Q. How can a rabbi be called “Apple”?
A. “Apple” happens to be a distinguished, historic Jewish surname. In ancient times there were four leading Jewish families descended from the tribe of Judah – Min HaTappuchim or De Pommis (“Apple”), Adumim or De Rossi (“The Red Ones”), HaZ’kenim (“The Old Ones”) and HaAnavim or De Nonci (“The Modest Ones”).
The De Pommis family were significant in Italian Jewish history and produced leading scholars such as Nathan ben Yechiel of Rome who compiled the famous lexicon, the Aruch (though the Jewish Encyclopedia says that Nathan came from the Anavim family).
The Hungarian version of the Apple family were called Alma. In Russian it was Yablotchnik. The actual origin of the Tappuchim – De Pommis – Alma – Yablotchnik – Apple family may be apple-like rosy cheeks. It is possible that my family is part of this historic tradition, though it is also possible that my paternal ancestors grew or sold apples in Eastern Europe.
Let me add that there may be a connection with families called Redapple or Goldapple. In England there was a Rabbi Apfel who came from Germany (I used to tell people he was an apple from a different tree!).