Joseph Pell, owner of the former Richmond Moo’s Ice Cream who would become a prominent local real estate developer, was a Holocaust survivor with a story equal parts harrowing and inspiring.
As a teenager, Pell, the Jewish son of a butcher, endured the murder of his entire family in Ukraine, surviving by hiding in a barn when the Nazi’s came to his family’s home. He had “to scrounge for potatoes and live in the forest for two years, and to make the most of it,” according to Melinda McCrary, executive director of the Richmond Museum of History.
These details only scratch the surface of Pell’s compelling story, which is detailed in the 2004 book Taking Risks. The story is the subject of a discussion at the museum later this month.
On Sunday, April 28 from 1-3 p.m., Taking Risks co-author Fred Rosenbaum will speak at the Richmond museum, 400 Nevin Ave., during a free event that is part of the museum’s ongoing exhibit Pioneers to the Present: Jews of Richmond and Contra Costa.
“Pell crawled on his hands and knees to escape the Nazis and joined a diverse band of pro-Soviet partisans, who created a forest republic behind Nazi lines,” said McCrary. “With his courageous comrades, Pell disrupted the German war effort for almost a year and a half and saved hundreds of civilian.”
Pell’s story sets the stage for how someone will little money or education and who knew no English could immigrate to San Francisco in 1947 and eventually find success as owner of Moo’s Ice Cream, a beloved Richmond institution.
“They had peppermint ice cream all year round,” one Richmond resident remembers, according to the museum.
A decade later, Pell became a leading real estate developer in Northern California, McCrary said.
“This compelling story is a perfect one for the exhibit, which is part of the Museum’s continuing “Know Your Community’ series,” says McCrary.
Rosenbaum has written eight books on modern Jewish history and is Founding Director Emeritus of Lehrhaus Judaica, led the Berkeley school for 44 years until 2017, the museum states.