Abel Banov draws on memories of his childhood in Charleston, South Carolina, to describe his familys customs, the synagogues, his fathers business ventures, the local merchants, and the differences between the citys uptown and downtown Jews. In 1939, he was hired by the North American Newspaper Alliance to cover stories in Spain just after the Spanish Civil War ended and, in the 1940s, he was founding editor of El Mundos English newspaper in Puerto Rico. He married Joan Heinemann, who fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s.
Alex Davis, joined by his niece, Suzanne Lurey, who speaks only briefly, discusses his family history and his experiences growing up in Greenville, South Carolina. His father, Victor Davis, opened an auto parts store in Greenville in 1926 and, after he died, Alex and his two brothers, Jack and Louis, ran the family business for nearly four more decades. Alex married Lillian Zaglin, also of Greenville, and they raised two children. He recalls the early leaders of Congregation Beth Israel, Greenville’s Orthodox synagogue, and describes the relationship between Beth Israel, now Conservative, and the Reform congregation, Temple of Israel.
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.
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.
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.
Doris Baumgarten tells the story of how her husband, Peter, and his family escaped Vienna in 1939 after the Nazi occupation of Austria. Peter and his brother, Hans, left on the Kindertransport and were taken in at a boarding school in Bournemouth, England. Their mother worked in London as a maid, but was able to join her boys in Bournemouth when the school hired her to clean their facilities. Their father was in Sweden during the German annexation and was unable to return to Vienna because of an invalid passport. Instead, he made his way to New York, arriving in the United States a year before his wife and children.
Doris Levkoff Meddin recalls her experiences growing up in Augusta, Georgia, where her parents, Shier and Rebecca Rubin Levkoff, ran The Smart Set Dress Shop. Shier and Rebecca, descendants of Russian and Polish immigrants, were born in Charleston, South Carolina. They and their children frequently visited Charleston and summered on Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms. Doris married Hyman Meddin, who was born and raised in Savannah and ran a meat-packing business in Charleston. While raising three children, she devoted her time and energy to philanthropic work. Among her many contributions to local organizations, Doris helped to establish the Pink Ladies, a volunteer group at Roper Hospital, and served as president of the Charleston Area Mental Health Association. As a member of the National Council of Jewish Women, she assisted German refugee Margot Freudenberg after she arrived in Charleston.
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.
Edward Mirmow and Rose Louise Aronson, who grew up in Orangeburg, recall the city’s Jewish families, descendants of German and Russian immigrants, and the types of stores they operated, dating to the 1930s. Edward’s paternal relatives, the Mirmowitzes and the Goldiners, emigrated from Russia around the turn of the 20th century. In the 1950s, Rose led an effort to organize a congregation for the benefit of Orangeburg’s Jewish children, including her two daughters, and Temple Sinai was founded.
Ella Levenson Schlosburg, the daughter of emigrants from Lithuania, recounts her family history and describes growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family in the small midlands town of Bishopville, South Carolina. Her father, Frank Levenson, one of a handful of Jewish merchants in Bishopville in the early 1900s, ran a general store that sold everything from groceries to mules. Ella married Elihu Schlosburg, the son of Anna Karesh and Harry Schlosburg, and they moved to Camden, South Carolina, where they established a liquor business.
Ellis Irvin Kahn, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, describes his family background and his years growing up in the coastal city where his father owned a wholesale and retail grocery business. His great-grandfather, Josiah Kaminitsky, appears in the South Carolina Supreme Court records of 1885. He lost both legs in a train accident, sued the North Eastern Railroad Company, and won. Ellis, an attorney and former president of the Charleston Jewish Federation, recounts the aftereffects of Hurricane Hugo (1989) on the areas residents and the relief efforts of local, national, and Israeli Jews. He married Janice Weinstein of Shreveport, Louisiana, and the couple raised three children in Charleston.
Fannie Appel Rones shares her memories of growing up on St. Philip Street in Charleston, South Carolina, between the world wars. The neighborhood was diverse—home to blacks, whites, Catholics, Jews, Greeks, and Italians. Fannie talks about her parents, Abraham and Ida Goldberg Appel (Ubfal), emigrants from Kaluszyn, Poland, and recalls stories her mother told her about the Old Country. She discusses the differences between Charleston’s “uptown” and “downtown” Jews and the Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel. Fannie also relates her experiences as a member of Charleston’s Conservative synagogue, Emanu-El, and Reform temple, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.
Fay Laro Alfred, born in Poland in 1915 during World War I, was just two weeks old when her family fled the fighting. Ultimately, they settled in Michigan where Fay’s parents started a scrap metal business. She recalls stories about her relatives in the Old Country and describes growing up Jewish in small-town Michigan and meeting her husband, Clement Alfred, (Zipperstein), a dentist. Her daughter, Marlene Addlestone, is an interviewer.
Fay Alfred follows up on information she broached in her first interview. She also discusses what happened to her relatives living in Europe during World War II, and her brother’s death while being held as a POW in the Philippines. She and her daughter, Marlene Addlestone, recall visiting her in-laws at their resort in South Haven, Michigan, and Mrs. Addlestone, talks about living in Charleston, South Carolina, where she moved after marrying Avram Kronsberg in 1959.
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.
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.