Rabbi Burton L. Padoll describes growing up in a “totally assimilated, non-practicing, Jewish family” in Youngstown, Ohio, his decision to become a rabbi, and his experiences as a student at Hebrew Union College. With input from Solomon Breibart, he discusses personal and professional aspects of his tenure as rabbi at the Reform temple, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE), in Charleston, South Carolina, from 1961 to 1967, particularly the response of congregation members to his vocal position on and active involvement in local civil rights issues. In addition to covering events such as boycotts, sit-ins, and the integration of Rivers High School, the two men recall the rabbi’s other contributions, such as engaging the congregation’s youth in community activities and establishing an annual arts festival at KKBE. See also the Burton L. Padoll Papers, Mss. 1082, in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston, and on the Lowcountry Digital Library web site.
In this interview Rabbi Lewis Aryeh Weintraub provides details of his personal history leading up to his arrival in Charleston, South Carolina. He was born in Uscilug, Wolin Gubernia, Poland, in 1918 and immigrated with his family to Montreal, Canada, when he was twelve years old. He graduated from Yeshiva College in New York in 1941 and from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1944, the same year he joined the Canadian Army Chaplaincy Service. After discharge from the army in 1946, he served as assistant rabbi to Rabbi C. E. H. Kauvar of Beth haMedrosh Hagadol Congregation in Denver, Colorado. In August 1947 Rabbi Weintraub became the first rabbi of a newly formed Conservative congregation in Charleston, South Carolina. The founders had just broken away from Brith Sholom, one of the city’s Orthodox synagogues. Weintraub discusses the dissension in the Jewish community surrounding the split and the decisions involved in the creation of a new congregation, such as choosing a name—Synagogue Emanu-El—acquiring property, and hiring Jacob Renzer as cantor. He mentions a number of the founders and explains how Dr. Matthew Steinberg came to be the congregation’s mohel. The rabbi provides dates and some details regarding the start of Hebrew and Sunday school classes, the first bar mitzvah, the first confirmation, and other “firsts” in the congregation. To enhance the adult education program begun in January 1948 and to aid in “molding the ideology of Conservative Judaism for the community,” he brought to Charleston as guest speakers Jewish scholars such as Arthur Hertzberg, Max Arzt, and Robert Gordis. Rabbi Weintraub credits his parents for his decision to enter the rabbinate. He discusses why he chose Conservatism, the aspects of Conservative Judaism that appeal to Jews, and how a break with certain traditions is not necessarily a renunciation of “other basic, central, ideological principles of Judaism.” He married Fannie Goldberg, a native Charlestonian, four years after arriving in the Holy City, as Charleston is called. “With great regrets” the rabbi resigned at the end of his seventh year at Emanu-El. He and Fannie left Charleston for the sake of their two young children—they wanted them to attend a Jewish day school, not available at that time in Charleston. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by Rabbi Weintraub during proofing.