- Augusta Jewish Museum Collection
- Fragments of oral history interviews with Rabbi Sylvan D. Schwartzman and Abe Friedman
- Date of Original:
- Augusta (Ga.)--History
Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941
World War, 1939-1945--Jews
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
American literature--Jewish authors
Jewish way of life
Jewish capitalists and financiers
Congregation Children of Israel (Augusta, Ga.)
Jewish women philanthropists--Georgia--Augusta
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945--Relations with Jews
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945--Political and social views
Jews, European--Government policy--United States--History--20th century
World War, 1939-1945--Jews--Rescue
Emigration and immigration--Government policy
United States--Emigration and immigration--Government policy--20th century
Relations with Jews
Jews, United States--Israel
- United States, Georgia, Richmond County, Augusta, 33.47097, -81.97484
- moving images
- Digital transfer of a VHS videorecording that includes fragments of two oral history interviews. The first interview was conducted (by an unidentified interviewer) with Rabbi Sylvan D. Schwartzman, who served at the Children of Israel synagogue in Augusta, Georgia, from 1941-1947 before moving to Cincinnati, Ohio to teach at Hebrew Union College. Rabbi Schwartzman makes key points about how he served the community of Jewish people living in Augusta as the Children of Israel's rabbi and served visiting service members from Camp Gordon as a civilian chaplain. Schwartzman describes the congregation as small, demoralized, and unhappy upon arrival. So he took it upon himself to build the congregation's morale, bring in new leaders, and activate older members. He recalls precisely when the United States joined the war and that it was just after he arrived in Augusta. He describes playing touch football on December 7, 1941, which turned out to be Pearl Harbor Day. He thought it was excellent that Jewish people in Augusta went "above and beyond" to help the war effort and make Jewish-American soldiers at Camp Gordon feel welcome. He cites numerous organizations such as the Red Cross, the USO, and the Jewish Welfare Board as some organizations where members of the Augusta Jewish community volunteered. The Children of Israel congregation held its centennial celebration in the old Telfair Street temple built by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. Rabbi Schwartzman was glad that the head of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Dr. Maurice Eisendrath, came to the celebration.
On the other hand, Schwartzman laments that because of English and American immigration policies, they could not simultaneously save Jews living in Europe during the Holocaust. In this tragedy, he says, the Holocaust galvanized American Jews. It made him realize that American Jews were "the final resource for the Jews of the world" who took on responsibilities they never had before World War II. He also notes that "Israel is a tremendous center" but that it would not last long without the support of American Jews. Rabbi Schwartzman believes that the biggest problem with modern Judaism is American acculturation (citing alcoholism, divorce rates, and mixed marriages). Because American Jews are living through the trauma of the Holocaust, they haven't been able to accept their full responsibility for American Jewish continuity.
He asserts that American Jews can't use Israel as a model for how to live as Jews. Instead, they need to figure out their own patterns of Jewish life. In the end, he says, there is a balance between being successful in America and living a full Jewish life. He is proud of having started the work to establish the new Children of Israel temple on Walton Way. He credits many people in the Children of Israel congregation, whom he names, who worked hard or donated generously to make it happen. He is also proud of his part in starting the Augusta Community Forum. In this place, everyone in Augusta, not just the Jewish community, could discuss secular and religious issues before television. Rabbi Schwartzman's interview ends at the 17:38 mark. At the 17:40 mark, the interviewee changes from Rabbi Schwartzman to Abe Friedman, a donor to and a longtime board member of the Children of Israel congregation. Friedman talks about how happy he was to be a part of the Children of Israel congregation's 100th anniversary in 1945 and how he helped build the new temple on Walton Way in Augusta. He talks about how he moved to Augusta for the first time in 1929 when the Children of Israel temple was on Telfair Street. He says that a decision was made over the years to move the temple away from Telfair Street and closer to where Augusta's Jewish residents lived in town. He remembers keeping a close eye on properties as they became available and says that the current location of the temple on Walton Way was chosen because of its capacity for expansion.
The interviewer asks Friedman how things have fared thirty-six years after the temple's centennial in 1945. He says that he appreciates the congregation's growth and feels optimistic about the future.
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- Digital Object URL:
- 1 video file (mp4) (24 min., 05 sec.) : sd., col.
- Holding Institution:
- Augusta Jewish Museum (Augusta, Ga.)
Congregation in children of Israel from 1941 until 1947. As a young rapper. This congregation was this first Pope. It after graduating from HUC in 1941, he and his wife Sylvia, both quickly captivated the entire Augusta Jewish community. One of the children was born in Augusta. Since leaving out fopen in 1947. Rabbi Schwarzman has joined the faculty of HUC and Cincinnati and is quite famous as an author of Jewish educational books. This is his position as we take this tape On January 191981, when you first joined the congregation in 1941. And what did you find here and what was your reaction to the congregation? Well, the congregation was quite small. I don t think there was a membership of more than about 6065 families. And the congregation I think, was demoralized that had gone through some experiences that were unhappy. And it seemed to me that what we were facing here was a congregation of needed a great deal of work. What did you try to achieve and tell us however you successful and unsuccessful. I suspect the first thing we had to do is try to build the morale of the congregation. There was an atmosphere of, I would say almost defeatism. And so we started in with a programming that seemed to be appealing to the members of the congregation. And secondly, we tried to develop the leadership of the congregation. New younger leaders as well as to activate some of the older members of the congregation. And this was, I think, the essential direction in which we tried to move, to try to get the leadership and then to bring along those who would follow that kind of leadership. Both of the congregation and later on within the community at large. When you first arrived here, we were on the brink of World War I to tell us how the war affected our congregation and how it affected the community. Well, I never will forget the day that the war broke out. We were with Bob and Gwen, green black. We were having lunch together over at their house and there was an airman who was here station at Daniel field who was expecting to go on leave. We were playing some touch football outside on the lawn with the kids and the football needed to be blown up. So we drove over to a gas station, got the air pumped into the football, and then we heard the radio going, and that was December the 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. And of course that changed all of our lives, have changed the life of that airman. He couldn't go home is leave was canceled. He was a married man, terribly disappointed. It changed the life of Augusta, Georgia because what took place here in this community was a tremendous growth of the military population. It was then Camp Gordon became a try divisional camp. We had soldiers coming down largely from New York and New England. And the Jewish population of the camp increased many, many times. We had more Jews at the camp and we hadn't the city of Augusta. And therefore, the city was involved in trying to provide some kind of hospitality and service for all of these jewelry service men and women. It wasn't an easy time of it. But the congregation did, I think yeoman work and the fact that the ladies went to work for Red Cross and other services USO. Remember Sydney Rosen was vitally active than Jewish welfare board. And I recall my going out because it wasn't no chaplain and I served a civilian chaplain here to add an occasionally a Jewish chaplain would pass through. But I started to civilian chaplain would go out and conduct services during the week, go to the hospital and even visit the break from time to time. The congregation, I think, rallied beyond the call of duty to that situation. One of the most moving events in the history of our congregation occurred with the centennial celebration on May 10th and 11th, 1945. Tell us about the work that went into this celebration. Your memory of the people involved in your memory of your reaction to the events of the celebration? Well, we had again, some remarkable people who were involved, I believe aid Friedman was present in the congregation and those who helped. I believe Helene Cohen was the president of sisterhood and seemed to me that virtually everybody we call it onto assist, participated in that a 100th anniversary. It was a moving occasion. Dr. Isaac drafts came down from New York. He was then the head of the Union of American Hebrew congregations. I happened to look over the program some days ago and I saw there some historic letter is a letter from Franklin D. Roosevelt congratulating the congregation and from the governor of Georgia and the two senators and the mayor and so on. That celebration, I think sparked the congregations interest in. Doing something which it wanted to do but didn't quite have the means to do. And that was to go ahead and inaugurate a building fun campaign. The old temple onto welfare street, dedicated by Isaac am wise himself, had really outlived its usefulness as far as its facilities were concerned. And the 100th anniversary sparked the congregation to go ahead and begin the process of renewal in terms of getting new facilities and finally, ultimately getting a new congregation. That the centennial service you say, you stated in a deeper sense, then our centennial observance becomes a personal challenge. Dominant in our minds should be our responsibilities to the generations yet unborn. I'll present duties are clear. To strengthen positive Jewish royalties, to continue to adjust practice and worship to the changing requirements of the terms. Except as American Jews, a serious obligations heaped upon us by the European tragedy nearly 36 years later, do you feel that the American Jewish community has met this challenge that you gave you a Augusta congregation. I think we've done a remarkable job in American Jewish life. I don't think you ever succeed 100% in anything. But if you stop and think in the year 1945 when the 100th anniversary took place. This was the year in which we were facing the greatest catastrophe that's ever occurred to the Jewish people. We discovered what Hitler had really done to the Jews. We discovered also the fact that it was almost impossible for us to rescue the Jews of Europe, to get them into Palestine and Palestine because of the British regulations against the immigration. And we also discovered that for the first time in American Jewish life we were gonna be thrown on our own resources. They weren't going to be people coming in, immigrants coming in from Europe. That source of immigration was pretty well cut off. And so American Jewry had to wrestle with a great number of these difficulties simultaneously. I recall I was active in those days in the southeastern region of the Zionist organization. And I remember I had tremendous concern as to what was going to happen to the Jews of Palestine when Britain was terminating the mandate and when it looked as if the Arabs were all going to overrun the jewelry settlement. Also, I remember the reaction the congregation to the cause of what was happening in Germany and the response of the Jews of Augusta to the United Jewish Appeal and the United Palestine appeal. I think something happened in Jewish life then than now, which has made us understand that we are the final resource for the Jews of the world, true, Israel is a tremendous center, but without the support of American Jewry, Israel couldn't long survive. I think that whole period, but especially as I think back to the 19 forty five, forty six, forty seven, that galvanized the American jury to take responsibilities as it had never taken before. When you arrive in Augusta from what did you receive your biggest satisfaction? I think the success or relative success of the programs, the services, and the growth of leadership by, I never cease to marvel at how a good number of people, and I can think of some of the names. I can think of Llewellyn Shapiro who moved on up from Augusta, Georgia to become a national member of Hidatsa, the board of Hidatsa, I can think of Li Bloom who was an enormous community leader and id Shapiro and aid Friedman and Leon Simon and Bob green, black and most sludge ski. And so many more people that I could name here in this community. The satisfaction of seeing all of these people working together in a common cause and being able to further the interests of the temple end of the Jewish community generally. I think that's the happiest part of the whole experience in Augusta. It was growth than it was a delight to see people responding. I guess if you find that type of response, that's the real satisfaction a rabbi gets. Were there any big discipline? Oh, I don t think you can go through life without some disappointments. Yes. I think the fact that we didn't get the new tempo while I was here, we had to operate with facilities that were were pretty bad. The religious school couldn't prosper under those circumstances. Yeah, these were disappointments, but when you measure them against the satisfaction, they don't loom as large as the successes. And for this, I'm grateful, I think that we were able together to build as well as we did. While you were here, you started the movement for a new temple building. Although that building was not dedicated until November 16th, 1951. Seeds were certainly sown during your revenue and you returned to participate in their dedication and tell us your remembrances, the people and events that led to the building of the Walton way down. Well, there's some interesting stories. I don t know. Some people will say they may be apocryphal. I do know that this, the leadership of the temple, leadership of the congregation knew that they had to raise sufficient funds in order to see to it that the rest of the congregation would respond. And so there were a number of parlour meetings that were held a led by people again like Moz and Lee bloom and is he Shapiro and aid Friedman, both of whom, I think with a real sparkplugs behind that whole building fund and the symbol which is an all of the community that rally behind them about the story that I like to tell is a story which I know most will forgive because it, it took place. It's an incident that took place on the golf course. We were playing golf one Sunday morning. This was before the religious year had begun. There was a foursome and most slice the ball and I happened to slice the ball to over until the woods and we walked over together and Moses said, they're trying to give me a good deal of trying to get me to give a good deal of money for this building fund. And I said Mozi, normally don't discuss these things. I'll leave this up to the layman, but since you mentioned it, let me put it this way. If you go ahead and do what you got to do now you won't have to run a second building fund. Result was most whether that conversation had anything to do with her or not, or whether he found his golf ball and got a good second shot. I don't know, but in any event, most contributed most generously, and the rest of the congregation followed through and the funds were virtually assured. What do you consider the biggest problem with Judaism today? Well, there are, there are, as you know, a number of problems. We have become quite acculturated to the American scene. That's good and that's bad. It's good in the sense that we are part of the American community and we feel very much at home. But it's not good in the sense that we haven't absorbed everything That's the best in America, or divorce rate is growing. Rate of alcoholism is growing. Our identity with Jewish life is likewise somewhat threatened by the rising rate of mixed marriage. We're also finding that we can't preserve ourselves on the kind of limited form of Judaism that we've had. Israel is not going to be a substitute for American Jewery. The State of Israel is a fine incentive for us. It's a great center of Jewish life, but somehow we can't use this as a vicarious form of Jewish living. We're going to have to develop our own patterns of Jewish life here. And in the process, I'm hoping that we'll be able to strengthen that Jewish life by developing forms of American jewelry, which will make this community what it promises to be, which is a golden age of Jewish life. Right now we're in a kind of a trauma. We haven't yet reached the sentence of our full responsibility for American Jewish continuity, where generous to a fault when it comes to supporting all kinds of causes. But we're less than generous when it comes to supporting our own needs. I think, for instance, of organizations like the Hillel foundations and Jewish or talk with society and our own congregations and our own educational programs here that we're going to have to contribute, but contribute more than money. We've thought that we could buy most of the things we need and therefore save ourselves from our own personal struggles. We're going to have to give of ourselves and our parents are going to have to get involved in this process of education. Our grandparents, our children are going to have to be exposed to more and more of the camp programs and the positive Jewish influences in Jewish life. And I think we're going to have to undergo a considerable number of changes. I'm seeing changes now. They seem to be moving more in a traditional sense. And whether these are the changes that are important or whether they will have to be something else that come out of this American Jewish experience. Time alone will tell. But we are threatened as a Jewish community internally, not necessarily from forces from the outside though there seems to be some rising tide of, of anti Jewish feeling. I don't see this as the threat. I see the threat, the major problem as our own identity problem. And whether we can continue to enjoy prosperity on the American scene and live a full Jewish life. I think it can be done. And that's the challenge of American Jewish life. And what a challenge that is about. Thanks to you and Mr. Schwarzman for taking leave with your busy schedule. But this interview, we are grateful to you for this mitzvah that you have rendered out congregation. We're also grateful to you for the good use. You gave our congregation thank you for coming to Augusta today. And thank you for all that you have done for this congregation. That was another source of satisfaction too. And I think that was the establishment of the Augusta community forum. It involved not only the Jewish community, but also the non-Jewish community. And it was a way in which we were able to work together in order to improve the cultural level of the entire community. We would bring down approximately five or six speakers, some of them on Jewish topics, some of them on secular topics. And it was amazing to me the response that we got from the entire community. The hall in which we met was absolutely packed full, and it met with a response that seemed to indicate that there was a great desire to learn about what was going on in the wider world. This of course, was before the days of television. And this offered us a great opportunity for cooperation in a project that succeeded, in my judgment in creating the best kind of feelings between the Jews and non-Jews of the city of Augusta. If we look for the one person that has had the most impact on congregation children of visual during the 20th century. We will not have to look far to find that aid. Friedman is that person. He has been a leader about Congregation for a period scanning more than 40 years. Avis twice served as president of the congregation and serve as building chairman for both of the Walton way construction. In 1981, Eva and his wife Betty purchased and donate it to the temple. Attractive land adjacent to the temple that will be used for future expansion and for parking facilities. They've, you were pregnant during the centennial celebration in 1945. Tell us what you remember concerning this celebration. Jack. Yes. Quite a long time ago and I'm going to have to sit here and think about or just a minute. I do remember this though it was exciting period to be a 100 years old and quite a number of activities going on during that period of time. You will also president during the Walton way building dedication. Tell us about the excitement of that dedication and a little bit more about this celebration in 1945 was the 100th anniversary. Well again, it's, you have to stop and think back. And speaking strictly from memory. It was quite exciting, quite interesting, and quite fulfilling, I believe. Pretty good word and say, All right, you, you were chairman of both of the building campaigns, which one created the most excitement and tell us about some of the difficulties that you encountered. If you can remember, some of those difficulties when we were building both of the congregations on Walton work. Well, as you may know, in 1929 when I arrived in Augusta, the temple was on till fast street near field. And it stayed there for quite awhile. I think in the thirties, I believe I'm in the 50s. We've got the idea that we should look around, see if we couldn't locate the temple near the center of the Jewish population of the city of Augusta, which would be in the general areas in now. And we're successful in purchasing the tracker land, but for now sits on both the educational building, of course, the new talent. Tell us some of the differences of the congregation as you knew it in the 30s and 40s and as it is today. Well, basically it's not a, not a great deal of difference. We had a much smaller congregation that we have today. All of our numbers in my mind that we've grown as much as I think it should have grown over the years. The land that you've donated to the temple recently, how do you envision that land being used? De Jack, truthfully, I had been watching that piece of property for some ten years. Knows people that owned it. And I got wind of the fact that they were going to sell it. In fact, what we're going to put up for houses on that piece of property. And I just couldn't see for houses being built right across from the Temple. And also, I believe and feel that eventually the temples going to need a lot more parking space and possibly some additional bills. And that was a general idea to allow the temple to have that room expansion. That's mighty, mighty good. And now they have that room for expansion. In 1945 and a speech that you made concerning the centennial the temple. You said the past century is concluded with a period. It is final, indefinite. The future possesses no such quality. It looms up ahead as a shimmering question mark. Now today we were 36 years further into that future. How do you feel the question mark did in the past 36 years? And what else do you feel are question-mark of today will bring us? That's a rather redundant question, but I'm sure you understand what I'm trying to ask you that now that we have part of the future behind us from 45, how do you think we've done Jack? I think we've done pretty good Really. We've had normal in national growth. As I said earlier, I don't think we've grown as fast as we showed them wrong, but still we have that growth. Future to me looks good. Maybe I'm an optimist, but there's some problems will always arise, but I ensure that we will be able to take care of them and handle them in proper form. Ronnie, a great deal of difficulty. Hey, thank you very much for this interview. I know that future generations will gain inspiration from this tape when they see and hear a man who has given so much of himself to our congregation. And he's so who is so optimistic about what the future will bring to our congregation, your life, and what you have done will always be an inspiration to all of us. Thank you very much. Thank you. Sorry.