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.
In 1942, Paula Kornblum and her sister Hannah escaped the mass murder of Jews in their home town of Kaluszyn, Poland, at the hands of the Nazis. Assuming false identities, the two lived and worked in Częstochowa, Poland, until the Russian liberation. Paula describes returning to Kaluszyn after the war, living in a Displaced Persons camp, and the emigration process. She married Henry Popowski, also of Kaluszyn, and they and their first-born son immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, with the help of their landsmen.
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.
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.
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.
Sylvan and Meyer Rosen, brothers and natives of Georgetown, South Carolina, recall growing up in the coastal city and socializing regularly with gentiles. The Jewish congregation, Beth Elohim, too small to support a rabbi, received support from Charleston’s Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. The brothers name of some of Georgetown’s Jewish families and provide background on their extended families, the Lewenthals, Weinbergs, and Rosens. Their father, Harry Rosen, and their uncle Albert Schneider, who married sisters Dora and Fannie Lewenthal, operated The New Store, which initially sold men’s and ladies’ clothing and later furniture and appliances. Besides practicing law in Georgetown, both men held political office—Sylvan as mayor and Meyer as a state legislator.
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.
Sura Wolff Wengrow grew up in Allendale, South Carolina, in the first quarter of the twentieth century where her father, Henry Wolff, a German immigrant, ran a general merchandise store. In 1901, Henry married Rachel Pearlstine of Branchville, South Carolina. The family kept kosher and observed the holidays, but Sura did not receive a Jewish education, formal or otherwise. With no other Jewish families in town, she socialized, as a child, with gentiles and attended their church events, a pattern of assimilation she would repeat while living in Allendale during the early years of her marriage to Sam Wengrow of Beaufort, South Carolina. Longing for a connection to Judaism, and wanting her children to be involved in synagogue life, the Wengrows moved to Columbia when their oldest son was twelve. Note: This transcript appears to have been heavily edited with corrections, deletions, and additions by the interviewee and/or her son during proofing. Therefore, the transcript differs somewhat from the audio.
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.
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.
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.
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.