This is the afternoon of January 26, 1999. We’re at the offices of Benesch,
Friedlander, Coplan and Aronoff. (It’s a good thing I’m reading from the napkin here.) And I’m interviewing James Feibel. I’m Naomi Schottenstein and I’m doing this interview on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. We’re at the offices at 88 E. Broad Street in downtown Columbus. We try to establish a theme and even before I start, I think the theme in this case is because we’re interviewing Jim’s family from seven generations and Babette’s family from several generations. But we’ll talk about these things as we go along. And we are also extremely interested in the involvement that both of these people have had in the community. Jim, let’s start with you and ask you your complete name.
Feibel: James Barnett – B (as in boy)-A-R-N-E-T-T Feibel.
Interviewer: Okay. Do you go by a nickname?
Interviewer: Jim. Okay. Do you happen to know what your Jewish name is?
Interviewer: Okay. So you don’t know who you were named after? Okay. Was this your…
Feibel: I do have a Jewish name now, Yaakov.
Interviewer: Okay. You mean you were given that years…
Interviewer: …after your birth?
Interviewer: Okay. What was your original family name?
Feibel: You think my name is Itzhak?
Babette: No, I think Barnett is…
Interviewer: You think the Barnett part is…
Babette: …is his mother’s maiden name.
Feibel: Oh, did you want…
Interviewer: That’s okay. Let’s put that in. That’s Barnett?
Feibel: Barnett was my mother’s maiden name. But I was not at birth, so far as I know, given a Jewish name.
Interviewer: All right. Well that helps to tell us how your name came about somewhat. Was Feibel your original family name?
Feibel: It was my father’s name. It was his father’s name.
Interviewer: Okay. So that’s a lot of…
Feibel: And that goes back at least three generations beyond that.
Interviewer: Okay. Well that’s your family name I would say, your official
family name. Well it isn’t going to be a story, I know we have a lot of
printed material and I know that this will be helpful as far as our archives are
concerned, but maybe you can tell us how did your family come to Columbus.
Interviewer: Why, why Columbus? How and why?
Feibel: My father’s family came from Germany in the 18–, I think the 1860s, 1870s and to make their way in America, although they seem to have been fairly well off in Germany. And there is a story about my great-grandfather getting in a, being drawn into a fight in Heidelbereg. He was a salesman but he was at a bier stein in Heidelberg and a fight broke out with college students. He was not involved but his name appeared in the paper and his father decided that was a disgrace to the family and decided he should come to America.
Interviewer: When was that?
Feibel: I don’t have a date on that. Isaac Adolph Feibel came over here in
1865 so it was obviously before then.
Interviewer: So that was your grandfather?
Feibel: That was my great-grandfather.
Interviewer: Great-grandfather. Okay.
Feibel: And then there is a story about another part of the family. When they came over, they booked passage on a boat out of Bremerhaven. When they got there, the boat had left and there was a lawsuit and so forth. They couldn’t come and they finally booked passage on another boat and got here safely. The boat they were booked on sank with no survivors.
Interviewer: Oh goodness.
Babette: That’s Kim Feinknopf’s father too.
Interviewer: Kim Feinknopf’s relative? Uh huh. Okay.
Feibel: I can give you these papers which explain that more fully but…
Interviewer: Okay that will be helpful if we have that written down.
Feibel: These were written by my great uncle, I believe.
Interviewer: Okay. What about your mother’s family? How did she get here?
Feibel: My mother’s family came from eastern Europe and I have here
somewhere, I really don’t know that much about how my mother’s family got
here. They were part German and part eastern European, I think Lithuanian.
Interviewer: Do you know maybe what community she might have come from?
Feibel: My mother? Well my mother’s family settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Interviewer: No but where’d she come from in, you don’t know what city in…
Feibel: In Germany? No, I’ve concentrated on the other part but I’ll get there.
Interviewer: Okay. Uh huh. Okay. Yeah, I know. Well it’s not unusual you
know that, a lot of families didn’t talk about these things and it took a lot
of years until we got information about what happened, how they came here, why
they came here. Where were you born?
Feibel: I was born in Grant Hospital here in Columbus.
Interviewer: So you’re a sabra of Columbus?
Feibel: Right. And my father was born in Columbus.
Interviewer: Okay. What year were you born?
Interviewer: Okay and so you’re second generation, third generation Columbusite?
Feible: Well my grandfather I believe was born in Hillsboro, Ohio, and then moved here in the 20s to open a department store at High and Russell here in downtown Columbus.
Interviewer: What was the name of that store?
Feibel: Feibel Brothers.
Interviewer: What kind of store was it?
Feibel: It was a dry goods store. I’m not sure what “dry goods”
means but it was clothing and that, no wagons or what have you. But it was
Feibel: Ready-to-wear and so forth. And it was located on the north side of
what was then Union Station because the farmers didn’t want to bring their
wagons across what were then very difficult railroad tracks.
Interviewer: Hmmm. We’re getting a picture of what Columbus was like.
Feibel: So he came from Hillsboro with his brother, Louis Feibel. The Feibel
family down there had, among other interests, they owned a company called Feibel-Gross
Safe Company and the…
Feibel: Feibel-Gross, G-R-O-S-S, two families, the Feibels and the Grosses.
And they made a mistake. They sold out to Mosler Safe Company at I’m sure far
too little a…what was interesting is until about four years ago, there was a
Feibel-Gross safe used by Star Bank at the Corner of Broad and Maplewood. And
they tore that down to make a new Kroger Store. That’s where Martin’s used
to be. They tore that down and I don’t know what happened to the safe.
Interviewer: At Broad and Maplewood, I think.
Feibel: Yeah, that’s right.
Interviewer: And that’s, so the safe is gone?
Feibel: The safe is gone. But it was the Feibel-Gross Safe Company. My
grandfather and uncle came to Columbus to open this dry goods store. With
Lazarus becoming very dominant, they saw the handwriting on the wall and they
sold, they closed the dry goods store and bought as much real estate as they
could, as close to State and High as they could, and at one point owned three
corners of State and High, which kept the Feibel family going through the
Interviewer: And downtown is still a good, strong area?
Interviewer: So they were way ahead of their time.
Feibel: And then they changed to Feibel Brothers Real Estate Company.
Interviewer: Then they went into the real estate business?
Feibel: Real estate company. And it was Feibel Brothers Realty and they then
Interviewer: Your uncle?
Feibel: My uncle and my grandfather separated and my grandfather went into
partnership with William Hadler which became Feibel-Hadler Real Estate. My uncle
went into partnership with Lee Wears and it became Feibel-Wears and then
Feibel-Wears-Shay. It is now Wears-Conn-Minimay. You’ve probably seen their
sign here. And of course, Hadler Real Estate is still around.
Interviewer: It sure is, uh huh. Okay, that’s interesting development of
business there. So you’ve always lived in Columbus? How many different homes
have you lived in?
Feibel: I have lived in three homes before I got married, one on Brunson
Avenue where my parents moved when they first got married. Then they moved to
Bryden Road in Bexley and then in 1937, they built out in the wilderness which
is now Eastmoor and so I lived at 135 S. Harding Road from 1937 until 1956.
Interviewer: Yeah I lived on Harding Road too for a number of years. so I’m
very familiar with Harding Road.
Feibel: It was Harding and Elbern.
Interviewer: Harding and Elbern?
Feibel: Northwest corner.It’s still there. It has a greenhouse attached to it.
Interviewer: Yeah. It’s a lovely house. Uh huh. Do you remember any of your
neighbors as you were growing up?
Feibel: Sure. I remember the Schwanker family which was right across the
Interviewer: Where was this?
Feibel: This was on the southwest corner of Harding and Elbern.
Feibel: Donna Schwanker who was a friend of mine, their daughter married
Carmen Cavallero. Schmidts lived across the street, Schmidt’s Packing Company.
And there were not many houses on the street at that point. I’m sure you don’t
want to know the subsequent ’cause I mean…
Interviewer: No, it developed into…
Feibel: It was the Eastmoor Subdivision. But when we moved out there were only two houses on our corner and there was the foundation of some old farmhouse in which we played but it was like a forest except for this foundation.
Interviewer: And what did it become?
Feibel: More houses. That’s the part between Harding and Broad Street on
the west side of the street. There were no houses there except for one at the
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you remember when that started, came from the
wilderness? It’s still a beautiful street.
Feibel: I remember playing in a pond where the old Esquire Theater was.
Interviewer: Where was the Esquire Theater?
Feibel: At Chesterfield and Broad.
Interviewer: Do you always remember that theater being there or do you
remember anything before the Esquire Theater?
Feibel: Yeah it was a pond. We used to catch tadpoles.
Interviewer: Oh okay. It was a pond and then they developed…
Feibel: They developed the Esquire Theater.
Interviewer: And it’s now…
Feibel: Now a shopping center of sorts.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. What about before this house on Harding. Well this is…
Feibel: Well I don’t remember the house on Brunson. My parents moved when I
was two years old or so. And then I don’t remember the house on Bryden Road because they moved when I was four.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. Tell us about your siblings and where they are,
about their families.
Feibel: I have a younger brother Donald Feibel who is married and divorced;
married Susan Meyer from Springfield. They had three children, Catherine, Joanna
called Jody and Jacqueline called Jackie. And then my brother was divorced and
remarried. Now married to Ronnie Bambier Goldman, herself divorced. And his
children are all in Columbus. His daughter is married to Tommy Kauffman of the
Kauffman family, the cab company. And his two other daughters, Joanna-Jody and
Jacqueline-Jackie are currently unmarried, I mean never been married. My sister
is Barbara, now Barbara Robbins, married to Ronald Robbins, Max Robbins’ son
and they have four children and the oldest is Ronald Robbins, Jr., nicknamed
Rocky, who is in Columbus, recently married. He is a partner, a lawyer-partner
in Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. He lives now in Arlington with his wife. And
then my sister had another daughter Lisa who is unmarried. She is a supervisor,
she has a Masters in Social Work and is a Supervisor for Franklin County
Children’s Services here in Columbus. And then my sister had two twin
daughters, Debbie who is married to David Lamden. David Lamden I think was from
Arizona. He was Religious School Director for Beth Tikvah. He is now Religious
School Director for Temple Israel and they have two children
Interviewer: Babette, you are coming in handy. Sometimes we need to stir up
Feibel: So they have two children. And then the other twin is Patty who is
Director of Public Relations for the Buckeye Ranch, Buckeye Boys Ranch now
called Buckeye Ranch, and she is married to Troy Markham. They have no children.
So my sister has four children and two grandchildren.
Interviewer: Okay, and any other siblings?
Feibel: There were just the three of us.
Interviewer: Okay. What about other relatives? We’re going to come to your
family, your immediate family in a few minutes, but let’s get some other
background first. You mentioned an uncle, you mentioned some other family
members. Who do you remember of your family?
Feibel: As far as my father’s family is concerned, he was an only child.
His mother, Edith Troy, died in childbirth with what would have been, I guess,
his younger brother. He was raised by a German nanny that the family referred to
as “Fraulein”. Right before the Second World War, she went back to
Germany and we are not sure but suspect that she became involved in the Nazi
movement. We’re not sure. He remarried a spinster lady, Julia Rosenthal. They
had no children. So the only grandmother, I knew my grandfather Julius Feibel
and his wife Julia Rosenthal Feibel. Obviously, since my grandmother Edith Troy
Feibel died when my father was two, I never knew her. But I did know my
grandfather’s siblings. There were five in his generation. There was Rosetta
Goodman who was the only daughter. She was Rosetta Feibel Goodman. She married
Jack Goodman. She had two children, Jack Goodman and Catherine Goodman. Jack
Goodman lived in Fort Wayne, had no children. Catherine married Mark D.
Feinknopf. They had two children, Mark G. Feinknopf who is Kim’s father and
Ellen Mack who now lives in Dallas, Texas. And Ellen has three children and you
know Kim’s family. And Mark married Sheila Levison and they had two children,
Brad and Kim and Brad and Kim each have kids. Sheila passed away recently as you
know. Now my great uncle Louis Feibel, who was in business with my grandfather,
had two children, Jean Feibel who married Lou Baron who was a surgeon in the
Boston area and Robert Feibel who helped set up the DEW Line which was the
Distant Early Warning Line right after the Second World War.
Interviewer: Is that an abbreviation?
Feibel: Yeah, D-E-W for Distant Early Warning. It was in Alaska to keep the
Russians, warn of Russian airplanes. Missiles were not around at that point,
airplane attack. It was called the DEW line. Robert Feibel married late in life.
They had no children. They lived here in Columbus. They just in the past two
months moved to Edgewood, Florida. But that was Louis Feibel. So you’ve got
Julius Feibel which was my grandfather. You’ve got Louis.
Babette: Say that Louis was married to Helen.
Feibel: Lewis was married to Helen and I can get you her last name. I don’t
know. And they had these two children. Rosetta Goodman is the Feinknopf
connection here. And then there were two other brothers who lived, one lived in
Hillsboro, Michael Feibel, and he did not marry until after his parents and his
wife’s parents all died. My great aunt Sara was a devout Catholic. They had
one child, David Feibel, who studied for the priesthood and became a Catholic
priest or at least a Catholic- priest-in-training. He then left the priesthood
and died shortly thereafter. My other great uncle was Jacob Feibel and he
married and he had three children, a son Adolph Feibel, and they have two
children. He was married to Ruth Claire somebody and they had two children,
Robert and Jonathan Feibel, both doctors. And he had a daughter Sarah Mendelson
who became Sarah Feibel Mendelson and Louise Feibel who married Victor Reichert
who was the “Rabbi Folkman” in effect of Rockdale Temple in
Cincinnati. Victor Reichert was the long-time Rabbi and then Rabbi Emeritus at
Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati. So at one point I had a cousin who was a priest
and a cousin who was married to a rabbi.
Interviewer: Little diversity in your family. So we have a pretty good
background of your relatives established.
Feibel: Now on my mother’s side, I mean if you want to get into that.
Interviewer: Yeah. Did we ever discuss your parents’ names?
Feibel: Okay. My father was Troy Adolph Feibel and my mother was Pearl
Althea, A-L-T-H-E-A, Barnett, B-A-R-N-E-T-T. And she had one brother, Sidney
Barnett who passed away. He had three children, my cousins. They all live in
Milwaukee or Milwaukee suburbs, which is where my mother’s parents lived. My
mother came from Milwaukee. My mother’s mother was Bertha Greenberg. Her
father was Simon Barnett and they had these two children. They had numerous
brothers and sisters. It was a fairly big family. The Greenbergs were the
eastern Europeans. The Barnetts were the Germans. And as I said, I haven’t
really traced that history yet, although I will.
Interviewer: Do you happen to know how your parents met?
Feibel: Yes. My mother had attended Northwestern University for two years and
she was an AEP Sorority member at Northwestern. For whatever reason, she
decided to transfer to Ohio State. I really don’t know why she decided to
transfer to Ohio State. My father was a ZBT, Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity member at
Ohio State and they met at Ohio State.
Interviewer: How many years were they married?
Feibel: They were married in 1932 and my father passed away in ’87, 55
Interviewer: They were married 55 years?
Feibel: Uh huh.
Interviewer: All right. So you told us your mother’s famly, or we’re
working on your mother’s relatives?
Feibel: Yeah, I mean there are, we can be here all day if I tried to trace, I
mean I think my grandmother had six or eight brothers and sisters and my
grandfather had, I think, four siblings.
Interviewer: Well that’s something you can work on in your spare time.
Feibel: Yeah, it’s here in this jumble of paper if I could find it without,
I could give you more…
Interviewer: Well that’s okay. We’ll end up with copies.
Feibel: I mean this is going to be like a family tree though and, you know,
the farther you go back…
Interviewer: It goes and goes.
Feibel: The bigger it gets.
Interviewer: Sure, I understand that. Well since we’re in this section
here, let’s just talk about, tell us about your children.
Feibel: Okay. We have four children, Julie Ann Feibel, now Friedlander, was
born in 1957 in Watten, Oklahoma, while I was serving a short tour of duty with
the Army Artillery. I was 24, Babette was 20, and she is married to Randall
Friedlander. They were married in 197—…
Babette: I don’t know. I got to think about this.
Feibel: They’ve been married…
Bebette: They were married in 1982.
Feibel: 1982. They have three children, Jeffrey Friedlander who is 14, was Bar
Mitzvahed a year and a half ago; Troy Friedlander who is going to be Bar
Mitavahed in two years. He’s what, 11?
Babette: Ten, almost 11.
Feibel: Almost 11. And Catherine Friedlander who is eight.
Feibel: Six. I’m not good on…
Interviewer: Just numbers, huh? I’m sure you would know who they were
though if they walked in, right? (laughter)
Feibel: As recently as this morning. My next daughter is, oh by the way,
Julie is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, Columbus School for Girls and
Vanderbilt University. She has a degree in, she has a B.S. in Mathematics and
Computer Science, I believe, and she is a manager for Electronic Data Systems,
Ross Perot’s old company that General Motors took over and then spun off,
Interviewer: And she’s still working?
Feibel: She’s still working. As a matter of fact, she is, the last three
days, which is one of the reasons we’ve got her kids, is she’s been in
Dallas for a leadership meeting.
Interviewer: Where is their home?
Feibel: Here in Bexley. They live in Bexley. Our next daughter is Karen Sue
Feibel Arnoff, A-R-N-O-F-F, the same name as the napkin, although when they got
married, I was not with this firm. I was with a competing firm.
Interviewer: Oh okay. So is this Arnoff on the napkin your son-in-law? No?
Feibel: No. That’s my son-in-law’s father.
Interviewer: Oh okay. Okay.
Feibel: And anyway, my daughter graduated from Tufts University, Karen
graduated from Tufts University. She was born in 1960. And then she graduated
from Case Western University Law School, Juris Doctor Degree, and practiced law.
She married Jim Arnoff who is also a lawyer. By the way, I should go back. My
son-in-law Randy is a graduate of Vanderbilt. They met at Vanderbilt and he has
a Master’s in Business Administration, MBA in Marketing and Finance from the
University of Chicago. He is currently employed by Cap Gemini Corporation which
is a computer service firm. He sells computer services to major industries
around the country. I guess around the Midwest.
Going back to Karen, she is married to Jim Arnoff who is a graduate of Bowdoin College in Maine and also a graduate of Case Western University Law School. He is a partner with Thompson, Heiden, Flory. Our firm has a nepotism policy which meant that he could not come into the firm. They have four children. Their oldest is Andrew Arnoff who is 12, who will be Bar Mitzvahed this coming Labor Day weekend or thereabouts. And they have a
daughter Jennifer who is eight. And they have a son David who is six and they
have a daughter Elizabeth who is four. My next child is also a daughter, Lauren
Feibel who is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University. All of them went to
Columbus School for Girls but a graduate of Johns Hopkins University with a
Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. And she has worked for NCR since
she got out of Johns Hopkins, first in Washington, then in Dayton and now in
Interviewer: NCR is National…
Feibel: National Cash Register but it’s changed its name to NCR because
they’re now in computing and so forth, not in cash registers, although still
heavily involved in the retail aspect of computing. They make those scanners
that you see when they put the Coke can up and it beeps and puts the price up.
That’s NCR probably. She has been married for two years or so to Bennett
Cohen. Bennett is a graduate of Ohio State University. His family owns Conrad’s,
he and his family own Conrad’s up on Lane Avenue. It’s an Ohio State spirit
store. Are you familiar with that?
Interviewer: Yes I am.
Interviewer: We’ve shopped there…
Feibel: They have a daughter Sarah Cohen who is seven months. And then my son
is Jonathan Feibel. Jonathan is a graduate of Duke University. He went to
Columbus Academy. He’s a graduate of Duke University and Ohio State University
Medical School. He is currently completing his fourth year Orthopedic Surgical Residence at Mt. Carmel Hospital here and plans to continue residing in Columbus. By the way, Lauren and Bennett Cohen obviously live in Columbus.
Interviewer: Lauren I’ve gotten to know through the Jewish Historical
Society. She has an interest in that.
Feibel: Okay. Sure. Jonathan is married, well he’s an M.D. He is married to
Lori Ann, L-O-R-I Ann Miller. Lori Ann is a graduate of Ohio State University
and has an undergraduate degree and a Master’s Degree in Education, a Master’s
of Art Teaching. Lori Ann is Catholic and they have one child, Adelaide.
Interviewer: Who is how old?
Feibel: She is 13 months.
Interviewer: Okay that tells…
Babette: She is a teacher.
Feibel: Lori Ann is a teacher in the parochial school system. And she’s
also going to be teaching Holocaust in the public schools.
Interviewer: That’s interesting. Holocaust education has just started in
the last couple of years and…
Babette: She’s working on a project for the Historical Society.
Interviewer: There was a Holocaust exhibit at the Ohio Historical recently.
It’s down now but it really was a stepping stone for teaching.
Babette: She’s going to be working; it’s through the Ohio Historical
Society I think.
Feibel: I’m not sure what it’s through. Joann Grossman’s involved in
it. There’s a program, they just got a grant from the Columbus Foundation to
teach Holocaust in the public school system and she’s going to be doing
teaching work in that.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about your family traditions regarding religion, the synagogues, the temples that you might have belonged to starting from your youth and…
Feibel: Yeah. (Conversation offside) We’re Classical Reform Jews. We were
raised as Classical Reform Jews and we both attended Temple Israel. Our parents
were very active at Temple Israel. My father was President of Temple Israel for
many years. Babette’s father was Chair of the Building Committee at Temple
Israel. That was Richard Abel. And I was in Rabbi Folkman’s first Confirmation
Class in 1951 I think.
Babette: Yeah mine was 1951. Yours was before that.
Feibel: Mine was ‘47? Okay.
Feibel: You’re right. I graduated from high school in ’51. I’m not good
on names and dates.
Interviewer: That’s okay. We got, that’s why we have Babette here. She’s
helping us out. She’s holding her fingers up every now and them.
Feibel: And we were members of Temple until 1977 when Temple Israel, the
Congregation, you know, what I refer to as “sacking the rabbi,” Rabbi Kiner, and as a result of that Babette and I along with four other families, we determined to start our own congregation.
Interviewer: So you spearheaded that movement?
Feibel: Right. We and four other families actually did all the ground work
and then 35 families actually joined.
Interviewer: Do you remember who those four, can you tell me who those four
Feibel: Sure. Herb and Joyce Bronstein, Charley and Betty Sugarman, Barbara
and David Brandt and Sam and Gail Shamansky.
Babette: I think Jimmy was the first…
Feibel: I was the first President of the Congregation.
Interviewer: And how did that happen? Where did you first start meeting and…
Feibel: We started meeting in the basement of State Savings Bank at
Chesterfield and Broad, which is…
Babette: Wait a minute. We met originally in Betty Sugarman’s living room.
Feibel: Well wait a minute.
Babette: She wants to hear the history of that.
Feibel: You mean the history of Beth Shalom?
Interviewer: Yeah, how it got…
Feibel: Okay. What happened is that as a result of the controversy at Temple
Israel which in my view divided the Temple basically in half, those of Kiner’s
supporters and those of Kiner’s non-supporters. The Temple was already divided
in half between the Classical Reform Jews and the more traditional Jews who were
still Reform Jews but had migrated to Temple Israel.
Interviewer: Now was Kiner the main rabbi?
Feibel: Kiner was the main rabbi. He was the senior rabbi.
Interviewer: Senior rabbi?
Feibel: Yeah he followed Folkman. Huh?
Babette: Twelve years he had been the rabbi.
Interviewer: He had been rabbi for how long?
Feibel: Babette said 12 years. I’m not sure. Folkman retired and became Rabbi Emeritus and Rabbi Kiner, I thought it was only eight years but whatever, was the Senior Rabbi and the board determined to remove him as rabbi and that created a major problem.
Babette: Wait a minute. You were treasurer at the time.
Feibel: I was Treasurer at Temple Israel at the time. And that created a
tremendous problem in the Congregation. The Congregation had already been split
between the Classical Reform Jews and the more traditional Jews who had joined
Temple Israel. And then the Ciner issue split those, not along
Classical/Traditional lines, but along other lines so basically what I refer to
it is the Congregation was split down the middle vertically and then the Ciner
thing split it horizontally.
Interviewer: Split it again.
Feibel: So you had basically four parts: the Classical Reform Jews who were
for Kiner and the Classical Reform Jews who were against Kiner, traditional Jews
who were for Kiner and traditional Jews who were against him. Out of that
brouhaha in 1977, two congregations were formed. One was Beth Shalom which is my
Congregation, which had the more Classical Reform members. The other
Congregation that was formed was a Congregation called Beth Am and that was a
more traditional Congregation. Beth Am, we had sought recognition from the Union
of American Hebrew Congregations which is the Reform umbrella organization and
we got it. Beth Am sought the same recognition and didn’t get it. I don’t
think it’s appropriate here to go into all that.
Interviewer: So what happened to Beth Am eventually?
Feibel: Beth Am eventually, as I understand it, ceased to exist.
Interviewer: So they didn’t exist very long at all then?
Feibel: No, although Rabbi Switkin, who had been Rabbi at Tifereth Israel,
became their Rabbi for a while.
Interviewer: Okay. Well that’s history.
Feibel: And then, so Beth Shalom’s first meeting was on Hanukkah of 1977 in
the basement of State Savings at Chesterfield and Broad. And our first Rabbi was
Marc Lee Raphael who had been Rabbi of Beth Tikvah. He was a Professor of Jewish
History, wrote the book on the Columbus Jewish population. And he was our rabbi
while he was still a Professor of Jewish History and I think head of the Melton
Center at Ohio State.
Interviewer: How many congregants did you have at that time then?
Feibel: Well we started out with 35 and we grew gradually but steadily. So I
can’t tell you how many congregants we had. I can’t tell you for sure how
many congregants we really have now. But in 1980 I believe, or thereabouts, he had a sabbatical from Ohio State and he went to Brown University to teach there, at which point he retired as our first rabbi and we got a new rabbi out of the Hebrew Union College from
New York by the name of Howard Apothaker, who is still our Rabbi. And I think he’s
been here since around 1980. It could be ’80, ’81; I’m not sure exactly when but he’s been here. And so those are our two rabbis. In 1979 or so, Reverend Robert Butts, who was minister at Eastminster Presbyterian Church which was at Harding and Broad, just catty-corner, came to us and said, “Why don’t you worship in our place, our church?” And so we went over and we looked at their Social Hall which was very nice but we said, “Well you know, this is nice but it’s virtually, it could be the same as the basement of State
Savings.” It looked almost identical. He said, “No, no, I want you to worship in our Sanctuary.” So we walked in and we kind of hemmed and hawed because there was a 16-foot cross at the front. And he said, “Well that cross is removable but it’s hard to remove. We put it up there to cover a crack in the concrete. But if you want to cover it, you can.” So we built a 20-foot high U-shaped screen that we wrestled into position to cover the cross
and we held our services at Eastminster. Subsequent to that they hooked up a
pulley system for us and we had a banner, I think we still have it, that was big
enough to cover the cross so when you walked in… Oh and then they had this Communion Table; we didn’t know what a Communion Table was. And we said, “What’s this?” and he said, “It’s a Communion Table. It’s on wheels so you can push it out of the way.” So we had an Ark constructed out of the same material as the inside of the Sanctuary and on Friday nights and Saturdays, we wheeled the Communion Table aside and put the Ark in.
Interviewer: Well the switchover worked really well.
Feibel: It worked very well.
Interviewer: Yeah. ‘Cause I’ve been to services there and…
Feibel: It worked really very well. And we would still be there probably
because the people at Eastminster were just marvelous. And I frankly was
concerned about whether we would have done the same thing in reverse because you
know, sometimes Jews take for granted rights they expect for themselves but are
not so quick to grant them to others.
Interviewer: Well this certainly worked out beau—, they talk about
Feibel: The same God supposedly. Anyhow, so we decided after many fits and starts that their building could no longer accommodate us. In the last four years, we’d had High Holidays services and big Bar Mitzvahs at the Jewish Center. So we first tried to
buy the piece of land next to them but the Presbytery wasn’t happy about that.
So then after fits and starts, we built a building in New Albany which is the
current Beth Shalom building on #62, just south of New Albany Country Club.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And that just happened what, about two years ago?
Feibel: Two years ago. Yes, Herb Bronstein and I was Co-Chair of the
Building Committee that built that building. What’s interesting, just a footnote, when we bought the property from the New Albany Company, from Les Wexner, it was determined by them that this should be a religious campus and so there is a church scheduled to go on
the north side of the property. We will share a common driveway. That church is now worshipping. It’s being formed, it’s not built, but it’s worshipping in our Sanctuary Sunday mornings.
Interviewer: Oh so there’s the switchover too in the different direction.
Feibel: Yeah, so we did return the favor.
Interviewer: Yeah. Well your Congregation has continued to grow too, hasn’t it?
Feibel: Congregation has over 300 members now.
Interviewer: And you still have Rabbi Apothaker as your Senior Rabbi?
Feibel: Yeah still the Rabbi.
Interviewer: Do you have an assistant rabbi there now too?
Feibel: No, we do not.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you’re really well established there. I’m going
to stop at this point to turn the tape over. We’re almost at the end of Side
A. We’re on Side B of the first tape and we were just talking about your
synagogue and how it’s developed. And you’re still actively involved?
Feibel: I’m not on the board, I’m not an officer, but I’m still very
actively involved. I tell people it’s my fifth child.
Interviewer: Yes I would say that you have nursed that along beautifully.
Tell us about your education, where you went to school.
Feibel: I went to Bexley Elementary School as a tuition student because we
lived in Eastmoor on Harding Road which was about four blocks from Bexley. I
walked to school every day from Harding Road to Cassingham School. In the
seventh grade, my parents became dissatisfied with the report cards which said,
“Capable of doing better”. I was getting decent grades but I was
capable of doing better and so they enrolled me in the Columbus Academy which
was then down on Nelson Road between Broad and Main. And so I graduated in 1951
from the Columbus Academy and I graduated Magna Cum Laude or something.
Interviewer: So you were capable of doing better?
Feibel: I was capable of doing better. And I went to Yale University as an
undergraduate. I got a B.A. Degree in 1955. I graduated from Columbus Academy in
1951. I graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in 1955. While I was there I
was, for three years worked as a Student Editor and ended up as Chairman of the
Yale Scientific Magazine, even though I was a history major, I mean an English
major. I followed two Columbus people who had also worked on the Yale Scientific
Magazine. One was Bernie Yenkin.
Interviewer: He’s my brother-in-law.
Feibel: And one was Stanley Katz who followed him. So each of them went to
Yale and as they came, they pulled me onto the magazine. I became head of the
magazine my senior year. I also graduated with a second lieutenant’s
commission from R.O.T.C. at Yale in the Army Artillery and had a two-year
commitment for the Artillery. But because they had a glut of officers at that
time, I could pick when I wanted to go in any time in the next two years. So I
picked June of ’57, two years from the date I graduated because I had been
accepted to the University of Michigan – Law School. At that time, Babette was at
Wellesley College. She had matriculated to Wellesley College my senior year in
high school. Oh my senior year in college rather and we started going together
the summer before my senior year.
Interviewer: Did you know her from childhood or…
Feibel: Babette and I played together in a sandbox when I was six and she was
two, along with her twin sister Bette. And indeed, I used to date Bette.
Interviewer: Bette Young?
Feibel: Betty Roth Young. Yeah. So anyway, this is an interesting story. I
was home from Yale between my junior and senior year and I had a classmate
visiting me and I needed a date desperately and I couldn’t get hold of Bette.
I kept calling and I got Babette and Bette was not there. And so finally I said
to Babette, “What are you doing tonight?” And she thought I was just
making conversation and she said, “Well I’m working on a term
paper.” Babette was always the really studious one. And I said, “Well
how about going out with me?” And so that started it.
Interviewer: What an advantage to have twins available.
Feibel: So anyway, as you can see, they’re not identical.
Interviewer: Yeah, no they aren’t.
Babette:… I used to say to Bette, she had another boyfriend at the
time and I used to say to her, “You are so crazy. If I had a chance to go
out with Jim Feibel, I’d be so excited.”
Feibel: So anyway, we started to…
Interviewer: I’ll have to remember that. I want to put that one in.
Feibel: And I went back to Yale where I had a sometimes-girlfriend who I
booked up the whole senior year. Babette goes back to Wellesley and I ditched
the other, my New Haven girlfriend and Babette and I started going together
regularly. Then I went to Michigan Law School and she was in her sophomore year
at Wellesley and we long-distance commuted, to show you how times have changed.
I had her come out to visit me at the University of Michigan and the east coast
had been fairly… .
Babette: I think she ought to cut the tape off for this conversation.
Interviewer: Why? This is colorful. It’s showing us how you…
Feibel: But at…
Interviewer: It’s not X-rated.
Feibel: No, it’s hardly X-rated. But to show you how un-X-rated it is, at
Yale you could have women in your dormitory room from noon until six on weekdays
and from noon until one on weekends. Wellesley was really advanced because they
permitted men in the room from noon to six on Sunday as long as the door was at
least one inch open.
Interviewer: Things have changed. You’re right.
Feibel: Anyway, when I came out to Michigan, the first time Babette, I had
planned, she didn’t know it but I had planned to become engaged that winter
recess and I had designed our engagement ring and my parents went to New York
and actually took the design and had it executed. I bought the diamond with my
father’s assistance because he had been involved with some jewelry stores here
and so he got diamonds in and we looked at them. Anyway, so I pick Babette up at
the airport and go check her in at the Tower Hotel which is in the middle of the
University of Michigan campus. And so we check her in and I start walking
upstairs with the bags and the desk clerk said, “You can’t go
upstairs.” I said, “What do you mean I can’t go upstairs?” By
the way, she was 18 at that time, 19, barely 19 and she’s on the third floor
and there are no elevators. And so I said, “Well I’m going up.” I
said, “I’ll come right back.” And we did not tarry. We walked up the
stairs and by the time she got to her hotel room, to her room, there’s a phone
ringing. She picks up the phone, “Would you ask your gentleman-friend to
Interviewer: Oh you had just gotten upstairs?
Feibel: The phone was ringing by the time we got to the door.
Babette: Making sure he wasn’t going to…
Feibel: So anyhow we decided that this was just absurd.
Babette: I was scared to death he’d stay by my side.
Feibel: I mean, she’s a kid, you know. And not a kid like our kids were much, much more advanced. I mean at 21, our kids were flying around for job interviews, renting cars and so forth. But this was back in 1956, ’55.
Interviewer: Still a little Puritan?
Feibel: Yeah. And so I said, “This is ridiculous because,” you
know. “Why don’t we just go home.” So we hopped on a plane which was
pretty adventurous for us but it wasn’t that expensive at that time from
Detroit. And we flew home and got engaged that weekend. They said the ring was
burning a hole in my pocket. I don’t know. But anyhow. And that was in
September of ’55 and we were married in…
Babette: We were engaged, I’m sorry here, March 11 of 1955 and we were
married August 25.
Interviewer: You were married when?
Feibel: August 25 of 1956.
Interviewer: Okay we got that.
Feibel: And I didn’t remember it was March 11.
Interviewer: Well you got the wedding part of it.
Feibel: Which is interesting because Lauren was born on March 11…not the same year.
Interviewer: No? Okay. We got that cleared off. 1956?
Feibel: So anyway that is an aside and it’s a very true story. Shows you
how times have changed because when we took our oldest daughter Julie to college
and there was the orientation, this was when, when did she go?
Feibel: We’re sitting in an auditorium with a thousands other people,
students and parents, and among the other things, they are telling the kids
where to go in the university to get free condoms.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah. There’s a whole different picture now.
Feibel: You remember that? We were shocked.
Interviewer: Yeah, it’s difficult to…
Feibel: Anyway, this will be interesting for somebody to read on the tape.
Interviewer: It’ll be very normal. When we were talking about synagogues
and so forth, I forgot to ask you something about, were you Bar Mitzvahed?
Interviewer: You weren’t? But you were confirmed?
Interviewer: Confirmed? Okay. Was that pretty traditional at Temple Israel?
Feibel: Yes, I think the first Temple Israel had was with the Folkman boys.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Rabbi Folkman’s…
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you belonged to Temple Israel when it was located
someplace other than East Broad Street?
Feibel: Well my parents belonged to Temple Israel when it was located on
Bryden Road. And then…
Babette: That’s where we were confirmed.
Interviewer: You were confirmed on Bryden Road? Okay.
Feibel: And then we were members of Temple Israel; we were not members when
it was on Bryden Road, I don’t think.
Babette: Well we were kids of members.
Feibel: Yeah, we were, yeah, but I’m not sure…
Interviewer: So your family belonged?
Feibel: Yeah because we were married in ’56 and then Babette went back to
law school with me for one year. She finished her junior year at University of
Michigan and then we were married in August of ’56 and she started school in
September of ’56. She finished in May of ’57, pregnant and Julie was born in
September of ’57. And then we came back. I served six months, I forgot to tell
you, so I’m in Michigan Law School December of ’56 before I had to go to
Fort Sill for two years, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. And I got a questionnaire from the
army: “If you had your choice, would you rather serve six years or two
months?” Uh, “six months or two years”. “Six months or two
years.” So I wrote back. I had finished my second year of law school by
then. I wrote back: “six months”. So we were only in Oklahoma for six
months which is where Julie, our oldest daughter, was born. But then we came
back. So we were gone from Michigan for only six months. But when we came back
Babette had a baby and decided she wasn’t going to go to school, even though
at the time she was majoring in Economics and minoring in Nuclear Physics and
wanted to become a doctor.
Interviewer: That’s pretty heavy scheduling in with a baby.
Babette: In those days people didn’t do that.
Interviewer: Yeah that was pretty advanced.
Feibel: Today she would have not, so anyhow.
Interviewer: So you were in the service for six months?
Feibel: Six months.
Interviewer: So what did you do while you were in the service?
Feibel: I was…
Babette: Well I polished a lot of shoes and brass. (laughter)
Interviewer: You did? Well Babette you weren’t in the service though?
Feibel: It’s really funny. The R.O.T.C.’s instructor at Yale was a
colonel by the name of Bernard Gimble and he was a member of the Gimble
department store family but apparently a black sheep. But he had a habit of
giving all of the Yale second lieu- tenants their second lieutenant bars which
are gold bars. They’re usually brass but his were gold on silver. They were
gold plated on silver. Well the first thing they try to do when you get to Fort
Sill, even as an officer, is to make you work. And so most of the brass comes
with a lacquer that keeps it from tarnishing. The first thing you do is tell you
is to take off the lacquer which means you got to polish this brass every day.
Well that’s what happened and then they said, “Your gold bars are, your
bars need polishing.” So Babette takes Brasso, rubs off all the gold and
now they are silver. Now they think I’m a first lieutenant. You know, I really
had a very easy time. (laughter)
Interviewer: You almost blew it, huh? So where did, when you and Babette were
first married and you already had a child…
Babette: Wait a minute. We got married first and then…
Interviewer: I mean, excuse me.
Feibel: We did the right, Julie came well over a year after we were married.
Interviewer: Okay, you got married and had a child. Okay. Thank you. Okay.
And then how did your career take off from from that point?
Feibel: Well I spent, we spent six months at Fort Sill and then I came back
to law school and graduated in January of 1959. I passed the Ohio Bar in April
of 1959 and I’ve been practicing law here in Columbus since then. So I’ve
been practicing almost, this April it will be 40 years. I started practicing with my father Troy Feibel and…
Interviewer: Where was his office at that time?
Feibel: It was in the Beggs Building at 21 E. State. At the same time Mel
Schottenstein came to work for my father so Mel and I started practicing law
Interviewer: Oh, I didn’t remember that part.
Babette: Bob Shamansky.
Babette: And Bob Shamansky.
Feibel: And Bob Shamansky.
Interviewer: Bob Shamansky? Uh huh.
Feibel: And then so Mel left. Bob, who had left temporarily to go into the
home building business, came back into the practice. Also coming back, also
joining us was a lawyer by the name of Sidney Golden who later became a
Municipal Court Judge. And the firm name became Feibel, Feibel, Shamansky, uh
Feibel, Feibel and Golden. Then it became Feibel, Feibel, Shamansky and Golden.
Then it became Feibel, and then Sid Golden was appointed by Jim Rhodes to a
judgeship and it became Feibel, Feibel, Shamansky and Rogovin, Dick Rogovin. I
don’t know if that name rings a bell with you.
Interviewer: Yes it does. I know Dick very well.
Feibel: And Dick was with us until our firm merged with, he was with us when
our firm joined with another firm and became Gurin, Merritt, Feibel, Saug and
Cohen with offices in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Florida. And then a number of
partners left that firm including my father and I and went to Benny Friedlander.
At that point, Dick went to Bricker and Eckler.
Interviewer: Dick Rogovin?
Feibel: Dick Rogovin.
Interviewer: Rogovin, uh huh.
Feibel: Bob Shamansky, my father and I went with Benny Freidlander.
Interviewer: And then after the Beggs Building, where were your offices?
Feibel: We moved here in 1966 in these offices. I’ve been in these offices
Interviewer: At 88 E. Broad.
Feibel: 88 E. Broad, 32 years.
Interviewer: How have things changed in this building or have they?
Feibel: Well the building is continually being modernized and with any office
building, you’re going to have a, they’re constantly changing. If you took
an X-ray of any office building in the city today and then a year from now, you
would find tremendous change because they’re constantly changing. People are
coming, people are going, spaces are being reconfigured and so forth. But aside
from that, the building hasn’t changed that much. It’s pretty much the same,
the same building.
Babette: Well the Beggs Building had elevator operators, and, is that the
kind of stuff?
Interviewer: Yeah I just was curious to see how…
Feibel: Well in the Beggs Building, they didn’t have automatic elevators
until very recently. They had elevator operators generally who were black and in
uniform, who actually manually operated the elevators.
Interviewer: And with gloves on if I remember correctly.
Feibel: That was changed when Tommy and Billy Schottenstein bought the
building and then added the, completely renovated it to accommodate the
University Club and so forth and then… But the Beggs Building was a very
nice building. But I was only in the Beggs Building essentially from’59 to ’66
so I was only there for seven years. I’ve been here for 32.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So this is pretty much home to you now?
Feibel: Yeah. And I am the partner in charge of the Columbus office of Benny
Friedlander effectively since l984.
Interviewer: Let’s just, let me take you back to your childhood and let’s
talk about little things that maybe will help you remember what it was like when
you were a kid. About, did you go to movies when you were a youngster? Did you
go to movies? Do you remember how much they cost at that time?
Feibel: Well I know I used to walk from my home in Eastmoor to Alan Weiler’s
home on 2424 Bexley Park.
Interviewer: You remember that address, huh?
Feibel: And from there we walked to the Drexel Theater where we would watch
Interviewer: The Drexel Theater where it is now?
Feibel: Where it is now.
Interviewer: On East Main Street?
Feibel: On East Main Street.
Babette: And they had trolley tracks.
Feibel: Had trolley tracks. But anyhow, and they had, the newsreels, I can’t
recall the name, but, you know. . . .
Interviewer: Well we didn’t have television then so we got a lot of news
from the newsreels.
Feibel: Right, we had newsreels. They also had a, not a cartoon but a serial.
You came back each week, like “The Perils of Pauline” or whatever.
Interviewer: So you wanted to follow it?
Feibel: And then they usually had a cowboy movie. And so I would do that. And
I would then walk back with him or whoever was with us to Mykrantz Drug Store,
which was on the corner of Cassady and Main, for a soda or a phosphate.
Babette: The Glass Bowl was there.
Babette: It was at the corner and Mykrantz was where Nancy’s Stationery is.
Feibel: Right. I guess the corner of Dawson and Main.
Babette: Mykrantz was a five and ten.
Feibel: No it was a drug store, dear. Whatever, and then I would walk home.
When I wanted to go downtown, I would walk from my home to Drexel, pick up the
trolley which stopped at Drexel and go downtown.
Interviewer: Did the trolley go down Drexel? Is that what you…
Feibel: No the trolley went down Main Street but the tracks stopped on Main
Street at Drexel. That was where it stopped.
Interviewer: Okay. Well you did a lot of walking but I think everybody did at
Feibel: So I don’t remember what the cost of it was. My recollection is
that a phosphate was 25 cents.
Interviewer: I think ice cubes cost more than that now. When did you get your
Feibel: My first car?
Interviewer: Uh huh. Were you out of college or…
Feibel: I don’t remember. I just don’t remember.
Interviewer: You probably had a car when you were in college.
Feibel: I clearly took a car to Yale, yes, not my first year but my second
year, which generally had lots of parking tickets on it. And one time my parents
came up to visit me and pulled into the spot where they saw my car being towed
away for non-payment of parking tickets.
Interviewer: Oh, oh. Caught; you were caught in the act.
Feibel: But I just don’t know. That was my first car and I don’t know
what it was. I’ve never been attached to cars. I’m still not attached to cars.
Interviewer: It’s just a necessity.
Feibel: As long as they get you from here to there.
Interviewer: Okay. Do you remember some of the other stores on East Main
Street? You mentioned Mykrantz and…
Interviewer: Pauls, what was that.
Feibel: It was a, Paul’s Food Shoppe. It was a grocery store. Beavers and
Horn was down on Main Street west of Nelson Road.
Interviewer: What was Beavers and Horn?
Feibel: A supermarket. Not a supermarket, a food market. Those were the two
because there were no stores out in Eastmoor when I was growing up. I mean that
was; there was a service station where it is now at Harding and Broad. The rest
of that was fields with a pond in back to the west. And so my parents bought
their food at either Paul’s or Beavers and Horn and I think each of whom
delivered. I remember Hepp’s Delicatessen on 18th and Livingston or 18th and
Main. I can’t really remember where that was.
Babette: Wentz Pharmacy.
Feibel: Wentz Pharmacy which is now…
Interviewer: Graeter’s Ice Cream.
Feibel: Graeter’s Ice Cream. And there was an Eastmoor Drive-In I think was there and there was Swenson’s Drive-In. All these were I believe just east of Gould Road on either
side. There was Swenson’s Drive-In…
Babette: You’d come up in your car and then a car hop…
Interviewer: Now tell us what a drive-in is. Somebody’s going to listen to
this and not know what a drive-in is.
Feibel: A drive-in is a place where you could pull your car, it’s a
restaurant but there’s no eating space. It was like an old-fash—-, it’s
like, more like the current fast food except for the fact that instead of
eating, getting your food through a window and then leaving, what you did is you
pulled up to a parking spot. An attendant came out and took your order, went
back and then when they brought your order, they usually brought it on a tray
that they hooked on the outside of your window. And so your food stayed there
and you brought the food in, food or drink, and you ate it and when you were
ready to leave, you honked or something and the attendant came out and picked up
the tray off your car and you left. And it was also a hangout where people would
Babette: Up in Ann Arbor was out first, that’s where McDonald’s started,
in Ann Arbor.
Interviewer: Just hold on. I’m going to stop this here. Okay.
Babette: Up in McDonald’s was one of the very first McDonald’s. Up in Ann
Arbor where we lived was the very first McDonald’s which was, they had the
golden arches and they had a sign on there that they had sold 25 hamburgers or
something. I mean it was just unbelievable. It was the only one in the country.
Interviewer: It’s got a few zeros now I’m sure.
Feibel: Yes, right.
Babette: And they’ve sold billions. And we couldn’t get over that you
could just drive up and go right through there and not have to have someone come
out with this tray to hang on your car.
Interviewer: It was really a phenomenon wasn’t it? Let me find out a little
more about what you remember as a youngster, what you did for socialization. Do
you remember belonging to any clubs?
Feibel: Well my family belonged to Winding Hollow Country Club which was out
on Westerville Road and I spent the summers as a child typically at Winding
Hollow with friends who were children of my parents’ friends. And that’s…
Babette: There was a cook there, Sam Branch. He had a big, black coal stove
and he used to cook hamburgers for everybody.
Feibel: One of the favorite things was a very, very large hamburger smothered
with cooked onions called a “Lollapalooza”.
Babette: Only you would remember that.
Interviewer: It brings on heartburn just thinking about it, right?
Feibel: And it was very good. Anyhow, my father was President of Winding
Hollow Country Club a little bit later. Babette’s father earlier had been
President of Winding Hollow Country Club. Back in those days, a president of
communal organization was a much more “hands on” creature than it
appears they are today. I think that’s something that’s unfortunate that we’re
missing because what we now have are people who are heads of organizations are
merely figureheads. But I remember when Babette’s father and my father were
Presidents of Winding Hollow. They spent a lot of time out there. They would be
walking through the kitchen. They would be…
Interviewer: It was serious work.
Babette: I wanted to say something about Winding Hollow. There was no air
conditioning and I remember they had this great big screened-in porch like a
veranda type of thing that, you know, and so everybody just kind of — the older
people sat on the porch, you know, with the fans going, the fans in the ceiling,
because there was no air conditioning. And when it was hot out, that’s what
you did and then the kids would play around the swimming pool. And they had this
little bitty swimming pool that they still had when they left there, this place
on Westerville Road.
Feibel: And indeed our wedding took place at Winding Hollow Country Club in
August, hot, around the swimming pool.
Babette: But it was cold that night and people had to bring out their mink
stoles. In those days people word mink stoles and they…
Interviewer: I was going to ask you about your wedding. Do you want me to
hold off until we talk to Babette more?
Feibel: Yeah. So anyway as little kids, that is what we did. Once I got older, I
worked in the summers as did Babette. I worked…
Interviewer: How old were you when you…
Feibel: Well when I was in high school, I worked one or two summers at the
Columbus Depot slinging truck tires out of railroad cars which was fine because
it was conditioning for football. I played high school football. And the other thing that I did actually between my junior and senior year in high school, I was out at Winding Hollow quite a bit. I was with Johnny Resler who had just graduated from the Columbus Academy and was going to Bowdoin. And he was teaching me how to be a better football player, I mean a guard.
Babette: He went to Colby.
Feibel: He went to Colby, I’m sorry. Yeah.
Interviewer: And he was a little older?
Feibel: He was a year older. I ended up as Captain of the Columbus Academy football team.
Babette: With the worst record they ever had.
Feibel: Yeah. We had no wins and one tie.
Interviewer: They’re not known for their athletic abilities.
Babette: Well he had 13 in his graduating class.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Do you remember some of the guys that you graduated from
high school with?
Feibel: Yeah well two things. Number one, I remember a number of friends who
were in my class at Bexley with whom we’re still very friendly. This is the
Class of ’51 at Bexley. Many of them married women who were in the Class of
1954 at Bexley or CSG so Babette was in the Class of ’54 so we have maintained
very, very strong relationships with a group that is primarily not Jewish,
although there are some Jewish couples. But I mean they come to all of our
weddings and so forth. We go to their weddings. They come to our Bar Mitzvahs.
We go to their…
Feibel: Yeah. And so we have maintained a very strong relationship with those
people, not all of whom were in either CSG or the Academy. They were CSG,
Academy or Bexley. Clearly I remember the members of my class because it was so small.
My freshman year at the Columbus Academy, we had 13 in the class and one of them
was David Hamilton who lived on Fair Avenue just east of Remingon on the south
side of the street, as a matter of fact, in the house that Sid Levoff now lives
in, was killed in a tractor accident. Shortly thereafter, Andy Kerry who lived
in Plain City joined our class and he was killed two days before graduation in
an automobile accident so we…
Interviewer: Those things are imprinted in your mind, I’m sure.
Feibel: Yeah, right.
Babette: He had David Mad—, he has some Jewish guys in the class.
Feibel: David Madison.
Babette: And Bobby Rosenfeld.
Feibel: Bobby Rosenfeld. I guess there were just the three of us.
Babette: At the Academy. At Bexley were Alan Weiler and…
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. So let’s see now. Let’s talk about some of
the, what downtown was like when you were growing up. Can you give us a picture
of what you remember about maybe Broad Street, High Street.
Feibel: Broad Street had a lot of trees on it, kind of over-arching and
touching each other.
Babette: I think they were elm trees…
Feibel: They were elm trees.
Babette: that died in that plague.
Interviewer: There was an elm tree disease. We had some in our yard on
Harding and they all died.
Feibel: My grandparents lived for a while on Latta Avenue which is, well a
couple blocks west of Franklin Park West and then from there they moved into the
Broadwin Hotel which is at Broad and Winner and were there until they passed
away. And Broad Street was made up of old stately homes, generally in disrepair.
Babette: When you walked into stores like Lazarus, instead of these metal and
glass cases, they had these beautiful polished wood cases with glass around them
for show cases. I mean all the wares were shown in these beautiful wooden
mahogany or some other kind of wood cases…
Interviewer: Elegant, a lot more elegant.
Babette: with beautiful brass poles on them and you would get all dressed up.
You wouldn’t think of going downtown in blue jeans or whatever. You got decked
out with your gloves and your hat and your coat and everything else and a lot of
the women used to do that day in and day out and meet for lunch down there in
the Chintz Room at Lazarus on the fifth floor and…
Feibel: And the Maramor.
Babette: And the Maramor Restaurant on Broad Street.
Interviewer: What do you remember about the Maramor?
Feibel: Well I used to go there frequently with my mother. They had wonderful
limeade with raspberry ice.
Babette: And they also had candy mint cakes. On your birthday you could go
and they’d make a triple mint cake that was…
Feibel: And as a matter of fact, our rehearsal dinner was at the Maramor and
our parents, especially Babette’s father, was very close to the person who
then owned the Maramor, Danny Deeds. Danny later became the Chief Chef for the
Wolfes at the Wigwam. I’m not sure if he’s still around or not.
Babette: Manager, he wasn’t a chef.
Feibel: And but I remember coming down to both the Palace Theater and the
Ohio Theater for movies, not for plays. I remember concerts for the Columbus Symphony at the old Veteran’s Memorial which is now COSI which is soon to become, I guess, Veteran’s
Babette: And the Hartman Theater.
Feibel: And I very much remember the Hartman Theater which was the only
Interviewer: Located where?
Feibel: Located on the southwest corner of State and Third Street where now
the Hyatt, the Park Hyatt is located.
Babette: The Hyatt on Capitol Square.
Feibel: Capitol, of course, Capitol Square. And I saw shows,
“Oklahoma”, “Carousel “. . . .
Babette: “Guys and Dolls”.
Feibel: “Guys and Dolls”, all the shows when they toured, toured
there, and it was a fairly small theater so it was very much like the, much more
like the New York theaters were in that when you see something now on stage at
the Palace or the Ohio…
Interviewer: It was much more intimate theater?
Feibel: Much more intimate, yeah. And I remember I believe that they also, in addition to street cars, had trolley buses with overhead wires and there was a trolley bus that ran out
Oak Street with, it ran on tires but it had…
Babette: They were powered by electricity that was supplied from two little
antenna that hooked into the electrical wires.
Interviewer: That was the trolley?
Feibel: Trolley bus.
Interviewer: Trolley bus, okay.
Babette: It didn’t need tracks underneath. It ran on rubber tires, not
metal wheels. But it had like two metal things that hooked into…
Feibel: With rollers that…
Feibel: the connectors that were forced up so that they hit the wire and the
bus could move right or left and those things on top were configured so they
would move and not come off the track unless the bus really went wild. There was
a very large trolley barn located on Oak and…
Feibel: No, no, not Oak and Parsons. It was much farther up. Oak and Fairwood,
or somewhere near there. And I remember Franklin Park.
Babette: We used to go to Franklin Park.
Feibel: To sled. We used to sled on the hill at Franklin Park.
Interviewer: There’s a hill at Franklin Park?
Feibel: There was. I’m not sure, I think they’ve taken it off now when
they did Ameriflora.
Interviewer: So Franklin Park was a popular meeting place?
Feibel: Right. Because in those days a lot of families, including Jewish
families, lived in the area west of Franklin Park on Latta Avenue and so forth.
And that area had become very Jewish but, well it was mixed but it became more
and more Jewish. But many Jewish families grew up on Oak Street and Bryden Road
and that and it was not, it turned into primarily a slum, probably in the late
40s and 50s.
Babette: After the war.
Interviewer: After the war?
Feibel: Yeah. And then it became, then of course it’s regentrified now.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Yeah it’s coming back. They’re working on that. Did
you find that there was a division with the Jewish community, you know, in terms
of the Reformed or German Jews and the people that went to the…
Feibel: Yeah, at the time it didn’t impact us that much.
Babette: All the Reform German-Jewish families belonged to Winding Hollow.
The others all belonged to the Excelsior Club.
Feibel: Which was on Cassady, just south of the railroad tracks now, on the
west side of the street.
Babette: And there was, the people, it was interesting because the wealthier
Orthodox and Conservative families in town chose to send their kids to Temple
Israel Religious School, called Sunday School at that time, because they wanted
them to be with the “right people”. And so you would see families like
the Yenkins, who were basically Orthodox Jews, sending their kids for religious
training out to the Reform, I mean, into the Reform Temple, you know, on Bryden
Feibel: And frankly, that is one of the things that sowed some of the seeds
of the division I talked about earlier, between the Classical Reform Jews at
Temple Israel. When I was a little kid, when I was confirmed, that’s all there
were was Classical Reform Jews at Temple Israel.
Interviewer: You refer to Classical. Is that, can you give us a little bit of
Feibel: I would say Classical is as little Hebrew as you can possibly have
and still consider yourself Jewish.
Babette: An organ.
Feibel: Organ. No chants but songs that are set to basically Christian-type
music, Brahms and Beethoven and so forth, with Jewish words to them.
Babette: “God is in His Holy Temple” was one of the big songs and
they had, they have, I mean all these Temples were the same. I mean the one in
Pittsburgh, this Temple Rodef Shalom, they all had this kind of thing. They had
a pipe organ. They had…
Feibel: No yarmulkas or tallises.
Babette: Absolutely, you wouldn’t show up in…
Feibel: Rabbi Folkman used to appear in an academic robe.
Babette: They had, they used the Union Prayer Book, a
black prayer book, the Union Prayer Book that was all in
English. Well there was some Hebrew in it.
Babette: They had a Hebrew side to it but it was never recited.
Feibel: I mean, the Shema was still there and maybe the Kaddish.
Babette: And the Boruch Hu, and that was it. You never did any kind of…
Feibel: It was basically, it was an attempt to make Judaism like Christianity
in terms of the kind of service it was.
Interviewer: But still hang on to some little bit of Judaism?
Feibel: Well it was still Jewish. I mean you can read the Union Prayer Book
Babette: It’s the same prayers they use now. They just have a different
focus. And they use a lot more Hebrew and a lot more, you rarely see an
organ being played. They go to the folksie…
Interviewer: What would you consider present-day that Temple, Traditional or
Babette: I think it’s more traditional.
Feibel: Our Temple is much more Traditional and it’s funny because some of
the older congregants are very offended by our worship form now because they
feel that we have become Orthodox. Now one of the things that’s happened as I’m
sure you’re aware, is that it started with “black is beautiful” but
as the Reform Movement started to get more Traditional, the Conservative
Movement started to get more Traditional. Some people, cynics say, to back away
so they weren’t too close to Reform. And as the Conservative got more
Traditional, the Orthodox got more Traditional to try to make sure that there
was a distinction. And I mean you know…
Babette: You know at Agudas Achim, well you know, you have…
Feibel: Yeah, I mean. Agudas Achim a lot of people think is just very
Traditional- Conservative now. But the other thing is that, see, that’s what they’re turning
out of HUC, the Hebrew Union College. They don’t, there’s nobody, there isn’t
a rabbi coming out who even knows what Classical Reform is. These young people
don’t know it. They’ve all gone to Temple camps and they’ve gone, you know, the national, you know, the whole national movement has moved this way and so you don’t, you rarely find a congregation, once the Gates of Prayer came out which is the new prayer book which is new, it’s twenty-some odd years old, but once that came out, Classical Reform was dead. And there’s just nobody there who could even lead a service with it anymore because that isn’t how they’re being trained.
Interviewer: Yeah. It’s interesting how it turned, just the tide.
Feibel: But actually what Babette said is very true and it might be offensive
to some people but at least my parents always felt that the more Orthodox, or
more Traditional Jews in the community wanted their kids to socialize with the
Reform Jews because that was the Lazaruses and the Gundersheimers and so forth.
Babette: The Levys. All the wealthy families in town…
Feibel: And the prominent families.
Interviewer: The right people?
Feibel: Then, yeah because the United Jewish Fund was all Reform. The power
structure was all Reform and they certainly looked down their nose at the
eastern European Jews. In fact, when we were engaged, Babette’s grandmother,
which is funny because Babette’s father was a German-Jew but her mother’s
family was eastern European, just as in my situation, asked Babette whether I
was a German-Jew or not. And Babette said, “What difference does it
Babette: I never heard of such a thing, you know.
Interviewer: You didn’t know there was a difference.
Babette: I didn’t know anything about it.
Feibel: But looking back, I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back on
it now, the people at the Excelsior Club couldn’t get in to Winding Hollow.
Babette: And when Jerry Meyer became President of Winding Hollow, he was the
first, I think he was, I’m not sure.
Feibel: He was – he was.
Babette: I don’t want to be… I think he was the first President who
ever came from another congregation other than Temple Israel, of Winding Hollow.
Interviewer: So they were…
Babette: And that’s recent. I mean he…
Feibel: Now things have more or less reversed themselves because the power
base in the Jewish community is primarily the Orthodox community. And, well one
of the things is, you have the Lazarus family has lost a lot of power. The Levy
family has no power. I mean, the Union’s gone and so…it’s, you know…
Interviewer: The end.
Feibel: Are we out?
Interviewer: Yeah, we’re at the end of Side B of Tape l. I’m going to
fast forward and wind this tape up. Just give me a minute to switch over here.
Okay. We’re on the second tape, Side A. Do you think maybe at this point we
can get the microphone on Babette and let her give us some background?
Interviewer: Okay now Babette, now we’re talking to you about your family.
Let’s start with your parents. Tell us who…
Babette: Do you want my whole name?
Interviewer: Yeah I want your name first, right.
Babette: Babette, B-A-B-E-T-T-E. Abel is my maiden name. My middle name was Jean when I was not married and now my last name is Feibel. I was born in 1937 in Columbus at Grant Hospital.
Interviewer: Do you have a Jewish name?
Babette: I don’t have a Jewish name. Abel. One of my nursery mates was
Millard Cummins as well as my twin sister. So the three of us were in the
nursery together. You’re ready to go back a long way here.
Interviewer: Yeah. Okay. Tell us about your parents.
Babette: My mother was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and met my father
through, was one of six children, the youngest of six children. Her mother died
in childbirth with her. Her name was Gussie. Her name was to be Ruth Jean
Brenner, which was her last name. When her mother died, they tacked Gussie on
the front of it because that was her mother’s name.
Interviewer: She was, hold on. I just want to get…
Babette: She was raised by what was sort of a foster home because my
grandfather, Max Brenner, was unable to care for six children plus an infant so
they kind of farmed
my mother, they didn’t send her out to be adopted or anything but they just
had another, she was living in another place to be taken care of. Her, one set
of her siblings were twins which is where the twins in our family come from.
They’re all through our generation. Her mother’s maiden name was Long and
the Long familly emigrated from, where did they come from dear?
Babette: From Lithuania and there were a slew of them. They’re just, I
think there were twelve of them altogether. And they, when they came through
Ellis Island, they couldn’t understand what the name was so they were given
the name Long ’cause they were all very tall, thin people. My grandfather
Brenner came from Russia and he came to Harrisburg and actually…
Interviewer: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania?
Babette: Pennsylvania, and was a peddler and actually put his wares on his
back and traipsed through the Appalachian Mountains to Chattanooga to settle
Interviewer: How did he get to Harrisburg? What made him…
Babette: I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I’m going to find out. I have one
cousin who I think might know but I have no, I never, my mother really knew very
little, I know very little about her family history because she was, her mother
was dead and her father died, well when she was grown, but she was a young
married woman before she was really interested in finding out about family
Interviewer: Who were some of the relatives on your mother’s side of the
family, aunts, uncles, cousins?
Babette: She had twin brothers, Herman and I can’t even, I’m not sure what his twin brother was because he died of whooping cough when he was four years old. Her older sister was Jeanette, who was 12 years older than she was. She had Annabelle who was ten years older than she was. They each had one son apiece.
Interviewer: What were their married names?
Babette: Jeanette’s was Orken, O-R-K-E-N and Annabelle was Rubenstein,
R-U-B-E-N-S-T-E-I-N. She, Jeanette’s son, Jeanette was married to Human Orken. Their
son became a doctor, graduated from Vanderbilt Medical School, married a woman
from Monroe, Louisiana, who had served in World War II, like people from that
age did and when he got out he decided to take another tour of duty to pass some
of his medical schooling and was stationed over in Guam with his wife and two
children and a plane crashed into their house and tragically killed all of them
from which my aunt and uncle never really recovered. So that whole family is
basically gone. Herman, who is one of the twins, was married to Ruth Barchet and
another brother Robert married her sister, Helen Barchet, those four. Herman and
Ruth never had children. Helen and Robert had two sons who, the Barchets came
from Summerville, South Carolina. Robert, the younger of the two brothers,
served in the navy and was in the middle, in World War II was out in the
Atlantic, out some- where in the ocean, I’m not sure which ocean it was and
that ship sank. He was the only survivor and he sort of never got over all that.
It was a tremendous trauma to him emotionally and his life was, he lived quite a
long life but it was always colored with this tragedy that sort of affected him
emotionally. Then my grandfather, when my mother was 16, remarried Tillie, I can’t
think of what her maiden name was, and had one more child who is my mother’s
step-sister. She’s the only, she and…
Babette: Half-sister, I’m sorry. She and Helen, the wife of Robert are the
only two remaining living of her siblings.
Feibel: Her name was.
Babette: My mother’s half-sister is Margie…
Babette: Brenner and she’s married to Lee Siegel and they live in
Livingston Manor, New York, which is up in the Catskills and we are quite close
to them. My, we have a lot of interesting, the family was very entrenched in
Chattanooga and when we’ve gone down there to visit, we can remember going
down and, I always say “we” because I was always going with my sisters
but when my twin sister and I were in eighth grade, we went down to visit my
aunt without my parents and they had to take us everywhere and it seemed like
everybody was our relative or our connection or our something. And I can
remember they had drinking fountains that said “Colored” and
“White” and I was just appalled by that and then. . . .
Interviewer: Did you ever see that in Columbus?
Babette: You never saw that in Columbus. And then they had this incline
railroad that runs up Lookout Mountain and of course we had to ride on it. We
wanted to stay in the back of it and we weren’t allowed to because that’s
where colored were supposed to go. They’d keep, colored were on one side and
white on the other. They never mixed. And it was very, very Southern there. My
grandfather was like Jimmy’s grandfather, a dry goods store that stayed around
for many, many years in Chattanooga. It was well known and the family…
Interviewer: What was the name of the store?
Babette: The name of the store was Brenner and Rubenstein and they sold, it
was at the corner of Market and Main in Chattanooga, which is no longer, the
store is no longer there. It’s been torn down. They’ve done a lot of
Feibel: It was a major intersection.
Babette: But we, all the family homesteads are still there and my mother and
father were married up on top of Signal Mountain and we have been to the home
that they were married in. They were married in 1936 right after the Depression
and my grandfather was quite a wealthy man. They owned a lot of property as well
as having the store and was quite well known in the community. My father came
from Cleveland and his father was in the carriage business and was quite
well-to- do. In fact, as a side note, his best friend was Benesch of Benesch,
the man who started the current law firm.
Interviewer: Oh, here we go back to the…
Babette: Right. Right. It goes back to the, Alfred Benesch who never had
children or anything but he was a pall bearer at my grandfather’s funeral. He
was his very closest friend. My grandfather died unfortunately when my father
was twelve and my grandmother was left very well off and my father had one
brother, Armand Abel, who was also a member of this community for many years and
he and my, he went to Cornell and…
Babette: Armand went to Cornell. My father when he got to the age of
college, my grandmother, it was during the Depression and they had lost all
their money. So he had to, my father had to, see, you know, had to go to work.
So he went into Fred Lazarus at the time and said, “I think I can run your
auto department better,” at that time they sold accessories for
automobiles. Automobiles were fairly, were something that were a little more
novel and they sold, I mean they were new, and they sold different attachments
for automobiles, things like seat covers and little heaters for cars ’cause
they weren’t built into the car and tires and so forth. And so that, my
father, he was impressed with my father and he let him have a chance and that’s
how my father started his business which was the Abel Corporation and was a
leased tire and auto accessory department in all the major department stores
around the country.
Interviewer: But no longer connected with Lazarus? He was on his own?
Babette: He was on his own. He had just gotten his experience there.
Feibel: Federated Department Stores were primarily, he was very active, he
had lots of stores, lots of leased departments in all the Federated stores
around the country. And he was quite a “mover and shaker” in the 40s and 50s
in this community. He was spearhead of, well, let me go back a minute. During
World War II, we had to leave this community. You, tires were rationed, they had
little coupons but you had, you couldn’t, well rubber was rationed so they
weren’t even making tires. Gasoline was rationed. You used little coupons for
that. You were given so many coupons and you couldn’t buy any more than they
gave you. And so he, and my father was not able to be drafted so he decided to
go to Washington and work in the Office of Price Administration in a civilian
wartime job. And then, because they were regulating prices to keep prices from
rising when things were in such short supply. And then he and his brother moved
to New York for two years and ran a stationery business until you were able to
start being in the tire business and so forth again, at which time we came back
to Columbus. We were, when my sister and I were born, we lived on Hawthorne
Avenue which was down near where Jimmy’s family was, behind East High School.
Shortly thereafter we moved out to Chesterfield which is where we got to know
each other in the sandbox. Jimmy’s mother always had a fascination for twins
and my grandmother used to walk us through the neighborhood in the stroller.
Twins in those days were a novelty. Now they’re a dime a dozen because they
have these fertility drugs. But in those days if you were a twin, you were sort
of a novelty.
Interviewer: Not to, I don’t want to change the subject too much, but did
your father have other siblings?
Babette: Just one brother. They were, it was a very prominent family in
Cleveland. Most of his ancestors were killed, died from the flu epidemic we’re
thinking because we’ve been up to the cemetery there and they all died around
Interviewer: In the Cleveland area?
Babette: In the Cleveland area. They’re all, a lot of them are buried in
Mayfield Cemetery. And he only had the one brother and he was married, he met his wife
at my mother and father’s wedding and ended up marrying my mother’s first
cousin who was Gladys Long and known in this community as Gladys Abel and they
were married for 24 years and 11 months when he tragically died of a heart
attack at a very young age, my uncle.
Interviewer: Did they have children?
Babette: And they had two children, Sally who was married to Charles Neustadt
and Fred who’s married to Karen Mailenderf and lives in Cincinnati now. And
they, Sally had three children and Fred has two. And Fred Abel was named after
my grand- father who was also Fred Abel. My grand—, I know… say this but my grandfather was in the carriage business. He had carriage supplies so it was a natural following that
my father went into auto accessories and…
Interviewer: Uh huh. Tell me about your siblings.
Babette: I have a twin sister Bette who lives in this community, Bette Roth
Young. And I, we have a younger sister who’s 23.
Interviewer: Tell me who her children are.
Babette: Oh she has…
Interviewer: And who she’s married to, who she…
Babette: She’s married to Sheldon Michael Young. She was ori—, her first
marriage was to Robert Roth who was the son of Harry and Gertrude Roth, members
of this community. They were married for 22 years or so and then divorced. And
they had three children: Debbie who is 40, Diane who’s 38 and David who’s
34. David is expecting his first child. DeeDee, Diane has one child and is
expecting another and Debbie has three children. Debbie lives in Connecticut,
Diane lives in Cleveland and Diane lives in Chicago. And she, Bette is currently
married to Sheldon Michael Young, who’s a pension lawyer and was originally
from Cleveland and now lives here with her. Our younger sister is Susan. She’s
23 months younger than we are. Mother always thought she was going to be the
ugly duckling and be in the shadows because of having twin sisters but she
turned out to be quite something. She was the first woman to be President of the
American Institute of Architects, as well as the first Jew to get that position.
She’s a world- renowned architect, you know, gets flown all over the world
literally to speak and what have you.
She lives in Philadelphia. She was married to Leonard Frankel who
is, Betty and Herb Schiff fixed them up. He is Betty Schiff’s nephew. And they were married for ten years, had three children. They had Andy who is an orthopedic surgeon in Westchester, Pennsylvania, and is 38. They had Tommy who is 36 and lives in Florida and is in the family Frankel Building business. And they had Elizabeth who is married and has two children and lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania. They divorced after ten years and a year later she married William Maxman and that’s the name she goes under, Susan Abel Maxman. She, they were married for 26 and a half years and he passed away two years ago of some kidney cancer. And Susan actually raised his three kids and her three
kids. And that’s my family.
Interviewer: Uh huh. But she’s still very actively involved, is she?
Babette: Oh yeah. She’s a world-renowned architect. She, in fact, she just
did a project here tearing, she’s into a lot of historic preservation but she
just did, she was hired to be the architect for Neil Hall. They just tore Neil
Hall down. They were trying to preserve it but it was un-preservable.
Interviewer: Where was Neil Hall?
Babette: On Ohio State’s campus. And they’re making it into an athletic, some sort of an athletic, a facility for athletes to study and sleep in I think.
Interviewer: Where did you go to school?
Babette: We all went to, well we originally all went to Bexley. Well we
originally all went to, we lived on, you want to know the houses we lived in? We lived on, we moved from, we were, Bette and I were born on Hawthorne and then we moved to South Chesterfield when Susan came. And then we built a house on Sherwood Road which is still there, between Roosevelt and Gould; that we lived in for six months when World War II made it necessary for us to move. I know exactly where I was when World War II broke out. I was four years old and I was at the corner of Parsons and Broad and there was this
furniture store called Schorr-Kettner that had a grass house out in front of it that had furniture in it. And my father had the radio on and turned to me and said, “Oh what is Mother going to say?” and explained to us about this was starting. And we then moved to Washington.
Interviewer: Why was he concerned about mother, everybody was concerned at
that time, but…
Babette: He was just so shocked that the war had broken out. And we went back
to, we lived in Washington and New York which were on the east coast. So we had
to suffer, I can remember very clearly as children, these blackouts. They would
have these air raids and you had to not have one light on. They didn’t care if
you were living or dead. You could not turn a light on, light a match, anything.
We were put in these rooms with these blackout curtains and had to just wait
till these air raids were over and you never knew if they were the real thing or
they weren’t. It’s kind of what goes on in Israel now but we were really living through it. Then when the war was over we moved back and had a home on North Stanwood between Broad and Main, I’m sorry, between Broad and Denver in North Bexley. But there was no Maryland Avenue School so we went to Cassingham School to begin with and then the three of us went to CSG and graduated from CSG. And we, and then our family, when my sister was in eighth grade in ’48 or ’49, built a house; it was the first house on the street, on Brentwood between Roosevelt and Gould. And that was our family home for a long time. And then my parents divorced after 31 years and each remarried. My mother remarried twice, both husbands predeceasing her. And then my father was married once and she died, married to the second wife. So that’s pretty much the family.
Interviewer: Tell us, well we’ve got a little bit of your background when
you came into Jim’s life but tell us about your wedding, how did that…
Babette: We were married at, Temple Israel on Bryden Road didn’t have a
center aisle so no one was ever mar—, no wedding was ever held there ’cause
you couldn’t walk down the aisle. So we were married, it was very in vogue to
do this at Winding Hollow but we decided to be married outside around the pool.
And of course that night it was 40 degrees when it should have been 80. And all
these women had to put on their mink stoles and…
Interviewer: You lucked out with the…
Babette: Right and we had a beautiful wedding with a lot of the, all the old
family friends and went on a honeymoon to the Fontainebleu in Miami which had
just gone up and that was THE IN place to take your honeymoon.
Interviewer: Yeah it was pretty plush.
Interviewer: It’s still there.
Babette: Right. So we had, that’s what, we spent a week there and then we
went up to Ann Arbor so that Jimmy could finish law school.
Interviewer: I know you’re in business now. How did that develop?
Babette: Well we had…
Interviewer: You raised your family?
Babette: We had ra—, I, we had four children. The youngest went to first
grade when the oldest went to college and so I had been busy…
Interviewer: Dump some of this out. You’re telling me about your, how your
Babette: I was very active in the community all through. Both of us had been.
And I did a lot of volunteer work, mainly with Council of Jewish Women. I ran a
sewing group with my aunt Gladys Abel, for the women over there. We made, it had
started during the war when they needed bandages and things like that made, and
then they no longer needed that kind of thing so they just met sewing needs in
the community. And there weren’t really a lot of sewing needs but it served as
sort of an occupational-type thing for the Heritage House. And we used to go
over to Heritage House and take this sewing group. I did, and I did a lot of
other volunteer work in the community and then was asked to join the Junior
League, which I was the first Jewish member and I was very torn about going in
there because they didn’t have Jewish members.
Interviewer: Tell us what Junior League is.
Babette: Junior League is an organization of women in Columbus that at the
time in the 50s was very selective about who, you had to be invited in and
practically have a pedigree, or at least I thought so. And I thought it was just
a bunch of women having tea parties but it turned out it was a bunch of women
doing really motivating things in the community, were responsible for a lot of
major action in the community. And this particular year three Jewish people were
invited to join. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do that or not because I
didn’t want to get criticized, you know, of trying to be Christian or
whatever. Well I finally made the decision that somebody had to break down the
barrier and so all three of us actually joined and…
Interviewer: Who were the others?
Babette: The others were Linda Yenkin, and she lived in Boston at the time so
she wasn’t even an issue and…
Feibel: I thought it was Judy Yenkin.
Babette: It was both. And Judy Yenkin who is now Judy Brachman.
Feibel:… Judy Lazarus.
Babette: Oh I’m sorry, it was not Linda Yenkin. It was Peggy Lazarus. I’m
not sure but I know Judy Yenkin was one of them.
Feibel: And Peggy Lazarus, yeah.
Interviewer: Judy Yenkin is now Judy…
Babette: Judy Brachman.
Feibel: Peggy Lazarus is now Peggy Schwartz.
Babette: Anyway this gave me the opportunity to do a lot of volunteer work in
the community and I, when my, when Jonathan went to first grade and Julie went
to college, I thought, you know, I have too much energy, I was born with too
much energy so I thought, “What am I going to do with the rest of my
life?” So I started, I always liked to do crafts so I started knitting
sweaters for teddy bears and Youthland Store here bought the teddy bears and
Interviewer: Youthland was a store?
Babette: Yeah a children’s store and they would order the teddy bears and
then I would make sweaters that said “BHS” for Bexley High School and
“UA”. I couldn’t put a lot of lettering on it ’cause it was all hand knit. And this, pretty soon, I mean they just kept selling out of them and I thought, “Well I ought to be ordering these bears myself,” and going to drug stores around town and so forth, so I started doing that. And before I knew it, I couldn’t handle this knitting so I hired, I decided to run an ad
and try to hire some people and my attorney-husband said, “No one’s going
to answer this ad.” And I had a hundred people answer this ad for knitting
at home and I had to decide how I was going to hire these, who I was going to
hire. Well I happened to have a lot of handicap-type people, people who had to
stay at home. Somebody had a brain-damaged child, another one was deaf. I
decided these people really need the work and they can’t do other things and
they’re home a lot. So I started hiring people like that for my business. One
thing led to another and we got national marketing and it’s a long story that
would take up a whole ‘nother day of your time but it’s become a big teddy
bear and doll business.
Interviewer: What’s the name of your business?
Babette: Abel Creations. My husband, I wanted to call it “The Educated
Bear” which is what the name of the teddy bear was but he, my, Jimmy said,
“If you start making dolls or doing something else, that won’t be
good.” So the umbrella name is Abel Creations.
Feibel: Yeah and her father’s company was called “The Abel Corporation”.
Interviewer: Okay so you…
Babette: So I used my maiden name ’cause, in fact, his mother was very
insulted. “Why didn’t you use the name Feibel?” And I said, “‘Cause
no one could pronounce it or spell it. Abel nobody has too much trouble
Interviewer: Well it became successful though with the name…
Feibel: Tell her about the Russians.
Babette: Oh we, oh also I wanted, I should mention that we’ve been foster
parents to over 60 kids.
Interviewer: Yeah I want to get to that but…
Interviewer: Let’s wrap up your business. How many people do you have
working for you now?
Babette: I have, it varies, it fluctuates around 20. And depending. And they’re
all over the country actually, people knitting all over the country. We send the
knitting to them and they send it back and…
Interviewer: So they’re pretty much at home and then they send…
Babette: We have sales repping organizations and different sales techniques
that handle this… and…
Interviewer: Where’s your office?
Babette: My office is at 123 N. Hamilton Road which is at Hamilton and Broad
here in Columbus and my father’s of—, the Abel Corporation that my father
ran, was at 500 N. Hamilton. So when we were putting the sign up originally, I
said, “He’s looking down and smiling.”
Interviewer: So history repeats.
Babette: Right. I always had a yen for business I guess. So I, it keeps me
busy and I keep a lot of people busy that really couldn’t have jobs otherwise.
Interviewer: That’s great. So you’re shipping these…
Babette: All over the country.
Interviewer: All, and they’re still bears?
Babette: Teddy bears and dolls.
Interviewer: And dolls too?
Babette: I had, see I, oh, I have to tell one of the stories ’cause I
Feibel:… queen and all that kind of stuff.
Interviewer: Yeah tell us about…
Babette: We’ve made bears for all k—, is that what you mean, for all kind
of celebrities or people, the Queen of England and different movie stars and…
Interviewer: How do they find out about you?
Babette: And Barbara Bush. Different ways some of them, there was a group
called the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club in New York that is full of a lot
of celebrity- types and people like the President of Revlon and those kind of
things. They use them as centerpieces every year for their event, the dolls. If
you buy a table, you get your name on the back of this doll and then the front
of it has Madison Square Boys and Girls Club with little dolls around the bottom
and so they have a lot of famous people there. They’ve had Oprah Winfrey and
this one and that one and they always send me pictures of my dolls. They always
have one made for them, so…
Interviewer: Well that’s very satisfying, isn’t it?
Babette: It’s, but the most satisfying thing is that I have one, the best
thing that’s ever happened to me in my business that, I had a, the only Jewish
person I had knitting when I hired these knitters was a woman by the name of
Rose Wexler. She was a, she was married and recently widowed and had no
Interviewer: Here in Columbus?
Babette: Here in Columbus. And she, on the High, and another lady here in
town, Sonny Ghitman had just lost her mother and so they kind of got together
and Sonny kind of adopted Rose and would have her for all the holidays. Rosh
Hashanah rolled around some time in the late 70s, 1980 probably, and Rose, I had
been trying to teach Rose how to use a knitting machine which is what we
switched to. And she couldn’t, she had trifocals and she wanted to be, well
she just couldn’t get it. So anyway she was having Rosh Hashanah dinner at
Sonny’s one night and she was seated next to Steve Rosenthal who was then in
charge of placing Russian immigrants. And at that time people couldn’t get out
of Russia but people who did get out of Russia really had, were made of really
top notch stuff at that time.
Interviewer: What was the year?
Babette: In the 80s, early 80s. I can’t remember if it was ’80 or ’81.
Anyhow…So she was seated next to Steve Rosenthal and he started making
conversation with her and “What do you do?” “Well I knit these teddy bear sweaters to keep busy but I can’t, I’m trying to get on this knitting machine.” He dropped his fork and he said, “I just took four generations of a family off of a plane. They came from Russia three days ago with knitting machines under their arm.” And I am the only person in America who would use people with knitting machines. So he just, he couldn’t believe it and he said, “Do you think she’d have room for these people?” So he called me the next day and he had taken this six-year old child Lisa, her parents were Irene and Vladimir, they were in their 20s. Their parents were Eda and Leonid, and then the grandmother Dina, who was in her 70s. And I went over to Barkley Square where these people settled. Some of them
lived, one group of them lived in Barkley Square and the other group lived in the Virginia Lee Apartments where a lot…
Interviewer: Virginia Lee?
Babette: Uh huh. And they had their resume. They had all these beautiful
hand-knit clothes that they had made in Russia and their knitting machines and…
Interviewer: These are adult clothes?
Babette: These were clothes for people. The workmanship on them was
absolutely magnificent. They used all this imported Italian yarn. You couldn’t
have worn the things because you looked like you had a costume on. They made clo—,
they ended up making clothes for me later on and I could never wear them to
anything because they were, I still have the clothes.
Interviewer: Too decorative?
Babette: They were just not stylish, you know, they weren’t in American
style. What had happened to them was that they, their, the ones that were in
their 50s, he was an engineer, she was a pediatrician. And the ones that were in
their 20s, she was a teacher and he was an engineer. And when they said they
wanted to emigrate to America, they lost their jobs. And for two years they had
to find a way to support themselves. Well in Russia, if you go in and say,
“I want a blouse,” they hand you a size 10 blouse. You don’t look
through a rack of size 10 blouses. So anybody who could have any kind of
clothing that was different, it was at a premium. So they supported themselves knitting clothing for people in Russia on the black market. And they were able to support themselves this way and they ended up, they said they couldn’t leave their knitting machines in Russia because it was their best friend. It had brought them through this crisis in their lives.
Interviewer: How big is a knitting machine?
Babette: A knitting machine looks like a little baseboard heater. It’s
about six feet long and about four inches high. And it’s a row of latch hooks.
Well theirs, they, they, we use a Japanese import. Theirs were made over there
somehow. Theirs were like if you were to use a washer with a wringer instead of
an automatic washer. You could run along with the yarn. They said they had
dreamed of owning machines like we had here. They had dreamed of it. It would
have taken a year of their husband’s salary and they…
Interviewer: They knew that there were other machines, didn’t they?
Babette: But they couldn’t get them. And so I gave them each a machine. They learned English knitting. Well first of all, they learned English knitting and watching the soap operas. And they were, the 20-year-old, the daughter Irena who was in her 20s, she had somewhat of a command of English, a little bit. You know, I mean she had had some in high school and…
Feibel: She taught English in Russia.
Babette: But she, but the 50-year-old knew nothing. Well she would not go
anywhere without Irena along because she wanted her to act as an interpreter. So
I started insisting that Eda go out for lunch with me and we would take, I’d
have an English-Russian dictionary and she’d have a Russian-English dictionary
and we’d point when we got stuck on talking to each other to what we were
trying to say. So she learned English. We went to her…
Interviewer: Did you learn Russian? No, that wasn’t your goal. Okay.
Feibel: Although Laura knows Russian.
Interviewer: Your daughter?
Babette: Uh huh. And we went, and she acted as an interpreter for us too. The
first, this is, the first Friday night that they were in town, we invited them
for Shabbat dinner and we were going to take them to Temple. They had never seen
Shabbat. They had never been in a Temple. I mean, when I tell you that as I lit
Interviewer: But they were Jewish?
Babette: They were Jewish.
Interviewer: But they never could…
Babette: They knew they were Jewish. The grandmother Dina, she had been
Jewish and had been in Austria at one time because she had some remnants, she
had a Jewish prayer book that she had kept and so forth. They were not allowed
to practice one bit of Judaism ever. And so the fact that these people could
think they were Jewish when they were under all this persecution is so
phenomenal to me. I mean it’s so phenomenal. And anyway they ended up going to the
synagogue. Her husband, Eda has since passed away and her husband still belongs
to the synagogue. I mean it’s just, they…
Interviewer: Which synagogue do they belong to?
Babette: To Temple Beth Shalom.They’ve both been involved in the Temple. The Temple helped when the rest of their extended family came over ten years later. The Temple set up
the apartment for them, got all the stuff together for them, you know, shepherded them through everything. They, I mean, Jimmy and I went to their citizenship, when they took their citizenship. I took her down for the test and she was a nervous wreck. She had practiced all this stuff, things I don’t even know. What, how many stars and what kind of background does something have, the flag, and this type of thing. And she had learned everything and I said, “You don’t have anything to worry about. It’s not like Russia.”
Well we walked in this place and this place could have been in Russia. It’s this stark room. This fellow is sitting at this barren desk and kind of grunted at her.
Interviewer: Is your mike still on?
Babette: No. Kind of grunted at her and said, “Yes”. And she was so
nervous and so scared. Well she went into this thing and they asked her three
questions. “What’s the national anthem,” you know. “What’s
the capital, Washington?” you know. Very easy things. They wanted these
people to become citizens. So then when the ceremony came along, Jimmy and I
went and I mean, it was, it just, it’s so unbelievable that people can be
Jewish and not ever have, against all odds, against everything that you could
ever imagine, just because it was stamped on their birth certificate, this whole
Interviewer: Well that’s why we have a new influx of Russians but this also
happened many, many years ago.
Babette: Fifty people were…
Feibel: The grandmother spoke Yiddish.
Babette: These people were made out of, now people can get out and the people
that they come here thinking they’re coming to the land of milk and honey.
These people came because they knew it would be better for their children. And
they, she was phenomenal. In fact she is the one, I think of her every single
day of my life now that she’s passed away, because she’s the one who
designed the pattern for the doll dress. People started asking me for
personalized dolls and so, you know, and things were very seasonal at that time
in my business, I’ve since made it so that it isn’t seasonal, but after
Christmas I said, “I think we ought to try to design a doll dress.” I designed a doll and I wanted them to design a dress for it. Well everybody from here said, “Oh no they couldn’t.” Well of course these people had knit clothes all their lives. So they, she designed this doll dress and I still use the pattern today. It was phenomenal. And she, it was such a great experience. We had things like, we’d have a teddy bear that may just say, “Be my valentine” and we’d get it back in royal blue and white so you knew that these people were from another…
Interviewer: They didn’t know about Valentine’s Day, for sure. Well.
Babette: And so it was a very interesting religious experience for our kids
because they take all this for granted, you know, that you can be Jewish, that
you can go into, they took pictures in front of the meat counter at Kroger and
sent them to their family in Russia and their family thought they had to be made
out of wax. She would pick up a piece of wax fruit and say, “My family
thought it was this.” They could not believe that there was meat like this.
And so they’d come to dinner, you know, and they’d start talking about this
and our kids would hear this conversation right from the horse’s mouth, not
reading it in the…
Babette: from somebody’s who’d really been through this and it was a
great, our kids really learned a lot about freedom and what it could be like to
Interviewer: So it worked out well for your family and it worked out very
well for them for sure.
Babette: Yes, right. They were…
Interviewer: And they’re still a part of your…
Babette:… an important part, yeah, right, uh huh. So I try to keep in
touch. The 20-year-old moved to Cleve—, to Mansfield and then to Cleveland
many years ago and now they’ve taken the grandmother there and so the only one
really in town is the husband and he’s, and then the granddaughter has been at
school here. But it’s much harder to keep in touch with them now but I, then
they, when she got too ill to be able to knit, she had a heart condition and
couldn’t, you know, work. She gave her machine, she kept passing her machine
around to the Russian community, you know, another one would do it. And I had a
man for a while for, you know, to a couple of years, and so that’s the
rewarding part of my business, you know. The rest of it I can take or leave.
Interviewer: I know but that’s pretty exciting.
Interviewer: You started to tell us a while back about your foster child.
Babette: Oh in 19–, let’s see, I’m trying to think. In about ’65,
Jewish Family Services wanted a Jewish foster family in town. They were, in
1965, they were trying to find, they had to find these kids, they were in the
adoption business at that time because there wasn’t abortion, there wasn’t a
birth control pill and there were a few Jewish babies. Usually if somebody got
pregnant and had a Jewish baby, some relative would take care of it. But there
were a few that went up for adoption. And they were, if a baby came and they had
to have a Bris, they’d have the Bris at a Catholic place or at a Christian place and they didn’t really understand the whole thing of circumcision and what have you. So Pearl Feibel and Bebe Krakoff were both on the board of Jewish Family Services at the time and they had made a plea to find a family and they asked us if we knew anyone. And I knew a family that didn’t have children of their own and I thought maybe they would be interested in it.
But it turned out they weren’t. So Jimmy and I started talking about it and we decided we would do it. So that’s how we started becoming foster parents.
Interviewer: So you actually took children…
Babette: Jewish babies, yeah, little infants till they were adopted.
Interviewer: How long did they usually stay with you?
Babette: Well we have had babies as short as 12 hours and as long as 14
Interviewer: Uh huh. Babies, these are all…
Babette: They’re all infants.And after abortion and the pill came in, they had very few babies in the Jewish Family Services but they still had to maintain a Jewish foster home
so they would, but in the meantime there was this need in the community for foster homes. And they were aware of that so they asked if we would mind being one to the community so they started loaning us to the community, Children’s Hospital, Family Health and… About four years ago they actually transferred our certification to Family Counseling and… ’cause they really aren’t doing any kind of adoption or foster parenting or foster, any—, they don’t need. If they need us, they can borrow us back but it takes a lot of case work time to maintain a foster family for the agency. So they decided that they would let Family Counsel- ing and… handle it and we still, to this day, are taking babies when they need us to.
Interviewer: When you say “we”, are you talking about…
Babette: Jimmy and I. My husband and I. We have to do this as a group.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well it certainly does take a lot of cooperation…
Interviewer: at this stage of your life, especially if you still have that
interest. How many foster children would you say…
Babette: We’ve had over 60.
Interviewer: Over 60?
Babette: Uh huh. Like I say, the shortest was 12 hours and the longest was…
Interviewer: Do you know any other Jewish families that have had foster
Babette: No. I don’t, they, people look at you like they think there’s a
real stigma attached to it and it’s because of the way the paper handles it
and so forth. And it’s the most wonderful, if you knew us, I mean not us but
these people who take these children in and have them ripping wallpaper off
their walls and running away and doing all these things. And they go back and
get another set when that one leaves. They just are such dedicated people to
these kids. We make, I feel, I like to do it ’cause I love babies and I’m
very good with them and I feel like I make a difference. We do get a chance to,
now that, years ago we never knew where they came from or where they went to.
Now, since open adoptions came in, we do know and very often I’m the one who
gets to present the baby which is just such a thrill.
Interviewer: Yeah that has to be exciting.
Babette: But we do know, we can advocate. There was a Jewish family down in
Louisville who were having a private adoption through a lawyer and it turned out
this baby turned up biracial. And the mother lived with a black fellow and he,
she claimed she wasn’t pregnant with him; she was pregnant with someone else
and that this baby was Italian. But when the baby was born at University
Hospital, she had some markings that only people of black parentage have so they
weren’t sure. They were an older couple. He was 40 and worked for the A.C.L.U.
She was, and he was Jewish. She was 48 and a psychiatric social worker and not
Jewish. And they had decided to raise the kids Jewish. They were both very
liberal in their thinking so that didn’t play into it. But they just weren’t
sure that this would be the right thing for the child. And they came up from
Louisville and visited us several times and we, we really told, you know, we
could tell them what it was like ’cause we had had a little black boy for 14
months and dragged him around to services and every place that they would be
taking their child and we knew how people reacted. And we could tell, and they
ended up taking her and I just got a Christmas card from them or Hanukkah or
whatever, you know, ’cause at the holidays I hear from all the child—, a lot
of the kids, and she’s just darling. She’s six and a half and they’re just
crazy about her. The grandparents moved from Boston to Louisville to be near
Feibel: Jewish grandparents.
Babette: And stopped in Columbus overnight and insisted on having breakfast
with us ’cause they said, “You were the ones who made this child happen.”
Interviewer: Well you certainly have made a difference. Are you in touch with
very many of the other children?
Babette: We’re in touch; well you can only be in touch with the ones we’ve
had in the later years. And some of the parents want to just shove you out the win—, the
minute they get it, they don’t want to acknowledge that the child had ever
lived in a foster home and then some of them want to stay in contact. We hear
from about six or eight of them. But years ago you couldn’t.
Interviewer: Just – I want to continue this story. Hold on just a second; I’m
going to turn over. We’re reaching the end of Side A, Tape 2. Hold on. Okay,
we’re on Side B of Tape 2. We’re talking about foster children. How did this
work out with your children and your husband?
Babette: Jimmy loves babies. I mean, he’s great with them. And you can’t
do this if you don’t have the family cooperation. But the kids, it’s
Feibel:… change diapers…
Interviewer: Oh okay, good. You’re in.
Babette: The kids, the kids, it made the kids very caring and particularly
our son Jonathan, you know, I mean he learned from an early age to really feel
about kids. He could go, he got to the point where he could go with me when I
gave the baby to the person. He was very sad and so forth which made him a much
more caring person which is one of the reasons I think he’s a doctor.
Interviewer: Uh huh. What a valuable lesson that they have learned.
Babette: Uh huh.
Interviewer: And now your grandchildren are certainly aware of this.
Babette: Right. Oh it’s confusing for them. Why, you know, is that going to
happen to me? You know, the littlest one, the little ones, they’re concerned
that maybe they’re going to be shipped off…
Interviewer: Yeah that’s interesting. Well I know that it is a fascinating
part of your life and…
Babette: It’s been a meaningful part for our whole family.
Interviewer: Oh sure. And you still would continue to do this?
Babette: Yeah we had one last April. I mean, as soon as, and whenever they
call us. They just don’t have a lot of babies now…Because a lot of the girls are making their own arrangements and the agency won’t do that. So they make their own arrangements and then, so that they think they can follow them when they’re growing up and that kind of
thing. So the babies, the agencies, all the agencies in town have had a drop
off. If I were willing to take babies from Franklin County Children’s Services, then we could have them every minute. But they go back into situations that I can’t handle. When I, you know, brought a kid along and then they have to go back to a situation where they’re going to be, they could possibly be abused or mistreated, I…
Interviewer: Can’t handle that?
Babette: I can’t handle that emotionally so I don’t want to set myself up
Interviewer: How does this work with your business and your family?
Babette: Well that’s the reason I can do it. My, two of our daughters, well
three of our daughters, our two daughters and our daughter-in-law, work and we
have two nannies in the family that live, that are some women who live together
who we’ve had around for 11 years. And they take care of our babies, they take
care of our grandchildren. So they’re willing to watch whoever I’ve got if I
have to be some- where. I take them to work with me. The people who work with me know that they have to like babies. We’ve had them, you know there’s just some little,
I have all kinds of little equipment that wouldn’t be useful for anyone but me
who keeps having babies.
Interviewer: So you keep adjusting, you’ve adjusted your life to including
Babette: Right. And they can, you know, so I always have a source of babysitting which normally a person our age wouldn’t have. And the kids will help out, you know, if they need to. I can drop them off if we need to go to a dinner or a meeting or…
Feibel: You drop them off with a knitter sometimes.
Babette: And my knitting people, you know, they fight over who’s going to
take them, you know. So it works out ’cause it is hard ’cause you can’t
use anyone under 18 to baby sit so…if you were just doing this it would be hard to keep, and it’s so sporadic that you could have two or three in a row and then not have one for a year. So you can’t keep people on the hook as far as, you know, you have to keep finding new sitters all the time. But we have all the equipment and we have all the clothes set up. We have cribs set up because we have our grandchildren. We’ve always had cribs in our house so we have little Port-A-Cribs that we keep up.
Interviewer: Tell us about your grandchildren. How do you interact with them?
Do, a lot of, they live in Columbus so…
Babette: Constantly, I interact constantly. We have a lot, they’re a large
part of our life.
Interviewer: They spend a lot of time at your house?
Babette: They spend a lot of time. The ones from Cleveland are down here at
least once every couple of weeks. We have, the ones that live here, we baby sit
for a lot. I mean our daughter Julie has a very demanding job and her husband
does too and they both travel and so, like for instance, the last three days we’ve
had them at our house.
Interviewer: I don’t know if I established at the beginning of this where
your house is. Where’s your present home?
Babette: We live on, we’ve lived in the same house for 33 years. We’ve
lived in two houses in Columbus since we’ve been married. One at the corner of
James and Elbern for eight years and then we built a house in Laurel Canyon
which is out behind Mt. Carmel East Hospital, when it was a wilderness. I guess
we were following in his parents’ footsteps. And that was before the freeway,
before the hospital. People thought we were going to the other end of the world.
Interviewer: You were pioneers.
Babette: And we’ve lived there 33 years and we were, we are planning on
being carried out feet first, so…
Interviewer: Uh huh. Sounds like a house that can accommodate a lot of needs.
Babette: We have, the kids love it. We remodeled a little bit so that we didn’t
have to have M&Ms on the damask furniture in the living room. So we did a
little remodeling to make a little more space that we can be more relaxed in.
And we have put in a swimming pool. So in the summer, they’re there all the time.
Interviewer: So it’s child friendly.
Babette: Right. And of course they’re always looking at me for advice right
off the bat because I have had so much experience with babies and so has Jimmy,
Interviewer: You sure have.
Babette: So they, right from the start we bond. So we have nine of them and
they keep us busy.
Interviewer: That’s great. That’s really great. I know you people both
have been so fascinating here and I have to tell you it’s the longest
interview I’ve had, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Do you, can you tell us about
any more activities? I can’t imagine that you’re involved in anything else
Babette: Think again.
Interviewer: I suppose there are some more things that you’re involved in
in the community?
Babette: I’m the President of Columbus Speech and Hearing which is a huge
job. It involves about eight meetings a month. And I got involved in that
because that’s where Jimmy gets his hearing aids. But they do a lot of
community work as far as, they run the only pre-school for severely
language-delayed kids in the community, that are under the age of five, to try
and get them ready to go to school. They, these are kids that have had strokes
or autism, these awful kinds of things that happen to children. They run a
wonderful program that is statewide for deaf and blind people. They’ve
identified every deaf and blind person in Ohio and they are servicing them,
making, you know, their apartments so that they can have some independent
living, trying to get them into jobs, this type of thing. They run something
called Comprehensive Career for the Deaf which is a statewide program that
trains young deaf adults to be able to go out into the job market. They help
them get jobs. They help them do all these things. So I’ve enjoyed that. I’ve
really gotten in there, you know, and gotten “hands on” as well as
doing things like speech ther–, the ordinary things that you would think of at
a speech and hearing center. They, you know, fit hearing aids and give speech
therapy and treat people who have strokes and go out to nursing homes and all
that kind of thing. But it’s been, it’s a job, but I love doing it.
Interviewer: Your college degree, your training had nothing to do with this
type of thing. It’s just your interest…
Babette: No, I was just, I got interested, I got on the board because he’s
interested and then…And um, why did you hand that to me?
Feibel: (can’t understand him)
Babette: I don’t need to refresh my memory. And I’ve been very active in
Council of Jewish Women. I’ve twice been President of that, or Co-President.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Babette: And I still serve in an advisory capacity there and on the board of
their Nearly New Shop.
Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about the Council of Jewish Women.
Babette: Council of Jewish Women is a serv–, I’m very service oriented. I
like to deal with people that are “hands on” with people so it’s
been a very good, it’s the one Jewish organization that really does hands on
service work in the community and now there’s a great group of young girls
that are really taking it over but they want us older folks to sit in an
advisory capacity. And then I’m also working on the Federation on one of the division
councils because I’ve had a lot of experience in the community with different,
I’m on the Human Services Council which, human needs, which I’ve had
a lot of community experience that a lot of people haven’t had.
Interviewer: Yeah you sure have.
Babette: And I’m sitting on the Foundation Grants Committee. It’s the
same thing where I have a feel for what’s out there and what’s needed and
that’s pretty much my current activities. And the rest of it’s all, I mean…
Feibel:… mention… on the Board of Trustees for CSG, Columbus
School for Girls for eight years.
Babette: Well she, she’ll have all that.
Interviewer: I… Tell us what it is.
Babette: I was on the Board of Trustees of Columbus School for Girls for
eight years and a ninth year ex-officio Head of the Alumni Association and I
started their first evening school. I came up with this idea that they should
run an evening school and they for many years had classes at night when using
some of the teachers that were there and some people from the community.
Interviewer: For the Columbus…
Babette: For the community. It was for the community like Rabbi Folkman came
in and taught death and grieving one time. Somebody, you know. I have been, you
know, for years a member of the Columbus Junior League and two years ago was
honored as their “Person of the”, their “Sustainer of the
Interviewer: Are you involved in the Temple?
Babette: I work at, I do a lot of work at the Temple but it’s mainly Jimmy
that is so active. I mean, I’ve been on the Board of Trustees several
different times and I, we, you know I just do whatever needs to be done, go to
meetings, help him do all, he’s on all these committees and…I’ve been on committees, a lot of different committees out there.
Interviewer: I think you and Jimmy both have learned well from your families.
Interviewer: And God willing, your children will…
Babette: They’re already, they’re already…
Interviewer: follow in your footsteps and hopefully your grandchildren too.
You certainly have set a wonderful pace.
Feibel: Let me just add two things to that. Number one, she…
Interviewer: Well wait. Let’s get the mike on Jim here.
Feibel: Well I don’t think she’s done but Babette was the, won the
Columbus School for Girls Distinguished Alumni Award which is one of about, what
12 women in the city so far and she was a member of the 1996 Women of
Achievement for the YWCA.
Interviewer: Yeah I remember that. That was wonderful. A lot of publicity on
that, well deserved.
Feibel: Well she started off saying what…
Babette: Yeah were you there?
Interviewer: No I wasn’t there.
Babette: I couldn’t believe I did that.
Interviewer: Tell us what you did.
Babette: How did I, I don’t remember how I started out now. I’m drawing a
total mental block. Something about being Jewish.
Feibel: “Jewish tradition teaches that when you”…
Babette: Oh “Tikun olom”, you know, to make life a little
bit better for when you, when I was the YWCA Woman of the Year, I got up and ,
there are a lot of Jewish women who’ve been YWCA Woman of the Year. It’s not
a particularly Jewish- oriented place but I decided I wanted people to know
that I was Jewish and I said, “Judaism teaches that when you make the world
a little bit better for one person,” Tikun olom, I started out with
that idea and people afterwards told me they were, they just were shocked that I
had done that. I didn’t even think about it.
Interviewer: It was so very appropriate.
Interviewer: It was beautifully integrated.
Babette: Right. Right.
Interviewer: Great, great. Well you can be proud of that. I can see that you
both share pride in each other’s activities and you’re certainly a wonderful
Feibel: It’s fun really because we’ve had this, we’re like ships
passing in the night sometimes in terms of what we’re doing, I mean…
Interviewer: Well your life is totally devoted to…
Babette: Well I’m not happy when I’m not busy. I mean, I told Jimmy if he
wants to do away with me, take me to Florida for three months and you know, the
beach, and I’ll be gone.
Interviewer: I’m just curious, just hand the mic over… do you take
vacations as family?
Babette: We took, every summer for quite a few of the past summers, we’ve
been renting houses in Hilton Head which we rent and bring our kids and all the
grandchildren down there. Last year my sister in Philadelphia brought hers and
brought, and we had 38 in the family that were all together.
Interviewer: How long were you together?
Babette: And we were there for a week together.
Feibel: Two weeks.
Babette: We were there for two weeks with part of our family but the whole
big family was there for a week together.
Babette: And it was…
Interviewer: It can’t hurt.
Babette: No it was wonderful. And we really enjoyed it. We look forward to it. It’s not the time of year when we’d like to be away ’cause we have a swimming pool but we’d
like to go away not in the summer. It’s the time when everybody can get together so that’s what we do and the rest of the year it’s pretty hard to do that.
Feibel: Actually we have taken one vacation without our kids.
Interviewer: In your whole…
Feibel: In our whole married life.
Babette: Well, yeah right.
Interviewer: Tell us about that.
Feibel: Our kids were so distraught that we have not been away by ourselves.
They chipped in and sent is to Sea Island, Georgia, for four days.
Interviewer: Oh goodness. That’s the only way they could get you to go
away. So have you traveled though other places as a family? Gone to Israel?
Babette: No we haven’t done that but you know we used to spend every Spring
Vacation that the kids had at Sanibel Island. And we just had a habit of, we
enjoyed going away, you know, and sharing. We took John and Lori one year, our
son and daughter-in-law, down to Chattanooga. I showed them all the family, you
know, we stayed in these, we have family there but we stayed in these old choo
choo cars, you know the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the… thing.
Interviewer: Oh yeah, right.
Babette: And we showed them all over. Showed them, you know, where my mom had
gotten married and all that, you know.
Interviewer: Well they were meaningful trips then.
Babette: Uh huh. So we have a good time. We enjoy nature and we have so many
things we have to go to and be dressed up for and whatever, that when we go away
we like to go in just shorts and bathing suits and walk a beach and bird watch
Interviewer: Just hang loose?
Feibel: We have not been out of the country, although our kids have.
Interviewer: You’ve never traveled out of the United States? So you don’t
need a passport?
Interviewer: Do you have any interest in going sometime?
Feibel: Pass–, my passing interest, period. I mean there are so many places
we haven’t seen in the United States. So we don’t have an objection to it.
We just haven’t done it. I mean there’s no time. We don’t…
Interviewer: Your life has been awfully full.
Babette: You know what it is? We like what we’re doing here. We don’t
feel this need to run away all the time, you know? We just…
Interviewer: Uh huh. That’s interesting.
Feibel: I don’t know if you want some of my extra-curricular activities.
Interviewer: Yes I do. I want to, we want to get all this…
Feibel: Currently I am Chairman of the Mt. Carmel Health System Foundation
which is the charitable, giving arm of the Mt. Carmel Hospital system here in
central Ohio. And I am Vice President of the Columbus Jewish Foundation.
Feibel: I was Chairman of the Ohio-Indiana-Kentucky Region of the ADL before
ADL decided to terminate the region here and…
Interviewer: That just happened recently.
Feibel: It happened within the last year.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Tell us what ADL is.
Feibel: ADL is the Anti-Defamation League which is the country’s oldest
organization that fights anti-Semitism in particular and prejudice and
discrimination generally, not just for Jews but for everyone. And they are a
national organization, probably an international organization that has been
leading the fight against bigotry and prejudice.
Babette: My father was, it’s just interesting, my father was president of
Interviewer: It’s interesting how your families keep weaving back together.
Babette: I know it is. It’s really unbelievable.
Feibel: And then Babette and I were recipients of the Columbus Jewish
Feibel: Award for, yeah.
Interviewer: I attended that one. Uh huh.
Babette: Then you got to see me crying, right?
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah. Let’s just say crying is good.
Feibel: We, so really, oh and then I neglected to say, building the syna—,
starting the synagogue and building the synagogue. Something…
Interviewer: Through adversity.
Feibel: Something one does probably, one is privileged to do only once in a
Interviewer: And to see it grow the way it has.
Feibel: Yeah. So, anyhow. But our lives are basically very, very busy. And we’re
doing things together but we’re also doing things separately.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Great. You have a great understanding of what you’re
both doing, what you’re each doing.
Babette: When you both come from the same place…you know, the same kind of family. You don’t find that very often today.
Interviewer: No, no, no you really don’t. And just, and also coincidence of
the fact that you’re parents, your mothers were both from Eastern Europe, your
fathers were both…
Feibel: And by the way, they knew each other well. My father was Babette’s
Babette: That’s now how we got together though.
Interviewer: Oh, okay. You did that on your own.
Feibel: Yeah. And I mean they were both very active in the Columbus Jewish
Federation and Temple Israel…
Babette: Winding Hollow.
Feibel: And Winding Hollow
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Feibel: And so…
Interviewer: You have the same background.
Feibel: Yeah and we basically grew up with community at the dinner table.
Interviewer: Did your parents travel?
Babette:… all the time.
Feibel: Yes, they’ve traveled all over the world and…
Babette: My parents used to like to take cruises ’cause, I don’t know
why. They just love to be on a cruise. They would cruise a lot with Judy and Joe
Summer and just some different people around here. But his parents really went
all over. They had an audience with the Pope and they went to, they were in
Israel. They were in, in the Near E—, you know, over, when people weren’t
going over there to Japan and all those places.
Interviewer: Uh huh. A lot more curiosity?
Babette: They loved to travel.
Interviewer: We’re not as venturesome. We have so, I think it’s that we
have so much to do that to go on at trip like that, it’s just, we like to, we
just, we just enjoy…
Interviewer: You don’t need to, you don’t need to.
Babette: We enjoy so much just being around nature. It’s just, it’s our
thing, I mean we probably have 3,000 bird pictures around our house.
Interviewer: Do you, are you… How do you enjoy nature other than in
Babette: We beach walk and we, like we’re going to Naples in two weeks to
visit some friends and we’re going to, we’ll be going to the, we’ll be
going to New England to the conservation places, you know, where they have the
bird sanctuaries that are all down there that, I mean these are not things that
most people do but we just happen to enjoy, we get a big kick out of it, seeing
a bird we haven’t seen or…
Interviewer: Well that’s a breath of life.
Feibel: And the other thing is we really don’t have time to do, I mean, it’s
like this genealogy.
Babette: We do…
Feibel: I would really like to nail this down. I’d also like, my
great-grandfather Ernst Troy wrote a book which I’m going to give you a copy
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Feibel: And I would really want to a sequel to it.
Interviewer: Is anybody else in your family working on your family tree or
your family genealogy?
Feibel: Not really, not really. The closest thing would be my brother-in-law Ron Robins who is very into this kind of thing and has been a source of information. He knows as much
about my family as I do.
Interviewer: And he grew up in Columbus too?
Feibel: He grew up in Columbus too. Well he didn’t know the family though. See they were…
Feibel: Yeah his family was the other, the other…
Interviewer: The other side of the tracks.
Feibel: Well the other side of Cassady Avenue, let’s put it that way.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah. I know his family well. I lost a thought there for a
minute. But I know this might be a really foolish question to ask either one of
you but is retirement in the horizon for either one of you?
Babette: Not for me as long as my health holds out. No, I’ve said, you know, we’ve been together 43 years and as soon as I retire and am under foot, we’ll probably get a divorce. (laughter)
Interviewer: Well we won’t like that to happen for sure so you better keep
Babette:… pretty well.
Interviewer: No, no. Well it doesn’t sound like there’s any need for
Feibel: I have a crazy theory frankly. And that is, I think, and it’s not
scientific, but I think when the brain is working, it produces some hormone that
keeps the rest of the body lubricated.
Interviewer: Absolutely. I usually ask for some point of wisdom but I think
you just added that to our conversation. Is there anything else that you would
like to add for us? Is there any…
Babette: We think Columbus is a great Jewish community.
Interviewer: It is.
Babette: We appreciate having been brought up here compared to other places.
Interviewer: Well thank goodness we have people like you and your families
that have helped it become as strong and terrific.
Babette: I mean things come around and go around. My father was the President
of the Jewish Center when they built the place out on College Avenue and now our
son-in-law’s on the board, you know. And it’s just, it’s like this
perpetuation of roots, you know.
Interviewer: I know I’m going to keep thinking of things even though I’m
almost heading for wind-up, but I just had another thought about, I asked Jim
about Bar Mitzvah. Were you Bat Mitzvahed?
Interviewer: They weren’t doing Bat Mitzvahs…
Babette: Nobody was.
Interviewer: I don’t think when you were…
Babette: Joy, yes Joy Folkman was a very close friend of mine, Rabbi Folkman’s
daughter. She was the first Bat Mitzvah in town.
Interviewer: And his sons were the first Bar Mitzvahs.
Babette: First Bar Mitzvahs. But I think she was the first, she was
definitely the first Bat Mitzvah because, see, the Orthodox didn’t Bat
Mitzvah people and…
Interviewer: Actually Rabbi Rubenstein at Agudas Achim, his daughter was
probably the first, or one of the first Bat Mitzvahs.
Babette: I think she’s younger than, I think Joy’s older than his
Interviewer: Yeah. His daughter’s in her late 40s.
Babette: Yeah. Joy is 62.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Yeah. So that came along later. Do you have
recollections, Babette, what you and your sisters did when you were younger in
terms of entertainment and socialization.
Babette: Well see we were, the three of us were a group. I mean we didn’t
have to go beyond…
Interviewer: You didn’t need anybody else, huh?
Babette: We did the same kind of things that Jimmy did. We went to movies and
went out to Winding Hollow and. In fact, one day my sisters and I got the idea
we wanted to walk out there.
Interviewer: To Winding Hollow?
Babette: Well that was not a safe walk from where we were. Our parents were
furious. They were just furious. So we were the first ones to have bubble gum
after the war.
Interviewer: Bubble gum?
Babette: Bubble gum.
Interviewer: Well wait. First of all, did you walk? You didn’t walk…
Babette: Yes we did walk.
Interviewer: Oh you did walk.
Babette: We walked all the way out there. And they were just, our parents
were just furious. We were the first ones to have bubble gum when the war was
over. My father was still out of work in New York and he’d fly back and forth
and he’d bring, he brought bubble gum. My first car was, you’d asked Jimmy
about the first car. My first, our first, my first car was a Ford convertible
that I shared with my twin sister and that was gotten in self-defense so our
parents didn’t have to chauffeur us around anymore.
Interviewer: Yeah how that happens.
Babette: And they, I gave a, this is an interesting story. I gave, we were
written up in the paper because it said, “Which twin had the birthday?” because I gave a surprise birthday for my twin sister on her, on our sixteenth birthday, because she didn’t want to have a “Sweet Sixteen” party because she didn’t want to mess with the list. So I made up the list and surprised her with the 16th birthday party.
Interviewer: What a great idea. It was your party too.
Babette: Right. So we did the same things too.
Feibel: Who was your date?
Babette: And my date was Mark Feinknopf, who is now… you know, Jimmy’s cousin, and her date was Don Feibel. So you can
see how incestuous this is.
Interviewer: You can’t get away from it, huh? You got it all wrapped up
here in the family.
Babette: Right. So we just, you know, went to movies and when, you know, we’d
Interviewer: You said something about when you went downtown, you got all
Babette: Oh you had to get all dressed up and, you know, it was just so much
more formal, you know, than it is now.
Interviewer: You wore a dress for sure.
Babette: Right you wore a dress and your best clothes and a coat and gloves
and. The kids run around today in these blue jeans that are sweeping the floor
Interviewer: What places did you like going to downtown when you were little?
Babette: I liked to go to Lazarus. The Maramor. It was a real treat, you
know, when I was a teenager, if our mother took us to Montaldo’s or one of
those kind of fancy, the Union…
Interviewer: What was Montaldo’s?
Babette: Montaldo’s was a fancy ladies dress shop. Or Milgrim’s. That
was, those were on either side of the Maramor Restaurant so you used to go down…
Interviewer: On Broad Street?
Babette: On Broad Street. Uh-huh. And we used to. I thought of one other
thing I wanted to tell you. Now I can’t think of it. Oh shoot. It’s just
out. But we, see girls didn’t get involved in sports in those days and so you
didn’t do these things that they do now, you know.
Interviewer: Did more of the finer…
Babette: We were Camp Fire Girls, you know, and we, but you couldn’t, you
didn’t, you wouldn’t dare be involved in a baseball team or any of that
Interviewer: Did you belong to other clubs though when you were younger?
Babette: We really didn’t because we didn’t go to Bexley. We went to CSG.
CSG had clubs, I mean they had a Latin Club and a French Club and all that. But
they didn’t, you didn’t really get involved in it. But my sis–, Bette and
I, ’cause our father was so into this community and charity stuff that we
were, we stood on the corner of Broad and High for the March of Dimes. Polio had
just been eradi–, was just starting to be eradi–, it wasn’t even eradicated.
It was a big disease…
Babette: In the summertime you weren’t allowed to go in any crowds because
you were so worried you were going to contract polio. So our parents used to
send us to Maine to camp so we wouldn’t have to be anywhere near anybody who
might have polio. And they, we used to stand out, well they, again because we
were twins and a rarity, they’d take pictures of us standing with these little
coin things collecting for charities. We’d do things like that. And actually
Bette and I were some of the first members of Councilettes in Columbus. That’s
the junior organization for Council of Jewish Women. So we did a lot of things
like that. You know, worked on the, the United Jewish Fund had a high school
and, and so there, and then there was YFTL, the Young Folks Temple League which
they still sort of have like out in the Reform temples. So we did all those kinds of things outside of school.
Interviewer: Did either of you have any activity at the Jewish Center?
Babette: Well these meetings took place there. They didn’t have, they didn’t
have, it wasn’t like is is now where our grandkids are over there at games all
the time and they, they, we just, they didn’t have that.
Feibel: Back in those days, the biggest activity at the Jewish Center was the
bowling. They had a bowling alley there and we bowled there. But I don’t
recall, except for B’nai B’rith Youth…
Babette: The Reform kids really weren’t involved in B’nai B’rith.
Interviewer: Uh huh. You had other activities though to keep you busy. Okay.
I think I’m going to wind up this afternoon. I want to take this opportunity
on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society to thank both Jim and
Babette Feibel. It’s been a very enjoyable afternoon for me and I hope I haven’t
prolonged this too much for you.
Babette: It was great. Is this what you’re going to…
Interviewer: I know you’re going to give us some papers here.