Sarah Burgen Ackerman, the daughter of Polish immigrants, grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. She moved to Walhalla and, later, Fort Mill, South Carolina, after she married George Ackerman, a cantor and Hebrew teacher. The couple operated stores in both locations and raised four children.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rose Louise Aronson was raised in Orangeburg, South Carolina, the great-granddaughter of Moritz Rich who, with his brother Lipman, emigrated from Prussia before the Civil War and settled successively in Charleston, St. Matthews, and Orangeburg. About 1890, her maternal grandfather, Louis Leopold Block, a German immigrant, joined the Hirsch brothers in their dry goods business in Camden. In the 1950s, Rose Louise was instrumental in organizing Temple Sinai, Orangeburg’s Jewish congregation.
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.
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.
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.