My name is Avraham Pinter. I was born in 1940 in Tarbes, France, to a family of Holocaust survivors. They were originally from Galicia, Poland, which they fled to escape the pogroms. And then they lived for a time in Berlin, Germany, until they ran to escape the Nazis. Eventually, after I was born, we all made our way to America and settled in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
While my father was a youngster living in Berlin in the early 1930s, he had the great fortune to find himself in the company of some of the most esteemed leaders of his generation, notably Rabbi Chaim Heller, who wrote the famous Sefer HaMitzvos based on the order first proposed by Maimonides.
Rabbi Heller was known as a world-class genius, and many people – some of whom were great scholars in their own right – gravitated to him, treated him with utmost reverence and sought admittance into his study hall, though only a select few made it inside.
Two of those that were part of Rabbi Heller’s inner circle in Berlin were Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who would later become the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, who would later become Rosh Yeshiva of the rabbinical school at Yeshiva University. Indeed, it was Rabbi Soloveitchik who related to me the following story about my father.
At the time my father was a young chasidic student gifted with a phenomenal memory and a very, very good head; one day he came into Rabbi Heller’s study hall and tried to catch the great teacher’s eye. When he finally succeeded, Rabbi Heller called him over and asked, “Young man, what are you looking for here?”
My father answered, “My teacher sent me here to glean bits and pieces of knowledge.”
“Who is your teacher?”, Rabbi Heller asked.
“Rabbi Chaim Tobias,” my father answered, naming the Rosh Yeshiva of Kesser Torah Radomsker Yeshiva network.