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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Claire Fund recounts how her Jewish parents survived World War II. Her father Charles Fund and his sister Esther were born in Yeremsha, Poland, in the early 1900s. Charles trained as an engineer in France, joined a branch of the French Army, and ended up in Glasgow, Scotland. There he met his wife, Aurelia Frenkel of Vienna, who had escaped Austria on foot in 1939. Esther, a dentist who had returned home to practice, hid in a farmers barn for more than a year to evade the Germans. Once it was safe for her to come out of hiding, she joined the Free Czechoslovakian Army, where she met her husband, Miroslav Kerner.
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.
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.
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.
Born in 1927, Sophia Marie Friedheim Beers was raised in the Protestant faith in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Her grandfather Arnold Friedheim, a German Jewish immigrant, settled in the town after the Civil War. His brother, Julius, followed him to Rock Hill and together they ran A. Friedheim and Brother. The department store, which supplied uniforms to Winthrop College students, closed its doors in 1964 after nearly a century in business. Sophia recounts the story of her cousins, the Schwartzes, who escaped Nazi Germany in 1938 and came to Rock Hill.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Holocaust survivor, Pincus Kolender, tells the story of his life from his boyhood in Bochnia, Poland, to the significance of the Holocaust Memorial in his adopted city of Charleston, South Carolina, where he and his wife, Renee, a fellow survivor, raised their children. He describes life in Bochnias Jewish ghetto after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, his captivity at Birkenau, Buna, and Auschwitz, evading selection for the gas chambers, being wounded in an Allied air attack, surviving a death march, escaping the Nazis, hiding in the Czech forest, working for an American army unit, and immigrating to America.
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.
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.
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.