Helen Berle, a daughter of Harry and Tillie Hufeizen Laufer, immigrants from Mogelnitsa, Poland, reminisces about her parents’ business, Laufer’s Kosher Restaurant on King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. Popular among local merchants and military servicemen stationed in Charleston and Beaufort, the eatery served Jews and non-Jews for about two decades beginning in the early 1930s. Berle describes some of the kosher-style dishes that Jews from the Old Country brought with them to America. “Everything was just good, plain, old, basic cooking. . . . I think seasoning had a lot to do with it.” While blacks could not eat at Laufer’s, they were hired to work in the kitchen, and she recalls that the relationship between members of the Jewish and black communities of Charleston were good in the years before the Civil Rights Movement. She briefly mentions a branch of her mother’s family, the Hufeisens of France, who were also in the restaurant business. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by Helen during proofing.
Bertha Lazarus Breibart, daughter of immigrants Louis and Rose Lazarus (Lazarowitz), discusses growing up in Charleston and Summerville, South Carolina, in the 1920s and ’30s. Louis arrived in New York in 1902, worked as a tailor, and, later, his wife and their first child, Max, joined him. The family moved to Charleston, where Louis ran a shoe repair shop in various locations on King Street. When they moved to Summerville, he reopened on Main Street. Bertha remembers that her father struggled to make a living; they were a “very poor family,” one that included three brothers, Max, Morris, and Herman, all much older than Bertha. The family traveled to Charleston to attend holiday services at Brith Sholom, one of Charleston’s two Orthodox synagogues. Bertha recalls the traditional foods her mother made, their Jewish neighbors in Charleston and Summerville, and her experiences attending Summerville public schools. When she was eighteen she represented Summerville in Charleston’s 1935 Azalea Festival beauty contest and won. Bertha attended AZA and B’nai Brith dances and other social events in Charleston, and on one of her many visits to the city, she met her husband, George Breibart. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by the interviewee during proofing.
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.
Robert Zalkin, born in 1925 in Charleston, South Carolina, describes growing up in the St. Philip Street neighborhood and talks about his family’s King Street business, where he helped out as a child. Zalkin’s Market, a kosher butcher shop, was opened by Robert’s grandfather, who had emigrated from Lithuania around 1898. Robert’s father, Joseph, who married Anna Cohen of New York, kept the market open until the late 1940s, when he sold the business to New Yorkers Alex and Lila Lash. Robert provides details about the layout and operation of the shop and the tasks his father assigned him. He notes that non-Jews, as well as Jews, were a regular part of their retail customer base. Zalkin’s also sold non-kosher meat wholesale to the local Swift and Armour packaging plants. Robert married Harriett Rivkin of Columbia, South Carolina, in 1949. Harriett states that her parents, Katie and Caba Rivkin, operated “one of the first Jewish delis in the South." She describes Columbia’s Jewish community as close-knit and remembers that her parents welcomed into their home many of the Jewish soldiers stationed at Fort Jackson during World War II. The Rivkins belonged to House of Peace, where Harriett’s grandfathers, Ruben Roth and Jacob Rivkin, were among the charter members of the Orthodox shul. Because the synagogue did not offer formal religious instruction, the Rivkins sent Harriett to Sunday school at Tree of Life, the Reform congregation in Columbia. Robert and Harriett describe the dishes their mothers served when they were growing up and their food habits in the years since. Five years after marrying, the Zalkins moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, and raised their three children there.