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Guiding Questions:

  • How did Joe's family blend Jewish traditions with the larger cosmopolitan culture of his time?

  • What were two enjoyable aspects of Joe's childhood (besides his time with girls!)?

  • How do you know from the text that Joe came from a middle-class family?

  • Why do you think everyone is so dressed up in these photographs?

Joe was a sleepwalker. He was constantly up during the night and they used to put pails on the ground to trip him (or wake others) before he could fall down the stairs. He once took a knife while sleepwalking and went outside before his mother caught him. 

But besides the danger of midnight knife-fights it was a happy childhood. His father was a successful tailor and there was always food in the house. They had a maid named Dverala to wash the clothes and help with the house. Joe was closest with his oldest brother Shmuel, although he would go to the movies with Harry.

Joe was a lively teenager. He liked to go out with girls, take them to the movies and make out in the pews. He would take girls to the theater and to operas like Carmen and La Bohemme. And he loved to play soccer. He wasn't interested much in religion and his mother used to chide him: "it wouldn't hurt you to put on your tallis and pray for once..."

Joe had a small Bar Mitzvah in the Peitav Shul, perhaps the only synagogue that didn't get burned down after the Nazi takeover.

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The Brandmann Family c. 1923
Bela and Abram Brandmann
The Peitav Shul
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