Klyde Robinson, son of Eva Dora Karesh and Mitchel Robinson, describes his family history, including the possibility that William Robinson, the first of his father’s side of the family to come to America, may have been a Christian. Klyde’s grandfather Rudolph Robinson died a young man and his wife, Nettie Meyer, subsequently married Harry Goldberg of Charleston, South Carolina. Although Rudolph and Nettie had attended Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE), Charleston’s Reform synagogue, Nettie joined Harry at the Orthodox synagogue, Brith Sholom, once they married. She kept a strictly kosher home and observed all the Jewish holidays. Klyde’s mother, who was born in Elloree, South Carolina, died when Klyde and his two older brothers, Rudolph and Irving, were very young. Anticipating her death, she asked Mitchel to marry her niece, also named Eva Dora Karesh, after she passed away. Mitchel complied and, later, the second Eva Dora gave birth to his fourth son, Melvin. Klyde discusses the loss of the Hanover Street Cemetery, where several members of the Robinson family were buried, to foreclosure in the 1930s. He recalls the social distance between members of KKBE and Orthodox Jews, and between members of the two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, during his childhood. He explains why, after raising his children in the Reform synagogue, he returned to the Orthodox tradition of his youth, and notes a trend in Charleston where some Jews, who were raised in KKBE, are switching to Orthodoxy. Note: see transcript for corrections made by interviewee during proofing. See Mss. 1035-166 for a follow-up interview on September 5, 1997. See the Klyde Robinson Collection, Mss. 1024, in Special Collections at the College of Charleston Library, for related material.
Isidore Denemark was born in 1910 in Mayesville, South Carolina, the son of Eastern European immigrants Sara Lee “Lizzie” Siegel and Jacob Denemark. Jacob arrived in New York and, at some point, moved to Georgetown, South Carolina, where he worked for the Fogel Brothers in their general merchandise store. Isidore doesn’t know when or where his parents married. He describes a number of moves the family made after Jacob left Georgetown. They ran stores in Mayesville, South Carolina, Sumter, South Carolina, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They returned to Sumter around 1935 where Jacob went into business with Sara’s brother Harry Siegel on Main Street and Sara opened the Smart Shop, which sold dresses. Isidore recalls his father packing up his merchandise and following the tobacco workers around during harvest season in the Carolinas and Tennessee. The interviewee talks about his family’s religious observances as Orthodox Jews when he was growing up and his practices as an adult. He and interviewer Robert Moses are members of Sumter’s Temple Sinai, a small Reform congregation. Both men express frustration and concern about the lack of attendance at Sabbath services by members of the younger generations. They contemplate the reasons for the low levels of participation and compare the Jewish community of Sumter to the large and vibrant one in Charleston, South Carolina. Isidore earned an accounting degree at New York University and returned to Sumter in 1936 to work for Boyle Construction Company as a CPA. He was joined by his first wife, Gladys “Jimmy” Goldsmith, and they raised two children, Bennett and Adele. He talks about how he met Jimmy, who died in 1966. He married Rae Nussbaum Addlestone, originally from Charleston, who was present at this interview. Isidore was one of six or so people who put up money for a new summer camp for Jewish children. They bought more than two hundred acres in Cleveland, GA, and named it Camp Coleman, for the man who made the largest donation. Isidore and Robert discuss the absence of antisemitism in Sumter and how Jewish residents have been prominent in every part of Sumter life. Isidore addresses the issue of the Confederate flag flying on the South Carolina statehouse grounds.
David Alexander Cohen, Jr., born and raised in Darlington, South Carolina, recalls stories of the Hennig and Witcover families while sorting through documents, among them, mortgages, deeds, and bonds acquired by his grandfather, Henry Hennig, a lien merchant. Henry, a German immigrant, operated a general merchandise store in Darlington, and boarded at the home of Dora and Wolf Witcover before marrying their daughter Lena. David’s father, who was in the wholesale grocery and fertilizer business in Darlington, offered his African-American customers credit, and acted as a protector of sorts for those who needed help with personal matters. His great-uncle Hyman Witcover was a respected architect who designed the former Park Hotel in Darlington and numerous buildings in Savannah, Georgia, including city hall. David remembers going to the Florence train station with his father to pick up Rabbi Raisin of Charleston’s Beth Elohim, who conducted services one weekend a month for the Florence and Darlington congregations. In later years Darlington Jews hired rabbis from Sumter and Florence to lead services. David married Kathleen Hyman and they raised four children in Darlington. He describes his and other family members’ involvement in the Darlington Hebrew Congregation and Beth Israel Congregation of Florence. Note: Corrections and additions made during proofing by the interviewee’s wife and son are in brackets with their initials. Mr. Cohen provided interviews on three separate days. The July 12, 1995, and October 26, 1995, interviews were recorded on Tape 1. The October 27, 1995, interview was recorded on Tape 2. Mr. Cohen donated his papers, the subject of most of Tape 1 and all of Tape 2, to Special Collections, College of Charleston. See the David A. Cohen, Jr. collection, Mss. 1021.