Irving Abrams moved with his family to Greenville, South Carolina, in 1936, where his father, Harry, led the effort to revive Temple of Israel, the city's Reform congregation. Harry managed the Piedmont Shirt Company, and hired African-Americans as early as 1939. Irving married Marjorie Kohler of Knoxville, Tennessee, followed his father into textiles, and oversaw the integration of his factory during the Civil Rights Movement.
William Ackerman, the son of Hungarian immigrants, grew up in a small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania, with a community of about 35 Orthodox Jewish families who came from the same region of Hungary. He married Jennie Shimel of Charleston, South Carolina, and worked there as an attorney, joining her father, Louis Shimel, in his practice. He developed the suburban neighborhood and shopping center, South Windermere, and was a founder of the Conservative synagogue, Emanu-El.
Sarah Burgen Ackerman, the daughter of Polish immigrants, grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. She moved to Walhalla and, later, Fort Mill, South Carolina, after she married George Ackerman, a cantor and Hebrew teacher. The couple operated stores in both locations and raised four children.
Nathan Addlestone, son of Abraham and Rachel Lader Addlestone, immigrants from Bialystok and Lithuania respectively, describes growing up in Charleston, Oakley, and Sumter, South Carolina. His father got his start by peddling and owned a number of dry goods stores before opening a small scrap metal yard. The family was Orthodox and Rachel managed to keep a kosher house all her life. In the 1930s Nathan joined his father in his scrap metal business and, by the next decade, became successful in his own right. Nathan married Ruth Axelrod and they raised two daughters, Carole and Susan, in Sumter and Charleston, South Carolina. After their divorce, he married Marlene Laro Kronsberg.
Alex Davis, joined by his niece, Suzanne Lurey, who speaks only briefly, discusses his family history and his experiences growing up in Greenville, South Carolina. His father, Victor Davis, opened an auto parts store in Greenville in 1926 and, after he died, Alex and his two brothers, Jack and Louis, ran the family business for nearly four more decades. Alex married Lillian Zaglin, also of Greenville, and they raised two children. He recalls the early leaders of Congregation Beth Israel, Greenville’s Orthodox synagogue, and describes the relationship between Beth Israel, now Conservative, and the Reform congregation, Temple of Israel.
Philip Schneider, born and raised in Georgetown, South Carolina, and Charlestonian Alwyn Goldstein, who moved to Georgetown in 1938 to open a store, discuss the town’s Jewish religious and business life. Among the merchants were Philip’s grandmother, Sally Lewenthal, and his father, Albert Schneider, who went into business with Philip’s uncle, Harry Rosen. Both interviewees recall the effects of the Great Depression in their native cities.
Sisters Anne and Julie Oxler spent most of their formative years in the 1930s and 1940s in Charleston, South Carolina, where their immigrant father, William, ran the New York Shoe Repair, and the family attended Beth Israel. Eva Levy of Columbia, South Carolina, married their brother, Herbert, who was the credit manager at Altman’s Furniture Store in Charleston for three decades. Wendy Twing, Anne’s daughter, compares her upbringing with that of her mother and aunts.
Harry Appel’s parents, Abraham Appel and Ida Goldberg, emigrated separately from Kaluszyn, Poland, in the early twentieth century. They met, married, and raised three children in Charleston, South Carolina. Their eldest, Harry, born in 1924, talks about his siblings, growing up in the St. Philip Street neighborhood, and Charleston’s synagogues.
Edward Mirmow and Rose Louise Aronson, who grew up in Orangeburg, recall the city’s Jewish families, descendants of German and Russian immigrants, and the types of stores they operated, dating to the 1930s. Edward’s paternal relatives, the Mirmowitzes and the Goldiners, emigrated from Russia around the turn of the 20th century. In the 1950s, Rose led an effort to organize a congregation for the benefit of Orangeburg’s Jewish children, including her two daughters, and Temple Sinai was founded.
Zerline Levy Williams Richmond and her children, Arthur Williams and Betty Gendelman, recount the Levy and Williams family histories, including Zerline’s mother’s stint as Charleston’s first female rice broker, and the Williamses’ kindergarten on George Street. The Williams family were members of Charleston’s Reform temple, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.
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.
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.
Helen "Elkie" Rosenshein recalls childhood friends and neighbors from the 1920s and ’30s in Charleston, South Carolina. Her parents, Sam and Hannah Garfinkel, immigrants from Divin, Russia, followed Sam’s brother to the coastal city and opened a mattress factory. She describes the traditional Jewish foods served by her mother, who kept a kosher home with the help of an African American woman named Louisa. After working at the Charleston Navy Yard, Helen and her good friend, Freda Goldberg, spent a year in San Francisco, where they took advantage of local cultural events and volunteered at the Jewish Community Center.
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.
Ellis Irvin Kahn, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, describes his family background and his years growing up in the coastal city where his father owned a wholesale and retail grocery business. His great-grandfather, Josiah Kaminitsky, appears in the South Carolina Supreme Court records of 1885. He lost both legs in a train accident, sued the North Eastern Railroad Company, and won. Ellis, an attorney and former president of the Charleston Jewish Federation, recounts the aftereffects of Hurricane Hugo (1989) on the areas residents and the relief efforts of local, national, and Israeli Jews. He married Janice Weinstein of Shreveport, Louisiana, and the couple raised three children in Charleston.
Robert M. Zalkin grew up in Charleston during the Great Depression, a grandson of Lithuanian immigrant Robert (Glick) Zalkin, who opened Zalkin’s Kosher Meat and Poultry Market on King Street. Robert served in the army during World War II, earned an engineering degree from the University of South Carolina, and married Harriet Rivkin, whose father ran a delicatessen in Columbia.
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.
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.
Margot Strauss Freudenberg recalls life in Germany before and after Hitler came to power. She was born in Hanover in 1907 to a family that was proud to be Jewish, but limited religious observance to the High Holidays. Margot describes the debate among Jewish Germans, including her own parents, about the necessity of leaving Nazi Germany, and her struggle to get her family out of the country. They eventually escaped to Charleston, South Carolina, where Margot became a well-known community activist.
Holocaust survivor, Pincus Kolender, tells the story of his life from his boyhood in Bochnia, Poland, to the significance of the Holocaust Memorial in his adopted city of Charleston, South Carolina, where he and his wife, Renee, a fellow survivor, raised their children. He describes life in Bochnias Jewish ghetto after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, his captivity at Birkenau, Buna, and Auschwitz, evading selection for the gas chambers, being wounded in an Allied air attack, surviving a death march, escaping the Nazis, hiding in the Czech forest, working for an American army unit, and immigrating to America.
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.
Rose Rubin, daughter of Polish immigrants Sophie Halpern and Morris Rudnick, recounts stories about her family’s life in the Old Country and her parents’ immigration to New York. Sophie moved with her first husband, Ralph Panitz, to Aiken, South Carolina, for his health. The town had a reputation as a salubrious retreat for people with pulmonary problems. Morris followed his sister, Anne, who had married Solomon Surasky, to Aiken, where he married Sophie after she became widowed. Rose describes her mother’s awareness of the dangers of the Nazi regime and her efforts to convince family members to come to America, and discusses the history of “Happyville,” a Jewish farming community, established just outside of Aiken in 1905. Rose married former state senator Hyman Rubin of Columbia, South Carolina.
Sam Kirshtein is the son of Polish immigrants who, like many of their landsmen from Kaluszyn, Poland, settled in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1900s. Sam, who was born in 1925 and grew up in the St. Philip Street neighborhood, describes the “Uptown” and “Downtown” Jews, and the two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel. After serving in the army’s Chemical Warfare Service during World War II, he returned home to help out at the family’s furniture store on King Street.
In 1942, Paula Kornblum and her sister Hannah escaped the mass murder of Jews in their home town of Kaluszyn, Poland, at the hands of the Nazis. Assuming false identities, the two lived and worked in Cz?stochowa, Poland, until the Russian liberation. Paula describes returning to Kaluszyn after the war, living in a Displaced Persons camp, and the emigration process. She married Henry Popowski, also of Kaluszyn, and they and their first-born son immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, with the help of their landsmen.
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.