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Friedman Family Circle to mark centennial

 
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Rabbi Paul Teicher displays the family tree of the Friedman Family Circle, which may be the oldest Jewish family circle in the United States.

Two centuries after the 1808 marriage of Pinchas Friedman and Chana Glicksman in Poland, their descendants are still celebrating the union.

They belong to the Friedman Family Circle, the oldest Jewish family circle to be incorporated in the United States, according to its members. On Sept. 13, the group will celebrate its 100th birthday in Teaneck, Los Angeles, Jerusalem, and Florida.

Rabbi Paul Teicher of Teaneck, a Friedman on his mother’s side, has taken on the task of updating the Friedman family tree. The latest tree, created after painstaking research, has 2,500 family members, 2,000 of whom are alive. A previous one, drawn up 38 years ago, listed 1,300, all descendants of Pinchas and Chana. The trees are distributed among the members of the family.

“I have facts on 2,500 people,” Teicher said, beaming. “We have family all over the world, Australia, Europe, North America, South America, Singapore, Germany, England, about 30 of the states in the U.S., [as well as in] Canada and South America. I send out e-mails and circulars. It’s time-consuming to update all the marriages, births. It’s a draining but fun activity.”

Pinchas and Chana Friedman lived in southern Poland and never came to America. Only their youngest child, who lived in Jersey City, and grandchildren emigrated. But they spread out and multiplied.

Teicher became active in the group because his mother, Tillie Teicher, was its first financial secretary in 1910. “She was always involved and dragging the family to meetings. When she passed away in 1970 I created a family tree the following year and dedicated it to her,” he recalled.

Teicher’s grandfather came to American in 1888 and his great-uncle Akiva started the organization in 1909 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The group was formed at first to bring relatives over from Europe. Every month they’d meet and collect nickels and dimes toward that end. It was incorporated in the early 1920s, aided poor Jews during the Depression, and bought cemetery plots in Queens. The Jewish cemetery is located off of the Jackie Robinson Highway.

“I was always involved because my mother dragged me to meetings,” Teicher said. “The cousin who ran things was getting older. He needed someone to do it, and how could I turn him down? When I started, I typed on a typewriter and then I got my first computer in 1983.”

His daughter-in-law, Debby Teicher, who is actively involved in the group, noted that with the older generation dying out, the upcoming reunion “might be the last hurrah for the Friedman Family Circle. We’re trying to interest the younger generation in getting involved, but the reasons the family circle formed don’t exist for them. Keeping in touch with your extended family is much easier now with cell phones, e-mail, and Facebook allowing you to stay connected with people far away.”

Teicher’s daughter, Miriam Schenker of Teaneck and herself the mother of four Friedman descendants, recalls attending annual Friedman meetings on the Lower East Side. “We’d go once a year for Chanukah and I’d meet all these relatives, fourth cousins. It was a way of keeping the family together.”

She has her father’s family tree on display in her house. “Anytime someone comes over to our house, it’s the first thing they look at,” she said. “How many people can say they have a detailed tree that goes back to 1790?”

Schenker recalls that when her father was working on the tree several years ago, “He kept asking me, ‘Do you know Bruce Abrams in Teaneck?’ and I insisted I didn’t. In 1990 they held a big party to dedicate the family tree. We walked into the synagogue where it was being held and my husband saw a guy, Bruce Abrams, whom he knew from shul. It turns out, we’re third cousins.”

When Schenker’s son Yonatan was a high school senior, he went to Brazil to visit a friend. Teicher looked on his list and found a relative in Brazil. He asked Schenker’s son to call him.

“Wherever we go in the world, we can find people on our tree.”

 
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A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

Where greatness lies

A memorial to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

On July 3, 5 Tammuz, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi died. He was 89.

He inspired tens of thousands of people directly — and indirectly he inspired millions more, people who have yet to discover that the spiritual approaches they hold dear were invented and graciously shared by him.

Reb Zalman was prodigiously influential over many decades, but he was not proportionately famous. He was not always given credit for his vast learning or for his astonishing array of contributions. And he was okay with that.

The first time I saw Reb Zalman, he was on the bimah of an auditorium that held 2,000 people. His face beamed love at the congregation. I had been leading another High Holiday service, and I was able to join his congregation for the last few minutes of Rosh Hashanah morning.

 

Paying it forward

Remembering Gabby Reuveni’s generous spirit

Just a glance at the web page created in memory of Gabby Reuveni of Paramus gives some indication of the number of people she touched and — through the ongoing efforts of her family — she continues to touch.

Killed two years ago in Pennsylvania by a driver who swerved onto the shoulder of the road, where she was running, Gabby, who was 20, was “an extremely aware and kind person,” her mother, Jacqueline Reuveni, said. “We’re continuing her legacy.”

The family has undertaken both public and private “acts of kindness,” she said, from endowing scholarships to meeting local families’ medical bills.

According to her father, Michael Reuveni, Gabby — then a student at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the school’s track team — was a victim of vehicular homicide.

 

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