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.
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.
Mary Ann Pearlstine Aberman, the elder of two daughters of Milton Alfred Pearlstine and Cecile Mayer Pearlstine, provides some background on her mother’s family the Mayers, whose ancestors arrived in the United States from Bavaria in the early 1800s, and her father’s family, the Pearlstines, who emigrated from Germany to South Carolina in the mid-1800s. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, she describes growing up in the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood of Charleston, next door to her first cousins. The family did not keep kosher but they did observe Shabbat by lighting candles before dinner and attending Friday night services at the Reform synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). She remembers that Jewish Citadel cadets were invited to join members of Charleston’s Jewish community for worship and holiday observances; they even taught Sunday school. She met her husband, Edward Aberman of Rock Hill, when he was attending The Citadel. Mary Ann reviews some of her father’s civic contributions to the Charleston area, particularly his involvement in the South Carolina State Ports Authority, and she recalls Pearlstine family involvement in Brith Sholom and KKBE. She also briefly discusses the founding of Emanu-El, the Conservative congregation, in 1947, noting that KKBE lost some of its members to Emanu-El at that time. Mary Ann is joined in this interview by Edward Aberman. See also Edward’s interview on the same date (Mss. 1035-221), the Abermans’ interview with fellow Rock Hill, South Carolina, residents Jack Leader, Harriet Marshall Goode, and Martin Goode on September 21 , 1999 (Mss. 1035-218), and an interview with Rock Hill native Sophia Marie Friedheim Beers (Mss. 1035-220).