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Rabbi Binyamin Papermaster

March 23rd, 2009 · 31 Comments

Rabbi Binyamin Papermaster

בנימין ב"ר ניסן

Chief Rabbi, Grand Forks, North Dakota

Date of Death: Mon. September 24, 1934 - Tishrei 15 5695

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Cemetery Details
1450 North Columbia Road
Grand Forks, ND 58203
United States

Phone: (701) 775-5124


Cemetery Map:

Notes: Cemetery is located on the corner of N Columbia Road and Gateway Drive

Directions to Kever: Along the fence near Gateway Drive towards Columbia Road

Name Listed on Cemetery Database: Benjamin

Biographical Notes:

Papermaster Rabbi Pic3

Credit: Dr. Jack Russell Weinstein

Credit: Bert Garwood, B’nai Israel Synagogue



Tags: Chief Rabbi · North Dakota

31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 HaRav // Mar 23, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    The Rav received his semicha at the Slobodka Yeshiva which was at the time under the auspices of Rav Yitzchok Elchanan Spector, the Kovno Rav.

  • 2 Rabbi Stern // Mar 23, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    I believe his congregation in ND still exists.

  • 3 Ah Shtikle History // Mar 23, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    It does exist, at least virtually, they have a website.

  • 4 Farshlufen // Mar 24, 2009 at 2:31 pm

  • 5 HaRav // Jul 6, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Were you able to locate any descendants?

  • 6 curios // Jul 6, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Is the kehilla still Orthodox? I noticed a woman rabbi in the list there.

  • 7 Ah Shtikle History // Jul 6, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    They are Conservative.

  • 8 curios // Jul 6, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    when did it happen?

  • 9 Ah Shtikle History // Jul 6, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Soon after his passing the community started becoming Conservative. As a matter of interest, North Dakota is so far off the beaten track that even Chabad does not have a representative in the State.

  • 10 Jack // Jul 8, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Actually, our synagogue (B’nai Israel) is alive and well, small but vibrant and close-knit. We have a reform student rabbi and we utilize a conservative prayer book.

    The best description of our congregation can found on the front page of our website:

    “Welcome to the website of B’nai Israel Synagogue, in Grand Forks, North Dakota. We are a small but strong congregation open to Jews of all types. Our congregation has about 40 members, made up of a number of different families. We have services once or twice a month.

    Our congregation is proud to host student rabbis from the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. Each year, a new student uses B’nai Israel as a place to learn, grow, and share as he or she develops the rabbinical craft. As a congregation, we are committed to education and the growth of the Jewish community.

    We welcome every Jewish denomination to our service. We have a balcony for those who wish to worship separately from the rest of the congregation.”

    This history of the synagouge can be found here:

    and a history of Jews in North Dakota written by Rabbi Papermaster’s son can be found here:

  • 11 Dr. Yitzchok Levine // Jul 29, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Three articles about Rabbi Papermaster appeared in the Hamodia in July, 2009. They may be read at


    There are many descendants of Rabbi Papermaster around today and some of them are observant.

    Dr. Yitzchok Levine

  • 12 Robert Benjamin Orenstein // Mar 7, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    I am the great grandson of Rabbi Benjamin Papermaster. My Hebrew name is Binyamin. I am the grandson of the late Zelda (Papermaster) Epstein, who was born in 1900 in North Dakota, the 7th of his 11 children. Zelda died in 1998, and was preceeded in death by her 10 siblings.

    I visited the cemetery in 1980, and I know that I have photos filed away somewhere. Thank you for putting all of this information together, it is truly appreciated.

    My mother had 43 first cousins due to Reb Papermaster’s large family. While I can’t speak of the locations of all of them, I can say that my 4 siblings and I run a spectrum of Jewish practice ranging from Chabad to Orthodox to Conservative to Reform. All of us were deeply influenced, through our grandmother Zelda, by the commitment Rabbi Papermaster brought to the Jewish community of what was then the Dakota Territory, and later North Dakota. I have served as a lay cantor for over 35 years and am currently enrolled in the cantorial program at the Academy for Jewish Religion in Riverdale, New York to become invested as a cantor. I share with people on a regular basis that my great grandfather was a true pioneer and a tzadik who brought Torah to a community that was dependent upon him for everything from Kosher meat to weddings and funerals. I do my best every day to keep his spirit alive for others.

  • 13 YD Miller // Apr 18, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Rabbi Papermaster had a brother Reb Schmuel Rappaort was was rav in Springfield Mas., the two brothers were also mechutonim, since Reb Nissen Papermaster son of Reb Binyamin was the SIL of Reb Schmuel of Springfield, he lived in Grand Forks and served as Schat”z

  • 14 Rabbi Stern // Apr 19, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Rav Shmuel Rappaport a founding member of the Agudath Harabonim passed away in (24 Shevat) 1938. In 1924 he moved to Eretz Yisroel where he opened a yeshiva, after a 24 year carrier in Springfield, MA.
    That was a good catch.

  • 15 YD Miller // Apr 19, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    What was the name of his Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel? Rabbi Stern

  • 16 Judith Papermaster Pollak // Jun 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    My father was Isadore (Yitzhak) Papermaster, the third son of Rav Papermaster. I was born and raised in Grand Forks, N.D. and remember my grandfather’s funeral in the old synagogue on Second Avenue. Later the new building was built and renamed B’nai Israel and became Conservative. We moved away in 1939.

    My father’s eldest brother was Nathan (Nissen),
    HE and his fammily moved to L.A. in the 1920’s and they have many descendants there.

    The second son was H. Bert and his son still lives in Minneapolis.

    In 2008 I visited the Cemetary in G.F. and knew almost every one there. We took pictures of my parents and grandparents gravestones.

    At present my son Yitzhak Pollak is Orthodox and living in Israel with his wife and children.

    Another brother of Rav Papermaster, Baruch Goldstein’s descendants migrated to Israel and has many descendants living there. Their name has been hebraicised and I am having a senior moment.

  • 17 David Samuel Papermaster, MD // Jun 17, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    I am a grandson of Rabbi Benjamin Papermaster and the son of Aaron A Papermaster, DDS and Celia Rose Solomon. My father was the next to the last of Rabbi Papermaster’s children. His mother was Rabbi Papermaster’s second wife, Chaya Levaton. His first wife Ethyl died in Lithuania shortly after he had left for America. Details of the life of Chaya Levaton Papermaster were published by BJ Kremen Goldman, her granddaughter in the Upper Midwest Jewish History.

    In college at Harvard I majored in History and studied with Prof. Yizhak Twersky who was my mentor as I wrote my thesis, a biography of the life and thought of Rev. Isaac Leeser a leader of traditionalist Judaism in mid-19th century America. He was the leader of Mikveh Israel Synagogue in Philadelphia and publisher of the Occident, a journal of American Jewish life at that time. He also translated the Chumaxh and prayer books into English and they were the standards until the JPS published new translations in the early 20th Century.

    When I returned to our home in Fargo, ND in the summer of 1959 my father handed me a nearly complete manuscript written by my beloved uncle Isadore Papermaster and said “Here. You’re a history major. Make something of this.” The text needed only minor editing. I was a good typist so I finished it and we donated it to the Univ. of ND library. There it rested until my father retired to Sun City AZ, founded a new synagogue and went to a convention of Reform Rabbis to recruit one. There, he met the editor of the Western Jewish Historical Quarterly who immediately jumped at the chance to publish Isadore’s biography of Rabbi Papermaster in three volumes. From there the text has appeared in various formats and was highlighted at a Kosherfest on a poster in NY City that became the topic of a short article in the NY Times. So Rabbi’s Papermaster’s story continues to fascinate people 120 years after he came here.

    I am named after Rabbi Schmuel Rappaport of Jerusalem, Rabbi Papermaster’s brother. His last name was changed to escape the draft into the Czar’s army after a family with an only son by that name emigrated to America. He selected Chaya Levaton to be Rabbi Papermaster’s second wife. She raised Ethyl’s children and had seven of her own.

    There is one aspect of my name that puzzles me: traditionally one is named after a person who has died, yet Rabbi Rapaport died in 1938 after my birth. I’m told there were confusing reports of his death earlier that might have been the basis for my name but I’m not sure since I didn’t learn when he died until after my parents had both died. If anyone knows more about that I’d welcome insights.

    I’ll be glad to submit more if there is interest. Just let me know the topic.

  • 18 YD Miller // Jun 18, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Thanks Dr. Papermaster for all the fascinating details, there is definetley an interest in more biographical notes on your grandfather and family, please don’t hesitate to share that along.

    I am not clear on the work of your uncle Isadore, was this ever printed? and is this about himself or his father Rabbi Papermaster?

    About your name and question why would you be given a name after a living person, there is always the possibility that the name was not actually after your uncle but after the same person your uncle was named after, do you know who that would be?

  • 19 David Ira Papermaster // Sep 27, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    I am a great grandson of Rabbi Papermaster. My grandfather George was the first child born to Rabbi Papermaster in America with his second wife. There was a Physician who lived in Milwaukee , Dr. Katz, whose grandfather, Rabbi Katz was the Rabbi in Grand Forks after Rabbi Papermaster’s death which was on the first day of Sukkot 1934. My father said the Maftir in his honor and sponsored a kiddush. It is also my grandfather’s yartzeit on sukkot. He passed away in 1958. My brother George , who has lived in israel for the last twenty years is named after him. George Orenstein, Zelda’s grandson, was also named after him.
    My brother John also lives in Jerusalem. He is friends with Jim Pollack, Judy Pollack’s son. Rabbi Papermaster also had another brother whose name was Rabbi Goldstein who lived in Israel. His descendants names in Israel I’m pretty sure are Givoni. There was another Papermaster brother of Rabbi Papermaster who lived in North Dakota for a while and ended up in Arizona. A woman who was his great granddaughter and lives in Phoenix visited my parents in Milwaukee. She also has a lot of information on the family history

  • 20 YD Miller // Jan 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    There was a recent article in some of the Anglo-Jewish Magazines (Mishpacha and Ami, maybe others as well) about a legal battle over the body of a 105 year old Jewish women named Ethel Becher.

    Mrs. Becher was the daughter of Rabbi Papermiester’s sister who also lived in Grand Forks, she married and moved to NYC where she lived all her life.

    They ended up not being observant and wished to be cremated and not burried ofter thier death, a battle for for which a nephew from Jeruslem faught and lost, unfurtunatley.

    In the article there was a nice photo of Rabbi Papermiester with a few of his kids.

  • 21 Ben Bee Zee // Jan 18, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    The name us Ethel Baar

  • 22 Farshlufen // Jan 18, 2011 at 5:22 pm

  • 23 YD Miller // Feb 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    The Matzieve of Rav Schmuel Rappaport of Springfield on the Har Hazeisim in EY:

    פ”נ הג’ המפורסם בתורתו וצדקתו ר’ שמואל ב”ר ניסן רפפורט שהי’ רב בספרינגפעלד כ”ו שנה ויד שנה חי בירושלים ת”ו משפיע גדול בתורתו מדותיו תרומיות סמל הצדקה אהוב לכל ואוהב כל כפה שנה הי’ נפטר כד טבת תרצ”ח תנצב”ה

  • 24 Blackleibel // Feb 22, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    23 posts and counting. This has been an amazing read.

  • 25 Kristen // May 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    I know his first wife’s name was Kaya. He is the great grandfather of my brother in law.

  • 26 uri // Oct 22, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    shalom . my name is uri , i m from israel and i dont speak english well. rabbi shamuel rapaport (brother of Rabbi Binyamin Papermaster) is the grand father of my grand father. i have lot of info about him ,and i will be happy to lern more.
    my email is

  • 27 Daniel // Feb 10, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Rabbi Papermaster was a tzaddik. Unique in so many ways

  • 28 Daniel // Feb 10, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Does anyone know why his gravestone has the wrong birth date?

  • 29 Daniel // Sep 22, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Grave stones in general are not strong evidence of actual dates. As if a mistake is made it cannot be corrected.

  • 30 Michael Eaton // Oct 27, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Rabbi Benjamin Papermaster had an older brother Layba (aka Louie) who never made it to the US and died in Kovno, Lithuania; his wife Basha did come to America and then travelled with brother-in-law Schmuel Rappaport to Eretz Yisrael. Layba’s 3 sons and 1 daughter immagrated to North Dakota and were well connected with the Papermaster family of ND. Our branch of the clan is very close and is also still connected with many living descendants of both Benjamin and his sister Reva. We have lots of old photographs of the family including a photo of Rabbi Benjamin’s mother Ethyl Papermaster of Kovno. –Michael Eaton

  • 31 Efraim // Nov 3, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Great article touching on the Rav, and coming full-circle, with his great-great-grandson coming to North Dakota help for the holiday and dig into his roots:

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