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.
Helen Laufer Dwork Berle describes growing up in her native city, Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and 30s. She discusses in detail Jewish merchants and the St. Philip Street neighborhood. Her parents, Harry and Tillie Hufeizen Laufer, who immigrated from Mogelnitsa, Poland, owned a mens clothing store on King Street before opening a restaurant. Laufers was Charlestons first kosher restaurant and served as a social hub during World War II.
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.
Hyman Rubin describes his upbringing in Norway, South Carolina, and later in Columbia, where his family owned a wholesale dry goods store. He talks about his experience at the University of South Carolina, and recounts his political career and tenure on Columbia's city council (1952-1966) and in the state senate from 1966-1984. In 1940, he married Rose Rudnick of Aiken, South Carolina.
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.
Irving Abrams moved with his family to Greenville, South Carolina, in 1936, where his father, Harry, led the effort to revive Temple of Israel, the city's Reform congregation. Harry managed the Piedmont Shirt Company, and hired African-Americans as early as 1939. Irving married Marjorie Kohler of Knoxville, Tennessee, followed his father into textiles, and oversaw the integration of his factory during the Civil Rights Movement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Caroline, Irvin, and Raymond Rosenblum reminisce about growing-up in Anderson, South Carolina, recalling their older siblings, relatives, neighbors, and Jewish religious observance. Their parents, Nathan and Freida Rosenblum, Polish immigrants, lived in several small South Carolina towns and Miami, Florida, before settling in Anderson in 1933. Caroline recounts her work history, and Irvin describes his eleven months in the navy at the end of World War II. Raymond served in the Naval Reserves while he attended medical school. Under the Berry Plan, his active duty was deferred until he completed his residency in urology.
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.
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.