Barry Draisen was raised in post-World War II Anderson, South Carolina, where his parents owned a jewelry and music store. After working in several states as an engineer for General Electric, he returned to his hometown with his wife, Ellen Cherkas of Atlanta, to help run the family business. The couple decided to remain in Anderson where they took over the store, raised their children, and became active members and leaders of Temple B’nai Israel.
Louis Funkenstein of Athens, Georgia, married Caroline Geisberg, a native of Anderson, South Carolina, and the couple settled in Caroline’s hometown where Louis established a paper box company. The Funkensteins describe their family histories and discuss a variety of topics including religious practices and Jewish-gentile relations in Anderson.
Cousins Arthur Williams and Elza Meyers Alterman grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. They discuss the Williams and Meyers family histories, intermarriage and assimilation, and Charleston’s Reform Jewish community, including changes in the congregation and services during their lifetimes. Arthur became a physician and helped to develop an artificial kidney machine in the 1940s. Elza followed her mother into retail and ran a dress shop in the former home of the Williams family on George Street.
Brothers David and Sam Draisen, descendants of Russian immigrants from the Draisen and Poliakoff families, describe the family jewelry and music businesses and their experiences growing up in Anderson, South Carolina, in the years after World War II. They also discuss the history of Andersons Jewish congregation, Bnai Israel, and provide details about their careers and immediate families.
New Yorker Ira Kaye and his wife, Ruth Barnett Kaye, of Sumter, South Carolina, discuss Ira’s work as a defense attorney in Japan’s war crimes trials, the reluctance of Sumter’s Jews to speak out against segregation, and Ira’s experience with racism in South Carolina and representation of a tri-racial isolate group called the Turks. They also recall their experiences living in Nepal and India while Ira served in the Peace Corps.
Betty Hirsch Lancer, the daughter of emigrants from Mogelnitza, Poland, describes growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the decades before World War II. Her father acted in New York’s Yiddish theaters with limited success, and his father made and sold schnapps out of his house on St. Philip Street during Prohibition. Betty recalls the Great Depression, discusses how her parents made a living, and mentions other families in Charleston who were from Mogelnitza.
Jennie Shimel Ackerman, born in 1923 in Charleston, South Carolina, grew up with a strong sense of Jewish identity in a family where religious observance was limited to the holidays. She discusses her father and daughter’s law careers, and mentions her husband’s involvement in the collection of money for arms to send to Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary defense force in Palestine.
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.
Henry Barnett’s grandfather, B. J. Barnett, emigrated from Estonia in the 1830s or ’40s and settled in Manville, South Carolina. He fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War and, around 1880, moved to Sumter where he opened a dry goods store and became a landowner and cotton farmer. Henry married Patty Levi, also of Sumter, and a descendant of Moses Levi, who had emigrated from Bavaria and settled in Manning, South Carolina.
Harold Marion Aronson, born in Lane, South Carolina, in 1919, grew up in New Jersey, but returned with his family to South Carolina where they opened a dry goods store in Kingstree. Harold, who flew weather reconnaissance missions for the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, married Rose Louise Rich in 1944 and, later, settled in Rose Louise’s hometown, Orangeburg, South Carolina. The Aronsons established a successful aluminum awning business and raised two daughters.
Karl Karesh, born in 1912, discusses growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, focusing on his neighborhood, the local merchants, his Hebrew school training, and his family and their adherence to Orthodox religious observances. He addresses the differences between the uptown and downtown Jews before World War II, and describes his clothing business, and other Jewish- and gentile-owned dry goods stores, in Charleston during the post-war years.
Larry Freudenberg relates the history of both sides of his family. His mothers forebears, the Triests, immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, from Bavaria in the 1850s, opened a clothing store on King Street, and joined the Reform congregation, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. Larry's father, Henry Freudenberg, was a young boy when he escaped Nazi Germany in 1939 with his parents and grandparents. They eventually settled in Charleston. Larry discusses his experiences growing up in the 1960s and 70s, and feeling trapped between two cultures. Gentile children teased him for being Jewish, while Orthodox Jewish children accused him of being not Jewish enough. Larry runs the family's insurance business established in 1903 by his great-grandfather, Montague Triest.
Lillie Goldstein Lubin grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and ’30s. Her parents, Abraham and Bessie Lazerovsky Goldstein, emigrants from Russia and Lithuania, ran a shoe shop in Charleston that evolved into a men’s clothing store. As a youngster, Lillie’s singing talent was recognized by her mother and teachers. She began taking voice lessons when she was nine and performed at a number of local venues as a child and teenager, notably, singing with the Charleston Oratorio Society in a performance of Haydn’s Creation. Lillie, whose stage name as a professional opera singer in New York was Lisa Lubin, discusses her early training and the artists who influenced her most. During her singing career, she performed in several languages, including Yiddish and German. She describes Charleston’s Jewish community in the years before World War II as “unique” because of the “camaraderie” and the “kinship” that she felt. Lillie recalls her mother’s visits to the mikveh, attending Rabbi Axelman’s Hebrew school, going to Folly Beach to listen to bands, and the black Charlestonians who worked for the family, both in their home and at their store. She married Herman Lubin of New York, whom she met in Charleston while he was working at the navy yard as an engineer. During the course of the interview, Lillie sings a few lines from some of her favorite songs.
Margot Strauss Freudenberg recalls life in Germany before and after Hitler came to power. She was born in Hanover in 1907 to a family that was proud to be Jewish, but limited religious observance to the High Holidays. Margot describes the debate among Jewish Germans, including her own parents, about the necessity of leaving Nazi Germany, and her struggle to get her family out of the country. They eventually escaped to Charleston, South Carolina, where Margot became a well-known community activist.
Marian Birlant Slotin discusses the history of her fathers antique business, George C. Birlant & Company, which he established in 1929 in Charleston, South Carolina. George married Lillian Marcus of Kingstree, South Carolina, and despite their Orthodox backgrounds, they raised Marian, their only child, in the Reform tradition. Marian reminisces about her childhood and many of her close and distant relatives. She married Phil Slotin of Georgia, and they raised two boys. As of 2011, the antique shop remains in the family, run by their son, Andrew.
Max and Trude Schönthal Heller discuss growing up in Vienna, Austria, in the 1920s and ’30s, and the hardships and losses their families experienced as a result of the Anschluss, the German invasion of Austria in 1938. They describe how they and their family members escaped Austria and made their separate ways to the United States. Max, by chance, had met Mary Mills of Greenville, South Carolina, while she was visiting Vienna in 1937. He appealed to her for help in leaving Austria. Mary contacted Shep Saltzman, a Jewish man who owned a shirt factory in Greenville, and he sponsored Max’s immigration and gave him a job. Max and Trude, who met at a summer resort in Austria in 1937, married in the United States in 1942, and Trude joined Max in Greenville, where they raised their three children. Max served on Greenville’s city council from 1969-1971, and then was elected mayor for two terms, during which he spearheaded a major revitalization of the city’s downtown.
Moses Kornblut grew up in Latta, South Carolina, the son of Leon Kornblut and Lizzie Schafer. He operated the family business, Kornblut’s Department Store, for 76 years, served on the Latta City Council for over three decades, and was a leading member of the Dillon synagogue, Ohav Shalom.
Nathan Addlestone, son of Abraham and Rachel Lader Addlestone, immigrants from Bialystok and Lithuania respectively, describes growing up in Charleston, Oakley, and Sumter, South Carolina. His father got his start by peddling and owned a number of dry goods stores before opening a small scrap metal yard. The family was Orthodox and Rachel managed to keep a kosher house all her life. In the 1930s Nathan joined his father in his scrap metal business and, by the next decade, became successful in his own right. Nathan married Ruth Axelrod and they raised two daughters, Carole and Susan, in Sumter and Charleston, South Carolina. After their divorce, he married Marlene Laro Kronsberg.
In 1942, Paula Kornblum and her sister Hannah escaped the mass murder of Jews in their home town of Kaluszyn, Poland, at the hands of the Nazis. Assuming false identities, the two lived and worked in Częstochowa, Poland, until the Russian liberation. Paula describes returning to Kaluszyn after the war, living in a Displaced Persons camp, and the emigration process. She married Henry Popowski, also of Kaluszyn, and they and their first-born son immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, with the help of their landsmen.
Helen "Elkie" Rosenshein recalls childhood friends and neighbors from the 1920s and ’30s in Charleston, South Carolina. Her parents, Sam and Hannah Garfinkel, immigrants from Divin, Russia, followed Sam’s brother to the coastal city and opened a mattress factory. She describes the traditional Jewish foods served by her mother, who kept a kosher home with the help of an African American woman named Louisa. After working at the Charleston Navy Yard, Helen and her good friend, Freda Goldberg, spent a year in San Francisco, where they took advantage of local cultural events and volunteered at the Jewish Community Center.