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This Happy Land First Families · Pledging Allegiance · Palmetto Jews 
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The Cohen family at the train station, St. Matthews, S.C., ca. 1910
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The Cohen family at the train station
St. Matthews, S.C., ca. 1910
Photograph courtesy of Dorothy Gelson Cohen

Mordecai (“Mortie”) Cohen was born in 1917 in St. Matthews, South Carolina, a cotton-trading town with a train station, about 20 miles from the state capital of Columbia. In an interview recorded in 1995, Cohen describes an incident from his childhood:

The neighbor across the street, she had seven children and she had the minister come to baptize them. While they were being baptized, I headed over there. Ms. Violet told the minister, “There’s a Jewish boy here, Mortie Cohen’s coming over here, what do we do?” He said, “A little water won’t hurt him.” I was baptized.

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Last updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2019