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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
Emily Anne Boyter (pronouns: She/Hers) discusses her life as the daughter of missionaries, her religious upbringing and experiences with religion, coming out as a lesbian, reconciling “Christianity and queerness,” and many positive new experiences opening to her. She describes being born in Greenville, South Carolina, and being raised in Mexico City where her parents worked as Evangelical Christian missionaries, spending brief periods in the states. She left Mexico and attended college at, and graduated from, Liberty University, a private evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia. There, the strongly insular quality she experienced in the missionary world, continued, and many felt a great loyalty to the school and its President, Jerry Falwell, Jr. Identifying as straight during her time there, she nevertheless was aware of a “strong culture of homophobia at Liberty,” where close friendships could lead to questions about one’s sexuality and where being gay could lead to expulsion. In graduate school at Clemson University, Boyter began to meet, and form friendships with LGBTQ people, feeling on “friendly ground” for the first time in her life, among people who were unbothered by another’s sexual orientation or identity. Being in this open and accepting environment, Boyter began to come to terms with being “queer,” a word she embraces for its inclusiveness. Coming out in her religious community at Clemson was not a positive experience, so she eventually left her church. In the interview, she wonders if others would see her as a “Christian” at all, she having now found comfort in a feminine spirituality versus the strong paternalistic nature of many churches and religions. She recalls how many men in her religious milieu would weigh her (and other women’s) characteristics and traits, to determine if they would make good wives of ministers. After coming out to her family and on social media, finding support from some, but dismay and rejection from others, including a man who had been viewing her as a possible wife, Boyter is now in a committed relationship with another woman and they are considering marriage. Despite the difficulties faced by LGBTQ people in the upstate region where they live, Boyter, a resident of Easley, and her girlfriend feel rooted in the area, yet she expresses some misgivings at the possibility of raising children there. Her work at the Tri-County Technical College is rewarding; being “out,” she can serve as a mentor and a role model for LGBTQ students and others.
Karl Beckwith Smith (pronouns: He/Him) born in Saranac Lake, N.Y. in 1950, describes his early childhood in New York state and in Darien, Conn. as well as his relationship with his family, particularly his engineer father, whom he describes as a “man’s man,” and notable athlete, despite his father’s life-long struggle with diabetes. (At his death at age ninety, his father was reputed to be one of the world’s longest survivors and users of insulin.) Smith also discusses the eventual death of his mother and his time in St. Paul’s, a prestigious prep school in Concord, N.H., and his difficulties with classmates, whom he says knew he was gay before he himself knew. He speaks of how art provided an “escape” from many of the obstacles in his early life. He then delves into his time at Princeton University, where he studied art history and was one of the first students to paint for his thesis. While there, he lived for a few years in a commune-like setting with many others, including Lisa Halabey, eventually Queen Noor of Jordan. He makes mention of his mentor, the artist Esteban Vicente, and his exposure to other notable artists including Helen Frankenthaler. Smith recalls the date of April 1, 1972, when he met Hal Truesdale as one of the turning points of his life. He details the early years of their partnership, their travels in Europe and their “pioneering” loft living and entertaining extravagantly in lower Manhattan, where after giving up acting, Hal had his private hairdressing salon with prominent clients. Also discussed is the time they lived in Cold Springs, N.Y., their summer cottage at Loon Lake, Vt., and Smith’s very successful competitive sailing seasons in Newport, R.I. In 1984, Smith gave up other jobs to become an artist full-time, mostly painting furniture, interiors and mural. Returning to Truesdale’s birthplace of Columbia, S.C., to take care of his mother, the couple then moved to Charleston in 1992, where Beckwith painted murals for Charleston Place Hotel and a mural on André Michaux at the Charleston International Airport. After brief mentions of the AIDS crisis in NY and the Stonewall riot, Smith describes their settle life in Charleston. He and Truesdale were united in a civil union in 2000 in Vermont and married in 2013 in New York.
Lee Anne Leland (pronouns: She/Hers) now living in McClellanville, SC, tells her story of coming to terms with and exploring her identity as a self-identified gender-nonconforming, lesbian, transgender woman. Being raised as a boy in a family of five siblings, she grew up in a prominent, socially and religiously conservative Mount Pleasant family where she struggled to understand and come to terms with her identity facing the disapproval of many. She describes a continuing and confusing search for self-expression and the impact such words as “cross-dresser” and “transsexual” had on her and her search for community, until, with the help of friends, she found her transgender identity. She recounts how she dealt with coming out, her experience with depression, thoughts of suicide, dysphoria over her appearance, various work experiences, and self-acceptance as an adult. Through all of this, Leland discusses the love and support she has received from her wife, Cindy, and the role she has had as an activist. Leland continues as coordinator of the Charleston Area Transgender Support (CATS), a board member of We Are Family, and a speaker at public events such as Transgender Day of Remembrance. She discusses how she perceives that claiming and living her authentic existence, even walking down the street, can be an act of political activism. Leland stresses the need for conversations and political activism especially in the political climate of 2018. Additionally, Leland recounts experiences and histories of Charleston’s gay bars, specifically the Lion’s Head, and the King Street Garden and Gun Club. She also mentions White Point Garden as a cruising spot, the Spoleto Festival, and the impact that the transsexual Dawn Langley Hall Simmons had on the Charleston community.
John Martin Taylor (pronouns: He/His/Him) born in Baton Rouge, LA in 1949, discusses his youth, university years, his travels, various careers in art and the culinary world, his family, friends, lovers and his husband. His father was a scientist with the Manhattan Project who moved the family to Orangeburg, S.C. Taylor speaks of a happy outdoor childhood, with some African American friends in the segregated South and little awareness of gay life or issues. The family also summered at Hilton Head, S.C. before its development, giving Taylor firsthand experience with the land and its foodways. He attended the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. at two different times, for undergraduate and graduate degrees. He speaks at length of the artistic circles there, including that of the musical group, The B-52s, whose first concerts he attended and with whom he remained friends, later describing their visit to the Charleston gay bar, Les Jardins. He came to Charleston, S.C. in 1975, left for the Virgin Islands, and lived in Paris, France and in Italy, pursuing a career as a visual artist and a photographer, eventually, becoming American Liaison and Food Editor of the French periodical ICI New York. Returning to Charleston, he had little to do with the local gay scene, feeling an equal attraction to men and women, or mostly to particular individuals who interested him. As his love for cooking grew, influenced by what he calls his strong “maternal instinct,” his childhood experience crabbing and fishing in the Lowcountry, his mother’s culinary skills, and his father’s interest in wines, he began to focus on a career. After learning the business in New York City, Taylor opened Hoppin’ John’s, a cookbook store in Charleston, and quickly became the recognized expert on Lowcountry and regional cooking and foodways, eventually publishing articles on the topic in local, regional and national publications. A serendipitous find of a manuscript cookbook from St. John’s Parish of Berkeley County prompted and nourished further research. After recovering from the damage done to his bookstore by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, Taylor published his first book, Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking in 1992. He has published three books since then and mentored many while enjoying the friendship and respect of leading scholars in the field. Taylor notes the changes in the local culinary and restaurant scene, lauding many chefs and proprietors for their contributions. He and Mikel Lane Harrington were married in Washington, D.C. in 2010. Through Harrington’s work with the Peace Corps, the couple, based in Savannah, Ga. and Washington, D.C. have lived in various locations across the world.
Kristen Lowe (pronouns: She/Her/Hers) was born in Florence, South Carolina, and currently resides in Charleston with her partner, and works professionally as a hand therapist in a sports medicine practice. She discusses growing up in the small-town atmosphere of Florence, and the impacts of her largely conservative and Southern Baptist religious upbringing. She recalls happy childhood memories with her parents and two younger brothers, including spending summers on the lake. Attending a private Baptist high school, she was unaware of her identity and saw no LGBTQ role models anywhere, having her first experience at age twenty. A graduate of the College of Charleston and later the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), she hid her sexual identity at the former institution, afraid of being labelled if she attended Gay Straight Alliance meetings, but at MUSC, she eventually served as Vice President of the Alliance for Equality. Lowe describes the difficulty of arriving at self-acceptance, feeling solitary, and at first being fearful of going to church and educational figures, or even close friends for advice. Becoming more and more open, she searched for a place within the LGBTQ community, finding fulfillment and social acceptance in becoming a board member of Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA). She details the advocacy work AFFA does, achieving, just at the time of the interview, a victory in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina in its passing a non-discrimination ordinance. Being out has given her a freedom to do as she wants, dress as she wants and she also has a variety of reproductive options available to her and her partner, as well. Any harassments received for being perceived as a lesbian were minor, she notes. In answer to queries about the issues facing the LGBTQ community today, she reflects on the number of different identities within it, and although there is much more visibility currently, she reiterates the difficulty of coming out, recalling how she at first had to do it via letters to her parents. If it takes an individual years to come to terms with her identity, she reasons, family members should be given time to adapt as well. She also explains how naturally children will take to the idea of LGBTQ relations among adults since children come into the world unprejudiced and will remain so if their society will allow it.