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:


  1. Hi Debbie. My daughter Brooke Rifkin, Great Great Granddaughter of Rabbi Alter Shaul Pfeffer is in 2nd grade (2016-2017). She is completing a Heritage project. She needs to present a suitcase with Family Heirlooms. Since I have several books from our ancestors I thought this would be apropos. If anyone in our family has books they would like to contribute and pass on to Brooke I will save them for her. She is only 7 and can't truly appreciate them yet but I think when she is older it would be nice to give her a library of books written by all of our family authors. She will be giving her Final Project 3/24/17. If I get the books before then we can include them. If I receive them after the date, I will save them and pass them on to her. I can be contacted at my personal gmail address viptopics@gmail.com Please use the Subject: Pfeffer Family Microfiber is my business and so that is how I am registered here.

  2. I am planning a family reunion 4/22/17 in Southern California for Pfeffer descendants. If anyone would like to attend please contact me. Jodi Rifkin viptopics@gmail.com