Olga Garfinkel Weinstein, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1917, describes her childhood, including her siblings, the Jewish Community Center, and the traditional Jewish foods her mother served. Olga experienced no anti-Semitism as a schoolgirl, but discusses her awareness, as a young woman during World War II, of what was happening to the Jews in Europe.
Doris Baumgarten tells the story of how her husband, Peter, and his family escaped Vienna in 1939 after the Nazi occupation of Austria. Peter and his brother, Hans, left on the Kindertransport and were taken in at a boarding school in Bournemouth, England. Their mother worked in London as a maid, but was able to join her boys in Bournemouth when the school hired her to clean their facilities. Their father was in Sweden during the German annexation and was unable to return to Vienna because of an invalid passport. Instead, he made his way to New York, arriving in the United States a year before his wife and children.
Harry Appel’s parents, Abraham Appel and Ida Goldberg, emigrated separately from Kaluszyn, Poland, in the early twentieth century. They met, married, and raised three children in Charleston, South Carolina. Their eldest, Harry, born in 1924, talks about his siblings, growing up in the St. Philip Street neighborhood, and Charleston’s synagogues.
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.
William Ackerman, the son of Hungarian immigrants, grew up in a small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania, with a community of about 35 Orthodox Jewish families who came from the same region of Hungary. He married Jennie Shimel of Charleston, South Carolina, and worked there as an attorney, joining her father, Louis Shimel, in his practice. He developed the suburban neighborhood and shopping center, South Windermere, and was a founder of the Conservative synagogue, Emanu-El.
Cousins Arthur Williams and Elza Meyers Alterman grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. They discuss the Williams and Meyers family histories, intermarriage and assimilation, and Charleston’s Reform Jewish community, including changes in the congregation and services during their lifetimes. Arthur became a physician and helped to develop an artificial kidney machine in the 1940s. Elza followed her mother into retail and ran a dress shop in the former home of the Williams family on George Street.
Zerline Levy Williams Richmond and her children, Arthur Williams and Betty Gendelman, recount the Levy and Williams family histories, including Zerline’s mother’s stint as Charleston’s first female rice broker, and the Williamses’ kindergarten on George Street. The Williams family were members of Charleston’s Reform temple, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.
Irving Abrams moved with his family to Greenville, South Carolina, in 1936, where his father, Harry, led the effort to revive Temple of Israel, the city's Reform congregation. Harry managed the Piedmont Shirt Company, and hired African-Americans as early as 1939. Irving married Marjorie Kohler of Knoxville, Tennessee, followed his father into textiles, and oversaw the integration of his factory during the Civil Rights Movement.
Fay Laro Alfred, born in Poland in 1915 during World War I, was just two weeks old when her family fled the fighting. Ultimately, they settled in Michigan where Fay’s parents started a scrap metal business. She recalls stories about her relatives in the Old Country and describes growing up Jewish in small-town Michigan and meeting her husband, Clement Alfred, (Zipperstein), a dentist. Her daughter, Marlene Addlestone, is an interviewer.
Philip Schneider, born and raised in Georgetown, South Carolina, and Charlestonian Alwyn Goldstein, who moved to Georgetown in 1938 to open a store, discuss the town’s Jewish religious and business life. Among the merchants were Philip’s grandmother, Sally Lewenthal, and his father, Albert Schneider, who went into business with Philip’s uncle, Harry Rosen. Both interviewees recall the effects of the Great Depression in their native cities.