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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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Laughing with Joan

I made Joan Rivers laugh.

Of course she made me laugh, like she did to millions of others through her decades-long, often unfiltered, and ever-funny career, but yes, I made Joan Rivers laugh.

At the time, I was working at the celebrity-obsessed New York Post, and as the features writer for its women’s section, I had reason to ring up the raspy-voiced, Brooklyn-born blonde for a quickie. I had to grab a quote for some story that I was writing. As I recall, the conversation had turned to food, a favorite subject of the Jewish woman on my end of the phone, and, apparently, of that Jewish woman on the other end as well. Joan told me that she just adored the creamed spinach served at the legendary Brooklyn restaurant, Peter Luger’s — a must-have accompaniment to its famous and robust steaks. Joan told me she would dine there with a hairdresser-to-the-stars, the late Kenneth Battelle. (She kept her physique petite with this practice: She never ate anything after 3 p.m. If she did find herself dining with someone, she popped Altoids to keep her mouth busy.)

 

Cookin’ it up!

Tales of a Teaneck kitchen prodigy

How did 12-year-old Eitan Bernath of Teaneck come to be on the Food Network’s popular cooking show “Chopped”?

“He’s always been curious and he likes science,” said his mother, Sabrina Bernath. “He thinks it’s cool to mix flavors and watch things rise. He also likes to make people happy,” she added, pointing out that he had just brought his friends a freshly baked batch of cinnabuns.

For Eitan, a student at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, cooking is more than just a hobby. Struggling for the right word, the fledgling chef — whose website, cookwithchefeitan.com, will launch this week — described his relationship with the culinary arts as a “passion.”

 

Killed in the name of God

Fair Lawn scholar studies medieval Jewish child martyrs

“Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago,” read the headline in ads signed by Elie Wiesel and placed in newspapers around the world by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Our World organization. “Now it’s Hamas’ turn.”

But that may be stretching the truth.

In the 12th century — not even a thousand years ago, making it recent by the standards of Jewish history — Jews boasted of making martyrs of their children, deliberately killing them rather than allowing them to be converted to Christianity.

It was an era in which Jews were besieged by Christian mobs demanding their conversion or death, a horror recalled by the radical jihadist army of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and its massacres of non-Muslims.

 

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