Edward Aberman, one of two surviving children of Bessie Samet and Sol Aberman, discusses his family history. The Samets, originally from Russia, immigrated circa 1914 to the United States from Cape Town, South Africa, where Bessie was born. They followed Samet family members to North Carolina, and ultimately settled in High Point. Sol Aberman, the son of a Russian immigrant, grew up in Chicago and left home when he was young, traveling around North America as a member of a band playing clarinet in a variety of venues, including circuses. During one stop in High Point, North Carolina, he met Bessie Samet. After they married, the couple lived in Chicago and North Carolina for a time, before settling in Rock Hill, where Sol assumed leadership of its small Jewish community. He hired students and circuit-riding rabbis to conduct holiday services, and was instrumental in building Temple Beth El in the early 1940s. Edward, who was born in 1932, describes growing up in Rock Hill, how his family observed the Sabbath, and efforts by coaches from Clemson, University of South Carolina, and The Citadel to recruit him to play football. He attended The Citadel in Charleston, where he met his wife Mary Ann Pearlstine. Mary Ann joins Edward in this interview. See also Mary Ann’s interview on the same date (Mss. 1035-222), 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).
Rock Hill, South Carolina residents Edward Aberman, Mary Ann Pearlstine Aberman, Jack Leader, Harriet Marshall Goode, and Martin Goode discuss local Jewish history, marrying outside one’s faith, and racial discrimination and interracial relations in Rock Hill. Edward, a native born in 1932, describes growing up in Rock Hill, and recalls Jewish family names such as Breen, Friedheim, and Kurtz. His father, Sol Aberman, was a musician who, in his youth, played in nightclubs and circuses around the country. After settling in Rock Hill and opening a scrap metal business, Sol supported the musical ambitions of local children and played with the Hejaz Shrine Temple band. Besides being the leader of the small Jewish community of anywhere from six to fourteen families, Sol worked hard for various civic and charitable organizations. Born in 1946, Jack Leader also grew up in Rock Hill. His parents followed brother-in-law Harry Cohen to Shelby, North Carolina. Harry helped all his siblings get off the ground with their own businesses in the Carolinas. Jack’s parents moved to Rock Hill and opened Melville’s, later named Leader’s, which sold ladies’ and children’s clothing. Jack discusses his Jewish education and his family’s religious practices, and recalls that when he was growing up, there was an active Hadassah organization in Rock Hill. Harriet Goode, born in 1937 and raised as a Presbyterian in Rock Hill, was about eight years old when she found out her paternal grandmother, Fanny Friedheim Marshall, was Jewish. Harriet’s great-grandfather and his brothers emigrated from Germany to Baltimore and, ultimately, wound up in Rock Hill, where they opened Friedheim’s Department Store. As a child, Harriet had both Christian and Jewish friends and was not aware of any discrimination towards Jews in her hometown. Mary Ann Aberman came to Rock Hill in 1955 as a newlywed and describes the “culture shock” of moving from the larger city of Charleston, South Carolina, to Rock Hill. Martin Goode, who was raised as a Methodist in Covington, Georgia, and came to Rock Hill after college, talks about his view of Jewish people in general. Note: See also Edward and Mary Ann Aberman’s interviews (Mss. 1035-221 and 222), and an interview with Rock Hill native Sophia Marie Friedheim Beers (Mss. 1035-220).
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.”