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Pauline Wengeroff was born Pessele Epstein into a Jewish family in Bobrujsk, northern Russia, and grew up in Brest-Litovsk. Her parents were wealthy and very devout. Her father, who owned a company that manufactured bricks and acted as a contractor to the Tsar for building projects, was also a scholar of the Talmud. She married Chonon (Afansyi) Wengeroff, who lost his faith and broke with his family's Hasidic Judaism. The couple moved frequently in search of work and finally settled in Minsk, where Chonon became director of a bank and served on the City Council. Pauline Wengeroff wrote an extraordinary two-volume work in German called Memoirs of a Grandmother: Scenes from the Cultural History of the Jews of Russia in the Nineteenth Century (1910). Her memoirs richly depict traditional Jewish society in Russia, the tumultuous social changes of the 19th-century and the devastating impact that the dissolution of the Russian Jewish community had on families -- especially on women. Memoirs of a Grandmother was translated into English and widely read in the United States and England. The importance of the work was recognized by cultural leaders as Gustav Karpeles, a Jewish literary historian who was the editor of the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums, and Solomon Schechter, the eminent rabbinical scholar and president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Pauline's daughter Isabelle Vengerova became a famous American pianist and music teacher who served as the first teacher of her nephew, the conductor and pianist Nicolas Slonimsky.
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