Liberty: The Newsletter of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, a periodical published by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, providing information on various legislative issues.
Abraham Stern, audio interview by Robert Buxton, 11 April 1999, Mss 1035-211, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Abraham “Abe” Stern was ten years old in 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland. At the time his father owned a textile factory in Lodz and the family was well-off, but antisemitism, promoted by the government and the Catholic Church, was commonplace. Shortly after the German occupation, the Stern family was forced to move to the ghetto in Lodz, where they lived until 1944, when they were transported to Auschwitz. Abe describes the systematic approach to genocide practiced by the Germans, which began in the ghetto, included forced labor, and ended in death for many who never believed it would come to that. He recalls the degrading conditions in Auschwitz and the high death rate in the labor camp in Ahlem, Germany, where he was housed while working in Hannover. After liberation by the Americans, Abe and some buddies made their way to Bergen-Belsen in search of surviving family members. He recounts what they saw when they arrived. Abe caught up with his three sisters in Poland, and they returned with him to Marburg, Germany, where he worked in a kitchen for the American army while waiting to obtain permission to come to the United States. Abe lived in New York for a year before traveling to California, where a man associated with the Workman’s Circle introduced him to someone who gave him a job. A year or so later, in 1948, he joined the United States Air Force, which ultimately brought him to Sumter, South Carolina, where he met and married his wife, Rhea, and where they raised their three children. Abe discusses how he copes with his memories of the Holocaust, how he is bewildered by those who deny that it occurred, and his feelings about providing reparations for the victims.
Max Kirshstein relates the experiences of his father, Nathan, and uncle, Abe, natives of Kaluszyn, Poland, who immigrated to the United States in 1920 to avoid conscription into the Polish army. They followed their three sisters to Charleston, South Carolina. Nathan’s wife, Sarah Ingberman, and their two sons, Yankel and Max, both born in Sarah’s hometown of Laskarzew, Poland, joined him in Charleston a year later. Max credits Sam Rittenberg with helping newly-arrived immigrants and notes that Etta Gaeser was one of several teachers who provided instruction in English. Nathan, who peddled to support the family, which had grown to include three more children, died in 1930, when Max was only ten years old. After graduating from Murray Vocational School in 1936, Max took a job in Isadore and Dave Solomon’s pawn shop on King Street. Four years later, Ben Barkin offered him a position as an administrative assistant in Aleph Zadik Aleph’s (AZA) Washington office. Two and a half years at the national headquarters “changed the whole course of my life, my thinking, and everything else.” While serving in the navy during World War II, Max continued his association with AZA as an advisor for Virginia’s Tidewater chapters. After the war he returned to Charleston and, in addition to his advising duties, he became the first chairman of AZA’s southern region, and, later, helped to organize a new local chapter to accommodate the growing number of Baby Boomer teens. In 1946 Max opened Metropolitan Credit Company, which he renamed Metropolitan Furniture Company. A year later he married Sylvia Lazarus and together they raised three children. Max touches on the antisemitism he experienced growing up, the breakaway of a number of Brith Sholom members to form Emanu-El, Charleston’s Conservative synagogue, and the merger of the two Orthodox congregations, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel. Note: comments on the transcript made by Larry Iskow, the interviewee’s son-in-law, are in brackets with his initials.
Fay Alfred follows up on information she broached in her first interview. She also discusses what happened to her relatives living in Europe during World War II, and her brother’s death while being held as a POW in the Philippines. She and her daughter, Marlene Addlestone, recall visiting her in-laws at their resort in South Haven, Michigan, and Mrs. Addlestone, talks about living in Charleston, South Carolina, where she moved after marrying Avram Kronsberg in 1959.
Born in 1927, Sophia Marie Friedheim Beers was raised in the Protestant faith in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Her grandfather Arnold Friedheim, a German Jewish immigrant, settled in the town after the Civil War. His brother, Julius, followed him to Rock Hill and together they ran A. Friedheim and Brother. The department store, which supplied uniforms to Winthrop College students, closed its doors in 1964 after nearly a century in business. Sophia recounts the story of her cousins, the Schwartzes, who escaped Nazi Germany in 1938 and came to Rock Hill.
Rabbi Gerald Isaac Wolpe, a descendant of Polish and Lithuanian Jews, grew up an only child in Roxbury, Massachusetts, surrounded by extended family. After graduating from rabbinical school in 1953, he served as a chaplain in the United States Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune. Two years later, his civilian career was launched in Charleston, South Carolina, where he led the Conservative Synagogue Emanu-El until 1958. The rabbi discusses far-ranging topics including the Jewish businessmen of Charleston, his view of what fueled the Conservative movement, how he balanced his personal beliefs about segregation with the concerns of his southern congregants, the making of Porgy and Bess, and how South Carolina Representative L. Mendel Rivers got his name. After serving Temple Beth El in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for eleven years, Wolpe moved to Har Zion in Philadelphia, where he led the congregation for three decades before retiring.
Sura Wolff Wengrow grew up in Allendale, South Carolina, in the first quarter of the twentieth century where her father, Henry Wolff, a German immigrant, ran a general merchandise store. In 1901, Henry married Rachel Pearlstine of Branchville, South Carolina. The family kept kosher and observed the holidays, but Sura did not receive a Jewish education, formal or otherwise. With no other Jewish families in town, she socialized, as a child, with gentiles and attended their church events, a pattern of assimilation she would repeat while living in Allendale during the early years of her marriage to Sam Wengrow of Beaufort, South Carolina. Longing for a connection to Judaism, and wanting her children to be involved in synagogue life, the Wengrows moved to Columbia when their oldest son was twelve. Note: This transcript appears to have been heavily edited with corrections, deletions, and additions by the interviewee and/or her son during proofing. Therefore, the transcript differs somewhat from the audio.
Judy Kurtz Goldman was raised in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the youngest of three children born to Margaret Bogen (Katzenellenbogen) and Benjamin Kurtz. The Kurtzes, who owned The Smart Shop, a women’s clothing store, were one of twelve Jewish families living in Rock Hill in the 1940s and ’50s. Although the family was observant and highly involved with the local Jewish community, they were fully assimilated into non-Jewish life, which, according to Judy, was not the case with all the Jewish residents in town. Benjamin was on the board of Guardian Fidelity, a mortgage company, and was a founder of the Rock Hill Country Club. Margaret put up Christmas decorations every December and their house was on the tour of homes one year. Judy attended Winthrop Training School, a K-12 school where Winthrop College’s student teachers trained. As a cheerleader and a member of the “in” crowd, she felt fully accepted. Judy discusses her siblings, family history, the saleswomen at The Smart Shop, and Mattie, the black woman who worked in the Goldman home and was a second mother to her. She recalls her feelings, as a child, when she observed the Jim Crow laws in action and their effect on Mattie. After college Judy taught for two years at Roosevelt High School in Atlanta, where she witnessed first-hand the start of integration in Georgia. She describes the response of the white students and her fellow teachers to events such as the end of segregation and the assassination of President Kennedy. Judy married Henry Kurtz, an optometrist who was practicing in Charlotte, North Carolina, a few miles from Rock Hill. Just prior to this interview, her first novel, The Slow Way Back, was published. She discusses the characters and the scenes in the story and the degree to which they are derived from her life. Judy notes that while she “felt more aligned with the gentile community” than the Jewish while growing up, in the process of writing her book, “I had sort of come back home again . . . into my Jewish skin. . . . I became comfortable with my Jewishness through writing the novel.”
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.
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.
Sarah Burgen Ackerman, the daughter of Polish immigrants, grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. She moved to Walhalla and, later, Fort Mill, South Carolina, after she married George Ackerman, a cantor and Hebrew teacher. The couple operated stores in both locations and raised four children.
Connie Karesh Franzblau was born in Brooklyn, New York, where her father, Leroy Karesh, ran a shooting gallery in Coney Island until he was drafted at the outbreak of World War II. His wife, Frances Frankel, and their four children moved to Eutwaville, South Carolina, where Leroy’s parents, Abram and Katie Cohen Karesh, and a number of Katie’s relatives lived. Leroy was excused from military duty when Frances became ill, and the family moved to Charleston where he took a job at the shipyard. Although they lived only briefly in Eutawville, Connie recalls fond memories of the town where she spent her summers and extended family gathered for holidays. Connie’s family was Orthodox and kept kosher, but the Orthodoxy was “southern style.” “You do what you can, and then after a while you do what’s easy, and then after a while you do what you can get away with . . . .” When they moved to Charleston, they attended the Conservative synagogue, Emanu-El, because it was in their neighborhood and, therefore, convenient. Connie discusses her family history, how she met Arnold, and Camp Baker when it was located in Isle of Palms. Arnold, the son of Nathan and Nettie Franzblau, was born and spent his early childhood in New York City. When he was seven years old, the family moved to Aiken, South Carolina, where they hoped Nathan, who had a lung condition, would enjoy better health. The Franzblaus joined a small, close-knit community of immigrant Jewish families who, generally, did not socialize with the town’s gentiles. Arnold recalls attending Sunday school and holiday parties at the synagogue, Adath Yeshurun, and identifies some of the Jewish families in town. He moved to Charleston to attend The Citadel and the Medical College of South Carolina. He met Connie while working as a urology resident at Roper Hospital and the two married in 1953. They lived in a number of locations across the United States, and raised their two children in New Mexico. Arnold describes his family background and the antisemitism he encountered in Aiken and among medical school fraternities. Both interviewees discuss intermarriage and assimilation, and recall the discrimination blacks faced in the South before the civil rights era.
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.
Mary Ann Pearlstine Aberman, the elder of two daughters of Milton Alfred Pearlstine and Cecile Mayer Pearlstine, provides some background on her mother’s family the Mayers, whose ancestors arrived in the United States from Bavaria in the early 1800s, and her father’s family, the Pearlstines, who emigrated from Germany to South Carolina in the mid-1800s. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, she describes growing up in the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood of Charleston, next door to her first cousins. The family did not keep kosher but they did observe Shabbat by lighting candles before dinner and attending Friday night services at the Reform synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). She remembers that Jewish Citadel cadets were invited to join members of Charleston’s Jewish community for worship and holiday observances; they even taught Sunday school. She met her husband, Edward Aberman of Rock Hill, when he was attending The Citadel. Mary Ann reviews some of her father’s civic contributions to the Charleston area, particularly his involvement in the South Carolina State Ports Authority, and she recalls Pearlstine family involvement in Brith Sholom and KKBE. She also briefly discusses the founding of Emanu-El, the Conservative congregation, in 1947, noting that KKBE lost some of its members to Emanu-El at that time. Mary Ann is joined in this interview by Edward Aberman. See also Edward’s interview on the same date (Mss. 1035-221), the Abermans’ interview with fellow Rock Hill, South Carolina, residents Jack Leader, Harriet Marshall Goode, and Martin Goode on September 21 , 1999 (Mss. 1035-218), and an interview with Rock Hill native Sophia Marie Friedheim Beers (Mss. 1035-220).
Edward Aberman, one of two surviving children of Bessie Samet and Sol Aberman, discusses his family history. The Samets, originally from Russia, immigrated circa 1914 to the United States from Cape Town, South Africa, where Bessie was born. They followed Samet family members to North Carolina, and ultimately settled in High Point. Sol Aberman, the son of a Russian immigrant, grew up in Chicago and left home when he was young, traveling around North America as a member of a band playing clarinet in a variety of venues, including circuses. During one stop in High Point, North Carolina, he met Bessie Samet. After they married, the couple lived in Chicago and North Carolina for a time, before settling in Rock Hill, where Sol assumed leadership of its small Jewish community. He hired students and circuit-riding rabbis to conduct holiday services, and was instrumental in building Temple Beth El in the early 1940s. Edward, who was born in 1932, describes growing up in Rock Hill, how his family observed the Sabbath, and efforts by coaches from Clemson, University of South Carolina, and The Citadel to recruit him to play football. He attended The Citadel in Charleston, where he met his wife Mary Ann Pearlstine. Mary Ann joins Edward in this interview. See also Mary Ann’s interview on the same date (Mss. 1035-222), the Abermans’ interview with fellow Rock Hill, South Carolina, residents Jack Leader, Harriet Marshall Goode, and Martin Goode on September 21 , 1999 (Mss. 1035-218), and an interview with Rock Hill native Sophia Marie Friedheim Beers (Mss. 1035-220).
Mordecai “Mort” Persky, born in 1931, was raised in Aiken, South Carolina, where his maternal grandfather, Hiram Charles “H. C.” Surasky, and his brothers, natives of Knyszyn, Poland, had settled in the late 1800s. The interviewee recalls Surasky family members and their stores, and discusses the murder of Abraham Surasky, H. C.’s brother. When H. C. died, Mort’s father, Nathan Persky, took over his business. Nathan emigrated from Volozhin, Belorus, in 1909. A graduate of the Volozhiner Yeshiva, he served as lay leader of Adath Yeshurun Synagogue in Aiken. He was also active in local civic organizations and “held in high esteem” by his fellow citizens. Mort reports that his “childhood was shadowed by the Holocaust,” which “took place with the counterpoint of Aiken antisemitism.” He credits Yiddish newspapers such as the Forward, read by his father and grandmother, for the family’s awareness of Hitler’s activities in Europe. Other topics covered by Mort include: keeping kosher, his bar mitzvah, his aunt Mina Surasky Tropp, his visit to Knyszyn, and his career in journalism. The transcript includes comments inserted by the interviewee during proofreading.
Stanley Farbstein, born in 1925, grew up in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of Esther Getz (Goetz) and Casper Farbstein. Stanley notes that his mother‚ parents, Rachel Shindell and Jacob Getz, both emigrants from Eastern Europe, ran a general merchandise store on neighboring Parris Island, selling "everything from horse collars to wedding dresses." They opened the store in the 1890s and their customers were farmers who lived on the island and U.S. Navy sailors whose ships stopped there to refuel at the coaling station. In 1919, when the U. S. Navy took over the entire island, the Getzes moved to Beaufort, where Jacob, an Orthodox Jew, had helped to organize Beth Israel in 1905. Casper, who served in the U.S. Army in France during the First World War, worked as an electrician in Savannah and then Beaufort. Stanley describes his parents' wedding, the effects of the Great Depression on his family, his mother‚ skills in the kitchen, and the improvements Casper and Esther made to their Federal Street home and yard. He recalls Esther telling him about teaching in South Carolina schools in rural towns such as Hampton, Dale, and Fort Motte. It was in the latter location that she met and befriended writer Julia Peterkin. For related materials, see family photographs, etc., that the interviewee donated to Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Richard Phillips Moses, in an interview with his niece, Elizabeth Moses, describes growing up in Sumter, South Carolina, the youngest of seven children. He was born in 1926 to Charlotte Emanuel Moses and Henry Phillips Moses. Richard attended services and Sunday school at Sumter's Reform Temple Sinai. He explains how well Sumter's Jews have assimilated into the city's general population, and notes that despite the large number of Jews and people with ties to Judaism in Sumter, the temple's membership has declined in recent decades. Richard attended The Citadel for one year before entering the U.S. Navy to begin officer training. He was an aviation cadet when World War II ended, resulting in a change in his status to inactive. After discharge from the navy, Richard attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1948. He worked for one year in Atlanta for an insurance firm before returning to Sumter to join his brother Robert and his uncle Herbert Moses in the insurance and real estate business started by Richard's father, Henry, who died in 1945. Besides talking about his aunts, uncles, and cousins on the Moses side of the family, Richard discusses how he met his wife, Eleanor Ruth Burke Moses, a Baptist from Alcolu, South Carolina; his three children; and the circumstances that led Perry Weinberg, a Sumter orphan, to join the family. Richard served as Sumter's mayor from 1972-76; he briefly mentions his response to black citizens seeking his help with civil rights issues. For related information see the August 16 and 17, 2013 interviews with Richard's brother Robert Moses and August 19, 2013 interview with Richard's sister Mary Octavia Moses Mahon. Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston, is the repository for Moses family photographs and papers.
Rock Hill, South Carolina residents Edward Aberman, Mary Ann Pearlstine Aberman, Jack Leader, Harriet Marshall Goode, and Martin Goode discuss local Jewish history, marrying outside one’s faith, and racial discrimination and interracial relations in Rock Hill. Edward, a native born in 1932, describes growing up in Rock Hill, and recalls Jewish family names such as Breen, Friedheim, and Kurtz. His father, Sol Aberman, was a musician who, in his youth, played in nightclubs and circuses around the country. After settling in Rock Hill and opening a scrap metal business, Sol supported the musical ambitions of local children and played with the Hejaz Shrine Temple band. Besides being the leader of the small Jewish community of anywhere from six to fourteen families, Sol worked hard for various civic and charitable organizations. Born in 1946, Jack Leader also grew up in Rock Hill. His parents followed brother-in-law Harry Cohen to Shelby, North Carolina. Harry helped all his siblings get off the ground with their own businesses in the Carolinas. Jack’s parents moved to Rock Hill and opened Melville’s, later named Leader’s, which sold ladies’ and children’s clothing. Jack discusses his Jewish education and his family’s religious practices, and recalls that when he was growing up, there was an active Hadassah organization in Rock Hill. Harriet Goode, born in 1937 and raised as a Presbyterian in Rock Hill, was about eight years old when she found out her paternal grandmother, Fanny Friedheim Marshall, was Jewish. Harriet’s great-grandfather and his brothers emigrated from Germany to Baltimore and, ultimately, wound up in Rock Hill, where they opened Friedheim’s Department Store. As a child, Harriet had both Christian and Jewish friends and was not aware of any discrimination towards Jews in her hometown. Mary Ann Aberman came to Rock Hill in 1955 as a newlywed and describes the “culture shock” of moving from the larger city of Charleston, South Carolina, to Rock Hill. Martin Goode, who was raised as a Methodist in Covington, Georgia, and came to Rock Hill after college, talks about his view of Jewish people in general. Note: See also Edward and Mary Ann Aberman’s interviews (Mss. 1035-221 and 222), and an interview with Rock Hill native Sophia Marie Friedheim Beers (Mss. 1035-220).
Fotografía en color del grupo de danza Colombia Nuestra Patria en el Festival Internacional de MUSC. Cuatro mujeres y dos hombres van entrando al escenario. El evento fue organizado por el Servicio Estudiantes Internacionales de MUSC. Marcela Escobar Gomez, tercera desde la izquierda, fundó el grupo en 1996. / Color photograph of the Colombian Dance Group, Colombia Nuestra Patria, at the MUSC International Festival. Four women and two men are entering the stage. The event was organized by the MUSC International Students Service. Marcela Escobar Gomez, third from left, founded the group in 1996.
Fotografía en color de niños argentinos y colombianos disfrazos en una fiesta de halloween en la iglesia First Baptist en Johns Island. / Color photograph of Argentinian and Colombian children in their Halloween costumes at First Baptist Church on Johns Island.