Zerline Levy Williams Richmond and her children, Arthur Williams and Betty Gendelman, recount the Levy and Williams family histories, including Zerline’s mother’s stint as Charleston’s first female rice broker, and the Williamses’ kindergarten on George Street. The Williams family were members of Charleston’s Reform temple, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.
William Ackerman, the son of Hungarian immigrants, grew up in a small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania, with a community of about 35 Orthodox Jewish families who came from the same region of Hungary. He married Jennie Shimel of Charleston, South Carolina, and worked there as an attorney, joining her father, Louis Shimel, in his practice. He developed the suburban neighborhood and shopping center, South Windermere, and was a founder of the Conservative synagogue, Emanu-El.
Sylvan and Meyer Rosen, brothers and natives of Georgetown, South Carolina, recall growing up in the coastal city and socializing regularly with gentiles. The Jewish congregation, Beth Elohim, too small to support a rabbi, received support from Charleston’s Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. The brothers name of some of Georgetown’s Jewish families and provide background on their extended families, the Lewenthals, Weinbergs, and Rosens. Their father, Harry Rosen, and their uncle Albert Schneider, who married sisters Dora and Fannie Lewenthal, operated The New Store, which initially sold men’s and ladies’ clothing and later furniture and appliances. Besides practicing law in Georgetown, both men held political office—Sylvan as mayor and Meyer as a state legislator.
Sura Wolff Wengrow grew up in Allendale, South Carolina, in the first quarter of the twentieth century where her father, Henry Wolff, a German immigrant, ran a general merchandise store. In 1901, Henry married Rachel Pearlstine of Branchville, South Carolina. The family kept kosher and observed the holidays, but Sura did not receive a Jewish education, formal or otherwise. With no other Jewish families in town, she socialized, as a child, with gentiles and attended their church events, a pattern of assimilation she would repeat while living in Allendale during the early years of her marriage to Sam Wengrow of Beaufort, South Carolina. Longing for a connection to Judaism, and wanting her children to be involved in synagogue life, the Wengrows moved to Columbia when their oldest son was twelve. Note: This transcript appears to have been heavily edited with corrections, deletions, and additions by the interviewee and/or her son during proofing. Therefore, the transcript differs somewhat from the audio.
Sisters Dorothea Dumas, Renée Frisch, and Jennie Ackerman recall their familys immigrant background and share memories of growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and 30s. Their father, New Yorker Louis Shimel, an attorney who married Lillian Fechter of Charleston, served as the assistant district attorney for the Southeast and was the first president of the Jewish Community Center. The sisters also discuss the founding of Emanu-El, Charlestons Conservative synagogue.
Sisters Anne and Julie Oxler spent most of their formative years in the 1930s and 1940s in Charleston, South Carolina, where their immigrant father, William, ran the New York Shoe Repair, and the family attended Beth Israel. Eva Levy of Columbia, South Carolina, married their brother, Herbert, who was the credit manager at Altman’s Furniture Store in Charleston for three decades. Wendy Twing, Anne’s daughter, compares her upbringing with that of her mother and aunts.
Sarah Burgen Ackerman, the daughter of Polish immigrants, grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. She moved to Walhalla and, later, Fort Mill, South Carolina, after she married George Ackerman, a cantor and Hebrew teacher. The couple operated stores in both locations and raised four children.
Sandra Goldberg Lipton discusses her family background including that of her father, Nathan Goldberg, and her maternal grandparents, Mendel and Esther Read Dumas. Nathan married the Dumas’s daughter, Lenora, and moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Sandra discusses their involvement in Emanu-El, Charleston’s Conservative synagogue. She married Morey Lipton, who talks about growing up in Beaufort, South Carolina, and Beth Israel Congregation where he attended Hebrew school.
Sandra Garfinkel Shapiro grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1930s and 40s, the youngest of six children of Jewish immigrants from Divin, Russia. She recalls her childhood years, including her involvement with Young Judea, the African-American woman who worked for the Garfinkel family, and her fathers mattress business. She has donated her personal collection of genealogy books, photos, and ephemera to the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston.
Sam Kirshtein is the son of Polish immigrants who, like many of their landsmen from Kaluszyn, Poland, settled in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1900s. Sam, who was born in 1925 and grew up in the St. Philip Street neighborhood, describes the “Uptown” and “Downtown” Jews, and the two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel. After serving in the army’s Chemical Warfare Service during World War II, he returned home to help out at the family’s furniture store on King Street.
Ruth Kaye, born in 1913, grew up in Sumter, South Carolina, the granddaughter of Estonian immigrant, B. J. Barnett who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. The Barnetts became landowners and cotton farmers, and ran a general store. Ruth’s mother, Emma Klein, was born in Hungary and raised in Pennsylvania and New York. Ruth recounts her family history on both sides, and describes her visits with the New York Kleins.
Rose Rubin, daughter of Polish immigrants Sophie Halpern and Morris Rudnick, recounts stories about her family’s life in the Old Country and her parents’ immigration to New York. Sophie moved with her first husband, Ralph Panitz, to Aiken, South Carolina, for his health. The town had a reputation as a salubrious retreat for people with pulmonary problems. Morris followed his sister, Anne, who had married Solomon Surasky, to Aiken, where he married Sophie after she became widowed. Rose describes her mother’s awareness of the dangers of the Nazi regime and her efforts to convince family members to come to America, and discusses the history of “Happyville,” a Jewish farming community, established just outside of Aiken in 1905. Rose married former state senator Hyman Rubin of Columbia, South Carolina.
Rose Louise Aronson was raised in Orangeburg, South Carolina, the great-granddaughter of Moritz Rich who, with his brother Lipman, emigrated from Prussia before the Civil War and settled successively in Charleston, St. Matthews, and Orangeburg. About 1890, her maternal grandfather, Louis Leopold Block, a German immigrant, joined the Hirsch brothers in their dry goods business in Camden. In the 1950s, Rose Louise was instrumental in organizing Temple Sinai, Orangeburg’s Jewish congregation.
Robert M. Zalkin grew up in Charleston during the Great Depression, a grandson of Lithuanian immigrant Robert (Glick) Zalkin, who opened Zalkin’s Kosher Meat and Poultry Market on King Street. Robert served in the army during World War II, earned an engineering degree from the University of South Carolina, and married Harriet Rivkin, whose father ran a delicatessen in Columbia.
Rabbi Harvey Tattelbaum shared his memories in an address titled “Rabbinic Reminiscences of Beaufort” at the April 2005 meeting of the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina held in Beaufort, South Carolina, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Beth Israel Congregation. His first pulpit, from 1960 to 1962, was the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. While serving as chaplain for the recruits and their officers, he was hired to lead neighboring Beaufort’s Beth Israel Congregation. He also traveled weekly to Walterboro, South Carolina, to provide services for the members of Mount Sinai
Rabbi Harvey Tattelbaum delivered this speech titled “Struggling, Growing, Reaching New-Old Conclusions” at the April 2005 meeting of the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina held in Beaufort, South Carolina, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Beth Israel Congregation. Rabbi Tattelbaum, who served Beth Israel from 1960 to 1962, describes his secular and religious education, and how reading Night, by Elie Wiesel, contributed to his “search for religious meaning.” He discusses his evolving concept of God and the “necessary challenge” of “spiritual uncertainty.”
Rabbi Gerald Isaac Wolpe, a descendant of Polish and Lithuanian Jews, grew up an only child in Roxbury, Massachusetts, surrounded by extended family. After graduating from rabbinical school in 1953, he served as a chaplain in the United States Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune. Two years later, his civilian career was launched in Charleston, South Carolina, where he led the Conservative Synagogue Emanu-El until 1958. The rabbi discusses far-ranging topics including the Jewish businessmen of Charleston, his view of what fueled the Conservative movement, how he balanced his personal beliefs about segregation with the concerns of his southern congregants, the making of Porgy and Bess, and how South Carolina Representative L. Mendel Rivers got his name. After serving Temple Beth El in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for eleven years, Wolpe moved to Har Zion in Philadelphia, where he led the congregation for three decades before retiring.
Philip Schneider, born and raised in Georgetown, South Carolina, and Charlestonian Alwyn Goldstein, who moved to Georgetown in 1938 to open a store, discuss the town’s Jewish religious and business life. Among the merchants were Philip’s grandmother, Sally Lewenthal, and his father, Albert Schneider, who went into business with Philip’s uncle, Harry Rosen. Both interviewees recall the effects of the Great Depression in their native cities.
Philip Garfinkel, one of six children of Sam and Hannah Garfinkel, natives of Divin, Russia, grew up in the 1930s and ’40s in Charleston, South Carolina. Philip discusses his siblings, friends from the St. Philip Street neighborhood, and the family’s religious practices. He fondly recalls summers on Sullivan’s Island and afternoons at the Jewish Community Center on St. Philip Street.
Olga Garfinkel Weinstein, born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1917, describes her childhood, including her siblings, the Jewish Community Center, and the traditional Jewish foods her mother served. Olga experienced no anti-Semitism as a schoolgirl, but discusses her awareness, as a young woman during World War II, of what was happening to the Jews in Europe.