This panel discussion was held in October 2004 in observance of the one hundredth anniversary of Temple Beth Elohim in Georgetown, South Carolina. Relying on local records, L. C. Sloan reviews the history of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Jews of Georgetown, in particular, Marcus Moses (1830-1884) and his children. Robin Heiden Shuler describes growing up in the 1960s and ’70s as a member of a small, close-knit Jewish community in predominantly Christian Florence, South Carolina, and how she drifted away from Judaism as a young woman in Charleston, but returned to it as a mother. Robert Schimek provides his perspective as a transplant from the Northeast. He proposes that the line between Conservative and Reform Judaism is becoming increasingly blurred and that Beth Elohim’s goal is to “make as many as we can . . . feel comfortable under our umbrella.” Panelists and audience members also briefly discuss the question of antisemitism in Florence and touch on the history of Temple Beth Or in Kingstree, South Carolina. For Mr. Sloan’s research materials, see L. C. Sloan collection, Mss 1036, Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Helen Goldman and Stephen Schein delivered this talk titled “The Jewish Community of Beaufort in 1905 and the Founding of Beth Israel Congregation” at the April 2005 meeting of the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina (JHSSC), held in Beaufort, South Carolina, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Beth Israel Congregation. Bernard Warshaw, president of the JHSSC, welcomes audience members and reads the governor’s proclamation honoring the anniversary, and Julian Levin introduces the speakers. Goldman and Schein discuss the history of the congregation and, more specifically, their grandfathers and founding members, David Schein and Morris Levin and their families.
Adath Yeshurun in Aiken, South Carolina, celebrated its 75th anniversary on May 4, 1996. Presentations by Sunday school students and performances by guest singer Gloria Greenbaum and the men’s chorus were followed by a series of speakers who shared their memories of the Jewish community and congregation, as well as histories of some of Aiken’s early Jewish families—Efron, Franzblau, Persky, Panitz, Polier, Rudnick, Sawilowsky, Schneider, Surasky, and Wolf. Other subjects of discussion included the Sons of Israel Cemetery, the murder of Abraham Surasky, and a short-lived Jewish farming association established in nearby Montmorenci in 1905, dubbed “Happyville” by its promoters.
Aaron Small, born in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1939, to Sara Berry and Harry Smolowsky, changed his surname when he was eighteen years old because it "was not a business name." Aaron graduated from mortuary school in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1959 and returned to Columbia to work for a funeral home that also had an ambulance service. While working as an EMT on the ambulance service, he met his wife, Betty, an emergency room nurse. They married in 1961. Betty, a Christian, converted to Judaism prior to the wedding, but returned to the church sometime later. Aaron was drafted into the army in 1962 and served for eighteen months in the Fort Bragg mortuary outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina. In 1965, after returning to civilian life, Aaron bought a funeral home in Denmark, South Carolina. There were a number of industries in the small town about fifty miles south of Columbia, which he felt was a positive indicator for growth. However, in the following decade, companies began leaving. The interviewee believes this was attributable to white parents pulling their children from the public schools. Aaron describes daily life in Denmark and mentions the other Jewish families living there at the time—the Druckers and the Nesses. The Small family moved back to Columbia around 1975 and Aaron sold firetrucks to South Carolina municipalities while working on establishing a new funeral home business. In 1978, he opened McMillan-Small Funeral Home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with Stephen McMillan, Sr. After developing an allergy to formaldehyde, Aaron left the partnership, and took a position with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department, assuming command of the volunteer rescue squad in 1987. Up to that point, he had been a volunteer firefighter-EMT in the various places he had lived and had launched the volunteer rescue squad in Denmark. Aaron discusses the other firefighting jobs he held in Myrtle Beach, Richland County, and the state. By 1997, the family had returned to Columbia to help care for Aaron's mother. Aaron talks about antisemitism he experienced in Columbia while in high school; his two children, Michelle and Stuart; the Jewish community of Myrtle Beach, in particular, the recent Israeli immigrants; and how the FBI handled student protesters at Voorhees College (HBCU) in Denmark in the late 1960s. "The FBI came in one day and they just took over the funeral home" so they could make use of the two-way communication system he used for his ambulance service.
Abe Dumas was born on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, in 1913, to Esther Read and Mendel Dumas, who emigrated from Lithuania in the first decade of the twentieth century. The couple followed Esther's brother Frank Read, who had settled in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. Mendel joined Frank in his mercantile store, until he opened his own business in nearby Bonneau. In this interview, Abe describes his father's dedication to making a living in America. Besides maintaining the Bonneau enterprise, Mendel invested in land for timber and farming, and opened stores in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1912, he and Frank Read built a five and dime store on the corner of King and Spring streets. Three years later, they parted company and Mendel bought a pawn shop at 220 King Street. By 1918, he had moved Esther and their five children (Lenora, Mary, twins Abe and Joe, and Yetta) to Charleston. "He knew," Abe reports, "that he could not raise a Jewish family in Bonneau." The Dumases were members of Brith Sholom, one of two Orthodox synagogues in Charleston. Abe notes the family was not very observant, although he and his brother celebrated their bar mitzvahs. The interviewee recalls how he and Joe began peddling around age twelve and began working in Mendel's Charleston store at sixteen, while their father commuted to Bonneau. They loved the work but didn't care for the pawn shop business in particular. In 1930, they switched to clothing and were very successful, which Abe attributes to carrying uniforms and hunting apparel. "Then when we moved to King and Society, we had there one of the largest operations of men's and family clothing in the city of Charleston. And it still is." Abe discusses growing up in Charleston, and the subtle antisemitism he observed in his early years. He remembers "divisiveness" between the Reform and Orthodox congregations, but says it no longer exists since an "economic level of parity or better came into existence." He attended the College of Charleston and, in 1936, married Dorothea "Dottie" Shimel Dumas. They had two children, Lynn and Carol. Abe reflects on what Americans knew about the Holocaust during World War II and the failure of the United States and other countries to assist Jewish refugees. Dumas tells the story of meeting George Gershwin in 1933 on Folly Beach, while Gershwin was in the area collaborating with DuBose Heyward on Porgy and Bess. For a related oral history, see the 1996 interview with Joseph Read, Mss. 1035-090. For a related collection, see the Louis M. Shimel papers, Mss. 1055. Although mentioned only briefly in this interview, the Dumases were founding members of Synagogue Emanu-El; see Mss. 1141 for the congregation records.
Abel Banov draws on memories of his childhood in Charleston, South Carolina, to describe his familys customs, the synagogues, his fathers business ventures, the local merchants, and the differences between the citys uptown and downtown Jews. In 1939, he was hired by the North American Newspaper Alliance to cover stories in Spain just after the Spanish Civil War ended and, in the 1940s, he was founding editor of El Mundos English newspaper in Puerto Rico. He married Joan Heinemann, who fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s.
Mary Ann Pearlstine Aberman, the elder of two daughters of Milton Alfred Pearlstine and Cecile Mayer Pearlstine, provides some background on her mother’s family the Mayers, whose ancestors arrived in the United States from Bavaria in the early 1800s, and her father’s family, the Pearlstines, who emigrated from Germany to South Carolina in the mid-1800s. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, she describes growing up in the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood of Charleston, next door to her first cousins. The family did not keep kosher but they did observe Shabbat by lighting candles before dinner and attending Friday night services at the Reform synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). She remembers that Jewish Citadel cadets were invited to join members of Charleston’s Jewish community for worship and holiday observances; they even taught Sunday school. She met her husband, Edward Aberman of Rock Hill, when he was attending The Citadel. Mary Ann reviews some of her father’s civic contributions to the Charleston area, particularly his involvement in the South Carolina State Ports Authority, and she recalls Pearlstine family involvement in Brith Sholom and KKBE. She also briefly discusses the founding of Emanu-El, the Conservative congregation, in 1947, noting that KKBE lost some of its members to Emanu-El at that time. Mary Ann is joined in this interview by Edward Aberman. See also Edward’s interview on the same date (Mss. 1035-221), the Abermans’ interview with fellow Rock Hill, South Carolina, residents Jack Leader, Harriet Marshall Goode, and Martin Goode on September 21 , 1999 (Mss. 1035-218), and an interview with Rock Hill native Sophia Marie Friedheim Beers (Mss. 1035-220).
Edward Aberman, one of two surviving children of Bessie Samet and Sol Aberman, discusses his family history. The Samets, originally from Russia, immigrated circa 1914 to the United States from Cape Town, South Africa, where Bessie was born. They followed Samet family members to North Carolina, and ultimately settled in High Point. Sol Aberman, the son of a Russian immigrant, grew up in Chicago and left home when he was young, traveling around North America as a member of a band playing clarinet in a variety of venues, including circuses. During one stop in High Point, North Carolina, he met Bessie Samet. After they married, the couple lived in Chicago and North Carolina for a time, before settling in Rock Hill, where Sol assumed leadership of its small Jewish community. He hired students and circuit-riding rabbis to conduct holiday services, and was instrumental in building Temple Beth El in the early 1940s. Edward, who was born in 1932, describes growing up in Rock Hill, how his family observed the Sabbath, and efforts by coaches from Clemson, University of South Carolina, and The Citadel to recruit him to play football. He attended The Citadel in Charleston, where he met his wife Mary Ann Pearlstine. Mary Ann joins Edward in this interview. See also Mary Ann’s interview on the same date (Mss. 1035-222), the Abermans’ interview with fellow Rock Hill, South Carolina, residents Jack Leader, Harriet Marshall Goode, and Martin Goode on September 21 , 1999 (Mss. 1035-218), and an interview with Rock Hill native Sophia Marie Friedheim Beers (Mss. 1035-220).
Rock Hill, South Carolina residents Edward Aberman, Mary Ann Pearlstine Aberman, Jack Leader, Harriet Marshall Goode, and Martin Goode discuss local Jewish history, marrying outside one’s faith, and racial discrimination and interracial relations in Rock Hill. Edward, a native born in 1932, describes growing up in Rock Hill, and recalls Jewish family names such as Breen, Friedheim, and Kurtz. His father, Sol Aberman, was a musician who, in his youth, played in nightclubs and circuses around the country. After settling in Rock Hill and opening a scrap metal business, Sol supported the musical ambitions of local children and played with the Hejaz Shrine Temple band. Besides being the leader of the small Jewish community of anywhere from six to fourteen families, Sol worked hard for various civic and charitable organizations. Born in 1946, Jack Leader also grew up in Rock Hill. His parents followed brother-in-law Harry Cohen to Shelby, North Carolina. Harry helped all his siblings get off the ground with their own businesses in the Carolinas. Jack’s parents moved to Rock Hill and opened Melville’s, later named Leader’s, which sold ladies’ and children’s clothing. Jack discusses his Jewish education and his family’s religious practices, and recalls that when he was growing up, there was an active Hadassah organization in Rock Hill. Harriet Goode, born in 1937 and raised as a Presbyterian in Rock Hill, was about eight years old when she found out her paternal grandmother, Fanny Friedheim Marshall, was Jewish. Harriet’s great-grandfather and his brothers emigrated from Germany to Baltimore and, ultimately, wound up in Rock Hill, where they opened Friedheim’s Department Store. As a child, Harriet had both Christian and Jewish friends and was not aware of any discrimination towards Jews in her hometown. Mary Ann Aberman came to Rock Hill in 1955 as a newlywed and describes the “culture shock” of moving from the larger city of Charleston, South Carolina, to Rock Hill. Martin Goode, who was raised as a Methodist in Covington, Georgia, and came to Rock Hill after college, talks about his view of Jewish people in general. Note: See also Edward and Mary Ann Aberman’s interviews (Mss. 1035-221 and 222), and an interview with Rock Hill native Sophia Marie Friedheim Beers (Mss. 1035-220).
Abraham Stern, audio interview by Robert Buxton, 11 April 1999, Mss 1035-211, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Abraham “Abe” Stern was ten years old in 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland. At the time his father owned a textile factory in Lodz and the family was well-off, but antisemitism, promoted by the government and the Catholic Church, was commonplace. Shortly after the German occupation, the Stern family was forced to move to the ghetto in Lodz, where they lived until 1944, when they were transported to Auschwitz. Abe describes the systematic approach to genocide practiced by the Germans, which began in the ghetto, included forced labor, and ended in death for many who never believed it would come to that. He recalls the degrading conditions in Auschwitz and the high death rate in the labor camp in Ahlem, Germany, where he was housed while working in Hannover. After liberation by the Americans, Abe and some buddies made their way to Bergen-Belsen in search of surviving family members. He recounts what they saw when they arrived. Abe caught up with his three sisters in Poland, and they returned with him to Marburg, Germany, where he worked in a kitchen for the American army while waiting to obtain permission to come to the United States. Abe lived in New York for a year before traveling to California, where a man associated with the Workman’s Circle introduced him to someone who gave him a job. A year or so later, in 1948, he joined the United States Air Force, which ultimately brought him to Sumter, South Carolina, where he met and married his wife, Rhea, and where they raised their three children. Abe discusses how he copes with his memories of the Holocaust, how he is bewildered by those who deny that it occurred, and his feelings about providing reparations for the victims.