Bernard "Nard" Fleischman was born in 1946 in Columbia, South Carolina, to Marian Daniel and Bernard S. Fleischman. Marian's family, mostly from southern Georgia, has been traced back to 1750 in North America. Her mother was Jewish, her father was Christian, and they raised the children as Jews. On his father's side, Bernard notes that stories from his great-grandmother and Columbia native Rosa David Berman have been passed down to his generation. He relates one of her tales about the invasion of the capital city by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's troops in 1865. Rosa's husband, Barnett Berman, a Polish immigrant, was president of the Columbia Hebrew Benevolent Society from 1888 to 1914, a long period of leadership that set a precedent for Bernard's father, who served the Society for decades as secretary-treasurer, and Bernard, who took over the role in 2003. The interviewee talks about his paternal grandparents, Tillie Berman Fleischman and Sol Fleischman. After Sol died in 1936, Tillie bought a house on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, and Bernard and his family spent their summers there. The family included Bernard, his older sister Lynn, and younger sister Marianne. The interviewee describes his parents' religious observances and their experiences as members of the Reform synagogue in Columbia, Tree of Life. He recalls Jewish merchants, the neighborhoods where he grew up, and childhood friends. He was the only Jewish person in his junior high school and admits he tried to hide that he was Jewish: "I didn't want to stand out." Nevertheless, he experienced no "blatant" antisemitism growing up. "Columbia was a very accepting town, it really was, at least from my perspective." Bernard lists the civic organizations he has been active in, emphasizing his significant involvement in the Jewish organizations. "We think that's something that is important to us, to keep Jewish tradition here in Columbia alive." He sees his family's legacy as one of "service to not only the Jewish community, but we're also very involved in the non-Jewish."
Ida Berry, one of four daughters of Bessie Freed and Samson Berry (Berazin), was born in 1923 and raised in Columbia, South Carolina. In this interview she discusses her family history and her experiences growing up in the capital city. Samson emigrated from Visnea, Russia, early in the 20th century, and found his way to Columbia where he opened a small dry goods store on Assembly Street. Bessie, also from Russia, followed her father and sister to New York City, and was visiting her uncle in Columbia in 1917 when she met Samson. Two months later David Karesh, the shochet, cantor, and rabbi for Columbia’s Orthodox Jews, presided over their marriage ceremony in the House of Peace Synagogue (later called Beth Shalom) on Park Street. Ida recalls Columbia’s Jewish merchants, how her family observed the holidays, and the traditional foods her mother prepared in her kosher kitchen. While growing up she felt that there was an atmosphere of mutual respect between Jews and non-Jews, and she remembers that the city’s gentiles, including the Ku Klux Klan member who lived next door to the Berrys, were friendly and helpful. Ida describes Beth Shalom Congregation’s gradual transition from Orthodox to Conservative practices, from families sitting together at the Marion Street location to women reading the Torah from the bimah in the suburban Trenholm Street synagogue. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by the interviewee during proofing.
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.
Betty Lindau Ustun reflects on growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, a city she describes as “not exactly welcoming to all Jews.” She remembers that the Orthodox Jews there did not consider Reform Jews “real Jews.” The Lindaus belonged to the Reform congregation, Tree of Life, and her mother, Beatrice Perl Lindau, worked closely with Helen Kohn Hennig in the synagogue’s Sunday school and sisterhood. Beatrice, the daughter of a baker from Szeged, Hungary, married Jules W. Lindau, III, a plastics engineer. Betty talks about how the family wound up in Columbia, where her father owned Southern Plastics and promoted the growth of engineering programs at local colleges. She briefly discusses her family’s feelings about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s and their response to the formation of the State of Israel. Betty was working for Voice of America in Washington, D.C. when she met her future husband, Semih Ustun, the son of a Turkish diplomat. They married in 1956 and raised two sons in the capital. Betty was a founding member of Southwest Hebrew Congregation in Washington, later renamed Temple Micah. The transcript includes comments inserted by the interviewee during proofreading. See Mss. 1035-392 for follow-up interviews conducted in 2014.
Betty Lindau Ustun revisits some of the stories she told about her parents in her 2013 interviews (Mss. 1035-378) and describes how her family celebrated Passover in Columbia, South Carolina. She discusses her “concept of God;” the founding of Temple Micah in Washington, D.C., where she was a founding member; and her involvement in establishing a Washington-Moscow art exchange in the late 1980s. The transcript includes comments inserted by the interviewee during proofreading. See Mss. 1035-378 for interviews conducted in 2013.
Roselen Morris Rivkin, born in 1926 in Romania, immigrated with her family to the United States in 1932. They lived first in Elkhart, Indiana, then South Bend, Indiana. She met her husband, Arnold Rivkin, of Columbia, South Carolina, while he was stationed at Notre Dame during World War II. They married in South Bend in August 1946 and moved about three months later to Columbia to operate Edward’s Men’s Shop at the corner of Washington and Assembly streets. After twenty years, the store relocated to 1625 Main Street and reopened as Marks’ Men’s Wear. Roselen talks briefly about Arnold’s parents, Rachel and Raphael Rivkin, and recalls the Jewish merchants she knew on Assembly Street and Main Street. She found Columbia’s Jewish community to be small, close-knit, and welcoming. Roselen and Arnold raised three children, Mark, Allen, and Lynda, in the capital city. For a related interview, see Caba Rivkin, Mss. 1035-017.
Helen Greher Kahn grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, two blocks from House of Peace, the Orthodox synagogue on Park Street. Her mother, Rebecca Cohen, a Polish immigrant, followed her sister to Wilmington, North Carolina. Helen’s father, Isaac Greher (Kerschbaum), came south after arriving in the United States from Austria-Hungary, and made a living by peddling between Charleston and Columbia. While in the capital city, he stayed with the Karesh family, headed by Rabbi David Karesh. The rabbi, who had served the Wilmington congregation before moving to Columbia, introduced Rebecca and Isaac. Helen recalls visiting the Kareshes regularly as a child, and notes that they were an important influence in her life. Karesh served as cantor for the House of Peace congregation, prepared the boys for their bar mitzvahs, visited the sick in the local hospitals, and slaughtered chickens at his work table in the Dent’s grocery store. Helen admired Helen Kohn Hennig, who ran the Sunday school classes at Tree of Life, the Reform synagogue. The Grehers were members of House of Peace, but because it lacked a Sunday school, Helen and her sister attended Mrs. Hennig’s classes. The interviewee touches on a number of subjects including Columbia’s Jewish families, the Columbia Jewish boys’ social organization, the Yudedum Club, and attending dances in Charleston and Folly Beach. Helen married Saul Kahn, also of Columbia, the son of Meyer B. Kahn, an immigrant whose car broke down in Columbia on his way from Florida to Ohio. He decided to stay, and he became successful in commercial construction. Helen contrasts the Orthodox traditions of her youth with those of the contemporary community, especially Beth Shalom’s (formerly House of Peace) Conservative congregation.
Ida Berry Ginsberg, in an interview with her nephew’s wife, Cydney G. Berry, discusses the Berry (Berzin or Berzinsky) family history, with a focus on her father, Barnett Berry, who emigrated from Russia around 1892. After spending two years in New York, he moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he opened B. Berry’s, a shoe repair and sales shop on Assembly Street. He married Annie Levine and they raised seven children. Ida recalls that the family observed the Sabbath at home, with only the men attending weekly services at House of Peace Synagogue. She remembers the Depression, but notes that it did not negatively affect her family’s welfare.
Henry Miller, accompanied by his wife, Minda Miller, describes growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, in the 1950s and 1960s. His parents, Cela Tyczgarten and David Miller were survivors of the Holocaust; their move to Columbia in 1949 was sponsored by the city and Beth Shalom Synagogue. The Millers summarize David and Cela’s experiences during World War II, in particular, David’s participation in the ghetto uprising in his native city of Warsaw, Poland. David and Cela met and married in Landsberg, Germany, where they were living in a displaced persons camp. Henry observes how his parents’ status as Holocaust survivors and refugees affected their outlook on life, as well as how it affected him and his sister as children. He discusses his parents’ liquor store business, the neighborhoods where they lived, and his memories of downtown Columbia on Saturdays. He also reflects on school desegregation, antisemitism, and the effects of prejudice on blacks and Jews. Henry met Minda in Memphis, Tennessee, where he attended optometry school; they married in 1978. They have a daughter, Dawn, and a son, Bret. Henry practiced optometry for thirty-seven years in Columbia.
Robert Zalkin, born in 1925 in Charleston, South Carolina, describes growing up in the St. Philip Street neighborhood and talks about his family’s King Street business, where he helped out as a child. Zalkin’s Market, a kosher butcher shop, was opened by Robert’s grandfather, who had emigrated from Lithuania around 1898. Robert’s father, Joseph, who married Anna Cohen of New York, kept the market open until the late 1940s, when he sold the business to New Yorkers Alex and Lila Lash. Robert provides details about the layout and operation of the shop and the tasks his father assigned him. He notes that non-Jews, as well as Jews, were a regular part of their retail customer base. Zalkin’s also sold non-kosher meat wholesale to the local Swift and Armour packaging plants. Robert married Harriett Rivkin of Columbia, South Carolina, in 1949. Harriett states that her parents, Katie and Caba Rivkin, operated “one of the first Jewish delis in the South." She describes Columbia’s Jewish community as close-knit and remembers that her parents welcomed into their home many of the Jewish soldiers stationed at Fort Jackson during World War II. The Rivkins belonged to House of Peace, where Harriett’s grandfathers, Ruben Roth and Jacob Rivkin, were among the charter members of the Orthodox shul. Because the synagogue did not offer formal religious instruction, the Rivkins sent Harriett to Sunday school at Tree of Life, the Reform congregation in Columbia. Robert and Harriett describe the dishes their mothers served when they were growing up and their food habits in the years since. Five years after marrying, the Zalkins moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, and raised their three children there.