Sisters Frances Deborah “Debby” Baruch Abrams and Carolyn Baruch Levenson grew up in Camden, South Carolina, in the 1920s and ’30s in a community where a handful of Jewish families maintained a close relationship with their gentile neighbors. Their mother, Theresa Block, daughter of German immigrants, met her husband, Herman Baruch, Jr., when she came to Camden from New York to help her recently widowed uncle, Louis Block, with his three girls. Debby and Carolyn do not recall experiencing any anti-Semitism as children, and Debby was active in the Baptist and Methodist church youth groups. Raised in the Reform tradition, they attended Sunday school in Camden and were confirmed by Rabbi Samuel Shillman at Temple Sinai in Sumter. Despite growing up in Camden, the sisters had strong ties to the coastal region of South Carolina north of Georgetown. Debby remembers visiting her cousin Bernard Baruch, financier and advisor to Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt, at Hobcaw, his plantation northeast of the city. The girls spent their summers in Pawley’s Island, which included visits to their uncle Joe Baruch in Murrells Inlet. Debby met her husband, Helmar Abrams, a pharmacist, in 1942, when she moved to Georgetown to begin teaching. She discusses life in Georgetown, including Temple Beth Elohim’s congregation, the businesses that lined Front Street after World War II, and the relations between Jews, gentiles, African Americans, Lebanese, and Syrians. Note: the transcript contains additions and corrections made by Debby during proofing.
“Oldtimers and Newcomers” is a panel discussion held in 2004 at the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina’s spring meeting convened in Georgetown in honor of Temple Beth Elohim’s centennial year. “Oldtimers” Philip Schneider and Meyer Rosen provide background on Georgetown’s Jewish history, noting former mayors, prominent members of the community, and their own family stories. “Newcomers” and New York natives Ariane Lieberman and Gene Vinik discuss how their experiences, growing up in New York among a large population of Jews, differ from the small-town, southern culture of Georgetown. Bari Heiden, born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, joined the Georgetown congregation just six months before the panel met. She describes raising her children in Florence, South Carolina, where they were members of Beth Israel. Audience members contribute their memories of growing up in Georgetown and share their small-town stories.