Stanley Karesh grew up in the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood of Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and ’30s. His family kept kosher and attended Brith Sholom. Stanley describes the shoe store his grandfather Charles Karesh built at 545 King Street. Charles immigrated with his wife, Sarah Orlinsky Karesh, to Charleston, circa 1878, from their hometown of Trestina (Trzcianne), in Polish Russia. They operated a store in the small town of Greeleyville, South Carolina, for a few years before returning with their growing family to Charleston, eager to live in a larger Jewish community. Stanley refers to a number of Charleston families, including Rittenberg, Friedman, Bielsky, Barshay, Kaminski, Jacobs, Banov, Livingstain, and Pearlstine, many of whom are related to the Kareshes. He also mentions his maternal grandparents, Harry and Anna Smolensky Feinberg, and cousin Rabbi David Karesh of Columbia. Stanley attended dental school in Baltimore, where he met Charlot Marks. The couple married in 1945 in her hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina. They raised three daughters in Charleston, and they were one of the first families to move to South Windermere, a subdivision west of the Ashley River. Stanley discusses the changes over time in relations between members of the Orthodox and the Reform synagogues and between the two Orthodox congregations, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel. He and Charlot, the youngest charter members of Conservative Synagogue Emanu-El, which broke away from Brith Sholom in 1947, recount its origins and offer their view of how its members differed from the Orthodox congregants from whom they split.
Melvin Jacobs and Rose Wexler Jacobs, audio interview by Sandra Lee Kahn Rosenblum and Ruth Bass Jacobs, 14 January 1998, Mss 1035-172, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Melvin Jacobs reminisces about growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, where his father, Louis Jacobs, ran a shoe store on King Street. The Jacobs family attended the Orthodox synagogue Brith Sholom and observed Shabbos, although around 1913 Louis began opening his shop on Saturdays. Melvin was drafted into the marines at age thirty-four; he served in the supply corps, stateside, from 1943–45. In 1947 he married Rose Wexler of Savannah, the daughter of Romanian immigrants. They raised four children in Charleston. Melvin, who joined Louis in the family business, describes how his father made the switch from selling shoes to selling hosiery. The couple discusses the schism at Brith Sholom that produced the Conservative congregation, Emanu-El; the merger of the two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel; and their involvement in the establishment of the Jewish day school, Charleston Hebrew Institute. Note: this is the second of two interviews; the first was in 1997 (Mss. 1035-139). For several related collections, search for “Pearlstine” in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Leon Banov, Jr., a retired proctologist at the time of this interview, was the grandson of Alexander Banov, an emigrant from Poland who ran a dry goods store in Red Top, South Carolina, a small, rural community a few miles from Charleston. Alexander’s son, Leon Sr., who was eight years old when he arrived in America, attended Charleston’s Orthodox synagogue, Brith Sholom, but received his confirmation instruction from Ellen de Castro Williams, a woman of Sephardic ancestry and member of the Reform synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). Leon Jr. credits her with starting the first Orthodox Sunday school in South Carolina, and his father was a member of its first confirmation class. To show his appreciation for Mrs. WiIliams’s efforts, Leon Sr. gave her a napkin holder shaped as a deer from his family’s modest collection of silver pieces. She, in turn, gave the napkin ring to Leon Sr.’s son, the interviewee, upon the occasion of his bar mitzvah. Thus began a tradition whereby the deer is passed down alternately to a descendant of the Banov and Williams families as a gift to a new bar or bat mitzvah. Leon Sr., a pharmacist and an M.D., became the first health director of the Charleston County Health Department in 1920, a position he held for forty-one years. He recorded his experiences in As I recall: the story of the Charleston County Health Department. He married Minnie Monash, whose family was from Germany and practiced Reform Judaism. The couple raised their three children in the Reform tradition and attended KKBE. Leon Jr. discusses his siblings and reports that he did not experience any antisemitism growing up. He organized the first cub scout pack in Charleston and received several honors for his involvement in and promotion of the Boy Scouts of America, including the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 1989. His numerous contributions to the medical community include serving on an advisory panel for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and acting as chairman of the Charleston County Board of Health. He also recalls certain former KKBE rabbis and describes how he met his wife, Rita Landesman. Note: the transcript contains comments made by members of the Banov family during proofing.
Morris Rosen is joined by his cousin Dorothy “Dutch” Idalin Gelson Cohen and her husband, Mordecai “Mortie” Cohen, in this interview. Morris’s son Robert is also present as interviewer and videographer. Morris, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1919, was one of four children of Annie Blatt and Sol Rosen. Sol and his siblings, including Dutch’s parents, Zelda Rosen and Louis Gelson, emigrated from Russia in the first decade of the twentieth century, following their older sister Ida and her husband, David Goldberg, to Poughkeepsie, New York, where Dutch was born in 1919. The cousins talk about the Rosen (Rachelkin) and Gelson (Getchen) families of Poughkeepsie and their ancestors in Russia. Morris briefly mentions his maternal grandparents, Mamie Wildman and Morris Blatt, who ran a bakery in Columbia, South Carolina, before moving to Charleston. Morris and Dutch describe how the Rosens wound up in Charleston. Their uncle Sam Rosen moved to the area from Poughkeepsie for reasons unknown and opened a store in Awendaw, a small settlement about twenty-five miles north of Charleston. In about 1919, Sol Rosen and Zelda and Louis Gelson followed and bought an established country store from a member of the Geraty family in Yonges Island, nearly twenty miles south of Charleston. Louis died within a year, and Sol sold his interest in the store to Zelda, who moved the business and her three children to Meeting Street in Charleston after a few years. Sol was in the grocery business and later opened liquor stores. Morris traces his father’s moves from Yonges Island to King and Romney streets in Charleston, to the town of Meggett, and back to Charleston at King and Race streets. Morris and Dutch discuss growing up in Charleston in an area of the city where there were no other Jewish families. They did not experience antisemitism and Morris blended easily with the Catholic teens who lived nearby. The cousins did connect with other Jewish children when they frequented the neighborhoods around the synagogues and while attending religious school. They didn’t notice any friction between Charleston’s Reform and Orthodox Jews and played with children from both groups. Dutch was confirmed and Morris became a bar mitzvah at Brith Sholom on St. Philip Street. The two consider the degree to which their parents were observant Jews and speculate as to why their parents and others of their generation did or did not adhere to certain Jewish traditions. Mordecai “Mortie” Cohen was born in 1916 in St. Matthews, South Carolina, where his father, Isaac, ran a dry goods store and two farms. All the general merchandisers in St. Matthews while Mortie and his two brothers were growing up were Jewish. They met for High Holiday services in the town’s Masonic temple and were joined by families from Orangeburg, Ehrhardt, and Elloree. Most of Mortie’s friends were Christians; he doesn’t remember experiencing any antisemitism in St. Matthews. Mortie recalls how he came to know the Rosens, and he and Morris describe the role of the drummers, or sales reps, who visited retail storeowners when their fathers were in business. Morris talks about how he met his wife, Ida Tanenbaum. Her brother Lou Tanenbaum came to Charleston and opened a clothing store with his brother-in-law Louis Lesser. Morris, an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, was assigned to a LST (Landing Ship, Tank) in the Pacific. The group discusses what they and other American Jews knew about what was happening to Jews in Europe under Hitler.
Joan Weisblum Steinberg Loeb, born in 1918 in Brooklyn, New York, married Matthew Steinberg and moved to his native city of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1936. Joan, a daughter of Elsie Aleskowitz and Philip Weisblum, recounts some of her family history, and describes how she met Matthew, who earned his M.D. from the Medical College of South Carolina, and their wedding in the Weisblum’s Brooklyn home. Her mother-in-law, Anna Bell Kaminski Steinberg, taught her how to keep a kosher home. The interviewee, who had no formal religious upbringing, recalls attending High Holy Day services at her husband’s Orthodox congregation, Brith Sholom. She notes that Matthew served as mohel for the congregation following Reverend Feinberg, who was also the cantor and the shochet. Interviewer Sandra Rosenblum reports that her husband, Raymond Rosenblum, a urologist, later assumed the role. In 1947, Joan and Matthew left Brith Sholom and joined roughly seventy families in becoming founding members of the Conservative Synagogue Emanu-El. Joan points to the leadership of Charleston native, Macey Kronsberg, the congregation’s first president, as pivotal in organizing the faction that was dissatisfied with Orthodox practices. Joan notes the source of discontent: “It was the fact that the women were not part of the service at all, and the families did not sit together. This didn’t satisfy this generation. They wanted the children to be part of it and to learn and to have an interest, and not to have to just be banged over the head in Hebrew school to learn enough for a bar mitzvah, and goodbye Charlie.” Joan and Matthew donated the first sanctuary, an army chapel, for Emanu-El’s Gordon Street property. Joan lists many of the names and professions of the charter members. She discusses the differences among Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism, and some of the changes that have taken place in her lifetime. Participants recall the mid-twentieth century practices and attitudes of Charleston’s Reform congregants (Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim) and the two Orthodox congregations, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, and they examine their own, and others’, experiences of keeping kosher—or not. Joan briefly mentions the three women’s organizations she joined in Charleston: the National Council of Jewish Women, the Daughters of Israel, and the Happy Workers. She goes into some detail about why her father thought U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the “biggest hypocrite and enemy of the Jews.” Matthew Steinberg died in 1968. Three years later, Joan married B. Frank Loeb of Montgomery, Alabama, where she was living at the time of the interview. She provides a brief history of Montgomery’s Reform congregation, Temple Beth Or.
In this brief interview, Henry Berlin, a son of Charleston, South Carolina, natives Sam and Bertie Livingstain Berlin, describes growing up in the coastal city where his grandfather, Henry Berlinsky, a Polish immigrant, opened a dry goods store on lower King Street in the 1880s. The family name was changed from Berlinsky to Berlin when Sam Berlin and his brother took over the store. Their father, an observant Jew, did not want his name to be associated with a business that opened on the Sabbath. Sam was active in political and civic affairs, and was one of the first Jewish Charlestonians to become a member of the St. Andrews Society, a charitable organization. A big sports fan, he owned Charleston minor league baseball teams and supported local boxing matches. Henry notes that they were one of the few Jewish families living south of Broad Street and, as a result, most of his friends were gentiles. Nevertheless, the Berlins attended the Orthodox synagogue Brith Sholom, and Sam led the effort to merge Brith Sholom and Beth Israel. Henry mentions the split that occurred prior to the merger, resulting in the creation of Emanu-El, Charleston’s Conservative congregation. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by Henry during proofing.
Cousins Max Furchgott and Dale Dreyfoos review their family history. Dale's maternal grandmother Lillian Furchgott married Pincus LeRoy Pinkussohn (he changed the spelling of the family name to Pinkerson during World War II), whose grandfather settled in Charleston, South Carolina, around 1850. Lillian's father, Herman Furchgott, and his brother Max, grandfather of interviewee Max, opened a dry goods store on King Street in Charleston in the 1860s. Max describes growing up in Charleston and recalls the moves his family made during the Great Depression to Orangeburg, South Carolina; Goldsboro, North Carolina; and Florence, South Carolina, before returning to Charleston. The Furchgotts have been members of Reform Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE) since the first generation in Charleston. Max discusses the conflict that arose among members of the congregation in the 1960s during Rabbi Burton Padoll's tenure, and notes how KKBE has changed over the years. Max married Marcelle Kleinzahler and they raised three children in Charleston. Both interviewees discuss Jewish identity - Max, in terms of how he believes his children view themselves, and Dale, in terms of his relationship to his ancestors. Dale tells the story of his great-great-grandparents fleeing Atlanta during the Civil War in anticipation of General Sherman's arrival with Union troops. Other family surnames mentioned in the interview include Brown, Sorentrue, Foote, Ritzwoller, and Dreyfoos. For related information, see also Marcelle Furchgott's May 14, 2014 interview, Robert Furchgott's February 28, 2001 and April 18, 2001 interviews, the Arthur C. Furchgott papers (Mss 1043), and Furchgott and Brothers department store newspaper advertisement, 1910 (Mss 1034-090), Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Robert Francis Furchgott, born in 1916 in Charleston, South Carolina, the second of three sons of Philapena Sorentrue and Arthur Furchgott, talks about growing up in downtown Charleston. The Furchgotts lived below Broad Street and were members of Reform temple Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. It wasn't until Robert joined Boy Scout Troop 21, the Jewish troop, that he met and made friends with Orthodox Jewish boys from uptown. In regard to the organization of the Scouts, he observes that "in Charleston it seemed to be by churches." Summer classes and field trips sponsored by the Charleston Museum that sparked Robert's interest in nature stand out in his memory as among his most gratifying early experiences. He estimates that when his family moved inland about seventy-five miles to Philapena's hometown of Orangeburg in the summer of 1929, there were about five Jewish families living there. Services and the Sunday school were run by lay leaders, with the guidance of a rabbi who visited once a month. Furchgott recalls that Orangeburg's Christians and Jews mixed socially and there was just one Boy Scout troop for the small city. After struggling financially in Orangeburg for a year, the Furchgotts moved to Goldsboro, North Carolina. A year later they moved again, this time to Florence, South Carolina. Robert discusses his family history, in particular, his paternal grandfather, Max Furchgott, who came to Charleston circa 1865, and his maternal great-grandfather, Simon Brown, who settled in Blackville, South Carolina, around 1849. See Mss. 1035-256 for a follow-up to this interview. For related information, see also Marcelle Furchgott's May 14, 2014 interview, Max Furchgott's July 14, 1995 interview, the Arthur C. Furchgott papers (Mss 1043), and Furchgott and Brothers department store newspaper advertisement, 1910 (Mss 1034-090), Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Flossie Ginsberg Arnold and her son, Norman Arnold, discuss their family history. Flossie and her parents, Isaac and Pauline Ginsberg, immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, from Russia around 1908, when Flossie was about one year old. Flossie recalls living on Hanover Street in the neighborhood they referred to as “Little Mexico,” where her family owned a small grocery store. Ultimately, the Ginsbergs moved to a home on Ashley Avenue and Isaac opened I. Ginsberg, Inc., on Meeting Street, selling cigars, candy, and notions. Flossie was working behind the cash register when her future husband, Ben Arnold, walked in. Charleston was a port of call for the Clyde Line steamer Ben was taking to New York from Florida, where he operated drugstores in Lake Worth and West Palm Beach. Flossie and Ben married in 1928 and shortly after, moved from Florida to Charleston, lured by the presence of family and a Jewish community, and Isaac’s offer to include Ben in the family business. Isaac and Ben developed a wholesale tobacco and drugstore enterprise with locations in several South Carolina cities, including Columbia, the state capital. Ben ran the Columbia store, which they expanded to include liquor. Around 1940 Flossie, Ben, and their son, Arnold, moved to the capital city, and in the mid-’40s, Isaac and Ben split up the business, Isaac keeping the tobacco distributorship, and Ben assuming full control of the liquor operation.
Melvin Jacobs and Rose Wexler Jacobs, audio interview by Michael Samuel Grossman, 7 March 1997, Mss 1035-139, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Melvin Jacobs, born in 1909 in Charleston, South Carolina, discusses his family history. His maternal grandparents, Rebecca Tobish and Louis Charles Pearlstine, settled in Branchville, South Carolina, where they ran a dry goods store. Louis emigrated with Melvin’s paternal grandfather, Isaac Jacobs (Karesh) from Trzcianne, Russia, circa 1852. Melvin’s father, Louis Jacobs, an observant Orthodox Jew, ran a shoe store in Charleston on King Street. Under mounting financial pressure, Louis began opening his store on the Sabbath, a decision that created tension between him and his father, Isaac. Melvin talks about his siblings and his aunts and uncles, specifically his uncle Dr. Kivy Pearlstine, who practiced in Charleston. Melvin married Rose Wexler of Savannah, who joined him in this interview. They recall their courtship and wedding, and Rose touches on the issue of how women dressed for synagogue services in the past and at the time of the interview. Note: for several related collections, search for “Pearlstine” in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston. The Jacobses recorded a second interview in 1998 (Mss. 1035-172).