Doris Levkoff Meddin recalls her experiences growing up in Augusta, Georgia, where her parents, Shier and Rebecca Rubin Levkoff, ran The Smart Set Dress Shop. Shier and Rebecca, descendants of Russian and Polish immigrants, were born in Charleston, South Carolina. They and their children frequently visited Charleston and summered on Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms. Doris married Hyman Meddin, who was born and raised in Savannah and ran a meat-packing business in Charleston. While raising three children, she devoted her time and energy to philanthropic work. Among her many contributions to local organizations, Doris helped to establish the Pink Ladies, a volunteer group at Roper Hospital, and served as president of the Charleston Area Mental Health Association. As a member of the National Council of Jewish Women, she assisted German refugee Margot Freudenberg after she arrived in Charleston.
Marian Birlant Slotin discusses the history of her fathers antique business, George C. Birlant & Company, which he established in 1929 in Charleston, South Carolina. George married Lillian Marcus of Kingstree, South Carolina, and despite their Orthodox backgrounds, they raised Marian, their only child, in the Reform tradition. Marian reminisces about her childhood and many of her close and distant relatives. She married Phil Slotin of Georgia, and they raised two boys. As of 2011, the antique shop remains in the family, run by their son, Andrew.
Helen Laufer Dwork Berle describes growing up in her native city, Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and 30s. She discusses in detail Jewish merchants and the St. Philip Street neighborhood. Her parents, Harry and Tillie Hufeizen Laufer, who immigrated from Mogelnitsa, Poland, owned a mens clothing store on King Street before opening a restaurant. Laufers was Charlestons first kosher restaurant and served as a social hub during World War II.
Lillie Goldstein Lubin grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and ’30s. Her parents, Abraham and Bessie Lazerovsky Goldstein, emigrants from Russia and Lithuania, ran a shoe shop in Charleston that evolved into a men’s clothing store. As a youngster, Lillie’s singing talent was recognized by her mother and teachers. She began taking voice lessons when she was nine and performed at a number of local venues as a child and teenager, notably, singing with the Charleston Oratorio Society in a performance of Haydn’s Creation. Lillie, whose stage name as a professional opera singer in New York was Lisa Lubin, discusses her early training and the artists who influenced her most. During her singing career, she performed in several languages, including Yiddish and German. She describes Charleston’s Jewish community in the years before World War II as “unique” because of the “camaraderie” and the “kinship” that she felt. Lillie recalls her mother’s visits to the mikveh, attending Rabbi Axelman’s Hebrew school, going to Folly Beach to listen to bands, and the black Charlestonians who worked for the family, both in their home and at their store. She married Herman Lubin of New York, whom she met in Charleston while he was working at the navy yard as an engineer. During the course of the interview, Lillie sings a few lines from some of her favorite songs.
Sandra Goldberg Lipton discusses her family background including that of her father, Nathan Goldberg, and her maternal grandparents, Mendel and Esther Read Dumas. Nathan married the Dumas’s daughter, Lenora, and moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Sandra discusses their involvement in Emanu-El, Charleston’s Conservative synagogue. She married Morey Lipton, who talks about growing up in Beaufort, South Carolina, and Beth Israel Congregation where he attended Hebrew school.
Ellis Irvin Kahn, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, describes his family background and his years growing up in the coastal city where his father owned a wholesale and retail grocery business. His great-grandfather, Josiah Kaminitsky, appears in the South Carolina Supreme Court records of 1885. He lost both legs in a train accident, sued the North Eastern Railroad Company, and won. Ellis, an attorney and former president of the Charleston Jewish Federation, recounts the aftereffects of Hurricane Hugo (1989) on the areas residents and the relief efforts of local, national, and Israeli Jews. He married Janice Weinstein of Shreveport, Louisiana, and the couple raised three children in Charleston.
Joe Engel, who was twelve years old when the Nazis occupied Poland in 1939, describes life in his home town of Zakroczym, Poland, before and after the invasion. His family fled to Warsaw and then Plonsk, the ghetto from which they were transported to concentration camps. Joe was imprisoned at Birkenau, Buna, and, Auschwitz. He made a daring escape from a train after surviving a death march. After the war ended, he immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, where decades later his vision led to the construction of the Holocaust Memorial.
Margot Strauss Freudenberg recalls life in Germany before and after Hitler came to power. She was born in Hanover in 1907 to a family that was proud to be Jewish, but limited religious observance to the High Holidays. Margot describes the debate among Jewish Germans, including her own parents, about the necessity of leaving Nazi Germany, and her struggle to get her family out of the country. They eventually escaped to Charleston, South Carolina, where Margot became a well-known community activist.
Holocaust survivor, Pincus Kolender, tells the story of his life from his boyhood in Bochnia, Poland, to the significance of the Holocaust Memorial in his adopted city of Charleston, South Carolina, where he and his wife, Renee, a fellow survivor, raised their children. He describes life in Bochnias Jewish ghetto after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, his captivity at Birkenau, Buna, and Auschwitz, evading selection for the gas chambers, being wounded in an Allied air attack, surviving a death march, escaping the Nazis, hiding in the Czech forest, working for an American army unit, and immigrating to America.
Betty Hirsch Lancer, the daughter of emigrants from Mogelnitza, Poland, describes growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the decades before World War II. Her father acted in New York’s Yiddish theaters with limited success, and his father made and sold schnapps out of his house on St. Philip Street during Prohibition. Betty recalls the Great Depression, discusses how her parents made a living, and mentions other families in Charleston who were from Mogelnitza.