Albert Jacob Ullman, born in New York in 1923, discusses his family background. His father, Samuel Ullman, emigrated from Russia around 1912 and worked for a time in New York, before following landsmen, men from the same town in Europe, to Savannah, Georgia, where he met and married Freda Wolson in 1922. He brought his bride to New York, but they returned to Savannah about seven years later. Samuel soon took over a cousin’s Bluffton, South Carolina, business, Planter’s Mercantile Company, known locally as the Jew Store. Albert describes the store and growing up in Bluffton, where, in 1932, his father was elected mayor. The family moved to Ridgeland, South Carolina, in 1938, after Freda opened a second, more successful store in that town. In 1941 Albert attended The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He recalls the local families who hosted Jewish cadets on Shabbat, and the appeal of the St. Philip Street neighborhood’s Yiddishkeit. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December 1941, Albert volunteered for the army and served as a paratrooper and medic in the Pacific theater. When he returned from three years of active duty, he joined his parents in the Ridgeland store, and he met Harriet Birnbaum of Savannah, Georgia. Harriet had emigrated from Kobrin, Poland, in 1937, at the age of ten. Her mother, Chamke Birnbaum, widowed when Harriet was nine months old, agreed to marry Samuel Tenenbaum, who came from her hometown of Kolonie, Poland. Sam, himself a widower, had immigrated to Savannah with his family and established a scrap metal business. When he received word from a visiting landsman that Chamke had lost her husband, he returned to Poland, married her, and brought her and her two children to the United States. Harriet describes growing up in Kobrin and Savannah. The Tenenbaums were members of Agudath Achim, the Conservative synagogue in Savannah, co-founded by Samuel. Albert and Harriet married in 1947 and ran Ullman’s Department Store in Ridgeland, where they raised four boys, started a private kindergarten, and Albert served as mayor. Fifteen years later they moved to Savannah and, soon after, Harriet gave birth to a daughter. Among other topics discussed are Agudath Achim Congregation’s controversial vote to increase women’s direct involvement in the synagogue, and Albert’s experiences with the Ku Klux Klan and his work for the Anti-Defamation League.
Irving “Itchy” Sonenshine (Zonenschein), son of Polish immigrants, talks about growing up in the St. Philip Street neighborhood of Charleston, South Carolina, and recalls many of the Jewish families that operated stores on King Street. He discusses the two Orthodox synagogues, Beth Israel and Brith Sholom, his experiences in Hebrew school and at AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) functions, his service as a navigator on bombers in the Pacific theatre during World War II, his partnership with Arthur Kahn in the electronics business, and his wife, Mildred “Mickey” Breibart Sonenshine, also a native of Charleston. Sonenshine also mentions the synagogue his son Stanley attends, B’nai Torah, a “Conservadox” congregation in Atlanta. Note: a videotape of this interview is available for viewing in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Irving “Itchy” Sonenshine (Zonenschein), in this follow-up to his September 30, 1997 interview, describes growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and ’30s, including stories about childhood playmates, his participation in AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph), and local Jewish merchants, including those who closed their businesses on the Sabbath. He recalls the religious leaders and the merger of the two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, and the split that occurred when Emanu-El, the Conservative congregation, was established. Among the topics discussed: Friendship Lodge; the Kalushiner Society; Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform practices; and the status of Charleston’s Orthodox community at the time of the interview.
Joseph Schafer, raised in Little Rock, South Carolina, was the grandson of Abraham Schafer, who emigrated from Germany around 1870. Abraham married Rebecca Iseman of Darlington, South Carolina, and established a dry goods store in Little Rock. Joseph describes his family history, race relations in Dillon County, and how his father, Sam, got started in the beer distribution business in the 1930s. He also discusses his children and his siblings, particularly his brother Alan, who was the founder of South of the Border, the all-inclusive rest stop for travelers on I-95 in Dillon.
Frances Solomon Garfinkle, daughter of Morris and Rina Chachevski Solomon, relates her mother’s stories of life in Zabludow, Poland, before she immigrated to the United States. Frances, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recalls visiting relatives in Charleston, South Carolina, as a child. She married Nathan Garfinkle, son of Sam and Annie Garfinkel, emigrants from, respectively, Divin and Grozny, Russia. Nathan, who remembers living in Charleston’s East Side before moving to the St. Philip Street neighborhood, attended Beth Israel, one of two Orthodox synagogues, with his father. Frances and Nathan discuss Charleston’s Jewish merchants, particularly wholesaler Sam Solomon, whose Sullivan’s Island summer home was a gathering place for Jewish families on Sundays. They describe Charleston and Jewish food traditions, including African-American street vendors and Jewish-owned markets, and the prevalence of Yiddish speakers among members of the Jewish community in the first half of the twentieth century. Even some African Americans who worked for Jewish store owners spoke Yiddish. Louisa Simmons kept house for Sam and Annie Garfinkel, and later for Nathan and Frances, for a total of than more than fifty years. “She was one of the family . . . we loved her.” Note: Other family members spell the name Garfinkel. The interviewee has spelled his name Garfinkle since his military service during World War II, when a typographic error was made and never corrected.
Bernice Berlin Silver, one of four children of Sam and Bertha Livingstain Berlin (Berlinsky), talks about growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, several blocks from the Jewish immigrant neighborhood north of Calhoun Street. Bernice grew up in an Orthodox home, but her father opened the family store on the Sabbath out of “necessity.” She attended Crafts School and Memminger High School, where she was valedictorian of her graduating class. While most of her friends were gentiles, she participated in AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) activities and was an AZA Sweetheart. Bernice married Sam Silver (Zilberman) of Augusta, Georgia. The couple moved to his hometown where she became active in Hadassah and started a chapter of the NCJW (National Council of Jewish Women). After about 25 years, the Silvers relocated first to Columbia, South Carolina, and then California, before settling in Charleston, where they operated a restaurant supply business for over two decades. Bernice discusses her immediate and extended family members. Interviewer Ruth Jacobs reads from material obtained from Charleston city directories regarding business and home addresses of the Livingstains (Bernice’s mother’s family) and the Goodmans (Bernice’s maternal grandmother’s family) in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Alex Garfinkel discusses his father, Harry Louis Garfinkel, who emigrated from Divin, Russia, around the turn of the twentieth century to avoid conscription. He was followed to the United States by two sisters, four brothers, and his father. Harry heard there were landsmen (countrymen) from Divin in Charleston, South Carolina, so he moved there and worked as a shoemaker until he bought a mattress factory. He married Celia Hannah Lapidus of Charleston. At some point, Harry turned over the mattress business to his brother Sam and opened a junk yard, which grew into a successful scrap metal business. Alex grew up on Line Street, one of eight children. He attended Hebrew school at Beth Israel and briefly mentions the split between Beth Israel and Brith Sholom, the Orthodox synagogues. Alex talks about King Street merchants, his father’s businesses, and taking over the scrap yard as a young man, which exempted him from military service during World War II. He invited his cousin Max Garfinkel of Baltimore to join him in the growing business, and they remained partners for over forty years. See also interviews with other members of the Garfinkel family: Helen Rosenshein, Olga Weinstein, Sandra Shapiro, Nathan and Frances Garfinkle (Nathan spells the family name differently), Max and Jennie Garfinkel, and Philip Garfinkel.
Jennie Kaufman Garfinkel’s parents, Benjamin and Dora Kirshstein Kaufman, emigrated from Kaluszyn, Poland, around 1912. They settled in Charleston, South Carolina, where they owned, first, a dress shop, and then a grocery store. To help support the household, Jennie left high school before graduating and took a job. She met her husband, Max Garfinkel, when he came to Charleston to work for his uncle H. L. Garfinkel in his scrap yard. Max grew up in Baltimore, the son of immigrants Molly Blacher and Hyman Garfinkel of Divin, Russia. He and his cousin Alex Garfinkel partnered in the scrap metal business in Charleston for over forty years. Max and Jennie talk about their children and grandchildren, and consider how their experiences as Jews differed from previous generations. Interviewer Leah Barkowitz, the Garfinkels’ niece, who grew up in Charleston in the 1930s and ’40s, mentions the Villa Margherita, a Charleston inn that excluded Jews until about 1950. She discusses the “five o’clock shadow,” which meant that Jews and gentiles socialized with one another before, but not after, five o’clock. See also interviews with other members of the Garfinkel family: Helen Rosenshein, Olga Weinstein, Nathan and Frances Garfinkle (Nathan spells the family name differently), Philip Garfinkel, Sandra Shapiro, and Alex Garfinkel.
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.
Ralph Geldbart tells the story of his father, Israel Geldbart, who immigrated to New York from Mogielnica, Poland, early in the 20th century. He used his mother’s maiden name, Goldberg, on the advice of relatives living in New York, who believed it would be an easier name for Americans to understand. (The family later reverted to Geldbart.) Israel, who began working as a tailor in New York, volunteered to serve in the United States Army during World War I and was sent to France, where he was wounded. After the war he brought his wife, Rebecca Cygielman, and their daughter, Sylvia, to the United States. They settled in Charleston, South Carolina, where Israel opened an army surplus store on King Street. The family, which grew to include Helen, Ralph, and Jack, belonged to Brith Sholom, one of the city’s two Orthodox synagogues. Ralph describes relations among members of Orthodox Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, and the Reform temple, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. He discusses his family’s Shabbes traditions, local Jewish merchants, and the Kalushiner Society, an organization founded by landsmen from Kaluszyn, Poland. Ralph was a sophomore at The Citadel when he joined the army to fight in World War II. He recalls landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day in the second wave. About a month later, while his unit was pushing into Normandy, Ralph was wounded, and he describes his experiences during transport and hospitalization in Europe and the United States. Ralph completed college at the University of Chicago and earned his optometry degree at Northern Illinois. After returning to Charleston, he opened an optometry office on George Street near the College of Charleston. He was the first contact lens fitter in the Southeast. He married Madolyn Cohen of Lincolnton, North Carolina, and they raised two daughters, Laurie and Jill, in Charleston. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by the interviewee during proofing. For related material, see the Goldberg family papers, Mss. 1051 and Family tree, descendants of Oise Sokol, Mss. 1034-035 in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Rachel Raisin and Mordenai Hirsch, daughters of Jane Lazarus (1887–1965) and Rabbi Jacob Salmon Raisin (1878–1946), describe their experiences growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the years between the First and Second World Wars. Jacob Raisin emigrated with his family from Russia to New York City when he was twelve years old. The son of Orthodox Jews, he attended Hebrew Union College and served a number of congregations in the United States before he was hired in 1915 by Charleston’s Reform synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). Jane Lazarus, who could trace her Sephardic ancestry in America to the 1700s, was a member and Sunday school teacher at KKBE. The couple married in 1917 and raised Mordenai, Rachel, and their brother, Aaron, in a home that was one of seven rental properties on Wragg Square known as Aiken’s Row. The sisters describe the house and property where they grew up, and where members of Jane’s family had lived for generations. Jane’s father, Marks Hubert Lazarus, ran a hardware and cutlery store, the M. H. Lazarus Company, on King Street. Topics addressed in the interview include merchants, private kindergartens, and Jane Lazarus’s involvement in organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and Hadassah (she founded the local chapter). The sisters also discuss issues of assimilation and identity, particularly as they relate to the early members of KKBE. Rachel attended Radcliffe College where she majored in government, and earned her degree in library science from Emory University. She worked in several cities in the East and Midwest. Mordenai studied early childhood education at the College of Charleston and Smith College. She received her master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. She married sculptor Willard Hirsch, who co-founded Charleston Art School with fellow artists and teachers Corrie McCallum and William Halsey. Mordenai provides some background on her husband and his family and gives examples of his commissioned works. See Lazarus and Hirsch family papers (Mss 1018), Rabbi Jacob S. Raisin papers (Mss 1075), and Willard N. Hirsch papers (Mss 1074), for related materials in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Bertha Lazarus Breibart, daughter of immigrants Louis and Rose Lazarus (Lazarowitz), discusses growing up in Charleston and Summerville, South Carolina, in the 1920s and ’30s. Louis arrived in New York in 1902, worked as a tailor, and, later, his wife and their first child, Max, joined him. The family moved to Charleston, where Louis ran a shoe repair shop in various locations on King Street. When they moved to Summerville, he reopened on Main Street. Bertha remembers that her father struggled to make a living; they were a “very poor family,” one that included three brothers, Max, Morris, and Herman, all much older than Bertha. The family traveled to Charleston to attend holiday services at Brith Sholom, one of Charleston’s two Orthodox synagogues. Bertha recalls the traditional foods her mother made, their Jewish neighbors in Charleston and Summerville, and her experiences attending Summerville public schools. When she was eighteen she represented Summerville in Charleston’s 1935 Azalea Festival beauty contest and won. Bertha attended AZA and B’nai Brith dances and other social events in Charleston, and on one of her many visits to the city, she met her husband, George Breibart. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by the interviewee during proofing.
Marion Hornik discusses his family history and growing up in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Morris, born in 1863, left his hometown of Jaroslaw, Austria-Hungary, now Poland, when he was fourteen years old. He worked in London, England, and New York City before moving to Bonneau, South Carolina, where, at eighteen, he took a job in Mr. Nagel’s country store. Eventually he moved to Charleston, married his first wife, Julia Dessauer, and, in 1886, opened a clothing store on King Street. In 1893 Morris switched to selling wholesale goods from his new business on Meeting Street, Hornik’s Bargain House (later he changed the name to M. Hornik & Company). Julia died five years later, leaving Morris with three children. He remarried after a few years, this time to Rebecca Klein of Walterboro, South Carolina. Tragedy struck again in 1915 when Rebecca died. Morris brought his sister Rosa to the United States to help him with John and Marion, his two young sons by Rebecca. The Horniks were members of the Reform temple Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). Marion attended Porter Military Academy and graduated from the College of Charleston in 1929. He worked on oil tankers during summer breaks and, after college, he worked for an Atlanta company as a traveling salesman. In 1934 his father requested he return to Charleston to help with the family’s wholesale business. When Morris died three years later, Marion and John became partners in the business. Marion recalls his mother’s father and brother who ran Klein’s Drugstore in Walterboro, and discusses the tendency, in recent years, toward more traditional services at KKBE. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by Marion’s wife, Ruth, during proofing. For related material, see HF5429 .H67 1907 and Mss. 1034-097 in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Ethel Lapin Draisin, born in 1908 in Charleston, South Carolina, is joined by her husband, Louis Draisin in recounting her family history. Ethel’s maternal grandparents, Nathan and Ethel Goldstein, emigrated from Poland and arrived in Charleston in the 1870s. Nathan ran a wholesale dry goods business on Meeting Street. Their daughter Dora (Ethel Draisin’s mother) married Israel Lapin, a Lithuanian immigrant who ran a clothing store on King Street from 1909 until 1953. Ethel Lapin met Louis Draisin, who emigrated from Bobruisk, Russia, as a young child, while she was visiting relatives in New York. In 1940, shortly after marrying, the couple settled in Charleston, where they raised two children, Neil and Judy. Ethel, the oldest of six, recalls Jewish merchants, neighbors and friends of the Lapin family, and the food her mother prepared. Louis describes his World War II tour of duty as a quartermaster in Patton’s Third Army. Both Draisins discuss Charleston’s “uptown” and “downtown” Jews, and the Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel.
Joseph Chase, Charleston, South Carolina, native and older son of Freda Lerner and Marty Chase, discusses his family history. Freda’s family immigrated to Charleston around 1920 from Biala, Poland. On a visit to her sister in Detroit, Freda met Marty Chase, who had emigrated from Vilna Gubernia, Poland, to New York City in 1912 with his mother. In 1930 Marty left his factory job in Detroit and moved to Charleston to marry Freda. The interviewee notes that his uncle Morris Sokol, a furniture salesman, helped Marty get his start peddling furniture. Eight years later Marty rented a building on King Street and opened a store. He purchased the building in the early 1940s and replaced it with a new one in 1946, still the location of Chase Furniture at the time of the interview. While Marty “was not an observant man”—he opened his store on the Sabbath—Freda adhered to the laws of kashrut and led the family in Sabbath and holiday rituals. Joseph and his brother, Philip, joined the business in the 1950s, a time when there were more than thirty furniture vendors on King Street, and offering credit was routine. Joseph reflects on the history of the business and how it changed over the years in regard to customer loyalty and demographics. He considers the future of the business, which, at the time of the interview, was in its third generation with Ben Chase, his nephew, at the helm.
Philip Chase grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, the younger son of Freda Lerner and Marty Chase. In this interview he describes how Freda, who emigrated with her family from Poland to Charleston in the early 1900s, met Marty, also a native of Poland, while working with her sister in Detroit. The couple married in Charleston and settled there. Marty peddled furniture initially and, by 1938, was selling furniture from a building on King Street, previously occupied by Carolina Furniture Company. Eight years later, he constructed a new building on the same site, still the location of Chase Furniture at the time of the interview. Philip recalls growing up in a small community where “everyone knew everybody else,” and most of the furniture dealers on King Street were “friendly” competitors who traded merchandise to help their fellow store owners make a sale. Philip and his brother, Joseph, joined the business in the 1950s and, later, Philip’s son Ben became a part of the enterprise. The interviewee discusses the history of the store, particularly its customer base and the effects of Hurricane Hugo.
Ben Chase, a Charleston, South Carolina, native, followed his father, Philip, and uncle, Joseph, into the King Street business his grandfather Marty Chase started in the 1930s. In this interview he discusses the challenges Chase Furniture faces, particularly “the shift of the population out of the city,” which he anticipates will require the store to move to the suburbs in the near future. Besides losing a large part of their client base, the diversity of the remaining customers has been difficult to accommodate. Limited downtown parking adds to the list of reasons for a change in location.
Claire Krawcheck Nussbaum, daughter of Polish immigrants Jack and Esther Bielsky Krawcheck, describes growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1930s and ’40s. Her parents were Orthodox Jews who observed the Sabbath and kept a kosher kitchen, with the help of Agnes Jenkins, who worked for the family for decades as housekeeper, cook, and third parent to Claire and her three siblings. The Krawchecks lived downtown on Colonial Street, many blocks from the uptown neighborhood, north of Calhoun Street, where the majority of immigrant Orthodox Jewish families lived at the time. Claire was close to a Catholic girl who lived on the same street, and she attended Ashley Hall, a private girls’ school. She had few Jewish friends, but became quite familiar with Catholic and Episcopalian traditions. Her father had men’s clothing stores both north and south of Calhoun Street—Jack’s on the corner of King and Vanderhorst Street, and Jack Krawcheck’s on King Street between George and Liberty Street. Claire discusses the buildings that housed the latter of the two stores, 311 King Street, which her father built, and 313 King Street, which he restored. Changes to the properties included gardens behind the buildings featuring iron work by Philip Simmons, and specially-designed, second-floor meeting rooms, used by local clubs, with paintings by William Halsey. Jack and Esther were members of Brith Sholom and they were active in a number of Charleston’s civic organizations, such as the Preservation Society and the Garden Club. Claire, who had difficulty relating to Judaism as a child—she couldn’t understand the Hebrew services and no one explained why they were following certain rules—convinced her parents to allow her to attend services and Sunday school at the Reform synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). It was there that she became connected to the spiritual and religious aspects of Judaism. In 1950 Claire married Maurice Nussbaum of Ehrhardt, South Carolina, and they raised four children in Charleston. She discusses her siblings, children, and grandchildren, and her views on religion, antisemitism, and the changes in KKBE’s congregation since she began attending as a teen.
Hannah Prystowsky Rubin, born in Charleston in 1916, recounts the story of her grandparents’ immigration to the United States from Zabludow, Poland, circa 1890. Ezra and Mollie Prystowsky followed the Jacobs family, also from Zabludow, to Charleston, South Carolina, where Ezra repaired shoes for a living before opening a men’s clothing store. Hannah’s father, Mike Prystowsky, was a tailor and worked with his brothers in the family’s King Street store, “E. Prystowsky & Sons, Mike-Sam-Jake.” She describes growing up on St. Philip Street, surrounded by extended family, and recalls members of two branches of the Mazo family—the Uptown Mazos and the Downtown Mazos—who operated delicatessens above and below Calhoun Street. In 1938 Hannah married Samuel Rubin of Columbia, son of wholesaler Joseph Rubin and Bessie Peskin Rubin. Within five years they had three small children. Hannah discusses Sam’s two-year stint in the army during World War II, and how she helped two German Jewish families, who survived the war, become acclimated to life in America after settling in Columbia.
Helene Ejbuszyc Diamant, born in Warsaw, Poland, immigrated to Paris, France, as an infant with her parents, grandparents, and brother. She was in high school when the Germans invaded France in May 1940. Her father fled with an uncle and was never heard from again. Helene describes how she and her mother were arrested by the local police and detained at the internment camp in Drancy, near Paris, and released once she showed her work papers. Her brother was also detained at Drancy; during the interview, Helene reads a postcard he sent from the camp to inform them that he was leaving soon “for an unknown destination.” Sometime in late 1943 or early 1944, Helene and her mother fled with her grandparents, an aunt and uncle, and two cousins to Aix-les-Bains in France’s so-called free zone, where they spent nearly a year before escaping to Lugano, Switzerland. She met and married her husband, Maurice Diamant, in Lugano, and they immigrated to the United States in 1948.
Sam Siegel, born in Anderson, South Carolina, in 1915, describes the hometown of his boyhood as “a very hard town . . . mean, nasty, completely controlled by the Klan.” Sam’s parents, Bess Silverman and Max Siegel (Shul) emigrated from Latvia in the early 1900s and settled in Anderson where Max worked as a peddler before going into livestock sales and slaughtering. The family did not keep kosher, and the Siegel children had little Jewish education. Sam’s playmates were Christian. “I had my friends, but it wasn’t comfortable.” Sam talks about his seven siblings, in particular, his brother Reuben, known as “Jew Boy Siegel,” a star boxer and football player for Clemson. As the number of Jewish residents in Anderson increased in the early 1900s, they began to meet in a large hall over a store for High Holy Day services. Sam remembers teaching Sunday school there as well. He mentions some of the Jewish residents of the 1930s and ’40s, who pooled their resources to build a temple for the growing community. Sam describes helping to place nearly a dozen Jewish refugees in Anderson, including one young man, Kurt Sax, whom he helped get his start in his own small business. Sam married Leona Novit of Walterboro, South Carolina. When he visited Walterboro, he “fell in love” with the town, which was a popular stopping point for travelers driving between New York and Florida. Walterboro, Sam says, “has always been a very liberal town. It’s made up of people from up north and out west.” Sam and Leona moved from Anderson to Walterboro, where they raised their four children and Sam ran a dry goods store. He discusses a number of other topics including intermarriage, Camp Blue Star, the journal in which he has made daily entries since 1932, and the Walterboro congregation and how it acquired a Jewish section in the local cemetery. He also describes his service in the army during World War II and his role in the Battle of the Bulge, in which he lost a leg in an attempt to rescue two American soldiers. Note: the transcript contains corrections made by Sam’s daughter Gale Messerman.
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.
Isadore Cohen (b. 1918) and Samuel Rosen (b. 1929), Charleston natives and sons of immigrants from Russia and Poland, share their early memories of the Orthodox synagogues, Beth Israel and Brith Sholom, and discuss the relationship between the two congregations before and after their merger in the mid-1950s. They describe their Hebrew education, including their teachers—a number of rabbis plus a Mrs. Allen, daughter of Rabbi Gillman. Topics relating to the first half of the twentieth century covered in the interview include Jewish merchants, the Kalushiner Society, founded by immigrants from Kaluszyn, Poland, popular venues for Jewish functions, and the Cohen and Rosen family businesses, both small grocery stores. Interviewer Professor Jeffrey Gurock from Yeshiva University also provides information he discovered while conducting research for his book Orthodoxy in Charleston: Brith Sholom Beth Israel and American Jewish History.
In this interview Gordan Stine recalls that his maternal grandmother, Annie Gorse Pinosky, a widow of Polish descent with three children, moved to Charleston, South Carolina, circa 1911, from Fall River, Massachusetts. Sam Banov, a Charleston cousin, had arranged for her to marry King Street merchant Joseph Baron, an emigrant from Poland and widower with two children. In 1922 Annie’s daughter Helen Pinosky married Abraham Stein (Steinhauser), who was born in New York, a son of Austrian immigrants. Stein made his living designing advertisements and setting up displays for stores, and moved the family from Charleston to New Jersey when Gordan was twelve and his sister, Lenora, was eleven. Helen saw the move, which broke up her home, as bad luck, and, relying on numerology, changed the spelling of the family name to Stine. After a move to New York, and back to New Jersey, the Stines returned to Charleston in 1939. Gordan graduated from the College of Charleston in 1944, the same year he enlisted in the marines. He joined the reserves after he was released from active duty in 1945, and earned his dental degree from Emory University in 1950. Called again to active duty the following year, he and his new wife, Barbara Berlinsky, also from Charleston, were stationed for two years in their home town, where they stayed after discharge and raised their two sons, Steven and Robert. Gordan experienced no antisemitism directed at him personally while growing up in Charleston, but he discusses discrimination against Jews in general, touching on John Buhler’s tenure as dean of the dental school at the Medical University of South Carolina. Note: the transcript includes comments made by the interviewee during proofing.
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.
Ida Berry, one of four daughters of Bessie Freed and Samson Berry (Berazin), was born in 1923 and raised in Columbia, South Carolina. In this interview she discusses her family history and her experiences growing up in the capital city. Samson emigrated from Visnea, Russia, early in the 20th century, and found his way to Columbia where he opened a small dry goods store on Assembly Street. Bessie, also from Russia, followed her father and sister to New York City, and was visiting her uncle in Columbia in 1917 when she met Samson. Two months later David Karesh, the shochet, cantor, and rabbi for Columbia’s Orthodox Jews, presided over their marriage ceremony in the House of Peace Synagogue (later called Beth Shalom) on Park Street. Ida recalls Columbia’s Jewish merchants, how her family observed the holidays, and the traditional foods her mother prepared in her kosher kitchen. While growing up she felt that there was an atmosphere of mutual respect between Jews and non-Jews, and she remembers that the city’s gentiles, including the Ku Klux Klan member who lived next door to the Berrys, were friendly and helpful. Ida describes Beth Shalom Congregation’s gradual transition from Orthodox to Conservative practices, from families sitting together at the Marion Street location to women reading the Torah from the bimah in the suburban Trenholm Street synagogue. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by the interviewee during proofing.
David Alexander Cohen, Jr., born and raised in Darlington, South Carolina, recalls stories of the Hennig and Witcover families while sorting through documents, among them, mortgages, deeds, and bonds acquired by his grandfather, Henry Hennig, a lien merchant. Henry, a German immigrant, operated a general merchandise store in Darlington, and boarded at the home of Dora and Wolf Witcover before marrying their daughter Lena. David’s father, who was in the wholesale grocery and fertilizer business in Darlington, offered his African-American customers credit, and acted as a protector of sorts for those who needed help with personal matters. His great-uncle Hyman Witcover was a respected architect who designed the former Park Hotel in Darlington and numerous buildings in Savannah, Georgia, including city hall. David remembers going to the Florence train station with his father to pick up Rabbi Raisin of Charleston’s Beth Elohim, who conducted services one weekend a month for the Florence and Darlington congregations. In later years Darlington Jews hired rabbis from Sumter and Florence to lead services. David married Kathleen Hyman and they raised four children in Darlington. He describes his and other family members’ involvement in the Darlington Hebrew Congregation and Beth Israel Congregation of Florence. Note: Corrections and additions made during proofing by the interviewee’s wife and son are in brackets with their initials. Mr. Cohen provided interviews on three separate days. The July 12, 1995, and October 26, 1995, interviews were recorded on Tape 1. The October 27, 1995, interview was recorded on Tape 2. Mr. Cohen donated his papers, the subject of most of Tape 1 and all of Tape 2, to Special Collections, College of Charleston. See the David A. Cohen, Jr. collection, Mss. 1021.
Dientje Kalisky Adkins, daughter of Phillip and Evaline Hamel Krant, was born in 1938 in Bussum, Netherlands. She recalls fond memories of life before World War II in the small village not far from Amsterdam, where she and her parents lived over a store run by her father and his brother. She offers several happy tales about extended family members, including her maternal grandparents who lived in nearby Hilversum. Dientje remembers the German occupation of her hometown and tells the story of being sent into hiding by her parents when she was four years old. She describes emotionally and physically traumatic experiences while under the care of a harsh and abusive Catholic nun. By the time the war ended and her parents returned to claim her, Dientje was eight years old and had become accustomed to a new name and Catholic doctrine. The interviewee discusses the negative effects of the war on her psyche and the difficulties of returning to life in Bussum with her parents. The family grew to include a brother and an adopted sister. The Krants attended holiday services and Passover seders at the only synagogue in town. While her family was Orthodox, Dientje’s parents did not keep kosher, nor did they observe the Sabbath. After college, Dientje worked on an ocean liner caring for children in the nursery. She met her husband Leonard Kalisky while vacationing in Germany, where the Kingstree, South Carolina, native was serving on an American army base. They married in 1963 and raised three children in Charleston, South Carolina. The couple divorced after 25 years of marriage. Dientje discusses her emotional status and her outlook on life as a result of her childhood experiences. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by Dientje during proofing.
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.
Eileen Strauss Rubin grew up in Sumter, South Carolina, the only child of Isaac and Pearl Weinreich Strauss. Isaac, who was born in New York, moved in the 1870s as a teenager, first to Mayesville, South Carolina, where relatives, the A. A. Strauss family, owned a store. After relocating to Sumter, he invested in land and helped a nephew get started in the printing business. He died when Eileen was only five years old. Eileen recalls celebrating the holidays and attending Sunday school at Sumter’s Temple Sinai, where she was confirmed. As a girl, she visited her mother’s family in Ohio and, having made a number of friends there, decided to go to Ohio State University (OSU). She met her husband, Herman Rubin, at a fraternity dance at OSU. Herman was an M.D. and practicing in Akron. About a year after they married and shortly after their first daughter was born, Herman, who was in the army reserves, was called up for active duty. After five years in military service, the Rubins returned to Akron, where their second daughter was born. In the early ’50s, in search of a milder climate, the Rubins moved to Sumter. Eileen discusses her family history, her daughters, and the family’s real estate business. Interviewer Robert Moses, a Sumter native and friend of the Rubins, contributes to the conversation. Note: daughters Ellen Rubin Eber and Gayle Rubin provided additional information noted in the transcript during proofing.
Klyde Robinson continues his account of growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, begun in his first interview on August 26, 1997. His father’s business was a bicycle and toy store on the corner of King and Ann Streets, and everyone in the family worked there. Even as a U.S. district attorney and circuit court judge, Klyde helped out at Christmastime when sales peaked for the year. The Robinsons lived in the Hampton Park and upper King Street neighborhoods, and summered on Folly Beach and, later, on Sullivan’s Island where, Klyde recalls, a number of Jewish families had houses beginning in the 1930s. Emma Brown, the African-American woman who worked for the family for nearly 50 years, was well-versed in keeping kosher. Klyde attended The Citadel and at the end of his junior year, he and some of his classmates joined the army to fight in World War II. Despite near-blindness in one eye, Klyde was allowed to serve; ultimately, he went to Europe with the 141st Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion. He notes that while he was aware of the existence of the concentration camps before he left the States, German townspeople claimed to know nothing about them. When he was discharged from the army, almost three years after signing up, he returned to The Citadel to complete his undergraduate education. While attending Harvard Law School, he met Claire Zuckernik of Boston, Massachusetts. In 1949 he graduated from Harvard and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar. He and Claire married in 1950 and she joined him in Charleston, where they raised their children and he started a law practice. Klyde describes his career, including how he acquired his positions as Charleston County’s attorney, assistant U.S. attorney, and circuit court judge. Among the other topics discussed: the social barriers among the Jewish community in the first half of the 20th century; the establishment of the Conservative synagogue, Emanu-El, in 1947; the merger, referred to by the interviewee as an amalgamation, of Charleston’s two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, in 1954; joining the Masonic lodge, Friendship Lodge, No. 9; and the debate about whether to open the Jewish Community Center on the Sabbath and High Holidays. Also mentioned are Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch, leader of the congregation at the newly merged Brith Sholom Beth Israel from 1955 to 1963, and Bill Ackerman, developer of the South Windermere neighborhood who ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for mayor of Charleston in 1971. Note: see transcript for corrections made by interviewee during proofing. See Mss. 1035-165 for the preceding interview on August 26, 1997. See the Klyde Robinson Collection, Mss. 1024, in Special Collections at the College of Charleston Library for related material.
Sara Bolgla Breibart, at the age of one, emigrated from Brest-Litovsk with her parents and four-year-old brother. They followed her grandfather, Avram Bolgla, to Augusta, Georgia, where he had established a shoe business. With input from her niece, Debra Bolgla, she recounts their family history, including the loss of those who remained behind in Europe to the Holocaust. Sara grew up in Augusta among a small group of Orthodox Jewish families. She discusses the discriminatory attitudes toward African Americans that she observed as a child in Augusta and an adult in Charleston, South Carolina. She married Solomon Breibart of Charleston and they raised two children, Carol and Mark. Note: the transcript contains comments made by Sara during proofing.
Anita Rosen Levine, the daughter of Rose Rosenfeld of Romania and Jacob Rosen of Vitebsk, Russia, grew up in Port Chester, New York, a small town with a vibrant Jewish community. She received her Jewish education from students of New York City’s Jewish Theological Seminary, who traveled by train to the suburb to teach Sunday school. Anita was visiting a friend in Charleston, South Carolina, when she met Sol Levine, a native of Savannah, Georgia. His parents, Harry Levine, a cantor from Yekaterinoslav, Ukraine, and Freda Wasserman, a native of Warsaw, Poland, emigrated from Russia in 1906 with their two daughters and Harry’s mother. After Freda died in 1932, Harry and his two youngest sons, Sol and David, moved from Savannah to Charleston, where his daughter Rose lived with her family. Nearly two years later, Harry and Sol moved to Columbia, joining Sol’s older brother Max. David, still a young boy, stayed behind with Rose. Sol belonged to the Herzl Club in Savannah and was the first president of Columbia’s Jewish youth group, AZA, Aleph Zadik Aleph. He clerked in stores in the South Carolina towns of Allendale and Bamberg before returning to Charleston where he worked for his brother-in-law at LeRoy’s Jewelers on King Street. Sol and Anita, who married and settled in Charleston in 1942, talk about their social life, downtown shop owners, and their three children. In the early 1950s, when construction of the Savannah River Site, a nuclear production facility, was underway, Sol was hired to run a store in Barnwell, one of the South Carolina towns experiencing rapid growth associated with the new plant. The Levines lived in Barnwell for two years before returning to Charleston in 1955, the year after the two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, merged. Prior to moving to Barnwell, they had been members of Brith Sholom; upon their return to Charleston, they joined Brith Sholom Beth Israel (BSBI). They discuss the merger and comment on the breakaway of Brith Sholom members to establish the Conservative congregation Emanu-El in 1947. Other topics covered include Sol’s contributions to BSBI through the Men’s Club, Anita’s involvement with the Daughters of Israel Sisterhood, the St. Philip Street and Rutledge Avenue mikvahs, and the rabbis, cantors, and sextons who served the Orthodox community. Anita began working for the BSBI rabbis in the mid-1950s, running the office for the synagogue and the Charleston Hebrew Institute (CHI), BSBI’s Hebrew day school. She describes the growth of CHI from just a kindergarten in 1955 to graduating the first class of seventh graders in 1964. “It was like my fourth child,” she says, referring to CHI.
Leonard Cohen grew up in Latta, South Carolina, the son of dry goods merchants, Isadore and Hannah Horowitz Cohen. Isadore emigrated circa 1910 from Lithuania and, after working briefly in Baltimore, followed his brother Harry’s advice and came south. His train ticket got him as far as Dillon, South Carolina. He peddled first, and then worked for Mr. Blum in his Latta store. Baltimore Bargain House extended credit to Isadore to start his own business, which prospered, enabling him to expand his store and, eventually, buy his own building. Two other Jewish families lived in Latta at that time, the Blums and the Kornbluts, and Leonard recalls being the only Jewish child in his classes at school. The Cohens attended services in Dillon, with Rabbi Jacob Raisin of Charleston officiating. Leonard remembers the Fass family, prominent members of the Dillon congregation. At Camp Osceola in Hendersonville, North Carolina, Leonard studied Hebrew with Rabbi Solomon and prepared for his bar mitzvah. He attended The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, from 1941 until 1943, when he was drafted into the army. He describes his experiences in the military, particularly the action he saw in Europe as a soldier serving in the 102nd Division. After the war, on a visit to Baltimore, he met Mildred Friedman, daughter of emigrants from Poland. Leonard and Mildred married in 1948 and settled in Latta, where he had already joined his father in business. They raised three children in Latta and were members of Temple Beth Israel in Florence, South Carolina. Faced with competition from discount chains, the Cohens closed their store in 1987. Other topics mentioned in the interview include: Baltimore Bargain House and changes in the wholesale industry, Charleston Jews Leonard met while attending The Citadel, Mildred’s mikvah experience before her wedding, and the first bat mitzvahs at Temple Beth Israel.
Lawrence and Sylvia Polan Weintraub provide background about their parents and grandparents, primarily their activities after they arrived in the United States from Eastern Europe. Sylvia was born and raised in Mullins, South Carolina. Her father had moved to Mullins from Baltimore to manage a store. Her mother, a Levin of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, joined him after they married. Sylvia describes how the family kept kosher in a small southern town, where she and her sister endured antisemitic taunts from schoolmates. Her family traveled to Dillon, South Carolina, for services and Sunday school lessons. Larry was born and raised in Brooklyn where his father and uncle manufactured ladies’ blouses. After serving in the army during World War II, Larry moved to Walterboro to join his maternal uncle, Harry Zahl, who ran a wholesale business. Larry worked for Harry as a traveling salesman, and it was on his route through Mullins that he met Sylvia, working in her father’s store. The couple married in 1947 and lived briefly in Petersburg, Virginia, before returning to South Carolina. They raised their two children in Timmonsville and were members of Temple Beth Israel in Florence.
Raymond Stern grew up in Andrews, South Carolina, where his father, the son of emigrants from Eastern Europe, established Stern’s Dry Goods in 1932. Raymond recalls Melvin Hornik, a Charleston wholesaler, and discusses his childhood friends and Jewish merchants in Andrews, Lane, and Kingstree, including his uncle Charlie Tucker, who was from Baltimore. Tucker was one of the first Jewish merchants to come to this rural region between the midlands and the coast. The Sterns were members of Congregation Beth Elohim in Georgetown and, later, Raymond’s parents also attended services at Kingstree’s Temple Beth Or. After he graduated from the University of South Carolina and served four years in the air force, Raymond returned home and joined his father in the family business. He assumed control of the store around 1965. At the time of this interview, it was still open. Raymond married Florence Harris, a school teacher, and they raised four children in Andrews, Georgetown, and Charleston. Note: audio quality is poor.
Klyde Robinson, son of Eva Dora Karesh and Mitchel Robinson, describes his family history, including the possibility that William Robinson, the first of his father’s side of the family to come to America, may have been a Christian. Klyde’s grandfather Rudolph Robinson died a young man and his wife, Nettie Meyer, subsequently married Harry Goldberg of Charleston, South Carolina. Although Rudolph and Nettie had attended Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE), Charleston’s Reform synagogue, Nettie joined Harry at the Orthodox synagogue, Brith Sholom, once they married. She kept a strictly kosher home and observed all the Jewish holidays. Klyde’s mother, who was born in Elloree, South Carolina, died when Klyde and his two older brothers, Rudolph and Irving, were very young. Anticipating her death, she asked Mitchel to marry her niece, also named Eva Dora Karesh, after she passed away. Mitchel complied and, later, the second Eva Dora gave birth to his fourth son, Melvin. Klyde discusses the loss of the Hanover Street Cemetery, where several members of the Robinson family were buried, to foreclosure in the 1930s. He recalls the social distance between members of KKBE and Orthodox Jews, and between members of the two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, during his childhood. He explains why, after raising his children in the Reform synagogue, he returned to the Orthodox tradition of his youth, and notes a trend in Charleston where some Jews, who were raised in KKBE, are switching to Orthodoxy. Note: see transcript for corrections made by interviewee during proofing. See Mss. 1035-166 for a follow-up interview on September 5, 1997. See the Klyde Robinson Collection, Mss. 1024, in Special Collections at the College of Charleston Library, for related material.
Harold Jacobs, the only child of Sam and Mignonette Cohen Jacobs, discusses his family history and growing up in Charleston, South Carolina. Sam’s father, Isaac Jacobs (Karesh) emigrated from the area of Europe described by Harold as eastern Germany or Prussia. (Isaac Jacobs, grandson of the aforementioned Isaac and Harold’s cousin, states in his account of the family origins in a 1995 interview that the Karesh/Jacobs family came from Trestina, near Bialystok, Poland.) Isaac, the immigrant, made his way to Cincinnati, Ohio, during the Civil War and joined the Union Army. He married Jeanette Slager, and the couple settled in Charleston where they ran a dry goods store on King Street. Sam, Mignonette, and Harold lived in the St. Philip Street neighborhood before moving to Hampton Park Terrace in the northwest section of Charleston, where they opened Harold’s Cabin, a small store that sold snowballs and a few convenience items. Harold describes the family’s holiday and Sabbath customs, his aunt and uncles on the Jacobs side, the differences between “uptown” and “downtown” Jews, and the expansion of the family business, including how he came to be one of the first merchants in Charleston to sell frozen foods. As a child, Harold attended services at Brith Sholom, the Orthodox synagogue in which his father was raised, and Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE), where his mother, who was raised in the Reform tradition, was a member. Sometime after becoming a bar mitzvah at Brith Sholom, he began to “drift” more toward services at KKBE, ultimately becoming a lifelong member of the historic Charleston temple. Harold served in the army in North Africa and Italy during World War II and, after the war, married Lillian Breen, who grew up on a farm in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where there were too few Jews for a congregation. Lillian’s parents were from Riga, Latvia, and they ran a furniture store in Rocky Mount. The family traveled to Fayetteville, North Carolina, for the High Holidays.
Helen Greher Kahn grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, two blocks from House of Peace, the Orthodox synagogue on Park Street. Her mother, Rebecca Cohen, a Polish immigrant, followed her sister to Wilmington, North Carolina. Helen’s father, Isaac Greher (Kerschbaum), came south after arriving in the United States from Austria-Hungary, and made a living by peddling between Charleston and Columbia. While in the capital city, he stayed with the Karesh family, headed by Rabbi David Karesh. The rabbi, who had served the Wilmington congregation before moving to Columbia, introduced Rebecca and Isaac. Helen recalls visiting the Kareshes regularly as a child, and notes that they were an important influence in her life. Karesh served as cantor for the House of Peace congregation, prepared the boys for their bar mitzvahs, visited the sick in the local hospitals, and slaughtered chickens at his work table in the Dent’s grocery store. Helen admired Helen Kohn Hennig, who ran the Sunday school classes at Tree of Life, the Reform synagogue. The Grehers were members of House of Peace, but because it lacked a Sunday school, Helen and her sister attended Mrs. Hennig’s classes. The interviewee touches on a number of subjects including Columbia’s Jewish families, the Columbia Jewish boys’ social organization, the Yudedum Club, and attending dances in Charleston and Folly Beach. Helen married Saul Kahn, also of Columbia, the son of Meyer B. Kahn, an immigrant whose car broke down in Columbia on his way from Florida to Ohio. He decided to stay, and he became successful in commercial construction. Helen contrasts the Orthodox traditions of her youth with those of the contemporary community, especially Beth Shalom’s (formerly House of Peace) Conservative congregation.
Helen Berle, a daughter of Harry and Tillie Hufeizen Laufer, immigrants from Mogelnitsa, Poland, reminisces about her parents’ business, Laufer’s Kosher Restaurant on King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. Popular among local merchants and military servicemen stationed in Charleston and Beaufort, the eatery served Jews and non-Jews for about two decades beginning in the early 1930s. Berle describes some of the kosher-style dishes that Jews from the Old Country brought with them to America. “Everything was just good, plain, old, basic cooking. . . . I think seasoning had a lot to do with it.” While blacks could not eat at Laufer’s, they were hired to work in the kitchen, and she recalls that the relationship between members of the Jewish and black communities of Charleston were good in the years before the Civil Rights Movement. She briefly mentions a branch of her mother’s family, the Hufeisens of France, who were also in the restaurant business. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by Helen during proofing.
Everett Ness and his wife, Shirley Gergel Ness, discuss his family history. Everett recalls accompanying his mother, Esther Berger, a Polish immigrant, on a visit to see her parents, Fishel and Molly Nachman Berger, in Poland in 1931, when he was four years old. Esther helped several of her siblings to emigrate; most of them, unable to enter the United States because of quota restrictions, settled in Argentina. Everett's paternal grandfather, Yehuda Seiden, changed his surname to Ness (Nass), his mother's maiden name, to avoid conscription in Poland, and immigrated to New York, where Everett's father, Benjamin grew up. Benjamin joined his brother Morris in his dry goods store in Manning, South Carolina, before opening his own ladies ready-to-wear business in nearby Sumter. He met Esther in Charleston, South Carolina, while attending High Holy Day services. They raised Everett and his sister, also named Shirley, in Manning, and attended Temple Sinai in Sumter. Everett and Shirley Gergel married in 1949 and lived for seventeen years in Charleston before moving to Columbia, South Carolina. They were initially members of the Reform synagogue in Charleston, but switched to the Conservative congregation, Emanu-El. Everett, who began studying Hebrew as an adult, notes that "as we became more aware of our Jewishness, the Reform Movement did not meet our needs, did not meet my needs." The Nesses talk about their relationship with Sam and Sophie Solomon of Charleston and describe Sam's funeral in 1954. Everett discusses his mother's philanthropic work for the March of Dimes and his involvement with Chabad and the chevra kadisha in Columbia.
Joseph J. Lipton discusses growing up in Beaufort, South Carolina, the eldest of three sons of Helen Stern and Samuel Lipton (Lipsitz). Samuel emigrated from Lithuania as a teen in the early 1900s, arriving first in New York. He followed a relative to Dale, South Carolina, not far from Beaufort, and worked in his store for a time before opening his own business in a small crossroads nearby called Grays Hill. He met Helen while on a visit to Charleston, South Carolina, where she lived with her brother, Gabe Stern, and worked in Kerrison's Department Store. They married in 1922 and moved to Beaufort. After graduating from Clemson College, the interviewee earned his law degree from Mercer University, a Baptist-affiliated institution in Macon, Georgia, where he was the only Jewish student. He describes how, fresh out of law school, he assisted a lawyer whose case regarding asbestos and interstate commerce advanced to the United States Supreme Court. He took a job with the South Carolina Legislative Council, where he was employed for thirty years. Lipton remembers visiting his cousins, the Sterns, in Columbia as a teen, and participating in AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) activities. He comments on Congregation Beth Israel in Beaufort and recalls singing Kol Nidre in the synagogue during the High Holidays.
George Chaplin, in follow-up to his September 27, 1995, interview (Mss. 1035-040), recalls some of the other Jewish families that lived in his native city, Columbia, South Carolina, in particular his relatives, the Berkovitzes. He remembers sensing a separation between Columbia's German Jews and the more recent Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland. He describes incidences of antisemitism he experienced in school, noting he was "made to feel something of an outsider." When Chaplin was in high school, his family moved to Greenville, where his father opened Piedmont Pawnshop across the street from Zaglin's kosher meat market. The interviewee attended Clemson Agricultural College, at that time a military academy, and was responsible for ending compulsory church attendance each Sunday for the cadets. Chaplin, who comments on the necessary functions of newspapers and their editors, discusses his long career in newspaper journalism. First he worked for the conservative Greenville Piedmont in Greenville, South Carolina, right out of Clemson (he took a leave of absence from the Greenville Piedmont to accept the year-long Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, where he studied race relations and formed a discussion group consisting of Nieman fellows and black graduate students); then the Stars and Stripes Pacific during World War II; David Stern's Camden, New Jersey, papers, prior to and during a strike in 1947; the liberal San Diego Journal in the late 1940s, when the paper won a national award for investigative reporting; David Stern's "crusading paper," the New Orleans Item, which ultimately was sold to its competitor, the Times-Picayune; and finally the Honolulu Advertiser, from 1958 to retirement, during which time the paper won sixty national awards. Chaplin talks about his younger sister, Kay, and her family; his perception of race relations in Charleston in the late 1940s; his religious practices, and why he and his wife, Esta Solomon Chaplin, who both came from strict Orthodox families, chose to raise their two children in the Reform tradition. He is joined briefly during the interview by Esta. His daughter, Jerri, provided comments and corrections to the transcript during proofing.
Selma Blick Dickman of Columbia, South Carolina, is joined by her daughter Janis Dickman in this interview, which focuses on social issues dating to the late 1940s. Selma, a New York transplant, describes how she feels about living in the South. After moving to Sumter, South Carolina, in 1949, her tendency to talk about New York was greeted with advice from the Jewish natives: talk less about New York and more about her new home. Selma discusses her past perceptions of Jewish-Christian relations and notes how they have changed over time. She and Janis respond to questions about antisemitism and Janis recalls that as a child growing up in Columbia, "I always remember feeling different." Both describe their reactions to learning of the Holocaust and Selma remembers the arrival in Columbia of survivors Jadzia Sklar and Ben Stern, the interviewer's parents. Selma considers how her views of African-Americans have changed during her lifetime; both interviewees talk about racism, segregation, and present-day race relations, including the controversy surrounding the presence of the Confederate flag on the South Carolina State House grounds. Selma's husband, Max Dickman, who died thirty years before this interview, co-founded the scrap metal business, Columbia Steel and Metal. The Dickmans raised three daughters in Columbia. In a postscript to the interview, Janis describes the Dickman family's relationship with Florida Boyd, an African-American woman who worked in their home for forty-three years. The transcript also includes comments and corrections made by Janis during proofing and additional background information she provided upon request.
Rudolf "Rudy" Herz shares his story of survival with students at the College of Charleston in a presentation for Professor Theodore Rosengarten's class, "History of the Holocaust." Growing up in Germany, Herz remembers being made to feel different from German Christians because he was Jewish. Just eight years old when Hitler came to power in 1933, Rudy found Nazi propaganda confusing. He notes that German society made "a totally seamless transition from religious hatred of the Jews to a racial hatred of the Jews." He describes the harassment and persecution Jews experienced at the hands of the storm troopers and the increasingly harsh restrictions placed on them, leading to loss of their rights as citizens, loss of jobs, and exclusion from society. His family was living in Cologne at the time of Kristallnacht in 1938. Rudy recounts the events of that night, the family's unsuccessful attempts to flee Germany, their transport in 1942 to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia, and subsequent transfer to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Rudy was selected to work in Schwarzheide, Germany, rebuilding a factory that was routinely bombed by Allied Forces, and was later transferred to a labor camp in Lieberose, Germany, then to Sachsenhausen on the outskirts of Berlin, and finally, in February 1945, to Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Austria. Besides describing the details of what he and his fellow prisoners endured, he explains why Hitler's platform appealed to the German people and answers questions about his loss of faith in God and his sense of Jewish identity. He relates how he immigrated to the United States, where he found his brother, and recalls his post-war visits to Germany. For related information, see the Rudolf Herz papers (Mss 1065-050), Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Rosa From Poliakoff was born in Union, South Carolina, in 1914, to Israel and Bertha From, who emigrated from Ponevezys, Lithuania, around the turn of the twentieth century. The Froms settled in Union in 1905 and, two years later, Israel, who initially was a peddler, opened I. From Dry Goods & Notions. Rosa reports that they were the only Jewish family in Union. The Froms acquired a Torah and hosted services in their home for Jews who lived in nearby towns. Eventually, they joined Spartanburg’s B’nai Israel and donated their Torah to that congregation. Rosa notes that her mother was very observant and both parents stressed the importance of education and their Jewish identity. Rosa graduated from Agnes Scott College in Atlanta and taught in that city for three years before marrying Myer Poliakoff. She recalls how she met her future husband at a Yudedum Club dance in Columbia. They raised their three children in Abbeville, South Carolina, where they ran the D. Poliakoff Department Store, established in 1900 by Myer’s father, David. Rosa describes a From family car trip to Worcester, Massachusetts, to visit Israel’s family, the effects of the Great Depression on local Jewish merchants, and how the Poliakoffs came to settle in Abbeville. The transcript includes comments inserted by the interviewee during proofreading.
Libby Friedman Levinson, the youngest of seven children of Betty Alpern and Isadore Friedman, was born in Grajewo, Poland, in 1909. Isadore immigrated to the United States a month before Germany declared war on Russia in 1914. He settled in Charleston, South Carolina, home to a number of Betty’s relatives and landsmen from Trestina (Trzcianne), including the Karesh, Pearlstine, and Jacobs families. Betty and the children intended to follow as soon as they could sell their house and furniture, but World War I prevented their emigration until just after the fighting ended. Libby describes how her mother and siblings survived the war and their trip from Poland to Charleston afterward. She discusses family members, in particular, her sister Annie, who married Louis Lourie of St. George, and her sister Minnie, who married Jake Kalinsky of Holly Hill. Libby married Charles Levinson of Bishopville; after living briefly in Branchville and North, South Carolina, they moved to Barnwell, where they raised two children. The transcript includes comments inserted by the interviewee during proofreading.