Oral History Interview - Rabbi Abraham Pinter

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Oral History Interview - Rabbi Abraham Pinter

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Oral History Interview with Rabbi Abraham Pinter, born 1949 in Stamford Hill.

This interview was recorded as part of a project exploring the Jewish History of Stamford Hill, 1930s-1950s.


00:00:54 Well thank you Rabbi Pinter for agreeing to be interviewed as part of our Hackney council heritage project and we are looking forward to hearing about Stamford Hill. So my first question is, please could you tell us about your earliest memories in Stamford Hill.

Well my earliest memory in Stamford Hill… I still remember getting, we used to get Kosher Milk. It wasn’t actually from a kosher dairy. There were 2 companies – one was called United Dairies and one was called Expresso dairies, but what was interesting was that they used to deliver milk to everybody’s door, but it would actually come by a horse drawn cart, so that’s one of my earliest memories when I used to tease the horses.

00:03:06 When were you born and where were your parents from?

My parents were typically from, like the time I was born, a long long time ago. And they were, my mother actually was initially from the East End, her parents came from Galizia and they came from, there were different areas in Galizia, and they came from a very famous Belzer family and they lived in… Initially they lived in the East End, then they moved to Cricklewood, but my mother then married my father and my father was, he was a refugee. He arrived here in November 1938, where he escaped the Nazis. He was actually very lucky, he came from Vienna. When I say he was very lucky that he came from Vienna, many people wouldn’t know this, but majority of German and Austrian Jews survived the holocaust, the reason being because they knew the holocaust was coming and in Poland it just came upon them – over 90% of Polish Jewry died during the holocaust, but more than 50% of Austrian and German Jews survived the holocaust and my father was one of the lucky ones who arrived here in November 1938. He actually arrived on a very foggy day and I always remember my father, whenever there was a foggy day in November, he would go out in the streets and breathe a sigh of relief. I could never understand until he told me, ‘that was the day when I arrived on the shores of England, it was a foggy day and I knew that foggy means to me freedom.

00:03:27 Where did you live? So were you born in Stamford Hill and raised in Stamford Hill?

I was born, I was actually born at number 61 Heathland Road. I was born at home, at that time it was quite common for children to be born at home, not necessarily in a hospital.

00:05:06 So where was Rabbi Pinter educated, is it like today or was it a different type of…?

Its similar to today, but what it was, there were very few um Charedi Jewish schools at the time. If I remember correctly, there was the Yesodey Hatorah, there was the Avigdor, and if I remember the Avigdor was actually mixed boys and girls, and then there was Getters Cheder – those were the schools which most people went to.

And then I remember, when I was about 10 they started establishing Chadarim, what you call the ‘Kol Hayom Chadorim’ (Full Day Boys School), and Yesodey Hatorah they made that. They had besides the school, they also had a Kol Hayom Cheder (Boys School), which also had more Kodesh (Hebrew) subjects. And one of the things about that time, we were a small community and everyone was close – everybody knew each other, everybody was helping each other and everybody was supporting each other and there wasn’t anybody you didn’t know.

00:06:06 And what did they teach?

Yesodey Hatorah was half day Kodesh (Hebrew Studies) and half day Chol (secular studies), they probably at that time, they taught more Chol then they teach now in Yesodey Hatorah, but on the other hand the girls school, um girls education at that time was more like a babysitting service. Like it wasn’t at a tremendous level, then it was called GCE and there was a very limited number of GCEs that girls took. Now with the GCSEs, girls in this particular school, they take 11 subjects, which is normal.

00:06:37 So then the girls had a less formal education than now?

They didn’t have a formal education, it was just less demanding, much less demanding. I think that the change is in the whole world its not only in…. In all societies its become, particularly in the Charedi community, girls schools provide, most of the girls’ schools provide now the national curriculum.

00:07:50 What is the history of YHS Mosdos (institution)?

Well, it was actually, people believed that my father founded Yesodey Hatorah. That’s not true. It was actually my father came in, it was founded by a Rabbi Pardes and Rabbi Pardes he was sadly Niftar (passed away), he also founded the Mesivta Yeshivah (boys higher education), and he died without any children. But two years into Yesodey Hatorah, my father, then took over the reins of Yesodey Hatorah, might have been more than 2/3 years, but at that time there was a very very small school.

It started off with 6 children and something which might surprise everybody, in the first few years the primary school, there was mixed with boys and girls together and if somebody would ask somebody like Dayan Dunner, he might even tell you who was in his class.

00:08:41 Later on how did the school develop?

It started, you know the Kehillah (congregation) grew and initially the Yesodey Hatorah started off in middle of the 2nd World War, where there was a very small Charedi community. Immediately after the Second World War a lot of refugees arrived from all over Eastern Europe, but later on there were even refugees who came which many don’t know about, which was something called the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and then also another influx of Yidden (Jews) who arrived from Hungary.

00:09:38 And that helped the school grow the numbers?

Well, well it helped a little bit and then later on other schools started to develop, to open up. One of the earliest ones might have been, might have been Lubavitch, then, then Satmar and then it was… but initially, if I remember correctly there was only one Charedi girls school at the time and it was Yesodey Hatorah. And a lot of parents actually sent their children to non-Jewish schools. A very common school which they sent to, was a school known as Laura’s Place, which is now Clapton Girls School. It was a very popular school for Charedi girls at the time.

00:11:40 And moving on to Shuls (Synagogues) , Rabbanim (Jewish Leaders)… Then in the early years when Stamford Hill was growing, what Shuls were there and who were the Rabbanim at that time?

Well there weren’t very… There were Shuls, but there weren’t many, there weren’t many, very many Shuls. Actually one of the very famous ones was the Adass Yisrael and for many years the Charedi community was known as the Adass community, that’s people would call it the Adass community. But the… And that was mainly from, that catered to the German Jewish community and that had around 26 and actually opened up in Highbury and only later on moved to Stamford Hill. Then there was, one of the earlier Shuls was a Shul on, our family Shul Pinter’s and that was established at the end of the Second World War. There were other Shuls, there was Trisk, there was, there were… There weren’t many Shteiblech (smaller synagogues) . Belz had a Shtiebel, Ger started much later on and Satmar, Satmar which is now the biggest community in Stamford Hill, even they established that much later than that, so there was no, at that time there was no Satmar Shul. When we talk about one of the biggest Shuls where, where mainly Satmar Chasidim would Daven would be the Mesivta and that was part of the Mesivta Yeshivah, but it wasn’t a Satmar Shul.

00:12:33 And who were the Rabbonim of town?

The Rabbonim of town, what I remember was when I was a young child… Hagoan Rav Henech Padwa, he came from Eretz Yisrael (Israel), so he was the first real Rav that I, who I remember. There were some other Rabbanim, but they weren’t, they weren’t as recognised as when Rabbi Padwa came, he was really the first Rabbinical authority who was universally accepted by all of Stamford Hill.

00:13:46 How was jobs? What sort of jobs did people have? Was it different to today?

It was… Yes it was, there were many people involved in textiles. More people were involved in jewellery and diamonds – working in Hatton Gardens and there were a lot of people who were involved with manufacturing but that changed a lot when we became, when England stopped manufacturing, you know things started coming in from other countries and you know the textiles business became less important and people started to be not manufacturing textiles but dealing in textiles. I remember there were 3 zip manufacturers in Stamford Hill… But that was, you know, part of the textiles industry, making zips for clothes.

00:15:01 And how was life different today, just generally?

Em… It was a, life was, it was a little bit slower, it wasn’t as vibrant, you didn’t… so there is, there is what you call swings and em, whats it called, swings and eh… I’ve lost the word…. There were plusses and minuses, there were. There were a lot of good things where the community was much closer but you can’t compare the amount of Chessed (charity) organisations that there is today and the amount of Gemachim (lenders), there were Gemachim but not, not at the level there are today. But people did voluntary work, but in a less organised way. We didn’t have a Hatzola, we didn’t have Shomrim, we didn’t have Chaverim, but we still got on well with each other.

Yes, I supposed that because it grew there is more of a need to have more structure to our organisations.

Em, I think its just because of… We just responded to need.

Yes I think we have asked all the questions that we thought of asking previously

.. Do you want to ask anything else? Any other questions you want to ask. Come on girls now you ask?

I can tell you the machentaniste (mother in law) of the Gerrer rebbe (Rabbi) went to Laura place and that is a family you know probably know Zalmy Margulies you know Zalmy Margulies

Well I don’t know so many people well I know related to me, my mother was a Stern. So she was..

At that time life was different we didn’t have all the choices, only last week someone came in from another area, who doesn’t live in a very Charedi area and said I heard all about your eirr kichelech (sweet crackers) where do you get your eirr kichelech ..So I took them over to Carmel, to Carmel stores and all of a sudden I never knew there were eight different types of eirr kichelech so the fellow asked me which one should I take,,.,, I don’t have anything, I have no idea I didn’t even know there were 8 types of eirr kichelech.. but let me tell you.. In those times there was no such thing as eirr kichelel ..we were very limited we did have Grodginsky which was a very successful bakery but they didn’t give you the choice, let me give you an example.. if you go now into into a Heimishe (Jewish) shop you will find a whole um fridge full of milky items.. the only thing you could get milky at those times was milk. Some times before shevuos (Jewish Festival) you could buy some cheese but yogurt I didn’t know what a yogurt was, I had never tasted a yogurt , and a chocolate yogurt forget about it ..We didn’t have, there was very limited amount of kosher food we had somebody called snowcrest and they mad some crisps chocolate which came from Switzerland and besides that there was a very limited amount of kosher manufactured food that you could buy. And what did we do, it was all homemade, believe me it was better.

Thank you

When I used to when they used to bring People used to bring, from America used to bring back yogurts and different cheeses and I just felt that it was so megusham (materialistic), you know you know like who needs it. And the cheese I remember that Mr Rumpler started making cheese and I remember I remember half the time it was sour.

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