Sisters Frances Deborah “Debby” Baruch Abrams and Carolyn Baruch Levenson grew up in Camden, South Carolina, in the 1920s and ’30s in a community where a handful of Jewish families maintained a close relationship with their gentile neighbors. Their mother, Theresa Block, daughter of German immigrants, met her husband, Herman Baruch, Jr., when she came to Camden from New York to help her recently widowed uncle, Louis Block, with his three girls. Debby and Carolyn do not recall experiencing any anti-Semitism as children, and Debby was active in the Baptist and Methodist church youth groups. Raised in the Reform tradition, they attended Sunday school in Camden and were confirmed by Rabbi Samuel Shillman at Temple Sinai in Sumter. Despite growing up in Camden, the sisters had strong ties to the coastal region of South Carolina north of Georgetown. Debby remembers visiting her cousin Bernard Baruch, financier and advisor to Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt, at Hobcaw, his plantation northeast of the city. The girls spent their summers in Pawley’s Island, which included visits to their uncle Joe Baruch in Murrells Inlet. Debby met her husband, Helmar Abrams, a pharmacist, in 1942, when she moved to Georgetown to begin teaching. She discusses life in Georgetown, including Temple Beth Elohim’s congregation, the businesses that lined Front Street after World War II, and the relations between Jews, gentiles, African Americans, Lebanese, and Syrians. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by Debby during proofing.
Isaac Jacobs, in a follow-up session to his previous interviews that were poor in audio quality, tells many of the same stories recorded in 1995 (see Mss. 1035-005 and Mss. 1035-009). He discusses his immigrant grandfathers, Louis Pearlstine and Isaac Jacobs, the changes in the family surnames, and his aunts and uncles on both sides. He tells several anecdotes involving Louis Engelberg of Ridgeville, South Carolina, the family’s interactions with African Americans, and his father’s dealings with wholesalers. He recalls many of the Jewish merchants in Charleston, South Carolina, particularly food retailers such as the Zalkins, Rudichs, Mazos, and Kareshes. Jacobs also describes the origin of the West Ashley minyan house located in South Windermere subdivision. Note: this interview is also available in VHS (original) and DVD (use copy) formats to be accessed in person in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Isaac Jacobs, who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, discusses his family history, including the 1855 immigration of his grandfathers Louis Pearlstine, who settled in Branchville, South Carolina, and Isaac Jacobs (Karesh). Jacobs, a native of Poland, operated a dry goods store in Charleston and was a founder of the Orthodox synagogue Brith Sholom. The interviewee’s father, Louis Jacobs, ran a shoe store in Charleston for 28 years before switching to the hosiery business. In 1931, he opened Jacobs’ Hosiery Company, and was joined by his sons, Isaac and Melvin. Isaac describes how his father got started in the wholesale sock industry and his own experiences as a traveling salesman selling merchandise to immigrant Sephardic store owners in Myrtle Beach, among others. Isaac briefly worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps, and served in the army in the Pacific theater during World War II. He married Ruth Bass of North, South Carolina, who joins him in this interview. Note: The audio quality of this recording is poor. Corrections and additions to the transcript were made by Isaac and/or his wife, Ruth, during proofing. See Mss. 1035-009 for the second part of this interview, dated February 22, 1995, and Mss. 1035-173 for another interview on January 26, 1998.