This panel discussion was held in October 2004 in observance of the one hundredth anniversary of Temple Beth Elohim in Georgetown, South Carolina. Relying on local records, L. C. Sloan reviews the history of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Jews of Georgetown, in particular, Marcus Moses (1830-1884) and his children. Robin Heiden Shuler describes growing up in the 1960s and ’70s as a member of a small, close-knit Jewish community in predominantly Christian Florence, South Carolina, and how she drifted away from Judaism as a young woman in Charleston, but returned to it as a mother. Robert Schimek provides his perspective as a transplant from the Northeast. He proposes that the line between Conservative and Reform Judaism is becoming increasingly blurred and that Beth Elohim’s goal is to “make as many as we can . . . feel comfortable under our umbrella.” Panelists and audience members also briefly discuss the question of antisemitism in Florence and touch on the history of Temple Beth Or in Kingstree, South Carolina. For Mr. Sloan’s research materials, see L. C. Sloan collection, Mss 1036, Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Michael Duffy (b. 1943) discusses his upbringing as part of an Irish-American family in Charleston. His paternal grandfather, William J. Duffy, emigrated from County Donegal, and the family settled in the coal region of Pennsylvania. His mother’s side of the family came over from Clonmel, County Tipperary, through New Orleans and settled in Charleston. Michael travelled to Annagry, in a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) region on the West coast of Ireland, on a search for more information about the Duffys, and stumbled upon a pub where he was able to get more information about the Duffys from that region. He has pieced together much of his family’s background since but is still searching for more information. He has travelled numerous times to Ireland and has built numerous friendships through his travels. In his discussion of growing up as an Irish-Catholic in Charleston, he recalls some of the anti-Catholic sentiments he encountered in childhood, specifically the vivid memories of his childhood friend’s mothers asking him peculiar questions about the Pope. He acknowledges that the Catholic church, and the various duties and services associated with it, played a central role in his upbringing. He speaks about the current Irish community in Charleston, and how the Hibernian Society is taking steps to promote Irish culture in the city, whether by bringing Irish music in, or through commemorative or educational events such as the building of the Irish Memorial on Charlotte Street. Michael is immensely proud of his Irish-American background, and of the contributions the Irish-American immigrants have made in the States.
Sean Doherty discusses his experience growing up as part of an Irish-American family in New York City. His parents emigrated from County Donegal in the 1920s. He discusses growing up in a neighborhood of various first-generation immigrants from different backgrounds. He was an officer in the United States Marine Corps, until he became a salesman for Sylvan Pyrometric Systems, eventually retiring and coming to Charleston.
Barbara Dugan discusses her upbringing as part of an Irish-American family in New York City. Her grandparents emigrated from County Mayo and County Kerry around 1900. Her grandmother, Catherine, took care of janitorial duties in her apartment building while her grandfather, Patrick, became employed in steel works and helped to build several New York City area bridges. As a child, she had difficulty getting her grandmother to speak in detail about Ireland, which she suspects is because of the hardships the family endured before their move to the United States. Barbara grew up going to all-girls Catholic schools and was raised Catholic. She speaks glowingly of her travels in Ireland and discusses the various ways in which she passes a sense of Irish-American identity onto her children and grandchildren. Barbara recently relocated to Charleston to be close to her married son and grandchildren, who live in Mt. Pleasant.
Jeremiah Courtney discusses his experience as an Irish immigrant in New York City, and then in Charleston. He came to the States full time in 1991, after having lived in London for five years and finding life there difficult for an Irishman. He speaks warmly of growing up in Kilarney, County Kerry, but left largely because he felt that Ireland couldn’t offer him the variety and adventure that he wanted in his life. He felt welcomed and supported upon first arriving in the States, particularly by others in the Irish or Irish-American community. He made his way down to Charleston after feeling he needed a break from New York. Though he was raised in the Catholic church and attended Catholic school, he finds himself turning away from Catholicism, and has not passed that on to his children.
Paul Flaherty, a former Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, discusses his upbringing as part of an Irish-American family in Boston and in Charleston. The paternal side of his family came from Galway in the early 1900’s and settled in Boston. The lore states that his family goes back to the twelfth century in Ireland. His father, Anthony, was in the Navy, while his mother, Mary, was a homemaker. He is the oldest of five children. He shares fond memories of growing up and being immersed in Irish culture at his grandparents’ house in South Boston, surrounded by a houseful of Irish immigrants and constantly hearing stories about Ireland. Most of the immigrants he came into contact with during childhood had emigrated to the States for work. He briefly discusses the importance of identifying as Americans first, specifically in how his grandparents spoke Gaelic but didn’t pass it on to the next generations, and of the importance of ensuring that the next generation of Irish-Americans are as well-educated as they can be. He also discusses the prevalence of Irish gangs in Boston. One of his main assertions is that, from his perspective, the Irish culture and Irish heritage is severely lacking in Charleston, especially when compared to the culture he was surrounded by in childhood in Boston.
"Gianni Leonardi, Daniel ""Danny"" McCann, and Adam Tracey speak about their experiences as Irish immigrants in the United States. Gianni and Danny are the owners of two Irish pubs in the Charleston area while Adam works at a pub on Johns Island. Gianni hails from the rural, Irish-speaking parish of Gweedore, in County Donegal. He first came to the United States in 2009 as part of a sponsorship by a pub in Michigan through his university in Ireland. He wanted to come to the U.S. for the opportunity to make a living in the hospitality industry and relocated to Charleston from Ann Arbor to open an Irish pub. He speaks of the vast difference between his rural upbringing and his life in a more suburban/urban environment. He makes a point to discuss the authenticity of Irish hospitality, and how, in owning and operating a pub, he tries to further that sense of genuine Irish warmth. Danny is from Lurgan, County Armagh. He came to the U.S. in 1998, to Detroit, to work in the same pub that later sponsored Gianni. Having grown up in Northern Ireland, he has the most firsthand experience of the Irish Troubles. He speaks briefly about Irish politics and witnessing some of the violence in the North in the 1990s. Adam comes from County Offlay, outside of Tullamore. Before working in hospitality, he had worked in construction in Yonkers, New York. Though he has little firsthand experience with the Troubles, he tells the story of a grand-uncle who was killed young by a bombing in the North. All three speak to their experience within the small community of Irish immigrants in Charleston, and how the community works to bring newly-arrived Irish immigrants together with those who are already established in Charleston. They agree that without the support of the Irish community, their experience in Charleston would have been very different."
Bar owner Tommy Snee discusses his experiences as an Irish immigrant in Charleston. He is the youngest of ten children and describes his upbringing in a poor family as a happy one despite the hardships of poverty. He first came to the United States at the age of seventeen in 1980, to stay with an aunt and uncle in St. Augustine, Florida for a holiday. He returned home for a period of time before returning to the States in 1986 and gaining his green card. He gained U.S. citizenship in 2017. He attended a Christian Brothers School in Ireland, and left school at the age of fourteen to work in construction. Feeling that there was “nowhere to go in Ireland,” he came to the States, where he found the opportunity to work hard and make a life immensely appealing. The weather, the diversity, and the local culture drew him to Charleston from New York. He finds that the response to him as an immigrant has been nothing but positive. While he loves his life in the States, he states that, first and foremost, “I’ll always be an Irishman.” On Irish stereotypes, he disagrees with many of the simplistic stereotypes, but argues that the best way for Irish immigrants to dispel these kinds of false notions is through education. He also discusses the importance of honoring diverse backgrounds and experiences, and the importance of listening to and learning from those with different perspectives, which he feels is critical for America, or for any country, to becoming as great as it can be.
Eimer Kernan discusses her experience as an Irish immigrant. She is the youngest of five siblings from Dublin, and first came to the States in the late seventies on a J1 visa, then later came to live here full-time with her American husband. She has worked as a clinician, researcher, teacher, and consultant for thirty years. She comments on the difference in diversity between Ireland and the States, stating that Ireland is very homogenous, especially when compared to the States, and discusses how she “dials” herself back into Irish culture whenever she returns to Ireland. On religion, she remarks that she found the Catholic church restricting from an early age, so she feels that Catholicism, and religion in general, is not a part of her identity, though it did play a role in her upbringing in Ireland. She speaks specifically to her experience as a woman with a career, and of the difficulties that women face in trying to balance work and family. Above all, she maintains her identity as “Irish-Irish,” and considers herself “a bicoastal dual citizen.”
Colleen Condon (b. 1970) describes her upbringing in an Irish-American family in Charleston. Her family came to the States from County Cork during the time of the Famine, first landing in a northern city before coming to Charleston, which she remarks is most likely due to the similarities between Charleston and County Cork. Her great-great-grandfather started Condon’s department store in Charleston in 1899, which was family owned until closing in 1984. She discusses what it was like growing up in a large but very close-knit family with lots of ties to the community. She feels that issues of prejudice and discrimination against Irish Catholics in particular is something that has decreased through the generations, and that the Irish Catholics have become more integrated with the wider community as the years have passed, that Irish identity has “mesh[e]d really well” with Southern identity in Charleston. As to the difference between Charleston and other southern cities, she feels that the Irish community and sense of Irish identity is more prominent in Charleston than it is in places such as Atlanta or Charlotte. Part of her interview also includes her experience as a lesbian in an Irish-Catholic family, and how she has begun to try to separate her Irish identity from Catholicism because of the difficulties she has faced. Colleen and her wife were the first couple in the state of South Carolina to be granted a marriage license as a same-sex couple, after a long legal battle.
Darragh Doran (b. 1977) discusses his experience as an Irish immigrant in Charleston. He grew up in Chapelizod, a small village in Dublin, and first came to the States in 1997 on a J1 visa. His first experience in the U.S. was in Newport, Rhode Island, and, then in 1999, he made his way to Charleston, wanting to experience what he saw as the charm of the South, and wanting to better experience American culture. His first job in Charleston was with Bosch, who initially offered him a three-month internship, but at that time he didn’t expect to stay in the States. The sense of community, he states, is much stronger in Ireland, and he currently feels conflicted about whether he wants to return to Ireland or stay here as he gets older. He does state that the Irish are very warmly received here in the States, which he appreciates. Darragh is a realtor in town and runs CharlestonIrish.com and its associated Facebook page, dedicated to helping Irish immigrants in Charleston through business and personal networking. The ultimate goal of the Charleston Irish website is to help build up a well-connected community of Irish immigrants and their businesses in Charleston and the surrounding area.
Ron Plunkett discusses his experience as an Irish-American in the South. His Irish family background is largely derived from County Meath, County Louth, and County Dublin, and the first ancestor of his to come to the States was Captain Peter Plunkett, who arrived in Virginia around 1690. Ron was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. His background is Welsh, German, and French Huguenot, as well as Irish. Ron was raised in the Episcopal Church. Of anti-Irish or anti-Catholic sentiment, he states that he feels such discrimination or prejudice wasn’t a part of his experience in Atlanta, and that religious or ethnic background didn’t seem to be as big of a deal as it might have been in other places. He also discusses his time in the service during the Korean War. He first visited Ireland in the seventies on business and returned several times through his job with Sealand/Maersk Line, speaking of his experience as a visitor in the best of terms. He is a member of the Hibernian Society of Charleston and the St. David’s Society, a Welsh organization. To him, being of Irish descent in America is about celebrating one’s heritage and knowing one’s history, to share pride in the contributions of one’s ancestors.
Helen Goldman and Stephen Schein delivered this talk titled “The Jewish Community of Beaufort in 1905 and the Founding of Beth Israel Congregation” at the April 2005 meeting of the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina (JHSSC), held in Beaufort, South Carolina, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Beth Israel Congregation. Bernard Warshaw, president of the JHSSC, welcomes audience members and reads the governor’s proclamation honoring the anniversary, and Julian Levin introduces the speakers. Goldman and Schein discuss the history of the congregation and, more specifically, their grandfathers and founding members, David Schein and Morris Levin and their families.
Historian Stephen J. White, Sr. discusses his experience as an Irish-American in Charleston, and his work in dispelling myths about the Irish in the South. His family emigrated from various areas in Ireland, with family from County Kilkenny, County Mayo, County Clare, and County Antrim in Northern Ireland. Most of them came over in the mid-1800’s. He is one of ten children from a very religious Irish-Catholic family. He has been tracing the history of the Irish in Charleston, beginning with Captain Florence O’Sullivan’s landing in 1670, and has taught courses and written on the contributions of the Irish to Charleston’s rich history. The focus of his research and writing is that the experience of the Irish in northern cities is a rather stereotypical one, and that there is a significant Irish presence in the American South, with experiences that are often vastly different from those who emigrated to northern cities. Stephen is a member of numerous Irish organizations in Charleston, including the Irish Historical Society of South Carolina and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and is dedicated to educating others about the important role that the Irish have played in Charleston’s history.
Jensen Cowan (pronouns: They/Them) was born July 4, 1997 in Brandon, Florida, and discusses growing up in Socastee, adjacent to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in an emotionally and verbally abusive home. They discuss chosen family and close friends, their relationship with their mother and four sisters in a blended family and what it meant to leave home to start a new life at the College of Charleston, with mentions of being in the Bonner Leadership Program there. Cowan describes the struggles of separating from their family financially and finding a method to pay for school. Working with We Are Family and attending functions of Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA), Cowan felt “discrepancies in maturities” in various groups, eventually finding supportive friends and neighbors to help with personal issues and the need for food. Cowan discusses identifying as queer, nonbinary, and trans, mentions a fundraiser they started to help pay for surgery and speaks of their capstone project to map all the gender-neutral bathrooms on the College of Charleston campus. Cowan notes a lack of response from College administrators on this and other LGBTQ oriented issues, describes the inconveniences and disruptions caused to their college studies by this lack of facilities and speaks to the insensitivity of some faculty and friends in using offensive vocabularies and inappropriate pronouns. Cowan and the interviewer discuss the lack of diversity within Charleston Pride, and the larger LGBTQ movement as a whole, while praising classes and faculty, such as Dr. Kristi Bryan, within the College’s Women’s & Gender Studies program and the positive effect it has had on them and others. The interview closes with a discussion of Cowan’s plans for the future after graduating in May 2019, having earlier mentioned a disinclination to return to working as an educator/camp counselor at Kids On Point (formerly Chucktown Squash), due to the fact that the students there would have known them under a different name.
Charles W. Smith discusses growing up, his adult professional life as a city planner and realtor, his personal life and his work as an activist for LGBTQ rights. His family lived in Orangeburg, Beaufort, Florence and Charleston and he was educated at the College of Charleston and Clemson University, moving to Miami in 1984. His early family life was overshadowed by the illness and death of an older brother. Realizing he was gay, he avoided being bullied in school by staying closeted. In 1987 in Miami Beach, FL, he met Carlos Guillermo Rodriguez. Soon after, Smith told his family he was gay and Rodriguez tested HIV positive. He wanted Smith to leave him, but Smith refused; their families in South Carolina and Colombia, South America accepted them. Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami, with which Smith was affiliated as a senior warden, was also accepting and affirming. After his lover’s death in 1995, Smith, who had run for political office, but lost, moved to Charleston, SC in 1996, finding a changed city, which he attributes to Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. We Are Family, a youth-oriented LGBTQ organization had been founded by Thomas Myers and Smith stayed, founding a real estate firm catering to LGBTQ clients. There were a number of bars in town he remembers frequenting; he affiliated with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, a historically African American congregation opened up to white congregants, many of whom were LGBTQ. Smith and others, mostly non natives, such as Linda Ketner, Jim and Warren Redman-Gress, Carolyn Kirk, Lynne Moldenhauer and Linda G. William, helped found Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA). They publicly confronted a newspaper ad attacking LGBTQ people. This, Smith believes, began the process of removing shame and empowering the LGBTQ community. Smith also describes the “thousand year rainfall event” of 2015 and his marriage to Rob Suli that year, in a Columbia, SC hospital to ensure their rights were respected in the arena of health care. He notes the importance of the internet to LGBTQ people in finding community. He mentions Lowcountry Gay and Lesbian Alliance (LGLA), the lives of Jay Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson in Miami, and two gay men, who wintered in Charleston, SC. They, according to Smith, participated in the gay purges of US State Department employees in the 1940s and ‘50s. He also mentions the ownership of gay bars in Charleston, SC and the conflict over LGBTQ rights that has split the local Episcopal Diocese.
Jamie Nadeau (pronouns: She/Her/Hers) describes her journey to self-realization as a lesbian trans woman and a successful business owner of a hand-press greeting card printing company in Charleston, South Carolina. Born in Nashville, Tennessee into a religious Church of Christ family, Nadeau attended religious schools. Her father, a member of the Potawatomi Nation, and her mother divorced when she was young, and she speaks of trying to reclaim and learn more about her native American heritage. Born intersex, Nadeau retains early childhood hospital memories and speaks of her conservative upbringing where LGBTQ people were seen as “cultural oddities” and trans people were thought “horrific monsters.” Trying to imagine herself as a lesbian in that conservative environment “broke my brain,” and she had to go through the “impostor syndrome” before claiming and becoming comfortable as her true self. Embracing technology and computers long before they were commonplace, she was a young hacker and researched gender identities in cyberspace when others perhaps were still using libraries. She attended Middle Tennessee State University for a year, where and when she first began to explore her identity; she then studied at, and received her degree from, the Savannah College of Art and Design. After her mother’s death, Nadeau vowed she would never wear men’s clothes again and began seeing a gender therapist. She quickly began sharing her status with friends, family and her wife Allison, meeting wholehearted support from the latter, and a variety of responses from others. Nadeau speaks to the various levels of acceptance from the religious community, and from her biological and chosen families. She speaks at length of her experiences in coming out, noting how “soul crushing” being “misgendered” in public can be, and praises the Charleston trans women’s community for being so accepting and supportive, affirming the importance of support groups and loyal friends. Nadeau also describes how she and her wife, Allison, friends since childhood, followed their fascination with printing and design and left their professions to become proprietors of their greeting card company, Ink Meets Paper. There is a brief discussion focusing on Charleston being a safer space for LGBTQ people than other areas of the Deep South, and in response to the interviewer, Nadeau suggest that LGBTQ people should not necessarily focus on otherness, but see the world as she does, a place of countless, diverse narratives, where people are to be encouraged for finding their own way and lauded for their strength in “occupying space” in a world of proscriptions and possiblities.
Richard Little (pronouns: He/Him/His) describes his youth and education, his founding and running a gay bar in Charleston, South Carolina, attending medical school, and his professional work as a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institute of Health. Born in Union, South Carolina, he attended Christ School, a private boarding school in Asheville, North Carolina, where he impacted student programming and where a research project of his prompted the state to take action on water pollution in Pisgah National Forest. After some experimentation in high school, Little came out as gay while attending Tulane University in New Orleans. After a brief stint in graduate school, Little moved to Charleston, where in 1979 he opened a gay bar, Les Jardins, more commonly called LJ’s, in the then-desolate Market area. Little describes some of the other gay bars in town and notes that his private club offered a place for both out and closeted LGBTQ patrons. State liquor laws mandated the necessity of incorporating as an eleemosynary institution, and LJ’s became a major supporter of the Spoleto Festival, gaining praise for the club and the gay community from Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. and others. He describes the evolution and growth of the club, its parties, programs and members, speaks of the Alcohol Beverage Commission’s anti-gay harassment, describes a court case regarding that, and mentions speaking to the Charleston Police Department about its harassment of gay men at the Battery, a cruising spot in Charleston. In 1984, opting not to franchise, but to close, the club, Little decided to attend medical school. He faced anti-gay bias at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston but found a welcome at the University of South Carolina Medical School in Columbia. Little was elected President of the American Medical Student Association and in a public venue confronted South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster for his homophobic comments, instead of addressing the topic of infant mortality. He speaks of early poor care of HIV patients in Columbia, a situation he tried to remedy and how “the good old girls’ network” brought him to the National Cancer Institute where he became head of the AIDS oncology center. In his work of almost thirty years, he has had patients he knew from LJ’s and from his hometown, and he mentions how difficult it has been to deal with so many losses over the years. But changes in HIV care, and changes at MUSC in Charleston, are signs of progress and the interview ends on a hopeful note.
Taylor DeBartola tells the story of his upbringing in Peachtree City, Georgia, a town he describes as “very conservative.” He discusses the competitive relationship he had with his younger brother who is close in age, as well as the role that religion played in their early life. DeBartola reflects on the way that he revealed his sexuality to his family, and the period of time where things between them were rocky, discussing the ways in which he had to be patient and allow his parents to “take their time” to accept him. Taylor then talks about his “chosen family,” and the way they all met at Dudley’s, a popular gay bar in downtown Charleston. He details the ways he sees gatherings with gay men changing in recent years, moving from public spaces to more private locations such as personal residences. Taylor also discusses gay married life in the South, later noting that he and his now-husband were “engaged when it was not going to be legal,” and stressing that young people should educate themselves on gay history, especially the HIV/AIDS crisis, which he stresses is far from over. He also talks about the ways that particular books shaped him and his desire to learn more about gay history, mentioning Harlan Greene’s Why We Never Danced the Charleston. DeBartola then describes the impact that artist and activist David Wojnarowicz has had on his life, and the ways that he has tried to trace Wojnarowicz’s and his partner’s time spent on a trip to Charleston. Finally, Taylor talks about his experiences being an openly gay College of Charleston student.
Melissa Moore (pronouns: They/Them) discusses their personal life and the various roles they played in numerous social causes and organizations, many being LGBTQ related. Born in Mt. Pleasant, SC, they identified as male, and, denied that self-expression, Moore details the impact it had on their school years and the numbing escape made possible by drugs and alcohol. In passing Moore also describes a run-in with religious demands at Vacation Bible School, and being exposed to, and fascinated by, female impersonators at an early age. At the College of Charleston, Moore joined such groups as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, and the Women’s Forum, engaging intellectually and socially with new people and ideas. Coming to see that societal norms aid in controlling conformity and denying diversity, Moore was strongly affected by a billboard supporting LGBTQ rights put up by the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA). That prompted them to begin volunteering, and eventually working, for AFFA under the direction of Warren Redman-Gress. Moore later went on to work with Linda Ketner and SC Equality to attempt to defeat the movement within the state of South Carolina to define marriage as between a man and a woman. That was unsuccessful. In the process, Moore came into contact with other organizations such as Southerners on New Ground and worked with activists including Mandy Carter and others, creating opportunities to learn grass root organizing skills and to work with groups like Africa House in Orangeburg, SC. Moore notes the reluctance or refusal of national and other LGBTQ organizations to fund work in the South, assuming it “unwinnable” and also speaks to the lack of funding for social service agencies in lieu of political ones. Working with the Abortion Access Project, later called Provide, gave Moore further experience and they eventually became director of We Are Family, an organization in Charleston for LGBTQ youth. Moore details how under their management and planning the organization and its programs grew. They describe the plan to fund the organization through the creation of a thrift store and Moore notes how three LGBTQ organizations in town, Charleston Pride, AFFA and We Are Family recently moved to the same building in North Charleston. After touching on subjects like transphobia, the new management of We Are Family, and naming many people in the field they admire, Moore finishes the interview describing their new position with the city of Mount Pleasant, working on sustainable and equitable city planning.