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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 new relationship in Ridgewood

Conservative, Reconstructionist shuls join forces, work together, retain differences

Last December, Rabbi David J. Fine of Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center of Ridgewood wrote a thoughtful and perceptive op ed in this newspaper about why the word merger, at least when applied to synagogues, seems somehow dirty, perhaps borderline pornographic. (It is, in fact, “a word that synagogue trustees often keep at a greater distance than fried pork chops,” he wrote.)

That automatic distaste is not only unhelpful, it’s also inaccurate, he continued then; in fact, some of our models, based on the last century’s understanding of affiliation, and also on post-World War II suburban demographics, simply are outdated.

If we are to flourish — perhaps to continue to flourish, perhaps to do so again — we are going to have to acknowledge change, accommodate it, and not see it as failure. Considering a merger does not mean that we’re not big enough alone, or strong enough, or interesting or compelling or affordable enough. Instead, it may present us with the chance to examine our assumptions, keep some, and discard others, he said.

 

An ‘unwavering Jewish compass’

As he transitions out of his CEO job, supporters talk about Avi Lewinson

Last week, the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly announced a major change in its professional leadership.

According to a press release, the “exciting changes” saw its CEO, Avi Lewinson of Demarest, leave that position to become a fundraising consultant. He will be replaced in the JCC’s executive suite by Jordan Shenker, who had worked for the JCC Association of North America as a consultant to large JCCs, including to the Kaplen center.

Mr. Lewinson has been at the JCC for 25 years, and at its helm for most of that time. Since the announcement of his role change, his many supporters have been reminiscing about his work there.

 

‘Very, very cool’

Frisch students learn high-level engineering

If three high school boys put many months of work into tricking out a walker — not a bike, a walker — you know there has to be a mighty strong motivation pushing the project along.

For Justin Sohn, Izzy Selter, and Harry Kramer, all students at the Frisch School in Paramus, that motivation was a strong interest in engineering, combined with the tools to create a useful health-related product. The interest was innate; the tools came courtesy of CIJE-Tech, a discovery-focused interactive curriculum for Jewish high schools including Frisch, developed in collaboration with the Israel Sci-Tech network of schools and New York-based Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education.

CIJE-Tech offers a year each of scientific and biomedical engineering geared to introducing a diverse range of science and technical knowledge while encouraging multidisciplinary and abstract thinking as well as leadership and teamwork skills. CIJE also provides intensive teacher training and mentoring and it also gives students laboratory equipment.

 

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