Clark recalls what Johns Island was like when she became a teacher at the Promise Land School in 1916. Topics of discussion include transportation, the houses and living conditions on Johns Island, the importance of the Angel Oak tree to African Americans living on Johns Island, and the changes in the Angel Oak from 1916 to 1980.
Rabbi Hersh M. Galinsky, discusses the controversy that surrounded the establishment of a suburban minyan house during his tenure (1963 to 1970) at the Orthodox Brith Sholom Beth Israel, in Charleston, South Carolina. He also addresses the current—at the time of the interview—debate regarding moving the synagogue from its downtown location to West Ashley, where a majority of its members live.
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.
Leona Novit Siegel, joined by her son, Paul, discusses her relatives, the Zalins, the Novits, and the Bogoslows, and identifies the subjects of family photos during the interview. She was born and raised in Walterboro, South Carolina, where her father, Albert Novit, ran a general merchandise store before opening the Lady Lafayette Hotel, popular with honeymooners and tourists driving between New York and Florida. Albert, who was president of the Walterboro Chamber of Commerce, was known for his enthusiastic promotion of his adopted hometown as a great place to visit and to live. He persuaded traveler Arthur Bauer to put down roots and open the Lady Lafayette Grill, a restaurant to complement his hotel. He also convinced Leona’s husband, Sam Siegel, to move to Walterboro from Anderson, South Carolina. Leona’s maternal grandparents, Hyman and Anna Barth Zalin, emigrated from Russia and settled in Walterboro where they established a dry goods business. Anna’s sister, who had married a Bogoslow, followed. The Novits also emigrated from Eastern Europe, but made Charleston, South Carolina, their home. Leona describes how she met and married Sam, and recounts how she received news of the injuries Sam sustained in the Battle of the Bulge. Note: the transcript contains corrections made by Leona’s daughter Gale Messerman.
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.
Helen Goldman and Stephen Schein delivered this talk titled “The Jewish Community of Beaufort in 1905 and the Founding of Beth Israel Congregation” at the April 2005 meeting of the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina (JHSSC), held in Beaufort, South Carolina, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Beth Israel Congregation. Bernard Warshaw, president of the JHSSC, welcomes audience members and reads the governor’s proclamation honoring the anniversary, and Julian Levin introduces the speakers. Goldman and Schein discuss the history of the congregation and, more specifically, their grandfathers and founding members, David Schein and Morris Levin and their families.
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.
“Oldtimers and Newcomers” is a panel discussion held in 2004 at the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina’s spring meeting convened in Georgetown in honor of Temple Beth Elohim’s centennial year. “Oldtimers” Philip Schneider and Meyer Rosen provide background on Georgetown’s Jewish history, noting former mayors, prominent members of the community, and their own family stories. “Newcomers” and New York natives Ariane Lieberman and Gene Vinik discuss how their experiences, growing up in New York among a large population of Jews, differ from the small-town, southern culture of Georgetown. Bari Heiden, born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, joined the Georgetown congregation just six months before the panel met. She describes raising her children in Florence, South Carolina, where they were members of Beth Israel. Audience members contribute their memories of growing up in Georgetown and share their small-town stories.