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Every Pinkas Tells a Story

Libi Astaire

Long before there was social media, or even shul newsletters, there was the pinkas — the book where Jewish communities as a whole, as well as individual workers’ guilds and charitable societies, recorded both their loftiest aspirations and mundane activities. Some of their records can fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction. We investigated the story of one such pinkas, which will go on the block in Jerusalem at the end of the month.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Who knew?

Certainly not Yossi Goldstein, a resident of Kiryat Ono. All he knew was that his father had inherited an interesting record of their family’s history, which was inscribed at the back of an old, leather-bound book. He had no idea that the book itself might be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

The book had come from Bacau, a city then located in Moldavia, Romania, in which Jews began to settle in the late 1700s. During the 1800s, the time when Yossi’s great-great-grandfather, a tailor, was plying his needle, the city had everything that a flourishing Jewish kehillah needed. In addition to shuls and a Talmud Torah, there was a chevra kaddisha, chevra Mishnayos, and chevra gemilus chasadim. There were also artisans’ guilds, such as the one that Yossi’s ancestor belonged to, the Po’alei Tzedek Tailors’ Association.

Each of these groups recorded their rules and regulations in a book called a pinkas. In 1832, the year the Tailors’ Association was founded, Yossi’s great-great-grandfather proudly signed his name in the impressive book, along withBacau’s other tailors.

“His name is second on the list, right after the gabbai,” says Yossi. “Apparently, he was in charge of taking care of the book, which is why it stayed in our family’s possession. He gave the pinkas to his son, the grandfather of my father.”

By the late 1800s, anti-Semitism was on the rise in Romaniaand Yossi’s great-grandfather decided to move his family of eight children to Eretz Yisrael. He was 52 years old at the time, and one of the things he brought to his new home in Petach Tikvah was a memento from the past: the pinkas.

“I didn’t know about it while I was growing up,” says Yossi, “because my uncle had the book in his house. But after my uncle passed away, my father inherited it and he showed it to me. At the back of the book, my relatives had written down records pertaining to our family — births and marriages and things like that. My great-grandfather also wrote his will on one of the pages. But I didn’t understand what the rest of the book was.”

That changed when a relative decided to write a family history.


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