Irving “Itchy” Sonenshine (Zonenschein), son of Polish immigrants, talks about growing up in the St. Philip Street neighborhood of Charleston, South Carolina, and recalls many of the Jewish families that operated stores on King Street. He discusses the two Orthodox synagogues, Beth Israel and Brith Sholom, his experiences in Hebrew school and at AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) functions, his service as a navigator on bombers in the Pacific theatre during World War II, his partnership with Arthur Kahn in the electronics business, and his wife, Mildred “Mickey” Breibart Sonenshine, also a native of Charleston. Sonenshine also mentions the synagogue his son Stanley attends, B’nai Torah, a “Conservadox” congregation in Atlanta. Note: a videotape of this interview is available for viewing in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Irving “Itchy” Sonenshine (Zonenschein), in this follow-up to his September 30, 1997 interview, describes growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and ’30s, including stories about childhood playmates, his participation in AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph), and local Jewish merchants, including those who closed their businesses on the Sabbath. He recalls the religious leaders and the merger of the two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, and the split that occurred when Emanu-El, the Conservative congregation, was established. Among the topics discussed: Friendship Lodge; the Kalushiner Society; Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform practices; and the status of Charleston’s Orthodox community at the time of the interview.
Bernard Warshaw discusses growing up in Walterboro, South Carolina, and the periods he spent in Charleston, first, from age nine to thirteen, when he was studying for his bar mitzvah and, later, while attending The Citadel. His parents, Murray and Dotty Bebergal Warshaw, emigrated as children from Poland in the early 1900s. They met in Charleston, where each had family, and moved to Walterboro after they married. Bernard talks about his family’s business, Warshaw’s, and Walterboro’s other Jewish merchants. He served in the army during World War II, and saved the photographs he took of the concentration camp in Dachau, which he visited the day after it was liberated. He married Ann Wagner of Boston and they raised three daughters in Walterboro. Among the topics discussed: intermarriage; the importance of religion and involvement in civic and political matters; the reason his children and grandchildren are more observant than he was as a child; and relations between Jews and African Americans. Note: See also Bernard Warshaw Holocaust atrocity photographs, Mss. 1065-027, Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Frances Solomon Garfinkle, daughter of Morris and Rina Chachevski Solomon, relates her mother’s stories of life in Zabludow, Poland, before she immigrated to the United States. Frances, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recalls visiting relatives in Charleston, South Carolina, as a child. She married Nathan Garfinkle, son of Sam and Annie Garfinkel, emigrants from, respectively, Divin and Grozny, Russia. Nathan, who remembers living in Charleston’s East Side before moving to the St. Philip Street neighborhood, attended Beth Israel, one of two Orthodox synagogues, with his father. Frances and Nathan discuss Charleston’s Jewish merchants, particularly wholesaler Sam Solomon, whose Sullivan’s Island summer home was a gathering place for Jewish families on Sundays. They describe Charleston and Jewish food traditions, including African-American street vendors and Jewish-owned markets, and the prevalence of Yiddish speakers among members of the Jewish community in the first half of the twentieth century. Even some African Americans who worked for Jewish store owners spoke Yiddish. Louisa Simmons kept house for Sam and Annie Garfinkel, and later for Nathan and Frances, for a total of than more than fifty years. “She was one of the family . . . we loved her.” Note: Other family members spell the name Garfinkel. The interviewee has spelled his name Garfinkle since his military service during World War II, when a typographic error was made and never corrected.
Bernice Berlin Silver, one of four children of Sam and Bertha Livingstain Berlin (Berlinsky), talks about growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, several blocks from the Jewish immigrant neighborhood north of Calhoun Street. Bernice grew up in an Orthodox home, but her father opened the family store on the Sabbath out of “necessity.” She attended Crafts School and Memminger High School, where she was valedictorian of her graduating class. While most of her friends were gentiles, she participated in AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) activities and was an AZA Sweetheart. Bernice married Sam Silver (Zilberman) of Augusta, Georgia. The couple moved to his hometown where she became active in Hadassah and started a chapter of the NCJW (National Council of Jewish Women). After about 25 years, the Silvers relocated first to Columbia, South Carolina, and then California, before settling in Charleston, where they operated a restaurant supply business for over two decades. Bernice discusses her immediate and extended family members. Interviewer Ruth Jacobs reads from material obtained from Charleston city directories regarding business and home addresses of the Livingstains (Bernice’s mother’s family) and the Goodmans (Bernice’s maternal grandmother’s family) in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
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.
Jennie Kaufman Garfinkel’s parents, Benjamin and Dora Kirshstein Kaufman, emigrated from Kaluszyn, Poland, around 1912. They settled in Charleston, South Carolina, where they owned, first, a dress shop, and then a grocery store. To help support the household, Jennie left high school before graduating and took a job. She met her husband, Max Garfinkel, when he came to Charleston to work for his uncle H. L. Garfinkel in his scrap yard. Max grew up in Baltimore, the son of immigrants Molly Blacher and Hyman Garfinkel of Divin, Russia. He and his cousin Alex Garfinkel partnered in the scrap metal business in Charleston for over forty years. Max and Jennie talk about their children and grandchildren, and consider how their experiences as Jews differed from previous generations. Interviewer Leah Barkowitz, the Garfinkels’ niece, who grew up in Charleston in the 1930s and ’40s, mentions the Villa Margherita, a Charleston inn that excluded Jews until about 1950. She discusses the “five o’clock shadow,” which meant that Jews and gentiles socialized with one another before, but not after, five o’clock. See also interviews with other members of the Garfinkel family: Helen Rosenshein, Olga Weinstein, Nathan and Frances Garfinkle (Nathan spells the family name differently), Philip Garfinkel, Sandra Shapiro, and Alex Garfinkel.
Ralph Geldbart tells the story of his father, Israel Geldbart, who immigrated to New York from Mogielnica, Poland, early in the 20th century. He used his mother’s maiden name, Goldberg, on the advice of relatives living in New York, who believed it would be an easier name for Americans to understand. (The family later reverted to Geldbart.) Israel, who began working as a tailor in New York, volunteered to serve in the United States Army during World War I and was sent to France, where he was wounded. After the war he brought his wife, Rebecca Cygielman, and their daughter, Sylvia, to the United States. They settled in Charleston, South Carolina, where Israel opened an army surplus store on King Street. The family, which grew to include Helen, Ralph, and Jack, belonged to Brith Sholom, one of the city’s two Orthodox synagogues. Ralph describes relations among members of Orthodox Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, and the Reform temple, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. He discusses his family’s Shabbes traditions, local Jewish merchants, and the Kalushiner Society, an organization founded by landsmen from Kaluszyn, Poland. Ralph was a sophomore at The Citadel when he joined the army to fight in World War II. He recalls landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day in the second wave. About a month later, while his unit was pushing into Normandy, Ralph was wounded, and he describes his experiences during transport and hospitalization in Europe and the United States. Ralph completed college at the University of Chicago and earned his optometry degree at Northern Illinois. After returning to Charleston, he opened an optometry office on George Street near the College of Charleston. He was the first contact lens fitter in the Southeast. He married Madolyn Cohen of Lincolnton, North Carolina, and they raised two daughters, Laurie and Jill, in Charleston. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by the interviewee during proofing. For related material, see the Goldberg family papers, Mss. 1051 and Family tree, descendants of Oise Sokol, Mss. 1034-035 in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Rachel Raisin and Mordenai Hirsch, daughters of Jane Lazarus (1887–1965) and Rabbi Jacob Salmon Raisin (1878–1946), describe their experiences growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the years between the First and Second World Wars. Jacob Raisin emigrated with his family from Russia to New York City when he was twelve years old. The son of Orthodox Jews, he attended Hebrew Union College and served a number of congregations in the United States before he was hired in 1915 by Charleston’s Reform synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). Jane Lazarus, who could trace her Sephardic ancestry in America to the 1700s, was a member and Sunday school teacher at KKBE. The couple married in 1917 and raised Mordenai, Rachel, and their brother, Aaron, in a home that was one of seven rental properties on Wragg Square known as Aiken’s Row. The sisters describe the house and property where they grew up, and where members of Jane’s family had lived for generations. Jane’s father, Marks Hubert Lazarus, ran a hardware and cutlery store, the M. H. Lazarus Company, on King Street. Topics addressed in the interview include merchants, private kindergartens, and Jane Lazarus’s involvement in organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and Hadassah (she founded the local chapter). The sisters also discuss issues of assimilation and identity, particularly as they relate to the early members of KKBE. Rachel attended Radcliffe College where she majored in government, and earned her degree in library science from Emory University. She worked in several cities in the East and Midwest. Mordenai studied early childhood education at the College of Charleston and Smith College. She received her master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. She married sculptor Willard Hirsch, who co-founded Charleston Art School with fellow artists and teachers Corrie McCallum and William Halsey. Mordenai provides some background on her husband and his family and gives examples of his commissioned works. See Lazarus and Hirsch family papers (Mss 1018), Rabbi Jacob S. Raisin papers (Mss 1075), and Willard N. Hirsch papers (Mss 1074), for related materials in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
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.
Marion Hornik discusses his family history and growing up in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Morris, born in 1863, left his hometown of Jaroslaw, Austria-Hungary, now Poland, when he was fourteen years old. He worked in London, England, and New York City before moving to Bonneau, South Carolina, where, at eighteen, he took a job in Mr. Nagel’s country store. Eventually he moved to Charleston, married his first wife, Julia Dessauer, and, in 1886, opened a clothing store on King Street. In 1893 Morris switched to selling wholesale goods from his new business on Meeting Street, Hornik’s Bargain House (later he changed the name to M. Hornik & Company). Julia died five years later, leaving Morris with three children. He remarried after a few years, this time to Rebecca Klein of Walterboro, South Carolina. Tragedy struck again in 1915 when Rebecca died. Morris brought his sister Rosa to the United States to help him with John and Marion, his two young sons by Rebecca. The Horniks were members of the Reform temple Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). Marion attended Porter Military Academy and graduated from the College of Charleston in 1929. He worked on oil tankers during summer breaks and, after college, he worked for an Atlanta company as a traveling salesman. In 1934 his father requested he return to Charleston to help with the family’s wholesale business. When Morris died three years later, Marion and John became partners in the business. Marion recalls his mother’s father and brother who ran Klein’s Drugstore in Walterboro, and discusses the tendency, in recent years, toward more traditional services at KKBE. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by Marion’s wife, Ruth, during proofing. For related material, see HF5429 .H67 1907 and Mss. 1034-097 in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Ethel Lapin Draisin, born in 1908 in Charleston, South Carolina, is joined by her husband, Louis Draisin in recounting her family history. Ethel’s maternal grandparents, Nathan and Ethel Goldstein, emigrated from Poland and arrived in Charleston in the 1870s. Nathan ran a wholesale dry goods business on Meeting Street. Their daughter Dora (Ethel Draisin’s mother) married Israel Lapin, a Lithuanian immigrant who ran a clothing store on King Street from 1909 until 1953. Ethel Lapin met Louis Draisin, who emigrated from Bobruisk, Russia, as a young child, while she was visiting relatives in New York. In 1940, shortly after marrying, the couple settled in Charleston, where they raised two children, Neil and Judy. Ethel, the oldest of six, recalls Jewish merchants, neighbors and friends of the Lapin family, and the food her mother prepared. Louis describes his World War II tour of duty as a quartermaster in Patton’s Third Army. Both Draisins discuss Charleston’s “uptown” and “downtown” Jews, and the Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel.
Joseph Chase, Charleston, South Carolina, native and older son of Freda Lerner and Marty Chase, discusses his family history. Freda’s family immigrated to Charleston around 1920 from Biala, Poland. On a visit to her sister in Detroit, Freda met Marty Chase, who had emigrated from Vilna Gubernia, Poland, to New York City in 1912 with his mother. In 1930 Marty left his factory job in Detroit and moved to Charleston to marry Freda. The interviewee notes that his uncle Morris Sokol, a furniture salesman, helped Marty get his start peddling furniture. Eight years later Marty rented a building on King Street and opened a store. He purchased the building in the early 1940s and replaced it with a new one in 1946, still the location of Chase Furniture at the time of the interview. While Marty “was not an observant man”—he opened his store on the Sabbath—Freda adhered to the laws of kashrut and led the family in Sabbath and holiday rituals. Joseph and his brother, Philip, joined the business in the 1950s, a time when there were more than thirty furniture vendors on King Street, and offering credit was routine. Joseph reflects on the history of the business and how it changed over the years in regard to customer loyalty and demographics. He considers the future of the business, which, at the time of the interview, was in its third generation with Ben Chase, his nephew, at the helm.
Philip Chase grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, the younger son of Freda Lerner and Marty Chase. In this interview he describes how Freda, who emigrated with her family from Poland to Charleston in the early 1900s, met Marty, also a native of Poland, while working with her sister in Detroit. The couple married in Charleston and settled there. Marty peddled furniture initially and, by 1938, was selling furniture from a building on King Street, previously occupied by Carolina Furniture Company. Eight years later, he constructed a new building on the same site, still the location of Chase Furniture at the time of the interview. Philip recalls growing up in a small community where “everyone knew everybody else,” and most of the furniture dealers on King Street were “friendly” competitors who traded merchandise to help their fellow store owners make a sale. Philip and his brother, Joseph, joined the business in the 1950s and, later, Philip’s son Ben became a part of the enterprise. The interviewee discusses the history of the store, particularly its customer base and the effects of Hurricane Hugo.
Ben Chase, a Charleston, South Carolina, native, followed his father, Philip, and uncle, Joseph, into the King Street business his grandfather Marty Chase started in the 1930s. In this interview he discusses the challenges Chase Furniture faces, particularly “the shift of the population out of the city,” which he anticipates will require the store to move to the suburbs in the near future. Besides losing a large part of their client base, the diversity of the remaining customers has been difficult to accommodate. Limited downtown parking adds to the list of reasons for a change in location.
Stanley Karesh grew up in the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood of Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and ’30s. His family kept kosher and attended Brith Sholom. Stanley describes the shoe store his grandfather Charles Karesh built at 545 King Street. Charles immigrated with his wife, Sarah Orlinsky Karesh, to Charleston, circa 1878, from their hometown of Trestina (Trzcianne), in Polish Russia. They operated a store in the small town of Greeleyville, South Carolina, for a few years before returning with their growing family to Charleston, eager to live in a larger Jewish community. Stanley refers to a number of Charleston families, including Rittenberg, Friedman, Bielsky, Barshay, Kaminski, Jacobs, Banov, Livingstain, and Pearlstine, many of whom are related to the Kareshes. He also mentions his maternal grandparents, Harry and Anna Smolensky Feinberg, and cousin Rabbi David Karesh of Columbia. Stanley attended dental school in Baltimore, where he met Charlot Marks. The couple married in 1945 in her hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina. They raised three daughters in Charleston, and they were one of the first families to move to South Windermere, a subdivision west of the Ashley River. Stanley discusses the changes over time in relations between members of the Orthodox and the Reform synagogues and between the two Orthodox congregations, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel. He and Charlot, the youngest charter members of Conservative Synagogue Emanu-El, which broke away from Brith Sholom in 1947, recount its origins and offer their view of how its members differed from the Orthodox congregants from whom they split.
Claire Krawcheck Nussbaum, daughter of Polish immigrants Jack and Esther Bielsky Krawcheck, describes growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1930s and ’40s. Her parents were Orthodox Jews who observed the Sabbath and kept a kosher kitchen, with the help of Agnes Jenkins, who worked for the family for decades as housekeeper, cook, and third parent to Claire and her three siblings. The Krawchecks lived downtown on Colonial Street, many blocks from the uptown neighborhood, north of Calhoun Street, where the majority of immigrant Orthodox Jewish families lived at the time. Claire was close to a Catholic girl who lived on the same street, and she attended Ashley Hall, a private girls’ school. She had few Jewish friends, but became quite familiar with Catholic and Episcopalian traditions. Her father had men’s clothing stores both north and south of Calhoun Street—Jack’s on the corner of King and Vanderhorst Street, and Jack Krawcheck’s on King Street between George and Liberty Street. Claire discusses the buildings that housed the latter of the two stores, 311 King Street, which her father built, and 313 King Street, which he restored. Changes to the properties included gardens behind the buildings featuring iron work by Philip Simmons, and specially-designed, second-floor meeting rooms, used by local clubs, with paintings by William Halsey. Jack and Esther were members of Brith Sholom and they were active in a number of Charleston’s civic organizations, such as the Preservation Society and the Garden Club. Claire, who had difficulty relating to Judaism as a child—she couldn’t understand the Hebrew services and no one explained why they were following certain rules—convinced her parents to allow her to attend services and Sunday school at the Reform synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). It was there that she became connected to the spiritual and religious aspects of Judaism. In 1950 Claire married Maurice Nussbaum of Ehrhardt, South Carolina, and they raised four children in Charleston. She discusses her siblings, children, and grandchildren, and her views on religion, antisemitism, and the changes in KKBE’s congregation since she began attending as a teen.
Melvin Jacobs and Rose Wexler Jacobs, audio interview by Sandra Lee Kahn Rosenblum and Ruth Bass Jacobs, 14 January 1998, Mss 1035-172, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Melvin Jacobs reminisces about growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, where his father, Louis Jacobs, ran a shoe store on King Street. The Jacobs family attended the Orthodox synagogue Brith Sholom and observed Shabbos, although around 1913 Louis began opening his shop on Saturdays. Melvin was drafted into the marines at age thirty-four; he served in the supply corps, stateside, from 1943–45. In 1947 he married Rose Wexler of Savannah, the daughter of Romanian immigrants. They raised four children in Charleston. Melvin, who joined Louis in the family business, describes how his father made the switch from selling shoes to selling hosiery. The couple discusses the schism at Brith Sholom that produced the Conservative congregation, Emanu-El; the merger of the two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel; and their involvement in the establishment of the Jewish day school, Charleston Hebrew Institute. Note: this is the second of two interviews; the first was in 1997 (Mss. 1035-139). For several related collections, search for “Pearlstine” in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Isadore Cohen (b. 1918) and Samuel Rosen (b. 1929), Charleston natives and sons of immigrants from Russia and Poland, share their early memories of the Orthodox synagogues, Beth Israel and Brith Sholom, and discuss the relationship between the two congregations before and after their merger in the mid-1950s. They describe their Hebrew education, including their teachers—a number of rabbis plus a Mrs. Allen, daughter of Rabbi Gillman. Topics relating to the first half of the twentieth century covered in the interview include Jewish merchants, the Kalushiner Society, founded by immigrants from Kaluszyn, Poland, popular venues for Jewish functions, and the Cohen and Rosen family businesses, both small grocery stores. Interviewer Professor Jeffrey Gurock from Yeshiva University also provides information he discovered while conducting research for his book Orthodoxy in Charleston: Brith Sholom Beth Israel and American Jewish History.
Leona Novit Siegel, joined by her son, Paul, discusses her relatives, the Zalins, the Novits, and the Bogoslows, and identifies the subjects of family photos during the interview. She was born and raised in Walterboro, South Carolina, where her father, Albert Novit, ran a general merchandise store before opening the Lady Lafayette Hotel, popular with honeymooners and tourists driving between New York and Florida. Albert, who was president of the Walterboro Chamber of Commerce, was known for his enthusiastic promotion of his adopted hometown as a great place to visit and to live. He persuaded traveler Arthur Bauer to put down roots and open the Lady Lafayette Grill, a restaurant to complement his hotel. He also convinced Leona’s husband, Sam Siegel, to move to Walterboro from Anderson, South Carolina. Leona’s maternal grandparents, Hyman and Anna Barth Zalin, emigrated from Russia and settled in Walterboro where they established a dry goods business. Anna’s sister, who had married a Bogoslow, followed. The Novits also emigrated from Eastern Europe, but made Charleston, South Carolina, their home. Leona describes how she met and married Sam, and recounts how she received news of the injuries Sam sustained in the Battle of the Bulge. Note: the transcript contains corrections made by Leona’s daughter Gale Messerman.