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Interview with Blanche Jaffa and Ben Jaffa, Jr.

Jaffa, Blanche and Jaffa, Ben Jr.
Jaffa, Blanche
Eneman, Sam
Date of Interview: 
Jews and Charlotte; Jews and the South; religion; Judaism; Reform Judaism; Orthodox Judaism; Conservative Judaism; dietary laws; Jewish religious education; Holocaust; religious conversion; women's organizations; discrimination; ethnicity; race relations; school integration; desegregation; anti-Semitism; World War II and home front; Zionism; creation of Israel; Jewish identity; civil rights movement
Ms. 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 affects 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 contend that the Jewish community as a whole did little to encourage integration and that segregation limited their interaction with blacks.
Charlotte, NC; 1922-1990
Interview Setting: 
Jewish Community Center, Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Jewish Historical Society Collection
Collection Description: 
Charlotte Jewish Historical Society
Interview Audio: 
IV (Interviewer): I would like to start by just simply having each of you tell us who you are.
BJ (Ben Jaffa, Jr.): OK.
MJ (Blanche Jaffa): I'm [Clears throat] I'm Blanche Jaffa, now--.
IV: You're Blanche Jaffa.
MJ: Should I say anything about my family?
IV: Sure.
MJ: All right. I'm the mother of, of Sol and Ben Jaffa, and we've--.
IV: You just go.
MJ: And I've lived in, in Charlotte since 1922.
IV: OK. Ben.
BJ: OK. I'm Ben Jaffa. I'm Blanche's son. And I was born in Charlotte in 1928, and I've lived here all my life. My children live here, my grandchildren live here and anymore that you want for right now. [Laughter]
IV: We're going to go back.
MJ: I was going to say (I don't know what you want--.)
IV: So your mother was about to launch into something--.
BJ: Yeah.
IV: And I want to hear what you were about to say. You said you'd received these questions in the mail, but you'd been here for a long time and--.
MJ: Yes, when I got these questions, I didn't know how to answer them because although I've lived here since 1922, we used, we were about fifteen families that--. We used to have services in the homes. We had services in the homes that were the largest homes and that had a piano. And of course our home was one of the, the few that--although they were all large homes--but one of the few that had the piano. And we'd meet on a Friday night, and there were the Hechts, and the Hirshingers, and the Weills, and later on I'm going to tell you a funny incident, where your cemetery association comes in with Will Weill. And the Schiffs. And I made a notation of the names, so let me read you the names off, because I--.
IV: Sure.
MJ: I wrote them as I, as I thought about them because it's been so many years ago. [Pause] There was Ferd and Dorothy Falk, Gia and Alma Joel. Now, these are the nucleus of our congregation.
IV: Which was?
MJ: Which led to Beth El.
BJ: Well, well now clarify that slightly for you. At the time that Mother and Dad came here in the early 20s, Temple Israel was an Orthodox congregation. They and--.
MJ: It was Hebrew United Brotherhood.
IV: When did--?
BJ: Yeah, Hebrew, the name of it was Hebrew United Brotherhood. Mother and Dad and the other people that she's mentioning the names, came from basically a Reform background and were not comfortable with an Orthodox congregation. So they, the group of them, met in each other's homes for Friday nights for services. And this continued, what up until Rabbi Greenberg came here in 1932.
MJ: He was the first English-speaking rabbi they had.
BJ: Right, then the temple became Conservative.
MJ: No, then it was through Dick Blumenthal, that--. Because my husband was the rabbi of the home services, and Joe Gutheimer played the piano and sang, and my brother, Louis Goodman, delivered the services, sermons, which came from Dr. (Kalesh) in Richmond, who was Reform. Now we came from Dr. Mendoza's temple in Norfolk, Virginia. And my husband's family, his father and his uncle more or less ran the congregation because they were Reform, because when Uncle Bindy, got--
BJ: It was Alexandria, Virginia.
MJ: tired of being the president, president,Ben's father took over. When Ben's father got tired of being the president, Uncle Bindy took over, because they more or less took care of the whole temple. And I remember when the children were small one time, we were in Alexandria, and they, of course they had a choir there. And the choirmasters were, said who were those shiksas in temple?
BJ: [Laughter]
MJ: Because they didn't know who we were at the time.
IV: Yeah.
MJ: But anyway, getting back to Charlotte again, we had this nucleus, and we had the services for quite some time. And then we got--. We'd call for, outgrown the homes, so then we moved to on Moorehead Street near Kenilworth Avenue.
BJ: Got a room.
MJ: Yeah, we had several rooms above, above a store, Boar`s Head used to be on one side, the old Boar Head restaurant and Reid`s grocery store was where we were above.
BJ: The corner of Moorehead Street and Kenilworth.
MJ: And Kenilworth, yes. And, so then--, and we stayed there the remaining time until Beth El was organized.
IV: During that period of time, the families met for services at private homes.
MJ: Every Friday, yeah, before that time.
BJ: Um-hum. Yeah.
MJ: We met in the private homes.
BJ: Right.
IV: What was done in the case of bar mitzvahs or bat mitzvahs?
MJ: We didn't have any children. The only th--. There was two, two girls of Joe and Lee, Joe Gutheimer's, but they were then, fourteen years old. Fourteen and twelve. The boys weren't old enough for bar mitzvah. But by the time in 1930, then Dick Blumenthal wanted us to come down for a yontif service to se--, when they got the English-speaking rabbi.
BJ: This is when Rabbi Greenberg came.
MJ: Because until that time, they spoke in I don't know whether it was Yiddish or Hebrew, or whatever, it wasn't Hebrew that they spoke. It was--. The whole service was conducted otherwise. So when, when Rabbi Greenberg was, was gotten for this Rosh Hashanah service, and that was a strictly Orthodox congregation. And when we went down for, for the services, when Ben and I went down, which was the rabbi leading, and then my brother Louis Goodman went down which, the one that gave his sermon. And the only one that did not go down from our group were the Hirshingers and the Hechts and the Weills, and the, and the Lipinskys. They were the only ones that didn't. But the rest of them, of us all went down. Now we didn't, like Dick said, we had seats for you. We weren't seated together. In other words, a couple was seated here, and a couple was seated there. Wherever they could arrange seating. So when--, before, before we could go into this strictly Orthodox congregation, in the lobby as you entered sat Harry Diamond, who we met later, at a card table, and we had to pay five dollars for a seat each before we could enter the temple. So they were collecting the money that night, be sure they got it. But that was so--, struck me so funny when they were so strictly Orthodox. So when we went in, we were seated to, on the side of the--. That temple partitioned into three parts: a center, center section and two aisle sides. So when we got in, my husband of course took off his hat, because he'd been raised Reform. And in our same aisle, in the center, because we were strangers in a strange land, and everybody, we were watching everybody and everybody was watching us. So in that same aisle, in the center sat Miriam and Lou Bernstein, who we met after the services. And as I nudged Ben, and said under my breath, "put your hat back on," because everybody had on either hats or yarmulkes. Miriam happened to see me nudge Ben, and of course she smiled, and I smiled back, and that was our introduction into the Temple. Then of course, but Ben was put on the board immediately, because when we joined the Temple, we had no more other Reform congregation because the nucleus joined the Temple Israel. And it was Hebrew United Brotherhood, and but Ben was immediately put on the board and served on the board until he died five years ago. And I was put on the Sisterhood board and was very active with the Temple until I became more or less incapacitated and then of course I haven't done it. But that was our induction into Temple Israel, and the boys were bar mitzvahed there at Temple Israel.
IV: When was that?
BJ: 1941.
IV: 1941?
BJ: One. Um-hum.
MJ: Yeah, but we joined in '34.
BJ: Yeah.
MJ: And that was the end of--. Now we had money in the treasury, which held because we gave it to, when we organized Beth El, because my husband was one of the founders of Beth El. And incidentally he was the only man in this town that was on both boards.
BJ: At the same time.
MJ: At the same time, that's right. He, we never gave up our membership until an incident happened, and then we did. And they sent the whole other board down to apologize, something their rabbi said.
IV: That is pretty extraordinary because in part, many interviews we hear about the fact the two congregations were very separate and there was even some degree of feeling of a need for separation.
MJ: No, they were not separated.
BJ: They, they-.
MJ: They affiliated, after, after Beth El organized, and we began to know, meet the other folks in the community, we all became friends. I mean there was no difference.
BJ: No, there was, there was separation, too. Wait (a min--), Mother. Initially, of course, most of the people that went to Beth El or many of them were members of Temple Israel that preferred the Reform services and did, did go over. And the two temples got along quite well. And there were some incidents, perhaps caused by one rabbi in particular, that caused a separation, which was why Mother and Dad left.
MJ: Which caused us to leave completely.
BJ: (Just) say, they were members of both congregations. I think other people were, too, at the time. And this particular rabbi felt either you belong over here or you belong over here and made his wishes known in no uncertain terms and several others left. And that caused a lot of the
MJ: Not only the--.
BJ: rift between the two congregations.
MJ: This particular rabbi, he wanted to be ultra, ultra, ultra modern. Now Arthur Goodman was very instrumental, and Arthur also was the founder of the Humane Society and the Blindness Association. He did a lot of good in this town. So Arthur used to take the rabbi on a Friday for the Brotherhood of Temple Israel luncheons. Now, they knew Arthur, although Arthur was, was not Orthodox completely, he was, he was not--. I say he was not that religious. He wouldn't eat anything pork, and they knew it at these luncheons and they always had fish for Arthur, but ham was the order of the day. So when Arthur took this particular rabbi to introduce him to the Christian community and as a representative of the Jewish community, they served him fish. So he said, "What is everybody else eating?" They said, because they'd mentioned ham. And he said, "I'll eat what everybody else eats." So he wouldn't eat the fish; he ate the ham. And, of course, he was called on the carpet for that, but that wasn't the incident that caused our leaving.
IV: Did you want to say something about the families of that original congregation that met at the house?
MJ: Yeah, when, well when the, when our, our congregation disbanded, we were about fifteen families, complete--. And as I said, and no children, because I didn't consider Joe Gutheimer's two girls children; they were young ladies already. And, and then of course when Dick stepped in at the psychological moment, which, but he asked me coming down for services to see whether we liked it or not. And of course, and I used to--. Then they, Dave, Dave Nabow was a members of both congregations. Do you know Stanley Nabow? Well Dave Nabow, was a ver--, was an engineer, and he was quite a right-hand man of J. B. Duke's, from Duke Power. Because he used to, Duke Power. Duke left him money when he left, when he died, and Dave used to ride with Duke on his private train when he'd go out different places. But anyway, Dave was active in both congregations, and he would take our Reform books [Clears throat] at the services on a Friday night, and take it with him down to the Hebrew United Brotherhood. Now what they, what they used it for, what they did, I don't know. But I mean he'd bring them back every, every week. And when Dave married Hannah, because Dave was here before Hannah ever came, and when Stanley and Dolly were born, and of course, they were the ages of the boys. And I used to tell Hannah, I said, "I'm going to--," that was before we joined, I said, "I'm going to, going to--." No. No, we weren't; it was after. And I told Hannah, I said, "I'm going to send the children to Sunday school there regardless." Because goyim take their children, babies in their arms to learn about Jesus, and I felt that our children should know something about them. And said, "Hannah, I advise you to do the same thing," which she did. And of course the children went to Sunday school there.
IV: And can you characterize or describe or say something about your own Jewish education? Your parents went of their way to ensure it and that kind of thing.
BJ: Yeah, the Jewish education that we got in those years was not as much as they get today. We had a Sunday school and a number of teachers. Rabbi Greenberg was the sole teacher in the Hebrew school, and virtually we learned to read and prepare for our bar mitzvah. We didn't learn--. We learned customs and ceremony in Sunday school, and so forth. And I guess we got a positive Jewish feeling, certainly had that. One of the most influential things I think in my early Jewish education was I. D. Blumenthal. Each Saturday morning Dick would come around and pick us, about a half a dozen of us up, and take us to services. And Dick had a car with a rumble seat in it, and we used to fight to see who got to sit in the rumble seat. But, anyway, he would take us to services, after services, sometimes we'd go up to his office and play on the Dictaphone, which was a novelty in those years. Then he would take us to lunch or to the bowling alley, then to the movies--they owned the movie, a movie in town--and take us to the movies and made it quite a nice day. But I think most of us probably got more of a Jewish experience, and perhaps more Jewish education there than we really did in Hebrew school because he had a group--. Well I was in the younger group that he picked up, and then there was an older group who came that Dick supervised, and he would have us all sitting on a couple of benches. And he'd ask you where's the place, and if you didn't know the place you got a pinch. [Laughter] And so by and large we really got familiar with the services and learned that a lot that way, and got a bit of a love of Judaism from it, too.
MJ: It was Arthur Goodman in that group and Harvey Diamond, [Pause] and
BJ: Jerry Frankel,
MJ: Jerry Frankel,
BJ: and Howard Perry
MJ: Perry, uh-huh.
BJ: were the ones that Dick used to pick up every Saturday morning.
MJ: Um-hum.
IV: How was it he came to be so sensitive, to make sure to take care of the boys like that?
BJ: I don't know.
MJ: How what?
BJ: How did Dick become so sens--? No, what made Dick do this?
MJ: Well, Dick came from a very, very religious background, because, when Dick married Marguerite, who was a Christian woman, his family said shivah for him them.
BJ: Dick--.
MJ: But Marguerite was more Jewer than I'm Jew, and she worked for the Temple and the Sisterhood and everything else terrifically, and Dick was involved in everything.
BJ: He was president of the Temple for many, many years and deeply involved, and I think it probably meant a lot to him to see that the younger boys were following in his footsteps and God they loved him. Judaism--.
MJ: And he instilled a lot in them.
BJ: Um-hum. He really did. He was a very giving person.
MJ: Um-hum.
IV: Did his wife ever convert?
MJ: Hum?
BJ: Did Marguerite ever convert?
MJ: Yes, yes.
IV: Did she convert before they married?
MJ: Did she convert, what?
BJ: Did she, did she convert before they married or after they married? Do you know?
MJ: No, I think after. Now, the second wife--. Marguerite is dead. Now the second wife, Madolyn, converted before.
BJ: Um-hum.
MJ: But, but they didn't, they didn't--. No, she didn't convert before.
BJ: I don't know.
MJ: Anyway, they didn't, they didn't mourn her dead, because Dick by that time was richer than his father. He was a very rich, rich man. And so they went their way and the others went their way.
BJ: Um-hum.
MJ: But Dick was really very influential, in te--, (Hebronic) Brotherhood and in promoting these various things.
IV: What kinds of activities did the Brotherhoodsupport? Was it truly about the Temple or the community here or did they involve themselves with other issues as well?
BJ: No, I think strictly the Temple here. I really think the concept of helping Jews throughout the world, although we had the Federation at the time to raise a little bit of money, wasn't nearly as strong as it is today. I mean we knew--.
MJ: But also at that time, the Hebrew United Brotherhood, the Sisterhood did the functions of Hadassah and of B'nai Brith, although we didn't have an organization at the time here, but they did all that sort of thing. And one funny incident came out of our Sisterhood. The cemetery that we have was not owned by our Cemetery Association. Was owned by Vance, Governor Vance. And Governor Vance was kin to Will Weill, because one of Will's brothers is named after Governor Vance. And they were going to turn it over to the association here, but they needed 500 dollars to clear the mortgage. And the men's association didn't have the money, so Mr. M. B. Smith, Al Smith's father, came to the women and asked to borrow 500 dollars, because women always have money. And then they'd pay it back. Of course, we never got the money back, but we didn't press any charges because the cemetery was ins--, was important to us as well. But he borrowed the 500 dollars from the Women's Sisterhood to pay off Will Weill for the cemetery, and that's how we got a clear mortgage on that, a clear deed on that. And then where the Salvation Army is today on, I think on Popular Street I think it is, they were--. We had a big dinner, at that- it wasn't Salvation Army then, I've forgotten what it was then- but we had a big dinner there in celebration of the clearance of the property.
IV: Another one of the issues that has been brought forward, is that many of the people are saying how open and generous a community Charlotte always has been.
MJ: How what?
BJ: How open and generous the community of Charlotte has been.
IV: But we're asking anyway, if either of you at anytime observed or experienced a condition of anti-Semitism? Do you remember?
MJ: In those years we didn't have, we didn't have needy people. We had one couple--.
BJ: No, that's not what he's asking.
MJ: What is that?
BJ: Saying, as far as anti-Semitism, no. I don't ever remember anything gross. I mean obviously you run into anti-Semites who make remarks about Jews. We couldn't join the country clubs, but beyond that I don't think, there were neighborhoods were you could not buy a house. Well--.
MJ: We belonged to the Charlotte Country and Myers Park Country Club,
BJ: Well, yes.
MJ: Charlotte Country Club, and there were only three or four families, Jewish families that belonged, but after that, they were not allowed.
BJ: And at one time--
MJ: And then we got (out).
BJ: Yeah, at one time there were a few. But no really overt, other than like I say neighborhoods you couldn't buy a house in or that was all. I don't remember any overt actions of anti-Semitism any different than today.
IV: How was it made known that you couldn't buy a house or that you couldn't join the club? I mean how did people figure that out?
MJ: Well the same for it's---, what they did at the City Club here. Because when the City Club first organized they wouldn't allow Jews, and then when they asked Al Smith to join, he was the first token Jew they asked, Al said I wouldn't join because you wouldn't allow Jews.
BJ: Like I was told in plain English by the builder that built my home, he bought some lots in Foxcroft, and he said they told him in plain English, if you sell any of these lots to a Jew, you will never buy a lot in one of our subdivisions again.
MJ: And it's just like where Jack and Charlotte Friedman live now. They're the only token Jew in that complex.
BJ: But that's only with six people.
MJ: That belonged to Cameron--.
BJ: Yeah.
MJ: No, no, not six people, honey.
BJ: Anyway, I think there's only six or eight apartments in there.
MJ: And that's a property that Cameron Morrison owned, where they built that apartment house.
IV: Did you, do you think that this, this will pass? It seems to be some indications of it still today, but do you feel that sooner or later this--?
MJ: Talk a little louder. I can't hear you.
IV: Do you think that the situation where Jews can or cannot participate in a club or, or build in a certain area, do you think this will pass? Is this getting less of a problem or do you think it's the same?
BJ: Well, as far as buildings of course there are federal laws against it today. I mean, they certainly could not be open like the incident that I mentioned with federal laws. As far as these country clubs, it may, it probably will pass. The in-town businessmen's clubs in town of course have all opened up. You saw the articles--. There was an editorial in the paper this week about the country clubs, and I think enough of this probably one day it will pass.
MJ: But, you know, as long as we've lived here in Charlotte, and when the boys went to school, the Dilworth School, I was on the school council, and then I was on the downtown council. In fact I was on the council until they left for college, but I never but one time had an incident happen and that was at the downtown council meeting when one of the ladies whose husband was a real estate man here made a, a derogatory statement about Jews. She forgot I was the only Jew on the council, and then she turned to me, "Oh I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Mrs. Jaffa." I said, "That's all right, whatever's on your mind, you can just say it. It's all right with me." But that's the only incident ever, that I've had of any incidents, and I've worked on many organizations.
IV: Have the rela--, has the relationship between Jews and blacks in Charlotte been, ever been an issue, or has it been particularly good or a particularly neutral relationship?
MJ: I don't think there's ever been an issue.
BJ: I don't think it's really been much of an issue.
MJ: Uh-uh.
BJ: During the days of segregation, it was just as segregated as anybody else. During the integration, I think it's been essentially the same. I don't think that's been much of an issue in this town at all.
MJ: I don't think it's come up at all.
IV: During, during the period of civil rights, were the, was the Jewish community particularly vocal about in support of, of about bringing in civil rights laws at all?
BJ: Not as a congr--, as a community I don't think so, any more so than anybody else.
IV: Was there ever any kind of open discussion do you think? Do you remember anything like that?
MJ: I didn't hear your question.
IV: Any open congregation discussion?
MJ: Yes, there was an incident one time. There was a preacher--. And I think it was before your time. There was an evangelistic preacher that came to town, and I think he was speaking in a church. Well he was anti-Jewish, and I remember that men from the, from the Board of, of (Hebronic) Brotherhood, and Harry Diamond even took his secretary down there to take what he had to say in shorthand, and that was the only incident. And I can't recall the guy's name. But he was a very prominent evangelistic preacher.
BJ: No, I really don't recall any great--.
MJ: That's the only ever other time. Only other time, ever, ever an incident happened.
BJ: I don't recall any great discussions about the integration. Most of us obviously were on the liberal side towards it, but not too many people were very active in it.
MJ: There was a time, there was a time though when Country Day wouldn't permit Jews.
BJ: Yes.
MJ: And they were, when they stayed in the red so long, they decided to break the barrier, and now, they're, [Laughter] they're well in the black, but they are a good school. I mean they have excellent teachers, but they wouldn't allow Jewish.
BJ: Yeah, at one time.
IV: This will be earlier, but during, during World War II, was the Jewish community here aware of what was happening in Germany? Did they know what was going on with Jews?
BJ: Yes, they were and a lot of them that had any kind of family were trying to get them out, but I mean but it was a case of it wasn't enough to even get together to, to do a whole lot. Now, Ben's father had a niece, two nieces, in Germany, and he had to get them out through Japan and Cuba to get them into this country because it was a proposition. And then Ben had a brother-in-law that was in a concentration camp who was a very prominent man in Berlin, television and radio manufacturer. And goyim got him out and got him into this country, and Colonel Kiser who lives in Washington is a part of the nachfolge and took him under his wings when Manford came to America.
BJ: We were aware that the persecution of Jews, were being persecuted in Germany. I don't think anybody was aware of the extent the, the extermination camps really that didn't come out too much until after they were liberated. So we didn't know that, but we did know about the persecutions. And like I say most of it I guess individuals that if you had relatives you tried to get them out. It wasn't the organization like there is today, like's helping the Russians.
IV: What was the sense of the community, the Jewish community here at that point after the war, towards the end of the war, or as I say, or after the war, when it was becoming known the extent of the persecution, that in fact there had been a Holocaust?
MJ: Well, now, up here at Fort Bragg, where there was a lot of soldiers stationed, we used to have as many as 10,000 boys come into Charlotte for a weekend, and they were all housed by the people in this town, Jew or otherwise. And, I mean, I know I've had as many as fifteen boys in my home over a weekend. Luckily, my maid was sympathetic to a cause, or otherwise she would have probably left me.
BJ: Yeah.
MJ: But they were housed both by Christians and Jews, and there was no ill feeling in any way at all.
IV: But the community itself, that some people had family in Europe. And, and was there some sense of shock? Was there ever--? Was it just something discussed amongst individuals or the period of finding out, such a long period, that there was never any one event about it?
BJ: That's what I think. I think it was more discussed among individuals. "Oh, isn't this terrible," and "How horrible all this stuff." We just didn't have the organization as we have today to speak out. Perhaps we weren't as secure either in our own situations at that time as we are today.
MJ: How we weren't united together at that time.
BJ: We're definitely not united, and I mean today, there'd be a human cry to make sure the government did something to help and is being done, but there wasn't at that time, not that I'm aware of anyway.
IV: Did, but did any of that sense translate into direct support for say new the state of Israel, because that was only a few years later that that began to occur?
BJ: Yeah, it did that. Right, there was a lot of support for the state of Israel, and of course we took very much pride in the state of Israel.
MJ: Because Israel was always selling some sort of a stock in this country, but which we've [Laughter] got enough to paper a room with. One was a Nashom stock, it was a fishing stock, but people supported them knowing that it wouldn't salvage anything. But they needed it. It's just like the Russian situation today; we're supporting that because it's necessary.
IV: In terms of getting the Russian Jews--?
BJ: Exactly,
MJ: Yes, yes.
BJ: And there was the same thing there to help get Jews into Palestine, or Israel now, and we did contribute to help the war effort, too.
IV: When did the truth of the Holocaust actually start to get into the public media and into the schools? Was it ever discussed by the non-Jews in any important way?
BJ: I think this getting to the non-Jewish community is relatively recent, after the Jews started pushing to have it done. I don't think there was any great rise of consciousness among the non-Jewish community. I don't--. No, I don't know honestly know how many of them cared, in all honesty.
MJ: This, this, this meeting that they have at the Holocaust Square
IV: Right.
MJ: is what's making it more conscious among the Christians.
IV: Did Holocaust Square come about because of Jewish community influence?
BJ: Sure.
MJ: Yeah.
BJ: Sure.
IV: Can you tell me something about how that occurred?
MJ: Um-hum.
BJ: No, that's relatively recent over the last
MJ: Few years.
BJ: few years. I'm certain it would be because of some Jewish people going to the city council and having it, the area renamed.
IV: OK, did you say where your family originally came from?
MJ: My mother came from Berlin. My mother, my mother's family, but my mother came as an infant in arms. Now her family were members of (a rash thadt). My father came from Moscow. And he--. This is a funny story, Elizabeth Klein, Richard's mother, ( ) showed me, brought it to my attention, I never thought anything of it. I have a picture of my father, a large picture of my father, much bigger than that pane of glass, in a Russian uniform. But to me I've seen that picture all my life. She said, "You know, Aunt Blanche, I never knew that they allowed Jews in the service." I said, well, you can speak for yourself there, because I've seen that picture ever since I can remember. But it did cost my grandfather, my father's father, a hell of a lot of money to get him out of Russia into this country. And of course all of the rest of the family were all born in this country.
BJ: Yeah, they started in Virginia. Mother's folks lived in
MJ: Yeah. Virginia.
BJ: Norfolk, Virginia area and Dad's folks lived in Alexandria, Virginia.
MJ: Well, now Dad was born in Alexandria.
BJ: Yeah.
MJ: And, like, we were all born in Virginia. And now Ben's mother and father came from the Black Forest of Germany.
BJ: Germany.
MJ: Um-hum.
IV: So, did anyone from the family ever go to Israel to live?
MJ: Yeah.
BJ: No, not to live.
MJ: What? Oh to live? No, I thought you meant to visit.
BJ: No, no. We've all visited--.
MJ: But everybody's gone back to visit.
BJ: But nobody, nobody's ever gone to live there. As far as I know, we have no relatives over there.
MJ: No, well, when Dad and I were there on the second time in Israel, we were in the Galilee area and at a hotel. The hotel was sort of up against the mountain, and the people that ran the hotel were two sisters and their husbands. And I don't know how they got talking to Dad, but anyway, your name was (Hammacher) and your name was (Heimicheit) and they when they got to talking, they had families by that name. They claimed to be cousins. We've never known them, never heard of them, never heard from them since. So, who they were, I mean. They were nice people, but we don't know who they were or where the connections came.
IV: Do many Charlotte Jewish community people go to Israel? Is this something that was--?
MJ: To go where?
IV: To Israel. I mean was this--? Is this--?
MJ: Yes.
BJ: Are you talking about on visits?
IV: Visits. Is it common?
BJ: Oh yeah.
MJ: Oh, con--, continually. Uh-huh.
BJ: Sure, it's a lot of it now.
MJ: Continually.
BJ: Um-hum.
IV: Has there been any ebbs and flows to it? Or is it more now than before or more, or more just after independence than now? Or has it been pretty regular?
BJ: Probably, if anything, it's on the ascendancy I would think more now than in the past.
MJ: Oh, in the early stages, it was a case of you went more to see the country on a pleasure trip and to, to help. But now, like you said, more business-like.
IV: OK. Well, that's fine, thank you. I'll just ask one more thing. We have, we are ending each of the interviews with the same question that is, what would you say to a younger Jews about the importance of our religion and cultural heritage? What would you think would be appropriate to, to pass on to help them maintain strong Jewish identity?
MJ: I say it's, it's very important, and they should follow through with it. Of course, like I said, there are intermarriages, but nevertheless, some of them convert and some of them don't. Well, you can't tell the next man what to do at all times, and you know, there the heart dictates. But I think it's very important.
BJ: Yeah, I think the key there is the education. As long as the two temples have a good education system and that these children growing up do get imbued with the love of Judaism and a knowledge of Judaism, hopefully they will remain that way.
MJ: And the big thing, too, is that both congregations get along very well together. And the, the people are friendly in both congregations. You see what I'm trying to say? Now when we first came, we lived here all those years before we met Jared Levin's parents, or Harvey Diamond's parents. We, we just didn't come in contact with each other, even well not from a business angle, but not from a social angle either.
IV: Well, thank you very much, I appreciate it.
BJ: All right.
MJ: I hope you--.