Helen Mazursky Berger, audio interview by Elizabeth Moses, 9 June 2000, Mss 1035-242, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Helen Mazursky Berger, born in 1919 in Mayesville, South Carolina, was raised from the time she was four years old in nearby Sumter. In this interview conducted by Sumter native Elizabeth Moses, Helen discusses her family history and provides details about her grandparents, aunts, and uncles on both sides. Her mother, Mary Blatt, was born in Philadelphia to Austrian immigrants who followed family south to Charleston, South Carolina. Mary married Abe Mazursky, a Russian immigrant and dry goods merchant who had settled in Mayesville. Shortly after Helen’s brother, Morris, was born in 1923, the family moved to Sumter, where they became members of the Reform congregation, Temple Sinai, and Abe opened a dry goods store called The Hub. Helen met Harry Berger in 1940 when he came to town to manage the Polly Prentiss factory, a local enterprise that had been sold to a New York firm. The couple married the following year, before Harry enlisted in the navy. When he was discharged in late 1945, Harry accepted Abe’s invitation to join him in the business. In 1969 Abe remodeled, changed his inventory line, and renamed the store Berger’s. Helen also talks about her children and grandchildren, and addresses the issue of antisemitism.
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.
Jerome Moskow, born in 1917 in Andrews, South Carolina, grew up in Sumter, South Carolina, the oldest of four children. He describes how his father, Robert Moskow, at about age twelve, circa 1905, made his way from Russia, to South Carolina, via New York City. Robert, while working as a packer for a New York merchandiser, accepted an offer from customer John Heinemann to join him in South Carolina. Heinemann employed Robert in his dry goods store in Andrews and enrolled him in high school. Jerome discusses his mother's ancestry and how his parents met. Eva Cox Moskow, born into a Christian family, converted to Judaism, Robert's faith. The Moskows observed the Sabbath, attended services at Temple Sinai in Sumter, and invited their Christian friends to their Passover Seders. Jerome recalls the names of a number of merchants in Georgetown, Williamsburg, Clarendon, and Sumter counties. His father ran a few small shops before joining H. Brody & Sons in Sumter. In 1934 the Moskows moved back to Andrews and opened their own business. Jerome recounts how he met his wife, Mary, who, like his mother, converted from Christianity to Judaism. He talks about his siblings, his three children, his accounting business, his involvement in civic organizations, and the Andrews town offices that he has held, including chair of the school board during integration in the 1960s. He has been a member of Beth Or in Kingstree since its founding in 1945. He provides some history of the congregation and reports on its status at the time of the interview.
Morris Mazursky, audio interview by Dale Rosengarten and Robert A. Moses, 9 February 1995, Mss-1035-006, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Morris Mazursky, who grew up in Sumter, South Carolina, recounts his father Abe Mazursky’s emigration in 1909 from Kobrin, Russia. Abe lived briefly in New York City before moving to Barnwell, South Carolina, home of his uncle Barney Mazursky, who hired him to work in his store. Abe soon moved to Mayesville, South Carolina, to help out in his cousin’s store, and later operated a dry goods business there with the help of wealthy lien merchant Henry Weinberg. When Abe and Henry’s partnership ended, Abe established his own store, The Beehive, also in Mayesville. Rabbi David Karesh of Columbia introduced Abe to his future wife, Mary Blatt, the daughter of Austrian immigrants Morris and Mamie Blatt, who had settled in Charleston in the late 1800s. Abe and Mary married in 1919 and moved with their two children, Helen and Morris, to Sumter four years later, where Abe had just opened another store called The Hub. Morris received his law degree from the University of South Carolina and worked with the firm Lee & Moise before starting his own practice in his hometown. He was elected to Sumter City Council in 1958 and served for twenty-eight years. With input from interviewer Robert Moses, also a Sumter native, Morris discusses the impact that segregation and poverty had on African Americans in the community, the effects of integration on the school system, and how the city upheld the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition, the two men recall Sumter’s efforts to improve its economic base by attracting industry and note the decline of Temple Sinai’s congregation as the area’s Jewish population dwindled. Morris describes how he met his wife Marcia Weisbond Mazursky—they, like his parents, were married by Rabbi Karesh—and talks about their three children.
Naomi Weisbond Warner, the second of three daughters of Anna Block and David Weisbond, was in born in 1920 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Before he married, David was a professional boxer under the moniker Eddie Forrest. He traveled to various cities and, while in Buffalo, New York, met Herman Warner, a Jewish tailor, who offered to host David whenever he was in town. Warner's generosity launched a lifelong friendship between the two families and a marriage: Naomi would marry Herman's son, Warner Tobias Warner, in 1940. Naomi describes her husband's difficult childhood and her own youth, which was constrained by an overprotective mother. She quit high school in her senior year, having been offered a full-time job in the office at Lit Brothers in Philadelphia, a large department store. Though her parents urged her to finish school, she felt she couldn't turn down the opportunity to help with family finances, which were hard hit by the Great Depression. In addition, David was in ill health. The Weisbonds, who lived on the outskirts of Philadelphia, did not attend synagogue services, nor did they observe the Jewish holidays. "And yet we knew we were Jewish," says Naomi, and she knew she was expected to marry a Jewish man. After marrying Warner, she joined him in Buffalo, where he managed four jewelry stores. When the store owners offered him a management position in South Carolina, the couple moved to Sumter with two children in tow and a third on the way. Five years later, in 1956, they opened their own store. Naomi discusses the changes she has observed over the years in Temple Sinai, Sumter's Reform congregation, and she contrasts living in a big city, such as Buffalo, with life in a small city like Sumter. Naomi talks about their children, Jan, Edwin, and Bonnie, and the close relationship they enjoy as a family.