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.
Mickey Dorsey, a member of the Seventy-first Infantry Division, United States Army, discusses his experiences serving in Europe during World War II. He outlines the movement of the troops through France and Germany, into Austria, where they discovered Gunskirchen Lager, a concentration camp near Lambach. The American soldiers found hundreds of starving prisoners and thousands of dead bodies locked inside. He recalls that he and his fellow soldiers were shocked to learn of the existence of the concentration camps, and he describes his reaction to encountering the Gunskirchen inmates. During the interview, he refers to photographs taken by their division photographer, Joe Daurer, which Dorsey donated to Special Collections, College of Charleston (see Mickey Dorsey papers, Mss. 1065-046). Despite being born with only one finger on his left hand, and in the face of repeated rejections, the Chester, South Carolina, native describes his efforts to enlist in the military. Ultimately, the army accepted him for limited duty, but, after basic training, Dorsey convinced his superiors to allow him to join a combat unit. The interviewee also discusses his work history and reunions with his army division and Gunskirchen survivors.
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.