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.
Bernard Warshaw discusses growing up in Walterboro, South Carolina, and the periods he spent in Charleston, first, from age nine to thirteen, when he was studying for his bar mitzvah and, later, while attending The Citadel. His parents, Murray and Dotty Bebergal Warshaw, emigrated as children from Poland in the early 1900s. They met in Charleston, where each had family, and moved to Walterboro after they married. Bernard talks about his family’s business, Warshaw’s, and Walterboro’s other Jewish merchants. He served in the army during World War II, and saved the photographs he took of the concentration camp in Dachau, which he visited the day after it was liberated. He married Ann Wagner of Boston and they raised three daughters in Walterboro. Among the topics discussed: intermarriage; the importance of religion and involvement in civic and political matters; the reason his children and grandchildren are more observant than he was as a child; and relations between Jews and African Americans. Note: See also Bernard Warshaw Holocaust atrocity photographs, Mss. 1065-027, Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
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.
Ben Stern, audio interview by Dale Rosengarten and Michael Samuel Grossman, 4 March 1997, Mss 1035-137, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Ben Stern, the youngest of Chaim and Hadassah Stern’s four children, was born in Kielce, Poland, in 1924. For a decade beginning in 1930, the family lived in Lodz where, Ben recalls, antisemitism was rampant. The Sterns returned to Kielce in 1940, hoping conditions created in the wake of the German occupation of Poland the year before, would not be felt as harshly in a smaller community. For a time, that was true. Ben comments on Hitler’s strategy and the Germans’ willingness to take part in his plan. His sister Faye and their parents were transported to Treblinka in 1942; he never saw them again. Ben was put to work by the Germans in a number of jobs that required intense physical labor, before being sent to Auschwitz in 1944. He describes how he got to the concentration camp, what happened when he arrived, and the effects the dehumanizing conditions had on the behavior of the inmates. He was transferred to a number of different camps before being liberated by Americans. He was reunited with his sister Sophie after the war. She had been sent to the same camp in Pionki as their brother, Joel, who died in a death march the day before they were liberated. After the war Ben lived in an apartment in Munich, Germany, where he met and married his wife, Jadzia Szklarz, also a survivor. The couple, with their daughter Lilly, immigrated to Columbia, South Carolina, in 1949, sponsored by Ben’s uncle Gabriel Stern, who had left Lodz many years before to escape antisemitism. Ben talks about his first jobs in Columbia, his four children, and how his belief in God changed.
Abraham Stern, audio interview by Robert Buxton, 11 April 1999, Mss 1035-211, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Abraham “Abe” Stern was ten years old in 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland. At the time his father owned a textile factory in Lodz and the family was well-off, but antisemitism, promoted by the government and the Catholic Church, was commonplace. Shortly after the German occupation, the Stern family was forced to move to the ghetto in Lodz, where they lived until 1944, when they were transported to Auschwitz. Abe describes the systematic approach to genocide practiced by the Germans, which began in the ghetto, included forced labor, and ended in death for many who never believed it would come to that. He recalls the degrading conditions in Auschwitz and the high death rate in the labor camp in Ahlem, Germany, where he was housed while working in Hannover. After liberation by the Americans, Abe and some buddies made their way to Bergen-Belsen in search of surviving family members. He recounts what they saw when they arrived. Abe caught up with his three sisters in Poland, and they returned with him to Marburg, Germany, where he worked in a kitchen for the American army while waiting to obtain permission to come to the United States. Abe lived in New York for a year before traveling to California, where a man associated with the Workman’s Circle introduced him to someone who gave him a job. A year or so later, in 1948, he joined the United States Air Force, which ultimately brought him to Sumter, South Carolina, where he met and married his wife, Rhea, and where they raised their three children. Abe discusses how he copes with his memories of the Holocaust, how he is bewildered by those who deny that it occurred, and his feelings about providing reparations for the victims.
Larry Freudenberg relates the history of both sides of his family. His mothers forebears, the Triests, immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, from Bavaria in the 1850s, opened a clothing store on King Street, and joined the Reform congregation, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. Larry's father, Henry Freudenberg, was a young boy when he escaped Nazi Germany in 1939 with his parents and grandparents. They eventually settled in Charleston. Larry discusses his experiences growing up in the 1960s and 70s, and feeling trapped between two cultures. Gentile children teased him for being Jewish, while Orthodox Jewish children accused him of being not Jewish enough. Larry runs the family's insurance business established in 1903 by his great-grandfather, Montague Triest.
Joe Engel, who was twelve years old when the Nazis occupied Poland in 1939, describes life in his home town of Zakroczym, Poland, before and after the invasion. His family fled to Warsaw and then Plonsk, the ghetto from which they were transported to concentration camps. Joe was imprisoned at Birkenau, Buna, and, Auschwitz. He made a daring escape from a train after surviving a death march. After the war ended, he immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, where decades later his vision led to the construction of the Holocaust Memorial.
Sandra Garfinkel Shapiro grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1930s and 40s, the youngest of six children of Jewish immigrants from Divin, Russia. She recalls her childhood years, including her involvement with Young Judea, the African-American woman who worked for the Garfinkel family, and her fathers mattress business. She has donated her personal collection of genealogy books, photos, and ephemera to the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston.
Philip Garfinkel, one of six children of Sam and Hannah Garfinkel, natives of Divin, Russia, grew up in the 1930s and ’40s in Charleston, South Carolina. Philip discusses his siblings, friends from the St. Philip Street neighborhood, and the family’s religious practices. He fondly recalls summers on Sullivan’s Island and afternoons at the Jewish Community Center on St. Philip Street.
Sisters Dorothea Dumas, Renée Frisch, and Jennie Ackerman recall their familys immigrant background and share memories of growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and 30s. Their father, New Yorker Louis Shimel, an attorney who married Lillian Fechter of Charleston, served as the assistant district attorney for the Southeast and was the first president of the Jewish Community Center. The sisters also discuss the founding of Emanu-El, Charlestons Conservative synagogue.
Judith Glassman and Bernice Goldman, daughters of Hyman and Eunice Poliakoff Draisen, share memories of growing up in the 1950s in Anderson, South Carolina. Among the topics they discuss are the familys music business, their religious training, and the anti-Semitism they encountered. They also describe their careers and immediate families.
Karl Karesh, born in 1912, discusses growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, focusing on his neighborhood, the local merchants, his Hebrew school training, and his family and their adherence to Orthodox religious observances. He addresses the differences between the uptown and downtown Jews before World War II, and describes his clothing business, and other Jewish- and gentile-owned dry goods stores, in Charleston during the post-war years.
Marshall Stein, born in Allendale, South Carolina, in 1935 to Lena Young and Max Stein, recounts the Stein and Young family histories. Lena, a Beaufort, South Carolina, native, was a daughter of Russian immigrants Toby and Julius Young, who, having lived in a number of northern cities, including New York, moved to Beaufort to take advantage of the lower cost of living and the less populated, rural atmosphere. Besides opening dry goods and furniture stores in Beaufort, the Youngs ran lumber mills in neighboring Burton and in Allendale, about sixty miles inland. The interviewee relays anecdotes about Julius, who was fully accepted by his fellow businessmen in Beaufort, so much so, he had the dubious distinction of being invited to join the Ku Klux Klan. Max Stein was one of four sons of Lena (same name as her daughter-in-law) and Morris Stein of Indianapolis, Indiana. Morris ran a tannery and frequently went on the road to sell his hides. Julius Young was one of his customers, and Max met his future wife, Lena, after accompanying his father on a sales trip. Max and his new bride tried living in Indianapolis, but Lena didn't like it, so they moved to Allendale where Max opened a grocery store. The family relocated to Beaufort when Marshall was six years old; by then, he was a big brother to Bernard. Max joined the Young family in the lumber industry, which expanded to include a building supply and contracting business in Beaufort. Marshall describes growing up in the Lowcountry town with his brother, Bernie, and his sister, Leonora Lynn, born four years after the move. He shares fond memories of the Youngs, particularly his four cousins, who were like brothers, and his aunt Sanie, who married Ben Fox of Asheville, North Carolina; Ben ran Fox's Jewelers on Bay Street in Beaufort. The interviewee cherished the small-town atmosphere and the intimacy of services and gatherings at Beaufort's Orthodox synagogue, Beth Israel, led by Rabbi Spier. He recalls one or two "Germanic Jewish" families living in Beaufort who didn't attend Beth Israel; instead they traveled to the Reform synagogue in Savannah or Charleston. "Because of that they didn't fit in too well with the rest." Note: the transcript includes comments and corrections made by the interviewee and interviewer during proofing.
Hanna Pearlstine, audio interview by Dale Rosengarten and Marilyn Cohn Fine, 28 August 1996 and 29 August 1996, Mss 1035-088, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Hanna Pearlstine, daughter of first cousins Shep and Sara Pearlstine, was born in 1903 in St. Matthews, South Carolina. She describes growing up in the small Midlands town where her father owned a grocery business and Puritan Farm, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. After attending Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Columbia College in New York City, Hanna taught history from 1928 to 1968 at Columbia High School in Columbia, South Carolina. She and her niece Marilyn Cohn Fine outline their family history, beginning with the emigration of Janetta (Jeanette) Karesh and Tanchum (Thomas) Pearlstine (Farber in the Old Country), Hanna’s great-grandparents, from Trzcianne, Russia, in the mid-1800s. Pearlstine relatives mentioned include the Hyams, Vineburg, Wolff, Jacobs, and Cohen families. Hanna also discusses her visit to Washington, D.C., as a guest of Senator Strom Thurmond, her membership in Tree of Life Congregation in Columbia, and relations between her family and the African Americans who worked for her parents in their home and their warehouse. Note: for several related collections, search for “Pearlstine” in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
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.
Longtime jazz director for Spoleto Festival U.S.A., Michael Grofsorean talks about his history at the festival since 1980. He relates anecdotes about past performers, including Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Sarah Vaughan and Ray Charles and describes the process that goes into selecting the artists for each festival. He discusses festival founder Gian Carlo Menotti's distaste for jazz, the rocky years of festival finances, the NAACP boycott of South Carolina that nearly derailed the 2000 jazz program and describes why the city of Charleston is the perfect venue for the festival. Audio with transcript.
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.
Lilly Stern Filler was born in Munich, Germany, in 1947 to Holocaust survivors Jadzia Szklarz and Ben Stern. The Sterns immigrated two years later to Columbia, South Carolina, where Gabriel Stern, Ben’s uncle and immigration sponsor, lived. This interview opens with Lilly describing a Stern (Szterenzys) family photo taken, presumably, in Poland when Ben was a little boy. Ben met Jadzia after the war through Jadzia’s brother Ben Szklarz, who was his bunkmate in the concentration camps. Lilly recounts how her parents were reunited with their siblings after the war and talks about her aunts, uncle, and cousins. The oldest of four, she shares memories of and thoughts about growing up as a daughter of survivors. After encountering antisemitism when trying to join a high school social club, Lilly’s involvement with Jewish youth groups intensified. She elaborates on what Judaism means to her, and what it means to have a Jewish home. The interviewee recalls meeting her husband, Bruce Filler, a Rhode Island native, at Rusk Institute in New York City, where both were working as physical therapists. They married in 1972, moved to Massachusetts, earned graduate degrees, and in 1975 welcomed daughter Rachel before deciding to relocate to Columbia, where they opened their own practice, Columbia Rehabilitation Clinic. Sons Alex and Michael were born in 1978 and 1980. Four years later, Lilly, pursuing a long-held dream, started medical school at the University of South Carolina. She relates some of the issues she faced going to medical school and starting a new career as a woman in her thirties and forties, and as the mother of young children. She describes partnering with Richland Memorial Hospital to open Women Physicians Associates, an all-female OB-GYN practice. In 2000 Lilly followed up on an initiative her parents had started years before to erect a Holocaust Memorial in Columbia. She discusses how the project grew to include various members of the Columbia community, Jewish and non-Jewish. The monument, located in Memorial Park, was dedicated in 2001. The Columbia Holocaust Education Commission was established with surplus from the memorial fund and shared the same goals: “remember the six million . . . honor the survivors and the liberators . . . and educate South Carolinians about the Holocaust.”
Conie Spigel Ferguson was born and raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the daughter of Geneva Fulk and Julian Spigel. She talks about her great-uncle Joel Spigel and her grandfather David Manuel Spigel of Prussia, who immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s. The brothers, who were jewelers, lived for a time in the Newberry-Columbia area, where David met and married Theresa “Daisy” Mittle. The Spigels, Joel included, moved to Spartanburg in 1903, where they opened a jewelry store. Conie’s father, Julian Spigel, was pushed to go to medical school by his parents. He met Geneva at a hospital in North Carolina where she was working as a nurse. Geneva came from a family of Moravians and was expected to leave school before completing her education to work on the family farm. However, she left home, took a job and a room with another family, graduated from high school, and earned a nursing degree. She married Julian in 1941, and they moved to Texas where Julian, an M.D., worked at a hospital before being called home to Spartanburg by his father in 1947, shortly after Conie’s brother, Joel David, was born. Julian helped out with the family jewelry business and took over after David Spigel’s death in 1949. He did not work again in medicine. Although Geneva did not convert to Judaism, she raised Joel and Conie in a Jewish household, insofar as they observed all the holidays. The children attended Sunday school, and Geneva was active in the B’nai Israel Sisterhood and B’nai B’rith. As the daughter of a gentile mother, Conie discusses how she was received by the rabbi and members of the temple. She recalls Rabbi Max Stauber who was hired in 1955 and served the congregation for nearly 30 years, noting that he was “like a second father” to her. The interviewee describes her devotion to Jewish religious observance and what she values in a rabbi. She relates incidences of antisemitism she experienced while in secondary school and at Spartanburg Junior College (now Spartanburg Methodist College). Conie responds to questions about race relations in Spartanburg, and reports that she never witnessed any conflicts between black and white students in her high school.
Isidore Denemark was born in 1910 in Mayesville, South Carolina, the son of Eastern European immigrants Sara Lee “Lizzie” Siegel and Jacob Denemark. Jacob arrived in New York and, at some point, moved to Georgetown, South Carolina, where he worked for the Fogel Brothers in their general merchandise store. Isidore doesn’t know when or where his parents married. He describes a number of moves the family made after Jacob left Georgetown. They ran stores in Mayesville, South Carolina, Sumter, South Carolina, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They returned to Sumter around 1935 where Jacob went into business with Sara’s brother Harry Siegel on Main Street and Sara opened the Smart Shop, which sold dresses. Isidore recalls his father packing up his merchandise and following the tobacco workers around during harvest season in the Carolinas and Tennessee. The interviewee talks about his family’s religious observances as Orthodox Jews when he was growing up and his practices as an adult. He and interviewer Robert Moses are members of Sumter’s Temple Sinai, a small Reform congregation. Both men express frustration and concern about the lack of attendance at Sabbath services by members of the younger generations. They contemplate the reasons for the low levels of participation and compare the Jewish community of Sumter to the large and vibrant one in Charleston, South Carolina. Isidore earned an accounting degree at New York University and returned to Sumter in 1936 to work for Boyle Construction Company as a CPA. He was joined by his first wife, Gladys “Jimmy” Goldsmith, and they raised two children, Bennett and Adele. He talks about how he met Jimmy, who died in 1966. He married Rae Nussbaum Addlestone, originally from Charleston, who was present at this interview. Isidore was one of six or so people who put up money for a new summer camp for Jewish children. They bought more than two hundred acres in Cleveland, GA, and named it Camp Coleman, for the man who made the largest donation. Isidore and Robert discuss the absence of antisemitism in Sumter and how Jewish residents have been prominent in every part of Sumter life. Isidore addresses the issue of the Confederate flag flying on the South Carolina statehouse grounds.
Joan Weisblum Steinberg Loeb, born in 1918 in Brooklyn, New York, married Matthew Steinberg and moved to his native city of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1936. Joan, a daughter of Elsie Aleskowitz and Philip Weisblum, recounts some of her family history, and describes how she met Matthew, who earned his M.D. from the Medical College of South Carolina, and their wedding in the Weisblum’s Brooklyn home. Her mother-in-law, Anna Bell Kaminski Steinberg, taught her how to keep a kosher home. The interviewee, who had no formal religious upbringing, recalls attending High Holy Day services at her husband’s Orthodox congregation, Brith Sholom. She notes that Matthew served as mohel for the congregation following Reverend Feinberg, who was also the cantor and the shochet. Interviewer Sandra Rosenblum reports that her husband, Raymond Rosenblum, a urologist, later assumed the role. In 1947, Joan and Matthew left Brith Sholom and joined roughly seventy families in becoming founding members of the Conservative Synagogue Emanu-El. Joan points to the leadership of Charleston native, Macey Kronsberg, the congregation’s first president, as pivotal in organizing the faction that was dissatisfied with Orthodox practices. Joan notes the source of discontent: “It was the fact that the women were not part of the service at all, and the families did not sit together. This didn’t satisfy this generation. They wanted the children to be part of it and to learn and to have an interest, and not to have to just be banged over the head in Hebrew school to learn enough for a bar mitzvah, and goodbye Charlie.” Joan and Matthew donated the first sanctuary, an army chapel, for Emanu-El’s Gordon Street property. Joan lists many of the names and professions of the charter members. She discusses the differences among Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism, and some of the changes that have taken place in her lifetime. Participants recall the mid-twentieth century practices and attitudes of Charleston’s Reform congregants (Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim) and the two Orthodox congregations, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, and they examine their own, and others’, experiences of keeping kosher—or not. Joan briefly mentions the three women’s organizations she joined in Charleston: the National Council of Jewish Women, the Daughters of Israel, and the Happy Workers. She goes into some detail about why her father thought U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the “biggest hypocrite and enemy of the Jews.” Matthew Steinberg died in 1968. Three years later, Joan married B. Frank Loeb of Montgomery, Alabama, where she was living at the time of the interview. She provides a brief history of Montgomery’s Reform congregation, Temple Beth Or.
Sidney Rittenberg, born in 1921, talks about growing up in Charleston, South Carolina. He relates memories of his parents, Muriel Sluth (Slutsky) and Sidney Rittenberg, Sr., and his older sister, Elinor, who married Art Weinberger, also of Charleston. The interviewee’s paternal grandfather, Samuel Oscar Rittenberg (1867–1932) emigrated from Lithuania and, after living in New York for a time, ended up in Charleston working in real estate with Triest & Israel. Samuel served as president of Brith Sholom Synagogue and was a South Carolina state legislator. Sidney Sr. was a reporter for the News and Courier before becoming a self-taught attorney, partnering with Louis Shimel in the law firm Shimel & Rittenberg. He was a Charleston City Councilman, active in local civic clubs, and associated with many prominent Charlestonians of his day. Although his parents often attended Shabbat services at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, Charleston’s Reform synagogue, the interviewee notes that they didn’t observe the High Holidays. Growing up, Sidney had Jewish and non-Jewish friends. He says, “I didn’t really like being Jewish because it separated me from the other kids. . . . I thought, ‘I’m an American. Why should I be anything else?’” Sidney noticed tension between the Reform Jews and the Orthodox Jews. “People looked down on each other because they weren’t strict enough or they were too strict.” He describes instances of antisemtism; portrays an African-American man who made baskets and wove figures like dolls and ships; and recalls enjoying children’s programs offered by The Charleston Museum. The interviewee discusses an incident that deeply affected him as a fourteen-year-old; he witnessed the unjust treatment of a black man by the police and was powerless to stop it. See also Sidney’s second interview with Dale Rosengarten on June 19, 2013, and his two interviews with cousin Deborah Lipman Cochelin on July 27, 2013, and October 27, 2013.
Faye Goldberg Miller, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1938, talks about growing up on St. Philip Street, one of three children of Polish immigrants Jeanette Altman and George Goldberg. She explains why her father changed his name to Goldberg from Geldbart after arriving in the United States. George followed his brother Israel to Charleston and opened a men’s clothing shop on King Street. The family observed the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays and Jeanette kept a kosher kitchen. Despite encountering antisemitism from a few neighborhood children, Faye says she “had a wonderful childhood in Charleston.” Faye married Ivan Miller and they raised three children, Shira, Robert, and Bruce, in Columbia, South Carolina. She discusses the family business, Groucho’s Delicatessen, purchased in the early 1940s from the Rivkins by Ivan’s father, Harold Miller, with the help of Harold’s brother-in-law John Gottlieb.
Beryle Stern Jaffe, born in 1945, talks about growing up in Columbia, South Carolina. She is the eldest daughter of Sarah Kramer and Henry Stern. After Henry was discharged from the military, the Sterns settled in Henry’s home city of Columbia, where he joined his father, Gabe Stern, in his dry goods business, at that time located in nearby Lexington. Beryle recalls segregation and how prejudice against African Americans manifested in public, as well as in her own home with regard to their hired help. The interviewee married Pierre Jaffe in 1967. Pierre, a native of Paris, France, immigrated as a child to the United States with his mother, who had married an American soldier. Pierre and Beryle raised two children, Jason and Erin, in Columbia. Interviewer Lilly Stern Filler’s parents, Ben and Jadzia Stern, were Holocaust survivors who settled in Columbia after World War II. Beryle and Lilly describe the degree to which Lilly’s parents, particularly her father, adjusted to life in a new country.
Marian Calhoun Murray was born in Evanston, Illinois, and later moved with her family to Asheville, where she attended high school. While at Agnes Scott College, she was invited to a house party at Edisto, where she met her future husband, J.G. Murray, a native Edistonian. They married in 1935, in Asheville; she was henceforth known on Edisto as ‘the girl from off.’ The couple moved to the Island after a brief stay in Mt. Pleasant, where J.G. worked with Micah Jenkins at Boone Hall. Coming from the city, Marian had much to get used to when they moved to Edisto: the smell of pluff mud, no electricity, water delivered by a pump, and a wood stove to cook on. J.G. had gotten a job as landscape architect for the Edisto Beach State Park, being built by CCC workers. Marian and a friend tried to teach the young CCC workers to read and write—her first foray into teaching. Marian spoke briefly about the economy on Edisto in those early days, mentioning a repair shop, an oyster factory, several stores (Perry’s, Bailey’s, Posner’s), and farming, the backbone of the economy. By the mid-1940s, J.G. was managing the farm at Cypress Trees Plantation. Farming was done with mules, carts, and wagon, using the task system developed in the plantation days. Major crops were cabbages and potatoes. She also recounted memories of the hurricanes of 1940 and 1959 on Edisto, as well as wartime rationing. In 1941, when a vacancy came up at the Edisto Island School, Marian got a job teaching English, Latin, science, and biology. Parker Connor was the principal; other teachers during her time there included Sally Pope, Arlene Jenkins, Sarah Hopkinson, Lena Armstrong, Florence Park, and Clytie Sayer. Marian spoke of the strong support from the parent organization and from churches—only two at that time, she said, Presbyterian and Episcopalian—which put on annual holiday parties, operettas, and minstrel shows. The school underwent many changes during her 30-yeare tenure, including consolidation with mainland schools. The Edisto Island School closed in 1971, and Marian went on to teach at St. Paul’s Academy through 1976, serving in 1977 as headmistress. But she mourned the loss to Edisto: ‘We were sorry to see the school close,’ she said, ‘because that ended the main community spirit that held us together.’
Carolee Rosen Fox, born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, relates some of her Charleston family history. Her maternal great-grandparents, Caroline Goldstein and Isaac Belitzer, lived at 344 East Bay Street in Charleston, South Carolina. Carolee describes the home, known as the John Falls Walker House. It was passed down in the family to her great-aunt Gertrude Belitzer who, in turn, left it to the interviewee’s mother, Selina Leidloff, daughter of Blanche Belitzer and photographer Herman Leidloff. The house, featured in the Historic American Building Survey collection in the Library of Congress, was torn down in 1961. Carolee briefly discusses how her mother, Selina, met her father, Abe Rosen, a New York dress manufacturer.
Jack Bloom describes growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, where his grandfather Harris Bloom, originally from Bialystok, Poland, established Bloom's Department Store around 1910. After serving in World War I, Jack's father, Julius, married Jennie Shatenstein, whose family lived for a time in a New Jersey agricultural settlement sponsored by the Baron de Hirsch Fund. Julius opened his own shop in Greenville, but later joined his father in business. The interviewee discusses his thoughts and current practices in regard to the laws of kashrut, and notes that his mother kept kosher but served classic southern cuisine. His family, including his brother, Melvin, and his sister, Shirley, celebrated all the Jewish holidays, and Julius, who closed his store on the High Holidays, was the cantor for their synagogue, Beth Israel. Jack recalls a few of the earlier Jewish families that settled in Greenville, and mentions several Jewish men, besides himself, who served in World War II. After discharge from the army, he attended Duke University Law School and returned home to open a practice. He married New Yorker Lillian Chernoff in 1963. Jack discusses his religious views and the history of Beth Israel, which, he notes, joined the Conservative Movement in the late 1940s. Note: the transcript includes comments added by the interviewee during proofing. For a related collection, the Julius H. Bloom papers, see Mss. 1034-012, Special Collections, College of Charleston.
Helen Laufer Dwork Berle describes growing up in her native city, Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and 30s. She discusses in detail Jewish merchants and the St. Philip Street neighborhood. Her parents, Harry and Tillie Hufeizen Laufer, who immigrated from Mogelnitsa, Poland, owned a mens clothing store on King Street before opening a restaurant. Laufers was Charlestons first kosher restaurant and served as a social hub during World War II.
Rose Louise Aronson was raised in Orangeburg, South Carolina, the great-granddaughter of Moritz Rich who, with his brother Lipman, emigrated from Prussia before the Civil War and settled successively in Charleston, St. Matthews, and Orangeburg. About 1890, her maternal grandfather, Louis Leopold Block, a German immigrant, joined the Hirsch brothers in their dry goods business in Camden. In the 1950s, Rose Louise was instrumental in organizing Temple Sinai, Orangeburg’s Jewish congregation.
Fay Alfred follows up on information she broached in her first interview. She also discusses what happened to her relatives living in Europe during World War II, and her brother’s death while being held as a POW in the Philippines. She and her daughter, Marlene Addlestone, recall visiting her in-laws at their resort in South Haven, Michigan, and Mrs. Addlestone, talks about living in Charleston, South Carolina, where she moved after marrying Avram Kronsberg in 1959.
Barry Draisen was raised in post-World War II Anderson, South Carolina, where his parents owned a jewelry and music store. After working in several states as an engineer for General Electric, he returned to his hometown with his wife, Ellen Cherkas of Atlanta, to help run the family business. The couple decided to remain in Anderson where they took over the store, raised their children, and became active members and leaders of Temple B’nai Israel.
Brothers David and Sam Draisen, descendants of Russian immigrants from the Draisen and Poliakoff families, describe the family jewelry and music businesses and their experiences growing up in Anderson, South Carolina, in the years after World War II. They also discuss the history of Andersons Jewish congregation, Bnai Israel, and provide details about their careers and immediate families.
Born in 1927, Sophia Marie Friedheim Beers was raised in the Protestant faith in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Her grandfather Arnold Friedheim, a German Jewish immigrant, settled in the town after the Civil War. His brother, Julius, followed him to Rock Hill and together they ran A. Friedheim and Brother. The department store, which supplied uniforms to Winthrop College students, closed its doors in 1964 after nearly a century in business. Sophia recounts the story of her cousins, the Schwartzes, who escaped Nazi Germany in 1938 and came to Rock Hill.
Harold Marion Aronson, born in Lane, South Carolina, in 1919, grew up in New Jersey, but returned with his family to South Carolina where they opened a dry goods store in Kingstree. Harold, who flew weather reconnaissance missions for the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, married Rose Louise Rich in 1944 and, later, settled in Rose Louise’s hometown, Orangeburg, South Carolina. The Aronsons established a successful aluminum awning business and raised two daughters.
Hyman Rubin describes his upbringing in Norway, South Carolina, and later in Columbia, where his family owned a wholesale dry goods store. He talks about his experience at the University of South Carolina, and recounts his political career and tenure on Columbia's city council (1952-1966) and in the state senate from 1966-1984. In 1940, he married Rose Rudnick of Aiken, South Carolina.
Interview with Eugene C. Hunt by Edmund L. Drago, August 28, 1980 and November 4, 1980, AMN 500.001.005.1980, in the Avery Normal Institute Oral History Project, of the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston
Rebecca Bryan discusses memories of her life in Charleston. She mentions a contest between the fire departments, the Womens Exchange on King Street, Dixie Antique Shop, transportation as a young girl, several significant earthquakes and hurricanes, the history of her house at 110 Broad Street, the Battery as a child, her childhood schooling, the Charleston Exposition of 1901, and a story about the Charleston Light Dragoons. Audio with transcript and tape log.
Marian Birlant Slotin discusses the history of her fathers antique business, George C. Birlant & Company, which he established in 1929 in Charleston, South Carolina. George married Lillian Marcus of Kingstree, South Carolina, and despite their Orthodox backgrounds, they raised Marian, their only child, in the Reform tradition. Marian reminisces about her childhood and many of her close and distant relatives. She married Phil Slotin of Georgia, and they raised two boys. As of 2011, the antique shop remains in the family, run by their son, Andrew.
Rabbi Gerald Isaac Wolpe, a descendant of Polish and Lithuanian Jews, grew up an only child in Roxbury, Massachusetts, surrounded by extended family. After graduating from rabbinical school in 1953, he served as a chaplain in the United States Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune. Two years later, his civilian career was launched in Charleston, South Carolina, where he led the Conservative Synagogue Emanu-El until 1958. The rabbi discusses far-ranging topics including the Jewish businessmen of Charleston, his view of what fueled the Conservative movement, how he balanced his personal beliefs about segregation with the concerns of his southern congregants, the making of Porgy and Bess, and how South Carolina Representative L. Mendel Rivers got his name. After serving Temple Beth El in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for eleven years, Wolpe moved to Har Zion in Philadelphia, where he led the congregation for three decades before retiring.
Louis Funkenstein of Athens, Georgia, married Caroline Geisberg, a native of Anderson, South Carolina, and the couple settled in Caroline’s hometown where Louis established a paper box company. The Funkensteins describe their family histories and discuss a variety of topics including religious practices and Jewish-gentile relations in Anderson.
Ella Levenson Schlosburg, the daughter of emigrants from Lithuania, recounts her family history and describes growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family in the small midlands town of Bishopville, South Carolina. Her father, Frank Levenson, one of a handful of Jewish merchants in Bishopville in the early 1900s, ran a general store that sold everything from groceries to mules. Ella married Elihu Schlosburg, the son of Anna Karesh and Harry Schlosburg, and they moved to Camden, South Carolina, where they established a liquor business.
Sura Wolff Wengrow grew up in Allendale, South Carolina, in the first quarter of the twentieth century where her father, Henry Wolff, a German immigrant, ran a general merchandise store. In 1901, Henry married Rachel Pearlstine of Branchville, South Carolina. The family kept kosher and observed the holidays, but Sura did not receive a Jewish education, formal or otherwise. With no other Jewish families in town, she socialized, as a child, with gentiles and attended their church events, a pattern of assimilation she would repeat while living in Allendale during the early years of her marriage to Sam Wengrow of Beaufort, South Carolina. Longing for a connection to Judaism, and wanting her children to be involved in synagogue life, the Wengrows moved to Columbia when their oldest son was twelve. Note: This transcript appears to have been heavily edited with corrections, deletions, and additions by the interviewee and/or her son during proofing. Therefore, the transcript differs somewhat from the audio.
Reverend McKinley Washington was born in a small community outside of Sumter, South Carolina called Stackhouse Place. In this interview he talks about life on Edisto Island during the height of the civil rights movement including the changes he has witnessed. McKinley’s dad was a sharecropper and his mom a teacher. He graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina with both a degree in political science and religion and a Master of Divinity. During college in the early 60’s he was part of a lunch counter demonstration and listened to Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X when they visited campus. McKinley shares many of his own civil rights experiences. He came to Edisto Island in the mid-60’s to pastor the Edisto Presbyterian Church which was African-American. At this time the African-American community was very poor. Rev. Washington helped organize and was part of the South Carolina Commission for Farm Workers, Community Action Program, Head Start Program, Political Action Committee, and the NAACP. He describes how he worked to get African-American’s registered to vote, to integrate the local schools, the state park, and swim on Edisto beach. He was persuaded to run for public office and elected to the State House of Representatives. There his goal was to get things done in rural areas such as Edisto Island. He fought for roads to be paved, ditches to be cleaned, and was instrumental in getting money for a new bridge to replace the often broken down drawbridge. The new 1993 bridge is named in his honor. He went to Washington to plead for the Sea Island Healthcare Center. After the old Edisto Island School closed rather than be integrated, he helped the African-American community buy it for recreation, summer, adult education, and daycare programs, and community center. McKinley describes his work with Fritz Hollings and the changes in the Republican and Democratic parties. He says that while things have improved tremendously for African-Americans, there is a lot still left undone.