Front Cover
 Title Page
 Back Cover

Group Title: The Rev. Benjamin Safer Collection: Letters from Papa
Title: Letters from Papa
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00103124/00001
 Material Information
Title: Letters from Papa
Series Title: The Rev. Benjamin Safer Collection: Letters from Papa
Physical Description: Typescript; soft binding; includes photographs and charts; A4 size
Language: English
Creator: Safer, Edwin & Goldring, Stacey
Donor: Edwin Safer ( endowment )
Publisher: Unpublished
Publication Date: 1999
Physical Location:
Box: 1
Divider: 1
Subject: Jacksonville Jewish Community: Safer family
Biography of Rev. Benjamin Safer
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States -- Florida -- Duval -- Jacksonville
Coordinates: 30.319444 x -81.66
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00103124
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
        Foreword 1
        Foreword 2
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Full Text




Letters from Papa


Edwin Safer & Stacey Goldring

January, 1999


Communicating via the written word, instead of by telephone, fax, face to
face or e-mail, offers numerous, often priceless benefits. Before the days of instant
communication, correspondence through the mail kept family members abreast of
life's happenings.
Letters from Papa traces the life of the Rev. Benjamin Safer, our Papa, as a
rabbi, shochet, mohel, butcher, hazan, husband, "papa" ,"grandpa" and Zionist. Our
story begins with his family in Lithuania, followed by his journey to America and
his settlement in Jacksonville. We discuss his involvement with the Jewish
community and the growth of his family and finally his last days which were spent
in Israel. Through his correspondence with his children and grandchildren, we read
how a devout Jewish man tackles the issues of leaving his home and family in
Jacksonville for a "second" life in the Promised Land. His letters, written in
Yiddish and English reflect his intense spirituality, his love for his family, his
devotion to the Jewish religion and for Israel. His choice of words are both
eloquent and humble.
Equally impressive is the devotion his children and grandchildren have for
him. This is evident because so many of his letters were saved, as one would save
family heirlooms, to be passed from one generation to the next. The letters speak of
concern for Papa's well-being, life events, tzedekah and family matters.
It is interesting to note that each writer to Papa has a distinct personality and
in turn Papa has a certain relationship with each of them.
Papa Safer not only wrote to all who wrote to him, he also made hand written
copy of each letter he wrote!
We are so fortunate to have a large number of Papa's sermons that are
currently being researched for translation. These are written with Hebrew
characters in phonetic English with a Lithuanian accent. One is featured in this
biography. Please read and enjoy and also note the timelessness of the subject.
We hope you enjoy reading Letters from Papa nearly as much as we enjoyed
putting the story together. May the following pages bring you new insight and an
even deeper love and respect for Papa, a truly spiritual and intelligent man.
Remember him and tell your children and grandchildren about the patriarch of our


Edwin Safer and Stacey Goldring

Letters from Papa

As a child, I remembered my super heros being the likes of Superman and
Captain Marvel. As I matured, World War II was forever in the news. My heros
included Roosevelt,(later this changed), Patten and definitely Truman. This type of
hero worship was brief. However, their was one outstanding individual in my life
that will always be my true "hero."
The one person that I admired the most was Grandpa. In most Jewish homes
your grandparents were always identified as "Zadie" and "Bubbie" but in our
family, the children called the grandparents "Mama" and Papa". The
grandchildren called them "Grandma" and "Grandpa." This story is dedicated to
the memory of "Grandpa", the Rev. Benjamin Safer.

Our family's origins begin in Lithuania. Both of my grandparents as well as
my father, two of his brothers and one sister were born there. Several years ago
my wife Harriet and I along with cousins Bruce and Stacey Goldring had the
opportunity to visit Lithuania and actually visits the towns where our family and
our ancestors were born, lived, and died. During our stay we were fortunate to find
documents on the birth, marriage, and deaths of many of our relations. But most
importantly we were able to locate the birth certificate of both our grandparents,
their marriage certificate and the birth certificates of the first four of their children.

In The Beginning
In writing any historical and biographical document, it is always essential to
establish the place for its beginning. Based on the data gathered, we can place the
site of origin of the family in the village of Birzh, Lithuania, a community in the
northeast sector of the country- approximately 15-20 miles from the Latvian border.
In the United States our family was first "Saffer." This was changed to
"Safer" in 1908 by Jacob Safer, a brother of Grandpa. The original family name,
at least during the life of the Great Grandfather Joseph Shraga, was "Debobes"
which in YIDDISH refers to a grandmother. In fact the name his tombstone was
Joseph Shraga son of Benjamin from the House of Debobes( or translated from
Yiddish from the House of the Grandmother). Our earliest ancestor that we can
identify was the father of our great, great grandfather Benjamin. His name was
probably Fiavel or in Aramaic Shraga. His birth date would have been circa 1765
and he may have died around 1830 in Birzh.

The name Shraga means "light" and was usually given to child orphaned at
birth. And who better was their to raise an orphan child, none other than his
Grandmother, or in YIDDISH "De Bubble". Thus the origin of our first family
name Debobes. We were fortunate to recover documents that indicated Faivel
fathered several sons one of which was Benjamin. He was born in Birzh around
1803. To date we do not know the name of Benjamin's wife but her name may have
been Chaia Safer or Sofer. We have records of a Safer family in Birzh and many of
their children born at about the same time because the Debobes children shared
similar names. Benjamin and Chaia had at least five children, the eldest
wasYankel, then Chaim, Gilka, Joseph Shraga, the father of Grandpa who was
born in 1839 and another brother Moshe who was born a year later.

Joseph Shraga

Joseph Shraga was a very learned man as we read the inscription on his
tombstone. He was loved by his family as well as his students who attended the
yeshivas where Joseph Shraga taught.
Joseph Shraga married Hinda Reiza Sweetgal in 1859 and their first child was
name Sholomo, born 1861 in Birzh. Sholomo died at the age of seven years. At
least seven of their children survived and Benjamin, our grandfather, was born Jan.
1, 1872 corresponding in Hebrew to the 3rd day of Shevat, in Birzh. Although the
translation of the document from old Russian to Hebrew to English may be
somewhat deceiving the following is a copy of the record stating the birth of
Benjamin. Here he is given the name of Ber and his father is called Bencel the son
of Ber Safer of Birzh. We know that Grandpa was name after his grandfather
Benjamin thus Ber and Grandfather Ber.

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Grandpa's circumcision was Jan. 8th, and the mohl's present were Osher
Levinson and Abel Fleishman.

We have very little information on the lives of Joseph Shraga and Hinda
Reiza. Joseph Shraga probably taught in the yeshivas in the villages of Birzh,
Pushalot, Pompian, and Panevezys. The last of their three children Sarah, Harry and
Mendel were born in Panevezys and, in fact, Joseph Shraga died and was buried
As for Hinda Reiza, we think her father's name was Faivish Sweetgal. We do
know that some of the Sweetgal family moved to Johannesburg South Africa
because we know that three of their sons, Jacob, Harry and Mendel lived with the
family in South Africa for several years before coming to the United States.

Joseph was a very handsome man prematurely gray(all the Safer's grayed
early). The following is a picture of Joseph and Hinda Reiza probably when they
were in their early forties.

Life with the Shragas

Shetel life in the late 18th century was harsh, however it is evident that the
family survived intact. David BenZion the eldest son, and Grandpa followed in the
footsteps of their father by devoting their life to Torah study at the Yeshiva. The
younger boys did not have this zeal for religion and directed their interest to getting
out of Lithuania as soon as they were old enough to leave and started their business
careers in South Africa. One daughter, Chaia Risa, married Max Witten (spelled
Vitten in Lithuania) who came from Pushalot. Sarah remained single until she
arrived in Jacksonville where she married Morris Falis.

Lithuania, like all of the territories in Tsarist Russia ,had forced conscription
into the military. There was no exception. Many young boys drafted in their teens
had to serve as much as 25 years in the service. Usually the eldest son was exempt
from conscription mainly because they generally worked in the family's business or,
in all likely
The Debobes family was no exception. David Ben Zion was exempt and
Grandpa was conscripted. According to his son Dr. J. V. Safer, Grandpa, upon
entering the service was assigned to the Territory Military Band. Grandpa was an
accomplished musician playing both the violin and flute. Grandpa was promoted to
"Keipel Meister" or band director. And, for some reason, he was able to leave the
military when he was about 22 years old. He may have served several years before
his release in 1894 or 1895.

Upon his return to Panevezys, he reentered the Yeshiva to continue his
religious study in preparation for his religious profession. While dedicating his life
to his studies, he seem to have found time to court a young Panevezys lass named
Freda Leah Ziv. According to Freda Leah, who would be later known as "Mama"
and "Grandma," she was a child bride; however we were able to get a copy of her
birth announcement (see below). She was at least 19 and possibly 20 when she met
Grandma was born March 18, 1876 in Panevezys. She was the first child and
only girl, having at least four brothers. In latter years, Grandma only spoke of two
brothers, Simon who lived in Baltimore and Lazer who lived in South Africa. At
least two more brothers were born but probably died at an early age. Grandma's
father, Itzhak Ziv, the son of Yachiel Ziv, and mother, Pesa Hinda, daughter of
Jonah Avigdor Yaffe, lived in Panevezys. Her father Itzhak was a barrister in the
Jewish Shetel. Although he was quite successful, he was a frail man who may have
had polio at a young age. He died in 1902 at about the age of 50.

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Out of the pages of "Fiddler on the Roof', Joseph Shraga had a matchmaker
select a young lady from a very religious family to become the bride of his son
Benjamin. But, as in the play, Benjamin would have no part of the match and
informed his father that he had selected the love of his life, one Freda Leah Ziv.
Although the Ziv family was prominent in the village, they did not meet the
religious requirements of Joseph Shraga. However Grandpa had his way and we are
the living proof of his selection.
After a world wind courtship the two were married in Panevezys on October
8, 1896

Grandma's Parents

Pesa Yaffe Ziv

Itzhak Ziv

The above photographs are of Itzhak and Pesa Ziv, the
parents of Freda Leah. Pesa Ziv is wearing a long gold

This necklace was left to Freda Leah by her mother and Grandma in turn had the
chain cut and a gave the pieces to her eldest daughter Bluma, her daughter Ida and
the last piece was given to her first daughter-in-Law Mary wife of Mackey (my
parents). The chain has now been passed down further to the granddaughters and
great grand daughters of Freda Leah.

As previously mentioned, Grandpa and Grandma were married in Panevezys
on October 8, 1896. The ceremony was performed by Rabbi Zaks who was
apparently the Chief Rabbi of Panevezys at the time. We have other documents that
show Rabbi Zaks officiated. Nachum Kagan and Shmuel Kenigsberg were
witnesses. The cost for recording the certificate of marriage was 75 roubles. That
may equate to about $1.50 today!

The following document is the translation of the marriage certificate both in Hebrew
and English. The Second document is a photo
copy of the official records as recorded in Panevezys.

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The Young Couple: Freida Leah and Benjamin

Grandpa continued his study at the Yeshiva after the marriage and Grandma
said she would have to bring him food in the evening at the Yeshiva because he
wouldn't take the time off to come home to eat. As the saying goes the two were as
"poor as synagogue mice."

On September 6, 1897 their first child a daughter was born in Panevezys. She
was given the name of "Vita Bluma." Research indicates that Vita Bluma may have
been named after Grandma's paternal grandmother, Vita Getal Sweetgal. (Vita is
Latin for "Life".) Grandpa finally finished his studies and was now certified to
perform the ritual acts of shochet, mohl, and a writer of Torah, tefillin and mezuzah.

The following are the translations documenting the birth and names of
Grandpa and Grandma's four children born in Lithuania. As mentioned
Bluma and Eddie were both born in Panevezys. J.V. and Mackey were born in

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The Children in Lithuania

As typical with this family, confusion always seems to find its way to the
door. J.V. always said he was born in Latvia because he knew he was a Litvak. No
one ever told him that the term "Litvak" was a word designating a Lithuanian Jew.
J.V. used Dec. 23 as his birth date. He was born Dec. 1 which corresponded to the
23rd of Kislev, thus the selected date. Another oddity, J. V. was given the name
Jonel(Jonah) Vigdor. He was named for his maternal great grandfather Jonel
Avigdor Yaffe. For some reason, J. V. decided he preferred the name Jacob Victor
rather than Jonel Vigdor, thus J.V. became Jacob Victor.

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Oct. 13, which corresponded to the holiday of Hashana Raba. When the family
arrived in the United States in 1903, Hashana Raba fell on the Oct. 22 thus this
became Mackey's birthdate. Actually Mackey was named Yankel Meier at birth.
But since J.V. preferred Jacob (Yankel in Yiddish) to Jonel(Jonah), Mackey ended
being called Max J.(no middle name just the initial).

The fourth child, Eddie, was the last of the children to be born in Lithuania.
Grandpa had left Pokroi for America in early summer- in all likely hood after the
Shavuot holiday. Grandma was pregnant and returned to Panevezys. She moved in
with her mother until the baby Eddie was born and she could then leave to join
Grandpa in Jacksonville.
Naturally you would not expect this to be a simple process. Eddie was born
on Dec. 25, 1902 and his bris was Jan. 1, 1903. He preferred being a New Year
baby rather than a Christmas baby so he always said his birth date was New Year's
Day. His name at birth was Chaim Itzhak. The name Chaim may have been in
memory of his paternal Great grandmother Vita Getel Sweetgal. Remember Bluma
was also name Vita. The name obviously means "life" and Chaim in yiddish is also
"life". Eddie's second name Itzhak was in memory of Grandma's father Itzhak Ziv
who had passed away in either 1901 or early 1902. So Eddie should have been
called Herman Edward instead of Edward Herman. So, at last, the Lithuanian
branch of the family was complete.

In 1898 the village of Pokroi was in need of a shochet, mohl and a hazzan.
The village had about 200 to 300 Jewish families at the turn of the century : about
1200 Jews. The Jewish population probably represented more than half of the total
population. Grandpa accepted the position. He, with Grandma and Bluma move to
the village about 20 miles northwest of Panevezys.

When Bruce, Stacey, Harriet and I visited Pokroi we felt we were in a time
warp it was 1898 again. We spoke with two old women (through our interpreter)
and they said they remembered when the Jews lived on the street where we stood.
They pointed to a large two storied building which they described as the synagogue
and they also pointed down the street at a stone building that they remembered as a
kosher market. Thus we were able to place our family in this exact location.
Although we don't know which of the several houses on the block was occupied by
Grandpa and Grandma, we selected this one because it was so typical of the rest.

A house, where the Debobes Family may have lived, in the Shetel of Pokroi
just a few steps to the Synagogue and the kosher market. Picture was taken in 1994

Wooden Synagogue of Pokroi

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The wooden synagogue of Pokroi is one of the last example of these
structures that dotted the landscape of Eastern Europe for over200 years. The
Pokroi Synagogue remained active until the 1930's. With the destruction of the Jews
of Lithuania, the synagogue was converted to a movie house and then to a
warehouse and when we visited it only a aged building with beautiful memories of
prayers and singing the praises to the Almighty remained. Fortunately someone
took pictures of the interior of the synagogue before it was closed and the following
pictures taken and now at the Jewish Museum of Vilnius show the Menorah, Oren
Kodish, the pews and ceiling decorations depicting the animals mentioned in the

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The Interior of the Pokroi Synagogue where Grandpa conducted Services.

After the two boys were born, Grandma found that the small home they were
living in did not have the room to handle three children. So she decided to send
Bluma, now three years old to live with her mother Pesa Ziv. Grandma's father
had died about this time and her mother was alone.
Grandma felt that perhaps Bluma would bring some joy to her aging mother. In fact
Bluma said she loved living with her grandmother and she would call her "Mama".
Family Life in Pokroi
What was family life in Pokroi like for the Safer family? Unfortunately we
will never know. I spoke to J.V. several years before his death and asked if he could
recall any memory of his life in Lithuania? Could he remember anything about his
Grandparents or other relatives that may have visited their home? The answer was
"no". He did however recall one incident where he went with his father to a river. It
was very cold and there were a lot of old men standing around and speaking. He
recalled that one of the "old" men put a coat around his shoulder. He said they may
have been throwing something into the river. Obviously this was the Taslich
Service that occurs in the afternoon following the Rosh Hashanah Service. We can
surmise that the old man that befriended J.V. with the use of his coat may have been
somewhere around the age of thirty or forty years old. We all were anxious to find
this river J.V. described as we drove into the village of Pokroi. But there was no
river to be found. As we walked toward the old synagogue from the little house we
looked down at a ravine that was next to the synagogue and we saw a brook,
approximately ten feet wide and maybe a twelve inches deep. I shouted, "there's
Jake's river".
Grandpa, Grandma, J.V. and my father Mackey stayed in Pokroi through the
winter of 1901. But soon there would be a change in the life of the family. About
4000 miles way, in Jacksonville, Florida, a group of Orthodox Jews were mapping
out plans for their small Jewish community. Many of the congregants were from
Lithuania and some of the leaders were from the village of Pushalot. Jacksonville,
at the turn of the century had one religious institution- Ahavat Cheshed that began
shortly after the Civil War. The congregation served all the Jews of Jacksonville.
The earliest Jewish settlers came from West Europe, mainly Germany, and the
surrounding countries. The wave of East Europeans Jews would not arrive for about
20 years. The original congregation was "orthodox" in their prayers. However,
around 1880 the change to Reform Judaism reached America from Germany and
since most of the congregants were of German descent, the group voted to join the
Reform movement. This created a void for the few Orthodox Jews that had arrived
in Jacksonville. By 1900 the Orthodox Jewish population was large enough to form
a congregation of their own. The name selected was B'nai Israel.

The founding members wanted to hire a person that could fulfill all the essential
needs of a Orthodox Jewish community.
As mentioned above, some of the most influential members came from
Pushalot and the surrounding villages. Some of the newer members having just left
Lithuania knew of a very religious man who could fill their requirements as their
spiritual leader; Joseph Shraga Debobes.
The chartered officers of Congregation B'nai Israel were as follows:

Max Frank President
Sam Controvitz Vice-President
Louis Rosenstein Secretary
Alex Ossinsky Treasurer

The Board of Trustees included E. H. Pelton, Morris Wexler and A. Hirsch.

With the recommendation of the membership, the Board contacted Joseph
Shraga to see if he would have any interest in filling the Rabbinical position. In
1901 Joseph Shraga was now 62 years old. He did not feel that at this age he was
able to relocate to America and take on the religious responsibility that the new
congregation required. A story was told that he would never consider leaving
Lithuania, the Center of the Jewish Intellect, outside of Jerusalem to live in a
"Goysha America. But a strange thing occurred, Joseph Shraga sent a picture of
himself to Mr. Pelton in Jacksonville.
I recently got a call from Margo Ruby, the granddaughter of Mr. Pelton and
she said that she was given some documents that belonged to her grandfather. The
documents had been stored in an old wall safe in one of the properties Mr. Pelton
owned. When the building was being torn down the workers came upon the safe
and turned it over to Margo. Among the documents were two that she felt would be
of interest to me. The first was a picture of an elderly man taken in Lithuania and
mailed to Mr. Pelton. The picture was received in Jacksonville on January 11, 1901.
This would have been around the time that the congregation was searching for a
religious leader for the newly formed Congregation B'nai Israel.

As you can see on the next page, the letter was addressed to Mr. Pelton but it
contained no name or address of the sender. At my first viewing of the picture I
said it had to be Joseph Shraga. The picture probably was taken in 1900 making
him 61 years old. Comparing this to the younger picture of Joseph Shraga as it
appears on page 3, you can see many features that are quite similar, his deep
penetrating eyes, the same cut of the beard, a similar cap and overcoat.

Joseph Shraga, age 61

David Ben-Zion, age 62

If this was not convincing enough I have included a picture of David Ben-Zion,
Joseph Shraga's eldest son. The picture was taken in 1925 when Ben-Zion was 62
years old.





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The copy of the envelope in which the picture was sent and also the post mark from
New York and Jacksonville, January 8, 1901 and January 11, 1901.

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.. 9 s


Needless to say, Joseph Shraga did not accept the position however he did
recommend his son Benjamin who had completed his Yeshiva studies and had
served the Pokroi community for three years as their shochet, mohl, hazzan and was
very capable of filling the needs of the Jacksonville Jewish congregation.
Grandpa accepted the position and left Lithuania after the Shavuot holiday.
After arriving in New York, Grandpa stayed with his brothers and sisters who had
already immigrated to America. In fact he spent some time in the Catskills
working as a shochet. Grandpa's sisters Chia Reisa( Ida) Witten and Sarah, who
was still single, left Panevezys in the winter of 1900. His brothers Jacob, Harry,
Mendel, and brother-in-law Max Witten arrived from South Africa in early January
1901. The brothers got jobs in the garment district of New York.

Coming to America
Arriving in Jacksonville Grandpa was welcomed as the Spiritual Leader of
Congregation B'nai Israel. In the 1902 Jacksonville City Directory listed the
"Congregation B'nai Israel meets at the Masonic Temple (then located at Broad
and Forsyth Streets). The Administration was listed:
Benjamin Saffer Rabbi
Max Frank President
E.H. Pelton Vice President
Frank Bandel Treasurer
We have no record as to where Grandpa resided on his arrival but in all likely
hood he found a haven at Finkelstein's Kosher Boarding House on West Adams
Street in the heart of LaVilla, the Jewish Ghetto of Jacksonville. The Finkelstein
family had also immigrated from Lithuania where they operated a coach station for
travelers passing through the Pushalot area. It was said that any Jewish person
coming to Jacksonville for the first time could find a bed at Finkelstein's. It was
the center of Jewish social life in the city.
Grandma remained in Panevezys living at her Mother's home until after
Eddie was born in December, 1902. It is possible that she stayed until after
Passover to make the sea voyage to join Grandpa in Jacksonville.

Grandma with her four children left Paneveyzs by train arriving at a port in
Western Europe. Here she boarded a channel ferry for England and then, again by
train, to Liverpool where she boarded a ship bound for America. To date we are
unable to identify the name of the ship. We do know that in 1903 all ships leaving
Liverpool were from the Cunard Line. The trip across must have been a horrible
experience. Grandma obviously had never been on an ocean liner. Secondly, she
had to tend to four children ages six, five, and three and an infant who was four
months old. J.V. recalls that he remembers Grandma was seasick the entire ship
and never left the cabin. He was assigned to one of the upper berths and every
morning he found himself on the floor. He says he kept rolling out of the bunk.
Apparently, there was no brain damage! With Grandma so sick, Bluma, at the age
of six, was responsible for caring for her three brothers. They arrived in
Jacksonville, in May of 1903.
I had previously mentioned that Margo Ruby gave me a second document
concerning Grandpa. It was well preserved and as seen below it is self


s6as 'asY A
tSMV T MAT rrIMf, Z'r


. .-
\~~~~~~~~~ 1903ixf t~ Sz---t^^

/ * 4 -:7 *-

^ I? '

In January of 1905, Grandma gave birth to twin boys, Abba and Israel. This
was the first and only set of twins in the Joseph Shraga Debobes family, but in our
findings another branch of the Debobes family also had twins. The 1905 City
Directory list the residence of the B. Safer family at 632 W. Adams St.
This is an early picture of Grandma, probably taken around 1906 when she
was 30 years old.

Settling in Jacksonville, Florida
1906 was the year that Grandma had her seventh child another son, David
also born in January just one year after the twins. With the family growing ,
Grandma and Grandpa moved again to 1207 West Adams Street. It was also this
same year that his brothers and sisters left New York to join him in Jacksonville.
All arrived this year except for his brother Jacob and his wife Ida. They would not
relocate until 1908. For some reason Grandpa's brother Harry moved in with the
family on his arrival or he listed his place or residence at 1207 West Adams Street.
The 1907 edition of the American Jewish Yearbook whose publisher was
Henrietta Zold of Haddasah fame listed the following about the Congregation B'nai
Israel of Jacksonville, Fl :

Benjamin Saffer
Isaac Davis
Morris Glickstein
H. Bandell


The congregation had 75 member families with assets of $1200.00. The yearbook
also said that daily services were held and there was a chedder with 1 teacher and
30 pupils.
It was time for the congregation to build a permanent House of Worship, so
1907 saw the laying of the Cornerstone for the synagogue at the corner of Duval
and Jefferson Streets. The building was completed in 1910.

The entrance to the Synagogue is seen in the following photograph.

The entrance to the Synagogue is seen in the following photograph.

Although Grandpa and Grandma never took a formal portrait together until
their 50t Wedding Anniversary I found two photographs taken of them between
1908 to 1910. They made a handsome couple.

A v

In December of 1907 an eighth child was born. You're right, another son.
He was given the Hebrew name of Peretz but he was always called Perry.

It's a Girl!
In 1909, Grandma was pregnant again but this time the birth of the ninth
child was a girl! She was named Chaia for Grandpa's paternal grandmother who
was probably Chaia Safer Debobes. Ida was dubbed "Missy" by Grandma's maid,
she was the first little "Miss" to be born since Bluma. After seven brothers she
certainly deserved to given this appropriate "nick name". Grandpa moves the
family again to 352 Madison Street but only for a brief time because the next year
they are living at 831 W. Duval Street> This house was just a few doors from the
synagogue which officially opened its new sanctuary in 1910. Grandpa was still
serving as spiritual leader for the congregation. He also ran the kosher market
which relocated to
609 West Adams Street.

On Feb. 14, 1909 Grandma sent a card with the picture of her twins Abba
and Israel to Miss Lena Levine of Baltimore, Md. Lena would soon become the
wife of Simon Siff, Grandma's younger brother.

P ,,

-" ;i .


# i


The picture on the left is Israel and Abba at the age of four and the picture
to the right was taken on their 90t birthday in 1995.

Those Safer Twins
Everyone had a story about the Safer twins. During their first years you
could not tell them apart not even their own mother got it right! To avoid feeding
the same child twice Grandma tied a ribbon around one so she could identify who
was who. When they were about 18 months old, so the story goes, and they were
coming down the stairs of their home when Abba stepped on a piece of Israel's
clothing. Israel fell forward into an open hearth. He would have been burned
severely if it were not for his sister Bluma who wrapped him in a blanket to
smother the flames. He skin was burned and he was left with a scar. At last the
boys could be identified without the ribbon. In later years they still confused the
girls, particularly at dances, held at the YMHA. They would ask who was the
butcher boy(Abba) or the deli boy(Israel) since both worked in their fathers
business- one in the market and the other in the delicatessen.




The following photo of the Safer children excluding Ida, who was only one
year old at the time, was taken in 1910.

From left to right on the front row:
David Israel

From left to right on the back row:
Eddie Jake(J.V.)





The following year, 1911, another daughter was born Ethel Malka and now there
were ten children in the family.
In 1912 the family received notice that Grandpa's father Joseph Shraga
had passed away at the age of 72. The date was the March 6 and the cause of death
was cancer of the urinary bladder. We received a copy of death notice as it
appeared in the Lithuanian archives.

-7) zo'
rr v wnd
&J 4TUfc4
3 i

^^ vLC3~c

.t, *PoijtiA. /?/12_ FJ'T.^,6 / z CA / T^ e Cwnj$'^-cr/' 9 )ay o/ AI>-eA"
/r6 ^ -7 (r O^ y / SO^
,!y r" ik
^ ,^ ,4- 96- ^/ ^7///;//c*< ^

The wording on the document is interesting in the fact that the Yiddish name
Yosel Faivesh is used instead of the Hebrew name Joseph Shraga. As you see the
document indicated that Joseph Shraga died and was buried in Panevezys. On our
trip to Lithuania we were anxiously awaiting our visit to the cemetery where our
ancestors were buried. We had the picture of the tomb stone of Joseph Shraga
which is shown below. We anticipated searching the various graves in the cemetery
until we could find the tomb of our great grandfather. But to our surprise and
dismay we found that the Jewish cemetery of Panevezys no longer existed. Many
of the tombstones had been removed during World War II by the Germans to be
used in the construction of buildings while the few that remained were taken by the
local population. The desecration of the cemetery took place and no one in
Panevezys had any remorse. When the Russians occupied Lithuania they removed
all remaining signs of the Jewish cemetery and turned it into a Park. The picture
below is how the cemetery appears today and the other is a marker indicated that a
Jewish Cemetery was on this spot.

O"r~/C~3/3 /~~j


The only child of Joseph Shraga that was in Lithuania at the time of his death
was his oldest son David BenZion. David BenZion along with his mother stands at
the tombstone at its unveiling in January of 1913.

The tombstone is pictured on the left and the English translation appears on the

A marker for the soul of our Father
our teacher, glorious crown of our
i head the dear and honored blessed
SVay, vay people sigh
Gd "-.. gar The joys of our holidays have
Ceased fruitfulness of Joseph who
brings us honor making joyful
Severe heart and sad soul, holy
e n feelings did he arouse in them
S. he made great our joy and strong
S. our happiness but in the place of
our father there as days of a
":-- ": i '"holiday is the place of his coming
-:'7 only to honor God and not for
at the death of ourfather, our
teacher all these blessings were
sealed off and disappeared from our eyes
his hands and body labored in holiness quickly in his labor, a holy labor
his day has come, he has passed on and is no more.
God will gather His soul into His dwelling place
He will remember for him his merits and righteous acts to resurrect him with all
the deceased of His people.
The great rabbinic eagle so well known fearing God in all things
Our teacher Yosef Shraga ben Binyamin
Seal of the House of Debobess
Deceased 17 Adar 5672 (March 6, 1212)
and of the age of 73 years at the time of his death.
May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.

His Memory Is Honored

With the death of Joseph Shraga and keeping with Jewish tradition each of
his children named a child in his memory. The first to be born after his death was a
daughter of Harry Safer who was named Josephine. Later Uncle Harry had a son
who was then given the name of Joseph. Grandma's eleventh child a son was born
in 1913 and was named Joseph in memory of Joseph Shraga. Each of the cousins
all having the same name was identified in a peculiar manner. Josephine was
naturally Josephine. Joseph in the B. Safer family was identified as Rabbi Joe later
this would be changed to Yoshkie. Joe G. was the son of Harry Safer, Joe P. the
son of Mendel Safer, Joe Falis son of Sarah was called Nachas, and Joe Witten was
identified as Baby Joe since he was the last to be named Joseph.

By 1912 Congregation B'nai Israel had grown and they decided to hire a
Rev. J.B. Menkes as their Rabbi. Grandpa still served as Hazzan, Shochet and
Mohl for the congregation as well as continuing to operate Safer's Kosher Market.
The family moves again and this time to 1229 Monroe Street.

On April 20, 1914 after living in Jacksonville for nearly twelve years,
Grandpa became a Naturalized Citizen. The true document of Citizenship is seen

.k.,,.,- W 5 -_-.0r .____________ ., "_- --- --i

S.'... .../ .,. .-w,,, . ,, .,- .... .f .._ ..- -. .

-'." '-*t .fra y ,, '.- - -f. ..i
I,, t .. A*,/ ,... ; .

1111 -. 'aa .l l il ri] H .rl .. _t. . . ..Mil ... ,, P IC.'

h. .. ...
u m '*
./^/.*-^ 0'-;**"./^^ ^ ^/^-l~grfi^^^^^^^..^*-.-/-'--.-

This same year the congregation has now hired Rev A. H. Zeligsohn to be the
new Rabbi and Grandpa again moves the kosher market, this time at 825 W. Adams
Street. In November of 1914, his nephew Joseph G. is born. Uncle Harry is
thrilled to be able to name a son in memory of his father. Naturally Grandpa was
the mohl and taken from a group picture, this is Grandpa at the Bris.

Although we are not certain of the date of the picture of Grandma, we feel that must
have been taken about the same time. In 1914, Grandpa was 42 years old and
Grandma, 38.

The Jewish community of Jacksonville was well established having both a
Reform and Orthodox houses of worship. What was lacking however was a place
where the Jacksonville Jewry could gather for social and athletic activities. So in
1910 members of Congregation B'nai Israel began raising money to build a
YMHA. The land was purchased directly across the street from the synagogue and
Neil Finkelstein was selected to chair the building committee. The building was
open to its members on Monday evening, February 8, 1915. The following was
reported in the local newspaper. < The auditorium was decorated with flags,
bunting, flowers, and potted plants. Demonstration booths, which represented
numerous Jacksonville businesses, line the auditorium. Jac Swearingen,
Jacksonville's mayor, addressed the large gathering on the opening night. The
festivities continued each evening and ended on Thursday night. > Placards
announced plans to add two additional stories to be completed by 1918. The
YMHA of LaVilla remained the Center of Jewish Social Activities for over
seventeen years.

By 1932, Congregation B'nai Israel had been incorporated into a new
conservative synagogue, the Jacksonville Jewish Center which relocated to
Springfield area. Jewish Social life was now a part of the new Center. The picture
below shows the YMHA as it appears today. Just walking into its hall brings up
memories of where our parents had dances, played basketball, got married. A scent
of Judaism still prevails.

Photo circa 1940
The year was 1917 and the United States in now at war. Although J.V. was
19 years old when the U.S. entered the conflict, he was not drafted. The other sons
were then too young to serve in the army. Although Yoshkie is only 5 at the time
seems ready to enlist.



2 8 . 4 .


I; L -tz'w:--

Dr. J.V.
Grandpa is again appointed rabbi of B'nai Israel this year and he moves the
kosher market in with his brother Jacob who owns the delicatessen at 703 W.

J.V. now 19 had many interests. At an early age he mastered the Morse Code
and was able to get a job with a grain broker in Jacksonville who needed someone
to send and receive quotes on grain prices. J.V.'s work performance was
outstanding and the owner of the operation wanted him to learn the business and
take a permanent position. However Jake's eye was still directed toward medicine.
He did reveal some of his secrets to me concerning his teenage years in
Jacksonville. He remembered when he was in high school he taught several of his
female classmates the letters of the Morse code and during test he would tap out the
answers to the girls. He claims the teacher knew there was cheating going on but
could never figure out how the answers were being passed about. After school J.V
got a job at the local newspaper as a telegrapher. Naturally this was before radio
had national coverage. When major events happened the news was sent by
telegraph to the papers. J.V. claims he was the first to receive the news of the
sinking of the liner Luisatania which brought the United States into World War I.
Another interesting event that J.V. could see a profit in was during the
baseball World Series. People would gather around the newspaper office to hear
the resume of the game as the information was received over the telegraph. With J.
V. at the set he would be the first to get the information and then relay to someone
who would post what was occurring during in the game. However Jake had a shill
in the crowd, his brother Mackey. Jake would signal Mackey from the window a
designated signal and Mackey would then bet anyone sucker enough to bet what the
next play would be. Needless to say the two were very successful in this venture.
During the year Jake started working at Red Cross Pharmacy. He told me that in
order to become a licensed pharmacist you could take a six week course which he
did to get his license. He later worked for J.E. Wilson as a pharmacist and in 1922
bought the Reyno Pharmacy on Davis Street.
His description of his clientele on Davis Street always brought laughs. It
seems that most of his customers would party very hard on Saturday night after
getting their weekly pay. By Sunday morning they were in no condition to be
prepared to go to work on Monday so they would stagger to the Reyno Pharmacy
to purchase for $1.00 an elixir known as the Reyno Special. It had amazing curing

After one dose of Jake's concoction they would stand erect and get to church and
cleanse their sins in preparation for their job on Monday morning. At a family
gathering several years before his passing we asked if he would reveal the secrets of
the Reyno Special. He said the mixture contained some epson salts, sodium
bicarbonate to provide the fizz and a caramel for coloring and taste and water for
volume. The 4 ounces most of which was the water cost him less than 1 cent and
the bottle and cap and label cost approximately five cents. Selling this for $1.00
brought in a sizable profit. After about eighteen months Jake was able to sell the
Reyno and have sufficient funds to enter the University of Florida as a Freshman
Pre-Med Student. He was 26 years old when he entered the University. After one
year at the University he was accepted at the University of Maryland Medical
School where he received his medical degree in 1929. He remained in Baltimore
and did his intern and residency at St. Joseph's Hospital where he completed his
studies in general surgery. He returned to Jacksonville in 1937 and opened his
practice in Room 452 of the St. James Building on Duval Street. (Note: In 1998,
the St. James Building was renovated and is now the City Hall for Jacksonville)


A 16 years old Bluma

Bluma and Abe's Wedding picture
August 18, 1918

Bluma, the eldest of the children got married in 1918 to Abe Haimowitz.
The photo to the left was taken in 1914 when Bluma was seventeen years old. The
photo to the right is their wedding picture.
Bluma and Abe moved to Orlando where at first they opened a Five and
Dime Store on West Church Street, in the same location that now houses the
"Church Street Station". A few years later they moved to Winter Garden, a small
town about 12 miles west of Orlando. Here they opened the Leader Department
Store and they remained there throughout their life. Their son-in-law Mosie Cooper
joined them in the business after his return from World War I and continued the
business for a few years after Abe passed away in 1969.
In May of 1918 the twelfth and last child was born. She was named Pearl
after Grandma's mother Pesa Hinda Siff. The family is now complete with eight
sons and four daughters. And again the family moved, this time to 414 Jefferson
Street, next door to the synagogue. Grandpa's status changes again and in 1919 he
is again replaced as Rabbi of the congregation only to be reappointed again the next
year. Safer's Kosher Market and Delicatessen operated by Grandpa and his brother
Jacob relocated to 124 Broad Street.

From left to right: Grandpa, a Mr. Weiss, Jacob (Grandpa's brother), Israel, a delivery
boy and two customers unidentified.

Grandpa-The Businessman?

There were many stories told about Grandpa as a businessman. When one is
dedicated to Yeshiva study, there are very few business courses offered. Although
there was twelve children and two parents plus whoever else Grandpa could find
that looked hungry, no one in the family was undernourished.
Two outstanding stories that describes Grandpa's business ability involves a
Jewish merchant who could only be described as a "gonnif": a thief. On one
occasion he came into the market to borrow $25.00 from Grandpa. According to
J.V., Grandpa told the man to go to the safe that was located at the back of the
market and take the $25.00 and he could pay it back whenever he could. J. V. said
the man took untold sums but with the promise to pay back the $25.00. Grandpa
always left the safe door open but just in case it was accidently locked, he left the
combination pasted on the top of the safe.
In another instance, Grandpa had a butcher who was aptly named Butch. He
was a Black man who had worked in the store for many years. He was lazy when
he was hired and remained that way as long as he was employed. One day GrandpL
became so fed up with Butch he decided to fire him. But Grandpa had never fired
anyone much less say a harsh word to one. So how could he rid himself of this
worthless employee? After great deliberation, Grandpa sent him a letter advising
him he was no longer employed at Safer's Kosher Market. I question whether
Butch could have read the letter but apparently he never returned to work. As the
results, Grandpa employed his sons, Mackey, Abba and Israel and when he was
needed, Perry. By 1922, Jacob, Grandpa's brother and partner in the business had
made enough money to buy a home in the up and coming area for the Jewish elite.
He moved his family to Springfield and sold his interest in the delicatessen to
It was this same year that Grandpa again was replaced as Rabbi of
Congregation B'nai Israel. This time brother Jacob was totally fed up with the way
the congregation was treating his brother, so he decided to organize his synagogue
and the following announcement appeared in the Florida Times Union on June 5,
1922:(See the article on the next page as it was written in 1972 on the 50"
anniversary of the event.) The congregation relocated to 4t and Pearl Streets and
Joe P. Safer, the son of Mendel and nephew of Grandpa, had his Bar Mitzvah at
Kenesas Israel Synagogue.

50 Years -


- June 5, 1922 .
Plans have been form ted
for. there biganization of a new
Jewish-. congregation among
the orthodox Jews of Spring-
field and a committee has
been appointed, J. Safer,
chairman, to complete all ar-
rangements. The name of the
organization will be the Con-
gregation Knesas Israel under
the rules and regulations of
the committee which has been
;elected. The congregation
vill be in charge of Rabbi
benjamin Safer who for man
rears has been connect
vith the Congregation Bna
srael. At present service.
re being held in the resi

dence of Chairman Safer 149
West, Third St. RabbirSafer,
during .the,.;past wee I con-
ducted the ervices'.therein
connection ith te" observ-
ance pf Sh b or the Feast
of Weeks,

Congregation Kenesas Israel at 4t and Pearl Street

Grandpa's unemployment at B'nai Israel was short lived because on
November 1, 1923 he was again hired as Cantor and Reverend of said congregation.
The following is actual 3 page document that was given to us by the late Norman
Moss, son of David Moscowitz, then president of the congregation.


Articles of Agreement, made this ../ of
A.D. 1923 by and between Congregation.B'nai Israel, a corporation,
of the first part, designated hereinafter as the employer, and,
Rei Sfer,. of..the. second Brt, d4eiignted hereinafter a.*tt.

Said. first party hereby .employees saia4 second .
as Cantor and Reverend of the said Congregation,for a period of
one year. beginning November 1, A.D. 1923 at a yearly salary of
five hundred dollars, payable at the end of everythree months,
said first quarterly payment to be made three months after the
first of November,. A.D. .192,. ...
.. Ad, AIn consideration ,thefeflgr it. shal lbe the duty

of said second party and he hereby agrees to act and serve in
the capacity of Cantorand Reverend for said Congregation for
the period J time above spq9ifLed and f9r the salary above
mentioned, .acting and performing he usual and customaiE'
and services of a Cantor an deveend, ....

Said second party. further agrees that Oectill official)
at the ceqgregation aforesaid: peach and every Saturday and Jew

ish holiday during, the aboYe.C.Mpaeited periQo, an4.on all week
daya when the sorow is,read.
.-ti Said seoond..party, further .agrees that on all Jewish,
Dolidayi an tlo.e Schofar.phovud b, blo*4 thbt he will apt'an.
Bwal.LToeanf. 4 ygr a i0,4tsahoin. ,' .
., sid esond. pa ty f furthr, (greet that b'h will ffiia e

by, the president of .te pogregatio,,. r offie h~ barg.
_" .. ..: . . .. .. .. .,p ,, +:,- .-g ,, ,

It is mutually understood and agreed that said second

party shall for the purposes of this agreement be under the

direction and supervision of the President of the Congregation,

or in the absence of said president acting in ouch capacity ,

then the officer designated by said congregation, on notice
Wfy '1ogN5r, t.n 16" second pa

In addition to said salary above mentioned, said first

party agrees to pay to said second party ten per cent (10%) of

the amount of all dues collected by said party as and for dues

from members of said congregation during the period of said con-

tract, and also the sum of fifteen per cent (15%) of all dues

collected from members by said second party fromAembers who at

the time of collecting said dues are notK members of said con-

gregation, the purpose of this provision, being and the intent

is to pay to said second party fifteen per cent (15%) from new

members adeL .4abh by said send art, a d t anper c t .f
old or present members.A It is further agreed that said percent-

age payments are to be deducted and paid by s aidfirst party to

said second party at the time of payment of said dues to said

congregation. by said. second party.

It li mutually ggref'Ethat all moneys collected by

said second party shi: be turned in to said congregation by
himaxtd at the first reg lar meeting of said congregation next

succe4ng ther'eolltioi. of saiiatddeA. tbat.. 1 s d -$

second partr'T'to report at each Aegular meeting on '11 m-neys

collected by him for said congregation.
w"irflBjtqyw- tb* *r ^ff^'1^5y'l^*tt~l^ ~s aid -'t-p"a^*^a

shihave the right and said f irst party herW ie'dpressly re.
aervws the right to offer the pulpit of said congregation to

any other cantor or rabbi during the period of this agreement

hesal r said. first party so desires, tpon first notity~Fan ad
^ ^& '^ftiP:i ite-4. ^ ..,. < ,..,& ._.

In the event that the said congregation pursuant to the

next above paragraph engages a special cantor for any of the
holidays occuring- during the period of this agreement, said second
party agrees to permitS -said special cantor to perform the
Musafh and N.h, *g2 .eq9gm pU&1aryfM.?r.; egiB.,A .
rtdiUiimLi -i ; ',. "' "- .--w^- St u, ltijgf, ... ..* .. ;-'-.
sai'i 6 iecond'-arty isto aften-T and perform the Schachris and

other services incident to and enumerated and specified in this
Said second party further agrees that he will at no time
during the period of this agreement leave the City of Jacksonville
unless he first obtain the consent of the President of said Con-
gregation, or unless said leave be at a time when his services
to said congregation be not required.
Signed and executed -he day and year first above written
at Jacks anville, Florida.

Signed, sealed and delivered
.in the presence of us: Congregation B'nai Israel (Seal)
_______ By

SCO ;sBecretry.


(0^n ^ Q^ -

With the outstanding salary of $500.00/ annum and for only one year Grandpa
could at last afford a "mansion" for him Grandma and the eleven children still
living at home. Bluma and Abe had already moved to Orlando. The home was
located at 725 W. Monroe Street and it is now listed as a Landmark for Jacksonville
and it is one of only several homes that remains standing in the La Villa section of
the city. Probably more stories and definitely the best of times for the family was
experienced at 725 Monroe Street.

I. -. ~4;

In 1924, Grandpa moved the store from Broad Street back to 703-05 West
Adams where Jacob had opened Safer's Delicatessen some fifteen years before.
The market and Deli would remain at this address until Grandpa and Grandma
moves to Orlando in 1933 and Grandpa became Rabbi of Congregation Ohav
Shalom. Abba along with David moved the store to 614 West Adams Street and the
business was now called Safer Bros. Kosher Market and Delicatessen with Abba
running the market and David the delicatessen.


The economic Depression that hit the country in 1929 also had its effect on
the family. In 1931 the family had to give up the mansion on Monroe Street and in
1931 they again moved to 1556 Pearl Street. This house is still standing and is
shown below.

Grandpa and Grandma's children were growing up and were finding either
wives or husbands. Mackey married Mary Friedman in 1926 and moved to Orlando
to join Bluma and Abe. Mackey opened a grocery store but later converted it to a
kosher market and delicatessen.

J. V. enrolled in Medical School at the University of Maryland and graduated
in 1929. He remained in Baltimore completing his internship and residency at St.
Joseph's Hospital in Surgery. He returned to Jacksonville in 1936 and opened his
practice in the St. James Building in Suite 452( now the City Hall for the City of

Wedding Bells...
The family celebrated three weddings in 1931. Israel married Betty Berman,
Ida married Dewey Goldberg, formerly of Baltimore, Md. and Perry married his
childhood sweetheart, Pearl Weiss. The following year David married Sally
Pearlman of Chattanooga and moved to Daytona Beach to open a delicatessen.
David wasn't very happy in Daytona mainly because he had to remain open on
Saturday and was unable to attend Sabbath Services. After a year or so they
returned to Jacksonville and joined with Abba to form Safer Bros. Kosher Market
and Delicatessen. Abba married Eunice Cooper of Savannah, Ga in 1933 and Eddie
married Sarah Schneider of Lakeland in 1934. Eddie and Sarah opened a dress
shop and also relocated to Orlando for a couple of years joining with Abe and
Bluma and Mackey and Mary. About this same time, Grandpa was offered a
temporary position at Ohav Shalom Synagogue in Orlando. He served as the rabbi,
hazan and carry out all of the religious life cycles. He also helped out in Mackey's
Safer's Kosher Market as shochet. When Grandma and Grandpa arrived in
Orlando, the three youngest children Ethel(Doll), Joe(Yoshkie) and Pearl came with
them. So they had six of their twelve children living close at hand.
...And Baby Bottles
The next generation, the grandchildren were now appearing on the scene.
The first was Gertrude born to Bluma and Abe in 1919. It would be five years
before the arrival of the second grandchild. Bluma and Abe had a second girl, who
was named Pearl Helen, after Grandma's mother Pesa Hinda Ziv. This was
Bluma's Grandmother, who kept her while the rest of the family lived in Pokroi.
I was the third grandchild to be born, and again, it was five years after the
birth of Pearl. Mackey and Mary were the proud parents of a bouncing boy. Well,
not exactly bouncing! As I have been told when I was born I had jaundice so I
looked Chinese and if that wasn't bad enough, I seem to have had a lot of loose skin
hanging off my bones. When the family came to visit me upon my arrival one of
my aunts looked at me and said to my mother, "Don't worry, at least he's a boy and
even if he can't find a bride, he won't have to live at home for ever!" Naturally, my
ugliness lasted only a short while and I became the rage of Orlando. The family
was blessed with anther child; Allyn, to Israel and Betty in 1932. Grandson, Larry,
the son of Ida and Dewey, was born in 1934.
With most of the children now married, the grandchildren were appearing in
groups of two or three each year. We will identify the rest of the next generation
after we take a look at the "Family Photo Album" which follows next.




~Sbrr~~ llF~-T ~-~
-- ~ ~*l~-.

Family Home, 831 W. Duval Street year 1910


Family Home, 1905 Silver Street year 1937-1956

From left to right: Tante Ida Witten, Bluma, Grandma
Jacksonville Beach, year circa 1920's

;; -,

5" i1 .

Gertrude(nee Haimowitz) Cooper, year 1921


Gertrude, Cousin Joe Falis, Pearl
Jacksonville Beach year 1922

Ida, (unidentified) Pearl(nee Weiss)Safer
Jacksonville year 1924



Mackey second from left at his Max 's Delicatessen
on Flagler St. Miami year 1925. Abe Haimowitz is
at the far right.

Ethel (Doll) in her teen years?

Grandpa on board ocean liner arriving in Haifa in June, 1926. This was his first visit to Israel

S*. ainty little .flower girls who
preceded the bride in her entrance
TA~B." W~Eb IN6 j to the church were Gertrude Ham-
W AMwitz, niece of the groom from Or-
lando,'and Rosalie FiegenbaOum of
'St. Augustine -: Small Sunny Miller
.T Jl of Jacksonville, was the wee ring-
EUNDAY Cbearer, clad in white satin, and he
I. UMI :F II carried. the ring on .a..white satin
yLU pillow adornxd, withraib.-blQs-
' t-.-The.ipret~yT7ttle 'rls who
A notable evemt. of yesterday carried the. bride's trains were
was the marriage of Miss Mary Pearl Safer and Irene Pincus.
Friedman of St. Augustine to Mr. The marriage service was solem-
Max Safer of Jac' qUpp'vlland- th nized with the Rev. Arthur Ginz-
ceremonY in the Synagogue of te ler, rabbi of the local Jewish. con-
ConeeionyinO--of B'Nai Israel on gregation, officiating. This waa in
co^dova street was witnessed by a both English and Hebrew, with
throng of friends of the young sole solemn chants. introduced,
people from St. Augustine, Jack- which made the service especially
sopville, Orlando, Palatka, Miami impressive. The .conclusion of the
andi Winter Park. It is estimated ceremony came with the breaking
there were about 250 out-of-town of the crystal cup from which the
gulests.. So large a crowd sought bride and groom had drunk the sac-
admittance to the pretty little .~'xoentar wine r -Toh: the sti'i of
'churchlthat it wa. .impossible to wedding music the. bridal party left
"sea~t- everyolie, n soe stoo the church.
s.. Arrangements for the ceremony
Taking their places in the b'el-J .were under the direction. of Na-
Smar, the square enclosed place in- than Shortstein, head usher, and
the center of the synagogue, were other ushers were Eddie Safer, T..
first the rabbi, Rev. Arthur Ginz- -Mf Schneider and Max Friedman.
ler, the parents of th' bride, Mr. At six-thirty in the evening the
and Mrs. Morris Friedman of St. bride and groom, both families, of
Augustine, and the parents of the the newly-wed couple and other
groom, Rev. B. Safer, rabbi in members of the bridal party enter-
Jacks aville, and Mrs. Safer. Then tained at an elaborate banquet
toJ 4e'strains of orchestral music served in the 20th Century Cafe.
entered the members of the bridal The three, long tables which ran
party, there .being seven pretty the full length of the restaurant
ritdetriaids and seven groomsmen. were riot sufficient to seat the en-
Entering in couples, the girls in tire number of guests and it was
their. lovely frocks of varying nceabary to serve two banquets
shades which blended into a rain- to two different sets of guests,
bow of color, carried arm bouquets The bride, radiant and beautiful
-f sweet peas tied with fluffy in her wedding gown, and the
k-ows of tulle. The men carried groom, held the position of honor
l:ghte-d candles tied with colored at the head of the .middle table and
s reamers. Marching around the were nearly hidden from sight by
S.nclosure, the members of the a beautifully decorated wedding
bridal i party took their places so oake~n4 top of which a- maniathe
.rtde=.an4 groom were sttding f -.
as to form an aisle for the ap- Immediateu following the ban- I
prozch of the bride to the b'elmar. ue th uets lef for the Tor
el r e m bhr roteaidere a s e ed a fe r i tht eb y motor for the Tour-
-Safer of Jacksonville;- Miss Pearl st Club were a nine-piece orches-
Wels. of Jacksonville;. Miss Mamie tra furnished music for the wed-
Snyc er Miss Bella Bi choltz, Miss rding dance. Nearly one hundred
Carri.; Kass, allof St. Augustine, ad ty couples were present t
Miss ,Mabel Kanner of Palatka dance while equally as many.
Miss Ceclia Sganer of Jaconvle other sat around the edge of the
Miss Cecilia Safer of Jacksonville. lare r as
sThe groomsmen were Charles Shul- large ballroom as spectators
mnan, Perry Safer, David Safer o Toward the middle o the even-
reew aro.u .f~ ~ Thng bride threw .her bou quet
Jacksonville; Abe Friedman of St i. the orcet s to het
Au iehe Jo B e omn t ^ho otetr ais to ver ,
'rrgustne; Joe latter, arry f maid of honor and bridesmaids and
Baker of acsonvll at twelve o'clock the dance ended
of .St. Augustine. .. amid a general well-wishing for
The bride was lovely in her wed-, the newly married couple.
.ding frock. of white satin, ex- During the evening Mr. and Mrs.
ely ebroideed and beaded Safer left by motor for Dayton,
-"tal. IHer. veil of tulle which Beach where they were to spend'
ranged under a coronet of last night. They will continue on
blossoms in especially be- down the coast to Miami, and then
and beautiful fashion, fell return here before going to New
racefu'l folds. She carried an York City. Upon their return to
I bouquet of orchids and valley iFlori- ..r.
vil ----r. er s traveling
ss Ida Fagan attended, the a -Fiictly tailored suit of navy bl4
as maid-of-honor, and was with aizail hl--ir-aarla y" accesI
uing in.a- frock of orange-tint- Isories to' match.\
argette, with arm-bouquet .*t- The bride is a beautiful and pop- I
The best man was Per ular girl with. numberless friends
r of Jacksonville. in this community who regret her
departure for Jacksonville to live.
The groom is one of the twelve '
children of Rabbi'and Mrs. B. Safer :
of Jacksonville, and, has business -
interests in 3acksonvill. -dMi :
.ami where he is .well k .

Portrait of Mackey and Mary's Wedding Party taken in front of the Alcazar Hotel in St. Augustine, May 2, 1926.
Family members in the wedding group included brother Perry far left, brother David sixth from left, sister Ida second
right from Mary and sister in law to be Pearl Weiss far right. Flower girl was Gertrude Haimowitz to right.

ve I

Mary and Mackey in front of 725 W. Monroe St.
before leaving on their honeymoon aboard the
Clyde Line Cruise Ship to New York year 1926

Ida in her bride's maid dress taken
when she was 17 years old in 1926


Ethel(Doll) (man unidentified) Pearl Haimowitz
being held, Pearl, & Gertrude Haimowitz
Taken 1927, Orlando

Edwin Safer, 2 years old, taken

Abe Haimowitz with daughters Gertrude
and Pearl. Taken 1927, Orlando

Pearl Haimowitz and Edwin Safer
taken 1931, Daytona Beach

1931, Orlando

> t ..^fef^"'

The "Twins" Abba and Israel Safer with Gert Shulman Rosenblatt
Taken in Jacksonville, in the 1920"s

Ethel(Doll Safer)Davis in her teens David Safer, taken Jacksonville, late 1920's

David Safer in his James Gagney pose in Savannah
early 1930's


David & Sally Safer in front of their Deli
store in Daytona Beach, 1932

Ida and Dewey Goldberg picture taken
in 1932

Edwin Safer, Ring bearer in
a family wedding, Orlando 1934

~L~Z~:------ -I---


- 1.' .

,r -. r- .

Alyn (Safer)Lazarus, daughter of Israel and
Betty Safer, Jacksonville, 1934


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"Lovin Cousins" Sandra(Safer) Weiss and Sollie Safer
Jacksonville, 1937

Eddie Safer with daughter Barbara(Safer)Rabin

Grandpa with two gentlemen identified as Bogner and Jules picture taken 1939

Abba, Eunice, Sandra and Edwin in back at
Jacksonville Beach, 1939

1^--- -.I*^ .
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p,.. i
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Barbaa .a...ec J t n19

Barbara Safer Rabin picture taken 1939

, M'Me


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Abe & Bluma Haimowitz in Orlando Pearl Haimowitz in Orlando, 1941

Abba, Sandra, Eunice, Maxine Safer in Jacksonville 1943

a' sK


Sandra's birthday party 1943,
From left to right: "friend", Cynthia, Larry, Sandra, Sollie, Marilyn

"Famous Cousins Photo" taken by Edwin Safer, at Grandma & Grandpa's House, 1943
On sofa 1. to. r.: Marilyn, Marlene, Barbara, Maxine, Linda, Cynthia
front row 1. to r.: Sollie, Sandra, Larry and the cat Mouser

" _


Family Seder, 1944. The family present would number over 40. In addition Servicemen and
their wives who were friends or relatives of the family were invited. If Grandpa found any
serviceman at services that did not have a place to attend the Seder, he brought them home also.


Gertrude, Irwin and Israel Safer, :\.
visiting Jacksonville in 1944 '


Cynthia(nee Goldberg) Goldring and
brother Larry Goldberg, 1945

Sandra(nee Safer)Weiss and sister
Maxine(nee Safer) Goldberg, 1945

Marilyn(nee Safer) Wolfson and sister
Gail(nee Safer) Greenfield, 1945

Irwin and Israel Safer, 1945

Marlene(nee Safer) Bossen, 1943

Barbara(nee Safer) Rabin and sister
Jane(nee Safer)Kirschenbaum, 1944

The fourth generation of the B. Safer Family
Bluma Haimowitz, Grandpa, Gertrude Cooper
seated: Grandma and Susan(nee Cooper) Signer, 1945

Marsha(nee Kramer) Fish, 1944

Sally Safer with children, 1948
Marilyn, Gail, and Michael

Elinor Safer, 1948

Another Festive meal at Grandpa and Grandma's, 1947.
From 1 to r: Edwin Safer, Mackey Safer, Grandma, Grandpa, Abba Safer

Grandma and Grandpa after the meal

Grandma and Perry Safer

-- .
--" ..-
- ... .

Family Seder in 1954 at Mackey and Mary Safer's home.
on his first visit

Grandpa is away in Israel

. /' ** ...

Grandma posing in front of 1905 Silver Street

... ". -...

C 1_~i

Dr. J. V. Safer and Grandma in 1957

Abba Safer at the Kosher Market, the 1950's

Wedding Photo of Cynthia Goldberg and David Goldring
October, 1958

The wedding of Edwin and Harriet Safer, November, 1957
Family members standing from 1 to r: Joe Safer, Eunice Safer, David Davis, Ida Goldberg, Eddie Safer,
Mary Safer, Harriet and Edwin Safer, Mackey Safer, Bluma and Abe Haimowitz, Pearl Kramer, Fred Chait
Seated 1 to r: Jane Kirschenbaum, Ethel(Doll) Davis, Sarah Safer, Grandma, Simon Siff(brother of Grandma)
Barbara(Chait) Rabin

At the wedding: Grandma seated with her four daughters from left to right:
Ida Goldberg, Ethel (Doll) Davis, Pearl Kramer, Bluma Haimowitz

Grandpa with whiskey bottle in hand at a
Bar Mitzvah in Israel, 1957

Grandpa at a synagogue in Israel, 1958

Seated second from left: Grandpa attends a
Shalosh Seudot in Israel in 1958

Rosh Hashanah greetings from Grandpa
From Israel in 1958

Photographs of Grandpa, the last taken in Israel in 1956

.4. LB

The Growing Family Tree
As previously mentioned Larry was born in 1934 and after that the next
generation started to appear in droves. I will list them in chronologically.
Starting in 1936, Solomon (Sollie) was born to Perry and Pearl. Sandra was
born in 1936, daughter of Abba and Eunice. In 1937 we only had one addition to
the family. That was Marilyn, daughter of David and Sally. In 1938 two more
granddaughters were welcomed: Barbara, daughter of Eddie and Sarah, and
Cynthia, daughter of Ida and Dewey. 1939 was a lean year for the family as no one
added to the family tree. In 1940, Marlene was born, daughter of Perry and Pearl.
And the next year, Linda, daughter of Doll and Dave, was born. In 1942, we saw
the birth of Maxine, daughter of Abba and Eunice, and also, Jane, the daughter of
Eddie and Sarah. In 1943, after his marriage to Gertrude Cooper of Savannah, their
first child, Irwin, was born, as well as David and Sally had their second child,
Abigail Ruth. Marsha, daughter of Pearl and Irvin, was introduced to the family. In
1944, Henry Paul, son of Doll and Dave. And in 1946, Michael, son of David and
Sally were born. And in 1947 the last of the grandchildren arrived. The first was
Elinor, the third daughter of Abba and Eunice, then Sherrie, daughter of Israel and
Gertrude. Finally, Sheila was born to Pearl and Irvin. In all, from the ten married
children of Grandpa and Grandma, there were 21 grandchildren, fifteen girls and
six boys. The family continues to grow with the great grandchildren and now we
have the beginnings of the fifth generation. These will be presented in a sequel to
this epistle.
In 1937, the Congregation Ohav Shalom of Orlando hired a Rabbi Morris
Skop to become their spiritual leader. Grandpa now sixty five years old decided to
return to Jacksonville. J. V. now in practice in, Jacksonville bought a home for his
parents in the Springfield area at 1905 Silver Street that was only six blocks from
the Jewish Center, the successor of Congregation B'nai Israel. The following
photograph of Grandpa and Grandma was taken probably in Orlando about the time
of their departure.

Although officially retired, Grandpa was always available to fill in at the
Center to fulfill any Rabbinical duties. He would still come to the kosher market
now run by Abba and Mackey who recently returned to Jacksonville from Orlando.
They had hired a shochet, however Grandpa would pinch hit when necessary.
During the 1930's and 40's he continued to be the official mohl for N.E. Florida and
parts of Georgia. He continued to perform circumcisions even when he was in his
seventies. In the later years he would take his son Dr. J. V. along just to reassure
the new parents that he knew what he was doing. J. V. said that Grandpa at seventy
had a steadier hand than some one thirty or forty years his junior.

The next photo is of Grandpa at the hospital just prior to the Bris. I title this just

It is interesting to note here that just recently grandpa's son David, while
"rummaging" through his kitchen draws, came upon a small knife. After a close
evaluation it was determined that this was the knife grandpa used in the
circumcision ritual. We sent the knife to the Jewish museum in Miami Beach
where it is on display. This was truly a rare find.

Grandpa was no longer officially employed by the Jewish Center but they did
allow him to "doven" on the Sabbath and also read the Torah. During the High
holidays the now conservative synagogue would allow Grandpa to conduct
orthodox services for the holdovers from Congregation B'nai Israel in the

His choir consisted of his sons Abba and Israel. When Israel relocated to Savannah
I joined in on the pulpit and later a nephew Joe P. Safer would assist in the
rendering of the holiday services. Grandpa's sermon to the "old crowd" was in

I didn't understand a word he was saying but I listened intently and would laugh
when everyone laughed and sighed when everyone sighed. It was a rewarding
experience to say the least. Another interesting bit of history was also found by
David. This was a small notebook containing sermon's that grandpa had written.
At first glance it appeared that the writing was Yiddish. If we could find someone
who could read the documents, we would have had a precious gift of grandpa's
words from the past. However there was a little twist to the text. It appears that
when grandpa was acting Rabbi in Orlando, most of the congregation didn't know
or understand Yiddish. So a problem occurred since grandpa was expected to
deliver a sermon at the Shabbat service and in English. What grandpa did was to
write a transliteration of his sermons. In other words he wrote the sermon using
Yiddish and Hebrew letters however when he read the message from his pages it
was in English. We have been able to save several of the sermons and we have
included just one of the documents on the subject of Hannukah.

(Ed. Note: Please keep in mind that this sermon was written in 1935. Although, the
country and our community was hit hard by economic hardships, the theme of the
following sermon is nonetheless timeless.)


"Remember the days of Old"
"So, Moses spoke to his people just before his death. It is a fine saying and we Jews
do not fail to bear it in mind. We are fond of remembering the Days of Old. We
remember them on this Feast of Hannukah, the feast of dedication which we are
keeping in honor of the Macabees who bravely lived and died 2100 years ago. Their
gallant deeds lit up the world in their day; but we take care that they shall light up
our hearts in our day just as our festival lamps which you see burning. For the
Macabees of brave deeds must never be allowed to perish from our hearts, if we
would show ourselves faithful and good.
We must not say, oh, this story is old; 1,000 years is a long time ago; let uus
have something new. For what does it matter that the heros are long dead and gone
and their very graves unknown? Their courage and their goodness live after them.

Time does not diminish their beauty or their power to uplift us. We can learn as
much from the heroism of the Macabees as we can from the latest act of bravery
that the newspapers are praising.
We can learn more for the Macabees were Jewish and it is a fine thing to
think that we Jews have produced such heros. Now, what their story teaches us it to
be true and faithful, but especially true and faithful to our religion, to thee G-d for
whom the Macabees laid down their lives.
That is why Moses, with his last breath, tells his people to remember the
Days of Old. One would imagine that he would have been thinking of other things,
that he would have been looking forward to his death, which was so near at hand.
But he did not think of himself, he never did that, he thought only of Israel, how he
might help them to be good when he was gone and he could find no better way of
helping them than be telling them to remember the days of old-to remember G-d's
love for them in the past and who often they had shown themselves unworthy of it.
For let us be sure that if we would be sure to live our lives well, we can not do
better than take a lesson from olden times.
After religion, there is no study that can help you so much to be good as the
study of history. If history warns us against the faults which have ruined many a
character, it also bids copy the virtures which have made many a character
beautiful. Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime. Ah, it
is a wonderful thing-this power of goodness to live on the good themselves are
dust! The scent goes out by a bowl of rose leaves. How sweet it is! Nothing seems
to kill its sweetness, but the roses have been dead for many a year. Goodness then
never dies; it never gets old fashioned as last year's hat does or last year's way of
doing one's hair. Thank G-d for that! Thank G-d that there is always some heart to
love and cherish-a noble example; some life which, after the lapse of centuries, is
made the better and the sweeter for it, just as the room is scented by the dead rose.
Think of that children and let the thought be another endorsement to you. To
strive with might and mane, to be brave in right doing. You never know how
mighty or goodness might be, how many it may help to be brave and good in their
turn, how many may think and love you for so helping them.
But let us go back to our text, "Remember the day of old" It is a command
that we ought to think about in these times when it is not the old, but the new that
the people run after so much. The newer a thing is the better they think it is. The
latest invention or the latest amusement, the latest music, however ugly, the latest
frock, however dowdy. Children have this idea too. They love new things just
because they are new. They love new toys when the old ones are quite good
enough. They love new clothes when the old ones are still quite wearable.

I know a boy who when his father told him they were going to move a new
house, almost jumped out of skin for joy. There was nothing wrong with the old
house and the boy did not know anything about the new one but he was delighted
all the same. He was delighted because moving was a change because it was
something new. Now, I am not going to say that this love of change is altogether
bad. If people always kept in the same groove, the world would never move on.
There would have never been any progress, any science, any discoveries, any
increase in human happiness-any happiness at all-but for the love of change the
desire for something new.
Nor, although I have been praising the great story of the past am I going to
say that all its story is great. The "Good Ol'Days" were not good in every way.
These days are in many ways much better.
In olden days people were so ignorant that they could not write their own
names. No one could go a journey of 50 miles without few of being attacked by
highwaymen. If a fever broke out in a town, it was allowed to kill 100s, and 1,000's
and only stopped like a fire, it had burned itself out. No the new times are good in
their way and change is good in its way. The mistake is to think that they are good
in every way. That old times were altogether bad and that the old things are only fit
for the dust bin.
I said just now that children like their new toys best and so as a rule they do.
But I have seen many a little girl affectionately hugging here shabbiest doll in spite
of her having newer and quite gorgeous dolls, with rosy cheeks, splendid hair and
magnificent clothes. The shabby creature, perhaps it has only one arm and is short
of an eye is her own very own darling.Why? Who knows. Perhaps it is the first doll
she ever had or some dear friend gave it to her. Or perhaps she is found of it
because it is so shabby and battered. Do not a mother pet her ailing child most? But
the fact remains that the little girl does love that little doll best and very touching
her love is.
Let us learn a lesson from it. Let us learn not to think lightly of old things
merely because they are old not to change just for the sake of change. There are
hold things that are holy just because of their age because they remind us of those
we love, because they tell us of days long gone by whose memory helps us to keep
our hearts fresh and our longing pure.
I am thinking of things religion. Never let us be tempted to say "Judaism is
old, let us have something new." For, like goodness, Judaism is always new-old as
it is. It has a meaning and a message for every generation. Its meaning and its
message are all the mightier just because it is old, because a long line of brave men
and women of whom the Macabees are only an example have lived and died for it

and consecrated it by their lives and their deaths.
And I thinking of old persons as well as old things. It is needless to remind
you of your duty in this respect "Despise not thy Mother when she is old"-so the
wise men cry in the Book of Proverbs. How strange a warning! Who would despise
one's own mother in her old age? Surely time cannot alter our love for her. There
may be threads of gray in her hair, a line or two in her face, but what of that? She is
always the same to us, the same dear sweet mother. And yet the wise man is right to
warn us. Love and honor are two different things. And while we keep the one for
our parents to the last, we are not always sure of keeping the other. Be on your
guard. Be modest and humble. Do not think that because you are young and your
parents yes and your elders are old therefore you are wiser. It is not mere book
knowledge that constitutes wisdom, but experience, a practical acquaintance with
the difficulties of life and with the right way of meeting with them. And the true
wisdom only comes with time. The older one grows, the nearer one gets to it.
It is not easy to make children understand. They fancy they know so much
better than the old folks. Some of you perhaps remember the story of the little silly
mouse. There was once a mouse who lived with mother in a nice snug hole. The
mother was wise and tried to make her daughter wise also. "Remember" she said
that in a large room yonder there is a big cat who will eat you up if she catches you
therefore never venture out unless I am with you. But one day the little mouse
began peeping out the hole and behold the room was empty. There was not a sign of
the horrid cat with the staring green eyes. "Ah" she said, "I can safely have a little
run all by myself." "I know mother will not approve but she is so timid, so very old
fashioned." o out she went and there facing her was a beautiful little cage with quite
fascinating little bars and the greatest joy of all, a splendid meal of cheese
temptingly laid out inside it. Come in, come in, it said as plainly as possible. "Come
in and eat me. "" She could not resist the invitation; she entered and ate. But, it was
her last meal; the cage was a trap.
How many little mice there are among children who think that they know
better than their parents and how often do they have to fear for their falls. Be
warned then. Keep your reverence for the old people and the old things-for the
parents, whom G-d is lovingly sparing so that they may guide and help and bless
you; for the old, old stories of courage and goodness, which will continue to teach
and inspire as long as there is a heart left to beat high at the thought of great deeds."

By the time World War II began, most of the children were established in
businesses and by the time the war ended the grandchildren had arrived. J.V. lied
about his age so he could enlist in the military. He was overage to be inducted so
he merely stated that he was six years younger than he was and he became a Brain
surgeon participating in the North African, Sicily, and Italian invasions. It was
shortly after his landing in Italy that a truck in which he was a passenger hit a land
mine and blew up. J.V. was sitting at the back of the truck and was thrown out, but
the rest of his comrades were killed.

In the Good Old Summertime

One of the pleasures of this large Jacksonville family that included grandma,
grandpa and many of the children would be to spend part of their summer vacation
at Jacksonville Beach. A small Jewish ghetto existed and was identified as the
"Dorothy Apartments". There must have been 50 or more of these bungalows
between First Street North and 5" Street North. On a Friday night the air was filled
with odors of gefelte fish, chicken soup and some roasting meats. I am certain now
that no one ever smelled fried shrimp cooking in the compound. Grandpa loved the
beach and would spend hours sitting on the pier not fishing but enjoying the life
about him. On one occasion, and during Would War II, he sat on the pier and was
writing his sermon for the upcoming High Holiday service. Naturally he wrote the
sermon in Yiddish since he would deliver it at the orthodox service. During the
first years of the war, several ships were torpedoed off of Jacksonville Beach and
several German commandos were dropped off a U-boat and landed in Ponte Vedra.
Everyone was nervous and in preparation for war we had to paint half of the head
lights on the cars black and in the evening we had to pull the shades in our homes
so that the German's would not attack us at the Dorothy Apartments.

Grandpa was oblivious to the worries of the world. He would sit on the pier during
the day wiling away his time writing his Yiddish prose. Some astute fisherman not
the wisest recognized this elderly gentleman looking out to sea and writing phrases
surely a coded message about the coastline of Jacksonville. They must have
notified the authorities about these happenings. All of a sudden grandpa was
approached by Federal authorities who was about to arrest him as a German spy.
Fortunately he was able to explain his Yiddish phrases to the G-men and whether
they believed him or not, he was not incarcerated. But the story was the talk of the
town and the greatest news of the day at the Dorothy Apartments.

After the war, grandpa and grandma decided to spend some summers in
Hendersonville, North Carolina. It seemed less complicated.

We know from a copy of their original marriage certificate filed in Panevezys
that the date of the wedding was October 8, 1896. However after 50 years the
children decided to have a formal anniversary party to honor their parents. The
ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel which was located on Adams Street between Main
and Laura Streets was selected. Virtually the entire Jewish community of
Jacksonville was invited to this most happy occasion. The pictures taken have been
seen in numerous publications and was also included in the Mosaic collection of the
History of the Jewish communities of Florida. These pictures are reproduced for
the future generations of our family to have and cherish.

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Top row from 1. to r.: David, Ethel(Doll), Perry, Pearl, Joseph, Ida
Middle row: Israel Abba
Bottom row: Eddie, Bluma, Grandpa, Grandma, Dr. Jacob V., Mackey


. 7 -

The Family of Rev. Benjamin and Freda Leah Safer

(Missing from the portrait were Elinor Safer, Sheri (Safer) Warsaw, Sheila( Kramer) Baruch, all born in 1947)

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Top row 1. to r.: Perry & Pearl Safer, Sara Safer, Eunice Safer, Joseph Safer, Irvin Kramer, Dewey Goldberg

2"d Row 1. to r.: Sally, Michael, David Safer, David Davis, Abe Haimowitz, Abba Safer, Gertrude & Mosie Cooper,
Israel and Gertrude Safer, Mary Safer, Edwin Safer

3" Row 1. to r.: Henry & Ethel Davis, Eddie Safer, Jane Kirishenbaum, Bluma Haimowitz, Grandpa, Grandma,
Susan Cooper Signer, Dr. Jacob V Safer, Mackey Safer, Ida Goldberg, Pearl Kramer

Front row 1. to. r.: Larry Goldberg, Barbara Rabin, Marilyn Wolfson,, Sandra Weiss, Marlene Bossen, Maxine Goldberg
Irwin Safer, Linda Davis, Gail Greenfield, Marsha Fish, Cynthia Goldring, Sollie Safer

With World War II over and Grandpa now 74 years old, he needed
something in which to dedicate his religious knowledge. Several prominent
business men in Jacksonville thought it was about time the Jewish community had
an alternative to Conservative and Reform Judaism. Led by Max Mirkis and S.D.
Kramer, who was the father-in-law of Pearlie, and with the assistance of the
Wolfson Foundation, the Etz Chiam Congregation was formed. Located in
Springfield on 6t Street between Main and Laura Streets, the new congregation
approached Grandpa to serve as their hazzan and interim rabbi until a permanent
rabbi could be hired. Grandpa accepted the offer graciously and at last he felt he
could now end his days in an orthodox environment. He spent most of his days at
the little synagogue since it was only about 3 blocks from his home at 1905 Silver

Although he outwardly would never speak of it but I am sure in his mind that
he would recall the part of the scriptures that describes man's life as three score and
ten and if he were righteous four score or eighty years. In 1952 Grandpa turned 80.
He witnessed the growth of his family, enjoyed seeing the birth of all his
grandchildren and even experienced the joy of the birth of his first two great
grandchildren. But now his thoughts turned toward what every pious Jew wants for
his final reward; to spend his final days in Israel and if the Lord wills it to be buried
facing the city of Jerusalem. The following year, 1953 he convinced his children
that he would like the opportunity of visiting Israel again. Remember his last trip
was in 1926. In fact he tried to convince Grandma to come along with him.
Her answer was NO. With a lot of trepidation, the family agreed only if he would
guarantee them that he would come back home. Grandpa stammered for awhile and
accepted the provisions but in his heart he was hoping that The Almighty would
keep up his part of a prior agreement and grant his one wish. So after the High
Holidays of 1953, Grandpa sailed to Israel.

Grandpa was a sly person and now that he was in Israel, he would write to
the family and say how much he wanted to stay and see this marvelous country. He
wrote that even though there were shortages and certain food commodities were
hard to come by he said if he ate a potato he was wonderful because it was grown in
the Jewish homeland. When he had eggs or cheese it was wonderful because it was
from the Jewish homeland.

While there he moved several times, living in B'nai Barak, Tevon, Nathanya,
usually finding a room in a pension. Every month the children would send him
money to cover his expenses. However when he responded to the receipt of the
money he always seemed to mention that a part of it was donated to some charity or
to some family in need of financial help.

Grandpa had a dear friend whose family lived in Jacksonville. Lou Wolfson
had become a very wealthy man and was instrumental in the funding of the Etz
Chiam Synagogue. Mr Wolfson had a strong admiration of Grandpa and likewise
Grandpa of him. Grandpa carried on a correspondence with Mr. Wolfson and it
seems that when Grandpa found a worthy cause in Israel, he would write Lou for
some assistance. We are fortunate to have a copy of a letter Grandpa wrote to Mr.
Wolfson and we will include it with the hope that Mr. Wolfson has no objections.
One priceless story was related that Grandpa had met a dairy farmer in one of the
villages where he was staying. It seems the dairyman came on bad times and
apparently had loss several of his milking cows. He told Grandpa his tale of woe
and Grandpa decided to come to the aid of this poor farmer. He wrote Mr. Wolfson
of this man's plight and told him it would be a "mitzvah" if he could find his way to
assist the farmer in anyway. In fact Grandpa said that he would say some additional
prayers in the memory of Mr. Wolfson's father who had passed away. Naturally
the prayers were more valid because they would be recited in the Land of Israel.
Needless to say, Mr. Wolfson responded to Grandpa's plea and the farmer
recovered from his financial loss. With such positive results Grandpa made sure the
farmer reply directly to Mr. Wolfson to offer his thanks.

1954 arrived and the family is anxiously awaiting Grandpa's returned as he
had promised. Although he knew he had to return but he tried to delay it as much
as possible. In his letters to his son Jake(J.V.), he bemoaned the fact that he really
was not ready to come back, that he had not seen all that was to be seen and he
would appreciate if Jake could intercede on his behalf and convince the "children"
that he be allowed to stay just awhile longer. He used as an excuse that it was
difficult to get passage on a ship which had a long wait list. However the time had
come and it was time for Grandpa to return home. He secured passage on a ship
during the summer and was to arrive in New York. I need to add here that before
Grandpa had left in the fall of 1953, the entire family contributed to the purchase of
a new complete wardrobe. He was outfitted with several suits, new shirts and ties,
shoes and all the accessories. He truly looked like a Beau Brumal when he left.

It was now time for Grandpa to arrive. His greeting committee consisted of
the following: Mary, who drove up from Jacksonville and brought with her Bluma;
Sally; Joe; and Grandma. Ida was already living in New York. So the group met
at the Taft Hotel on 7t Avenue to await the ship's arrival. It was agreed that Bluma
along with Ruth Jawitz a friend of the family and a cousin of Mary would go to the
pier and bring Grandpa back to the hotel. The debarkation was for the morning and
they expected to be at the hotel no later than noon. Noon passes along with one and
two and there was no sign of Grandpa or Bluma or Ruth. Finally they arrived.
Grandpa with his ever loving smile and his cane strutting in as if he had recently
purchased the Empire State Building. Now the questioning began as to why the
delay. Bluma took Mary aside to explain the events of them morning. It seems that
before Grandpa left Israel he decided that his neighbors were more in need of his
new clothing than himself so he merely distributed all of his belongings except for
some clothes that he accepted in exchange so that he could take the voyage home.
In other words he came with nothing except what he was wearing which was torn
and definitely not his and some underwear and a couple of old shirts. Bluma was
appalled as he walked briskly down the gangplank. So she and Ruth along with
Grandpa had to go to a men's store to at least find him so clothes for his trip home.
Bluma told the sales clerk to please burn the trash. So with six in the car, Mary
drove the group home to a warm welcome by both family and friends.

In 1954 his sister Ida Witten died. He and his brother Mendel, the youngest
brother, were the last survivors of the Debobes family. The next year Mendel
passed and Grandpa was alone. By 1956 he felt even more that he had to return to
the Promise Land and be granted his most important wish to be buried in the soil of
Israel. The discussions that followed were very discouraging. The family was
adamant in their decision that he not return. His only defender was his eldest son J.
V. So after all efforts failed to convince Grandpa that he was needed here with his
wife and family, they finally condescended to his wish. And with much sorrow
Grandpa again left for Israel for what he hoped was a lasting trip and a fulfillment
of every pious Jew's dream.

The letters that followed describe his feeling about being in Israel and that
even though he missed the family and continually showed concern over Grandma's
health, he knew what his mission was. Although we all wrote him of our desire for
him to come home and that his family needed him more than the State of Israel did,
we all knew it was for naught.

In 1959, Ike Witten, a nephew, and his wife Gert visited Israel and naturally
they took the time to visit Uncle Benyamin. This occurred during the summer of
that year and all of a sudden we receive a letter from Grandpa that a miracle had
occurred and that his nephew Ike Witten had bought him a plane ticket for him to
return home. The excitement was overwhelming, Grandpa was coming home.
Why? We didn't ask and we didn't care, only that he was coming home. He said he
was able to get a flight in September arriving in New York on Friday the 17th of
September. Since he would not ride on Shabbas, he decided to spend Friday night
and Saturday with Ida and Dewey and would catch a morning flight to Jacksonville
around 10 a.m. Sunday morning. The excitement of the family was overwhelming.
Everybody was in town, Sarah and Eddie and children came from Miami, Bluma
and Abe and their family came in from Orlando and Israel and Gertrude had arrived
from Savannah. All of the grandchildren were here as well. What a grand
welcoming party Grandpa would receive. About 7:30 Sunday morning my phone
rang and it was Aunt Sally. She said you need not come to the airport. Grandpa
passed away about 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

Moses came so close to the Promise Land and the Lord would not let him
enter. Grandpa was in the Promise Land but wanted to come home. However, the
Lord chose not to grant his wish either.

Letters From Papa

This biography of the life of Grandpa would not be complete if the actual
letters themselves were not included. After much deliberation, it was decided that
each and every one of his correspondences with the children and grandchildren be
included. While reading these letters, please note the different tones he takes on
with each individual. Notice the comradery he feels toward JV. And the warm and
explanatory manner with his daughters. Note his torn feelings toward leaving
Grandma and the children behind for his new life in the Promised Land. Take time
to see that he how happy he was just to be in Israel and always grateful for the
most humble of accommodations. Each one of his letters reflect his deep
introspective spiritual love for Judaism.
What follows is a chronological sequence of letters exchanged between
Grandpa and his children and grandchildren. Grandpa's first left for Israel after the
High Holidays in 1953. His first correspondence was with his first grandson, Edwin
Safer. Grandpa returned to Jacksonville, due to the family's insistence, in 1954 He
left again in 1956.
Included also are newspaper clippings, telegrams and other interesting items.
Deep gratitude goes out to all families members who had the love and foresight to
save these documents.
In the end we have a rich history of the Safer family. I'm sure from Joseph
Shraga Debobes to the generations of Safers to come, all can share in the pride of
our family history.

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This is the first correspondence between Grandpa and Aunt Bluma and Uncle Abe.
Grandpa announced his arrival in Israel on October 21, 1956 and he stayed at Kfar

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The following are letters written from Grandpa to Aunt Bluma and Uncle Abe. The
letters were copied exactly as written.

Tivon 11/12/56

To My dear children Abe and Blooma
Dear Children
After struggling where to make my dwelling place Kfar Baruch, Natanya or Tivon, I
have choose Tivon better because at first in Tivon I have many good friends
especially Mr and Mrs Janow, secondly Mr Janow had tried to find for me a good
kosher house by good people and not far from everything from the shul from the
business section and not far from his own business and so far I am satisfied I have a
nice front room with many trees around the house and good food also a reasonable
price according the high cost living as it is now. I think that all together will cost me
about $100.00 a month. The only thing is to be well and to have peace all over the
world and not to shed blood in vain and shall be realized the word of our prophet: it
will come a time that they will pound their swords into plough-shares.
Yes indeed we had a tough time but thank God for the miracles God did with us in a
few days then let us hope for the future that God would not turn away his mercy from
his children Israel.
About my health I am thanking God everyday. So far I have thank God all I need, the
only thing it worries me is that I have not received not even one word not from home
and not from anybody, and you know how anxious I am to know what is going on
home, how the Mama feels and how are you Abe and the children feel. Therefore dear
children all what I ask from you now is to write me from everything some good news.
So far thank God I am please with my place, it is even not far from a movie picture.
Of course I went there only once with their 2 children a girl 11 and a boy 9 years old.
They are really wonderful children. The only thing they have no clothes. It would be
a vey great good deed to send them a package for the girl and the boy and also for the
And now a great love regard to my dear grandchildren Gertis and Moses and my
dearest great grandchildren to Susan and I think Beverly and Nancy. God Bless you
with great love
Your father and grandfather and great grandfather, Safer

Do Not laugh from my English

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