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Biographical Memoirs, Volume 85
CHAIM LEIB PEKERIS
June 15, 1908–February 24, 1993
BY FREEMAN GILBERT
CHAIM LEIB PEKERIS WAS born in Alytus A, Lithuania, on June 15, 1908. His father, Samuel, owned and operated a bakery. His mother, Haaya (née Rievel), was an intellectual and propelled Pekeris to excel. The family home was located at 4 Murkiness Street, near the corner with Ozapavitz Street. His older brother died at birth, a very sad event that led his parents to select the name Chaim, meaning life in Hebrew, for their second son. They added Leib, meaning life in Yiddish, for good measure. He was followed by four siblings, Rashka (Rachael), Jacob, Zavkeh (Arthur), and Typkeh (Tovah). The family name, Pekeris, is derived from the earlier name, Peker. Lithuanian authorities required the suffix, -as or -is, be added to the original name.
At a very early age Chaim exhibited his brilliance. By the age of 16 he was teaching mathematics at his high school and coaching 12-year-old boys how to prepare for the bar mitzvah. He was strongly encouraged to become a Talmudic scholar and a rabbi, but both he and his parents refused. By great good fortune one of Chaim’s uncles, Max Baker, had emigrated from Lithuania to the United States and had settled in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was successful in the furniture business and was able to help Chaim and