?

I don’t believe the Shul has any observance of the Nittel. But I was told that Rav Breuer s’l would reserve the night to sit down and watch family movies. I do not know if he picked up the minhag in Frankfurt or at Yeshivah in Hungary.

When I was a little boy I asked Rav Schwab s’l: When we learn Chumash we say the names of the Avodah Zarah. So why don’t people refer to the December holiday by its full name? He answered that this is a big “shtus” and we don’t even want to mention it!

In Moritz Oppenheim’s Chanukah painting the men are playing chess  near the lights. In Eastern Europe it seems card games were more popular from the Ropshitzer’s warning to refrain from using Gypsy style Tarrots. Dreidels are also conspicuous- in Judaeo-German this was called a trendel (Werner Weinberg in “The Jewish Legacy and the German Conscience. p. 131).

 

The Story Behind the Picture

I contacted Meta to ask about a fire that once damaged the venerable “Schuster’s Hall”. (According to Sidney S. it was the “Jacob Schuster Auditorium”.)

In her response which I shall quote momentarily we learn the story behind the picture of Rav Breuer ZT’L mounitng the top step of the unique super-stairway up to Ft. Washington Avenue. Remember, he never lived there. He lived on 181st Street, in the apartment occupied today by Mr. Schnerb hbl’cht.

So here it is:

Yes, Mendy, there was a fire in 90 Bennett in the basement, something with the boiler went wrong.  – I remember that the front room had lockers where people put their Friday pay checks – or cash – when they rushed from work to come to Shul. That room was not affected and the people got their money out.

So, it must  have been in the winter.

But repairs had to be made, and the place up the steps on Ft. Washington Avenue and 187 Street(which is now a Bank and next to it a large grocery) which became our Shul and Talmud Tora classes. I think a few months later we moved back to 90 Bennett.

I cannot remember dates or year.  But there is a picture of R.  Breuer approaching the steps on Ft. Washington Avenue.

ftwash187
This once was Breuers!

My New Tallis Bag

I ordered a custom throw pillow (stuffing not included) on Amazon for 6$. It ships from Asia so allow time for delivery. I bought a plastic cover at Eichler’s and for another 6 dollars. I have a picture of the old shul on Friedberg Anlage with the posuk “Mimizrach Shemesh ad Mevo’o”  …ממזרח שמש עד מבואו מהלל שם” From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of Hashem is to be praised.”(Ps. 113:3)

I don’t know the origin of this picture with the posuk over it, my father saw it hanging in Jerry’s apartment and photographed it. The picture is now on my tallis bag.

But here is the story of a different picture.

In the 1920s Mr. Henry Zimmer was living in Frankfurt. He was a furniture designer and was trained in sketch. He penciled this picture of the shul for his own use.

In his octogenarian years his son helped him record a CD of our familiar nigunim- sung raw- without accompanying instruments-  in Mr. Zimmer’s aging voice. The album was recorded in a studio and came in a pearl case with a jacket bearing the picture he drew in his youth. I will soon share it to my website.

Heirloom

We descend from the Weil family in Emmindingen. I have several pictures of that family as well as an artifact of the famous New York philanthropist Jonas Weil (picture above) who founded the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital and the Park East Synagogue with his son-in-law Rabbi Bernard Drachman. Drachman was an early translator of Hirsch’s “Nineteen Letters” and a his story can be found here .

The artifact in my possession is a ledger of loans made by Weil to people and institutions as well as letters from the board of the shul in Emmindingen.

Drachman and Weil were also among the founders of the JTS.

On a tangential note. The Yekkes were early contributors and founders of the Sharei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem. My Uncle Asher Hirsch z’l was active in some of their American fundraising. Hermann Schwabb in his memoirs writes that the original seed money for that hospital was provided by the financiers of the Frankfurt Kehilla. This is a very long legacy indeed.

Today the hospital has become a cause of the Syrian Jewish community in NY as well. This year’s dinner ad has 5 or 6 guests of honor in the age range of 21-25. The hospital has realized that a base of young contributors is essential. There is also a German-Jew from Riverdale among the honorees. The event will be in an uber-trendy event-space under a bridge in the UES.

I think I am priced out of this one…