Abe Dumas was born on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, in 1913, to Esther Read and Mendel Dumas, who emigrated from Lithuania in the first decade of the twentieth century. The couple followed Esther's brother Frank Read, who had settled in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. Mendel joined Frank in his mercantile store, until he opened his own business in nearby Bonneau. In this interview, Abe describes his father's dedication to making a living in America. Besides maintaining the Bonneau enterprise, Mendel invested in land for timber and farming, and opened stores in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1912, he and Frank Read built a five and dime store on the corner of King and Spring streets. Three years later, they parted company and Mendel bought a pawn shop at 220 King Street. By 1918, he had moved Esther and their five children (Lenora, Mary, twins Abe and Joe, and Yetta) to Charleston. "He knew," Abe reports, "that he could not raise a Jewish family in Bonneau." The Dumases were members of Brith Sholom, one of two Orthodox synagogues in Charleston. Abe notes the family was not very observant, although he and his brother celebrated their bar mitzvahs. The interviewee recalls how he and Joe began peddling around age twelve and began working in Mendel's Charleston store at sixteen, while their father commuted to Bonneau. They loved the work but didn't care for the pawn shop business in particular. In 1930, they switched to clothing and were very successful, which Abe attributes to carrying uniforms and hunting apparel. "Then when we moved to King and Society, we had there one of the largest operations of men's and family clothing in the city of Charleston. And it still is." Abe discusses growing up in Charleston, and the subtle antisemitism he observed in his early years. He remembers "divisiveness" between the Reform and Orthodox congregations, but says it no longer exists since an "economic level of parity or better came into existence." He attended the College of Charleston and, in 1936, married Dorothea "Dottie" Shimel Dumas. They had two children, Lynn and Carol. Abe reflects on what Americans knew about the Holocaust during World War II and the failure of the United States and other countries to assist Jewish refugees. Dumas tells the story of meeting George Gershwin in 1933 on Folly Beach, while Gershwin was in the area collaborating with DuBose Heyward on Porgy and Bess. For a related oral history, see the 1996 interview with Joseph Read, Mss. 1035-090. For a related collection, see the Louis M. Shimel papers, Mss. 1055. Although mentioned only briefly in this interview, the Dumases were founding members of Synagogue Emanu-El; see Mss. 1141 for the congregation records.
Alan Banov, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, tells the story of his great-grandfather Alexander Banov (Banovich), who was born in a Polish town called Kopcheve, modern-day Kapciamiestis, Lithuania, and lived in Nemnovo in what is today Belarus. Alexander, who immigrated to the United States in 1889, came to Charleston, where his brother Isaac Wolfe Banov had settled. Daughter Rebecca followed her father first, then came son Cassell, and finally, Alexander's wife, Sonia Danilovich, and their remaining children, Rachel, David, and Leizer, in 1895. Relying on information from his great-uncle David Banov's oral history, Alan recounts living conditions in Nemnovo, and the trip from Russia to Charleston, in particular, a segment of David and Leizer's journey. Because Russian border guards were likely to prevent young males from leaving the empire, the brothers, just twelve and seven years old, separated from Sonia and Rachel, and a hired smuggler led them into Germany where they were reunited with their mother and sister. Alan talks about Alexander's stores in Charleston, Georgetown, and Red Top, South Carolina. The interviewee's grandfather, Leizer, who assumed the name Leon, was in the first confirmation class at Brith Sholom, the Orthodox synagogue in Charleston. Leon became a pharmacist and opened apothecary shops at 442 and 492 King Street before earning his degree in medicine at the Medical College of South Carolina. Dr. Leon Banov, Sr., went to work for the city and county health departments and, after becoming director, oversaw the merger of the two entities. Alan discusses some of his grandfather's accomplishments as a public health director. Leon married Minnie Monash, whose father, Morris, owned Uncle Morris's Pawnshop in Charleston. Alan's father, Leon Banov, Jr., the eldest of three, became a doctor like his father and married Rita Landesman from Morris Plains, New Jersey. They raised Alan and his younger sister, Jane Banov Bergen, in Charleston. Alan describes his experiences at Charleston Day School and Gaud School for Boys. In 1967, after attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he began law school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. To get a draft deferment during the Vietnam War, he took education courses and signed up to teach school. He was assigned to Abram Simon Elementary School in D.C., where he taught sixth grade for three years while earning his law degree. Alan recalls his early career as a lawyer working first for the National Labor Relations Board, and then the law firm Donald M. Murtha & Associates. He originally intended to work in labor law, but switched to employment law. He explains why that trajectory changed and talks about his work as an employment lawyer and, more recently, a mediator. Alan married Marla Needel in 1969. They raised two daughters, Jessica and Rachel, before divorcing in 2001. His partner, Sandi Blau Cave, whom he met in 2002, was present during the interview. The transcript includes comments and corrections made by the interviewee during proofing. For related materials in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, see the Banov family papers, Mss 1025; the Edna Ginsberg Banov papers, Mss 1039; and interviews with Leon Banov, Jr., Mss. 1035-240; Abel Banov, Mss. 1035-060; and Edna Ginsberg Banov, Mss. 1035-045.
Alex Garfinkel discusses his father, Harry Louis Garfinkel, who emigrated from Divin, Russia, around the turn of the twentieth century to avoid conscription. He was followed to the United States by two sisters, four brothers, and his father. Harry heard there were landsmen (countrymen) from Divin in Charleston, South Carolina, so he moved there and worked as a shoemaker until he bought a mattress factory. He married Celia Hannah Lapidus of Charleston. At some point, Harry turned over the mattress business to his brother Sam and opened a junk yard, which grew into a successful scrap metal business. Alex grew up on Line Street, one of eight children. He attended Hebrew school at Beth Israel and briefly mentions the split between Beth Israel and Brith Sholom, the Orthodox synagogues. Alex talks about King Street merchants, his father’s businesses, and taking over the scrap yard as a young man, which exempted him from military service during World War II. He invited his cousin Max Garfinkel of Baltimore to join him in the growing business, and they remained partners for over forty years. See also interviews with other members of the Garfinkel family: Helen Rosenshein, Olga Weinstein, Sandra Shapiro, Nathan and Frances Garfinkle (Nathan spells the family name differently), Max and Jennie Garfinkel, and Philip Garfinkel.
Dora Altman grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, where her father worked as a tailor. Her parents’ emigration from Poland was sponsored by a relative, a member of the Mendelsohn family. The Altmans attended the Orthodox synagogue Brith Sholom and, at some point, Dora switched to Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, the Reform temple where services were conducted in English. Dora remembers playing with both Jews and gentiles as a child; the Henckel twins, members of the Coburg Dairy family, were among her closest friends. Dora was engaged to Samuel Turtletaub when he was killed in France during World War I. She never married. During the interview, Dora identifies certain photographs (see the Dora Altman collection, Mss. 1006 in Special Collections, College of Charleston), and is joined by interviewer Haskell Ellison, also a Charleston native, in recalling Charleston’s Jewish families and merchants of the early 20th century.
Anita Rosen Levine, the daughter of Rose Rosenfeld of Romania and Jacob Rosen of Vitebsk, Russia, grew up in Port Chester, New York, a small town with a vibrant Jewish community. She received her Jewish education from students of New York City’s Jewish Theological Seminary, who traveled by train to the suburb to teach Sunday school. Anita was visiting a friend in Charleston, South Carolina, when she met Sol Levine, a native of Savannah, Georgia. His parents, Harry Levine, a cantor from Yekaterinoslav, Ukraine, and Freda Wasserman, a native of Warsaw, Poland, emigrated from Russia in 1906 with their two daughters and Harry’s mother. After Freda died in 1932, Harry and his two youngest sons, Sol and David, moved from Savannah to Charleston, where his daughter Rose lived with her family. Nearly two years later, Harry and Sol moved to Columbia, joining Sol’s older brother Max. David, still a young boy, stayed behind with Rose. Sol belonged to the Herzl Club in Savannah and was the first president of Columbia’s Jewish youth group, AZA, Aleph Zadik Aleph. He clerked in stores in the South Carolina towns of Allendale and Bamberg before returning to Charleston where he worked for his brother-in-law at LeRoy’s Jewelers on King Street. Sol and Anita, who married and settled in Charleston in 1942, talk about their social life, downtown shop owners, and their three children. In the early 1950s, when construction of the Savannah River Site, a nuclear production facility, was underway, Sol was hired to run a store in Barnwell, one of the South Carolina towns experiencing rapid growth associated with the new plant. The Levines lived in Barnwell for two years before returning to Charleston in 1955, the year after the two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, merged. Prior to moving to Barnwell, they had been members of Brith Sholom; upon their return to Charleston, they joined Brith Sholom Beth Israel (BSBI). They discuss the merger and comment on the breakaway of Brith Sholom members to establish the Conservative congregation Emanu-El in 1947. Other topics covered include Sol’s contributions to BSBI through the Men’s Club, Anita’s involvement with the Daughters of Israel Sisterhood, the St. Philip Street and Rutledge Avenue mikvahs, and the rabbis, cantors, and sextons who served the Orthodox community. Anita began working for the BSBI rabbis in the mid-1950s, running the office for the synagogue and the Charleston Hebrew Institute (CHI), BSBI’s Hebrew day school. She describes the growth of CHI from just a kindergarten in 1955 to graduating the first class of seventh graders in 1964. “It was like my fourth child,” she says, referring to CHI.
Anne Stern Solomon is joined in this interview by her nieces Marcie Stern Baker and Beryle Stern Jaffe. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1921, Anne grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, one of five children of Rose Sribnick and Gabriel Stern. The Sterns ran a number of stores in Columbia and tried their luck for a time in Charleston before opening a dry goods store in Lexington, on the outskirts of Columbia, in the early 1930s. In 1938, they moved the business to 1424 Assembly Street in Columbia. Anne relates childhood memories of Stern's, which catered mostly to black clientele. She believes her parents were the first store owners in the city to hire a black man to wait on customers. The three interviewees discuss relations between their family and local African Americans; the Sterns were "taught that everybody was the same." Anne talks about how she met Ted Solomon; they married in 1945 and raised four children in Columbia. Ted and Anne's brother, Henry Stern (Beryle and Marcie's father), took over the store upon returning from service in World War II. After a fire in 1957, they reopened as a discount shoe store in the same location. Marcie and Beryle describe their mother, Sarah Kramer Stern; her family in Summerville, South Carolina, where she grew up; and how she met their father. See also Anne Solomon's interviews on August 31, 2015 (Mss. 1035-485), and September 8, 2015 (Mss. 1035-486).
Samuel "Sam" Appel, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1929, talks about growing up on St. Philip Street in a neighborhood he remembers as predominantly Jewish. Sam and his sister, Faye "Fannie" Rones, who sits in on this interview, describe their parents, Ida Goldberg and Abe Appel (Ubfal), both immigrants from Kaluszyn, Poland, and their brothers, Harry and Sidney. Sam recalls his mother performing the Jewish ritual shlug kapores during the High Holidays, and he shares memories of his bar mitzvah and his activities as a member of Boy Scout Troop 21 and Aleph Zadik Aleph. Although the Appels were members of Beth Israel, one of two Orthodox synagogues in town, Sam says "We were not Orthodox," reasoning that while his parents, especially his mother, followed many of the Sabbath rules of observance, they made compromises. For example, Abe and Ida opened their King Street furniture store on Saturdays. The siblings consider the interviewer's question about perceived differences between what some locals call Charleston's Uptown Jews and Downtown Jews. Sam, who earned an accounting degree at the University of South Carolina, ultimately settled in Atlanta, Georgia, because there were not enough single Jewish women to date in Charleston. He married Judy Eagle of Montgomery, Alabama, in 1960, and the couple raised three children in Atlanta. Sam became a lawyer after taking night classes at Emory University. He discusses his involvement in the Jewish Georgian, an independent community publication based in the Atlanta area.
Flossie Ginsberg Arnold and her son, Norman Arnold, discuss their family history. Flossie and her parents, Isaac and Pauline Ginsberg, immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, from Russia around 1908, when Flossie was about one year old. Flossie recalls living on Hanover Street in the neighborhood they referred to as “Little Mexico,” where her family owned a small grocery store. Ultimately, the Ginsbergs moved to a home on Ashley Avenue and Isaac opened I. Ginsberg, Inc., on Meeting Street, selling cigars, candy, and notions. Flossie was working behind the cash register when her future husband, Ben Arnold, walked in. Charleston was a port of call for the Clyde Line steamer Ben was taking to New York from Florida, where he operated drugstores in Lake Worth and West Palm Beach. Flossie and Ben married in 1928 and shortly after, moved from Florida to Charleston, lured by the presence of family and a Jewish community, and Isaac’s offer to include Ben in the family business. Isaac and Ben developed a wholesale tobacco and drugstore enterprise with locations in several South Carolina cities, including Columbia, the state capital. Ben ran the Columbia store, which they expanded to include liquor. Around 1940 Flossie, Ben, and their son, Arnold, moved to the capital city, and in the mid-’40s, Isaac and Ben split up the business, Isaac keeping the tobacco distributorship, and Ben assuming full control of the liquor operation.
Avram Kronsberg, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1936, was interviewed on April 4, 2001, with his son Edward, and again, by himself, in a follow-up session on April 11, 2001. Avram and his younger brother, Jonathan, are the sons of Hattie Barshay and Edward Kronsberg. Avram recounts the Barshay and Kronsberg family histories. He describes how his father came to Charleston and began working for his uncle Joseph Bluestein; then, during the Great Depression, opened his own store in the Bluestein building on King Street. Edward's mother, Lena Jacobson Kronsberg, widow of Abraham Kronsberg, and his three brothers, Meyer, Milton, and Macey, followed him to Charleston, and the brothers joined him in the business, Edward's Five and Ten Cent Store. Avram describes his parents' personalities and their reputation in the eyes of both Jews and gentiles in Charleston. Hattie and Edward, both civically active, were assimilated to such a degree that the Kronsbergs were told by fellow Jews that they had too many gentile friends. Avram attended Charleston Day School, a private academy in downtown Charleston, where he befriended a number of Christian schoolmates, in addition to the small circle of Jewish friends approved of by Hattie. Avram sought to follow in and exceed his father's footsteps but was firmly directed in his life choices by Hattie. "I tried to do what my father did, but I tried to live my life the way my mother wanted me to." Avram's son Edward notes how Hattie's strength of character influenced the whole family, including his mother, Avram's first wife, Marlene Alfred, and Edward himself, who never met his grandmother. Avram considers how Charleston has changed since he was a boy; what was once a small town where you recognized everyone you passed on the street is now a big impersonal city. Edward, born in 1966 and also raised in Charleston, agrees it's not the same city he grew up in. The interviewees share their perceptions of the differences between two groups referred to by locals as Uptown Jews and Downtown Jews. They tell stories of elite local clubs either blackballing Jews or allowing only one Jew in. Avram remarks on what he sees as an increase in traditional practices in Conservative and Reform Judaism. He regrets not raising his youngest son, Tilghman, in a religion: "Everybody has to have an identity." Avram's father and uncles were founders of Emanu-El, Charleston's Conservative synagogue. Hattie had wanted to attend K.K. Beth Elohim, the Reform congregation, but Edward would not agree, so they compromised by choosing Conservative. Hattie and Edward kept kosher, to an extent, and differed in their adherence to the rules. Avram discusses the evolution of his father's business, particularly, the new (1949) large building at 517 King Street in Charleston; the opening of their first integrated Edward's in Orangeburg in 1969; the chain store's growth after World War II; Max Lehrer, Edward Kronsberg's right-hand man; the development of Pinehaven Shopping Center in North Charleston; why the company faltered and how they sold it. Avram shares the personal struggles he has weathered and how, in recent years, he has changed the way he lives and his outlook on life. He deliberates over the issue of race relations when he was growing up, revealing the attitudes of his friends and acquaintances toward black people, as well as his own. He recalls his father's peers in business were segregationists and remarks, "I work in an environment full of rednecks." Avram describes his father's response to the hospital workers' strike in Charleston in 1969, when protesters blocked the entrance to his store. African Americans worked in the Edward's stores and in the Kronsberg home. Avram remembers that the family's relationship with its black employees was contingent on the circumstances: "Always inside together; rarely outside together." The interview covers a variety of additional topics, including: the Folly Beach summer house that the Kronsbergs shared with other families in the 1930s; Avram's memories of 1940s wartime activities, locally; Charleston's kosher restaurants and markets; attending a John Birch Society meeting in the late 1960s; the multi-generational history of the Mo?se family of Sumter, South Carolina; and Avram's recollections of Elihu Mazo, Abe Dumas, Jack Krawcheck, Morris Sokol, Robert Rosen, Jimmy Brynes, and Mendel Rivers. For related interviews, see Frederica Kronsberg, Mss. 1035-097; Jonathan, Edward, and Jason Kronsberg, Mss. 1035-531 and Mss. 1035-532; Barbara Barshay, Max Brener, William Brener, and Jane Barshay Burns, Mss. 1035-524 and Mss. 1035-525.
Leon Banov, Jr., a retired proctologist at the time of this interview, was the grandson of Alexander Banov, an emigrant from Poland who ran a dry goods store in Red Top, South Carolina, a small, rural community a few miles from Charleston. Alexander’s son, Leon Sr., who was eight years old when he arrived in America, attended Charleston’s Orthodox synagogue, Brith Sholom, but received his confirmation instruction from Ellen de Castro Williams, a woman of Sephardic ancestry and member of the Reform synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). Leon Jr. credits her with starting the first Orthodox Sunday school in South Carolina, and his father was a member of its first confirmation class. To show his appreciation for Mrs. WiIliams’s efforts, Leon Sr. gave her a napkin holder shaped as a deer from his family’s modest collection of silver pieces. She, in turn, gave the napkin ring to Leon Sr.’s son, the interviewee, upon the occasion of his bar mitzvah. Thus began a tradition whereby the deer is passed down alternately to a descendant of the Banov and Williams families as a gift to a new bar or bat mitzvah. Leon Sr., a pharmacist and an M.D., became the first health director of the Charleston County Health Department in 1920, a position he held for forty-one years. He recorded his experiences in As I recall: the story of the Charleston County Health Department. He married Minnie Monash, whose family was from Germany and practiced Reform Judaism. The couple raised their three children in the Reform tradition and attended KKBE. Leon Jr. discusses his siblings and reports that he did not experience any antisemitism growing up. He organized the first cub scout pack in Charleston and received several honors for his involvement in and promotion of the Boy Scouts of America, including the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 1989. His numerous contributions to the medical community include serving on an advisory panel for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and acting as chairman of the Charleston County Board of Health. He also recalls certain former KKBE rabbis and describes how he met his wife, Rita Landesman. Note: the transcript contains comments made by members of the Banov family during proofing.