Sophie “Skip” Payeff Sindler, born in Aiken, South Carolina, in 1930, and her husband, Allan Sindler, born in Bishopville, South Carolina, in 1925, discuss their family histories. Skip’s parents met in Chicago after emigrating from Knyszyn, Poland. Skip recalls encounters with antisemitism while growing up in Aiken. She describes her brother Kivy Payeff’s service in the military in Germany during World War II, and the traditional nature of services at the Aiken synagogue, Adath Yeshurun. Allan’s father, Frank Sindler, a tailor, emigrated from the Lithuania-Latvia region and married Pauline Schwartzman, a native of Baltimore. They followed Pauline’s aunt and uncle, Louis and Mary Schwartzman Slesinger, to Bishopville, South Carolina, where, for decades, Frank ran a men’s clothing store. Allan describes growing up in Bishopville, his Jewish education, and the Bishopville Hebrew Congregation. Allan and Skip raised their family in Camden, South Carolina, about 25 miles from Allan’s hometown. Allan, a chemical engineer and award-winning sculptor, discusses some of his artwork. Other topics discussed include: Sumter’s Temple Sinai, changes in Jewish religious observance, and possible reasons for the decline of Jewish congregations in small Southern towns like Camden. The transcript includes comments inserted by Allan Sindler during proofreading.
Beryle Stern Jaffe, born in 1945, talks about growing up in Columbia, South Carolina. She is the eldest daughter of Sarah Kramer and Henry Stern. After Henry was discharged from the military, the Sterns settled in Henry’s home city of Columbia, where he joined his father, Gabe Stern, in his dry goods business, at that time located in nearby Lexington. Beryle recalls segregation and how prejudice against African Americans manifested in public, as well as in her own home with regard to their hired help. The interviewee married Pierre Jaffe in 1967. Pierre, a native of Paris, France, immigrated as a child to the United States with his mother, who had married an American soldier. Pierre and Beryle raised two children, Jason and Erin, in Columbia. Interviewer Lilly Stern Filler’s parents, Ben and Jadzia Stern, were Holocaust survivors who settled in Columbia after World War II. Beryle and Lilly describe the degree to which Lilly’s parents, particularly her father, adjusted to life in a new country.
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.
Judy Kurtz Goldman was raised in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the youngest of three children born to Margaret Bogen (Katzenellenbogen) and Benjamin Kurtz. The Kurtzes, who owned The Smart Shop, a women’s clothing store, were one of twelve Jewish families living in Rock Hill in the 1940s and ’50s. Although the family was observant and highly involved with the local Jewish community, they were fully assimilated into non-Jewish life, which, according to Judy, was not the case with all the Jewish residents in town. Benjamin was on the board of Guardian Fidelity, a mortgage company, and was a founder of the Rock Hill Country Club. Margaret put up Christmas decorations every December and their house was on the tour of homes one year. Judy attended Winthrop Training School, a K-12 school where Winthrop College’s student teachers trained. As a cheerleader and a member of the “in” crowd, she felt fully accepted. Judy discusses her siblings, family history, the saleswomen at The Smart Shop, and Mattie, the black woman who worked in the Goldman home and was a second mother to her. She recalls her feelings, as a child, when she observed the Jim Crow laws in action and their effect on Mattie. After college Judy taught for two years at Roosevelt High School in Atlanta, where she witnessed first-hand the start of integration in Georgia. She describes the response of the white students and her fellow teachers to events such as the end of segregation and the assassination of President Kennedy. Judy married Henry Kurtz, an optometrist who was practicing in Charlotte, North Carolina, a few miles from Rock Hill. Just prior to this interview, her first novel, The Slow Way Back, was published. She discusses the characters and the scenes in the story and the degree to which they are derived from her life. Judy notes that while she “felt more aligned with the gentile community” than the Jewish while growing up, in the process of writing her book, “I had sort of come back home again . . . into my Jewish skin. . . . I became comfortable with my Jewishness through writing the novel.”
Richard Phillips Moses, in an interview with his niece, Elizabeth Moses, describes growing up in Sumter, South Carolina, the youngest of seven children. He was born in 1926 to Charlotte Emanuel Moses and Henry Phillips Moses. Richard attended services and Sunday school at Sumter's Reform Temple Sinai. He explains how well Sumter's Jews have assimilated into the city's general population, and notes that despite the large number of Jews and people with ties to Judaism in Sumter, the temple's membership has declined in recent decades. Richard attended The Citadel for one year before entering the U.S. Navy to begin officer training. He was an aviation cadet when World War II ended, resulting in a change in his status to inactive. After discharge from the navy, Richard attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1948. He worked for one year in Atlanta for an insurance firm before returning to Sumter to join his brother Robert and his uncle Herbert Moses in the insurance and real estate business started by Richard's father, Henry, who died in 1945. Besides talking about his aunts, uncles, and cousins on the Moses side of the family, Richard discusses how he met his wife, Eleanor Ruth Burke Moses, a Baptist from Alcolu, South Carolina; his three children; and the circumstances that led Perry Weinberg, a Sumter orphan, to join the family. Richard served as Sumter's mayor from 1972-76; he briefly mentions his response to black citizens seeking his help with civil rights issues. For related information see the August 16 and 17, 2013 interviews with Richard's brother Robert Moses and August 19, 2013 interview with Richard's sister Mary Octavia Moses Mahon. Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston, is the repository for Moses family photographs and papers.