|First Families||This Happy Land||Pledging Allegiance||Palmetto Jews|
Max Moses Heller, b. 1919, Vienna, Austria Vienna was known for the city of love and music and life. There was a lot of anti-Semitism even when I was a little boy. I would always fight. I would have to fight because I was attacked going to school and I was a Jew. And you sort of take these things for granted. You grow up a certain way and you think that’s the way it has to be.
Samuel Appel, b. 1929, Charleston, S.C. The Czar’s answer to the Jewish quote “problem,” instead of killing them off what he would do is keep them in the army for thirty or forty years and not let them have families. That’s the way he was going to get rid of the Jews.
Libby Friedman Levinson, b. 1909,Trestina, Poland, d. 2000, Columbia, S.C. While my father was in his office one day, a bunch of Cossacks came in and broke a bottle and split his head open, only ’cause he was a Jew—he wasn’t doing anybody any harm. And he came home and he told my mother, “This land is not for us. We’ve got to go to America,
where our children can have education and freedom.”
Paula Kornblum Popowski, b. 1923, Kaluszyn, Poland I’ll never forget, I was very seasick and pregnant and with a small child, and my husband came in the cabin and he said, “Come on on the deck. Let me show you something.” And we came on the deck we saw the panorama of New York. After so many days, sea and sky, sea and sky, we saw the panorama of New York, but it was too late to unload us. Thursday was Thanksgiving, so they couldn’t unload us; it was a holiday. So they gave us the first dinner, Thanksgiving dinner, on the boat, and the dinner was so delicious, but we didn’t know why they—we thought because they’re welcoming us to New York. We didn’t know that it was Thanksgiving. Friday they unloaded us in the morning, and Saturday we were in Charleston.
Libby Friedman Levinson, b. 1909,Trestina, Poland, d. 2000, Columbia, S.C. We were the first Jewish family to leave our little town. And when we came to Charleston, there were not too many Jewish immigrants, and all those people started coming after World War I, but they were not prepared to come like we were. Two things: we were all educated, my sisters and all they were smart and educated, and another thing was we had our tickets before the war started, see—so all we had to do was go to Warsaw, renew our visas, and we came.
George Chaplin, b. 1914, Columbia, S.C. My dad comes to this country, he writes Max. Max said, “You can make a living here.” That’s how people get to where, you know—how does a Jew get to Montana, for God’s sake? Somebody from that shtetl * is in Montana, sends word back, probably telling glowing lies or whatever, and then that works, and that’s happened all over America.
Harriet Birnbaum Ullman, b. 1927, Kobrin, Poland I have to tell you, when we were coming from Kobrin, free port of Danzig, on the boat I got so sick that I pleaded with my mother to throw me overboard. I said, “Momma, you got Paul.” I was so sick. She says to me, “I can’t do that.”
Sam Kirshtein, b. 1925, Charleston, S.C. My maternal grandfather came to this country in 1913, and his wife and daughter, who’s my mother, didn’t come to this country until 1920. They were separated for seven years. Imagine that—being separated from a wife and a daughter for seven years.
William Ackerman, b. 1915, California, Pa., d. 1999, Charleston, S.C. People in those days, you know, they didn’t know anything about fear or things of that nature. My daddy couldn’t speak a word of English and neither could my mother. He had no education at all and wound up being a multi-millionaire.
Shera Lee Ellison Berlin, b. 1929, Charleston, S.C. You know it’s hard for young people today to understand, but in those days family was family. You know, one helped the other. It was no such thing as one having and one not having. If one in the family had it, it meant everybody in the family ate. Why, as families brought people over from the Old Country, there was always room in the house for people. You didn’t say, “Well, I don’t have room. I only have three bedrooms.” If you had three bedrooms, you could sleep twelve people.
* A small Jewish town or Jewish enclave within a town in eastern Europe.