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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ruth Kaye, born in 1913, grew up in Sumter, South Carolina, the granddaughter of Estonian immigrant, B. J. Barnett who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. The Barnetts became landowners and cotton farmers, and ran a general store. Ruth’s mother, Emma Klein, was born in Hungary and raised in Pennsylvania and New York. Ruth recounts her family history on both sides, and describes her visits with the New York Kleins.
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.
Zerline Levy Williams Richmond and her children, Arthur Williams and Betty Gendelman, recount the Levy and Williams family histories, including Zerline’s mother’s stint as Charleston’s first female rice broker, and the Williamses’ kindergarten on George Street. The Williams family were members of Charleston’s Reform temple, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Helen "Elkie" Rosenshein recalls childhood friends and neighbors from the 1920s and ’30s in Charleston, South Carolina. Her parents, Sam and Hannah Garfinkel, immigrants from Divin, Russia, followed Sam’s brother to the coastal city and opened a mattress factory. She describes the traditional Jewish foods served by her mother, who kept a kosher home with the help of an African American woman named Louisa. After working at the Charleston Navy Yard, Helen and her good friend, Freda Goldberg, spent a year in San Francisco, where they took advantage of local cultural events and volunteered at the Jewish Community Center.
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.
Harry Appel’s parents, Abraham Appel and Ida Goldberg, emigrated separately from Kaluszyn, Poland, in the early twentieth century. They met, married, and raised three children in Charleston, South Carolina. Their eldest, Harry, born in 1924, talks about his siblings, growing up in the St. Philip Street neighborhood, and Charleston’s synagogues.
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.