This is June 26, 2001, and my name is Naomi Schottenstein and I’m interviewing Bernard Yenkin and we’re at Bernard’s residence at 2720 Brentwood Road in Bexley.
Interviewer: Good morning, Bernie.
Yenkin: Hi, Naomi.
Interviewer: And we’re going to start just by asking you your full name,
your Jewish name and who you were named after.
Yenkin: Okay. My full name is Bernard Kalman K-A-L-M-A-N Yenkin. My Hebrew name is Boruch Kalman and I was named after my, Bernard or Boruch is named after my mother’s brother who died at the age of 16 before I was
born. And Kalman was my grandmother’s father, my mother’s mother’s father, Kalman London who was actually the first spiritual leader of the Agudas Achim. He came to Columbus about the mid-1890s.
Interviewer: Will you spell his last name for us?
Yenkin: London is L-O-N-D-O-N.
Interviewer: Okay. What was your family’s original name? Was it Yenkin or was it changed?
Yenkin: As far as I know it was Yenkin. The spelling varies among various branches of the family. There’s a branch in Canada who spell it without the Y,
E-N-K-I-N. But the pronounciation in Russian, the accented E is pronounced with a Y in front , so that’s it, this is probably the phonetic spelling of Yenkin.
Interviewer: Can you tell us how your family came to Columbus, why they
settled in Columbus?
Yenkin: My . . . .
Interviewer: And where they came from originally?
Yenkin: Yeah, okay. Talking about my father’s family first, which I really know more about, they were from a shtetel called Usvaty in Byelorussia
near Vitebsk, Vitebsk being a large sort of county seat area there. And they came in 1906, my father, who was three years old at the time, my Uncle Ben Yenkin, who was just a six- week old baby, and my Grandmother and Grandfather Yenkin, Jacob and Musa. And with them also was my grandmother’s half sister, Dora, at that time Maggied, later Dora Mellman. And they came first to New York for just a very short time, but came to Columbus because my grandmother’s, Musa Yenkin, Mary Yenkin’s younger brother, had been in Columbus and had sent for them.
Interviewer: That’s usually the reason they came here . . . . interested in
how . . . .
Yenkin: Yeah. The story, there’s an . . . . story of how the first sort of
cousins and their family came here. Apparently headed for Chicago and there was
a story of a half- blind horse who made a wrong turn in northern Ohio and came
down and came to Columbus, thought they were in Chicago or something. That’s
in the family . . . . anyway.
Interviewer: Sounds reasonable though. It could have happened.
Yenkin: There’s a write-up on the story that my Uncle Ben did though that
the Historical Society probably has.
Interviewer: Okay. That’s your father’s . . . .
Yenkin: My father’s yes, younger brother.
Interviewer: Okay. What is, is there more that you want to add to that part
or do you want to . . . .
Yenkin: No I don’t, do you want me to, in my father’s family there were
four children, Abe, Ben, Bess and Fred.
Interviewer: Okay. Tell us about them, who their families are.
Yenkin: Yeah, okay.
Interviewer: Uncles and their families.
Yenkin: Okay. Well my father was the oldest, born in 1903. And then Ben was
born in 1905 or 1906. Fred married Lillian Levin, now jumping ahead to the 30s,
and they had two daughters.
Interviewer: . . . .
Yenkin: The daughters are Judy, Brachman now, and Cynthia Levinson. Cynthia
lives in Austin, Austin, Texas, now. Her husband teaches Constitutional Law at
the University of Texas. And then . . . .
Interviewer: Tell us about Judy’s husband and children.
Yenkin: Judy, okay, okay.
Interviewer: I’m jumping ahead too but we’re going to come back.
Yenkin: Okay, okay. Yeah, Judy’s married to Merom Brachman who was
originally from Fort Worth, Texas, and they have three daughters, Levea, Sarai
and Shael. Levea lives here with her husband, Andrew Smith, and two kids. And
Sarai has moved around. She’s now in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with her husband
David and a little boy. And Shael is in medical residency in Miami, Florida, and
she was recently married.
Yenkin: Okay. So now you want . . . .
Interviewer: Your next uncle, was that . . . .
Yenkin: No my, Bess was next, number three. My Aunt Bess married Nate Zeff in
1934, I believe it was. That’s the first wedding I remember. And it took place
in the back yard at 381 S. Drexel.
Interviewer: And you remember it?
Yenkin: Yeah a little bit. And I remember an uncle or a cousin from Athens,
Ohio, who spilled a keg of beer or something . . . . Anyway, and they had two
daughters: Elaine who’s now married to Milton Lewin, long-time Columbus
family, and Rita, who’s married to Dr. Simon Levit. They live in Tulsa and
have two married children.
Yenkin: By the way, I’ve got all this on a family genealogy that the
Historical Society has.
Yenkin: I just mentioned that . . . . in the record.
Interviewer: We’ll refer to that. To continue, you just told us about Bess’
Yenkin: Okay. And then, well I told you about Fred’s.
Yenkin: Okay, Ben. I guess we got sort of in reverse order here.
Interviewer: . . . . the order in which . . . .
Yenkin: It’s Abe, Ben, Bess and Fred.
Yenkin: This is it, one, two, three, four.
Yenkin: Okay. And Ben’s oldest daughter Roberta, married to Larry Krakoff,
originally from Columbus. They now live in New York and they have two married
children and some grandchildren. And Stanley Yenkin lives in Columbus, married
to Jacki Fischer and they have three boys. And Susan Leffler, married to Alan
Leffler. They live in the suburbs of Boston in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, and
they have three kids who are out of college but none married at this point, two
boys and a girl.
Yenkin: You know what, I think I’m going to get this out of here (referring
to phone which has just rung). Okay?
Yenkin: Okay, yeah, and just to go back, Ben married Helen Spiegel from
Scranton, Penn- sylvania, in about 1935, something like that.
Interviewer: Long time ago.
Yenkin: Yeah, yeah. It’s all in some records that will be available.
Interviewer: Okay. And that pretty much covers your Dad’s immediate family.
Yenkin: Yeah, right.
Interviewer: Okay. Now let’s go to your mother’s family and tell us how
they came here if you could.
Yenkin: Okay. Well it’s a little less clear. My grandfather and
grandmother, Sam Weiner, Samuel Weiner and Sarah London, met in Columbus. Sarah
was the daughter, one of the daughters of Kalman London and Chaya, I
Interviewer: Is that Gilberg with a G?
Yenkin: Gilberg with a G, yeah, yeah. The same family as Gilbert but . . . .
My grandfather Samuel Weiner, family was from Pittsburgh and he came over to
Columbus because his sister, who was married in Marion, and he needed to attend
to some things for her. So they actually met, and this is in Morris
Schottenstein’s book, they met at Jacob, my grandmother and grandfather met at
Jacob Schottenstein’s house because his wife, Sora Leah, was the aunt
of my grandmother and Sam, my grandfather, was actually working then for Jake
Schottenstein at his bicycle shop, his bicycle store.
Interviewer: So there were ties way back when?
Yenkin: Yeah, so there were ties back then. And so that’s how they met. My
grand- mother’s, I don’t, my grandfather’s family was from Kovno Gubernia,
which means Kovno County, so to speak, the . . . . now in Lithuania. And my
grandmother’s family, I’m not sure where they were from exactly but there
was at least some sojourn in Sweden because the grandmother always said that she
had come, or that her family had come from Sweden . . . .
Interviewer: Originally they came from Sweden, is that . . . .
Yenkin: No, not originally. Originally I’m sure they were from Russia.
Interviewer: Oh okay.
Yenkin: But there was some sojourn in Sweden on the way or something, yeah.
Interviewer: There’s a lot of reasons why they ended up different places.
Interviewer: But they, go ahead, is that . . . .
Yenkin: So okay now, you want to talk about my aunts and uncles on my mother’s
Interviewer: Yeah. Uh huh. Yeah.
Yenkin: All right. And then we’ll come back to my mother and father at some
point I suppose.
Interviewer: Yeah we will.
Yenkin: Okay. My mother had several brothers and sisters. My Aunt Tillie was
the oldest, married to Jacob Ziskind, had one daughter, Susan Portman. Next was
Abe Weiner who married, his wife, married Martha, I’m forgetting her maiden
name right now, and they had two children: Sam Weiner who lives here in Columbus
with his wife and Sharon who lives in Minneapolis with her husband Marty.
Interviewer: Sam’s wife’s name?
Yenkin: Kiefer, is Marty Kiefer, Marty and Sharon. Then Ruth Kanter, married
Max Kanter, had three children: Leah Salis who lives here in Columbus, Buzzy,
Bernard, named after the same uncle I was. Buzzy Kanter is married, living in
Columbus and Sam.
Interviewer: Is there, tell us a little about their family, Leah . . . .
Yenkin: Leah has two children: Esther Gillett and David Salis. David was
recently, married last year in Israel. We were at his wedding, Miriam and I. And
Esther has two kids I think, I’m not, and, this is all in the record, of
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: And, who’s next? Next, well next I believe was the uncle that I was
named after, Bernard, who died as I say at the age of 16 from a diptheria
infection. And there was another brother somewhere along the line, Carl, who
died in infancy. And I had another uncle, Elliott who never married and died
seven or eight years ago. And then my mother. And then the youngest sister is
Helen who married Charles Zelkowitz, who was actually a cousin, and they set up
life in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, became very prominent citizens there. And Charles was
a lawyer who died maybe 20 years ago. As I say, it’s, you know, I have
specific dates on all these things.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: Aunt Helen is 89. She and my mother are the two surviving sisters at
this point. My mother is 91. And Helen and Charles, Helen became a very
prominent citizen in Mt. Vernon. Started the radio station, cable station, up
there and still has a home in Mt. Vernon. And their son, only child, Stephen,
died a few years ago, ’93 I believe. And he had a wife Donna and two children,
Jonathan and Juliet.
Interviewer: And they’re not in Columbus now, are they?
Yenkin: The kids?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Or Donna? Donna?
Yenkin: No Donna’s not in Col—, no, they’re in Atlanta now.
Interviewer: Oh okay.
Yenkin: She’s, Donna and her daughter are in Atlanta. Jonathan, John is on
the west coast, L.A.
Interviewer: Okay. Does that cover all of your mother’s . . . .
Yenkin: That covers my mother’s siblings, I believe.
Yenkin: Did I . . . .
Interviewer: I think you did, yeah. Uh huh.
Interviewer: Sounds like they’re pretty covered.
Interviewer: Where were you born Bernie?
Yenkin: I was born in Columbus.
Interviewer: Can you give us the date please?
Yenkin: Yeah, yeah. I was born December 2, 1930, and well do you want to know
about my mother and father at this point or do you want me to . . . .
Interviewer: No fill me in on yours . . . .
Yenkin: Okay. That’s fine. I was, okay. The whole family lived together. My
mother and father had been married in January of 1930. I was born in December.
And the whole family, the Yenkin family, lived together at 381 S. Drexel in
Bexley. They had moved into that house I believe in about 1926. And I was the
oldest grand- child so I lived there with (phone rings and tape is quieted) . .
Yenkin: We all lived together in the house, my grandmother, grandfather,
parents, Uncle Ben, Uncle Fred and Aunt Bess.
Interviewer: Who was married, just your parents?
Yenkin: Just my parents were married, yeah, yeah. The two uncles slept back
on an unheated sleeping porch in the back of the house and there were bedrooms
for, I don’t know where I slept, but my parents, my Aunt Bess and my
Interviewer: It was a houseful.
Yenkin: Yeah it was a houseful. And in those years, of course the family had
started the paint business in about 1920 and the three brothers, by the time I
was born, were all involved in the business along with my grandfather so they
used to go off to work every morning in one car, come back at the end of the day
in one car and everything was a unit, the business, the family, the whole thing.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Kind of nice when you think how cohesive families were
at that time.
Interviewer: But they needed to help each other.
Yenkin: They needed, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: They needed that to work. Well tell me first about your, you
know, where all you lived. You remember the first house and . . . .
Yenkin: Okay. Well here’s what happened. We, my father had bought a house
at 2188 Bryden Road but things were such that we really couldn’t afford to
move into it so we all lived together at 381 S. Drexel and he had rented the
house out at 2188 Bryden Road, which was between Columbia and Parkview on Bryden.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: And then when, in 1934, well when Bess got married, they moved away.
They moved to West Virginia to run a paint store. But 19–, whatever it was, ’35,
Ben was married and then Fred, it turned out, had, he and Lillian had eloped. So
and then my sister Sandra was coming along so things were getting a little extra
crowded at 381 S. Drexel so we moved into the house at 2188 Bryden Road in 19–,
I think 1935 and we lived there until 1946. And my sister Linda was born in 1941
while we were living in that house. Then in 19–, is this what you want?
Yenkin: Okay. Then in 1946, which you recall was just after the war, the war
had just ended, World War II had just ended, my grandparents who were getting a
little older and frail and so forth, the Royal York apartments which were very
nice apartments at that time, first nice apartments that had been built in
Columbus by Robert Schiff . . . .
Interviewer: Where were they located?
Yenkin: At 1445 E. Broad. They took an apartment at the Royal York so my
father and mother then bought from my grandparents the house at 381 S. Drexel
and did extensive remodeling, eliminated the unheated sleeping porch and put up
a nice bedroom for themselves and some other things. And we moved back there in
1946. Then, I’ll tell you about my schools or what?
Interviewer: No . . . .
Yenkin: Anyway, but anyway, I’ll go from there.
Interviewer: Let’s go back and tell us how your parents met and how their
lives . . . .
Yenkin: My mother had gone to Central High School and then went to Ohio State
for a year and then was working, went to work as a secretary at what was then
called Frey-Yenkin Paint Company on 251 N. Sandusky Street.
Interviewer: Was that your family’s business?
Yenkin: Yeah my father and my grandfather and my uncles, let me think. Yeah I
think they were all involved at that point. Even Fred, who was about 20 years
old at that time.
Interviewer: Where did the name Frey come in?
Yenkin: Frey was at one time a partner. He . . . my father’s family, after
they came to Columbus, I left this out, moved to Southern Ohio. They moved to
Logan and then New Lexington, Ohio, where my father, my grandfather and some
other miscellaneous relatives there, had various hide and fur businesses. And my
father started helping my grandfather and actually being his business partner
for . . . . I think he was about 14 years old. And then in the late teens, I
suppose, or maybe right around 1920, they moved up to Columbus. They were still
in the hide and fur business. But next door was this person Charles Frey who was
making paint, black paint at that time, but not doing very well and couldn’t
afford a telephone so . . . .
Interviewer: You mean the paint was black, all . . . .
Yenkin: Yeah that’s all he was making at that point was black paint. A very
small, little operation and couldn’t afford a phone so he used to come over to
my grand- father’s and father’s place next door to use the phone. And things
moved along and they eventually decided, well the hide and fur business was
getting, after World War I there was a lot of volatility in prices and it was a
very difficult busi- ness so they thought maybe they’d go into the paint
business with Mr. Frey. So they did and then they eventually bought out Charles
Frey and then later, in 1954 when we moved from Sandusky Street to the present
location at Fifth and Leonard Avenues, changed the name to Yenkin Majestic
because Frey hadn’t been there for, I don’t know, thirty years or something.
So that’s where the name came . . . . Anyway, back to my mother, she was
working as a secretary. My father was a bachelor, I don’t know 25 or 26 years
old and my mother had a lot of friends, as she’ll tell you. My mother was very
nice looking, very attractive person . . . .
Interviewer: Yeah I’ve seen some pictures of her. She was a beautiful
Yenkin: Anyway my father took a great liking to her and I think that in about
six weeks, they were married.
Interviewer: Oh. Well that was . . . .
Yenkin: And it was a nice marriage that lasted until he died in 1977.
Interviewer: Sure was.
Yenkin: So that’s how they met.
Interviewer: Yeah. Did they ever talk about a wedding? Did they have . . . .
Yenkin: They, in those days, in those years it was tough. So there was, they
went down and got their marriage license and thought they were married. And then
they came back home and found out no, they had to go through something else
(phone rings and tape shuts off) . . . .
Yenkin: Where were we?
Interviewer: You were talking about your mom and dad. They got their marriage
Yenkin: Right. And then they thought they were married, then they came home
and said they were married and everyone said, “No, you’re not married
yet.” So then they went over to Rabbi Werne, who was the rabbi of the
Agudas Achim at that time, to his study or something and he married them on
January 22, 1930.
Interviewer: Okay. Do you have any idea how Rabbi Werne spelled his name?
Yenkin: I’m sure it’s in the records someplace. I think it’s W-E-R-N-,
I want to say E but it doesn’t, it’s probably W-E-R-N-, I don’t know.
Interviewer: Well that’s close enough.
Interviewer: At least we have the . . . .
Yenkin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Yenkin: But it would be in the Agudas Achim records I think.
Interviewer: Okay. So that’s how they started their life together?
Yenkin: That’s, yes. And then, right. And my mother moved into the house at
381 S. Drexel and she and my grandmother, Musa, were great friends. And my, at
that time my, on my mother’s side, her parents lived at 599 Wilson Avenue. My
grandfather, Sam Weiner, was very well, had a very well-known pawn shop, first
on Long Street, I think probably near Jake Schottenstein’s, Jacob
Schottenstein’s, and then later on Mt. Vernon Avenue near 18th. And he was
quite a well-known person. At that time Mt. Vernon Avenue was in the center of
Jewish life and they lived in lovely homes in the areas between Broad Street and
Mt. Vernon, which is now today of course not such a, not such a great area. But
there were large homes in there and they, that’s, they lived in a couple of
homes around there before they moved to 599 Wilson. My grandfather then died in
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: My grandmother continued living . . . .
Interviewer: But he was always in the pawn shop business?
Yenkin: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: Did someone in his family, did any of his children take over the
Yenkin: Yeah my Uncle Abe did.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: And then, and then after that, my cousin Sam Weiner actually took it
over but then he became a lawyer so the pawn shop was, went away.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Interviewer: I can understand that. Do you remember any of your neighbors
when you were a little kid?
Interviewer: When you grew up?
Yenkin: Yeah, yup. On Drexel Avenue we lived at 381. On one side were the
Morrises. I remember Mrs. Morris. They were very elegant people. I believe he
was a lawyer and some way, maybe related to the law firm that for many years
bore the name Morris here in town. And on the other side to the south, lived the
Van Sickle family. He was the headmaster at Columbus Academy. When we moved to
Bryden Road, on one side to the east, was I. H . Schlezinger and his wife whose
name is escaping me just right at this minute. And of course that was a well-
known family in Columbus. Ed Schlezinger was still single at that time. He lived
at home. The other family members would come and visit. We’d see them a lot.
And to the west when we first moved there, there was a family called the
Josephs. They were from the Reform Jewish community. He was a stockbroker. This
was 1935. They had had a very nice social background but had suffered financial
reverses in the Depression and they were living a pretty simple life at that
time. They had three children. Joan Joseph I remember, was a very nice person.
She is still, I don’t know if she’s still, she might still be around
Columbus or she might be living in California. Very nice family. And then some
time in the early 40s, I don’t remember what triggered the event, whether Mr.
Joseph or what happened, but anyway, they sold the house to the Greenbergs,
Marty Greenberg’s mother and father, and Miriam later became Kayne and then
Reuven Greenberg and David Greenberg, who became a rabbi in someplace in New
York. But we were neigh- bors then for about four or five years probably until .
. . . They may have bought, it may have been earlier than that that they bought
the house, maybe some time in around 1939-1940. Anyway they lived next door to
Interviewer: You had some pretty interesting neighbors.
Yenkin: Yeah. Then when we moved back to Drexel Avenue, the Morrises had
passed away and the Caryers bought the house, their house. They were wonderful
neighbors and Mrs. Caryer was a teacher at Bexley High or in the Bexley schools,
and her husband, Lee, they were just very nice people.
Interviewer: That gives us kind of a feel of the neighbors and the
Interviewer: Bernie tell us about your siblings and their families, you know,
let’s fill that gap.
Yenkin: Okay, okay. Well my sister Sandra, who’s five years younger than I,
went, she was in the Bexley schools and then CSG I think from about the eighth
grade on and then went to Wellesley in a suburb of Boston, Wellesley College.
And stayed on in Boston after graduation and met her husband, Herb Levine, Dr.
Herb Levine, who is from a rather well-known Boston family. His father was quite
a noted cardiologist. Herb is a cardiologist also. Was Chief, is now Emeritus
Chief of Cardiology in New England Medical Center. Sandra and Herb live in
Newton, West Newton now, and they have two kids, both grown: Andy Levine who’s
not married and Rachel whose husband is Mike Foley, and they have two little
boys, Sam and Will. And Linda isn’t married. She lives with a friend, Dixie
Carlyle in Newton, also in Newton, Massachusetts. She also went to Wellesley
after CSG. She started CSG earlier, sometime in grade school, and stayed on in
Interviewer: Well that takes care of your siblings, okay.
Yenkin: Siblings, yes.
Interviewer: While we’re in this mode, tell us about your education,
starting at the beginning.
Yenkin: Okay. Well at the beginning, it’s some fun to think back on, we
lived on Bryden Road, just to the west of Columbia and there was a little school
called Bexley Elementary or something. It was on Main Street across from what’s
now Capital University. And I don’t think I went to kindergarten. I don’t
think there were, I’m not sure that there was kindergarten. I, for the, let’s
see, how, I would have been for about, I’ll think for a second here, from the
first to the fifth grade, that’s the school I went to.
Interviewer: And it was located right on . . . .
Yenkin: It was located on Main Street and there’s a little path right now.
The Columbia Estates or whatever they call that little development there on
Bryden Road, anyway, there’s a little . . . .
Interviewer: Columbia Place.
Yenkin: Columbia Place, Columbia Place. There’s a little path that goes
over to Main Street just to the west of Columbia Place and that’s the little
path I used to take to school. It was a little paved path so I was just like a
half a block from my school.
Interviewer: So that school was pretty much where the Monk is and that little
Yenkin: I think that Capital might have built some apartments there. It was
acquired by Capital Unviersity later. The school closed when I was going into
the sixth grade and in that school, we had two classes in each room. The first
and second grade had one teacher, Mrs. Karch, who died while I was in the first
grade. And then it became Miss Householder. And then the third and fourth grade
was Miss Hummel and the fifth and sixth grade was Mrs. Craig. And it was very
intimate, I mean, there’s a whole little group that went to that school that
kind of stayed close over the years.
Interviewer: Can you tell us about some of the kids you might have remembered
from . . . .
Yenkin: Well Bob Perrin, not very many Jewish kids in the school. I think
Mack Gilbert was over there, a year ahead of me. But Bob Perrin lived across the
street. We used to walk back and forth to school. We’re still friends. Jim
Stiverson who, a very, very bright guy. Unfortunately died some few years ago. I’m
kind of drawing a blank.
Interviewer: Yeah well . . . .
Yenkin: I mean there are a lot of names but I don’t see them much.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: A few of us have stayed, have made an effort to, we get together for
dinner every year or so, something like that.
Interviewer: It’s a long time to think of.
Interviewer: What school did you go to after . . . .
Yenkin: Well then I went to, without very much warning, they just decided to
close the school. So in the sixth grade then, I went to Cassingham Junior,
Elementary I guess it was, on Cassingham. And that was a big shock because we
had to, it must have been junior high because we had to change classes and that’s,
I mean, going from this school where two classes were in one room, to going to
where I had to change classes, that was a big . . . .
Interviewer: Dramatic . . . . huh?
Yenkin: Yeah, big difference. So I went to Bexley then in junior high, sixth,
seventh and eighth grades and then the ninth and the tenth grade, well I’ll
tell you something about the tenth grade but let me go back for one minute, back
to the little school. When I was, I think, eight years old, 1938-1939, I had a
rather severe mastoid infection that required surgery. At that time, that was
before penicillin, so the doctor suggested that we go to Florida for my
recuperation. So my mother and my sister Sandra, who was a little baby at that
time and a young woman who helped my mother, we all went down to Miami Beach for
a year. So the fourth grade, I think I spent at Miami Beach School.
Interviewer: Oh, uh huh.
Yenkin: It was fun. It was a little easier than the Bexley schools too at
Interviewer: That was mainly for recuperation?
Yenkin: Yeah. So we just lived in an apartment in Florida on Pennsylvania
Avenue in what has now become very, you know, upscale South Beach area. And all
those old hotels I used to hang, you know, they’re . . . . Anyway, coming back
to schools, in my sophomore year then at Bexley, my grandparents then, my
grandfather par- ticularly who was not in very good health, went to Florida for
the winter. So I, being the oldest grandchild, went down to visit them in 1946,
end of ’45 and it was just at the closing days of World War II. Trains were, I
was sent down on the train, had a terrible time getting down. Had to sit on a
suitcase from Jacksonville to Miami. Anyway this is maybe more than you want to
know but . . . .
Interviewer: ‘Cause the trains were all packed?
Yenkin: Yeah the trains were all packed with soldiers coming home and I said,
“Look, if you can’t get me a . . . .” And I hadn’t traveled much.
I mean I had traveled with my family on . . . . trips. But I said, “If you
can’t get me a reservation coming back, I’ll just stay.” So I did. They
couldn’t get me a reservation. So I stayed with my grandparents in the
Danziger Apartments down there. Those were owned by the Danziger family here on,
I don’t remember which street, anyway around the same area around Fourteenth,
Twelfth Street or something like that in Miami Beach. And I went to Miami Beach
High. And I had a pretty good time down there. Then when I came back, my family
was always interested in Jewish educa- tion. My grandfather was Treasurer of the
Columbus Hebrew School for many years and I always had, I didn’t go to the
Columbus Hebrew School. I always had private tutors, but Telshe Yeshiva was just
starting in Cleveland at that time so my grandfather said, “Why don’t you
go up and take a look at Telshe?” So I went up. And my teacher for my Bar
Mitzvah was Rabbi Julius Baker who is Irving Baker’s father. So Rabbi
Baker and I and another person went up and it was very dark up there at Telshe
and I’m not sure they liked me and anyway, I came back . . . .
Interviewer: . . . . here for you?
Yenkin: Yes, I came back and I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but
my mother and father thought that I ought to take a look at Columbus Academy,
which is . . . . .
Interviewer: How long were you at Telshe Yeshiva?
Yenkin: About two hours.
Interviewer: Oh, you didn’t go to school then?
Yenkin: No, no. We just went up to take a look at it.
Interviewer: Oh, okay, but . . . . you after that. Okay.
Yenkin: Right, right. It was mutual, I’m sure.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: And but I often wonder what, where things would have been without . .
. . Nothing against Telshe, just . . . .
Interviewer: Just think, you could have been a rabbi?
Yenkin: Yeah . . . . But when I came back, then I went to Columbus Academy
and at that time, in the upper school of Columbus, which is in high school at
Columbus Academy, there were 62 boys. And they were looking for students. It was
still, they were, so they were . . . .
Interviewer: Where was it located then?
Yenkin: It was located on Nelson Road between Broad and Main.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: The building I think still stands. I think it was in an old, it was
like an old mansion and it had a couple of supplementary rooms and some athletic
fields and some kind of a gym. It wasn’t too great of a gym but it was a
wonderful atmosphere over there. And there was a bridge across Alum Creek and I
used to ride my bike to school and, what I started to say is they were looking
for students. Normally today I’m not sure that somebody could start at
Columbus Academy in their junior year. But I did at that time. And others too.
Interviewer: It was all boys then?
Yenkin: All boys, yeah. And they had wonderful teachers over there. The
Headmaster Sumner Dennett was a really solid, fiery New Englander and George
Brown was a marvelous English teacher and I thought I was a pretty good student
until I went to Columbus Academy and found out that I needed to learn a few
things about writing essays and that kind of stuff. So . . . .
Interviewer: That turned out to be a good experience for you?
Yenkin: It was a wonderful experience. It also helped me socially. I was a
shy kid and being in a class of maybe 20 boys and we were just thrown into not
only academic situations but social situation and it was very good. And I can’t
remember what happened with my Hebrew education at that time but I think that at
that point I was no longer, up until then I was taking Hebrew one way or another
from private tutors all the way through and also going to Sunday School, going
to Sunday School at Temple Israel. I was confirmed at Temple Israel and although
we were long-time members of Agudas Achim, in terms of the Sunday School
education, Temple Israel had a better setup, a much better setup. So anyway.
Then after Columbus Academy I was admitted to Yale and went up there, Class of
1952 in New Haven, Connecticut. And following that, just focusing on the
education, I then went to Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration,
Harvard Business School, and got my M.B.A. in 1954 and then came back to
Interviewer: Bernie, we’re almost at the end of Side A, Tape 1 so I’m
going to stop at this point and turn the tape over and then we’ll continue.
Interviewer: Okay. We’re on Side B, Tape l and we’re at Harvard and what
happened after that, Harvard Business School?
Yenkin: Well then I came back to Columbus. It was sort of pre-ordained that I’d
go into the family paint business.
Interviewer: Well let’s go back, talking about your education, you started
to talk about your Bar Mitzvah, that you did have private tutoring?
Interviewer: And then where were you Bar Mitzvahed and when?
Yenkin: Okay. I was Bar Mitzvahed at the Agudas Achim Synagogue at
Washington and Donaldson Streets in whatever, 1943, must have been, I don’t
know the date. I have a Bar Mitzvah book; I could probably tell you. But
anyway 1943 or early ’44, right around the time of my 13th birthday. And it
was a big Bar Mitzvah and I, at that time, different from today . . . .
Interviewer: Yeah tell us how it worked.
Yenkin: Well I actually did, first of all, nobody did anything much other
than the Haftorah and give a speech. Nice speech. I guess it was a little
different. I did a tractate from the Talmud and we, it was, then we had a big
party downstairs in the Agudas Achim afterwards and then in the evening or the
next day or something, but I think in the evening, my parents had a big
gathering over at their house. You see, my Bar Mitzvah was a big deal. I
was the oldest grandchild of the Yenkins and, anyway . . . .
Interviewer: It wasn’t like the hotel shindigs they have now?
Yenkin: Oh, no, no, no, no. Nothing like that. At that time it was considered
a very nice, you know, very nicely-arranged Bar Mitzvah, both the
religious aspect of it and the social aspect of it. But it was nothing like what
goes on today.
Interviewer: So it was a special family event?
Interviewer: That’s what really mattered. That’s wonderful. Okay, then .
. . .
Yenkin: And my teacher was Julius Baker. He was a fine teacher. And I’d had
other teachers before. I’d had Mr. Horowitz, Mordecai Horowitz, and for a
while I had Rabbi Hirschsprung who was the rabbi at that time of the Agudas
Achim. And, anyway. And in Florida I had while I was there in, the first time, I
guess, I had a teacher. Both times I had a teacher, Hebrew teachers. So I used
to spend a fair amount of time with my Hebrew education.
Interviewer: Well you got a good education. I know you did that. Does that
pretty much cover your educational years and experience?
Yenkin: I think so. I might think of something later, but anyway.
Interviewer: Okay. Well now let’s get to the important, another important
facet of your life, your children . . . .
Interviewer: and your grandchildren.
Yenkin: Right. And my wife.
Interviewer: And your wife.
Interviewer: But you’re going to tell us more about your wife and how you
met and everything after. Let’s get to your children.
Yenkin: You want to talk about the children? Okay, okay, okay. Well . . . .
Interviewer: Well you can start with how you met, why don’t we start with
how you met Miriam and about your wedding and everything.
Yenkin: Okay, okay. All right. I came back from business school and I was in
Columbus for a couple of years and, you know, trying doing business things but
also social things, develop some social life. And Miriam and I met either at the
Jewish Center or at the Agudas Achim. We have a little question about that but
we know that we met at the Agudas Achim standing outside for Yizkor on, I
think, Yom Kippur in 1956. And, I got to think about this carefully, right, and
we started dating not too long thereafter. I hope I have this right. And became
engaged in the, no, I do have this wrong. I have this wrong. Well let me go
back. We were married in March, on March 31, 1957. We became engaged about six
months before in the fall of 1956, maybe September, August or probably
September, 1956, and we actually started going out with each other in early
1956, maybe the Spring of 1956. Right. But we met sometime before then as I say,
maybe, it may have been as early as the Fall of 1955 . . . . And that was our,
anyway I think we hit it off pretty well, pretty quickly.
Interviewer: I think so. Uh huh. And I’m glad you did since you’re my
Interviewer: Okay. I thought I’d put that in the record.
Yenkin: Right. Then when Miriam, when we, when Miriam and I were dating and
getting to know each other, she introduced me to her family and then when we
were married, I immediately acquired 18 new nieces and nephews and 62 first
cousins and, you have all Miriam’s records. But that was a big thing, big
thing with us. We actually had both grown up in Columbus but honestly didn’t,
(Miriam’s four and a half years younger than me) we didn’t know each other
that well ’til we really met. She’s about the same age as my sister Sandra.
Interviewer: Good. So you met half of Columbus when you met Miriam.
Yenkin: Yeah right, the other half, right.
Interviewer: So you had, what, tell us about your wedding and . . . .
Yenkin: Then our wedding was a very nice wedding which Miriam and her mother
planned at the Agudas Achim and we had probably 200 or 250 people at the
Interviewer: Where was Agudas Achim located at that time?
Yenkin: At Broad and Roosevelt.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: And it was a very nice wedding and we had the reception downstairs in
the down- stairs, we had, no we, see we went downstairs to the Social Hall for
some of the reception and then we came back upstairs I think, maybe, maybe,
maybe, maybe not, I can’t remember. Anyway, it was very nice.
Interviewer: Who was the rabbi?
Yenkin: The rabbi at that time was Rabbi Rubenstein, Samuel Rubenstein. And
Cantor Gellman was the Chasen and Miriam’s uncle and another uncle also
participated in the ceremony. We were well hitched.
Interviewer: Yes, all sides were covered to that.
Interviewer: Okay. And then you went on a honeymoon?
Yenkin: We went on a honeymoon to Nassau in the Bahamas. Stayed at the Royal
Victoria Hotel which was an elegant Victorian hotel I guess you might say at
that time. I think it no longer, I’m not sure if it’s there any more. We
haven’t been back to Nassau but we had a wonderful two-week honeymoon and then
came back to Columbus and lived, and meantime had rented an apartment at 269-4
N. Chester- field in the Virginia Lee Apartments and lived there ’till, ’till
just after Leslie was born, our oldest daughter was born.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: Where do you want to go from there?
Interviewer: Okay. Well tell us about the houses that you and Miriam have
lived in, the homes . . . .
Yenkin: Okay, Okay. Right. We bought a house at 104 S. Chesterfield in 1959
and lived there, very nice traditional Colonial style sort of three-bedroom
home. And lived there until, from the time Leslie was born in 1959 until,
through the time that Amy was born in 1965 and at that point we had four kids
and it was getting a little crowded in a three-bedroom house and we were able to
buy from a cousin whose husband had passed away, our house at 2720 Brentwood in
1965. And we moved into the house – she wanted her youngest daughter to finish
high school at Bexley – so we moved in in May of 1966 and we’ve lived here now
since 1966, so that’s 35 years in this house.
Interviewer: Well it’s still a lovely family home.
Yenkin: Yes we like it a lot.
Interviewer: Okay. Now tell us about your children and grandchildren.
Yenkin: Okay. Leslie was born in 1959. All of our kids attended the Jewish
Center Pre-School. Miriam was very, well we were both very involved in the
community. Miriam was particularly involved with Rose Schwartz, Director of the
Pre-School, and was actually Chairman of the Pre-School Committee at the Jewish
Center and fought for their budgets and all that kind of stuff. And after
Pre-School then, Leslie, as all of our kids did, went to Columbus Torah Academy
where we also became quite involved and Leslie was in Torah Acacemy until the
8th grade. Then Bexley High School. Graduated in 1977 with various kinds of
honors and went on to University of Michigan where she graduated four years
later with High Distinc- tion and then spent about two more years, two or three
more years, on the west coast in the San Francisco area, Oakland actually, at
the California College of Arts and Crafts at which point, following that, she,
(and our kids were all fluent in Hebrew and had gone to Camp Ramah,) went to
Israel for a year to do free-lance photography. Came back and got a master’s
at the University of Maryland in Education, particularly, just coming on was
computers, computers involved in early childhood education. Got her master’s
and then went to work for a small company in Washington that was doing
educational software. Met . . . . where are we now, still on education or . . .
Interviewer: Yeah you finished, you were talking about Leslie . . . .
Yenkin: Okay. Met her husband Jonathan Petuchowski in Washington. Not really
met him. They became reacquainted. They were very good friends from Camp Ramah.
He was from Cincinnati. Hadn’t seen each other for about ten years. Romance
developed and they got married in, and they lived in Washington for a few years
until after Abbe, their child, was born. Leslie meantime decided she wanted to
go on for an advanced degree in Education and they moved to Boston where she was
at Harvard. Lived there for three years. Jonathan who was a graduate of Columbia
Law School was working, had been working with the Resolution Trust Corporation,
their Oversight Committee within Washington, and as Legislator- Director for a
Congressman from Cincinnati, Rob Portman. And they all moved to Boston. Jonathan
commuted for several months and then became Director of the Department of Public
Safety for the State of Massachusetts, Director of some department, I’m not
sure, working for Governor Weld up there during those few years that Leslie was
enrolled at Harvard. Then they moved four years ago, they moved back to
Columbus. She could continue working on her dissertation at that point and not
actually be living in Boston, and they’d been wanting to come back to
Columbus. So they’ve been here in Columbus since, is that . . . .
Interviewer: Four years?
Yenkin: Four years. Four years, yeah, four years I guess. And then Jonathan
is with our company now and with major responsibility there.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: And Leslie, if all goes well, will be receiving her doctorate next
June at the Harvard Commencement.
Yenkin: Yeah, if all goes well. So that’s our . . . .
Interviewer: Look forward to that.
Interviewer: And Abbe is now how old?
Yenkin: Abbe is seven years old and she went also to the Jewish Center
Pre-school, then to the CSG Pre-School and Kindergarten and she’s now just
finished the first grade at CSG, Columbus School for Girls. And we’re enjoying
having them with us in Columbus.
Interviewer: Yeah she’s a little sweetheart. I have to add a few little
comments every now and then.
Yenkin: Feel free.
Interviewer: Okay. And then your second child?
Yenkin: Okay. Jonathan, early years same as Leslie. Pre-school at the Jewish
Center. Columbus Torah Academy through the, he graduated, Torah Academy only
went through eighth grade so he graduated. Then went to Bexley, also had a nice
record in Bexley and went on to Yale, where he graduated in 1983, Class of ’83.
And following that, went on for his master’s in Journalism at the Medill
School at Northwestern. And married Susan Fisher of Des Moines, Iowa. They met
in, he at the time was working for the AP, Associated Press in Boston. They met
in Boston, were married and lived in Boston for about four years ’till after
their second son was born. Max was born in, Max is seven years old at this point
so he was born, when, in 199– . . . .
Yenkin: Four. Four. And Alex would have been born in 1997, I think. And
after, in the meantime, Jonathan had accepted a job with the Chicago Tribune
as Editor of their Internet edition. Those things were just getting started at
that time, business edition, and he stayed there until really about several
months ago, when he left the Tribune to join a consulting company called
Sapient and they’re living, meantime they bought a home in Chicago, Wilmette,
which is north of Chicago and they live there with their two sons. Susan is a
Senior Editor for PC Week, which was a magazine of the computer industry. But
when the kids were born, she now is a free-lance business writer on the computer
industry and does special projects and also has a small business of her own in
Allison, early years at the Jewish Center Pre-school, Torah Academy, Bexley
High. Allison actually graduated first in her class at Bexley High. Went on to
Yale. And became very interested, Allison started as a philosophy major, became
very interested in Russian history, made several trips to Russia, Soviet Union
at that time. Developed many friendships there and in 1987, was married to
Anatoly Katsev at the Wedding Palace in Moscow. And in those years, we felt very
much a part of what was happening in the Soviet Jewry but we were both, Mariam
particularly, very involved with the whole national and international movement
to save and rescue the Jews that were having a very difficult time getting out
of the Soviet Union at that time. And Miriam actually made other trips to Moscow
and eastern Europe during that period as a National Vice Chairman of the United
Jewish Appeal. And anyway, Tolya then applied to leave, Anatoly, Tolya is a
Interviewer: Spell his last name for us.
Yenkin: Was, fortunately able to receive his exit papers in February of ’88
and he came first to Boston, where Allison was working for the Russian Research
Center at Harvard, Marshall Goldman. And then to Columbus where a religious
ceremony was performed in our garden in June of 1988 with family and then many
friends, after the wedding, attending. A very special event. That was the first
wedding of our children and the first wedding in the Yenkin family of that
generation so it was a big deal all the way around, particularly with the, you
know, the sort of romantic and poignant story that developed out of their
romance and marriage. And we at that time felt very much a part of what was
being reported in the international press about what was going on in Russia and
we felt as though we were really intimately involved in it, not only from an
organizational standpoint in terms of the Conference on Soviet Jewry and all the
things that involvements were in, but also from a personal standpoint. And
anyway, after the wedding then, they drove my, our Peugeot, which we had given
them as a wedding present, we liked French cars, to California and this was an
’83 and this was ’88, so we were ready to cycle off.
So, and Allison
meantime had been accepted at the Stanford graduate program to work on her
doctorate in Russian history, which was a long process. They’ve been in
California since 1988, first in Menlo Park. Stanford’s in Palo Alto which is
right next door. And then, now they’ve recently bought a home in Mountain View
which is also bordering to the community of Palo Alto. Allison got her degree,
her doctorate, two years ago, in 1999 I think. Anyway and she’s, or maybe
1998, and she’s been, I think 1998, and she’s been teaching at Stanford
since then. And Tolya meantime, who was, whose field was computer technology,
very advanced, was with Hitachi, with a couple of companies, but with Hitachi
for quite a while and then moved over and he’s with a company called Pumatech
in the Silicon Valley. His parents and his sister and brother-in-law and niece
followed them a few years later from Moscow and they’re all living out in
Interviewer: Do they have children?
Yenkin: And you’re right, our granddaughters. Libbie, Libbie Anna is six
years old now. She’s in the, just finished kindergarten in Mountain View,
California. And Sarah, Sarah Helen Katsev, is three years old at this point. I
have to refer to notes to tell you exactly what year they were born.
Interviewer: You’re doing very well with remembering Yenkins. And they
both, Libbie particularly, because Tolya’s parents are not particularly fluent
in English, Libbie is bilingual and she’ll speak Russian or English, depending
on who she’s talking to. And Sarah also somewhat.
Interviewer: That’s a good way to learn.
Yenkin: Yeah. And they also, anyway. We spend a lot of time with all of our
chldren and grandchildren and they spend a lot of time with each other, which is
nice. But they come here and then we meet them in Telluride, Colorado, and stuff
like that. But I should get back to Amy and finish up the children maybe.
Interviewer: Well yeah. Why don’t we do that.
Yenkin: Okay, okay. Amy, our youngest, was born in November, 1965, and again
Jewish Center Pre-school, Torah Academy. Torah Academy by this time was in its
new building on Noe-Bixby Road. Before that the kids, Jonathan, Leslie and
Jonathan and maybe Allison all went to CTA when it was at the Sunday School
rooms in the Agudas Achim at Roosevelt and Broad and then when the Agudas Achim
had its building program sometime around then, they went out to Temple Israel
where they were kind enough to allow Torah Academy to use its Sunday School
rooms. And then Torah Academy was built, I think that it was completed the year
that Jonathan graduated so he actually never went to the new school but his
graduation might have been there. Anyway, so Amy was at Torah Academy.
went on to the University of Michigan and graduated again with High Distinction.
During her, the summer between her junior and senior year at Michigan, she had
taken an internship at the USIA, the United States Information Agency in Wash-
ington. She got quite interested in international affairs and international
education and after college, she went to work for a sort of deluxe little agency
in Washing- ton called the Foreign Student Services Council that was Washington’s
way of being nice to the foreign students in the Washington area. And from
there, that was a very nice experience, very small staff, very intimate, and the
house that was actually on, who was he, Fred Friendly, remember from the Edward
R. Murrow days, yeah. It was the house that his family had given to this
organization so it was very nice. And she went from there to, I don’t remember
the exact name but it’s the umbrella organization for all the international
student program on colleges around the country. And she advanced there to where
she had some very major kinds of responsibilities. She was really their liaison
person with all the inter- national programs and meantime she was introduced to
Rob Usdan who now is her husband and he was Robert I. Ustan. He was living in
Manhattan, involved in the financial industry, and they decided that if they
were going to have, be serious, about thinking about getting married, that they
couldn’t be living in separate cities, so she moved up to New York so they
could get to know each other better and left a very nice job.
We were concerned,
but sent in a blind application to the Soros Foundation, George Soros, which was
doing international educational work all over the world, almost as an arm of
the, like an arm of the State Department, doing in a private way what the State
Department could have done, spending hundreds of millions of dollars. And she
was, they liked her and brought her in and she became an Associate Director
after a while. Was doing a tremendous amount of traveling back and forth to
places like Warsaw and Prague and London and Budapest and all over, Kiev,
Moscow, for several years and then she and Rob got married in the meantime. Rob
then had started his own business doing consulting. He had a partner, consulting
to banks and also developing a money fund that dealt with financial
institutions. And then when Cole, our grandson, their child, came along, Amy
shifted over and out of the international part of the Soros Foundation to the
domestic part and she’s been there, that’s where she’s been ever since.
Interviewer: So she doesn’t have to travel?
Yenkin: She doesn’t travel, no, she doesn’t travel. She doesn’t do
overseas travel like she had been. Right. She does some domestic travel but not
too much. And she’s the Associate Director there. So, and they live in
Manhattan on the upper west side on the corner of Amsterdam and 79th in an
apartment that Rob actually had before they were married. And Cole is about to
go into pre-school at the Rodeth Sholom Temple Pre-School. That’s where he is
on the upper west side in New York.
Interviewer: Starting his education.
Yenkin: Yes, yes, yes.
Interviewer: That pretty much covers your children and grandchildren and so
what I wanted to ask you, how are you, I know you get together with your family
several times during the year. Can you describe those reunions?
Interviewer: You don’t have to tell us about Miriam’s side of the family.
Yenkin: No I know that. Right, right. Well we, our kids all stay in close
touch with each other and because of the nature of what they do, they are able
to travel around and see each other even though they’re spread all over the
country. And everybody comes home for Thanksgiving because that seems to be the
best holiday and it’s an enjoyable holiday, long week-end. And then whoever
can will come for Miriam’s, the Libbie and Meyer Schottenstein Family Reunion,
whoever can, they try to do that. We have, in 1987, Miriam and I bought a place
in Telluride, Colorado, that we really consider a second home and the, we meet
our kids a lot out there too, our family. Our kids are all skiers and . . . .
Interviewer: But they don’t all come out at once?
Yenkin: No we couldn’t that at this point although we have a nice set-up
there. But what we do is we do a lot of overlapping. We’ll go out and maybe be
out for a week, several days or a week. It depends on who, what they want to do.
And then maybe they’ve come out a week earlier or something and then we’ll
stay on for another week out there and do things in both winter and summer. And
our kids visit around with each other a lot though, too.
Interviewer: That’s great, they keep in touch. Bernie, I know that you and
Miriam both have been very active, of course we’re focusing on you right now
but I know that you have some notes. Will that help tell us about your activity
in the community and . . . .
Yenkin: Yeah, let me just give us a backdrop that Miriam, I think, it’s, I
mean I think it’s very special to me and it’s very special to both of us
that we’ve been able to participate together in so many things of common
interest. And I guess evidenced by the fact that when, you know, recognition is
given and so forth, it’s generally both of us. We, Torah Academy honored both
of us at one point and then when the Mayor’s Columbus Award for Voluntary
Service was established, we were the only ones honored as a, we were recognized
as a husband and wife and it was nice. My involvement started when I came back
from college. At that time, B’nai B’rith was still a fairly strong
organization in town and I was recruited to become an officer on sort of a fast
track. So I became President of B’nai B’rith. I think that was maybe my
first, well first organizational presidency, so to speak. But in the meantime
the United, the Federation at that time was called the United Jewish Fund, then
later the United Jewish Fund and Council and then the Columbus Jewish
Federation. But I was involved in the Youth, I think it was called the Youth
Division. I was involved in the Young Adult Division which was like early 20s or
something like that, as, eventually became chairman of that and had some nice
experiences and events with national speakers coming in. And then, where else
did I get headed? Well Miriam and I were, right, it was somewhat serendipit-
ous. I mean, we just sort of started getting involved and interested in things
that were going on at the national level. So, and my work permitted me to do
some traveling so I tried to tie it in and we went to national conferences in,
around in New York and various other places and I became, I was recruited, I’ve
got to think about which came first. Miriam was very involved in the Council of
Jewish Federations which was a national agency, umbrella agency for the
federations. She was, she became quite involved in that as I believe a
vice-president or one of the officers. And I was asked to join the, what became
the United Jewish Appeal Young Leadership Cabinet. And so I was on the charter
group of that. There were only 40, at that time only men were in that, from
around the country. So that heightened our level of activity to where we were
going to almost every General Assembly, which was the annual meeting of the
Council of Jewish Federations. And every December, we’d be in New York for the
United Jewish Appeal Inter- national Meetings and it was marvelous. I mean, all
the Prime Ministers of Israel and all the major, major leadership in world Jewry
were involved and Miriam’s a very gregarious person. We developed a lot of
very close friendships with a lot of these people, not only from our generation
but got to know senior leadership and it influenced our life back here in
Columbus very much because we saw a broader perspective on things than maybe
what was going on here. And things were such that we could maybe have an
influence on what happened in Columbus. We think we did, particularly in terms
of Jewish education, which was pretty much an anath- ema at that time in
Columbus while it was becoming, seen as becoming increas- ingly important
nationally. Anyway, so we, let’s see, you want sort of what I’ve been
Yenkin: Okay. All right. Well at the Federation, I came on the Board I think
when I was, well, there was an organization started about this time, we were
still living on Chesterfield Road, I know that, called the Maccabees, which was
an organization of young men in the Federation and the idea was frankly to get
levels of giving up to more substantive levels, and there were twelve of us. And
we did a really good job. And that started, then that led to the Young Men’s
Division of the Federa- tion. The Federation was a very exciting place to be at
that time. And then when I was Chairman then of the Young Men’s Division, that
put me onto the Board and the Executive Committee of the Federation. And I think
I was maybe on and off a couple of times or something but then I was on. Miriam
was on as a Board Member of the Federation. I think she actually, during one of
those periods, she was on while I was off. But then we, anyway. And then I was,
meantime we were very involved in the Torah Academy. So, and I was the
Vice-President of Finance which meant going out and raising the payroll for the
teachers each month with Irving Fried, the Principal. And I was asked to be
President. Miriam was Vice-President of Education. And at the same time this was
in, I think it must have been 1977 because it was the year my father died, I was
President of Torah Academy and we had a wonderful executive committee and board
at that time, really accomplishing things. And I was then asked to be Campaign
Chairman of the Federation. So I was, I think it was ’78 that I was Campaign
Chairman of the Federation and President of the Torah Academy at the same time.
And my father had just died. So it was a . . . .
Interviewer: A challenging time?
Yenkin: Yeah. It was a year in which I learned to organize, with Miriam’s
help, my time and my life. Anyway, then other things that I’ve been involved
in, oh, in the general community as an outgrowth of Miriam’s involvement
during the early 70s when the energy crisis occurred and there were lines at
gasoline stations and there was concern that Israel would become the scapegoat
for the Arab nations’ refusal to sell oil to the United States, a series of
Christian-Jewish dialogues were started under the auspices of the Federation.
Miriam was an active participant in one of those, probably the most successful
of those, you might say. And we became good friends with some of the
participants, particularly Bob Russell a Presbyterian minister who, some couple
of years later, his son Tim and another person thought that Columbus deserved to
have a chamber orchestra. So I was asked, they were looking for some people from
the business community, so I was part of the found- ing board of Pro Musica
Chamber Orchestra, which had a wonderful effect on my life.
Interviewer: And it’s had a wonderful effect on the community, too.
Yenkin: Yeah it’s been a marvelous organization and became, I think, the
third president of that organization and stayed on the board for many, many
years and I’m still in what’s called The Trustees Circle, sort of a senior
emeritus board member kind of thing. In, oh gosh, at some point along the line,
and Miriam was quite involved in the whole Jewish educational scene here in
Columbus, the Columbus Hebrew School was in terrible shape. Her own Hebrew . . .
. about her, and she was able to accomplish a very unusual thing, with the help
of some outside national con- sultants who we had met through some of our other
involvements, they were able to get the Hebrew School Board to just simply go
out of business. And, which was very unusual for a community organization, and
in its place we started a new Hebrew school that had as its objectives, meeting
some of the obstacles that had occurred in the old Hebrew School. So we were
just starting fresh with a new board and a new mission and a new way of working
with the various congre- gations and so forth. It was very exciting. And I was
asked to be the President, to get things going.
Interviewer: What was that organization called?
Yenkin: It was, well the first thing we did was we decided we had to have
another name because we couldn’t call ourselves “The New Hebrew
School” because that would bring into play visions of the old Hebrew
School, which had served the community well for many years. My grandfather, as I
say, had been one of the founders of it. But, so we named it Kol Ami and Kol
Ami, unfortunately, went out of business a couple of years ago but during its
period of activity it, we received national atten- tion for the way it was set
up, for the way it was governed, for the way the board was brought together, how
we worked. It was quite good. But afternoon Hebrew education is a very difficult
thing so everybody feels they have a better answer to it. And sometimes a better
answer is and sometimes it isn’t, but in any case, Kol Ami, it was a long, I
became sort of disinvolved after a while and it’s no longer there. Been
involved in local Yale Club activities and local Harvard Business School Club
activity, you know all the activities, things like that.
Interviewer: Do you attend reunions at the schools pretty regularly?
Yenkin: Yeah I do. I go to my Business School. Most of them, I go to most of
them. I’m not a big reunion person but I go do that and also Columbus Academy
reunions. We had our 50th reunion, the Class of ’48, a few years ago and that
was fun. Went to a Bexley High School, even though I didn’t graduate, they let
me come, fiftieth reunion in the same year. Then other things I’ve been
involved with outside of Columbus . . . .
Interviewer: We’re going to take a pause at that moment and change the
Interviewer: And this is the end of Side B, Tape l. Okay, we’re Tape 2,
Side A and we’re going to continue Bernie.
Yenkin: Okay. One thing that I was reminded of during the pause is that I was
the Presi- dent of the Columbus Jewish Federation and which was a very . . . .
Interviewer: . . . . leave out.
Yenkin: Right. A very, very enjoyable two years and is a nice thing to do, I
mean, we’re still very involved in the Federation and it’s nice to have done
that and just as a postscript, Miriam was President a few years later. She was
the first woman in 60 years to have been asked to chair the, to take the top,
lead position at the Federa- tion so we’re . . . .
Interviewer: So she’s the only president of the . . . .
Yenkin: The only, well there’s been one other since, but she was the first
one. Involved a lot of international travel during her period and we’re the
only husband and wife, getting back to all that, who have both been Presidents
of the Federation.
Interviewer: Well you’ve been a real team.
Yenkin: So . . . .
Interviewer: And you have encouraged each other.
Yenkin: Well we have. And from a historical standpoint too, I think it goes
back to my father particularly, my father and my mother, after we were married
encouraged us to become involved.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Yenkin: And too. So. Just a little historical note on that. Talking about, I
mentioned that I was on the United Jewish Appeal National Young Leadership
Cabinet. And these are all kinds of, I mean, personal, but they also I think
give a sense of what was the history of, what was happening in those periods.
That was, as I say, in the early 60s. Then in, oh I don’t know, the mid-80s,
well I was on the board for a while of the Council of Jewish Federations. Miriam
actually was on the board and a National Vice-President of the Council of Jewish
Federations. But then I was asked to join the board of JESNA which was the
Jewish Education Service of North America, which was just sort of reconstituting
itself and different cities had one or two representatives on that board. It
became a very active and, what should I say? I don’t want to say influential
in the point of its members being influential, but it caused many things to
happen in the Jewish world and became the leading national organization for the
whole area of Jewish identity and Jewish edu- cation. Jon Woocher came on just
shortly after I came on the board. He came on as professional leader of it and
he was a terrific person. So that was exciting. We went to a lot of, to a number
of JESNA meetings in, mostly in New York, but some in some other places, Phoenix
and different places. And I was on that board for I think twelve years or
something like that. Became, was Board Secretary and then the Vice-President for
a few years. And then eventually I came to the end of the time that my service
could be renewed so I’m again some sort of senior coun- selor or something
like that, but something on the Board Emeritus, part of the Board Emeritus group
that they have, and still stay in touch with that. But JESNA has helped a lot in
our Columbus community. They were the agents, they came in the time that we were
discontinuing the old Hebrew School and starting the new Hebrew school. And also
assisted the Torah Academy and had been, part of their mission is service to
communities but the other part is to sort of develop a vision for Jewish
education that communities could latch onto. And that’s, they’re now, the
organization has continued to develop, mostly under Jonathan Woocher’s
leadership I’d say but a very, very good board too. What else? I’m a former
member of the Young President’s Organization, YPO, and still stay somewhat
active in that in something called the Columbus Chapter of the World President’s
Organization. We meet periodically.
Interviewer: So that’s local?
Yenkin: Yeah, well, it’s an international organization but it’s a local
chapter. Yeah, and it’s an organization that, when you reach age 50, they give
you a rocking chair and you’re out. But then you become what used to be called
a “forty-niner” which I liked, but then they got a little more formal
and changed it to World President’s Organization, Columbus Chapter. And that’s
also an international organization. So, what else?
Interviewer: That’s a lot of attachments to organizations that you
previously were very active in.
Yenkin: Yeah, yeah. Oh the Agudas Achim, I forgot that.
Interviewer: Yeah Agudas Achim . . . . that.
Yenkin: Right, right. Well, sometime after, when was it, anyway some time in
the 80s, my father had been Treasurer. My grandfather had been Treasurer of the
synagogue just throughout most of his life. Then when he became, I don’t know,
at some point he turned it over to my father who was Treasurer of the synagogue
for decades and . . . .
Interviewer: Excuse me for interrupting. Was your grandfather the first
generation of Agudas Achim?
Yenkin: Yeah my grandfather Jacob Yenkin, well when they came to Columbus
they were members of the Agudas Achim so the Agudas Achim was actually, the
first spiritual leader was my great-grandfather on my mother’s side, Kalman
London, and that would have been around 1890 or something like that. So the
Agudas Achim was already, there’s probably some better history than I have in
Interviewer: Established, it was already established.
Yenkin: Yeah but it was established and when they came to town they became
active in that, along with the Hebrew School and with, they were active in
United Jewish Fund.
Interviewer: So both your mother’s and father’s sides of the family were
very involved in com- munity affairs, Jewish community affairs?
Yenkin: Yeah. I’d say that my father’s family much more so than my mother’s
family in an organized way in terms of leadership within the Jewish community.
My great- grandfather was a spiritual leader. He was not exactly a rabbi, he was
sort of what they called a “Rov” or something like that. And on my
mother’s side, they were all very involved Jewishly, but in terms of
organizational ladership, that was more really on the Yenkin side of the family.
Although my mother herself was President of the Agudas Achim Sisterhood twice,
once when she was in her, I think, 20s or 30s, 20s, and once when she was in her
80s. And she was Chairman of the Women’s Division of the United Jewish Fund
and various other things.
Interviewer: Columbus Jewish Historical Society.
Yenkin: Right. She was a founder of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society
and very involved in Heritage House. Right, very involved in Heritage House. My
father, my father of course was President of the Jewish Center, President of the
Jewish Family Services, President of the Columbus Jewish Federation. What else?
I have a list someplace. And Treasurer of the Agudas Achim for all those years.
Anyway getting back to me and Agudas Achim. We were married in the Agudas Achim
and we have always felt a strong affiliation with the Agudas Achim but we didn’t
spend much time there during our early marriage and our kids were all in Torah
Academy so they didn’t have to go to Sunday School there. They were getting
their Jewish education. But in the early 80s when there was going to be a change
in the rabbinical leadership of the Agudas Achim, Victor Goodman, who was
Chairman at the time, asked me to chair the Rabbinical Search Committee which
was a very exciting experience for me and we hired Rabbi Alan Ciner, which was a
very wonderful culmination to our committee’s work and we worked very quickly.
It was an excellent committee, an excellent broad-based committee, received
unanimous votes all the way through. Anyway, then when Victor finished his
chairmanship, they asked me to be Chairman of the Agudas Achim. So I did that
for a few, couple of years. I can’t remember if it was a two- or three-year
stint. And I was followed by Mel Schottenstein and then Herb Glimcher and
others. But we had a lot of good times, good results. Shortly after Rabbi Ciner
came he approached Miriam to see about the Agudas Achim participating in the
Salute to Israel Parade down Fifth Avenue in New York and we organized a large
group of people to go into New York. I think there were 50 or 60 people marching
down Fifth Avenue under this banner saying “The Buckeyes Salute the State
of Israel” or something like that.
Interviewer: Yeah it was an exciting time.
Yenkin: Were you there?
Interviewer: No I wasn’t there but I have heard a lot about it.
Yenkin: It was great. It was fantastic. And so there was a lot of joy taking
place in those times. And so anyway, I did that and I still stayed on board of
Interviewer: At Agudas Achim?
Yenkin: Yeah, Agudas Achim. Right, right. What do you want to talk about now?
Interviewer: Does that pretty much cover generally what you’ve been
involved in all these, I know you’ve had an extensive career in the community.
I wanted to kind of go back to years back and see how you used the facilities of
the Schonthal Center and the Columbus Jewish Community Center
Interviewer: Tell us about your experiences.
Yenkin: Okay well I actually, I don’t remember ever being in the Schonthal
Interviewer: Is that right?
Yenkin: Yeah. But I may have been. I don’t know. I may have been. I’ll
tell you a couple of things though. As far as, I’ll come back to them. I don’t
want to lead off with them. My parents were very involved. During the war, my
mother was down at the 571 Shop. I don’t know if you remember, you probably
don’t remember that.
Yenkin: But anyway, in helping New Americans and all that stuff. But anyway I
was, let’s see, I was away at college from ’48 really to ’54, when you
consider business school. During that period, the Jewish Center was built in
1950 and the new syna- gogue also built, moved in 1950 or 1951. My father was
Chairman of the Search Committee that selected the site for the Jewish Center.
Very controversial at that time but it turned out to be a terrific site. And of
course he worked with a lot of wonderful people in the community. And then was
Chairman of the Building Committee for the Jewish Center.
Interviewer: Why was it controversial?
Yenkin: Well it was just, I guess, whatever. Some people felt it should be
further east, some people, whatever.
Interviewer: Too far?
Yenkin: Too far. Whatever. But they were able to acquire what turned out to
be a huge tract of land that then became the site of the whole campus. That’s
where the Heritage House is, where the Melton Building is. Not Beth Jacob. Beth
Jacob bought the site down the street. But that whole campus turned out to be a
very great site and very accessible. There was some . . . .
Interviewer: Very successful location there.
Yenkin: Yeah, yeah. So the Jewish Center. When I came back from college, we
had a lot of meetings. B’nai B’rith had an office at the Jewish Center and I
was President. The Young Adult Division met at the Jewish Center. We had, I wasn’t
much of a bowler but I probably bowled there.
Interviewer: Yeah they did have a bowling alley.
Yenkin: Yeah, yeah. But we had, we just had all kinds of meetings and then
when Miriam and I were married, there were all kinds of educational things that
would take place. And Gallery Players Theater. So we used the Jewish Center that
way. We didn’t use it much for social things and, what else did you ask me?
Interviewer: I was just asking about how you used it as a family or . . . .
Yenkin: No we felt it was very, very important. We’ve always supported the
Jewish Center whether we were using it much in certain periods or not. And then
of course, the Pre-School, my father was part of the small group, Harry Gilbert,
Max Schotten- stein, a couple of others who founded what was called the Agudas
Achim Self- Development School, which was the precursor to the Jewish Center
Pre-School. And they hired Rose Schwartz and it was over on, where was it? It
was over some place on . . . .
Interviewer: Bryden Road?
Yenkin: Bryden Road or somewhere. Yeah just west of Alum Creek, someplace
around there in an old house. And my sister Sandra went to school there, went to
pre- school there. So that would have been in the early 40s or something like
that. Then when the Jewish Center was built, they persuaded those who were the
lead- ership of the Agudas Achim Self-Development School, particularly Harry
Gilbert at that time, he was my mother’s cousin, to join in with the Jewish
Center and become part, that would be the Pre-School at the, Jewish Community
Pre-School but it would be at the Jewish Center. And Rose Schwartz moved over
and that’s how the Pre-School at the Jewish Center got started. And then when
our kids started coming along, as I said, Miriam was very involved. She was
Chairman of the Pre-School Committee which was a very important position at that
time because they had to fight for their budgets. And so we used the Jewish
Center for all those kinds of activities.
Interviewer: Okay. I just wanted to kind of tie that in with all the
activities. I think it’s time to get into a real interesting part of your
life, your travels and I know that you and Miriam travel extensively. You’ve
taken your family on wonderful trips.
Interviewer: So give us . . . .
Yenkin: Well when I was a little kid, of course, nobody traveled too much
although I used to take automobile trips to either paint conventions with my
father and his brothers, and so forth. And, or to visit, I remember a trip to
Scranton, Pennsyl- vania, to visit my Aunt Helen’s family. It took two days at
that time by car. But then in ’38 we went to Florida and lived there for a
year. ’38 or ’39. Anyway, but in terms of our travels, and I took a, sort of
the trip west between my sophomore and junior year in college with some friends
and spent about six weeks touring the west and things like that, just living
just very simply in tents and camping out and that kind of stuff.
Interviewer: With your parents you didn’t take trips other than, I mean . .
Yenkin: With my parents, I got to think for a second. Ummmmmm, I’ll come
back to that. I don’t, we . . . .
Interviewer: Usually it was mostly to visit family?
Yenkin: Yeah it was mostly to visit, with parents, it was mostly to visit
family except when I went away to college. Then there was more travel. I mean,
New Haven’s only 60 miles from New York so, you know, in college, we’d go
down to New York a lot or up to Boston a lot or depending on who we were trying
to see and spend a little time with, or family. In those days you didn’t come
home from college very much. We came home at Christmas vacation, as it was
Interviewer: You had longer sessions sometimes?
Yenkin: Yeah and that might have been it. We might have come home for Spring
Vacation but we certainly didn’t come home for any weekends or Thanksgiving or
anything like that. Of course, not much long distance telephone either. It was
all letters. A telephone call was usually some emergency or you’d send a
telegram. We’d send telegrams.
Interviewer: So they actually wrote letters, huh?
Yenkin: You wrote letters, yeah and usually if it was something special, you’d
send a telegram. But then after Miriam and I were married we were, we did, even
early we did a fair amount of traveling mostly, I think, a lot of it to events
that were taking place in the Jewish world in New York or other places that the
General Assemblies were held. And then a lot of ski trips with ourselves and
other family members. And then when our kids got old enough, we started taking
them skiing in Western Pennsylvania, Michigan, Western New York. And then we had
our first big trip, ski trip, was with Jack and Muriel Wallick and Elaine and
Mike Karr, Miriam’s sister and brother-in-law at that time. And we went up to
Vermont in January of ’64, I think that was out first big ski trip. And then
we’d usually try to take one ski trip of one kind or another. We started going
out west the next year and then eventually with our kids and mostly to Aspen
when Aspen was still a little, cute little ski town, not so jet-setting. Not to
say it isn’t a great place. It is. But it was a lot quieter, yeah, and mostly
concentrating on skiing. So then with both of our, in the 60s, mid 60s, with
both of our involvement in, oh I’d taken a trip to France in 1953 between my
two years in business school on a program called Jobs in France. I worked for a
paint company over in Paris and then, for about six weeks, and then the next six
weeks just spent time doing the grand tour with a couple of friends from
business school, of every place you’d want to go in Europe. But then, that was
it as far as European travel, up until a point. Then in ’68, the Young
Leadership Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal had been sponsor- ing, they’d
started sponsoring some some trips, and trying to get participation on missions
to Israel. And my mother and father had been on a mission in, I think, ’61. My
mother had and my father joined her. But we had never been and we were very
involved in Israeli things so we went on a two-week trip just to Israel. And it
was a marvelous mission. And it was a smaller mission. I think there were maybe
80 people total. Maybe even not that many on the two busses on the mission, from
all over the country.
Interviewer: Did you tell us the year?
Yenkin: ’68, 1968. That was our first trip. And then in ’71, my Uncle
Fred had been over in Israel doing some things with some paint companies over
there and also just spending some time, and he had something he wanted me to
come over for so just very quickly, we got ourselves together and went over to
Israel for about ten days in ’71 and stopped in Paris for a day on the way
over and I thought that, you know, I’d been in Paris and I knew Paris so we
rented a car at the airport and tried to drive into Paris. Got completely lost
and it was a fun 24 hours. Miriam, we still smile about it but it was terrific.
So that was our first trip to Paris together. And then went on to Israel. I can’t
remember if we stopped someplace on the way back or not. We might have stopped
in Istanbul on the way back for a couple days. You could do it in those days.
You could make a stop on the way over and a stop on the way back on these Super
Saver Fares or Apex Fares, as they’re called now. Anyway, then in ’74, and I
left this out of our family, our son Jonathan was getting Bar Mitzvahed
and we decided that we would have the Bar Mitzvah in Israel at the Wall.
It was a marvelous family experience. My mother and my father went and we had
Miriam’s sister, Elaine, went with her family. Her daughter was already over
there and another niece came from England. So we had, by this time it developed
. . . .
Yenkin: Oh Phyllis, Elaine’s sister Phyllis was there. Jeri Cohen was the
one who came from England. And we had Rabbi Baker, my old Hebrew school teacher,
my old teacher who was living in Nanya at that time, came over. So we had about
30-some people. Because in the meantime, we had developed, there was a group of
Israelis connected with the University who were living at the Ohio State Uni-
versity, who were living in Columbus. We developed a number of close friend-
ships with them. And so . . . .
Interviewer: And they went back to Israel?
Yenkin: And they went back to Israel so then we stayed in touch. So they all
came to Jonathan’s Bar Mitzvah. It was a really glorious thing. And
then we spent time with our kids, two weeks then, touring Israel. Stopped in
London on the way back for four days. But on the trip to Israel, one of our
friends was an automobile dealer and gave us a car to use and six of us piled in
and we drove all over, into the Golan Heights. We drove into Kuneitra, places
that you read about now. Drove down to Sharm al-Sheikh, which is now back in
Egyptian hands, and just had a great trip. And saw friends along the way, stayed
in kibbutzes or in Sharm
al -Sheikh stayed in tents. It was terrific. And then stopped, our kids, we
talked with our kids, we had again one of these stop-overs on the way back so we
asked where they wanted to stop. Amy I think was five at the time. Five, or
nine? No maybe nine. Eight or nine. Nine. And the other kids were all, you know,
Jonathan was 13, Leslie was 15, Allison was 11. So we decided we’d stop in
London on the way back and had a great time. Rented a car at the airport, of all
things, and all piled in the car. Were driving on the right-hand side of the
road and driving through London and we had a good time.
Interviewer: You were always gutsy about driving in foreign countries.
Yenkin: Yeah. We enjoy that. Yeah we do, we kind of like to do things on our
own. So these trips were all focused around Israel. Then in 1976, from a
business stand- point we were dealing with a, having dealings with a large
French conglomerate that included some paint manufacturing . . . . established
in the United States. So we were working on a deal with them. The deal actually,
we made the deal but nothing actually ever came out of it. However we made a lot
of friendships and ended up, Miriam and I and my cousin Merom Brachman and Judy,
all went over to Paris in September of ’76. That was our first real European
thing together outside of this one day, 24 hours in Paris on the way to Israel.
And at business school I had a wonderful friend from Norway as a roommate. And
we hadn’t seen each other for a long time. So we decided that, and since
Miriam hadn’t been to Europe before, we decided that we’d do our business
thing in Paris, which took about a week and then up to Amsterdam and Copenhagen
and end up in Oslo. So we did that. It was a great trip and we had a wonderful
time in Paris. And I think, yes, at that point too we took a side, the week wasn’t
consumed completely with business things so we took a side trip and went out to
Mount St. Michel for an overnight and down into Brittany for another overnight
or had, just, or into the Little Loire Valley and just had a nice time. So that
was ’76. Then we went back to Israel I think in ’78. We’ve been to Israel
many times. We can’t quite agree on how many. Miriam’s been there several
more times than I have because she was really doing a lot of traveling when she
was a National Vice-Chairman of United Jewish Appeal. So then, leaving aside our
trips to Israel for a moment, what else have we done? I can’t, oh, Miriam’s
sister Phyllis . . . . where am I, up to about 1978 or something like that? But
then in the early 80s, well, during the 70s at some point, Miriam and I talked
to my parents about maybe trying to rent a house someplace in Europe, in France.
And maybe we’d all go over or something like that because we had sort of a
history of family vacations. There was a wonderful vacation before Miriam and I
knew each other in 1956 where the whole Yenkin family rented this whole huge
place up on Martha’s Vineyard. Nantucket, excuse me, Nantucket. And we all
went up, I mean, all the four sister-in-laws, I mean my father’s whole family,
that generation went up and then all the younger kids and then I was already
back and working at the company and my Uncle Fred and I went up for two weeks.
We drove up together. And it was just this wonderful vacation and then in the
year that Jonathan was born, 1961, my parents took a house on Martha’s
Vineyard and my sisters were living in Boston and Sandra was married. We had
Leslie and Jonathan. And we went up there. And there was a sailboat that came
with the house. And we just had a great time. And then there was another one, a
shorter one up at Walloon Lake, Michigan. So these were all, this was sort of a
thing that was fun, we found fun to do something about. Well why don’t we try
to do one in Europe? Well we were on the way to doing it and I don’t know if
you remember but De Gaulle got into an argument with Lyndon Johnson or
something. Wasn’t it about the time? Anyway the French and the American
relationships went to the dogs at that point. So we decided, well it’s not too
patriotic. We shouldn’t do this thing or something. But then it kind of resur-
faced in 1981, ’82, ’81. And Phyllis started looking into places to rent and
she really, she was coming up with places but they weren’t anything that we
could either afford or really tell whether it was something that we wanted.
Interviewer: Here in the United States?
Yenkin: No, no, this was in France. France, yeah France. So meantime we had
had this connection from the 1976 trip to Paris, this business connection, where
we had developed some really nice relationships. So we called Pierre. Miriam
called him. Or really I don’t know if we were using the telephone in those
days or not. And he said, yeah, he’d try to find us a place. So he sent us a
bunch of material and we decided, with his help, decided on a place that was
described as having a grand vue sur mer which is a beautiful view over
the sea, near St. Tropez. We had no idea what was going on. So Miriam, and I
wasn’t taking long vacations, well two weeks, I wasn’t taking long vacations
those days when we were heading for the month of July, so Miriam and my mother
and Phyllis went over. And at the time too, our kids were coming, getting in and
out of college and not, yeah, Leslie was already out. So we were cycling cars.
We’d drive a car for a few years and then we’d sell it or cycle it off to
one of our kids who needed cars. So we were in that mode and we thought, well
let’s see, we’re going to need the car. Instead of renting a car, let’s
buy a car and we’ll bring it back. So we checked into all that overseas
delivery stuff and ended up buying a Peugeot. So Miriam and Phyllis and my
mother picked up the Peugeot at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and they
spent three days driving it down to L’escalet, which is the name of the place
that we were at, which is right near Ramatuelle, which is about ten miles from
St. Tropez . . . . And it took, Miriam, none of them had any French, yeah . . .
Interviewer: I was going to ask about that.
Yenkin: None of them had any French. Miriam got a Berlitz tape. She’s very
good with languages. Studied it for about a month. One hour tape and she managed
to navigate down to, down there. It turned out to be a wonderful place. It did
have a marvelous view of the sea. It was a villa, small villa, three bedrooms.
But it was perfect. We all had a great time. I came over with, I think, I came
over maybe with my sister Linda for the last two weeks. They were there for a
month. And then we all went back up, drove the Peugeot back up to Paris
together, had a mar- velous couple of nights in Paris and decided, this is
great. What are we going to do next? So the next year we decided that we’d go
back and visit my, we were now into this thing, that this is a nice thing to do
in the month of July. So we decided to go visit my friend Stan Sagedahl in Oslo,
who we hadn’t seen I don’t think, he may have come back over. Anyway, to go
Interviewer: Where was he?
Yenkin: In Norway.
Interviewer: Oh I see.
Yenkin: So we, and Allison and Leslie were going with us. So we flew into
Bergen and had our own little adventure throughout, getting across Norway. And
Stan at that time, they had a place on an island in the Oslo fjord south of
Oslo. Went down there and spent about two or three nights with them and then we
took the ferry across to the northern tip of Denmark and spent some time in
Copenhagen, drove across Germany to Amsterdam and then down to Paris and then
spent a little time in Paris and in the Loire Valley. So that was 1984, ’83,
’83. The first one was ’82 and the next one was ’83. And finished that
trip. Had a wonderful trip but decided that why are we doing this? Let’s go
back to L’escalet. So we got back in touch with Monsieur Louvier who was our
landlord down there and he said, “Yes, it’s available for next
July.” So then in ’84, ’85 and ’86, we went back to L’escalet. And
in ’84 we picked up a Saab in Geneva and drove over that way, spent a few days
driving down to the Cote d’Azur, that way, and the Mediter- ranean Coast in
France and then in ’85 we picked up a, we’re still driving the, this is
2001, Miriam is still driving the ’84 Saab. In ’85 we picked up a VW in
Frankfurt and made another little journey and got down there. Then in ’86 we
simply rented a car for the month and that trip we went to, we started out in
England. We were with Allison and Amy and drove over into the Cotswolds for a
few days, Oxford and some of the teeny little places to the northwest of London.
And then took the ferry over, rented another car in France and then picked up
Leslie actually, who was in Israel at that time, at the airport in Paris, and
then took another few days and drove down through Burgundy to . . . . So anyway,
that was that trip. And what was happening during all those times is that we
were having family members come visit. So our kids would come. Jonathan came
over with some friends from college at one point. Yeah. And we had some other
cousins and then actually Sheri and Michael Dollin came by on their honeymoon,
stayed for a couple of days. So we kind of had to shove them out to their next
destina- tion. It was really a very attractive place that we were at. Naomi was
Interviewer: I had the pleasure of being on the all-girls trip.
Interviewer: Probably the last, was it the last year?
Yenkin: I think it was the second-to-the last because the last year we only
went, I’m not sure, the last year we only, we decided that we would not go for
the full month to L’escalet. We did these other things in England and on the
way down and Elaine, Miriam’s sister Elaine and her family, took half of the
month, took two weeks and we took the other two weeks. And then after that it
was wonderful but we thought we were sort of getting used to it and then some
other things happened. It was ’87 and that was when Allison was doing this
thing back and forth to Russia, the Soviet Union on these trips so we thought
well Summer of ’87 she was going over on one of her fifth programs over there
so we thought well this is a great, and Miriam, let’s see, well we were very
interested in Soviet Jewry. I think neither of us had been to Moscow before. So
we decided this would be a good time if we’re going to do it because Allison’s
fluent in Russian and she has many friends. And meantime, we were also very
involved in the Soviet Jewry movement, the Refuseniks and all the things that
were happening. And Martin Gilbert had been in Columbus for a lecture at the
Melton Center at Ohio State University. Martin Gilbert is Churchill’s
biographer. He’s at Oxford and he also, but he’s also a Jewish historian. He’s
Jewish. And became, was very involved with the whole Soviet Jewry movement and
actually had 14 Refuseniks that he was in direct contact all the time, in the
Soviet Union. So we had a, Miriam is terrific in striking up friendships very
quickly with people. Martin Gilbert said, “Look, if you’re going,”
we told him we were going to the Soviet Union, he said, “Stop by in England
on the way over and I’ll give you a few things for my friends over
there.” So we went over to London on the way, this was July of ’87. Our
friends the Horowitzes from Israel, from Rehovot, were in, he was at Oxford at
that time so we spent an evening with him, saw a couple of plays and then went
over to see Martin Gilbert at Hampstead Heath where he lived. And he gave us all
these little doodads, memorabilia for his friends, to take to the Soviet Union.
And we had no idea of Allison’s romance at that time. And we arrived, this is
a whole other story that could take a tape, so I’m not going take . . . . But
suffice it to say that we arrived. Allison told us she and Tolya were engaged
and they were going to be married. We met Tolya, we met his family. We . . . .
Interviewer: . . . .
Yenkin: complete . . . . yeah, couldn’t talk on the, couldn’t use the
telephones, everything was bugged. Had to write each other notes and flush them
down the toilets in our hotel. It was the whole thing, it was just the beginning
of Glastnost. Gorbachev was in. It was the, in my view, very
distinguished leader of the Soviet Union. Too bad that he didn’t continue. But
anyway, talking about travels, so that’s what we did in ’87. We were in
Moscow and then . . . . what turned out to be, and in the meantime we were
secretly meeting with these Refuseniks because Allison was very concerned that
any, of any stigma that could be attached to her that would interfere with Tolya’s
being able to leave in a normal way once they were married. So it was exciting
and extremely hot. It was a hot July in Moscow and anyway. But we had, it was a
very, very interesting trip. And then came back and had to keep Allison’s
engagement a secret until, I can’t remember how long, until after they were
married or maybe even longer. Until after they were married because we didn’t
want any publicity to hit that would interfere with anything that had to be done
in terms of her getting back.
Interviewer: We’re going to end Side A of Tape 2 and continue on the other
side. We’re on Side B, Tape 2 and Bernie, you can continue.
Yenkin: Okay. Well we didn’t want to interefere with anything that, do
anything that would interfere with Allison’s being able to get back in on her
set date which was to get married and then Tolya’s getting back out again. So
everything worked out beautifully. And then, are we still on the subject of
travel or do you want to stay with that?
Interviewer: Yeah, let’s . . . .
Yenkin: Okay. Then a very major event happened in our life. Miriam and I were
celebrat- ing a 30th anniversary in the Spring of ’87. Yes, ’57 to ’87.
And we decided that we would take a second ski trip. So we’d been hearing
about Telluride, Colorado, while we were in Aspen. Aspen meantime had put in
their gondola. They were getting a little glitzy and we decided maybe we’d
look at someplace else. So we ended up, it’s a long story, but I contacted a
realtor who turned out to be a good friend later on, in Telluride, and we bought
our place in Telluride then in, over that weekend of our 30th anniversary in
1987, in March of ’87 and started spending some time out there. Naomi was out
there on I think the first . . . .
Interviewer: First visit.
Yenkin: First stint to help us get things organized.
Interviewer: Yeah, isn’t it time for that kitchen to be reorganized?
Yenkin: (Laughs) And that changed our life very much in terms of having a
place that our kids would enjoy coming to, you know, in addition to just being
with us here in Columbus. And other family members. We had a a lot of family
come visit us there and all that. Anyway.
Interviewer: We’ve had many reunions there.
Yenkin: Many reunions, yeah, yeah, right. But we decided, one of the compacts
that we made with each other when we bought Telluride is that we wouldn’t feel
that that had to be the only place that we would go with trips. And of course
our kids at this point were living wherever they were living at that time but
they weren’t in Columbus. So were making trips on various points for whatever,
graduations or other events in the families and so forth. So we were always
doing that. And I was making business trips, I forgot about all that. Okay.
Going back just for a minute because these were important, back in the mid-60s,
early 60s, we became, as a company, we became involved with the Woolworth
Company, operating leased departments in the Woolco Stores. And this increased.
It was an area that came under my responsibilities so it increased my travel a
lot and then every two years starting in 1963, and some of these stores were in
the southwest, Arizona and other places, we’d take a family trip. And we’d
work it out in different ways. And those were wonderful trips and we made, and
sometimes we’d take along another older cousin of our kids as baby-sitters ’cause
our kids were very young at that point or it may have been not even around on
some of the early trips. So we made about four of those trips throughout the
west and got to love the west which probably relates to our eventually ending up
buying a place in Telluride because we really loved the whole western scene and
all that. Anyway so those were, there were a number of trips like that. Then
back to ’87 we got Telluride and there were some other trips to Israel
interspersed in there. And then, I’m trying to think, in 1990, just after the
fall of, the reunification of Germany, the fall of the Berlin Wall ending in the
reunification of Germany, we felt this would be a really interesting time to
visit central and eastern Europe. So we flew into Munich and rented a car and
there was a lot of planning involved because Czechoslovakia and Hungary and
Poland were just coming out from under the Communist, Soviet domination. And
there was just a scarcity of gas and, I mean, there were just all kinds of
things. And the accommodations were something that had to be . . . . So anyway
it turned out to be fascinating trip, a combination of seeing very interesting
things historically, but also participating in the current happenings at that
time, both in the Jewish world there in those countries. We met with the Jewish
community in Prague and we were at the synagogue in Vienna. And we met with the
Jewish Agency people in Warsaw who were bringing people out of the Soviet Union.
That was one of the ways. And visited . . . . concentration camp in Poland. And
it was a real combination, plus finding it so enjoyable. I mean that was the
amazing thing to us, that Poland turned out to be a lot of fun which from our,
you know, perception of Polish history and Jewish history, was a real paradox or
whatever you want to call it. But it was a great trip. And after we did that, we
kind of got into a mode of trying to plan some trips, usually in the Fall or the
Spring. And just to name a few, in I think 1993 we went to Ireland for 12 days.
And in Telluride we have a young Irish friend from Dublin who gave us some tips
and we stayed with her family at the beginning and had a great time just driving
around Ireland. We like to travel ourselves, I mean we like to do independent
travel, whether it’s just ourselves or whether it’s, you know, with other
family members. But we don’t much get involved with groups except the UJA
Missions that we’ve been on and with some community missions.
Interviewer: Also, I just wanted to add that you do all the research before
you go and you make all of your plans for the time you’re gone.
Interviewer: I know you’re the world’s best travel agent, I know that.
Yenkin: Well I don’t know about that. But anyway we like to do it ourselves
but we like to know what we’re doing so that if we want to stay out until 8 o’clock
in the evening and not get to where we are, we know where we’re going. We know
that there’s going to be, you know, a dinner at the hotel or a table for us
and all that stuff. And we don’t, we try not to travel expensively. I mean
that was part of this thing with Telluride. If we’re going to buy Telluride,
we knew that we had to, you know, do our travel plans accordingly. So we have
fun and we stay in nice places but we try not to stay in the most, we try not to
spend more money than we need to. And we use a lot of Frequent Flyer Miles to do
these things. Anyway, so we did Ireland. Then we went to southern Spain. Again
it was a kind of combination of sort of Jewish history in Andalusia, southern
Moorish country in Spain, and a sense of Christian history during the
Inquisition and the discovery of America and all that. It was a very interesting
trip. We were back to Spain again a couple of years ago and this time did the
northern part of Spain and the new Guggenheim Museum at Bilboa and other things.
Anyway, so we try to plan a trip, some kind of a trip, maybe once a year.
Although last year we had, the last couple of years we’ve had a couple either
in the Spring and the Fall or maybe in the Winter and the Fall or something like
that. And had a great trip to Turkey a year ago and northern Italy. Oh our kids
gave us a, Amy, because of all of her travel for the Soros Foundation, built up
a huge number of miles and the kids gave us a 40th anniversary present to go
anyplace we wanted to go in the world. And we thought about all kinds of
different places but ended up going to Sicily and southern Italy for a couple of
weeks and had a really nice time. That was about 1998 I think, some- thing like
that. Anyway, so I think that’s probably a . . . . trying to . . . . we always
think about, you know, trying to figure out what we, we hope we can continue to
Interviewer: Now Sicily wasn’t your last trip though, was it?
Yenkin: No, no. Our last trip was to, we had actually some off-season TWA
points we had so use up by a certain date so in February we just went into
northern Italy, flew into Florence, Bologna, Milan and Parma and saw operas and
concerts and instead of driving, we just took the train every place and that was
a lot of fun.
Interviewer: A little different?
Yenkin: Yeah. Stayed in very small hotels and just had a good time. Anyway.
Interviewer: Does that pretty much, you’ve had some wonderful travel
experiences Do you feel that that pretty much winds up that part of your life?
Yenkin: Yeah I think so, I think so. It’s been, we enjoy, I mean I used to
think of travel as just something sort of, it’s really become sort of part of
our life and also involved with, over the years, very much involved in what we’ve
been involved in from a Jewish and Jewish community standpoint. I mean that’s
really somewhat where the whole thing got started, along with business things.
Interviewer: I know that’s a fascinating part of your enjoyment. Bernie can
you just tell us a little about how you celebrate holidays and traditions?
Yenkin: Yeah, well with a sense of celebration, we try, we’re more family
oriented in our celebration than synagogue oriented although we attend synagogue
certainly on the major holidays and when I was Chairman I used to be in
synagogue most, more often than, most of the time on Shabbat. I used to
go for a daily Minyan one day a week for a number of years to help make
the Minyan at the Agudas Achim. But, yeah we have, whoever can come in
for the holidays whatever, whether it’s Passover or whether it’s Rosh
Hashonah or Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, come in. Hanukkah falls around the time of
Thanksgiving usually or somewhat close. No, no, that’s not really . . . .
Interviewer: Or close enough to . . . .
Yenkin: Well close, yeah. But it’s very, we have, we like to have family in
our home and Miriam’s a wonderful cook, along with everything else, and we, we
just enjoy family holidays. And we have a, I mean going way back because of all
of Miriam’s years in Hebrew school, because the emphasis, whether or not
Jewish education was sufficient or not, it probably wasn’t by today’s
standard at all, but it was there. But there’s always a sense of that that was
an important part of my personna. And then our kids being at Torah
Academy all those years got us very involved in our Judaism and in the
celebration of our Judaism and it’s very special to us. I mean, we have fun
with it and really get meaning out of it.
Interviewer: Bernie are there any more topics that you’d like to . . . .
Yenkin: I was going to come back, this is crazy, but just going back in terms
of Jewish social history in Columbus, back in the, as I mentioned, we were all
living on Drexel Avenue. Then and we moved over to Bryden Road. My Uncle Ben got
married. My uncle Fred got married and they were living on Stanwood and Roo-
sevelt in small houses and so forth. But a couple of things were going on. I
was, I think I was getting ready to go to Sunday School or something. But also,
some- how, the subject of joining a country club came up. And that was, I can
remember my grandfather talking and you know, “What do you want to do that
for?” or something. But anyway we ended up joining Winding Hollow. We were
the, it was in probably the early 40s, right around the time toward the end of
World War II. It was sometime in the early or mid-40s. And we were, I think, the
first Orthodox Jewish family who were members of Winding Hollow.
Interviewer: You talking about your mother and dad?
Yenkin: Yeah. Well no. We all joined. They did everything together, Abe and
Eleanore, Ben and Helen and Fred and Lillian. They all joined Winding Hollow at
the same time. And it was fun. It was a big thing. And they used to participate
in the club shows and Winding Hollow, it was a little place. It was just a
nine-hole golf course.
Interviewer: Where was that located?
Yenkin: It was on Westerville Road but it was before they, they expanded the
clubhouse then later on on Westerville Road. They expanded the golf course to 18
holes. But Winding Hollow was a very intimate place at that time. And a lot of
the Jewish community leadership, direction and so forth took its lead, I guess,
from what was discussed by the members of Winding Hollow. And some of the major,
like Simon Lazarus and Dick Abel, and I’m just saying, E. J. Schanfarber, all
these people sort of all operated, they were all members of Winding Hollow. They
also operated very much within the leadership of the Jewish community, in the
Federa- tion and various kinds of ways, whether it was B’nai B’rith or the
United Jewish Fund or whatever. And . . . .
Interviewer: But Winding Hollow was always a Jewish . . . .
Yenkin: Oh it was, oh yeah, yes, it was a Jewish club.
Interviewer: Uh huh. But basically they were the German Jews?
Yenkin: Well primarily Reform although there were members from Tifereth
Israel at Winding Hollow. Quite a few, I mean, I remember Sam Melton and Herman
Katz and developed a lot of friendships. While that was going on, I was going to
Columbus Academy. I was, I don’t know, taking Hebrew lessons. It was sort
of eclectic but . . . .
Interviewer: A meld.
Yenkin: A meld of a lot of things. But it was a sense of what was happening
in the Jewish community at that time. All the youth groups used to get together
for different things. I was a, I was, we belonged to three synagogues. We
belonged to Agudas Achim, Tifereth Israel and Temple Israel. I went to Sunday
School at Temple Israel. I was there the year that Rabbi Folkman came, which was
a wonderful year. I was in the Hebrew High School at that time. But they didn’t
call it Hebrew High School. Maybe they did, I don’t know. But it was the
Sunday School High School and there was a lot of ruach. They didn’t
call it ruach then but there was just a lot of spirit that was in the
Jewish community at that time and very much a, I think, a oneness, you know,
sense of togetherness. And of course there were other things that were causing
people to come together including World War II and what happened in the
Holocaust and all that. And then the building of some of these Jewish
institutions like the Center, the new Jewish Center which was in its incipient
stage. So there was . . . .
Interviewer: But a lot of the strength of the community came from those kinds
of intimate gatherings and . . . .
Yenkin: Yeah. Yeah. The Major Gifts of the Federation was always at Winding
Hollow . . . . and anyway. So that was a, and then, oh, and then when I got out
of college, at that time you could join Winding Hollow if your parents were
members for $5 a month. So I joined for $5 a month. Then when we got married, it
got to be $15 a month. And so we spent, when our kids were born, when Leslie was
born and talking about Miriam, we’d spend time up there during the Summer. You
know, she took swimming lessons there and Miriam and I tried to play a little
golf and then we gave that up. So I haven’t played golf since we took up, took
up sailing instead. Anyway, and that’s long gone. What else?
Interviewer: What about sailing? I know that you did enjoy sailing.
Yenkin: Well there’s a Jewish Center involvement. I can’t remember. Well
I have a friend, Dick Kohn, who was a sailor and his brother Harry, older
brother Harry, was a really highly-competitive sailor. So I used to do some
sailing but never really knew how. And then the Jewish Center had sailing
classes. There was a fellow named Marlin Abramson. Am I right, Marlin Abramson,
over at the Jewish Center. So I signed up for sailing classes and it was up on
Hoover Dam and they had a couple of little boats and then they had a Flying
Dutchman which was a 19-foot sloop that Millard Cummins had given to them. And
so I took sailing lessons and then kind of got into sailing and then the Jewish
Center decided they wanted to sell the Flying Dutchman because it really didn’t
fit their program exactly so I bought it from them and we took, I never joined
any yacht clubs. Maybe I should have but we weren’t into it exactly that way
in such an organized way. And we used to just go up for short, taking our kids
up on Sunday morning and go sailing and take turns sailing around and so forth,
nieces and nephews. We took Larry Schottenstein up a number of times.
Interviewer: Well I know you introduced my son to sailing and well, you know
where he’s at now.
Yenkin: He’s now, yeah, he’s now a major sailor, yeah.
Interviewer: He now owns a little sailboat on Lake Erie.
Yenkin: Pretty good size. Pretty good size. Anyway, so yeah. So that was part
of our family’s, we tried to weave our Jewishness in with other things. In
other words, tried not to separate them exactly but just sort of, it all kind of
wove, weaved, was woven together.
Yenkin: Blended together. Yeah.
Interviewer: You also had some sailing experiences up in the New England area
too, haven’t you?
Yenkin: Yes a few times. We rent, let’s see, well we went on a sailing
vacation with some friends from New Jersey, the Polaners, and did some sailing
there. When we rented the house, when my parents rented the house on Martha’s
Vineyard in ’62, 1962, there was a sailboat that came with it and we had some
kind of wild sailing experiences with it. Fun but then some that were a little
Interviewer: Uh huh. I can understand that.
Yenkin: Up on Nantucket Sound or Martha’s Vineyard Sound at that time. But
we, I felt very comfortable sailing. I mean, I still like, I could get in a
sailboat and handle it fine.
Interviewer: Well maybe you’ll have that opportunity soon.
Yenkin: Yeah maybe so, maybe so.
Interviewer: Bernie I think we’ve covered a lot of territory. You’ve had
a real fascinating life and a lot of wonderful experiences that have benefitted
many people and I think to wind up, I’m going to ask if you’d just take a
moment or so and give us a wrap-up message on your life and what your life has
meant to you and your family.
Yenkin: Well that’s a hard question. What should I say? I’m a great
believer in luck frankly and I feel I was lucky to be born here rather than
someplace else. I feel very lucky that some decisions along the way, were made
the way, you know, turned out to be the way they were. And extremely lucky to
have met Miriam. But also, I guess what might go with that is maybe some good
exercise of judgement and, you know, deciding that this was the girl for me and
fortunately she decided the same. And then, but I think that, Henry Kissinger
had a quote many years ago about opportunities which has guided me some in that
opportu- nities come along and if you look for the perfect solution, the
opportunities may be lost. And it’s important, I’m not phrasing it the way
he did. I used to carry this thing around with me. But it’s important to take
advantage of the opportunities while we’re there and that’s where he said
sort of a combination of luck and judgment come in and if, well I feel that
those kinds of things influenced and benefitted my life. And I told you that I
had, you know, maybe you ought to interview Miriam because there’s been a lot
that’s happened in our life and we feel that we’ve been part of a lot of
things, a lot of important things that have happened fortunately and that we,
you know, hope to be around for a while to do some more things.
Interviewer: Well we all think that that is true and on behalf of the
Columbus Jewish Historical Society, I want to thank you for this time you’ve
spent with us and even though I’ve known about some of your life experiences,
I’m especially pleased to be able to share them with the community and your
family. And I want to thank you again for your time.
Yenkin: And Naomi thanks for doing this. This is really, it’s an important
thing you do and as you know, we have a strong interest in the Historical
Society, a strong, continuing interest.
Interviewer: I appreciate that encouragement too.
Interviewer: Thanks again.
* * *
Transcribed by Honey Abramson