Abe Dumas was born on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, in 1913, to Esther Read and Mendel Dumas, who emigrated from Lithuania in the first decade of the twentieth century. The couple followed Esther's brother Frank Read, who had settled in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. Mendel joined Frank in his mercantile store, until he opened his own business in nearby Bonneau. In this interview, Abe describes his father's dedication to making a living in America. Besides maintaining the Bonneau enterprise, Mendel invested in land for timber and farming, and opened stores in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1912, he and Frank Read built a five and dime store on the corner of King and Spring streets. Three years later, they parted company and Mendel bought a pawn shop at 220 King Street. By 1918, he had moved Esther and their five children (Lenora, Mary, twins Abe and Joe, and Yetta) to Charleston. "He knew," Abe reports, "that he could not raise a Jewish family in Bonneau." The Dumases were members of Brith Sholom, one of two Orthodox synagogues in Charleston. Abe notes the family was not very observant, although he and his brother celebrated their bar mitzvahs. The interviewee recalls how he and Joe began peddling around age twelve and began working in Mendel's Charleston store at sixteen, while their father commuted to Bonneau. They loved the work but didn't care for the pawn shop business in particular. In 1930, they switched to clothing and were very successful, which Abe attributes to carrying uniforms and hunting apparel. "Then when we moved to King and Society, we had there one of the largest operations of men's and family clothing in the city of Charleston. And it still is." Abe discusses growing up in Charleston, and the subtle antisemitism he observed in his early years. He remembers "divisiveness" between the Reform and Orthodox congregations, but says it no longer exists since an "economic level of parity or better came into existence." He attended the College of Charleston and, in 1936, married Dorothea "Dottie" Shimel Dumas. They had two children, Lynn and Carol. Abe reflects on what Americans knew about the Holocaust during World War II and the failure of the United States and other countries to assist Jewish refugees. Dumas tells the story of meeting George Gershwin in 1933 on Folly Beach, while Gershwin was in the area collaborating with DuBose Heyward on Porgy and Bess. For a related oral history, see the 1996 interview with Joseph Read, Mss. 1035-090. For a related collection, see the Louis M. Shimel papers, Mss. 1055. Although mentioned only briefly in this interview, the Dumases were founding members of Synagogue Emanu-El; see Mss. 1141 for the congregation records.
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).
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.
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.
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.
In this second of a two-part interview, Anita Moise Rosefield Rosenberg describes her career after graduating from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She first took a job as music director at WPTF radio in Raleigh, North Carolina. When she and her husband, Ira Rosenberg, moved to Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1960s, she went to work at WKTM radio, owned by her cousin Ansley Cohen, selling advertising spots, and doing whatever else was needed. Anita notes that working at WKTM was exciting because it was FM, which "was coming into its own," and it was "Charleston's first rock station." After a few years, she went into "the advertising agency world" and was active in the local professional association, Advertising Federation of Charleston, and the national association, American Advertising Federation, which recognized her work with their Silver Medal Award. One of her clients was Pearlstine Distributors, who hired her to run its marketing and advertising department. Anita talks about other jobs she held and the various types of work she did in advertising. "Just every different avenue of this profession has been fun and interesting, and very rewarding to do." In Charleston, the interviewee has been involved in numerous Jewish and non-Jewish community organizations and events as part of her professional work and her personal commitment to giving back. She recounts how she met her husband, Ira, the son of Bessie Lipschutz and Alan Rosenberg. "Two different worlds met each other." Ira's parents, Orthodox Jews from New York, raised him in Richmond, Virginia. Anita grew up in Sumter, South Carolina, in a Reform temple. Anita and Ira's three children are David, Virginia, and Mindelle. Anita discusses how and why she and Ira were able to adopt Virginia in 1967 as an infant. The Rosenberg family belonged to Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE), Charleston's Reform synagogue. The interviewee talks about her children and grandchildren. Her son, David, and his wife, Marcie, are members of the relatively new Modern Orthodox Dor Tikvah in Charleston. Anita and Ira started keeping kosher years ago?something they did not do while raising their children?to accommodate family members who are kosher. Anita considers how practices have changed at KKBE: they have their first female rabbi and their first gay rabbi; the revised prayer books have English and Hebrew with transliterations and translations; the cantor's role has expanded and is more inclusive. She says, "Conservative and Reform are moving closer to each other in today's world," and adds "from a historical point of view, the ancestors were Sephardic Orthodox Jews who settled here. That's my beginnings. So I don't feel like this is so strange, it's just a part of who I am." Anita briefly covers a number of other topics, including KKBE's past rabbis; its present-day choir; how the influx of people from other states has changed the congregation; the current status of Charleston's Jewish congregations and how/why they get along so well; her opinion about the presence of Chabad in the area; Jewish-gentile relations; and her thoughts on the Temple Sinai Jewish History Center in her hometown of Sumter. In a postscript to this interview, Anita recalls Alfreda LaBoard of Johns Island, the African-American woman who "was our nursie" from the time the Rosenberg kids were small. "She raised my children. I could never have done all the things that I did in the community, as well as Ira and I both busy with our careers, if it hadn't been for Alfreda." Comments and corrections made by the interviewee during proofing have been added to the transcript. For part one of this interview, see Mss. 1035-554. For related interviews, see Anita's interviews with her husband Ira Rosenberg, Mss. 1035-452 and Mss. 1035-461, and with her son, David Rosenberg, Mss. 1035-175. Also see a 1995 interview with her mother, Virginia Moise Rosefield, Mss. 1035-007.
Samuel "Sam" Appel, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1929, talks about growing up on St. Philip Street in a neighborhood he remembers as predominantly Jewish. Sam and his sister, Faye "Fannie" Rones, who sits in on this interview, describe their parents, Ida Goldberg and Abe Appel (Ubfal), both immigrants from Kaluszyn, Poland, and their brothers, Harry and Sidney. Sam recalls his mother performing the Jewish ritual shlug kapores during the High Holidays, and he shares memories of his bar mitzvah and his activities as a member of Boy Scout Troop 21 and Aleph Zadik Aleph. Although the Appels were members of Beth Israel, one of two Orthodox synagogues in town, Sam says "We were not Orthodox," reasoning that while his parents, especially his mother, followed many of the Sabbath rules of observance, they made compromises. For example, Abe and Ida opened their King Street furniture store on Saturdays. The siblings consider the interviewer's question about perceived differences between what some locals call Charleston's Uptown Jews and Downtown Jews. Sam, who earned an accounting degree at the University of South Carolina, ultimately settled in Atlanta, Georgia, because there were not enough single Jewish women to date in Charleston. He married Judy Eagle of Montgomery, Alabama, in 1960, and the couple raised three children in Atlanta. Sam became a lawyer after taking night classes at Emory University. He discusses his involvement in the Jewish Georgian, an independent community publication based in the Atlanta area.
Edna Ginsberg Banov, the second of five children, was born in 1908 in Charleston, South Carolina, to Russian immigrants Pauline Kop and Isaac Ginsberg. Pauline’s sister Freda had settled in Charleston and married Hyman Bluestein. Pauline and Isaac opened a grocery store on America Street, at the corner of Hanover, and they lived above it. Edna describes the store, their home, and the neighborhood, which was called Little Mexico. When she was about ten years old, they moved to King Street and opened a wholesale tobacco shop. The Ginsbergs were Orthodox Jews and Edna recalls attending Sunday school classes and, as a teen, Hebrew school with Rabbi Glasser. The interviewee shares stories of her siblings, Flossie, Lilla, Izzy, and Bernice; her teachers at Courtenay School; two African Americans who worked for the family; Uncle Willie Banov, whom Edna tried to match with Henrietta Givner; Fannie Warshavsky, who taught Pauline English; her children Charles, Linda, and Karen; and her grandson Michael. Edna married Milton Banov, son of Sam Banov. She talks about her father-in-law’s men’s store on upper King Street, where he also dispensed home remedies for illnesses. See also Edna Banov’s interviews of November 9, 1995 (Mss. 1035-046) and November 14, 1995 (Mss. 1035-048). For a related collection, see the Edna Ginsberg Banov papers, Mss. 1039, Special Collections, College of Charleston.
Edna Ginsberg Banov, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1908, expands upon the stories she shared in her first interview. A daughter of Pauline Kop and Isaac Ginsberg, of Vitebsk Gubernia, Belarus, Russia, she talks about her mother’s family and her parents’ wedding, which took place in the Old Country. She notes that her father worked in the Kimberley diamond mines in South Africa before the marriage. Edna reads from some of her writings about life in the Jewish neighborhood of upper King and St. Philip streets when she was growing up. The Ginsbergs were strictly kosher and Edna describes their diet and the meals her mother cooked. She tells a number of stories, including how the family didn’t know her birth date and how her father disciplined her when she was a young girl for taking something that didn’t belong to her. Edna remembers an African American woman they called Old Suzy, who worked for the Sam Banov family for years, Edna’s in-laws, and later worked for Edna and her husband, Milton Banov. See also Edna Banov’s interviews of November 2, 1995 (Mss. 1035-045) and November 14, 1995 (Mss. 1035-048). For a related collection, see the Edna Ginsberg Banov papers, Mss. 1039, Special Collections, College of Charleston.
“Growing up Jewish in Beaufort” is a panel discussion held in 1998 at the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina’s fall meeting held in Beaufort, South Carolina. Beaufort natives Joseph Lipton, Stanley Farbstein, Michael Greenly, Gerrie Lipson Sturman, and Thomas Keyserling share childhood memories from the 1920s through the 1960s. Topics addressed include antisemitism, assimilation, and the transition from Orthodox to Conservative practices in Beth Israel. The panelists recall rabbis and lay leaders who served the congregation, and identify Jewish merchants, tradesmen, and professionals.