New Yorker Ira Kaye and his wife, Ruth Barnett Kaye, of Sumter, South Carolina, discuss Ira’s work as a defense attorney in Japan’s war crimes trials, the reluctance of Sumter’s Jews to speak out against segregation, and Ira’s experience with racism in South Carolina and representation of a tri-racial isolate group called the Turks. They also recall their experiences living in Nepal and India while Ira served in the Peace Corps.
Ruth Kaye, born in 1913, grew up in Sumter, South Carolina, the granddaughter of Estonian immigrant, B. J. Barnett who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. The Barnetts became landowners and cotton farmers, and ran a general store. Ruth’s mother, Emma Klein, was born in Hungary and raised in Pennsylvania and New York. Ruth recounts her family history on both sides, and describes her visits with the New York Kleins.
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.
Doris Baumgarten tells the story of how her husband, Peter, and his family escaped Vienna in 1939 after the Nazi occupation of Austria. Peter and his brother, Hans, left on the Kindertransport and were taken in at a boarding school in Bournemouth, England. Their mother worked in London as a maid, but was able to join her boys in Bournemouth when the school hired her to clean their facilities. Their father was in Sweden during the German annexation and was unable to return to Vienna because of an invalid passport. Instead, he made his way to New York, arriving in the United States a year before his wife and children.
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.
Betty Hirsch Lancer, the daughter of emigrants from Mogelnitza, Poland, describes growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the decades before World War II. Her father acted in New York’s Yiddish theaters with limited success, and his father made and sold schnapps out of his house on St. Philip Street during Prohibition. Betty recalls the Great Depression, discusses how her parents made a living, and mentions other families in Charleston who were from Mogelnitza.
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.
Claire Fund recounts how her Jewish parents survived World War II. Her father Charles Fund and his sister Esther were born in Yeremsha, Poland, in the early 1900s. Charles trained as an engineer in France, joined a branch of the French Army, and ended up in Glasgow, Scotland. There he met his wife, Aurelia Frenkel of Vienna, who had escaped Austria on foot in 1939. Esther, a dentist who had returned home to practice, hid in a farmers barn for more than a year to evade the Germans. Once it was safe for her to come out of hiding, she joined the Free Czechoslovakian Army, where she met her husband, Miroslav Kerner.
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.
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.