Memory Lane: Reb Avrumche Geiger, z”l
But possibly the first Chassidisher Rebbe and Shtiebel in Boro Park was the Bardiyover Rebbe, Rav Itzik’l Halberstam, whose shul was famously known as “The Halberstam’s”. He was a scion of the Sanzer dynasty—as his father, Reb Moshe’le was a son of Rav Baruch of Gorlice, the fourth son of the Divrei Chaim of Sanz, zt”l.
Early Boro Parkers recall this place with great fondness… Perhaps it was the kugel that the Rebbetzin would prepare that so seared itself into their memories; it was such an unheard-of concept for these American Yidden, But it was a true flavor of old Galician Jewry that they were being given a taste of.
Dinow is in eastern Galicia, and this is where Rebbe Itzik’l settled in the years before he fled to America, ultimately making his way to Boro Park, in 1928.
Relates Professor David Halberstam of Ramat Gan, the oldest living grandson of Reb Itzik’l who lived in that home at 5120 Fort Hamilton Parkway when he arrived in 1938, with his father Reb Baruch’l, the Rav of Sunek: “I well recall Sheffield Farms, a dairy farm a few blocks away from our home, at Fort Hamilton and 60th Street. This is where my zeide went to personally mil the cows, so he would have chalav Yisroel. I remember my brother and I being fascinated by the way the horses would make their way through the streets of Boro Park to deliver the milk,” he recalls wistfully.
The nisyonos in shemiras Shabbos that permeated America in the early part of the 20th century did not skip Boro Park, and there were so many who tragically did not pass this test. But the rebbe would continue to welcome them into the shul with his classic warmth, without judging them, and they would continue to come back—not necessarily for the davening, but because they loved him, and he loved them. During the war years, the young ones would come back when they were on furlough. And that’s how so many of them remained Jewish.
In 1941, a unique figure reentered their lives, adding another dimension to that warm outpost on Fort Hamilton Parkway of the 1940’s. He was a beloved and revered personality that had been central in the court of Bluzev of yore…
His name was Avrumche Geiger.
A Shadchanus Gift
It was said, possibly in jest, that if the Bluzever Rebbetzin wanted to see her husband, the Tzvi Latzadik, she would need to do so through Reb Avrumche—this is how central he was to this court.
But even more indicative of his importance is the fact that he was handpicked by the Bluzever Rebbe for this role—and the story goes as follows: His shadchan was none other than the Tzvi Latzadik himself. When the shiduch was complete, the Rebbe asked that Avrumche—who had counted himself among the Belzer chassidim—should come to live in Bluzev and served as the right hand of the Rebbe.
And this is how the name Avrumche Geiger would come to forever be linked with the house of Bluzev—a relationship that would span continents, surviving two world wars and passage to America. He would also be the one to ensure that the dynasty would survive.
When WWI arrived, many Yidden from Galicia fled to Austria. Reb Avrumche, along with his parents and his sons, relocated to Vienna, where—ever the activist—he opened a shtiebel called Oseh Chessed. The Geiger clan established itself in the business community in Vienna as well.
Relates his granddaughter, Mrs. Clara Chopp, shetichyeh:
“I was born in Vienna, and would spend all my free time at the “Brider Geiger” paper shop on Taborstrasse 24. You see, in those days, you didn’t just buy paper and rip it off. If a butcher or a baker or a a cheese seller needed paper at a certain size, they would need to order them at custom sizes. This is what Geiger Brothers did. The whole family worked there. They also had a factory that manufactured paper bags, across town.
To be continued…
Reb Avrumche Geiger (at left) walking with the Bluzover Rebbe; A rendering of R Avrumche at a hachnasas sefer Torah to his shtiebel in Vienna; Reb Avrumche at a Rebbishe chasunah in America, with a number of rebbes present; Rebbe Itzik’l of Bardiyov.