Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

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.


To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"