In this interview Gordan Stine recalls that his maternal grandmother, Annie Gorse Pinosky, a widow of Polish descent with three children, moved to Charleston, South Carolina, circa 1911, from Fall River, Massachusetts. Sam Banov, a Charleston cousin, had arranged for her to marry King Street merchant Joseph Baron, an emigrant from Poland and widower with two children. In 1922 Annie’s daughter Helen Pinosky married Abraham Stein (Steinhauser), who was born in New York, a son of Austrian immigrants. Stein made his living designing advertisements and setting up displays for stores, and moved the family from Charleston to New Jersey when Gordan was twelve and his sister, Lenora, was eleven. Helen saw the move, which broke up her home, as bad luck, and, relying on numerology, changed the spelling of the family name to Stine. After a move to New York, and back to New Jersey, the Stines returned to Charleston in 1939. Gordan graduated from the College of Charleston in 1944, the same year he enlisted in the marines. He joined the reserves after he was released from active duty in 1945, and earned his dental degree from Emory University in 1950. Called again to active duty the following year, he and his new wife, Barbara Berlinsky, also from Charleston, were stationed for two years in their home town, where they stayed after discharge and raised their two sons, Steven and Robert. Gordan experienced no antisemitism directed at him personally while growing up in Charleston, but he discusses discrimination against Jews in general, touching on John Buhler’s tenure as dean of the dental school at the Medical University of South Carolina. Note: the transcript includes comments made by the interviewee during proofing.
Max Kirshstein relates the experiences of his father, Nathan, and uncle, Abe, natives of Kaluszyn, Poland, who immigrated to the United States in 1920 to avoid conscription into the Polish army. They followed their three sisters to Charleston, South Carolina. Nathan’s wife, Sarah Ingberman, and their two sons, Yankel and Max, both born in Sarah’s hometown of Laskarzew, Poland, joined him in Charleston a year later. Max credits Sam Rittenberg with helping newly-arrived immigrants and notes that Etta Gaeser was one of several teachers who provided instruction in English. Nathan, who peddled to support the family, which had grown to include three more children, died in 1930, when Max was only ten years old. After graduating from Murray Vocational School in 1936, Max took a job in Isadore and Dave Solomon’s pawn shop on King Street. Four years later, Ben Barkin offered him a position as an administrative assistant in Aleph Zadik Aleph’s (AZA) Washington office. Two and a half years at the national headquarters “changed the whole course of my life, my thinking, and everything else.” While serving in the navy during World War II, Max continued his association with AZA as an advisor for Virginia’s Tidewater chapters. After the war he returned to Charleston and, in addition to his advising duties, he became the first chairman of AZA’s southern region, and, later, helped to organize a new local chapter to accommodate the growing number of Baby Boomer teens. In 1946 Max opened Metropolitan Credit Company, which he renamed Metropolitan Furniture Company. A year later he married Sylvia Lazarus and together they raised three children. Max touches on the antisemitism he experienced growing up, the breakaway of a number of Brith Sholom members to form Emanu-El, Charleston’s Conservative synagogue, and the merger of the two Orthodox congregations, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel. Note: comments on the transcript made by Larry Iskow, the interviewee’s son-in-law, are in brackets with his initials.
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.
Klyde Robinson continues his account of growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, begun in his first interview on August 26, 1997. His father’s business was a bicycle and toy store on the corner of King and Ann Streets, and everyone in the family worked there. Even as a U.S. district attorney and circuit court judge, Klyde helped out at Christmastime when sales peaked for the year. The Robinsons lived in the Hampton Park and upper King Street neighborhoods, and summered on Folly Beach and, later, on Sullivan’s Island where, Klyde recalls, a number of Jewish families had houses beginning in the 1930s. Emma Brown, the African-American woman who worked for the family for nearly 50 years, was well-versed in keeping kosher. Klyde attended The Citadel and at the end of his junior year, he and some of his classmates joined the army to fight in World War II. Despite near-blindness in one eye, Klyde was allowed to serve; ultimately, he went to Europe with the 141st Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion. He notes that while he was aware of the existence of the concentration camps before he left the States, German townspeople claimed to know nothing about them. When he was discharged from the army, almost three years after signing up, he returned to The Citadel to complete his undergraduate education. While attending Harvard Law School, he met Claire Zuckernik of Boston, Massachusetts. In 1949 he graduated from Harvard and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar. He and Claire married in 1950 and she joined him in Charleston, where they raised their children and he started a law practice. Klyde describes his career, including how he acquired his positions as Charleston County’s attorney, assistant U.S. attorney, and circuit court judge. Among the other topics discussed: the social barriers among the Jewish community in the first half of the 20th century; the establishment of the Conservative synagogue, Emanu-El, in 1947; the merger, referred to by the interviewee as an amalgamation, of Charleston’s two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, in 1954; joining the Masonic lodge, Friendship Lodge, No. 9; and the debate about whether to open the Jewish Community Center on the Sabbath and High Holidays. Also mentioned are Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch, leader of the congregation at the newly merged Brith Sholom Beth Israel from 1955 to 1963, and Bill Ackerman, developer of the South Windermere neighborhood who ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for mayor of Charleston in 1971. Note: see transcript for corrections made by interviewee during proofing. See Mss. 1035-165 for the preceding interview on August 26, 1997. See the Klyde Robinson Collection, Mss. 1024, in Special Collections at the College of Charleston Library for related material.
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.
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.
Morris Rosen is joined by his cousin Dorothy “Dutch” Idalin Gelson Cohen and her husband, Mordecai “Mortie” Cohen, in this interview. Morris’s son Robert is also present as interviewer and videographer. Morris, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1919, was one of four children of Annie Blatt and Sol Rosen. Sol and his siblings, including Dutch’s parents, Zelda Rosen and Louis Gelson, emigrated from Russia in the first decade of the twentieth century, following their older sister Ida and her husband, David Goldberg, to Poughkeepsie, New York, where Dutch was born in 1919. The cousins talk about the Rosen (Rachelkin) and Gelson (Getchen) families of Poughkeepsie and their ancestors in Russia. Morris briefly mentions his maternal grandparents, Mamie Wildman and Morris Blatt, who ran a bakery in Columbia, South Carolina, before moving to Charleston. Morris and Dutch describe how the Rosens wound up in Charleston. Their uncle Sam Rosen moved to the area from Poughkeepsie for reasons unknown and opened a store in Awendaw, a small settlement about twenty-five miles north of Charleston. In about 1919, Sol Rosen and Zelda and Louis Gelson followed and bought an established country store from a member of the Geraty family in Yonges Island, nearly twenty miles south of Charleston. Louis died within a year, and Sol sold his interest in the store to Zelda, who moved the business and her three children to Meeting Street in Charleston after a few years. Sol was in the grocery business and later opened liquor stores. Morris traces his father’s moves from Yonges Island to King and Romney streets in Charleston, to the town of Meggett, and back to Charleston at King and Race streets. Morris and Dutch discuss growing up in Charleston in an area of the city where there were no other Jewish families. They did not experience antisemitism and Morris blended easily with the Catholic teens who lived nearby. The cousins did connect with other Jewish children when they frequented the neighborhoods around the synagogues and while attending religious school. They didn’t notice any friction between Charleston’s Reform and Orthodox Jews and played with children from both groups. Dutch was confirmed and Morris became a bar mitzvah at Brith Sholom on St. Philip Street. The two consider the degree to which their parents were observant Jews and speculate as to why their parents and others of their generation did or did not adhere to certain Jewish traditions. Mordecai “Mortie” Cohen was born in 1916 in St. Matthews, South Carolina, where his father, Isaac, ran a dry goods store and two farms. All the general merchandisers in St. Matthews while Mortie and his two brothers were growing up were Jewish. They met for High Holiday services in the town’s Masonic temple and were joined by families from Orangeburg, Ehrhardt, and Elloree. Most of Mortie’s friends were Christians; he doesn’t remember experiencing any antisemitism in St. Matthews. Mortie recalls how he came to know the Rosens, and he and Morris describe the role of the drummers, or sales reps, who visited retail storeowners when their fathers were in business. Morris talks about how he met his wife, Ida Tanenbaum. Her brother Lou Tanenbaum came to Charleston and opened a clothing store with his brother-in-law Louis Lesser. Morris, an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, was assigned to a LST (Landing Ship, Tank) in the Pacific. The group discusses what they and other American Jews knew about what was happening to Jews in Europe under Hitler.
Joan Weisblum Steinberg Loeb, born in 1918 in Brooklyn, New York, married Matthew Steinberg and moved to his native city of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1936. Joan, a daughter of Elsie Aleskowitz and Philip Weisblum, recounts some of her family history, and describes how she met Matthew, who earned his M.D. from the Medical College of South Carolina, and their wedding in the Weisblum’s Brooklyn home. Her mother-in-law, Anna Bell Kaminski Steinberg, taught her how to keep a kosher home. The interviewee, who had no formal religious upbringing, recalls attending High Holy Day services at her husband’s Orthodox congregation, Brith Sholom. She notes that Matthew served as mohel for the congregation following Reverend Feinberg, who was also the cantor and the shochet. Interviewer Sandra Rosenblum reports that her husband, Raymond Rosenblum, a urologist, later assumed the role. In 1947, Joan and Matthew left Brith Sholom and joined roughly seventy families in becoming founding members of the Conservative Synagogue Emanu-El. Joan points to the leadership of Charleston native, Macey Kronsberg, the congregation’s first president, as pivotal in organizing the faction that was dissatisfied with Orthodox practices. Joan notes the source of discontent: “It was the fact that the women were not part of the service at all, and the families did not sit together. This didn’t satisfy this generation. They wanted the children to be part of it and to learn and to have an interest, and not to have to just be banged over the head in Hebrew school to learn enough for a bar mitzvah, and goodbye Charlie.” Joan and Matthew donated the first sanctuary, an army chapel, for Emanu-El’s Gordon Street property. Joan lists many of the names and professions of the charter members. She discusses the differences among Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism, and some of the changes that have taken place in her lifetime. Participants recall the mid-twentieth century practices and attitudes of Charleston’s Reform congregants (Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim) and the two Orthodox congregations, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, and they examine their own, and others’, experiences of keeping kosher—or not. Joan briefly mentions the three women’s organizations she joined in Charleston: the National Council of Jewish Women, the Daughters of Israel, and the Happy Workers. She goes into some detail about why her father thought U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the “biggest hypocrite and enemy of the Jews.” Matthew Steinberg died in 1968. Three years later, Joan married B. Frank Loeb of Montgomery, Alabama, where she was living at the time of the interview. She provides a brief history of Montgomery’s Reform congregation, Temple Beth Or.
Harold Jacobs, the only child of Sam and Mignonette Cohen Jacobs, discusses his family history and growing up in Charleston, South Carolina. Sam’s father, Isaac Jacobs (Karesh) emigrated from the area of Europe described by Harold as eastern Germany or Prussia. (Isaac Jacobs, grandson of the aforementioned Isaac and Harold’s cousin, states in his account of the family origins in a 1995 interview that the Karesh/Jacobs family came from Trestina, near Bialystok, Poland.) Isaac, the immigrant, made his way to Cincinnati, Ohio, during the Civil War and joined the Union Army. He married Jeanette Slager, and the couple settled in Charleston where they ran a dry goods store on King Street. Sam, Mignonette, and Harold lived in the St. Philip Street neighborhood before moving to Hampton Park Terrace in the northwest section of Charleston, where they opened Harold’s Cabin, a small store that sold snowballs and a few convenience items. Harold describes the family’s holiday and Sabbath customs, his aunt and uncles on the Jacobs side, the differences between “uptown” and “downtown” Jews, and the expansion of the family business, including how he came to be one of the first merchants in Charleston to sell frozen foods. As a child, Harold attended services at Brith Sholom, the Orthodox synagogue in which his father was raised, and Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE), where his mother, who was raised in the Reform tradition, was a member. Sometime after becoming a bar mitzvah at Brith Sholom, he began to “drift” more toward services at KKBE, ultimately becoming a lifelong member of the historic Charleston temple. Harold served in the army in North Africa and Italy during World War II and, after the war, married Lillian Breen, who grew up on a farm in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where there were too few Jews for a congregation. Lillian’s parents were from Riga, Latvia, and they ran a furniture store in Rocky Mount. The family traveled to Fayetteville, North Carolina, for the High Holidays.
Isaac Jacobs, in a follow-up session to his previous interviews that were poor in audio quality, tells many of the same stories recorded in 1995 (see Mss. 1035-005 and Mss. 1035-009). He discusses his immigrant grandfathers, Louis Pearlstine and Isaac Jacobs, the changes in the family surnames, and his aunts and uncles on both sides. He tells several anecdotes involving Louis Engelberg of Ridgeville, South Carolina, the family’s interactions with African Americans, and his father’s dealings with wholesalers. He recalls many of the Jewish merchants in Charleston, South Carolina, particularly food retailers such as the Zalkins, Rudichs, Mazos, and Kareshes. Jacobs also describes the origin of the West Ashley minyan house located in South Windermere subdivision. Note: this interview is also available in VHS (original) and DVD (use copy) formats to be accessed in person in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.