Alter Barbell – Reminiscing

There was a learned man in Hebrew who lived on Baring Street, Camden, was married, and held in his home a daily after school instruction for boys in order to be bar mitzvah-ed at their 13th birthday period. I was one of his students in 1938. He was a tough fellow, and appeared (in my mind’s eye) to have been in his 50’s or early 60s. When I would appear at his house for my lesson, at about 4:00pm, there would always be a wonderful cooking smell coming from his wife’s kitchen. He taught many of the Jewish boys in Camden who did not go to the Toma Torah on Kaighn Avenue.

That was Mr. [Alter] Barbell, and he was a Hebrew teacher (think it was $0.25 or $0.50 a lesson. The boys would have their lesson, "time," and sit out on the front area waiting for the call to come in to the room where Mr. Barbel gave his lessons. That room had several tables, and there would be two or three boys in the room at the same time with the teacher spending time with each one,

The study of Hebrew was initiated by Mr. Barbell sitting with each boy and going over the Hebrew basic letters one at a time utilizing the necessary accents. Then, verbally, he worked with each boy placing the letters together to create the whole word. If you were not getting it, Mr. Barbel would give you a little push, then, in some instances, give you a smack!

He was a man in his 60’s, had a sported a yarmulke, slight white beard, and in the end, got results! The lesson usually took 30 minutes or a little longer and it consisted of learning the letters, reading and verbally speaking the Hebrew.

Joseph Cooper, July 2004


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