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.
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.
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.
Max and Trude Schönthal Heller discuss growing up in Vienna, Austria, in the 1920s and ’30s, and the hardships and losses their families experienced as a result of the Anschluss, the German invasion of Austria in 1938. They describe how they and their family members escaped Austria and made their separate ways to the United States. Max, by chance, had met Mary Mills of Greenville, South Carolina, while she was visiting Vienna in 1937. He appealed to her for help in leaving Austria. Mary contacted Shep Saltzman, a Jewish man who owned a shirt factory in Greenville, and he sponsored Max’s immigration and gave him a job. Max and Trude, who met at a summer resort in Austria in 1937, married in the United States in 1942, and Trude joined Max in Greenville, where they raised their three children. Max served on Greenville’s city council from 1969-1971, and then was elected mayor for two terms, during which he spearheaded a major revitalization of the city’s downtown.
Olga Garfinkel Weinstein, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1917, describes her childhood, including her siblings, the Jewish Community Center, and the traditional Jewish foods her mother served. Olga experienced no anti-Semitism as a schoolgirl, but discusses her awareness, as a young woman during World War II, of what was happening to the Jews in Europe.
Sandra Goldberg Lipton discusses her family background including that of her father, Nathan Goldberg, and her maternal grandparents, Mendel and Esther Read Dumas. Nathan married the Dumas’s daughter, Lenora, and moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Sandra discusses their involvement in Emanu-El, Charleston’s Conservative synagogue. She married Morey Lipton, who talks about growing up in Beaufort, South Carolina, and Beth Israel Congregation where he attended Hebrew school.