It’s day 16 of the Family History Writing Challenge and I’m feeling grateful that I’m not a vegetarian. It’s bad enough to have to face the dire fates of various family members while exploring the past; I’m not sure I could cope with feeling guilty about the fact that they were butchers.
My ambivalence –nay, blatant hypocrisy — when it comes to meat eating is a topic for another time and place. Suffice it to say here I have no business judging, especially not what was done in another era.
My great grandfather Chaim Kornmehl was a butcher. He’s the man pictured next to this post’s title. He looks extremely gentle, doesn’t he, more like a scholar than a shochet (“someone who slaughters and inspects cattle and fowl in the ritually-prescribed manner for kosher consumption”)? I have no proof that he was a kosher butcher, though Jews in Tarnow, where he originally worked, were more likely to be observant than not. But there’s no question that he cut up and handled meat.
Three of Chaim’s sons (Martin, Rudolf, and Siegmund) and, I now know, two of his sons-in-law (Adolf Schweizer and Leopold Farber) were butchers; one of the three Kornmehl siblings, Martin, had two sons, George and Hans, who were butchers in Vienna. That’s eight butchers over three generations. I don’t know if George and Hans had their own shops. There was at least one kosher butcher shop, Siegmund Kornmehl’s at Berggasse No. 15, in the family; all the others were probably traif.
Leopold Farber was the only one of the three butchers who survived the Nazis (the others were Rudolf and George) to go into the meat trade.
A Famed Kosher Butcher in Buffalo
In the spirit of this blogging challenge — well, okay, it was kind of a coincidence — I have spent the last several days talking to butchers in Buffalo and New York City. These interviews are for an article spurred by an event that will take place on Purim in Buffalo to honor the late Nathan Kornmehl and his wife Frances. He was, from everything I’ve heard, a wonderful and gentle man, one who turns any negative stereotypes of butchers on their head. My great grandfather Chaim was his Nathan’s great uncle, so maybe that’s a family trait from back in the day.
I will be writing more soon about Nathan and especially about his deli specialty, rolled beef. Stay tuned.