The Yiddish/German word schreiber (שרייבער) means “writer” and is a cognate of the English word “scribe.” The name is not unique to Jews, and many non-Jews from German-speaking lands share the name, indicating that an ancestor was a clerk or otherwise engaged in writing.

Among Jews, the last name Schreiber may be a hint that its bearer descends from a sofer, a skilled scribe tasked with the sacred duty of writing Torah scrolls, mezuzahs, and tefillin.

The words sofer and schreiber are so interlinked that Rabbi Moshe Schreiber, the legendary rabbi of Pressburg (Bratislava), used both names, often referring to himself as Sofer in Hebrew and Schreiber in German. In fact, this inspired the title of his scholarly works, Chatam Sofer (“Seal of the Scribe”), a riff off the words used in the Talmudic discussion of how the signature of the scribe can be counted as one of the two witnesses needed for certain legal documents.

Successive generations of Schreibers followed his lead and incorporated the word sofer into the names of their books. Ktav Sofer and Michtav Sofer were both written by his sons. And future generations produced works that include the Shevet Sofer, Yad Sofer, Daat Sofer, Cheshev Sofer and Imrei Sofer.