Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Cousin, Hindy (Helen)


As you may have heard, Hindy passed away last Monday. I couldn't make it to the funeral (nor could I make it to shiva, but my parents and I did get to see Eileen and Alan this week (thanks to a wonderful friend of my Mom's). Hindy and I grew up together, to some degree. We (that is Aaron and I) would often spend Shabbat with them, first in Brooklyn and then in Queens.

My favorite times with Hindy were when she would read Alan King books ("Help I'm a Prisoner in a Chinese Bakery" and "Anybody Who Owns His Own Home Deserves It"). I used to think they were so hysterical, but I found out years later when I tried reading the books on my own that it was the way Hindy read the books that made them so funny.

I remember her "Bat Mitzva" party -- it was on a Saturday night in the days that Orthodox "girls" didn't have big events. The party was in the basement apartment of the three apartment house they lived in in Crown Heights. I ate some chocolate covered jelly candies and then stood on my head -- later that night the jelly candies made a reappearance in a way they weren't supposed to!

I started High School around the time they moved to Queens and that led Hindy to change from Brooklyn Central (Yeshiva University High School for Girls) to Manhattan Central and that meant we were in school together (for the first time in our lives). I used to commute to NY from NJ and at the time I was in HS, the bus drivers on the commuter buses weren't so strict about stopping the commuters from smoking on the buses. This caused me much consternation (not to mention tracheitis). The major symptom I had from the tracheitis was a really deep, loud cough. This cough led to my spending a lot of time out of class (one teacher in particular, one of my favorites, actually, couldn't stand the sound of the cough and sent me down to sit in the lounge outside the office whenever he heard me start to cough).

Hindy, who loved to tease me, used to tell me how my cough would carry from one end of the second floor (where there were only classrooms alone the edges -- the open area in the middle was used for assemblies and programs) to the other. At one point in my Sophomore year (which was Hindy's Junior year), I had a class at one end of the second floor while she had a class on the totally opposite end of the floor. It was at that point that she most teased me about the cough.

Hindy spent several summers with us, either in Rockaway (where we spent 4 summers when I was young) or in NJ. It was during these summers that I got introduced to tuna with cottage cheese. You see, we all were always trying to lose weight and the early version of weight watchers was very strict about certain things. One of those things was mayonnaise, so we would all substitute cottage cheese in tuna salad (needless to say, this was before I went veg).

I remember that when we were growing up, tomatoes were Hindy's favorite food. She would eat tomatoes the way many people eat apples or pears, by just biting into it. But I also recall, at one point, that she couldn't eat red tomatoes because of the acid. I had never seen orange tomatoes until then; apparently the orange tomatoes were lower in acid than the red ones.

Two summers ago, when Chani and her "gang" were here for the summer, we all went to Eileen's and visited with Eileen and Hindy (and the Newtons -- Jay (aka Guy) and Michael were here from Phoenix) and Josh Itzkowitz (who I hadn't seen since my niece Toby's wedding). It was a very nice visit (I got to meet Jaime's little girl, Maya Ruth). I never thought this would be the last time I saw Hindy.

In the past few months, when I would walk to my classes at my synagogue (Tuesday and Wednesday nights), I would often try to call Hindy. I knew already that I should just talk to her the way we've always talked all our lives. She didn't want to talk about how she was (I told her at one point, "When I say, 'how are you?' I don't expect you to tell me, it's just a way to start a conversation.")

It feels surreal that I won't be able to talk to her again. I'll miss her.
Hindy, Me and Aaron in Rockaway

Hindy, Me, Chani (on my lap) and Chaya Schall (on Hindy's lap) in Rockaway 

Hindy, Me, Chani (on my lap) and Chaya Schall (on Hindy's lap) in Rockaway 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Newest Pfeffer


Yesterday morning, at 9:16 PM on Vivi's mother's birthday, Jessica had a baby girl. I don't yet have a name for her, but I do have a picture.

Added April 6th 2011 -- I have been told her name is Cora Grace.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Begin at the Beginning


Ok, with so many literal minded relatives, I guess I have to qualify the title. Yes, I know, the beginning isn't with Grandpa Alter Shaul. But since he the one that we can trace back to (and Grandpa Alter Shaul's books and their introduction helped us to begin much of the genealogy work that we have since done) he is who I chose to begin with.

I set up this blog because I have 17 nieces and nephews, 2 nephews-in-law, two great-nephews and a great-niece none of whom have met my grandparents. I also have cousins who never met their great-grandparents, who I knew and who many of you knew. I thought we should have a place to share stories of my grandmother (Anna) and her siblings and their spouses (spice?).

I was hoping to write entries in this blog for each family and was hoping my relatives would add their recollections in the form of comments so that they younger generations (and those pfamily members who married into the pfamily) could have a place to read recollections.

While I have no direct recollections of my great-grandfather (Grandpa Alter Shaul) since he passed away long before I was born, my Mom has told me things about him and I have heard other stories from other sources.

One story my Mom used to tell was about a man who had worked as a shokhet -- (ritual Kosher slaughterer) but he had lost his ability to feel the knife (slaughterers need to run their fingernails over the blade of the knife and feel any minor nicks that would invalidate the knife and any slaughter done with it). The man came to Grandpa Alter Shaul and asked to be reinstated. He said to Grandpa Alter Shaul that this was all he knew how to do, what else could he do for a living? Grandpa Alter Shaul said, "well you could always be a wet nurse." The man was shocked -- "I don't have the proper equipment for that job" he responded. "Well," answered Grandpa Alter Shaul, "you no longer have the equipment to be a shokhet."

Grandpa Alter Shaul wrote three volumes of responsa (answers to halakhic -- Jewish legal -- questions he was asked over the years) which he called "Avnei Zikaron -- Stones of Remembrance. The third volume was published posthumously. This volume has a multi-page biography of Grandpa Alter Shaul.

This biography has a story about the days preceding Grandpa Alter Shaul's death. Grandpa Alter Shaul had the custom of not eating Gebrachts -- foods with Matza products (like matza meal and broken matza) on Pesah (Passover). This is not a law, but it is a common custom. A few days before Grandpa Alter Shaul passed away was Seder night. One of the things that one is required to do is eat Matza. Grandpa Alter Shaul was too weak to chew the matza as is, so he called in his son-in-law (my grandfather Max, who was a rabbi) and his two sons (Isy and Leo) and, with their help, he performed a Hatarat Nedarim (a disavowal of vows) [aside: I had one performed to enable me to eat beans and rice on Pesah]. They performed the ceremony so that Grandpa Alter Shaul could soak the matza, softening it sufficiently to enable him to perform the Mitzva (commandment) of eating Matza on Pesah.

Please share any stories you have by using the comments area below: