Jewish siblings from Perham remember their childhood [UPDATED]Published 9:29am Monday, September 23, 2013 Updated 11:31am Monday, September 23, 2013
Sometimes it seems like a pretty small world.
The four Braufman siblings who grew up in Perham more than 60 years ago, stopped at a St. Cloud McDonald’s on Thursday as they headed north. They happened to meet a couple of women there who were also from Perham. One of the women remembered their father Philip Braufman and his Braufman’s Department Store.
The next day, the siblings sat around a table in the library of the Otter Tail County Historical Society. They had reunited to mull over memories of their time growing up as a Jewish family during the 1930s and 1940s.
“We all have very good memories and very good feelings,” said Chernie Levinson.
She was joined by siblings Arthur Braufman, Betty Greenstein and Larry Braufman.
Their parents, Philip and Pauline Braufman, arrived in Perham as newlyweds in 1930. They started Braufman’s Department Store, located on Main Street where Photo Magic is today.
“I think working in the store had a huge affect on my personality,” Arthur Braufman said. He has carried the “can I help you?” mentality with him for decades.
Pauline was a St. Paul native, while Philip was born in Romania and came to the United States when he was 22. Mom and dad spoke English at home, according to the siblings, “but if they didn’t want us to know something, they spoke Yiddish,” Greenstein said. Larry Braufman remembers trying to work with his father on pronouncing the word “the,” which always sounded like “duh” due to his accent.
Growing up in Perham, they did not experience anti-Semitism. People were respectful of them and their traditions, and it wasn’t difficult to be a Jewish family in Otter Tail County.
“The traditional things you could do in your home,” Larry Braufman said. “Judism is an important thing to all four of us.”
They kept a kosher style and celebrated Hanukkah. But the siblings still knew all the Christmas songs, since they were always part of the Christmas program at school. The family did have to travel to St. Paul to attend a synagogue, since there wasn’t one in Otter Tail County. The trips gave them a chance to visit with extended family.
The siblings recalled how their father made wine in the basement, just enough for the family, though “it was never good wine,” Arthur Braufman said, with a chuckle. Their father maintained a huge garden as well.
“He also made pickles,” Larry Braufman said. “His pickles were the best.”
“Phil’s dills,” they called them. Larry Braufman still uses the recipe.
The family left Perham for Minneapolis in 1948. But Philip Braufman continued to run the department store up north until 1962. He took the train and spent the work week in Perham. Every Saturday night the family would head to the train station to meet their father as he came home for a couple of days.
“And we grew up without our dad,” Arthur Braufman said, though it didn’t always feel that way.