Charlotte Jewish Historical Society

Herman Blumenthal oral history interview, 1989 February 26
Long-time Charlotte resident and civic activist Herman Blumenthal discusses the Jewish experience in Charlotte beginning upon his arrival in the 1930s. He describes the small Jewish community centered around the synagogue and recalls prominent families. Mr. Blumenthal talks about the postwar changes in the Charlotte Jewish community, including increased population and a growing acceptance in mainstream social and service organizations. Likewise, he discusses his own civic involvement. Mr. Blumenthal reflects upon the creation of Shalom Park and its positive impact on the Jewish community in Charlotte, and discusses his desire to see stronger Jewish religious education in Charlotte.
Dorothy Coplon oral history interview, 1994 March 6
Dorothy Coplon discusses the Jewish community while growing up in New Bern, North Carolina and her life after moving to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1959. She describes going to Tuesday services at her temple in New Bern and she expresses her appreciation of Clarence and Thelma Thacker, who provided important services to members at Temple Beth El in Charlotte. She expands on her involvement in the Charlotte Jewish community and her extensive volunteer work outside of the Jewish community. She shares information about her family, especially her husband Carl and his role as president of Temple Beth El. Mrs. Coplon also describes her experience running as a Democrat for a seat in the North Carolina state legislature in 1992, including anti-Semitism that she encountered, as well as her attempts to encourage Jewish participation in Charlotte's community and political affairs.
Hilbert E. Fuerstman oral history interview, 1989 February 2
Hilbert Fuerstman describes the Jewish community in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he moved to from Newark, New Jersey in 1941. He describes the subtle and not-so-subtle biases he noticed against the Jewish community in Charlotte, such as not being permitted membership in certain clubs and societies, and noted that Charlotte was unusual compared with other Southern cities in not having any large Jewish-owned department stores or businesses. Mr. Fuerstman describes joining the Reform temple in Charlotte, Temple Beth El, once it opened, and about the tension he perceived between Temple Beth El and and the Conservative temple, Temple Israel. He also recounts his friendship with Harry Golden, who was recognized nationally as the author and publisher of the Carolina Israelite, and how many Jews in Charlotte were far more moderate in their political and social views than Mr. Golden. Mr. Fuerstman also talks about his relationship with the Blumenthals and other prominent Jewish families and differences between New Jersey and the South.
Jeri Gertzman oral history interview, 1990 April 22
Charlotte, North Carolina native Jeri Gertzman discusses her life as a member of Charlotte's Jewish community. Recalling the community as small and close-knit, Ms. Gertzman reminisces about her childhood religious education at Temple Israel during the 1940s and 1950s, Jewish youth organizations, and annual celebrations. She recalls the importance of Jewish women and their organizations in their many roles as civic leaders, volunteers, and role models in both their temple and community. Ms. Gertzman discusses discrimination that Jews faced in Charlotte, and she discusses Jewish organizations, such as the Amity Club, reexamining and eliminating their own exclusionary practices. Likewise, she recalls antisemitic comments and attitudes during the mid-twentieth century and ways that her Jewishness set her apart in school. Ms. Gertzman also shares her family's experiences with the Holocaust during World War II and remembers the creation of Israel.
Margi Goldstein oral history interview, 1992 February 3
In this interview, Margi Goldstein shares her experiences as a Jew in Charlotte, North Carolina beginning in the 1950s. She describes her involvement in various Jewish organizations and has recently renewed her volunteering as a result of a trip to Israel. She praises Morris Speizman for his leadership in the Jewish community and encourages young Jews to emulate him. Ms. Goldstein also touches on her efforts to keep the older Jews involved in the community. She talks about the lack of Jewish education for young people and argues that education will lead to more enthusiasm in their heritage. Ms. Goldstein shares her opinion that stronger rabbinical leadership will encourage this education and revitalize the community. She also discusses her belief that there was a lack of support among the Jewish community in Charlotte for African American civil rights during the 1950s and 1960s, and feels that their neglect was a result of fear of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups.
Arthur Goodman Jr. oral history interview, 1990 April 22
Longtime Charlotte resident Arthur Goodman Jr. recalls his memories of life as a member of the city's Jewish community during the twentieth century. He reminisces about family Passover traditions, Jewish education, and the positive impact his rabbi had on him and childhood friends. Goodman explains that in his experience, Jews were readily accepted in Charlotte among the wider community during the 1930s and 1940s, and cites his own father's active civic and political involvement as well as that of his childhood rabbi as evidence. He touches on the contributions that Charlotte Jews have made to the arts and culture in the region and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Goodman recalls the mood in Charlotte during World War II, and he discusses local reactions to the Holocaust and enthusiasm for Zionism. Likewise, he reflects on the changes in the Charlotte Jewish community, including the population explosion during the postwar era.
Blanche Jaffa and Ben Jaffa Jr. oral history interview, 1990 April 22
Blanche Jaffa and her son, Ben Jaffa, Jr., discuss their experiences as members of Charlotte's Jewish community beginning in the 1920s. Ms. Jaffa recalls the early religious services for Reform Jews in Charlotte prior to the founding of Temple Beth El and details the home-based worship and its lay leadership. The Jaffas discuss the connections and the separations between the members of the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox congregations in Charlotte. Mr. Jaffa talks about his own Jewish religious education as a youth and credits the lay leadership of I. D. Blumenthal in inculcating a strong Jewish identity within him and many of his friends. Both discuss the effects of World War II on the Jewish community and the city of Charlotte and discuss Jewish reaction to the Holocaust and the creation of Israel. While both Ms. and Mr. Jaffa maintain that overall relations between Jews and the larger Charlotte community were good and are improving, they detail historical instances of social ostracism for Jews such as their exclusion from certain clubs and housing markets. Moreover, in terms of Jewish-African American relations, the Jaffas state that the Jewish community as a whole did little to encourage integration and that segregation limited their interaction with blacks.
Gladys Lavitan oral history interview 1, 1990 April 22
A longtime resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, Gladys Lavitan discusses the Jewish experience in the 1930s and 1940s as well as changes to the Charlotte Jewish community during and after World War II. She describes the challenges that life in Charlotte presented for Jewish men and women, including the lack of continuity in the transient Jewish population and the resulting lack of lay and rabbinical leadership. She recalls a network of organizations stretching across the Carolinas that provided Jews with social and religious outlets. Ms. Latvian also discusses personal brushes with antisemitism in Charlotte and reminisces about her early religious education.
Jeanne G. Rauch and Marshall Rauch oral history interview, 1995 March 5
Jeanne and Marshall Rauch discuss the Jewish experience during the twentieth century in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, mainly in Gastonia and Bessemer City. A native of Gaston County, Mrs. Rauch remembers her parents' civic participation and involvement in building the first synagogue in Gastonia, Temple Emanuel. They address the limitations and challenges that small-town Jewish communities like theirs face, such as proscribed services and the financial strain temple maintenance places on small congregations. Mr. Rauch proposes building a closer relationship between the larger temples in Charlotte and smaller ones in surrounding towns to help financially sustain smaller synagogues. Moreover, Mrs. Rauch talks about prominent Jewish families in early Gastonia, and the couple talks about their own family and its Jewish traditions.
Al Rousso oral history interview, 1989 February 26
Prominent jeweler Al Rousso talks about his experiences as a member of Charlotte, North Carolina's Jewish community. He praises the religious education the temples offer to local children and the various activities for Jewish congregants. He recalls his own roles in various Jewish organizations and remembers others who were leaders in the community. Mr. Rousso shares his opinion that unlike other Southern locales, Charlotte has been a progressive city where all citizens have the opportunity for success regardless of their religious affiliation or race, and he sees his own accomplishments in business and local politics as proof of the city's openness toward diversity. He also discusses changes he's seen in Charlotte over the years that he believes indicate an ever-increasing inclusiveness up to the time of interview. Mr. Rousso discusses the importance of Judaism in his life and the sense of Jewish pride and identity with which he has inculcated in his and others' children.
Celia Scher oral history interview, 1994 March 6
Celia Scher discusses her memories of life in New York City, her move to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1959 to provide a better quality of life for her young family, and her role in educating the community about the Holocaust. She talks about joining the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust board in 1981 and their efforts to get the Holocaust taught in public schools. She discusses the personal reason why she became so passionate about educating people about the Holocaust, and shares stories about the impact of her Holocaust educational work. Ms. Scher also describes her work teaching history to pre-teen students in religious school at Temple Israel beginning in 1960. Other topics include her ambivalence about Shalom Park, her children's accomplishments, and her trip to Israel with Rabbi Richard Rocklin.
Gary Silverstein and Maxine Silverstein oral history interview, 2000 March 12
Longtime Charlotteans Gary and Maxine Silverstein discuss their lives as members of the city's Jewish community and as travel industry professionals. Mr. Silverstein, whose family has a long history in the Charlotte area, recalls his grandfather, Benjamin Silverstein, who was one of the founders of Temple Israel in Charlotte. He also discusses childhood experiences in Hebrew school and his and his son's bar mitzvahs. The Silversteins talk about the important role Jewish youth groups like B'nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) played in their lives, and they discuss the network of relationships Jewish youth developed statewide. They discuss their experiences as the owners and operators of Mann Travels and Cruises, the receptivity of Charlotteans to Jewish-owned businesses, and the pervasiveness of Jewish-owned tour companies. Within the scope of their business, they recount an instance of antisemitism they experienced. Both cite the many changes within the Charlotte Jewish community, like tremendous growth and more community accommodation.
Minnie Sutker oral history interview, 1990 April 22
Charlotte, North Carolina native Minnie Silverstein Sutker discusses her experiences as a member of the Jewish community in the city. She talks about her father's earliest days in Charlotte in the late nineteenth century and discusses her parents' integral roles in the community. Ms. Sutker recalls the limited scope of Jewish activities and leadership for young people in Charlotte during the early twentieth century, which included the organizations Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) and the Progressive Club, a forerunner of the Charlotte Jewish Community Center. She also discusses women's organizations within the Jewish community like Hadassah. Ms. Sutker describes the relationship between Jews and non-Jews in Charlotte as being fairly good, despite recalling instances of societal discrimination, and she tells of early differentiation among Charlotte's Jews. Recalling wartime Charlotte during the First and Second World Wars, Ms. Sutker details her own family's personal experiences with the Holocaust.