This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded
on March 26, 2007 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society’s Oral
History Project and for inclusion in the archives collection of Congregation
Beth Tikvah. The interview is being recorded at Congregation Beth Tikvah,
6121 Olentangy River Road, Worthington, Ohio. My name is Rhoda Gelles and I am
interviewing Arlene Brilliant Levy.
Interviewer: What is your full name?
Levy: As you said, Rhoda, it’s Arlene Brilliant Levy.
Interviewer: Do you have a Jewish name?
Levy: Yes, it’s Eli Shevah
Interviewer: Who were you were named for?
Levy: Actually (Rabbi) Roger Klein gave me this Hebrew name at the time of my
wedding to Gene Levy.
Interviewer: What was your mother’s full name?
Levy: Betty Gross Binder.
Interviewer: Where was she born?
Levy: Camden, New Jersey
Interviewer: What was your father’s full name?
Levy: His name was Herman Binder and he was born in Russia.
Interviewer: Where and when were your parents married?
Levy: I think some time in the 1930s.
Interviewer: Where did your family live when you were growing up?
Levy: We lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and in Camden, New Jersey.
Interviewer: How did your parents earn their living?
Levy: My father was a grocer and a butcher and a store owner and my mother was a
secretary and an accountant.
Interviewer: Do you have brothers or sisters?
Levy: Yes, I have one sister. Her name is Rhoda. She is 13 ‘ months older than I
and she lives in Celebration, Florida..
Interviewer: So, your sister is the oldest one in the family?
Interviewer: Where did you attend Elementary School?
Levy: I went to Carmel Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in an area
called Oxford Circle.
Interviewer: Where did you go to High School?
Levy: I went to High School first to the Philadelphia School for Girls, or Girls
High as it was called. Then we moved to Camden, New Jersey and I went to Woodrow
Wilson High School.
Interviewer: Where did you attend College?
Levy: Franklin School of Science and Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Interviewer: What degree did you get there?
Levy: I have an Associate Degree in Research Technology.
Interviewer: Did you work after college?
Levy: I worked for varied physicians. They specialized in Endocrinology and they
were interested in the relationship, most particularly, of the Adrenal Gland to
Interviewer: That’s interesting.
Levy: It was very interesting.
Interviewer: When did you get married?
Levy: I was married in 1955 in Philadelphia, PA. I married J. David Brilliant.
Interviewer: How old were you then?
Levy: I was the ripe old age of 20.
Interviewer: What was the date of your wedding?
Levy: August 20, 1955.
Interviewer: How did you and David meet?
Levy: We met at a party that was given by an old friend who had gone to Girls High
and subsequently moved to Camden, N J., oddly enough right down the street from
Though I wasn’t in her class at Girls High, she still invited me to the
party and there I met David. You want to know how I met him?
Interviewer: Oh sure.
Levy: There were a lot of people at the party. It was her Sweet 16 party and I was 13 and we
were standing around talking, a bunch of us. David was in the crowd. He said
“I think I’ll go to the dance at the high school” and I thought he
said “Would you like to go to the dance at the high school?”
I said “Oh, I would love to go, let me get my coat.” Off we went to
the dance at the high school. Come Monday there were all these rumors around the
school that we were going together, etc., etc. We didn’t go together right
then but it happened soon after. The time went by till we came to August 20, 1955.
Interviewer: What was David’s occupation?
Levy: He was an Endodontist and also acting Chair of the Endodontist Department at
OSU. He had a private practice too.
Interviewer: Where did you live immediately following your marriage?
Levy: We lived in a place call Olney, near Philadelphia. It was probably about 2 or
3 miles, maybe 5 miles north of the Dental School, very nice neighborhood.
Interviewer: Do you have any children?
Levy: Oh yes, I have 4 blood children. They are: Robin who was born July 6, 1958;
Abbey who was born March 16, 1961; Bebe, as I call her, but her real name is
Barbara who was born June 16, 1962; and Jeremy who was born May 16, 1971.
Interviewer: Were all of the children born in Columbus?
Levy: Robin was born in Philadelphia.
Interviewer: The others were born in Columbus?
Levy: The others were born here.
Interviewer: You came here for David’s job, is that correct?
Levy: Yes, we came here because he had a position at the university.
Interviewer: Did you join a synagogue or any Jewish organization in the Columbus area when
you moved here?
Levy: There really wasn’t a synagogue on the North Side of town. There was a
group called the Northside Jewish Community Association and we joined with them.
They were meeting at Hillel.
Interviewer: Why did you move to the North Side of town?
Levy: We moved to the North Side of town because my mother-in-law and father-in-law
lived there and it gave us free refuge, food and everything, plus lots of love.
Interviewer: What brought your in-laws to the Columbus area? Were they native to Columbus?
Levy: No, they were natives of New York and then Camden, New Jersey. They came here
because their daughter, Barbara, had gone to Ohio State University and she met
Morris (Robison) and they were married and they were here. Mom and Dad came here
so that Dad could help Morris in his business.
Interviewer: Where in the North Side of Columbus did you move?
Levy: We lived in Worthington, old Worthington. Well, at that time there was no
such thing as old Worthington. It was kind of all old.
Interviewer: I understand that you and David were one of the founding families of
Congregation Beth Tikvah. Is that the case?
Levy: Oh, that is absolutely the case.
Interviewer: Can you remember the names of other founding members of Beth Tikvah?
Levy: Well hold on just a minute and let me look that up because it kind of strays
from my memory. My memory, I have Oldsheimers Disease which is not Altsheimers
Disease but Old Timers disease. Just a minute, let me find it. Here they are:
Jessie and Frieda Shapiro; Joe and Selma Vogel; Herb and Shirley Wagner; Dick
and Ruth Goldgraben; David and Estelle Guttman; Sim and Dov Grubich; Sandy Shapiro; Lore and
Walter Loeb; and Audrey and Bud Kramer. Now all of these were not in the
original group but they came very, very shortly after.
Interviewer: About what year was Beth Tikvah started?
Levy: In 1959 a small group started meeting in each other’s homes. The small
group being some of the names that I just mentioned. They met to discuss the
possibility of starting a synagogue in the North End of Columbus.
Interviewer: I see, when did you actually find a building to meet in?
Levy: It was late in 1960, I believe. We found an old house on the corner of High
Street and East North Broadway. It was in need of a lot of modification and we
were a very close-knit group. We rolled up our sleeves and began taking down
walls, adjusting the electrical wiring, thanks to Walter Loeb, and the final
layout was about 800 square feet and gave us one large room for the sanctuary
and another room for everything else, and of course the bathroom and the
teeniest kitchen you ever saw.
Interviewer: Did you get any support or encouragement from the rest of the Jewish
community in Columbus when you started this congregation?
Levy: I guess I’ll answer that by talking about the Rabbis as far as help was
concerned. We got no help from all of the Rabbis with the exception of Rabbi Folkman at
Temple Israel. He and his wife were both a great deal of help to us. We were
even told by one of the Rabbis in Columbus that we didn’t need to start
another synagogue in Columbus, and certainly not a reform synagogue, that his
synagogue was a perfectly good place for us. It was an Orthodox synagogue.
Interviewer: What kind of help did Rabbi Folkman give you?
Levy: He really directed us to the seminary in Cincinnati, the Reform Seminary, to
get some questions answered and so forth. The reason Beth Tikvah became a Reform
synagogue was because the seminary in Cincinnati was the closest and most
practical way for us to get help, for example visiting Rabbis, etc. . We could
just not afford to bring people in from New York.
Interviewer: What kind of rabbinical services did you have early on from Hebrew Union
College in Cincinnati?
Levy: We joined the rent-a-Rabbi group. By that I mean that we occasionally had
Shabbat Services conducted by a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College. Most of the
time they were lay services conducted by one or the other of those people that I
mentioned early on. Then for High Holidays we were able to procure a Rabbi from
there. When I say rent-a-Rabbi I mean we were not obligated to long-term
charges. We were only billed for the times the Rabbi actually came.
Interviewer: Were those student Rabbis that came?
Levy: Yes they were.
Interviewer: Who was the first Rabbi at Beth Tikvah?
Levy: The first Rabbi was, let me try to remember. We had a Rabbi Ponn.
(Interjection by Rose Luttinger: The Rabbi’s name was John Rayner. Arlene later
remembered that he and his family stayed at her house. Rabbi Alan Ponn was a
full-time Rabbi who was with us years later for one year. Rabbi Rayner was an
ordained Rabbi in England who was studying at Hebrew Union College and
was with us on a bi-weekly basis for two years).
Interviewer: I seem to recall the name Bennett Hermann?
Levy: He was the first full-time Rabbi that we had. I’m not sure where he came
(Interjection by Rose Luttinger: He was a student Rabbi who followed Rabbi
Rayner on a bi-weekly basis. We liked him so much we decided to bite the bullet
and hire him full-time. A number of congregants pledged $1,000 each to guarantee
Levy: Before we get into some of those things, I have to tell you about this first
Interviewer: Please do.
Levy: I’m telling you this kitchen in this synagogue was really,
really, really, small but we produced marvelous things out of that kitchen. We
fed the kids when they came to Sunday School. We had all kinds of parties and it
was just really wonderful.
The first Ark in that building came from my mother and father-in-law
Brilliant. It was their console TV, television guts removed, that we fixed up to
hold the first Torah. I’m not sure where the first Torah came from. I think it came thru Bill
(Interjection by Rose Luttinger: There was a Consecration Service where
Bonnie Cohen, the first Sisterhood President, presented a Torah she and her
husband, Ed, donated.)
Levy: The first lectern that we had was built by my
The Eternal Light was gotten by Bill Gilbert from a very, very old synagogue
from the area (in Chicago) in which he lived and I don’t remember that. That
Eternal Light was an antique then. Now it’s a super duper antique. The first
Gift Shop was started in that building on High Street. It was started by
congregant Joyce Alpers and myself. We had secured a very old beat up dark gun
cabinet that Joyce and I put, I don’t know, 20 coats of white paint on. We
lined it with blue velvet and it became the first very lovely Gift Shop. It was
moved with us when we moved to our next building.
Interviewer: Was there a Sunday School at this first synagogue?
Levy: Oh yes, not a lot of students, but it was…yes there was a Sunday
Interviewer: Was there a Hebrew School as well?
Levy: I think that the Hebrew School was thru Hillel or one of the synagogues on
the East Side of town.
I did want to tell you that the first wedding that Beth Tikvah ever performed
was for Sandy Shapiro. It was at the building on High Street. The first Bar
Mitzvah was that of Helen and Harold Chern’s son. I’m not quite positive but
I believe it was held at the High Street building.
Interviewer: Was there a Sisterhood in those days as well?
Levy: There was a Sisterhood. That’s how we got all the products out of that tiny
kitchen. I can’t remember who was the first President and so forth and so on.
Interviewer: When did Beth Tikvah move to its second building, about when do you recall?
Levy: While we were still in the first building we had to create a name for this
synagogue. That must have been in very late 1960 or early 1961 which was also when we
decided to join the Reform Movement. That’s when Beth Tikvah opened for
Interviewer: What was the total of the number of members in those days, do you recall?
Levy: Well at first it was 12, then it was 25. I think probably by the time we left
that building we were probably 50 family members, but don’t hold me to that.
We started Tikvah Topics (the Temple newsletter) there in that building too.
Tikvah Topics was born on my dining room table and after we started Tikvah
Topics, I never saw my dining room table except for High Holiday Services. It
was just covered with stuff. Sandy’s wife Rita, who was working at Hillel,
duplicated it for us and I was typing it for a mimeograph machine, which was
really, really difficult because it’s really hard to correct your mistakes
when you’re doing that, and I had lots.
Interviewer: And then the Congregation moved to Indianola?
Levy: I want to say that we stayed in the North Side building for five years and
then the people that owned the building were going to raze the building to put
an office building there. I think it was Walter Loeb together with Bennett
Hermann who carried the Torah from High Street to Indianola. In Indianola, that
building had been an old church.
I think when we moved into it though, it wasn’t a church any longer. It
seems to me it was maybe a school to learn belly dancing or some such thing.
(Interjection by Rose Luttinger: It had been a dancing school but it was a
church when we moved in because they asked us to keep the pews for them while
they were building. We had the pews for a year or two, then bought folding
Interviewer: You continued to be active at the new building as well?
Levy: Oh yes, I’ve been active in Beth Tikvah hugely until about 4 to 4 ‘ years
ago when I began having a series of surgeries While my will was with it, my body
wasn’t, so I had to stop.
Interviewer: When did your first husband, David, pass away, Arlene?
Levy: February, 1976.
Interviewer: When did you marry Gene Levy?
Levy: I married him August 12, 1979.
Interviewer: How did the two of you meet?
Levy: It’s a very long story. I’ll try to be brief about it. It’s such a good
story I hate to leave anything out. As it turned out, Gene Levy was married to
David Brilliant’s cousin, Gloria. Gloria Birnbaum was her name. I went to
Gloria and Gene’s wedding in 1955 before my wedding to David. I met Gene and
Gloria then. Through the next 25, 27 or so years I never saw Gene Levy again.
The family, particularly my mother-in-law, talked about him all the time, how
wonderful he was, what a great husband, what a great father, and so forth and so
on. In 1977 or 1978 I was in Florida visiting my mother-in-law Brilliant and
Esther Birnbaum came to visit and she had with her Michael Levy who was Gene
Levy’s middle son. It was then that I discovered that Gene’s wife had passed
away, perhaps 6 months before. I asked Esther if she’d mind if I wrote to Gene
a condolence note. She said that would be fine, so I did.
I wrote him a note and I invited him to come to Worthington to visit, to get
away from some of those old memories which were probably still very raw. In
fact, he came. I was engaged to someone else so I wasn’t trying to capture a
man. I’ll never forget when he arrived. I had asked him to send a picture to
me so I’d remember a little better who he was. He sent a picture of a full
view of him the size of a postage stamp and Gene was 6′ 3″. You can imagine that
I couldn’t recognize very much on this postage stamp. I saw him coming down a
isle at our huge Columbus airport, which not only wasn’t an international
airport but it was not much larger than a postage stamp either.
Anyway, we got in the car and we were driving to my house and I mentioned to
him that I had 4 children. Did he know that I had 4 children? He said,
“Well no I didn’t.” I said “Well they’re all inside with
their boy friends and girl friends and I became engaged last week.” I
showed him my ring. I said “My fiance is inside and he has 5 children and
they’re all inside with their respective boy friends and girl friends.”
Also, my very best friend was Michelle Shapiro. She and Sandy wanted to go way
for the weekend so I told her that I would watch her 3 children while they got
away and that they were all inside too. Gene looked at me like I was nuts but he
was a trooper. He went in and he spent most of the time that he was there
building an R2D2 model for Jeremy. This kind of settled in my brain a little bit
because none of men that I ever dated in the 3 years that I was single ever
showed much interest with Jeremy, let alone spending 24 hours playing with him.
Anyway, Gene left and went back to New York, to Long Island and sent me a thank
you note and he named every single person that was at that party and he hadn’t
written anything down. I was impressed with his brain too. He called me,
probably for Rosh Hashonah, and I invited him to come back to Columbus, to
Worthington, for Thanksgiving.
He told me that he was going to be with his in-laws in Florida. I said
“Fine, maybe you’d like to come here during your Christmas holiday and
Ken and I will entertain you.” Ken is the man I was engaged to. He said
“Well I don’t think I can do that because someone in California has
arranged a blind date for me for over the Christmas holidays and would you
believe that her name is Arlene.” I said “Well no I wouldn’t believe
that but if you say so.” Anyway, do you want me to go on?
Levy: Well, anyhow I went to Florida for Christmas and when I arrived there I found
out that Gene was also there, that the plans for California had fallen thru. So
we met and he seemed kind of depressed or unhappy or just not really so terrific
to be with but I still felt an obligation to help him. I invited him to come
back to my house in Worthington for New Years Eve. He said he would come. In the
interim I had broken my engagement with Ken. I’m not sure why, it might have
been that little seed that had been planted in my brain on Memorial Day weekend.
Anyway he came back. We had a party. He really rolled his eyes at me when he
said “How many people are coming to the party?”
I said “I don’t know because I mailed the invitations on the way to
Florida and he said “How many people did you invite?” I said about
100. That was the first time he rolled his eyes at me and the second time when
we arrived at home from the airport. I said “Does anyone want to go to the
grocery store for me?” This was December 30 and New Years Eve always comes
on December 31. I ‘m not knowing how many people were coming but I had to
start doing something for them and for that party. So he came and Abbey came and
I tore up a sheet of paper and gave it to each of them. I said I’ll meet you
at the check out.
I guess at the checkout when the three of us rolled up at the check out
counter with overflowing carts of food was when he asked me how many people we
were having. He stayed and he welcomed everybody at the party as they came to
the door and told them that he was a sailor who had been thrown off a freighter
and I picked up on the beach in Florida It’s a very small world because he
answered the door for one couple and he said “I know you.” They looked
at him and said “Well, we know you too.” It turned out to be Laura and
Jack Zakin. They had been to a Bar Mitzvah. Their nephew was Bar Mitzvah or
their grandson at the Temple in New York where Gene was President and had
presented their grandson or their nephew with a Bar Mitzvah gift. The rest is
too long to tell you but a year and a half later we were married.
Interviewer: That’s a nice story. I know you and Gene are entrepreneurs and have been involved in some
interesting business endeavors. Would you like to tell us a little bit about
Levy: Well the first business venture that I ever had was pre Gene. It was an arts
and crafts studio. It was when I was married to David. It was an arts and crafts
studio in a little house on North Street and High Street. When he passed away I
was not able to continue that. The first business that I started when Gene was
with me was a cooking school in my home. I was way ahead of the times. I started
a cooking school and I taught low fat, low calorie, low this and low that and I
had very low attendance also. I changed it to the good stuff and the cooking
school just boomed to the point where it was getting to be a little too much for
our house. In the meantime, I had taken cooking classes before I met Gene, all
the time that I was single. I spent one week with a New York caterer and cooking
school teacher and author. His name was John Clancy.
He came to the cooking school where Betty Rosbottom had started her school in
some apartments in Arlington. She had rented a couple of apartments and put them
together and had her cooking school. I spent a whole week, all day long, with
John Clancy and he taught me how to bake. Shortly after that a member of Beth
Tikvah asked me if I would make a wedding cake for them when they were renewing
their vows at Beth Tikvah. I did, never having made a wedding cake before. I
never thought of myself as a wedding cake maker. I thought those were the ladies
that were short and chubby and middle aged and went to the grocery store with
rollers in their hair. But anyway I did it and it was very successful and then I
did a Bar Mitzvah for Sondra and Howard Fink’s daughte…
Levy: Mara? What’s their other daughter’s name?
Levy: I think it was for…
well either one. I think it was for Mara, okay and that was very successful.
Then I was called by Wasserstroms to see if I would do their catering for their
open house of their Homewares Store and it was going to be for about 500 people.
On the same day I received a call from the law firm that had just opened in the
Capital South Building and they asked me if I would cater their open houses
which were going to be 3 days in a row for 400 people each day. I bid on both
jobs not expecting to get either one and I did get both of them and they
happened to be just a week apart. After all of this, my husband said, and I was
continuing the cooking school too. “You can’t do this in our house
anymore. It’s too much for our house. We’ve got to find you a kitchen.”
Even though I had a lot of restrictions on the kitchen that I wanted, a realtor
friend of ours found a kitchen and I started In Good Taste in a
professional kitchen in 1980. I continued with that until about 1987 or 88 and
actually it was 1989. My body and my soul were used up and I closed that.
After that I went to work for an interior decorating company. I learned a lot
about interior decorating and I learned that maybe I had a little bit of innate
knowledge about this. I started my own business. I left the company and I started my own business
and it was called Custom Concepts, I think. I had to change that name
because there was another company in the city, not an interior decorating
company. It turned out it was a catering company who were using that name. I
changed it to ABL Interiors. I’m still doing some of that today.
Interviewer: How have you and Gene been active at Beth Tikvah in recent years?
Well, before 4 years ago Gene had been on the Board for a year or two. My
big activity was the holiday baskets. It was started in the Social (Action)
Committee surroundings. We decided that we would make some baskets for people
who were unable to celebrate any kind of a holiday themselves. We decided that
we would deliver these baskets on Christmas Eve. We started the first year
assembling these holiday baskets. Everything was donated from the stores. The
first year I believe we delivered 25 holiday baskets. I did this for 5 years. At
the end of the 5 years we were delivering 300 holiday baskets, all on Christmas
Eve. It was the largest endeavor in that it involved more people than any other
activity at Beth Tikvah. You can imagine to get all this together and deliver it
to 300 families. Then after that I started having my surgeries.
Helena Schlam: Can I ask you to return to A Matter of Taste, because I believe…
Levy: In Good Taste.
Helena Schlam: Oh…In GoodTaste…that you did some kosher catering and were involved with
the Jewish community through that kosher catering.
Levy: Okay, yes we did a lot of Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, namings and funeral
receptions for the families that lived on the East Side of town, for the Jewish
families and for organizations like the Jewish Federation, and so forth.
A lot of these events did not have to be kosher but the ones that were we did
the preparation of the food from Agudas Achim and from Beth Jacob. We also
catered for Les Wexner. For the most part his events did not have to be kosher
but of course they were kosher style. There was no traif food ever used. We did
do several events for him at his home that did have to be kosher because they
involved Jewish organizations that needed their food to be kosher. If we weren’t
doing them out of Agudas Achim, we did them out of our kitchen which was on
Busch Blvd. That was very, very difficult. The Mishgeach, I think is who it
was, came into our kitchen with a group with blow torches and huge rolls of
aluminum foil. They did kasher all of our pots and pans. Our pots and pans and
our utensils may have had to go to the Mikvah. I’m not sure about that. Our
kitchen was completely covered with aluminum foil, including the drains of the
sinks and it was just very, very, very difficult to do., just a little bit more
difficult than catering from Beth Jacob which we were back again to that teeny
weeny kitchen, just a little bit larger than we had on High Street when Beth
Tikvah first started. I don’t know if you want me to tell you why I stopped
kosher catering and why I really stopped the catering business.
Interviewer: Sure, go ahead.
Levy: We were catering at Beth Jacob. It was in December. It
was cold. It was snowy. It was everything, you know how everything is more
difficult in the Winter time. It was very cold. What we were catering was a Bar
Mitzvah for a physician and his wife who lived out East. We catered for them a
Shabbat dinner for 100 people that was going to be at their home. The next day,
at Beth Jacob, where the Bar Mitzvah took place, we catered an Oneg for 650
people and then that evening we catered an after Bar Mitzvah party at their home
for 100 people. That was on Saturday night.
On Sunday we were catering a white glove French service wedding to be held at
Beth Jacob for 400 people. As though that wasn’t enough, we had a couple of
mishaps there, during that event, during Friday, Saturday and Sunday events. We
started cooking there on Monday for the Saturday, Sunday events and it was a
difficult thing because there was only one freezer. It had two doors. If you
went in one door it was the meat side. If you went in the other side it was the
dairy side. Since we had no kosher, not Jewish employees, it was difficult to
make sure they went in the right door as we were on these things, even though we
did all of the dairy things on the dairy side of the kitchen and all of the meat
things on the meat side. There were still a few close calls. The other problem
that we had was we were making for the wedding on Sunday a tri-colored fish
mouse and for the Bar Mitzvah Shabbat dinner were making gefilte fish. I bought
8 lbs.of Orange Roughy that were in the freezer. On Wednesday I told my cook to
get the fish out so we could thaw it out and be ready to use it the next day. I
guess he was the Mishgeach who stopped in on us Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
As I was saying, he stopped in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,
Saturday three or four times to make sure we hadn’t smuggled some traif stuff
into the synagogue. Here he comes on Wednesday and the fish laying out to thaw.
He said “Get that out of this kitchen.” I looked at him and I said
“Why?” He said “That is traif.” I said, “but we used
that fish 2 weeks ago at a dinner for the Jewish Federation. We prepared it at
Agudas Achim. We had it at a home that was kosher. I can’t remember the name
right now, the people’s home that we had this event in.” “I don’t
care, that is traif, get it out.” We took It out. The reason he said it was
traif was it had been fillet on the boat and he did not know whether there were
traif fish on the boat, whether the knife that had filleted this fish had been
used for traif fish. So here we are on Wednesday and I’m having to fly in fish
from Boston. So I had the air fare and I had $300 for the fish and I had a whole
day lost. The people that we had helping us in the kitchen besides the 4 people
on my staff and Gene and myself were 3 cooks from the Elephant Bar. Together the
9 of us never ever filleted a fish, so that was a wrenching time. On Saturday,
after we did succeed in getting everything ready that we had to, it was now time
for the wedding dinner to start and we had the wine sitting on the counter and
the mishgeach came in and told us only a Jewish person can open and pour this
wine. I said “What?” We said to the Mishgeach “I guess you’re
going to have to be the one to open the wine because…
I’m busy here doing this and my husband is busy in the dining room.”
He opened the wine and the Rabbi and the Cantor and the Mishgeach are the ones
that poured the wine. I was in tears during that whole time. The next day that I
was in the kitchen someone called me and said my name is so and so and I would
like you to cater my son’s Bar Mitzvah kosher at such and such a time. I said
“I’m very sorry, I’m never doing that again.”
It was shortly after that, I explained to her why of course. She offered me
all kinds of financial incentives but I said I just can’t do it. Shortly after
that I decided that I needed to give it up completely so I closed my kitchen on
Busch Blvd. I still continued catering for Les Wexner out of my house and
General Electric and a couple of other companies, Battelle and what’s the
company that begins with a Z? I can’t think of it. Finally I gave that up too.
I said if I ever came back into this life as a caterer, it would only be either
for non-kosher or kosher events because you can’t do them both.
Interviewer: Well Arlene, on behalf of the Jewish Historical Society and Congregation Beth
Tikvah I want to thank you for contributing to the oral history project and to
the Beth Tikvah Archives and this concludes our interview.
This is an addendum to the interview with Arlene Brilliant Levy.
Interviewer: Arlene I understand that your husband, Dave Brilliant, was the first
President of Congregation Beth Tikvah for the years 1962-1963. Can you please
tell us a little bit about the responsibilities that he had and his contribution
to Beth Tikvah at that time?
Levy: Well, in order to answer that question I think I have to say that once we
started meeting with this group who established a synagogue in the North End of
Columbus, it was a no stop effort on David’s part to find the building,
establish the congregation and so forth. He did miles and miles of leg work in
order to make this happen. For example, he is the one who went to visit the
Rabbis and had a door closed almost in his face and then was very happy when he
was welcomed in an entirely different manor by Rabbi Folkman at Temple Israel.
To my recollection, as we were forming all of this pre Beth Tikvah
information and working together, Dick Goldgraben was, we’ll call him the
leader of the gang. Once Beth Tikvah was established David became the official
first President of Beth Tikvah and he continued with his relentless work and
efforts on behalf of Beth Tikvah. There were a couple other things, Rhoda, that
we somehow missed.
Interviewer: Feel free to add them.
Levy: Thank you. I think the first
thing I want to mention is that the first Breakfast for Beth Tikvah was held
down in the University area. It was held at St. Stephens Church.
I believe that the services were at the Unitarian Church but the Break Fast
was at St. Stephens Church. It was organized by Joyce Alpers and myself. I
probably did not include them in the initial group of people who did belong to
Beth Tikvah and I should have (Joyce and Andrew Alpers). Anyway it was a huge
success. Beth Tikvah has been having marvelous Break Fasts ever since. The other
thing that I think is really important that I neglected to say is that the first
Pinion a Ben for Beth Tikvah was held on Indianola. It was for Bennett Gilbert,
the son of Rhoda and Bill Gilbert. I’m sure since then we’ve had many such
events. Thanks for letting me say that, Rhoda.
Interviewer: That’s fine and thank you very much for a wonderful interview.