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Interview with Arthur Goodman, Jr.

Goodman, Arthur Jr.
Goldstein, Faye
Date of Interview: 
World War II; religion; Jews and Charlotte; Jews and the South; Holocaust; politics; race relations; anti-Semitism; Zionism; Democratic party; arts and culture; Jewish traditions; epithet
Long-time Charlotte resident Arthur Goodman, Jr., recalls his earliest memories of life as a member of the city`s Jewish community. He reminisces about family Passover traditions, Jewish education, and the positive impact his rabbi had on him and childhood friends. Goodman contends that Charlotte`s Jews did not face rabid anti-Semitism and cites his own father`s civic and political involvement throughout the larger community as well as that of his childhood rabbi as evidence. He touches on the contributions Charlotte Jews have made to the cultural scene. Goodman recalls the mood in Charlotte during World War II, and he discusses Jews` reactions to the Holocaust and enthusiasm for Zionism. Likewise, he reflects on the changes in the Charlotte Jewish community, including the population explosion in the postwar era.
Charlotte, NC, 1930s-1990
Interview Setting: 
Jewish Community Center, Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Jewish Historical Society Collection
Collection Description: 
Charlotte Jewish Historical Society collection
Interview Audio: 
AG (Arthur Goodman, Jr.): [Laughter]
FG (Faye Goldstein): We were cleaning--. Sally Schrader and I were cleaning over at the Temple the other day in one of the back rooms,
AG: Yeah.
FG: and we found a picture of Chad when he was about that big.
AG: Yeah.
US (Unknown Speaker): Really?
FG: And Elizabeth, and it's really cute.
US: We're ready. And all you have to do
US: is just speak directly to Faye just as if you were having
AG: Certainly.
US: a conversation.
FG: And I'll just. Oh, OK. Ready, Sam? OK. Mr. Goodman, can you identify yourself first and then tell us when and how--? Something about your family moving to Charlotte or about their first coming to Charlotte.
AG: All right. I'm Arthur Goodman, Junior. My father came to Charlotte as a single man right after the First World War after he got out of the service. Later he married Katherine (Coin) of Buffalo, New York, and my sister was born here. Shortly before I was born, they moved to Mooresville about twenty miles north of Charlotte and stayed there until he went back to law school. We came back to Charlotte in 1932, and that's when I started the first grade here.
FG: What are your earliest memories of living in Charlotte in the Jewish community?
AG: Well, of course, I remember the old Temple down on West Seventh Street. It was a very small building. It didn't seem that way of course as a youth. And I remember that most of the older Jewish community lived in close proximity to that. Mr. Katzen lived around the corner and Mr. Silverstein. Harvey Diamond's grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Davis, lived about a block east of the Temple. And these were the people I remember seeing every Saturday morning at services.
FG: Do you have any particular story about an individual that sticks out in your mind that you'd like to relate?
AG: Well, I'll tell a little story about Harvey Diamond's father, Harry Diamond, who had been president of the Temple when I was very young. Harry Diamond did not read a word of Hebrew and of course the services were all in Hebrew. He was the first person I remember that brought a Chumash, the--that had English and Hebrew. And he sat and he read it in English every Saturday, whatever the portion was. And I recall one time Mr. Kraft, Leon Kraft's father, he leaned over to Mr. Kraft and said--, asked him what was the portion about today. And Mr. Kraft said, "Don't bother me. I learned all that when I was a chadar." And he said, "That's exactly what it's about today, about automatic prayer, about not knowing what you're saying." But he faithfully came every Saturday even though he couldn't read, even read a word of Hebrew.
FG: That's neat. What Jewish holiday was most important or meaningful to you and how did you celebrate it?
AG: Well, I always felt that Passover was the one most important, and I guess the reason, it's kind of a combination, a combination of the first Independence Day and Thanksgiving, and we always celebrated it with a big family Seder. We always had one night at our house with my aunt and uncle, Ben and Blanche Jaffa, and their children and the other night at their house, of course my sister and I, mother and father. And we always had guests of course. Mr. Berger used to come every year, who was a bachelor. He taught music in the Charlotte city schools. And various other people. It was always a large crowd at Seder.
FG: Can you tell us something about highlights of your Jewish education here in Charlotte?
AG: Well, I don't think that we had quite the Jewish education then that the children have now. Basically the rabbi taught us, and he pretty much--. There was no education director or anything of that sort. Rabbi Greenberg, of course, I remember very well. We were all very fond of him, the boys, because he not only taught us Hebrew, he went out in the back of the Temple and played baseball with us. And he was just a friend to us.
FG: Did you have youth groups that you were particularly active in?
AG: Well, I was active in the AZA when it was formed here in Charlotte up until I went off to the service in the Second World War.
FG: Was there a particular individual, particularly in Jewish education, when you were a youth, that influenced you?
FG: I would have to say that it was Rabbi Greenberg. We even formed a little club. I don't remember how old we were; we were very young. We called the Four Rabbis Club. It was the, the Jaffa twins and Harvey Diamond and myself because we all wanted to emulate Rabbi Greenberg.
FG: That's, that's a wonderful testament to Rabbi. How did the Jewish community relate to and get along with the community at large with regard to politics or cultural events and things like this?
AG: Well at that time of course the, the Jewish community was quite small and I think we related very, very well. I don't recall that--, any problems at all. My father was very active in the Jewish community but also in the secular community, not only politically but he was very active in veteran's organizations. He founded the Mecklenburg County Humane Society and was president of it. I feel that the Jewish community was totally accepted in the general community back in the 30s.
FG: How were you or your family or other Jews involved in local politics? Can you expand on that?
AG: Well, I hesitate to say this because my, my memory is getting a little bad. I'm trying to remember the gentleman's name. When I was a very, very young boy, six, seven, or eight, there was a Jewish member of the city council. That was the first person I remember being active in politics. My father served three terms in the state legislature, 1945, '47, and '51. And then I served in the legislature in 1965.
FG: Did the Jews ally themselves with any particular party or ethnic group or in, in that, do you have anything to add in that vein?
AG: Well, I think that the vast, vast majority of the Jews in those days were members of the Democratic party. I don't know if they allied, allied themselves with any particular ethnic group. We didn't really have that many ethnic groups in Charlotte at that time. It was a, pretty much a homogenous society.
FG: Compared to today, has this changed greatly or--?
AG: Well, I, I think there's a greater diversity today of Jewish affiliation with different political parties. They're not all tied in with the Democratic party. I don't mean that every one was, but everyone I knew was.
FG: Can you tell me about any incidents regarding anti-Semitism that you had any direct or direct experience with?
AG: [Coughing] I don't recall ever being subject to any anti-Semitism here. I heard remarks occasionally such as "I Jewed him down," but that remark didn't necessarily have any anti-Sem--, anti-Semitic overtones. It was just an expression I felt. I don't recall being subjected to any anti-Semitism. As far as I was concerned, we were accepted anywhere we went. I had probably as many non-Jewish as Jewish friends.
FG: Are there any outstanding incidences of goodwill or cooperative efforts that stand out in your mind you might want to relate?
AG: Well in all candor, I can't remember any outstanding effort. Of course the Conference of Christians and Jews has been in existence for a long time here. Rabbi Greenberg, I keep harking back to him, he was very active even in the non-Jewish community. He taught in a church Sunday school for some period of time. As a matter of fact, he came [Laughter] into some criticism from his own congregation for spending too much time with some non-Jewish groups.
FG: What about Jews and blacks?
AG: Well, as far as I can recall, there was never any problem between them. As a matter of fact, I think that they got along probably better then than maybe they do now. I find some anti-Semitism among blacks today that I don't think existed when I was a boy.
FG: In terms of the Jewish contribution to music, arts, culture and things like that, is there, are there one or more people that kind of stand out in your mind that you remember?
AG: Well--.
FG: In Charlotte?
AG: The only one that I know, that I can recall professionally, was Jack Berger who really taught music throughout the Charlotte city schools and was an excellent cellist and well thought of. Of course there were many Jews who were members of the Charlotte Symphony, and when I say members, who were active in the organization. Not necessarily they were playing in the thing, although Mr. Citron, I think, played violin for the Charlotte Symphony many years. Of course there are many more now.
FG: Time changes a lot of things. How would you describe the Jewish community's change in the last--, you know, in your lifetime?
AG: Well, I think the biggest change is we all knew each other when I was a boy. We--. If we were not close friends, we at least were acquainted with everybody in the Jewish community. Today, of course, it's grown so. They've spread over a larger city. We don't know one another. I sometimes meet people who ask me, they think they're old-timers. They've been here several years. They ask me when did I come to Charlotte. We just don't know each other as we once did.
FG: OK. During World War II, how did the Charlotte Jewish community react to news about the Holocaust? Do you remember?
AG: Well, I think everybody was pretty much horrified about it. We had, of course, some refugees who came to Charlotte in the late 30s who managed to get out of Germany before the worst of it. Everybody was shocked and upset that I knew of in the Jewish community.
FG: Did you have any friends or relatives that were involved in the Holocaust?
AG: No. None at all.
FG: OK. Are there any stories that you can think of relating to the Holocaust or the movement of Jews into Charlotte after World War I, around that time?
AG: Well, of course, I don't remember back to World War I.
FG: World War II, excuse me. Where am I?
AG: All right. Well unfortunately after World War II, when I got out of the service, I went off to college and I was away from Charlotte for a number of years before I came back in the early 50s. So I did not have an occasion to really be here in the years immediately following the Second World War.
FG: Did most of the Jews around here talk about or were they interested in Zionism? What kind of impact?
AG: Well the ones I knew were. My, basically you know you go back to your own family, and my father was extremely interested in Zionism and so were the people that he saw. We went to, he took me when I was thirteen or fourteen years old I suppose to Washington, D.C. for a national Zionist convention. I remember hearing Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver speak. And Jan Pierce sang at the convention.
FG: I take it, the, were there active Zionist organizations in Charlotte here?
AG: Yes. There was a local Zionist organization.
FG: Was it large?
AG: I really don't know because I was only, I wasn't a member. It was a, I was still a youth.
FG: How did the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, how did that affect you in the Jewish community here?
AG: Well, I of course was off at college then, I was very proud of it. I think most of the people were extremely pleased and proud that finally there was a Jewish homeland.
FG: Did you have any family or friends go to Israel after the independence to fight, to live, be involved in any of that?
AG: No. I tell you at the time, I was president of the Hillel Organization at Duke University, and someone wanted to start a second Jewish organization devoted to Zionism. And I was opposed to it even though I was pro-Zionist because we had so few Jewish students there that I felt we didn't need a second organization. And I remember some of the proponents were so zealous. I said, "Well if you're that interested let's, go fight in Israel." I said, "You get five to go and I'll go." They couldn't get five, [Laughter]so I didn't go. But, no, I didn't have any personal friends that went.
FG: Have you ever been to Israel?
AG: Yes, I have.
FG: What was your trip like?
AG: Oh it was a fantastic trip. My mother, my wife, my youngest son, and I went for twenty-two days. And we had a, really an opportunity in that length of time, to visit everything from the Sinai Peninsula up, you know, to Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border. And I was extremely moved and impressed by it.
FG: Did you make any connections there that you still--? Sometimes people go there and they correspond with friends.
AG: Well, I did for a short time with our guide but lost contact some years ago.
FG: If you had something to say to younger people in the community about the importance of the religion, cultural heritage, etcetera, what might you tell them?
AG: Well, I'm not extremely religious but I think the cultural heritage is extremely important. The, the greatest thing, I think, about Judaism is the way it teaches you how you should live and how you should treat your fellow man. I think things such as, harking back to Passover are so important about, that nobody should go hungry, that everybody should be welcome in your home. The emphasis that Judaism places on how you live, I think, is extremely important.
FG: Do you have anything else that might, sometimes in talking, something jogs your memory that you might like to impart on tape or in a story?
AG: [Laughter] I don't know of any particular story. I, of course, remember mostly I think every Saturday morning down at services when I. D. Blumenthal, I'm sure he's been mentioned, had a great big Packard and he would drive around and pick up about six or seven boys every Saturday morning. And you sat on either side of him and you better not lose your place because he would reach over and give you quite a pinch. You look as though you've heard this before.
FG: I love this story. I love him. [Laughter]
AG: Yeah. But he, he kept us interested in going to Temple at that time, and I think he was a tremendous mover in this congregation.
FG: I appreciate this very much.
AG: It's been a pleasure.
FG: Very good.
AG: Hey, I made it on time. Oops. I forgot I was hooked up.
FG: That's all right. Here I'll help you.
FG: Just hold on.