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.
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.