Isaac Jacobs, who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, discusses his family history, including the 1855 immigration of his grandfathers Louis Pearlstine, who settled in Branchville, South Carolina, and Isaac Jacobs (Karesh). Jacobs, a native of Poland, operated a dry goods store in Charleston and was a founder of the Orthodox synagogue Brith Sholom. The interviewee’s father, Louis Jacobs, ran a shoe store in Charleston for 28 years before switching to the hosiery business. In 1931, he opened Jacobs’ Hosiery Company, and was joined by his sons, Isaac and Melvin. Isaac describes how his father got started in the wholesale sock industry and his own experiences as a traveling salesman selling merchandise to immigrant Sephardic store owners in Myrtle Beach, among others. Isaac briefly worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps, and served in the army in the Pacific theater during World War II. He married Ruth Bass of North, South Carolina, who joins him in this interview. Note: The audio quality of this recording is poor. Corrections and additions to the transcript were made by Isaac and/or his wife, Ruth, during proofing. See Mss. 1035-009 for the second part of this interview, dated February 22, 1995, and Mss. 1035-173 for another interview on January 26, 1998.
In the second part of an interview, Isaac Jacobs continues his discussion of his family history, including how his mother’s family name, Farber, was changed to Pearlstine in Trestina, Poland. His mother, Ethel Pearlstine of Branchville, married Louis Jacobs (Karesh) in 1908, and the couple raised eight children in the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood of Charleston, South Carolina. Isaac describes his siblings, his aunts and uncles on the Jacobs side, and relays anecdotes passed down in the family about life in Charleston. Isaac also talks about his experiences in the military during World War II. He married Ruth Bass of North, South Carolina, who joins him in this interview. Note: The audio quality of this recording is poor. Corrections and additions to the transcript were made by Isaac and/or his wife, Ruth, during proofing. See Mss. 1035-005 for the first part of this interview, dated February 1, 1995, and Mss. 1035-173 for another interview on January 26, 1998.
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.
In this brief interview, Henry Berlin, a son of Charleston, South Carolina, natives Sam and Bertie Livingstain Berlin, describes growing up in the coastal city where his grandfather, Henry Berlinsky, a Polish immigrant, opened a dry goods store on lower King Street in the 1880s. The family name was changed from Berlinsky to Berlin when Sam Berlin and his brother took over the store. Their father, an observant Jew, did not want his name to be associated with a business that opened on the Sabbath. Sam was active in political and civic affairs, and was one of the first Jewish Charlestonians to become a member of the St. Andrews Society, a charitable organization. A big sports fan, he owned Charleston minor league baseball teams and supported local boxing matches. Henry notes that they were one of the few Jewish families living south of Broad Street and, as a result, most of his friends were gentiles. Nevertheless, the Berlins attended the Orthodox synagogue Brith Sholom, and Sam led the effort to merge Brith Sholom and Beth Israel. Henry mentions the split that occurred prior to the merger, resulting in the creation of Emanu-El, Charleston’s Conservative congregation. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by Henry during proofing.
Shirley Gergel Ness talks about her father, Joseph Gergel, who served for three years in the Russian army before immigrating in 1914 to Columbia, South Carolina, where two of his brothers resided. Joseph volunteered for duty in the United States Army during World War I and worked as a supply sergeant in New York. He met his wife, Jean Fingerhut, when he was invited by a fellow soldier to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for Passover. Shirley, who was born in 1928, talks about growing up in Columbia, attending public school, and working in her father's store. The interviewee intended to go to law school after graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1948; she describes how Coleman Karesh, law professor and son of Rabbi David Karesh, blocked her admission that year based on her age and gender. Shirley recalls how her husband, Everett Ness of Sumter, South Carolina, courted her; they married and moved to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1949. They ran the Nursery Nook, a children's toy and furniture store on King Street for fourteen years before going bankrupt. Their children attended Addlestone Hebrew Academy. In 1966 the Nesses moved to Columbia, the Midlands being a more convenient location for Everett, whose job as a manufacturing representative required travel to other southeastern states. Shirley contrasts the Jewish communities of Charleston and Columbia and tells the story of how a member of the Gergel family in Russia tracked down her American cousins in South Carolina, uniting the descendants of Joseph and his siblings who stayed in the Old Country.
Everett Ness and his wife, Shirley Gergel Ness, discuss his family history. Everett recalls accompanying his mother, Esther Berger, a Polish immigrant, on a visit to see her parents, Fishel and Molly Nachman Berger, in Poland in 1931, when he was four years old. Esther helped several of her siblings to emigrate; most of them, unable to enter the United States because of quota restrictions, settled in Argentina. Everett's paternal grandfather, Yehuda Seiden, changed his surname to Ness (Nass), his mother's maiden name, to avoid conscription in Poland, and immigrated to New York, where Everett's father, Benjamin grew up. Benjamin joined his brother Morris in his dry goods store in Manning, South Carolina, before opening his own ladies ready-to-wear business in nearby Sumter. He met Esther in Charleston, South Carolina, while attending High Holy Day services. They raised Everett and his sister, also named Shirley, in Manning, and attended Temple Sinai in Sumter. Everett and Shirley Gergel married in 1949 and lived for seventeen years in Charleston before moving to Columbia, South Carolina. They were initially members of the Reform synagogue in Charleston, but switched to the Conservative congregation, Emanu-El. Everett, who began studying Hebrew as an adult, notes that "as we became more aware of our Jewishness, the Reform Movement did not meet our needs, did not meet my needs." The Nesses talk about their relationship with Sam and Sophie Solomon of Charleston and describe Sam's funeral in 1954. Everett discusses his mother's philanthropic work for the March of Dimes and his involvement with Chabad and the chevra kadisha in Columbia.
Cousins Max Furchgott and Dale Dreyfoos review their family history. Dale's maternal grandmother Lillian Furchgott married Pincus LeRoy Pinkussohn (he changed the spelling of the family name to Pinkerson during World War II), whose grandfather settled in Charleston, South Carolina, around 1850. Lillian's father, Herman Furchgott, and his brother Max, grandfather of interviewee Max, opened a dry goods store on King Street in Charleston in the 1860s. Max describes growing up in Charleston and recalls the moves his family made during the Great Depression to Orangeburg, South Carolina; Goldsboro, North Carolina; and Florence, South Carolina, before returning to Charleston. The Furchgotts have been members of Reform Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE) since the first generation in Charleston. Max discusses the conflict that arose among members of the congregation in the 1960s during Rabbi Burton Padoll's tenure, and notes how KKBE has changed over the years. Max married Marcelle Kleinzahler and they raised three children in Charleston. Both interviewees discuss Jewish identity - Max, in terms of how he believes his children view themselves, and Dale, in terms of his relationship to his ancestors. Dale tells the story of his great-great-grandparents fleeing Atlanta during the Civil War in anticipation of General Sherman's arrival with Union troops. Other family surnames mentioned in the interview include Brown, Sorentrue, Foote, Ritzwoller, and Dreyfoos. For related information, see also Marcelle Furchgott's May 14, 2014 interview, Robert Furchgott's February 28, 2001 and April 18, 2001 interviews, the Arthur C. Furchgott papers (Mss 1043), and Furchgott and Brothers department store newspaper advertisement, 1910 (Mss 1034-090), Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Robert Francis Furchgott, born in 1916 in Charleston, South Carolina, the second of three sons of Philapena Sorentrue and Arthur Furchgott, talks about growing up in downtown Charleston. The Furchgotts lived below Broad Street and were members of Reform temple Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. It wasn't until Robert joined Boy Scout Troop 21, the Jewish troop, that he met and made friends with Orthodox Jewish boys from uptown. In regard to the organization of the Scouts, he observes that "in Charleston it seemed to be by churches." Summer classes and field trips sponsored by the Charleston Museum that sparked Robert's interest in nature stand out in his memory as among his most gratifying early experiences. He estimates that when his family moved inland about seventy-five miles to Philapena's hometown of Orangeburg in the summer of 1929, there were about five Jewish families living there. Services and the Sunday school were run by lay leaders, with the guidance of a rabbi who visited once a month. Furchgott recalls that Orangeburg's Christians and Jews mixed socially and there was just one Boy Scout troop for the small city. After struggling financially in Orangeburg for a year, the Furchgotts moved to Goldsboro, North Carolina. A year later they moved again, this time to Florence, South Carolina. Robert discusses his family history, in particular, his paternal grandfather, Max Furchgott, who came to Charleston circa 1865, and his maternal great-grandfather, Simon Brown, who settled in Blackville, South Carolina, around 1849. See Mss. 1035-256 for a follow-up to this interview. For related information, see also Marcelle Furchgott's May 14, 2014 interview, Max Furchgott's July 14, 1995 interview, the Arthur C. Furchgott papers (Mss 1043), and Furchgott and Brothers department store newspaper advertisement, 1910 (Mss 1034-090), Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
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.
Libby Friedman Levinson, the youngest of seven children of Betty Alpern and Isadore Friedman, was born in Grajewo, Poland, in 1909. Isadore immigrated to the United States a month before Germany declared war on Russia in 1914. He settled in Charleston, South Carolina, home to a number of Betty’s relatives and landsmen from Trestina (Trzcianne), including the Karesh, Pearlstine, and Jacobs families. Betty and the children intended to follow as soon as they could sell their house and furniture, but World War I prevented their emigration until just after the fighting ended. Libby describes how her mother and siblings survived the war and their trip from Poland to Charleston afterward. She discusses family members, in particular, her sister Annie, who married Louis Lourie of St. George, and her sister Minnie, who married Jake Kalinsky of Holly Hill. Libby married Charles Levinson of Bishopville; after living briefly in Branchville and North, South Carolina, they moved to Barnwell, where they raised two children. The transcript includes comments inserted by the interviewee during proofreading.