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.
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Sandras parents, Hannah (Annie) and Sam Garfinkel, were distant cousins and teenage emigrants from Divin, a small Russian town near Brest-Litovsk. Soon after their marriage in 1913, they moved from New York to Charleston, South Carolina, where Sam and his brother ran a mattress factory. Sandra was the youngest of six children. For fifty years, an African-American woman named Louisa cared for the Garfinkel children, cleaned and cooked for the family, and learned Yiddish from Sam and Annie. Sandra describes her parents and siblings, the schools she attended, her circle of friends, and Charlestons two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel. Growing up, Sandra sought out opportunities to expand her horizons. She joined clubs at the Charleston Museum and participated in extracurricular activities at the High School of Charleston. As a member of Young Judea, she organized local events, went to conventions and camp, and at age sixteen, traveled to Israel. Interviewer Jonathan Brilliant notes the differences between his generation and Sandras in regard to social mixing among gentiles and Jews. Sandra discusses her college education and her husband, Morton Shapiro, a labor union organizer who worked with southern unions in the 1950s. She talks about the importance of recording the history of their immigrant parents, and how Jewish Charleston has changed from a shtetl-like enclave in the early 1900s to an assimilated community. See also interviews with other members of the Garfinkel family: Olga Weinstein, Helen Rosenshein, Philip Garfinkel, Nathan and Frances Garfinkle (Nathan spells the family name differently), Max and Jennie Garfinkel, and Alex Garfinkel.