This is December 14, 1998. This is an oral history interview and this is
Carol Shkolnik from the Columbus Jewish Historical Society interviewing Anne
Bonowitz and the date is December 14, 1998. And we are in the home of Anne and
Marvin Bonowitz. Okay Anne, I know you’re very well versed in how this is
supposed to go so I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about your
life before you came to Columbus, you know your childhood and some of your
special memories of your family.
Bonowitz: Okay. I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, but only lived there
for the first six months of my life. It was 1938. My father was a cutter of
men’s shirts and he apparently was very good because many companies were
after his services. The family moved to a town called Bangor, Pennsylvania,
and it was a very small town with hardly any Jewish families. I think there
may have been ten families. There was no synagogue. On Rosh Hashonah, our
house was the synagogue. They would borrow a Torah scroll from the next
largest town which was Easton, Pennsylvania. This was really, it’s a little
town on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We lived there for the
first six years of my life and most of it, a good part of it was during the
war or half of it was during the war and I can remember, the very first memory
I have was December 7, 1941. My mother was ironing and suddenly started to cry
when she heard the President on the radio announce that we had been attacked,
and I remember that vividly. The things that I remember most about Bangor were
the fact that it was such a small town. We lived in what seemed to me a very
large house. It had a front staircase and a rear staircase and the front one
came into the living room which looked like it would be a thea—, setting for
a wedding, some bride coming down this magnificent stairway. We rented that
house and my father worked in the shirt factory which, by the time when we
entered the war, I guess was producing uniforms. So that’s where he was
working. I had a lot of freedom that I remember because I was able to go down
the street to my friend’s house. There was another little girl whose name
was Anne also and she was not Jewish. She was two weeks older than I and we
were the best of friends for the six years that we lived in Bangor. I also was
allowed to go around the corner and up the street to the local movie theater.
And I guess that was my mother’s idea of my baby sitter because they knew
the owner. The owner happened to be a Jewish man also. And he let me in every
time for whatever it was, a nickel, a dime, something like that. So I went to
the movies every time the movies changed, and I remember that. And I went by
myself from the time I was three or four years old because my little sister
was born when I was three.
Interviewer: At three or four years old, you and your sister walked
to . . .
Bonowitz: No my sister didn’t. I did. She was just a baby. And my older brother who is six years older than I was in school already so he wasn’t around during the day and I think this was, I just remember seeing lots of movies and if it was a scary movie, it would be in the afternoon and if it was, if I was at all scared, I would get up and sit next to an adult. (Laughter) And the only one I remember being scared at was “The Phantom of the Opera” and I remember that. But anyway, that was life in Bangor. We had a wonderful Victory Garden that my father planted, a very large one. I remember that. And when I was six, my brother was 12 and at that point, my parents decided it was time to get out of Bangor because there was my brother a year before Bar Mitzvah and up to that time, they had brought in a tutor once a week for him. Not for me, I was only 6. My brother was tutored but they felt that it was enough. So at that point, my father had an offering of a position in Troy, New York, which was very famous for its shirt factories and things.
Bonowitz: So we moved to Troy, New York, where my brother became very
involved in the synagogue and a year after we moved there, he had his
Bar Mitzvah and he taught me Hebrew because it wasn’t considered the
thing for girls to go to Hebrew School. I did go to Sunday School in
Troy. I remember going to the Sunday School but that was not a Hebrew
class. It was more Sunday School, Jewish, you know, holiday stuff. But
my brother taught me to read because my parents thought I should know
how to read Hebrew.
Interviewer: It must have been interesting being taught by your
brother. Sometimes sibling rivalry you would think would get in the way.
Bonowitz: Well maybe. I don’t remember that. I really don’t even
remember the sessions. I just know that he did it.
Bonowitz: And by the time we left Troy, which was when I was 9, and
we moved back to Brooklyn where my father’s family and my mother’s
family all were, ’cause we had been the one family or one group that
had left town, so to speak, so my father could do his job. And we moved
back to Brooklyn when I was 9 and this was after the war, of course, and
I already knew how to read Hebrew. So I know that, and I know that my
brother taught me but I don’t remember the learning process or
anything about it.
Interviewer: Can I ask you a couple of questions?
Interviewer:… go further. Were your parents married in this
country or were they married…
Bonowitz: No they were married in this country. Yeah. My father
actually came over just before World War I.
Bonowitz: He was born in 1900 and he was about 12 or 13 I think when
he came over.
Interviewer: And where was he from?
Bonowitz: And he was from Pinsk, I believe. And my mother’s father came over before World War I, planning to send for his wife and children. And then the war started and
he couldn’t get back to them and they couldn’t get over.
So that my mother did not arrive until 1921. And she was about 15 at the time. But I think they said she was older so she could go to work and all that sort of stuff.
Interviewer: Do you know where they met? Were they… New York?
Bonowitz: Yeah, they met, they were both in New York and nope, I don’t
think she ever told us exactly how they met. I think he came, she was
working as a bookkeeper. She was very good with numbers. And I think he came into
the office one day.
And that was that. He was, I don’t know what he was
doing. He was already, he was working in some factory at the time and
she was doing this bookkeeping and then they got, they were married in
Interviewer: Uh huh. And, the question that is in our interview, do
you know who you were named for and what is your Hebrew name?
Bonowitz: Yes. My Hebrew name is Chana and I’m named for my
mother’s mother. Except for my father’s mother, I did not know any
of my other grandparents. They all died before I was born. I’m named
for my mother’s mother who was also Chana or in Yiddish, Chenya,
and she was supposed to have been a really remarkable woman. I started
telling you how she was by herself with these children during World War
I in a part of Poland which was constantly, my mother talked often about
the fact that it changed hands so she had to learn some German, she had
to learn some Polish, she had to learn Russian, because depending on who
was in charge at the moment.
Bonowitz: And my mother’s mother, to earn a living, to support her
children, sold chickens. And raised chickens and sold chickens and she
even did that when she came to America, living in Brooklyn. I’m not
sure how they went about doing that but (laughter) I believe she died
and I’d have to look it up, but I think it was in the early 30s, soon
after my mother was married and so I was named for her. But she was
supposedly a very resourceful, very bright woman, and that is really as
much as I know about her. She’s buried in Washington Cemetery in
Brooklyn. And so that much I know and… all my grandparents
Interviewer: Washington Cemetery?
Bonowitz: Yeah, that’s a very big cemetery.
Interviewer: Yeah, I understand.
Bonowitz: In Brooklyn.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you spent, you were six then when you moved
Bonowitz: No, 9.
Bonowitz: Six when I moved to Troy and 9 when we moved to Brooklyn.
Interviewer: Do you know, do you have a sense now or did you then of
whether it was always your parents’ goal to eventually move back to
Brooklyn or was it maybe circumstances?
Bonowitz: No, I think it was their goal because they were very close
to family and everybody in the family on my mother’s side, her sister,
she had two sisters and a brother, they were all living in Brooklyn when
we moved back there in the 40s and my father, all of his sisters and
brothers with the exception of one brother who was already in New Haven,
Connecticut. But all the rest of his brothers and his sisters were in
Brooklyn. And his mother, who was the only grandparent as I said at that
point, was in Brooklyn, and I think they just felt that that’s where
they felt at home.
Bonowitz: And we were, this was after the war. We were fortunate to
get a house in Flatbush. An attached house with a front yard and a back yard. The
front yard, my poor father could never get the grass to grow ’cause
there was a big tree growing right in the middle of that yard. But it
was a very nice area, sort of on the, a few blocks away were the bigger,
the homes of the more wealthy people. But we were certainly in a very nice, safe, comfortable location in Brooklyn and they were very pleased, and after that, I
remember every Saturday night, my aunts and uncles got together to play pinochle, or whatever it may be, but I mean, there was a closeness to
the family. In the summertime, the whole family went out on picnics
every Sunday. I think that was always their goal, to get back to
Interviewer: One thing crossed my mind when you were talking about
going to the movies. What was your mother doing all day when you went to
Bonowitz: Well, you know, it’s interesting. My mother kept a kosher
home in Bangor, Pennsylvania, which meant that every few weeks, I mean
during the war when everything was rationed, that was hard enough. But
on top of that, she had to go into Easton which was the closest place to
get anything kosher, any kosher meat or lox or bagels or whatever it may
have been. Bread, packaged bread in those days, all had lard in it so
you couldn’t just go to the A&P and buy a loaf of bread. She was
baking. She baked constantly, every day. She baked bread and she baked
cakes and various things. Cooking. Washing by hand. Diapers for my
little baby sister at the time. I mean she worked very, very hard. She
was constantly cooking and cleaning and working and doing all the
things; I think of all the wonderful appliances and conveniences that we
have today and I’m just amazed at how people handled that. And one of
the funny stories about when we were living in Bangor, because of the
community, I could walk around and everybody knew me. If I walked around
the block, every one would say, “Hi”, and whatever, invite me
in. So I knew my third birthday was coming and I invited everybody to
come to my house for birthday cake.
Interviewer: Uh hum.
Bonowitz: The only person I hadn’t invited or hadn’t mentioned it
to was my mother. (laughter) So (laughter) that afternoon, it was a
Sunday afternoon and everybody showed up and my mother didn’t know
they were coming. So she had a small birthday cake that they were going
to have for just our immediate family, and I think that she sent my
father into Easton to go get some lox and bagels and things so that she
could have, because my mother had to serve to everybody. That was, they
talked about that for a long time, how I invited everybody but didn’t
bother to tell them.
Interviewer: Now what birthday did you say that was?
Bonowitz: Yeah, but you see, that was when you could, I just walked
around. I knew everybody.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Bonowitz: So, and it was a small, it was a tiny, it was like a
Bonowitz: It was tiny.
Interviewer: Actually, I think I’ve been there. Which schools, is
it Lehigh or Lafayette that’s there?
Bonowitz: Lehigh must be near there, I think.
Interviewer: Yeah, because there…
Bonowitz: Uh huh.
Interviewer:… so anyway…
Bonowitz: Well, I… we went back a few years ago when we were
driving to New York. We just took a little short cut and went over to
Bangor and I couldn’t remember the address. But I knew where the house
was situated and… in relationship to various things. So the first
thing, we found the Public Library.
And then we asked where a certain movie house had been,
which I think no longer existed and where there had been a big furniture
store on the corner which burned down. I remember that fire when we were
there. And so we walked around and sure enough, I found my house.
We didn’t go in. I don’t remember whether I didn’t
want to or we didn’t have time or whatever it was, but I did see the
house and I knew that that was it ’cause it had to be from where I
remember the location. I could just picture it myself right now. So that
was the… but Bangor was still pretty small. But it was larger
than I remember it so…
Interviewer: You said that your house was a synagogue. Does that mean
that most people, most of the Jewish people in town, would come to you
house for Shabbas and… .
Bonowitz: Not for Shabbas as much as, because on Shabbas, I think
everybody, my father probably had to work on Shabbas as much as
everybody else. But Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur, they would borrow a
Torah from the synagogue in Easton and they would bring in a rabbinical
student I guess or maybe whoever was tutoring my brother. I don’t know
who they brought in but they had a service in our house. And the Torah
scroll was kept in our house because we were the only kosher Jews in
Bangor from what my mother said.
Interviewer: Was your family so strict that you couldn’t eat in the
houses of your friends?
Bonowitz: No, no. I think that there was a difference back then. My
parents were just very traditional Jews though they never thought of
themselves as being Orthodox. They just knew that they wanted to maintain a lot of the
traditions that they grew up with. And the only thing that I knew, that if I went to my friend’s
house, they would never serve me meat.
They would usually say, I knew I could have an apple, I
could have fruit and various things, and they would say: “Is this
kosher?” “Is that kosher?” and I would just say,
“Ask my mom” if I didn’t know.
That was never, I don’t remember it as being a problem.
But I know that I never had anything, any non-kosher meat.
Interviewer: Okay. Now what did it feel like for you when you moved
to New York after having lived in small towns until the age of 9?
Bonowitz: Yeah, well I think it was very exciting to be there with
the family and to be in, I remember some things about the public school
I went to in Troy. But I never thought, I never found it to be
challenging or difficult in any way. I was the only Jewish kid in the
class and my sister was the only Jewish kid in her class. That’s when
we were in Troy.
Because we lived in a section of Troy they had, when they
got that house, it was during the war and we had to, we lived there at
wherever we could get housing, which was difficult at the time. And
there weren’t too many Jews in that neighborhood. But, when we moved
to Brooklyn, suddenly I was in a public school class where half the kids
and more were Jewish. And I didn’t have to explain myself. And this
was going into the fourth grade. It was nice but there were some
interesting things that happened there.
Interviewer: You want to explain about some of them?
Bonowitz: Yeah. My favorite story, which I will never forget. I
probably owe these guys an awful lot. There were two boys in my fourth
grade class, Larry Levine and Jimmy Jacoby. My mother had originally tried to get me into the Yeshiva of Flatbush. Which was not that far from where we lived and they would
not take somebody who was starting, who was coming into fourth grade
because I had missed all those other years. All I could do was read. I
didn’t know anything else. And so therefore they had to put me in the
Bonowitz: P.S. 193. And I was in that class and a couple of days after school
started, it was after school and Jimmy and Larry were talking to each
other and they were speaking in Hebrew.
Bonowitz: And I went home and said to my mother, “Jimmy and
Larry”, whom I had already figured out were my only competition in
this class. There were the three of us who always finished first and
were the top of the class. I said, “Jimmy and Larry speak Hebrew. I
want to learn to speak Hebrew so I have to go to Hebrew School.”
Bonowitz: So my mother took me over to the East Midwood Jewish
Center, which was…
Interviewer: The East what?
Bonowitz: East Midwood Jewish Center. The section we lived in in
Brooklyn was Midwood.
Bonowitz: And in Brooklyn, there was this whole phenomenon of Jewish
Centers in the 40s, that grew up in the 30s and 40s and so it was the
synagogue and school and they had a swimming pool and a gym and that
was, it was a Jewish Center and it was a synagogue.
Interviewer: So the synagogue name would be something Jewish Center.
Bonowitz: Right there was the Kingsway Jewish Center, the East
Midwood Jewish Center, lots of them. Brooklyn Jewish Center. And we went
to the Hebrew School and my mother talked with the principal, and he
said, “Well, she’ll have to go in the beginner’s class. In the
Aleph Class.” And my mother said, “But she can read
already.” And he listened to me read and he said, “Well, but
she doesn’t know how to speak and she doesn’t know any vocabulary.
She has to go to the beginner’s class.” So he marches me into the
beginner’s class and who should be sitting there but Jimmy and Larry.
Bonowitz: And I thought, “This is strange.” So I sat in the class. Within two weeks, they moved me up to the second grade class. Jimmy and Larry stayed in the beginner’s class. The following year, I started out in the Gimel class, the third year, and by the end of that year, I had skipped the fourth year and gone into the fifth year. So I graduated from the Hebrew School in two years instead of five years.
Interviewer: How many years ahead of Jimmy and . . .
Bonowitz: Four years ahead of Jimmy and Larry, or three years ahead
of Jimmy and Larry. And I figured out soon after the school began, I
realized what Jimmy and Larry had done to tease me. One said, “Shma
Yisroel”, and the other one had said, “Hashem elokenu,
hashem echod.” And I thought they were having this conversation
because all I knew was how to read.
Interviewer: So they were showing off?
Bonowitz: They were showing off but I thought they were able to speak
Hebrew. I was just completely floored by it. So I always give them
credit for my career because if not for them, I probably would not have
gone to Hebrew School because my parents felt, as most parents did in
those days, that a girl, as long as I could read the Siddur, that’s
all that was necessary.
Bonowitz: And so I had that already. There I was all through Hebrew
School; there were probably two or three of us girls, and all the rest
of them were boys. Most of the girls I knew throughout school, public school,
did not go to Hebrew School.
Bonowitz: So I’m glad that I, I thank Jimmy and Larry for that.
Interviewer: Now did your family’s religious practices change in
any way when you were in Brooklyn?
Bonowitz: Yeah, to some extent. My father still had to work on
Shabbas. There was no question about that. We also drove on Shabbas. I
remember my parents used to go shopping on Shabbas. We would go to the
synagogue. East Midwood had a wonderful service. The Rabbi was Harry
Halpern who was one of the greats of the 50s and 60s. He had been, it
was a conservative synagogue. He had been President of the Rabbinical
Assembly. We were very fortunate to be at that synagogue at that time.
But after shul, Saturday afternoon, we’d go shopping because
that seemed to be the only time that we could in those days. The stores
were closed on Sundays.
So you didn’t really have any time to do anything. And it
never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with that because
that was the way we were brought up. I kept kosher and it was never a
thing about going out to eat. First of all, I don’t think the family
had that much money that we would go out to restaurants to eat. If we
did, we would go around the corner to the kosher deli. And so there was
kosher food available in that way. Gradually, my father got to the point
where he didn’t have to work so much on Shabbat and my mother, they
both got very involved in the synagogue on some of the committees and in
a lot of the things that were going on there. Gradually I found that we
were doing less and less on Shabbat that was not within the spirit of
Shabbat. And I was getting very involved in the youth groups at the
synagogue, which would have, every week after services, we’d have all
kinds of things going on all afternoon on Shabbat. So I think the family
did become more traditional. And after my father died, I was 15 when my
father died, at that point, my mother became much more observant. She
didn’t know how to drive (laughter) and so there was nobody, and my
brother didn’t drive and I wasn’t old enough to drive and so we sold
the car and we walked to the synagogue, which was only ten short blocks,
so it was like a half a mile from our house. So there was no question
about walking. All those years I had to walk to Hebrew School anyway
because my father, there was nobody to drive me. And so the walking was
not a problem. And that was the only thing, my mother just became far
more traditional. My brother also became far more observant, I think
after my father died. So I guess we all sort of did and…
Interviewer: So did your mother resume bookkeeping at that point in
Bonowitz: No, she had to find something that she could do which would
be close to the house ’cause my sister was only 12. And so she went
over to the local Barton’s Candy Store.And they hired her as a sales clerk.
And it was wonderful because working for Barton’s, she
was off every Jewish holiday. She was off on Shabbat. And on Friday
afternoons, they allowed her to leave early, even before they closed.
They would close just at the beginning of Shabbat but they allowed her
to leave an hour early. There was never a question in anybody’s mind
about that. So it was very convenient. I have no idea what kind of money
she made there. But apparently that and the Social Security that she
collected and the various death benefits and things was enough for us to
Interviewer: Did you and your brother and your sister, did you ever
have part-time jobs in high school or…
Bonowitz: In high school, I don’t think my brother ever did. My
brother was, other than perhaps maybe a little tutoring and stuff, he
was six years older so by the time my father died, he was in college. He
was at Columbia University. And that was my mother’s main goal, to be
able to keep Shel at Columbia, even after my father died. Which she was
able to do.
Interviewer: He live at home?
Bonowitz: He, no, he commuted. And so he did live at home and he would take the subway. I don’t think he could have afforded to live in the dorm. But those were
the days when the male was considered the most important. So everything was done for him. So there were many times, even when he was in high school, when I remember my mother would say, “Well I have to go to the…” She’d send me or my sister around the corner to get some groceries or something. I’d say, “Why can’t Shel go?” “Oh no, he’s busy
Bonowitz: And it was always, he has to do this. We had to do all the
work and the chores. He never had to do any chores around the house.
Interviewer: Did you have any resentment or ill feelings?
Bonowitz: I don’t know that I had so much resentment. It was just,
it was like a joke.
Interviewer: I see.
Bonowitz: And it went on even, my brother went to the Rabbinical
School at the Jewish Theological Seminary. And at that point, Rabbinical
School was, there was no real charge for it and the rabbinical students
were all put up in the dorms there free of charge. So it really cost him
nothing other than I think maybe his meals, he had to pay for. But I was
going, by that time, I was taking classes at the Seminary. And he was
living up there on 122nd and Broadway and I had to commute from Brooklyn
an hour and a half each way. And once a week, I would go into his, well
he was usually in the dining room at that time. And he would give me
this little package of his laundry.
To take home to Mother so Mother could launder it by hand
because she didn’t have a washing machine even in those days. And then
the following week, I would bring his little package of clean laundry
and take another one back home. And I remember his attitude was, he
would sometimes be sitting at a table with three of his friends. And he
would never even introduce me. I finally let him have it one day. And I
said, “You know, I am a human being. I am a person. I’m not just
your servant here.”
Interviewer: So you were liberated before your time?
Bonowitz: Oh I think so. I think so. I think so. So I continued to
carry his laundry but at least after that, he introduced me. I think he
couldn’t, when a couple of his friends asked me out. I think he couldn’t
understand why his friends would want to take his sister out. ‘Cause I
was six years younger so it took him a while to get used to that fact.
Interviewer: What led to your taking classes at the Seminary?
Bonowitz: Well, it was just a natural thing to do. I had gone, I have
to go back. I had gone to the Hebrew School at East Midwood, which was
one of the finest Hebrew Schools, an afternoon Hebrew School, it was one
of the finest in the country. We met four afternoons a week and Sunday
Interviewer: That’s a lot.
Bonowitz: All classes were conducted in Hebrew from Day 1, so that by
the time I finished, I was in their Hebrew High School. I mean it was
just automatic that, because all my friends were from there. So we were
all going. In the Hebrew high school I was fluent in Hebrew and what’s
the next step? The next step would be to go to the Seminary. And so I
started the Seminary when I was a senior in high school. And in addition
to that, when I was 12, I got the first scholarship that they gave from
the synagogue to Camp Ramah.
Interviewer: Oh, that was…
Bonowitz: Camp Ramah in the Poconos, which was three years old at the
time, no, it was the first year that they were in the Poconos, 1950.
Interviewer: It must be a beautiful camp.
Bonowitz: It’s a beautiful camp and, if I had to think of the
things that had the most influence on my life, it’s Camp Ramah and the
year I spent in Israel, and, which I’ll get to. But…
Interviewer: Can you say a little bit, in what way Camp Ramah was
that pivotal for you?
Bonowitz: Yeah, it was pivotal in the fact that I think my closest
friends throughout high school were the people that I met at Ramah. Even
though the first year that I went there in 1950, I was completely lost.
In those days at Ramah, they really spoke Hebrew all the time. I thought
I had some pretty good background. But all the kids in my bunk, all the
girls in my bunk, were either, were the daughters of rabbis, cantors, or
Interviewer: Oh boy.
Bonowitz: They went to yeshivas. There were no day schools as we know
them today. But they went to yeshivas which were like day school. I came
from this little afternoon Hebrew School. My parents didn’t speak
Hebrew. They weren’t greatly educated in Judaism. And in those days,
Ramah was sort of competitive. So every day, your counselor would grade
you on how much Hebrew you spoke during the day. And if you spoke
enough, you would be given a little prize on the chart and if you got
enough Xs or whatever, you would get a prize. I got three Xs for the
Bonowitz: Because it got to the point where I thought, “I can’t
do this.” and they kept saying, “Oh yes you can, yes you
can.” So I fought them and I just refused to speak. Then the
following year, that’s the year after my father got sick, my father
had cancer and so I couldn’t go back the following year nor the year
after that. And he died when I was 15. That summer was the last summer
that he was alive. So when I was 16, I went back. And at that time they
had a program of you could be a camper/waiter. That was the only way we
could have afforded it. You would wait on tables and you would have a limited
program as a camper. You got your swimming in, you got your studies in,
but the rest of the time you were waiting on tables and it was hard
work. But there was a…
Interviewer: Feeding the other campers?
Bonowitz: Feeding the other campers, yeah. And I mean now they have a
whole new, a whole different system where kids at each bunk take turns
being waiters. Each day there’s somebody else who does it and they don’t
have to hire extra waiters. But this was a whole different system back
then. It was the only way I could afford because the camper/waiters only
had to pay half. And one of my teachers at East Midwood got me a
scholarship for that half. He was a great man. His name was Levi Soshuk
and he later became a director at Camp Ramah.
And so I remember that Summer, we had a meeting of all the
campers of my age group and one of the counselors was complaining that
the kids weren’t speaking enough Hebrew and I got up and started
saying, “Yes, we have to speak Hebrew, we have to…” I
was thinking, “My, what a change in the last four years.” But
that’s where my closest friends came from. That’s where all the
influence to go on, it was just assumed that I would just keep studying
and so that’s why I went to the Seminary. I was always very active in
an organization called Leader’s Training Fellowship, which preceded
Bonowitz: This LTF was, had requirements. You had to study at least
six hours a week. You had to be involved in all kinds of service
projects and things. And it was sort of an elitist organization.
Bonowitz: And USY came out of that with far fewer demands and things
but at the time, I remember when USY first started, most of us in LTF
turned our noses down on that. “Oh, we’re not going to bother
with them. They’re the, they don’t know anything.” When I was a
senior in high school, my brother told me of this new program, that LTF
was going to give scholarships and it was a year in Israel, the
Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad and it was sponsored by the
Jewish Agency. So I applied for the scholarship that LTF was giving. And
I got it. (laughter)
Interviewer: Oh wow.
Bonowitz: And I spent that following year after I graduated from high
school in Israel at the Institute for Youth Leaders, which was a
fabulous experience. That was the other pivotal experience, I think.
Interviewer: (indistinct)… whole year?
Bonowitz: That was a whole year from September to August, 1955 and
1956. It was, the whole year cost me, out of my pocket, $450.
Interviewer: I see.
Bonowitz: And everything else was covered. And I, oh, you asked me if
I worked, if any of us worked. I started when I was 14 giving private
Interviewer: Oh wow.
Bonowitz: And that was how I earned my living. I did a little bit of
baby-sitting but I was never really into it and I certainly would not
baby-sit for any child under the age of 3 because I didn’t want to
deal with diapers or any of that stuff.
Interviewer: (indistinct) I understand. Now did they, did you, I don’t
know that they had Bat Mitzvahs at that time?
Bonowitz: They didn’t.
Bonowitz: Or if they did, not at East Midwood. What we had was a
Confirmation Class. Which the girls could participate in. What we did have,
though, that was, I guess almost unique, was a wonderful Junior
Congregation at East Midwood. The principal was a man named Henry
Goldberg who was very well known in the field of Jewish education. And
he was a Reconstructionist, it was just at the time when the
Reconstructionist movement was developing. And he didn’t see any
difference between men and women so in the Junior Congregation, girls
could do everything.
They could act as chasanim, they could do, have aliyas,
they could do everything. And I grew up in this Junior Congregation just
assuming that girls could do everything. The only thing I knew was that I couldn’t do it upstairs.
Bonowitz: Our synagogue was up on the third floor. That was this huge
synagogue that held 2,000 people. So that’s why I said
“upstairs.” When I was 11, my brother at that time was 17. He
was a Torah reader for the junior services which then developed into the
Young People’s Synagogue, which was the teen-age group. He was their
Torah reader and he was going to be away for some kind of convention for
a week-end. And he knew weeks in advance and he said, “Let me teach
you to read Torah.”
Bonowitz: So he did.
Interviewer: So you were 11 then?
Bonowitz: I was 11 and I read Torah the week-end that he was away.
And when he graduated from high school, it just was the natural thing: I
became the Torah reader for the teen-age service.
Interviewer: Well, you’ve been at it for a long time them?
Bonowitz: Yeah, and I’m, the thing that was funny: we used to meet
in the little chapel and the old men had a minyan there at 8 o’clock
in the morning. And we’d come in at 10 o’clock and have our service.
And a few times some of the people, as you were going up the stairs to
the main sanctuary or standing next to the elevator which some people
used, you could look in the windows of this little chapel.
And sometimes people would come in there and see me up on
the bima and a couple of times, they opened the door and started
screaming: “Women don’t belong on there”, and they would
really, they were very upset. But the synagogue itself, as long as we
kept it in the chapel in the teen-age service, it was okay.
Interviewer: And so you didn’t feel deprived as long as you could
Bonowitz: No way. No way. And it never, nobody had a Bat Mitzvah in
those days. It was just not, I didn’t know of anybody who did.
Interviewer: Now were you taught in Hebrew School how to read? I know
your brother taught you maybe a little earlier, but did, did…
well and you said that not that many girls…
Bonowitz: No, no we, I was not taught tropes or anything. All Bar
Mitzvah training was outside of the Hebrew School. You had private
tutors for Bar Mitzvah training. All the boys did so that was a separate
area and I just happened to learn it because my brother taught it to me.
If he hadn’t, I would never have learned it at that point.
Interviewer: And I don’t even know how they do do that now since
obviously you know where my kids…
Bonowitz: Yeah, but nowadays in most of the Hebrew Schools, at least
at Tifereth Israel, everybody gets the training. And it’s part of the Hebrew School experience. So that’s why all of the kids know the tropes. Some better than others. But they
all get the basic learning of that. And even the kids who come from
Torah Academy are entitled to get that training at the synagogue.
Bonowitz: So that’s what they do.
Interviewer: So after you were in Israel your first year out of high
Bonowitz: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Your mother was still working and…
Bonowitz: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: your sister, you had your little, your younger sister .
. . .
Bonowitz: My younger sister was in high school.
Interviewer: And had you made plans for what you were going to do
when you came back from Israel?
Bonowitz: Yeah, I had. I was already accepted in Brooklyn College. I
wanted very much to go to Barnard because it seemed to be, that’s
where some of my friends were going and it was across the street from
the Seminary and I knew I was going to be going to the Seminary, but
even though I had a state scholarship, in those days, the New York State
Scholarship paid $350 a year.
Interviewer: And how much was tuition then?
Bonowitz: I have no idea. But it was more than $350. I mean, when my brother was at Columbia a few years earlier, I think his tuition was something like between $400 and $500
for the year. Anyway, my Mother said there’s no way she could send me
to Barnard and I guess we just didn’t know about all the scholarships
and various things and they probably weren’t as available then as they
are today. And so I went to Brooklyn College which really turned out to
be a very fine college. I think I got a very good education there. And
in those days, it was free. You paid a $6 registration fee each semester
and a few dollars for books, and that was it. So at the end of four
years of college, I had $1400 from my state scholarship money that was
in the bank. So that was nice.
Interviewer: So you got a degree in…
Bonowitz: I got a B.S. in Literature, English Lit.
Interviewer: I see.
Bonowitz: And the goal there was because when I was in Israel, that
year in Israel which involved study, working on a kibbutz, travel,
working in an immigrant settlement and helping the immigrants. I was
determined that I was going to make aliyah.
Interviewer: I see.
Bonowitz: But part of the deal of being on this Institute for Youth
Leaders was that you had to promise in advance that you would give two
years of service, a minimum of two years of service in the States,
working with youth, working with teen-agers. Which I did. I led a Young
Judea group and I did a lot of work with the Junior Congregation, and I
was a Hebrew teacher from the time I was, I taught in the Hebrew School
at East Midwood from the time I came back from Israel, all through
college. So my goal was to make aliyah. And what was I going to
do if I made aliyah? Well the best, in those days and probably
almost until now, the kids had to learn English in high school. High
school wasn’t required. but those who went to high school had to learn
English and specifically English Literature and specifically lots of
Interviewer: So you knew that?
Bonowitz: So I knew that going in and I decided, well, I’m going to
learn all the Shakespeare I can. I had had an elective in Shakespeare in
high school and I just loved it anyway. So I said, “I’m going to
get this and that’s what I’m going to do when I go to Israel. I’m
going to teach English Lit.” And so that was my major at the same time I was going to
the Seminary three days a week, every Sunday afternoon from 1 to 6, and
two nights a week from 6:30 to 9:45. And then it was an hour and a half
commute each way and I got a lot of reading done on the subways and
then, in addition to that, I was teaching Sunday mornings and two
afternoons a week at East Midwood. So I was quite busy, I don’t know
how I did it. (laughter) When I think back, I don’t know where, how I
had all the energy to do all that, but it was fun.
Interviewer:… you were very motivated?
Bonowitz: Yeah, I guess I was. But all my friends, everybody I knew,
was doing the same thing. We were going to two schools and we were, and
we had to teach. So we were teaching. And that was it.
Interviewer:… your mother must be commended and you for your
hard work and perseverence. And I’m sure it was difficult.
Bonowitz: Yes it was. It was probably difficult; it was exciting
though. When I think back of the people I was exposed to, the teachers
that I had at the Seminary especially, I learned with Professor Heschel
and H. L. Ginsburg and just fantastic, world-renowned scholars and, here
I was sitting in their classes. Of course, I don’t think we were as
appreciative at the time. As I think back on it now, I was very, very
fortunate to have that experience.
Interviewer:… you weren’t really awestruck?
Bonowitz: No. Because I don’t think I realized (laughter) that they
were anybody. . . . special at that point. You know, you just, I can
still remember being in Professor Heschel’s class and a friend of mine
was, it was five to six and class was supposed to get out any minute and
we’re all exhausted and he was talking and my friend just went, starts
pointing at his watch and all of us were, “Sure… It’s time
to end the class.” (laughter) I can’t believe we did that but we
Interviewer: I think I’ll take the time to stop this tape.
Interviewer: The world-class teachers you had, the Seminary to the
extent that you even, people in the class would make sure they ended on
Bonowitz: Uh hum.
Interviewer:… keep tabs on when you were supposed to end?
Interviewer: So, for the benefit of our audience who doesn’t know
what I know, can you tell us a little bit about what happened after the
Interviewer: And what came next?
Bonowitz: All right. What came next is, I came to Columbus, Ohio.
When I graduated from Brooklyn and the Seminary in 1960, just a few
weeks before graduation, the dean, I think he was dean at that time. His
name was Seymour Fox. And he came over and said, “You know, there’s
an opportunity to go to Columbus, Ohio.” And I said, I practically said that. And I knew it was the State capital, but he said, “There’s a man named Sam Melton who
has given a lot of money to the Seminary and he wants to improve Jewish
education in his synagogue and we’re going to use that synagogue
school as a pilot school and how would you like to go out there?”
And I said, “Well, I don’t know.” I just assumed I would
continue teaching at East Midwood and probably go to Columbia Teacher’s
College or something like that. I had nothing definite set in my mind
and, in fact, all I was thinking about was going back to Ramah that
summer as a counsellor. I was going to Ramah in California at the time,
and I said, “Well I guess so.” He said, “Well, there’s
a guy named Saul Wachs. Do you know him?” And I said, “Yeah, I
know who Saul is. He was a couple of years older than I.” And he
said, “He’s going to be the Principal and he and his wife are
going out there and we have a couple of other teachers who were actually
in my classes: Donnie Adelman and Linda Sperber. And so I said,
“Well, let me go home and talk to my mom and see what she
says.” He said, “Well let me call your mom.” (laughter)
So he called my mother and by the time I got home, she said, “I
hear you want to go to Columbus, Ohio.” I said, “Wait a
minute. I didn’t say I wanted to go.” But he. . . . “Well
Seymour Fox said that you want to go.” (laughter) So anyway, they
said they wanted all of us to go out and meet the Board of the synagogue
and this was, like, late May. It must have been a week before
graduation, or something. And they flew us out to Columbus, and we were
very impressed. I remember, whoever picked us up, I don’t remember for
sure who picked us up, but they left the airport and we came to Broad
Street and were driving down Broad Street and he says, “This is the
main street of the city,” and I’m looking, “It’s so
Bonowitz: And the trees, that was, you know, we’re driv—…
I guess by that time we were driving through Bexley and I thought.
“This is gorgeous.” (laughter) So we met the Board and that
was all that happened, and I guess everybody was approved of and they
said I could go to camp that summer and then end of August, we came out
Interviewer: Now did they help you find an apartment?
Bonowitz: Well that was the interesting thing. One of the things they
told us, they said our salary was going to be limited because, you know,
it was dependent on this thing. But you won’t have to worry, you’re
going to get $3500 for the year but you won’t have to pay rent or
anything because Mr. Melton is buying a house across Broad Street from the synagogue on, it was supposed to be on Latta, I guess. And you guys are going to be in this house and then you’ll each have your own room, and then kids can come over and you can have
meetings there and all kinds of things. Fine!… Well, we get here
(laughter). We got here. We came here by train. Linda and I came out by
train, I think. Donnie had a car at the time so he must have driven out
here. And I don’t remember why we came by train but we did.
Interviewer: Was it not… travel was with…
Bonowitz: Well we had to bring our, no, that had nothing to do with
it. But we had to bring our trunks and stuff and I guess… planes
… it just, we… We came by train. All I… And I remember that Reid Wasserstrom, who was then a teenager, picked us up. And we got to the synagogue and they said, “Well, that
house thing didn’t work out.”
Bonowitz: “So we’re going to put you up temporarily while you
look for an apartment. We’re going to put you up at the
Broadwin.” So they put us up at the Broadwin, which was the
building just west of the synagogue. We arrived I guess on a Thursday.
And the other person who picked us up with Reid was David Zisenwine. We came in on a Thursday and somebody took us out. They took us to Howard Johnson’s or something that used to be on Broad and James, for dinner. And then we were in the Broadwin on Friday and we’re trying to figure out what are we going to do about dinner. Nobody
invited us to dinner.
Bonowitz: Nobody, the Rabbi didn’t, nobody from the synagogue did.
The Zisenwine family did not belong to Tifereth Israel.
Interviewer: They were what? Agudas Achim?
Bonowitz: They were Agudas Achim people. But David was teaching, I
think at Tifereth Israel or he was a teaching assistant or something
like that. So anyway, he saw us on Thursday night and he said:
“Well, what are you going to do for Shabbat?” And in those
days, I mean, Linda didn’t ride and I didn’t ride and it was quite a
distance to go to anybody’s house in Bexley anyway. And the Broadwin
had little kitchenettes in the apartments. And he said, “Don’t worry about Shabbas. My Mom will provide.” And they came over Friday afternoon and brought us this
marvelous dinner that I can still remember. She was a wonderful woman,
Mrs. Zisenwine. And it was something that upset us, that nobody from the
synagogue was even concerned about our Shabbat dinner.
Bonowitz: Sort of strange. Anyway, after that, we started looking for
apartments and we found this building on the other side of East High
School, just east of East High School. There are three brick buildings
Interviewer: Across from…
Bonowitz: Across from Franklin Park. And that’s where Linda and I
took an apartment because it was right on Broad Street. Donnie took an
apartment on Franklin Park South; his apartment was cheaper than ours. And we would have, it was actually nicer than ours and we would have liked to have lived there. But they told us that as girls, we couldn’t live in that neighborhood. It was too dangerous. That we had to stay on Broad Street.
Interviewer: You mean the shul people?
Bonowitz: The shul people told us. Uh huh.
Interviewer: I see.
Bonowitz: So we shared an apartment in 1560 E. Broad Street. A funny
story happened on the week after we arrived. One evening, I think we all
went to a movie, and Donnie was driving us home and we said to him,
“Don’t make a U-turn.” He was driving in an easterly
direction on Broad Street. It was 11 o’clock at night. There was no
traffic to speak of. So he let us off across the street in front of
Franklin Park and we crossed. He said, “I’ll wait until you’re
in the door.” And we crossed Broad Street. I think one car went by.
Bonowitz: We crossed Broad Street and we went in the door. That was a
Thursday night. Friday night they had late Friday Evening Services and
we were there. And at least ten different people came up to us and said,
“What were you girls doing crossing Broad Street alone at 11 o’clock
Bonowitz: And I thought to myself, “What kind of a small town
have I come to where everybody knew our business?” One person saw
us obviously and the word was all over town. It was very strange. But it just spread like wildfire and after a while, we finally got across the point, we’re big city girls.
We can take care of ourselves. (laughter) Not so easily told to these
people. They were very concerned about our well-being. And gradually we got to know a lot of people. The program, because of the relationship with the Seminary, the Seminary said,
“Well they have to do some studying.” And they arranged for us
to study with Marvin Fox who was then on the faculty at OSU. He was a philosophy professor but he was also a great Jewish scholar.
Bonowitz: And very involved in Ahavas Shalom. And we went to his house
every week and studied with him. We studied Mishnah and Talmud with him.
And that was a great experience.
Interviewer: Can you speak a little bit about the, this was a pilot
Interviewer: What what was being piloted and how was the Sunday
School program… educational program, different?
Bonowitz: Yeah. Part of the problem was, or the thing that Mr. Melton
was upset with, apparently, was that he felt that religious education
should be teaching values and morals and not just facts. And that the
kids should be excited about learning about Judaism, and excited by
Judaism. And he didn’t feel that they were getting that. He felt that
Hebrew School should be something serious and not, “Oh, I’ll do
it because I have a Bar Mitzvah next year,” or some year, or
something like that. That kids should continue their education and he
felt that part of the problem was that he felt that the teachers that
they had were inexperienced teachers and not very knowledgeable and
therefore did nothing to turn the kids on. So basically what we did was,
we were experienced teachers and knowledgeable and we came in, and we
were young, and we came in and we taught the way we had known how to
teach. There are some new materials that came out, some new Bible
materials that came out, which involved questioning and therefore the
kids would get involved in discussion. It wasn’t just looking, reading
a text and translating it. But it was really discussing what is this all
about and what does it say to us today. And so the Melton Bible material
was the first material to come out of the Melton Research Center. And we
were teaching that and the kids were getting turned on.
Interviewer: Now was the curriculum already existing when you came or
was it developed based on what you…
Bonowitz: We basically developed it. . . .
Bonowitz: that year with, you know, some of it was coming out of New
York, out of the Research Center, but other, a lot of it was what we
were doing ourselves. But we were making it a serious thing. We gave
report cards. We gave grades. Up to that point, the stories that we
heard were a teacher would say to a kid, “Well, I’m going to give
you a bad grade,” and he said, “You can’t do that. My father’s
on the Board. He’ll fire you.” Well nobody was going to fire us and we could do what we
had to do. And suddenly, kids thought we mean business. And if they didn’t
attend, we called home to find out what was wrong and why. And we would
not accept the fact that they had soccer games to go to or I don’t
know if it was soccer in those days, but whatever it was that they had
to do after school, we said, “No. We’re just as important as
anything else. And we expect you to be here.” So it was just an
attitudinal thing. And we, I guess we were pretty good teachers. We were there
all the time. I mean we were teaching every day except Friday.
Interviewer:… with that. Like that was an after-school…
Bonowitz: It was an after-school program so basically we were
teaching from 4 to 6, but we had to be there earlier. And then we had
adult classes in the evenings. Youth group, the Junior Congregation, so
I guess the only day we were technically off was Friday and even then,
we had to appear at Friday Night Services. So we really were working seven days a week. And it was, it was an exciting time. There were a lot of interesting people that we met and it was fun.
Interviewer: Were there people who’d come in from New York
frequently to see how it was going?
Bonowitz: They would come, I wouldn’t say frequently, but probably
three or four times during the year, somebody came in to see how things
were and to give us pep talks and to see where we were going from there,
Interviewer: Now do you recall, was there growth in membership in the
shul during that time because of the new programs?
Bonowitz: Certainly over the next several years. Yes, a lot of
people. Because the Hebrew School obviously was the top Hebrew School in
the city at that point. And so a lot of people, and a lot of young families, people
who sort of didn’t think they had to join a synagogue until they had
children who were ready for Hebrew School. The other thing was that we
were pushing Hebrew School. Now it had just recently at that point
become a rule that you needed five years of Hebrew School for Bar
Mitzvah. So and we were trying to extend it to even younger than 9,
to go… or eight, but they should start in second grade instead of
third grade, or whatever it was. And so we were, a lot of people were, I
think, did join the synagogue. And a lot of people who belonged started
coming. The people who showed up on a Shabbas morning, there were a
lot of them who said, “I never used to go to shul but I’m
coming; I came to bring my child to Junior Services and I enjoyed it and
I decided to stay.” So we really changed the whole atmosphere of
the synagogue I think.
Interviewer: Now were there Friday Night Services during that time, I
mean Family Friday Night Services?
Bonowitz: It was what they called “Late Friday Night
Bonowitz: It started at 8:30. We also had a Junior Service at the
same time. They were, I think the kids must have been, they couldn’t
have been too young because it was so late at night. But it was probably
10 years and up, or something like that.
Interviewer: Now what year was it again?
Interviewer: I think it was probably around that time my family
Bonowitz: Uh huh.
Interviewer: In that time frame. So, do you have a sense of how the
synagogue was perceived, or its program was perceived elsewhere in the
community? Obviously it got exposure and you gained members.
Bonowitz: Yeah, I think that it probably, I think that this program
probably influenced whatever other programs were around, in that they
were taken a little more seriously gradually, and it took a long time. I
mean I taught there from 1960 to ’67 and then when my daughter was
born, she was the fourth child, I took a couple years off. And then I
wound up going to Torah Academy and that’s yet another segment of my
life. But during those first few years when I was teaching there, it
seemed to me that the whole attitude toward the Hebrew teacher changed a
little bit. There was a little more respect given. The whole attitude
toward the need for Jewish education changed. And of course by ’67
when you had the Six Day War, and suddenly everybody was becoming very
proud of their Judaism. An example I have of that lack of pride, was the
first year we were there, we were going to have a Lag B’omer picnic.
And we said, “My goodness, we’re a block and a half from Franklin
Park. Let’s go over, we’ll take all the kids to Franklin Park and we’ll
have games and all that stuff.” And Saul was the Principal. It was
one of his decisions too. We never questioned it. And we did have to get
permission slips from the parents that we were going to walk them down
Broad Street, across Broad Street, so we had to at least because we were
taking the kids out of the building. We had to have permission slips.
All of a sudden, we get this notice. The Rabbi came, I think it was
Rabbi Zelizer, who said, “Several parents have called to find out
if the boys have to wear the yarmelkas while they walk down Broad
Interviewer: Oh dear.
Bonowitz: And we said, “Well, of course.” “Well they
don’t want their sons wearing yarmelkas on Broad Street.” Now
that was 1960, ’61. I understand where those people, those parents
were coming from. I mean, that question would never arise today. But in
those days, you didn’t see a yarmelka on Broad Street. Even the most frum
people were walking around, either they wore a hat, but they
certainly didn’t walk around with yarmelkas. And we said, “Yes,
we wanted them to wear their kipot. They represented the Hebrew
School.” And that was the end of it. We just didn’t bow to that
kind of pressure. And the kids wore them and we played our games in
Franklin Park. Nobody attacked us, nobody said anything, and that was
the end of it. But…
Interviewer: Was that the first time that there was a Hebrew School
at Tifereth Israel? Or was there one before?
Bonowitz: Oh there had been one but it was not run in a professional
way, I guess. It was not, the teachers were not professionally trained.
I mean, they happened to know some Hebrew and they were teaching Hebrew.
But, I mean, most of the teachers who they had in those days were one
step ahead of the kids. And they became our assistants, basically.
Interviewer: I see.
Bonowitz: And one of the things that we did was to train some people.
I mean, Shirley Kaufman was my assistant. She was a wonderful woman and
would have been a fabulous teacher. She died of cancer unfortunately and
wasn’t around too many years after we came. My sister-in-law, Roselyn
Margulies, became one of the great…
Interviewer:… Confirmation teacher.
Bonowitz: teachers because she came in one time to sub for me. I don’t
remember why, maybe when my son was born, because Alan was born in 1962
in April and I taught until like a week before he was born. And then I
took six weeks off. And then I came in and finished the year. But I
think Roselyn subbed for me. And that was the first that she had done
Bonowitz: And then they sent her to a couple of training programs and
stuff like that and she became a master teacher. So, I think that we had
influence in that way of having people, I just said to Marvin the other
day, I get a notice that this year the teachers, every year they name a
“teacher of the year” from the Teacher’s Center, and it’s
going to be Yehuda Lowy, who came, started teaching at Torah Academy
when he subbed for me when I was going to be away for three weeks.
Interviewer: Oh boy.
Bonowitz: And he came in and he subbed and he did pretty well and he
found that he liked it and he wound up staying on and now he’s going
to be “teacher of the year.” So I like to say that I had some
kind of influence on some of these people.
Interviewer: Sure, and in Columbus, Ohio.
Bonowitz: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: Did you, and do you think, well I may have an idea, but
do you think that some of the members who had been sending their
children to the Columbus Hebrew School…
Bonowitz: Uh hum.
Interviewer: then put their kids in…
Bonowitz: Oh yeah, definitely.
Interviewer: I wonder if that was the beginning of, the part of the
early part of the decline of the Columbus Hebrew School?
Bonowitz: It might have been. I don’t know. There was a different
mind set there but I do think that certain things happened in all of the
synagogues because of what was happening at Tifereth Israel. Tifereth
Israel was just becoming “the place to be.” And so the other
synagogues had to start youth groups and had to do a lot of things in
order to keep up. And now I look around and I see what’s going on at
Beth Jacob and Agudas Achim and Ahavas Shalom and it’s just fabulous.
Interviewer: Oh, I think so too.
Bonowitz: And they have done wonderful things and maybe even exceeded
Tifereth Israel today in some areas, but I think that the initial
impetus probably came from when we came out in 1960.
Interviewer: Uh hum. Well, it’s obvious that you came to Columbus
as a single woman and you already clued me in, but for the benefit of
posterity, could you tell how you became Anne Bonowitz?
Bonowitz: Okay. Marvin Bonowitz was in the adult class that I taught.
It was an intermdiate Hebrew class once a week, on Tuesday nights. And
Marv was in the class and he was a fairly good student. I mean, he did
what he had to do. I thought it was impressive that he knew some Hebrew.
I didn’t pay too much attention to who he was or anything. Somewhere,
I think that year in November, MacBeth was going to be on TV in color.
Bonowitz: And Linda and I had a black and white TV, obviously. And
Marvin invited all of us, me and Linda and Donnie, I guess, to come to
his parents’ home which happened to be this very house and to watch
MacBeth in color.
Interviewer: Was he still living here?
Bonowitz: He wasn’t living here but he invited us; he didn’t have
a color TV. He invited us to his parents’ home to see the TV. And he
made us grilled cheese sandwiches, I remember. And we watched MacBeth.
Then his sister, Roselyn Margulies, often invited us over and I remember
especially she invited us all for Hanukkah and we had latkes and stuff
like that. But he was just another person in the class. And at the end
of April on April 30, 1961, I got a phone call from Marvin. It was, to
say that well, he had enjoyed the class and we were ending the adult
sessions the following week or something, and he said he’d like to ask
me, he’d like to take me out as a thank you for class that he had. And
he invited me to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Bonowitz: Which was playing in Columbus that time. You know, Columbus
was rather a wasteland in those days. There were very few really good
things came through or very rarely did they come through. So I was,
having grown up in New York and when I was in high school, I was going
with the son of a violin player in the New York Philharmonic so I got to
hear the Philharmonic and I got to go to the opera a lot and I knew a
lot of things; I jumped at the chance to go to the concert. And so we
went to the concert Monday night and, we went for drinks afterward at
the Deshler Hilton. And then Tuesday night was our regular class. And he
didn’t even ask to drive me home.
Bonowitz: So that was that.
Interviewer:… he did his…
Bonowitz: But he called me; on Wednesday night was when we studied
with Professor Fox. And Wednesday afternoon he called to see if I wanted
to go to a movie. So Linda said to me, “Oh, go ahead, you know. I’ll
make up an excuse for Professsor Fox,” which I guess she did. ‘Cause
I went to the movies. I don’t remember what the movie was. And then he
invited me to go the following day because Fiorello, the musical, was in
town. And they had a program in the afternoon for theater people
to go and watch them set up or something and so he invited me to that
and then to go to the theater that night. And in the meantime, when I
got, when he dropped me off after the program in the afternoon, I came
up to the apartment and there was this huge bouquet of flowers that he
Bonowitz: I mean, really big. And then we went out that night and we
sat, it was at the Hartman Theater, and we were up in the very top
balcony and enjoyed the show. And when we came home, we sat in the car
talking and talking and talking and by the end of that talking, we had
Interviewer: This was quick, huh?
Bonowitz: Well I guess I had mentioned to him that the following
Monday I was going to Rochester, New York, that I wasn’t going to stay
in Columbus. And I had a job interviewer in Rochester, New York… with a friend of mine who was the Principal there.
Interviewer: Was this an opportunity or were you not happy, in
Bonowitz: I think it was just, I didn’t see this going very far and
this was an opportunity and this friend of mine had called me and said,
“You know and this is a good place to work,” and it sounded
like I’d be making a much better salary and it just in general sounded
like a good idea. So I mentioned that and then I don’t know where, at
what point, we decided that we were going to get married.
Bonowitz: But we decided that we wouldn’t say anything until
Saturday night. Especially since he had a date…
Interviewer: And this was after a week of dating?
Bonowitz: Less than a week. See the first date was Monday night and
this was Thursday night. And we didn’t go out Tuesday night. But he
said he had a date with somebody else on Friday night that he had made
the week before. So I said, “Well you can’t, it’s not fair to break
it at this point.” (laughter)
Bonowitz: Right, right. So Saturday night he came over after Shabbas
and we decided well, yeah, I guess we’re going to get married. So we went to find his parents who were playing cards with their friends and we announced our engagement.
Interviewer: Were they in shock?
Bonowitz: I think so. And then we went over to Roselyn’s and her daughter,
Lisa, I remember, must have been 12 or 13, no, she was probably about 11
at the time ’cause it was just before Greg’s Bar Mitzvah. And we
went over there and he said, “Anne and I are getting married,”
and Lisa turned and said, “Oh, I wanted it to be Linda,” my
Bonowitz:… Linda had been her teacher, so she just felt that
that would have been the right person for him. And so that was the first
week in May and we were married June 25.
Interviewer: Was your mother in shock…
Bonowitz: My mother was in shock. We called her Saturday night and
after Hebrew School on Sunday morning, we then flew to New York so that
he could meet my mother. And my brother and sister, and we went over to the
synagogue so we could make the arrangements for the wedding. And, it was very, very rush-rush. And then I had to come back and finish out the school year and fortunately, my mother had a friend who sent us to the wholesaler so I could get a wedding dress in
about a day’s time. I mean, I don’t know how they do it nowadays,
but it takes so long to prepare a wedding. We were just like that. We
didn’t have time for printed invitations. We had to send hand-written
invitations to everybody because, in those days, there were no Xeroxes
and none of the stuff. It would take several weeks to print an
invitation. We didn’t have the time for that.
Interviewer: Why did you decide to… that quickly…? Did
Bonowitz: I have absolutely no idea. I guess I was just ready. I was
going to leave. There was no point in our putting it off. Marvin was 33
at the time so I guess people had already been pushing him.
Interviewer: So he was what…
Bonowitz: He’s ten and a half years older than I. And we just
decided, you know, why wait? If I had to give anybody advice, I would
say, “Don’t pull this.” But I mean we’ve been married
since l961 so it’s 37 years, so I guess it worked. But…
Interviewer: Well it sure did. Well that’s impressive. So can you
say a little bit more about, for lack of a better term, the Wachs era?
Interviewer: And what group, and what happened after that point?
Bonowitz: Okay. Saul Wachs was phenomenal. He was the one who really
turned everybody around here. He has a fabulous personality. In addition
to being an excellent teacher and trainer, he was also a chasen so
he then has this beautiful voice. He started the kids singing all kinds
of things whereas now people come into Tifereth Israel and they say,
“They sing all the time.” But they weren’t doing that back
in those days. It was just until Saul came and really, he was the one
who got it started. Not any Cantor that we had.
Bonowitz: There were all kinds of… he just got people very
much involved and he was certainly not the most organized person when it
came to all the paper work and all the other stuff that had to be done.
But as an educator he’s just fantastic. And I give him credit for what
has happened in Columbus. He’s really the one who was responsible for
all that and the rest of us just followed his direction.
Interviewer: Well but part of what he did was to attract and retain
qualified, top-notch staff.
Bonowitz: Yeah. And for several years, the Seminary was sending in
people. Linda left after the first year. I stayed only because I
happened to marry Marvin so then they had me. Donnie was still around.
Then we brought in several other people over the next few years who
continued in that vein what we had started. At a certain point when Saul
left, I think it was after ten years in the early, very early 70s. Yeah,
I know when it was. It had to be the end of 1969, I guess, ’cause that’s
when I started teaching at Torah Academy. And I took over; his wife Barbara had been teaching first grade at Torah Academy.
Interviewer: I never knew that.
Bonowitz: Yeah. Barbara was the first grade teacher. For at least two
or three years. And was very good. And then they decided that they had
done all they could do here and he had some other offers and he left.
And then it never was really the same. After Saul left, the Seminary’s
input was less and less. The moneys weren’t there, in the same way.
And so it could have gone downhill a little bit; it’s reviving but it’s
taken a long time to get back. I don’t think it’ll ever be at the
level that it was.
Interviewer: Was it his personal…
Bonowitz: It’s the personal thing plus the fact was that there
between, not counting Saul, but counting his wife Barbara, Donnie, Linda
and myself, there were four graduates of the Seminary. Teaching. I mean, nowadays they rely mostly on college kids and they don’t have the background.
Interviewer: Do you think a lot if it’s the money?
Bonowitz: I think so. A good part of it’s the money. Though they
pay very well now in comparison to what we were making. We were never
paid anything to speak of as far as that goes. But times were different
then. But I think that what happened is there’s no one to draw from
here in Columbus. Now they just started giving a master’s program in
Education that’s combined with Hebrew Studies at OSU. And maybe we’ll
begin to get some really fully-trained teachers. Because now what they
have is a number of teachers who either know Hebrew but don’t know
education, or some people who happen to know education but don’t know
any Hebrew. And I’m currently teaching a class of people who would
like to teach Hebrew, not just at Tifereth Israel. This is through the
teacher center, this Commission on Jewish Education. But people who don’t know any Hebrew to speak of. Shaula Gurari was teaching the class and now that she’s teaching at the new day school, I’m teaching the class. They can read and we’re on a
very elementary level and we’re getting some grammar and getting some
… but part of the thing that I have to do is also give them a
little bit of educ—, how to teach this material. And hopefully these people will turn into, and these are mature women who would like to do some Hebrew teaching but they don’t
have the skills yet, or the knowledge.
Interviewer: That’s really…
Bonowitz: And so that’s what we’re working on and trying to do
this because it’s hard to bring people to Columbus, Ohio, to come and
teach Hebrew unless they were going to teach in a day school or
something like that. Because teaching afternoon Hebrew, if you’re
teaching even four afternoons a week and Sunday morning, that’s a
full-time Hebrew job but that’s not a full-time pay.
Bonowitz: And people can’t afford to do that.
Interviewer: Could you also talk something about Torah Academy?
Bonowitz: Sure. I mentioned that Barbara had taught first grade. I
was at the time a parent of students. My two older boys were in Torah
Academy at the time. And I always knew that my kids had to go to a day
school. It didn’t bother me that it was supposedly Orthodox because it
was really very centrist, very middle-of-the-road and there were quite a
few people from Tifereth Israel who wanted day school education and I
would say at a certain point, late 70s, in Torah Academy, fully a third
of the kids came from Tifereth Israel.
Interviewer: Wow, that’s a lot.
Bonowitz: Yeah, that was a lot. So we sent our two boys and I was
active as a parent and in fact, I was on the Education Committee which
was very small at the time. It consisted of Bob Chazan. He was a
professor of Jewish History at OSU, and his children were at Torah
Academy. And myself and Irv Fried, the Principal. And we were basically
the Education Committee. And I will never forget. It was August 8, l96-,
it had to be 1969. And Irving called me and he said, “Barbara Wachs
is leaving town and I haven’t got a first grade teacher and you have
to do it.” (laughter) And I said, “Wait a minute, I never
taught six-year olds or I don’t like teaching six-year olds.” I
think I had had one experience with that age group. And I said, “I
really don’t want to do this.” He said, “I have nobody else.
You have to do it.” I said, “Well I can’t. My daughter’s
two and a half. She won’t be three ’till November,” and in
those days at the Jewish Center PreSchool, you had to be three years
old. And he said, “I’ll get back to you.” Five minutes
later, he called me back and said, “Rose Schwartz,” (who was
then the Director of the PreSchool at the Jewish Center) “wants to
know is Susan toilet trained.” And I said, “Yes, she is.”
He said, “I’ll get back to you.” He called back five minutes
later and he said, “Susan is in the PreSchool.”
And I had no choice. They had arranged that the PreSchool,
the Torah Academy was then housed at Agudas Achim, I taught until 11:30.
I would teach the first grade until 11:30 when they would go to lunch.
Susan got out at 11:30. I was on lunch duty until 11:45. They had buses
in those days from the PreSchool. And rather than bussing her to my house, they would bus her to the side door of Agudas Achim.
Bonowitz: And there she would be dropped off and I would pick her up
there and then we would go home. How he arranged that, I could…
“but I don’t know if I want my kid in PreSchool.” “You
have no choice. You have to come and teach.” So that…
Interviewer: How did you know Irving Fried?
Bonowitz: Well he was the Prin—, my kids were already in PreSchool
Interviewer: Oh, that’s right.
Bonowitz: And at Torah Academy, because I was already on the
Education Committee, he knew that I knew that that was the problem and I
said, “Listen, I’ve never taught in a day school. I’m used to
two days a week, three days a week. I mean, every day, I don’t know if
I can really do this.” He said, “I will walk you through
this.” And I must say Irving was the biggest help. He was
wonderful. He really practically wrote my lesson plans for me. Really,
he was a frustrated first grade teacher. He loved teaching first grade.
And if somebody was absent it was his greatest thrill was to be in the
classroom. He loved to teach. And he was a master teacher. He was a
BRILLIANT PRINCIPAL. Irving was the one person, he’s the only person I’ve
ever worked with who could do this. He could walk into a room and in two
minutes, he could assess what was happening there.
He knew if you were going wrong. He knew if you were going
right. He knew who was paying attention, who wasn’t. I mean he just
had this fabulous skill. And I was very impressed with him. There were
some parts, some things I didn’t care for about him but I told him to
his face if I didn’t like what he was saying or what he was doing or
how he was treating this one or that one and we had a very good, open
relationship. So he helped me a lot. And I made it through that first
year. I had a couple of kids, I had one. . . . the shaliach… oh
what was his name? Haber. His son was in the class. His son was sort of,
he was a BIG KID for the first grade. And I will never forget. I walked
in the room one day and there was Shimon Haber jumping up and down on a
kid’s stomach. I thought that was unacceptable and I stopped him and
he started crying. I had no idea how to control these six-year olds. I
could do my own kids but I couldn’t do all these kids. But Irving
helped me a lot and I learned a lot. And then it just became accepted
that I was going to continue on. I kept saying to him, “Keep
looking for other teachers.” And finally I convinced him that I
really did not want to teach first grade again.
Interviewer: After how many years?
Bonowitz: After that first year! That first year. I said, “I
will continue teaching but I cannot teach first grade.”
Interviewer: You wanted what, third grade…
Bonowitz: Older, older classes. Well the following year he gave me
sixth and eighth. Now I was only teaching mornings because as long as Susan
was in PreSchool or half days, I could only teach half days. And he gave
me the sixth grade and the eighth grade. And I had never really taught
this stuff. Now I’m teaching text. And I was used to afternoon Hebrew
Schools where, Bo, Bah, Beh, and here I’m suddenly teaching Bible and
I’m teaching History and I would say for the first six months, I was
about one step ahead of the kids.
Bonowitz: I never worked, I knew the content but I had to work on how
I was going to teach this. I had never taught this material before. It
was interesting. I had…
Interviewer: You really charted some new waters?
Bonowitz: Yeah, and there were some wonderful kids in those classes
who stayed close with me all through high school. I mean, by eighth
grade class, these guys would come and ride up on their bicycles to the
house and visit every few weeks and, “How you doing?” because
they were now in the public high schools. One of them went off to
yeshiva and every time he came home for vacation, he’d come to visit.
So I must have had some kind of influence on these kids. But I was
several times quaking in my boots because I really wasn’t sure that I
was doing the right thing but Irving seemed to have a lot of faith in
me. And then for several years; oh the other thing was I insisted if I
was going to teach there that I would not teach my own children.
Bonowitz: Well, by this time. . . .By the third year, I had four kids in there. Susan was in
Kindergarten, Abe was in first; Abe was the one who gave the most
problems because he was having some problems, he was never the great
student or anything so every once in a while, even when he was in
Kindergarten and I was teaching eighth grade, and I’d open the door to
the room and there’s Abe. He’d come up from the basement where the
Kindergarten was and he was sitting outside my door.
Bonowitz: (laughter) And so I said, well, it’s one thing to have
them in the school, but I will not teach them. So I kept moving around
teaching different grades to avoid my own children.
Interviewer: I remember you telling me that…
Bonowitz: Yeah, so I had the third grade for a few years. I had the
fourth grade. I had various grades. And then the final year that any of
my kids were in the school, Susan was in the fourth, there was no way
that we could avoid it. For a quarter of the day, I had to teach my
Bonowitz: And I mean, she was a wonderful student. There was no
problem. But the kids I think always resented the fact that she was
getting As and not just from me. But she was getting As from me too and
I bent over backwards to be stricter with her. I never would help her
with her homework because I didn’t want the kids; they didn’t
believe that. So she had a tough time that year. But otherwise, and then
finally… I was teaching fifth through eighth grade. And I just
loved it. I had a wonderful time. By this time, I felt pretty skilled in
what I was doing and Irving was a very big help to me and he, if I ever
had a question about anything or I wasn’t sure about how to go about
doing things… I just had, his door was always open. And I always
had the greatest respect for him as far as his educational ability. So
what happened in 1986, he was let go, I guess. There’s no other way to
put it. They decided they needed a new face or something. And here was
this man who had given his life to Torah Academy, and…
Interviewer:… Okay. This is a continuation. This is Tape 2 of
an interview with Anne Bonowitz on December 14, 1998, and this is Carol
Shkolnik, volunteer interviewer, and as we concluded the second side of
the tape one, Anne was telling us about the circumstances of Irving
Fried’s departure from Torah Academy.
Bonowitz: So when Irving was told that they were going to look for
somebody else, I think he became depressed. We just couldn’t get
through to him. But there was a core of teachers there who had been
there a number of years and we just went about doing what we’d always
done and we realized we could run the school and we just tried to not
worry him about anything. And we just kept going and doing what we had
to do and hoped that he would survive the year. And then…
Interviewer:… what point of the year was he given notice?
Bonowitz: Well, I guess he was told at the beginning of the school
year that this would be his last year.
Interviewer: I see.
Bonowitz: And they were searching. And somewhere toward the spring of
that year, Rabbi Millen was the one they picked. And I remember when he
came in and was introduced to us, I think Irving found a reason to be
out of the building that afternoon. And we didn’t know how to approach
him. Rabbi Millen made a very nice first impression and he said, he’s
very impressed with the school and what he’s seen, and he wants to
leave things exactly as they have been, the status quo,
and don’t worry about a thing and blah, blah, blah. Irving left at the
end of that year and he took a job downtown in some, I don’t know,
accounting firm or something like that for a year. I don’t remember
exactly what it was. Every time I saw him, he was in a very bad state.
Fortunately, I’ll just divert for a second. Fortunately, he was called
to Buffalo to work in a day school there and it turned him around
completely and he was ecstatic as… I haven’t seen him in
several years but the last time I saw him, he was just loving everything
that he was doing and bringing in a lot of the innovations that he had
done at Torah Academy like the Shakespeare play and the camping trips
and things like that. Meantime, Rabbi Millen came in and first year, I
taught exactly what I’d been teaching all along. And everything was
fine except that suddenly he came to me and the history book that I was
using was not going to be the history book. It wasn’t Orthodox enough.
Bonowitz: It was a chi. . . . It was a junior high, it’s the only
Jewish history book that was written for junior high level and it was
based on Abba Eban’s book, “My Life”, or “My
People.” Excuse me. And there were a couple of places where he
mentioned non-Orthodox points of view. But as alternative points of
view. Not that they were THE points of view. So I was told that the
following year I would not be teaching history. Rabbi Millen would be
And he threw out all the Abba Eban books and brought in
some other book which the kids couldn’t understand. And he taught the
class, I found, by having the kids sit there and read and then write,
take a test. And he had his secretary grade the tests. (laughter)
Interviewer: Oh dear.
Bonowitz: I wasn’t too impressed… I guess a number of the
parents weren’t too impressed either because the following year I was
given back the history class and had to go out and buy more Abba Evan
books because…I insisted that was the only way I was going to teach it
and the parents wanted that too. So, we did have some say. But I did
have another run-in with him because he came at me after the second
year, after the first year. He said, “I want you to teach first and
second grade.” And I said, “I’m an eighth grade teacher. I’m a
junior high teacher.” He said, “Well if you can teach junior
high, you can teach first grade.” So I filed a grievance.
And I won. I did not have to teach first grade. The Grievance
Committee fortunately was chaired; it was a process that was already
available, which a number of us had set up a few years earlier. And so
there were a couple of parents and people from the Education Committee,
etc., who were on this Committee. And we each stated our points of view
and then they decided I didn’t have to teach first grade. But as a
compromise, would I, at least a quarter of the day, teach the second
grade class. So I started out doing that and the other classes I had
were in the junior high. After the first month, I was physically not
well. Every time I had to face that second grade class it was just; it
turns out that it was a group that, every few years you get a great
class and every few years you get a class that’s not so great.
Interviewer: Very hard to work with.
Bonowitz: And this was one of those not-so-great classes and so I
went to him and I said, “I will do anything else. I’ll tutor that
period. I just will not, I cannot teach this class. I’m physically
ill.” I think that was the start of my gastritis and problems that
I had. He said, “Okay, but you, since that was the first period in
the morning,” he said, “You don’t have to come in until
10:30 and you’ll take a quarter cut in your salary.”
And that’s what I did. And…
Interviewer: It was worth it to you?
Bonowitz: It was worth it to me. Every bit of it. Over the years, I
had very, very little cooperation from him and I just was in my own
classroom. I had my own friends, mostly from the secular teachers
becaause what I began to notice was that the school was going farther
and farther to the right. And when Marvin retired in 1992, 1993, I decided to take a
year’s leave of absence so we could do some traveling, which we did.
And I came back and he said, “Well, you’re coming back.” And
I said, “Oh yeah, I’ll come back to work.” And I came back
the following year but I said, “You know, I’m only going to teach
half a day. Marvin’s retired and I’m…” So I did that and
at the end of that year, I retired myself because it was just not the
same school that it had been when I started out there and all the years
that I really enjoyed working there. And I was beginning to feel as if I
just don’t belong there. Or at least, that’s how I was made to feel.
Bonowitz: And gradually there were fewer and fewer kids from Tifereth
Israel. A number of parents had said they wanted their kids there while
I was there because they knew that if there was a problem, and in a few
cases there were problems where teachers had made comments about kids’
religiosity and et cetera.
Interviewer:… certain things…
Bonowitz: Exactly, and so then the kids would come to me and talk to
me and they always knew that they could get another ear; but parents
felt that this was, that they didn’t want that kind of, it was just
going too far to the right for them. So…
Interviewer: Was that the case even though, I don’t know how many,
but I know there were more and more Russian kids there?
Bonowitz: Yeah, but the Russian kids who came, it was accepted that
they didn’t observe anything because they didn’t know any better.
Bonowitz: But then they were expected, as they learned, to become
more and more frum.
Interviewer: Did you witness that happening?
Bonowitz: I saw that happening in a few cases and in a few cases the
kids left. They came, the first year was basically covered by
Federation, their tuition, and they did set up a wonderful ESL program. So the kids learned English. I mean, Bexley called Torah Academy: “How do you deal with this?” because the few kids who didn’t, were at Bexley and they weren’t sure how to go, they had
never had to deal with ESL.
Interviewer: I’d like to ask for the transcriber who may not know
that ESL is…
Bonowitz: English as a second language.
Interviewer: Okay. I feel that should be on the tape.
Bonowitz: Yes I just realized that after I said it. So anyway, we had
a number of people who had their children there for a year. They learned
English and then they were out. I had one student very early on, long
before this problem, this was among the first wave of Russians who came,
and I will never forget it. She was absolutely brilliant.
And she, she wound up, I would say at the end of the fourth
grade, her English vocabulary after one year in America, was better than
the average American kid. And her Hebrew, she was at the top of the
class. I mean, she was a genius. There was no question about it. And all
of a sudden, she didn’t appear one day. In fifth grade. And they
called the house and the mother said, “I can’t send her. You’re
turning our child against us.” What did they mean? She wanted to go
to shul on Shabbat.
They later left the city so I don’t know what happened to
her. She’d be well into her 20s by now. But this was a brilliant girl
and it couldn’t be helped. But the people that they hired, every new
hire in the Jewish Studies Department, was very much to the right. Rabbi
Millen himself is more centrist than many of his faculty.
Interviewer: I see.
Bonowitz: He I would think has been pressured also because as I’ve
seen it over the years since I arrived in Columbus in 1960, Beth Jacob
is much more to the right than it used to be, Ahavas Shalom is much more
to the right, even Agudas Achim is much more to the right. So this seems
to be the general trend among the Orthodox in Columbus and let alone in
other parts of the country. And so, I think that he’s about my age. He’s
a year or two younger than I am and he’s probably about my age. He is
more centrist. And when you sit down and just have an every-day
conversation with him, you can see that. But there’s been this push
from the outside that the school has to be more to the right. And that’s
why I guess we decided that it’s time to have a second day school in
Columbus, because there’s room for it.
Interviewer: How do you, because of the fact that you worked as a
Jewish educator for so many years, been privy to in a lot of that
discussion or, a lot of people talked to you…
Bonowitz: Do you mean about the rise of the day school?
Interviewer: And up to it and how it was perceived?
Interviewer:… by Torah Academy.
Bonowitz: I had been hearing talk about a new day school for a number
of years. When, what was his name? There was a young Rabbi, Marvin, what
was the name of that, Gordon was it, Lenny Gordon?
Interviewer: Oh yes.
Bonowitz: When Lenny Gordon was here in town, he had young children
also and he was talking about starting a second day school. So this had
to be probably about 8 or 9 years ago. But it didn’t really materialize. There had been talk and it was going to be at the Jewish Center and there were all kinds of
discussions. And even then, people were saying, “Well, I don’t
know if this city can maintain two day schools.” I guess a couple of years after that is when Toby Gold and Danny Kayne got together about, after some exposure to someday schools
and they were, chose…. they were in that Federation Leadership
Program and Toby decided she really would like to see her youngest child
go to a day school and it wasn’t going to be Torah Academy. There was
no way she could see her own kids going to Torah Academy. So she and
Danny were the ones who really got it started. And it wasn’t until
about three years ago that she called me and told me about what was
going on and what they were trying to do in developing their board was
to get people who were experts in a variety of areas, from public
relations to marketing to whatever it might be. And would I be their
education expert on the board, because I had all this background in day
school education, et cetera. And I was very flattered that they
asked me to do it. At that point I had said, “I really think at
this point we are ready for a second day school.”
Bonowitz: There seemed to be enough population. And at that point the
Federation had undertaken another demographic study…and among the things that came out two years ago was that yes, there is a group of people what would be interested in a day school that’s non-Orthodox, who would not consider sending their children to
an Orthodox day school. That there’s an untapped population for this
school, and that it would not be a threat to Torah Academy. Nobody
wanted to see this as something to tear down Torah Academy. We just felt
that there was room for a second school. And we’ve proven that there
is. So I’ve become very active. I’m on the Executive Board of the
new day school, the Columbus Jewish Day School.
And we just opened this year. I was the head of the Search
Committee to find our principal. It took over a year of meetings in this
very room. We were, everything we did, we went about doing I think in
the right way. We didn’t hesitate about spending money. We felt that
the material that we sent out to prospective principals had to be well
put together and we hired a public relations person. Things were put
together in a very nice way, and everybody who saw our material said
they had never seen anything like this before.
The man we wound up hiring was probably one of the first
applicants and we were impressed with his application but we thought we
just have to see other people, we can’t take the first guy who comes
along. And so we spent close to a year. And he was not really looking
for another job. He was very well located in California and they did not
want to see him go. In fact, he had kept his application secret at the
beginning because he wasn’t sure and they weren’t sure, he didn’t
want to tell them that he’s leaving when he didn’t know if he was
definitely leaving. When we went out to visit his school, we were very,
very impressed. And so we hired Steve Bogad and he’s done a wonderful
job and the school has opened this year and last week we went to the
dedication and it was just absolutely beautiful. And…
Interviewer: The building is done?
Bonowitz: The building is not done. We’re housed at Temple Israel.
Temple Israel is renting a wing of rooms to us. We were allowed to spend
the money to construct those rooms or to deconstruct the rooms and turn
them into whatever we wanted to do so that every class now has two
rooms. With a big, a wide door like this between them.
And so we did a lot of remodeling. Oh, and a lot of the
furniture that we bought, we will eventually move into our new building
which we don’t know right now, we’re in the process of looking for
land and we hope that within four years, we will move. But right now, we’re
at Temple Israel; the place looks beautiful, the school. So we had the
dedication of the new school at Temple Israel last week. And it was a
beautiful ceremony and I’m glad to say that I was a part of it because
I think that this school is going to make a big difference in Columbus.
We have children who are coming from the northwest, from Hilliard, from
Powell, from Dublin, who would never dream of going to Torah Academy and
that’s not to put down Torah Academy; Torah Academy has a wonderful
population and they’ve done a very good job.
Interviewer: But it’s not for everybody?
Bonowitz: But it’s not for everybody. I look back at some of my
students who just graduated last year. I went to their high school
graduation because one of my favorite classes was graduating. And those kids are fabulous. And it was a wonderful experience for them. But these kids are getting something different that they would not get at Torah Academy and so I think there’s definitely
room for both the schools, and I’m glad that I had a part in both of
Interviewer: Well, I’m glad you did too. The only thing I think we
probably haven’t covered is your Torah readership…
Interviewer: status at Tifereth Israel. Can you tell me how that came
about and your feeling about it?
Bonowitz: Yeah. As I told you earlier, I learned to read Torah when I
was 11 and I spent my high school years reading Torah…at the East Midwood Jewish Center. And then I didn’t read again because even though I was going to Ramah as a counselor all through high school, all through college, in those days, girls did not
read Torah at Ramah, and certainly here in Columbus, it was not
acceptable. In 1975, they decided to allow women to have aliyot
at Tifereth Israel. And Sylvia Gaynor, alav hashalom, that means
“may her peace be with her”, she died a number of years ago.
But Sylvia was the first woman to be called to have an aliyah.
Interviewer: Can I just ask was this a Shabbas or a holiday?
Bonowitz: This was a Shabbat.
Bonowitz: Many people came there I think knowing it was going to
happen and expecting this lightning bolt that was going to come through
the ceiling or something. But it all worked out very well. And then they
started giving aliyot to women. I don’t remember the first time
… no, I guess the first time I read the Torah was, it had to be in
1980 because by that time I was no longer or I had taken off a year from
Ramah. I did read at Ramah in the 70s, in 1975. I have to go back. In
1975, Marvin and I started going to Ramah with our kids.
That was a way of being able to afford to send four
children to camp. And so Marvin was the nurse and I was the head
teacher. And in Ramah at that point, women were allowed to read Torah so
I would read an occasional aliyah when I was up there. Came back
to Columbus and in 1980, I think Merrill Shapiro was reading the Torah
at Tifereth Israel and he was going off to Israel for the summer with
his family. And I wasn’t going to camp that summer because Marvin
couldn’t go to camp so the two of us decided to stay home. Our kids
were all gone. And Merrill asked me to read Torah. And I did. And I read every Shabbat that summer. Oh, not every Shabbat, the… that first summer I think I read a couple;
the first time I had to read a whole Shabbat parsha was, it took
me, why, luckily he gave me a lot of notice because it took me about two
months to prepare.
Bonowitz: I had never read a long piece. I had never read more than
maybe 15 or 20 verses. At one time. So to prepare the whole thing took, it took a
couple of months. And then after that, they started, Merrill, I guess
when he left town and I can’t remember what year this was, but when he
left Columbus, there were four people who would take turns reading every
month and this had to be like 19–, that was the year 1980, 1981,
something like that, because my son was a senior in high school, my son,
my second son, David. And he was reading once a month. I read once a
month and a couple of the teachers from the Hebrew School who had come
in at that point from the Melton program, each read once a month. And
that was fine. Then suddenly David went off to college, those teachers
left and then there was nobody but me. So I wound up reading every week.
Occasionally there would be a few other people who could read one aliyah
or something like that, but I became the regular reader and, I found
that the more often I read, the less time it took me to prepare so that
now I’ve read most of the parshaot before but I still, half an
hour a night every week and I can do next week’s…
Interviewer: Half an hour what, like four nights?
Bonowitz: Yeah, every night during the week. You know, I come home
from shul on Shabbat afternoon and the first thing I do is sit
down and go over the next week’s parsha. And I read the whole
thing through once. And then every day, I just go over it for half an
hour or so, if not less, and. . . .And I know it. And I enjoy it because it keeps me
practicing. Then I’ll stop and I look up certain things and I check on
certain… interpretations and various things because I get
involved in what I’m reading. And I think the good thing about my
reading, I’ve had a lot of people comment when they visit the
synagogue, about how they’ve never heard anybody read the way I do or
something. I understand every word I’m reading.
Interviewer: Makes a difference.
Bonowitz: And so I understand it, even if I won’t always remember
every note where it should be, though I’m pretty good at that, but, at
least I know when to stop at the end of a sentence and I understand . .
Bonowitz: what I’m doing. And, just as an aside, Rabbi Zelizer, at
one point had said, when he left Columbus before this first aliyah that
Sylvia Gaynor had, he had said he would never allow a woman on the bima.
Interviewer: So he was go–, he was retired when you…
Bonowitz: When I, oh yes. He would never, he didn’t believe in
women on the bima or anything. But what happened was he finally
came back here for his granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Tammy?
Bonowitz: And when Tammy had her Bat Mitzvah, I guess I was
reading and he heard me read and he couldn’t walk out, I mean, it was
at Tammy’s Bat Mitzvah. And afterwards, he came over to me and
he said, “Anne, you read like a man.”
Bonowitz: (laughs) From him, that was the highest compliment. I
couldn’t have asked for better than that. And this is something I
really enjoy doing and I don’t foresee stopping it so…
Interviewer: I think it’s… Just one last thing ’cause I
think it ought to be recorded and I don’t know your answer. How long
after the Rabbinical Assembly, or I guess that’s the right…
Interviewer: decision, their vote…
Bonowitz: For women?
Interviewer: for women, did Tifereth Israel have it…
Bonowitz: I have a feeling that it was very soon after. Tifereth
Israel was one of the first congregations to count women in a minyan,
to give women aliyot, to give women equal status in everything.
We were one of, in fact where I really saw the difference is when we
were going up to Ramah all those years in the late 70s, the kids from
Tifereth Israel would just take it for granted that women…would
have aliyot and that women would have equal status. And they’d
get to Ramah, Ramah had a different position because they had to follow
their lead synagogue which was the Seminary.
Seminary synagogue is run by all these old-time Orthodox
Where at Seminary synagogue until very recently, there was
a mechitza. Which is unheard of in the Conservative movement but this
was the Seminary so anyway, what happened was women had been able to
read Torah because we know that women read Torah even in the Middle
Ages. And there are all kinds of things, there are all kinds of
sources that we’ve learned about that, where women could read and it
was acceptable. The difference was that women couldn’t be counted in a
And so that when the kids came up to Ramah, the change had
gone from the Rabbinical Assembly that women could be counted in a minyan.
Not every congregation accepted that right away. And the Seminary
congregation didn’t accept it right away. And therefore, at Ramah, the girls could not act as chazanim. And couldn’t be counted in the minyan. And
therefore, all they could do was have aliyot and they could read
Torah. And so the girls who came from Columbus and had already read Musaf
and various things, led prayers in the congregation, were appalled. Why
can’t they do this at Ramah? And other kids came from other
congregations around the Midwest where Ramah to them was, “What,
girls can read Torah? We can’t do that.” They couldn’t even
dream of that. And I still have women who every once in a while come up
to me at Tifereth Israel, who are visiting for a Bar Mitzvah or
something, and they say, “I come from a Conservative synagogue. In
my town, women can’t do these things.” So it’s still taking time. Tifereth Israel was one of the first. And I guess we’ve always, since Mr. Melton has made all these
changes back in, or made all these changes possible back in, starting in
1960, I think Tifereth Israel has really been leading the way around the
country in a lot of areas.
Interviewer: So it sounds like you felt that your move to Columbus
has been very positive?
Bonowitz: Oh definitely. So it’s been a wonderful time. My friend
in 1960, the summer of 1960, I was in the California Ramah just before I
came here and a very good friend of mine said, “Anne, I just know
what’s going to happen to you. You’re going to wind up marrying some
businessman from Columbus, Ohio, and you’ll be a Hadassah
And I was a Hadassah President. I didn’t bother with that
part of it in this interview, but all those things that he threatened me
with, as if that was going to be the end of my life, they did happen and
I’ve had a very good life and I’ve been very pleased with it.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Are there other things that you feel you’d
like to be part of this interview?
Bonowitz: (Sighs) Uh…
Interviewer:… to put on the tape for posterity?
Bonowitz: Well I guess I ought to put down, or say something about
the fact that Marvin and I have four children.
Interviewer: Uh huh.. Yeah, and I should have guided you that way.
Bonowitz: Yeah, well that’s all right. What I really wanted to
stress was my contribution and my feelings about Jewish education and I
think that’s where we really did. But I should say something about
each of my children who, my oldest son Alan is, works on the South Bend,
Indiana Tribune. Alan is, I have to keep thinking, because he’s 36. He was
born a year after, a little less than a year after we were married. Alan
is, he does editing and paginating in the Sports Department for the Tribune
in South Bend. David, my second son who is 35, is, lives in San
Francisco and he is a structural engineer. He does seismic retrofit for
buildings. And he’s well known in that area. He has traveled to Guam
and the Far East. Various places wherever there is an earthquake, they
call on David so, he’s very well known in that area. And Abe is, I
have to say something about Abe. He is 31, 31? 32. He’ll be 32 the end
of this month. And Abe is our activist. He was on the National Board of
Amnesty International for six years. He worked with the Caesar Chavez
Foundation. And he is currently the Director of Citizens United for
Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Bonowitz: Abe works very hard. This is his passion, fighting against
the death penalty. We’re very proud of him. We wished he’d earn a
living but (laughter) we’re very proud of the work that he does and
the fact is, that when he was interviewed by the British Chapter of
Amnesty International and they asked him what his influences were, he
claimed, and I’ve seen the interview, that it was, the talk at the
dinner table of his parents…that influenced him. And so that made me very proud, that
Marvin and I have taught our kids to go in the right direction, I hope.
And our daughter Susan is 31 and lives in Columbus. She’s divorced and
the mother of our two wonderful grandsons, Spencer and Austin Epstein. Yes I think so. And we’re fortunate that we do get to see them every other week-end and they live in Youngstown. They are going to the day school in Youngstown so they are continuing in getting a good Jewish education, I hope.
Interviewer: And what does she do?
Bonowitz: Susan works for Executive Jet. And she’s now, she was in charge of their demo program but now she just moved over to sales, which she was told is a promotion.
Interviewer: (Laughs) That sounds good.
Bonowitz: And so we’re very proud of our kids and our family and .
. . .
Interviewer: You should be.
Bonowitz: And I guess those are the most important things that I
wanted to get across and…
Interviewer: So your professional values were an extension or carried
back through your family?
Bonowitz: I hope so. I hope so. I think that the kids, I mean all the
kids have gotten good Jewish educations between Torah Academy and Ramah
and various things. Whether they carry them out or not is now their
business. That’s up to them. But I think that we have given them the
background that they need and…
Interviewer: I’m sure that you and Marvin did.
Bonowitz: We’ve tried anyway.
Interviewer: Well, I’d like to thank you very, very much for a
wonderful interview that I’m sure a lot of people are going to enjoy
and learn from.
Bonowitz: I hope so.
Interviewer: This concludes the interview of Anne Bonowitz.