This interview is for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and is being recorded on August the 5th   2015 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society’s Oral History Project.  The interview is being recorded at the Federation Building.  My name is Ron Robins and I am interviewing Bob Aronson.

INTERVIEWER:  Are you ready to be interviewed?

ARONSON:  Yes, if the questions are simple.

INTERVIEWER:  Alright. What’s your name? Is that simple enough?

ARONSON:  Bob Aaronson. Don’t go any further.

INTERVIEWER:  Where were you born?

ARONSON:  Pittsburgh.

INTERVIEWER:  Simple still? Ok and you lived your early life in Pittsburgh.


INTERVIEWER:  And they ask this question.  Do you have a Hebrew name?

ARONSON:  I never had a Hebrew name.  In fact, we belonged to a Reform Synagogue.

INTERVIEWER:  Rodef Sholom?

ARONSON:  Rodef Sholom.  It was so Reform we were closed for the Jewish Holidays.  There were no commencements, no bat mitzvahs, only confirmation.  We didn’t have Friday night services.  We had Sunday morning services and Saturday morning services.  As I remember our rabbi was Rabbi Solomon B. Freehoff who was one of the prominent rabbis in the world and on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday evenings he gave a book review, not necessarily on Sunday mornings.  The temple was packed.   You would have thought it was a Jewish holiday beyond Yom Kippur.  So, I never had a Jewish name.  When I came to Columbus, I didn’t have a Jewish name.  My wife did, my kids, my two older ones…

INTERVIEWER:  Your wife did?




INTERVIEWER:  Huh. I’m only saying that because his wife also comes from a long line of German Reform Jews and I was surprised that she had a name.  We’ll talk about it later but Bob’s father-in-law at the time was Jack Resler and Jack and Eleanor Resler, as you probably know, have their names on a lot of buildings and they’ve done a lot of charitable acts in Columbus, Ohio and we might touch on that later.

ARONSON:  But I don’t think either of them had Jewish names.  No.  ‘Course, Eleanor was from Warsaw, Indiana, which was a small, small community and Jack, I just don’t think… he and his family was Reform and didn’t do it. Anyway what I was going to tell you was since I didn’t have a Jewish name,  I was talking to a rabbi one day  and I said,  “Maybe I should have a  Jewish name.”  So he said, “okay.”  So, my Jewish name is Reuven Ben Heschel which means Robert Son of Harvey.  He asked me a few questions and that’s the one I picked so he gave me a Jewish name so, I do have one.

INTERVIEWER:  Now were your parents also born in Pittsburgh?

ARONSON:  My grandparents were, not in Pittsburgh but my grandparents were over here before the Civil War on my mother’s side.

INTERVIEWER:  And their names?

ARONSON:  Their name was Newman.  They were from Paducah, Kentucky.  My father’s family originally started in St. Louis and came to Pittsburgh.

INTERVIEWER:  So, we should probably get their names from and [?] pieces [?] doing some genealogy.  We could come back and get some of this stuff, you know, like your grandparents on both sides, their names.

ARONSON:  some place or other, but I have no, I think, maybe for genealogy, the place to get, I think, is the Mormon Church.

INTERVIEWER:  They have…

ARONSON:  But along those lines, I could go back to [Ida Kobacker], who was my father’s sister and her, I remember visiting her.  We were very friendly, her family and our family.  She’d come to Pittsburgh, or I’d come here [?] since we were thirteen years old [? Jimmy].  Anyway, she had on her living room wall a coat of, a genealogy of the Aaronson family and the Kobacker family and it was beautifully done.  It had all the Hebrew names, nothing in English only Hebrew, a family tree, a tree with branches on it and names and I asked her if I could have that if you ever get rid of it and she said I can’t give you the original but I can give you a copy of it so I have a copy of this somewhere in my files.

INTERVIEWER:  You know, just as an aside you might want to take a photocopy of that and maybe give that to…

ARONSON:  I’d give you the whole thing if I can find it.  It’d be a nice thing.  Anyway, we couldn’t, I didn’t understand any of the Hebrew names so I found a professor, if I recall his name at Ohio State University, Raphael or something?


ARONSON:  Yes, I think it was Marc.  He said, “Well, I’ll translate it for you and I’ll get back to you in couple weeks.”  So, I didn’t hear from him for about a month.  I called him.  I said “Marc, what ever happened to the family tree you were going to translate with all those Hebrew names?  He said, “Bob, I hate to tell you this, it’s a fake.”   He said, “Every Jewish person in history who was famous is an ancestor of yours by a close relationship.”


ARONSON:  Yes, so my coat of arms is all lies and I don’t think she ever knew it. I don’t think I ever knew it.

INTERVIEWER:  Now where were the Newmans from? What part of…?

ARONSON:  They were from Hamburg.

INTERVIEWER:   Hamburg, and the Aronsons?

ARONSON:  I don’t really know where they were from.  I don’t have detailed information about my father’s family.

INTERVIEWER:  Just for the record, what was your father’s name?

ARONSON:  Harvey Morton.

INTERVIEWER:  Harvey Morton Aronson.  And your mom?

ARONSON:  Mildred Newman Aronson.

INTERVIEWER:  And how about their parents? Did you know them?

ARONSON:  Yes, sure I knew, I never knew my father’s father because he passed away before I was born, but I knew my grandmother.  Her name was Leah.  My mother’s mother was Bertha Newman, Bertha Livingston because Livingston was a big name in Paducah.  They had the largest wholesale produce company and they’re still in business today.

INTERVIEWER:  Is that right?

ARONSON:  Yes. Her father’s name was Sam. Sam Newman and he was originally I think maybe from [  ]but he married my grandmother and she was from Paducah.  Incidentally in those days, southern Jewish families who had any means were top society.  I have a newspaper when my grandmother, my mother’s mother was married and her name was Bertha Newman, well, it was Bertha Livingston and then it became Bertha Newman, it made headlines in the Paducah newspaper and [Irwin S. Cobb?] the actor was living then.  He was best man or something, or was in the wedding party.  I mean, they were very well connected and it’s fun to read that write-up, how she was dressed, and who was there. You know, it was a big society item.

INTERVIEWER: Just a quick aside, there’ve been books now about Jews in the South and they sort of all knew each other in all these little towns in Tennessee and there was like a soror’.  It’s an interesting history.

ARONSON:  I’d like to see them.

INTERVIEWER:  Marc, you know is a friend of ours.

ARONSON:  Is he still in town?

INTERVIEWER:  He lives in DC.  He lives in Washington.  We just visited him not too, too long ago but he just does some work.  There’s a Southern South Carolina Jewish Historical Society.  They have a big historical society in the South and there’s a rich history in the South of Jews. They tended to intermarry and they tended to go back and forth visiting each other.  There’s a sort of an interesting phenomenon, a lot  going on down there.

INTERVIEWER:  It is kind of funny.  It seems to me all Jews in the South are related.  I remember coming back on an airplane one time and I was sitting next to a woman and I don’t know how we got on the subject and she asked you know the kind of question you ask, where’s your… and [  ] and what her name was she says- do you know so-and-so?  And I said, “No I never heard of them.  Why would you ask?”  She said. “Because I thought all Jewish people south of the Mason Dixon line were related.

INTERVIEWER:  It’s somewhat true.

ARONSON:   That was the hint.  So I probably [wasn’t a] great person to talk to, left a great impression.

INTERVIEWER:  So, early on what was life like in Pittsburgh, Jewish life in Pittsburgh? Did you live in Squirrel Hill?

ARONSON:  We lived in Squirrel Hill but then we moved to Schenley Farms which was down near the University shortly before I went in to the service but  it was great.  I wish every person in the world could have a childhood like my brother and I had. It was fabulous. We had a lot of friends but mostly I would say about sixty percent of them were not Jewish.  Forty percent were Jewish but it never…it was not any kind of a common denominator for anything but you know things were different in those days.  I loved living in Pittsburgh.

INTERVIEWER:  Was there any kind of issues with anti-Semitism and those kinds of issues that, or was it…

ARONSON:  I can only remember one incident in my whole life because being Jewish has always been like a lucky charm for me.  I was in a business world where there were not many Jews and it was never a problem but I remember one time I was ice skating in Schenley Park in Pittsburgh and it was in a section of town  near Squirrel Hill called Greenfield where a lot of foreigners lived and somehow or other there were gangs, little gangs and so, I don’t know, I was skating by myself and four big guys came up and knocked me down and asked if I was Jewish and that kind of stuff.   I was a pretty good skater so I skated away from them and that’s the only time I can ever remember having any type of that thing happen to me.

INTERVIEWER:  And in high school?  Did you go to Squirrel Hill High School?

ARONSON:   Pittsburgh Allderdice High School.  In fact I just went back to Joanie’s 50th reunion or 60th reunion.

INTERVIEWER:  Joanie by the way is Bob’s wife now and she was going to be part of this interview but she had something that she had to do and it would have been interesting to have her here ,too.

ARONSON:  It would be.  So, what else do you want to know about my childhood?

INTERVIEWER:  Well, it sounds like it was fun and then you mentioned the service so let’s hear about Bob Aaronson the soldier.

ARONSON:  Well, no, I had a very unspectacular career.

INTERVIEWER:  You weren’t shot down over..

ARONSON:  No, I wasn’t shot down and I wasn’t shot at but I was a communications officer and taught radio and radar tech for airport.  You know, it was airport, so I could teach for airport but I was never in any battle, fortunately, but guys I trained knew what they were doing.  I can tell you that.  Going back to high school, one of my good friends was a black kid by the name [Ed Faraeshi?] and we were very good friends.  He lived, his family lived on Melon Estate which was close to where our home was in Pittsburgh.  His dad was Andrew Melon’s house-man and he took care of all the help and I can remember where it was, driving up the driveway and everything.   Ed and I became good friends in high school. I, you lose contact over the years.  We kept it up for a while.

INTERVIEWER:  Were there other black people in high school or was it all white?

ARONSON:  No, it was primarily all white but there were other black kids there, yes.

INTERVIEWER:  So, after the service, somehow or another, I know now that you had a connection to Columbus because of Mrs. Kobacker, but how did Bob Aronson get to Columbus, Ohio?

ARONSON:  Well, after I graduated from law school, my dad had a well -respected, well -known firm in Pittsburgh.

INTERVIEWER:   A law firm?

ARONSON: A law firm. I remember the name [McKaiser ? ] could see and they were all sitting around their offices, all the attorneys …

INTERVIEWER:  Where did you go to undergrad?

ARONSON:  Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

INTERVIEWER:  And where did you go to law school?

ARONSON:  I went to the University of Pittsburgh Law School. [   ?   ] then  [   ?   ]young lawyers I can tell you, the first year you see a lot of insurance salesmen. You see a lot of guys holding law books.  Today they don’t see law books. Everything’s on computer but our law firm did mostly corporate work and then some guy in the corporation was getting divorced or something so I was assigned a case to go to trial.  It was a landlord-tenant case against one of the big [bakery? ] companies in Pittsburgh so I went in and the judge asked us to prepare a brief, I remember, and I don’t know why, I prepared a brief and I found in searching the law a case exactly in point which is not easy to do. There’s usually a… but it was decided by the judge who I happened to be in front of for this particular case so I just copied his opinion and they read the opinion and he read the o[pinon and says, “This looks very familiar to me:  judgement for the defendant. “ And I don’t’ know how I met Jack but he asked me, he called me. I was practicing law maybe ten years.

INTERVIEWER:  In Columbus or Pittsburgh?

ARONSON:  In Pittsburgh.

INTERVIEWER:  And Jack is Jack Resler.

ARONSON:  Jack was Jack Resler.  We knew him through Kobackers and everything.  And I came down.  I had a date with Bunny…

INTERVIEWER:  Who is Jack’s daughter.

ARONSON:  …and we started to date and then she moved to Pittsburgh and we lived there for about two years and then Jack called me one day and says, “Listen, I’ve got a little problem.  Can you help me?” I helped him and he said how would you like to come down and be in-house counsel for me?”  And then at that time, debating where I was in the hierarchy and where I was going to go, and he made such an attractive offer that I told him I would.  Bunny was happy in Columbus, so that’s how I happened to come here.

INTERVIEWER:  In what year was that?

ARONSON:  That was in 1956, and from there things developed.  I became the head of the firm when Jack retired way back and it was a lot of fun.

INTERVIEWER:  Before we get on, I just think we maybe left a little bit on the table with your family history because it sounds like it might have been interesting – your parents and grandparents and some of your recollections of that era that maybe we’ve left off the table here. Are there any things…

ARONSON:  My dad was one I think of seven children.  There were four brothers and three sisters and they were all living except one sister at the time I grew up so I knew the family and one of the highlights of our getting together was on Christmas day because one of my dad’s brothers was born on Christmas day and he always had a huge party for the whole Aronson clan.  I have a picture.  Maybe I could give that to the Historical Society.

INTERVIEWER:  It’d be nice.

ARONSON:  There must have been fifty/sixty people in it [every] year because there were cousins and aunts and uncles and the other highlight was Passover at my dad’s mother’s house and that was another big affair. We almost had to have two services because it was so big but she had a big house, but I remember we never ate on time because one of my dad’s brothers belonged to the Conservative synagogue and they were always the last ones out so we had to wait for him all the time.  That was fun.  That was fun times.

INTERVIEWER:  So, it was a very closely knit family.

ARONSON:  Yea, it was a closely knit family.  This ring that I’m wearing is probably maybe two hundred years old. I got it from my father.  When each of my father’s brothers were bar mitzvahed and they were bar mitzvahed

INTERVIEWER:   They were?

ARONSON:  Yea, they were.  My dad wasn’t for some reason but his brothers were.

INTERVIEWER:  At Rodef Sholom?

ARONSON:  No, I think at the Conservative congregation. They were at Beth Shalom, I think, but on their bar mitzvah the old brother who last had the ring would give it to the next oldest brother and they passed it down brother to brother to brother and my dad was the youngest so consequently, I ended up with the ring, but that’s a lot of tradition in there and anyway…

INTERVIEWER:  Did you get together with the Newman family, too?

ARONSON:   We never got together with the Newman family…

INTERVIEWER:   Your mother’s family.

ARONSON:  …for Passover.  It was just the Aronson family but we went to the Newman family every Sunday night for dinner and my mother and my wife were fabulous cooks so, that was always a fun thing to look at.

INTERVIEWER:  Do you want to talk about their family, your mother’s family? She had brothers, sisters?

ARONSON:  She had two brothers.  One died when he was about eight years old of appendicitis, but the other was a concert pianist as a hobby but he was fabulous.  He would do occasional things but he was an attorney and he was part of my dad’s law firm, but my grandfather had an interesting company.  He had a couple of engineers working for him and in those days, railroads had a lot of problems with rails getting out of line.   One would be higher or lower than the other.  They’d wobble from side to side and so forth.  They had to be cut and sized and he had a company called Keystone Rider Manufacturing Company.  They made machines that repaired railroad tracks and they worked for railroads all over the world because there weren’t many companies like his in the world and so he said, “Why don’t you start a stamp collection?”  ‘cause you know he’d get stamps from places you never heard of and so I started a little stamp collection, then got rid of that after a while.

INTERVIEWER:  Now this is your grandfather…

ARONSON:  Newman.  My dad’s father Aronson, they had, before Squirrel Hill became a nice residential section [ where the  Jewish people moved [  ], lot of Jews lived on what was known in Pittsburgh as the Hill District. Hill District in Pittsburgh is very hilly and he had a big general merchandise store and I think they did pretty well in that store. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you something.  My first day in Columbus, Ohio I was driving down Broad Street in Jack’s mother’s car which she loaned me ‘til I could get a car, and I went by a bus stop on Broad street and there’s a little guy standing on the corner and I figured well, he was probably waiting for the bus so, I stopped and asked whether he was going downtown.  He said yes.  I said, “You want a ride?”   He said, “Sure.” And he got in the car and we started to talk and he said, “Well, where are you from?  I never saw him before.  I said, “I’m from Pittsburgh.”  He said “Really? So am I,” and we started to talk. His name was Sammy Grossman.  He had a shoe store on High Street and he said, “Aronson, Aronson, did you ever know a Harvey Aronson?”  I said, “That was my father.”  He said, “Oh, my G-d I gotta’ tell you something.”  He said, “I used to deliver newspapers to your grandpa in the Hill District.”  He said, “I was such a poor kid.”  He said “I used to deliver the paper by 5:30” – we had two papers at that time- “by 5:30 at night,” and he said “Three times a week at least your grandpa and your father with whom I became a good friend, would ask me to stay for dinner.”   He says, “They w ere the three best meals I ever had or ever had sometimes. “

INTERVIEWER:  Was this Depression days?

ARONSON:  Well, no it was before Depression days. I was 14.  It had to be in the 1918 maybe.  Then when we started to talk, I went to grade school – Colfax Grade School in Pittsburgh and I had a girlfriend and her name was Irene Grossman.  I don’t know if you ever knew her. She married a guy from Toledo, but we were together all the time. That was Sammy’s daughter.  So, it’s a small world.

INTERVIEWER:  Six degrees of separation. I think we’ve got your grandparents and that generation.   I have an idea that their life was pretty much like the lives of people that were here in Columbus at the time.  The Resler family probably and the Kobackers probably all had the same sort of experiences.

ARONSON:  I would think so.

INTERVIEWER:  So now we got Bob Aronson coming to Columbus, as a young, [  ? ] married man and now you’re in –what was the name of Jack’s business?

ARONSON: Kelley’s Treasure Company.  At that time, I’ll tell you a funny story.  I didn’t know anything about the clothing business so Jack said to me, “Listen, I gotta’ work you into the business.  You gotta’ know what’s going on.”   So I thought to myself, you know, we agreed, what’s the best way to learn this business – become a salesman.   So he gave me a sample case and in those days you used to sell clothing from swatches, swatches and he said, “Now here, take these few stores in Columbus and we do business with them.  They’ll buy from you and then you’ll learn what’s going on.”  So, I remember one of the first stores I walked into was the Army and Navy Store on North High Street and I can’t remember the name of the guy that owned the store but I’m sure somebody would know it in Columbus.  I only knew his first name.  He was a well-known guy and he had a big store

INTERVIEWER:  Was it Cousins?

ARONSON:  No, it wasn’t Cousins. So anyway I’m in there and he says let me see your flannels, which was a fabric in those days.  I didn’t know a flannel from a gabardine, so, I opened up my sample case and so I put my swatches and  I said “Oh, here they are,” and then he picked them out for me, so that’s how I learned what flannels were. I remember one day I was in his store and he wasn’t there, no it wasn’t [Hi’s  ?]‘s store, it was another Army Navy Store.  I don’t know how we sold dress pants to Army and Navy stores but

INTERVIEWER:  Didn’t they use uniforms?

ARONSON:  [Those?] pants and dress pants, yea.  The store I was in was a very long store and all of a sudden I’m facing the wall, all these swatches on the table and all of a sudden the guy I’m talking to gives a whistle –wooshooo – and I said, “What’s that for?”  He says, “See that woman over there?”  At the other end of the story there’s a big heavy set woman walking down the aisle.  I said, “Yea, I thought they sank the Bismarck during World War II.”  He says, “That’s my wife.”  And I never, ever – I learned a good lesson – I never said anything like that again. So I put the swatches back in the bag and walked out.

INTERVIEWER:  Did you have brothers and sisters?

ARONSON:  I had one brother who died about four years ago.  He was a dentist.  I wish I had him ‘cause I have a toothache.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, let’s talk about early married life in Columbus and maybe some of your recollections, what you want to share about Jack and Eleanor and some of the things that they were in to.

ARONSON:  Well, there are some things I can share and some things …

INTERVIEWER:  …you can’t.

ARONSON:  I could write an autobiography about the whole Resler family including Jack’s father because…

INTERVIEWER:  Now Jack’s father was also a businessman in Columbus.

ARONSON:  Jack’s father started the Hercules Trouser Company.  He started it in Zanesville, Ohio at the prison making trousers and then he moved to Columbus but aside from personal kinds of things, when we first moved to Columbus it was then known as [Robinsville? ].  It was at the corner of Broad Street and Maryland Avenue…

INTERVIEWER:  No, Broad and Hampton.

ARONSON:  Yea, it was Broad and Hampton because, and everybody lived over there.

INTERVIEWER:  Who were some of the folks you remember that were there? We probably have them all on tape – hopefully.

ARONSON:  Harold Minet, Sandy Stern, Herbie Kahns, [ Cohen?] who was Sue Cohen’s husband, I’m trying to think…


ARONSON:  No, Gerry Wild didn’t live there.  I think her father built the place…

INTERVIEWER:  Yea he did.

ARONSON:  …but she didn’t live there.  Let me just think for a minute.   Arthur Kobacker lived there and we kind of had a…every Saturday night the group got together we always had dinner at somebody’s house.  The men would play poker, the women would play something else, and we’d have a speaker come in, rabbis or some public official and whoever had it hosted the dinner that night and so we always had something intellectual going on.  Oh, Marc Glassman was in the group,

INTERVIEWER:  Was he in Columbus then? Those were pretty heady days.  It was a nice time to be around.

ARONSON:  Oh, it was a great time to be around.  We had fabulous times.  We’d go away on trips with each other. I’m trying to think but anyway…

INTERVIEWER:  Was Winding Hollow a big deal at that time?

ARONSON:  I’ll tell you about Winding Hollow. I don’t know if this is a little known fact or not.  When I became president of Winding Hollow, Terry Meyers was the president before me and I think Donny Katz was after me.

INTERVIEWER:  And what years would that be?

ARONSON:  Well, it would probably be in the late fifties.  Terry said to me one day, he said, “Did you ever read our by-laws?”  I said, “No, I don’t think I have.” So, we read the by-laws.  He said, “There’s a clause in there that I don’t understand that you can’t belong to Winding Hollow unless you’re a member of Temple Israel.”  I thought, “Gee, that’s a terrible thing.”   Meantime they had built the Excelsior Club which was primarily a swim club for the Jewish people who did not belong to Temple Israel and I thought that was not a very good thing.  So, with Terry’s help, we got that clause removed so that any Jewish person could join Winding Hollow. Not only did you have to be Jewish but you didn’t have to belong to Temple Israel.  Then, when after a few years, many years, I guess, we ran into some difficulty and some Gentile people wanted to join the club, I don’t know if you remember that or not. We had a couple big meetings and there were some people who were members of the club, sad to say, didn’t want any Gentile members.

INTERVIEWER:  There were some because they were married to Jewish spouses.

ARONSON:  No, not necessarily.  These were Gentiles.

INTERVIEWER:  No, no, but I mean there were some Gentiles in the club but they were married to a…

ARONSON:  Yea, they had some connection, but, so then we kind of opened the club to general membership because we had some financial problems, but Joel [  ?  ] if you talk to him is still a stockholder of the old Temple Israel which he inherited from Harry Roth who  was his father in law ‘cause he was one of the founders I think.

INTERVIEWER:  I think we have some stocks which are worth exactly nothing.  When they sold the club we got nothing.  But also there was a clause in there because when I was in it…

ARONSON:  [ Dale   ?] was one of the original members…

INTERVIEWER:  …his dad…but you had the United Jewish appeal.  Your United Jewish Appeal pledge had to be equal to your club bill, I thought.

INTERVIEWER:  No, they tried to pass that and I was opposed to that because I didn’t think, I was president when it came up, and I think that the reason that I didn’t think it was fair was because I didn’t think the country club should be a policeman for the United Jewish Fund.  They should do their own work, plus the fact that I felt that it took away that freedom of expression for people who wanted to give their money where they wanted to give it. So, that never really passed.  After that somebody came up with the idea that we should give Ben Mandelkorn an honorary membership to the club.  He was never a member of Winding Hollow Country Club and I was opposed to that because I figured if Ben is entitled to it so would the rabbis be entitled to it.

INTERVIEWER:  Wasn’t Rabbi Folkman a member?

ARONSON:  He paid.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, he did pay.

INTERVIEWER:  I always thought he was an honorary member.

ARONSON:  No, he was not an honorary member.  He paid.

INTERVIEWER:  All these years.

ARONSON:  All these years.  And a lot of the rabbis, not all of them, but some of them and Ben, were probably earning salaries that some of the members weren’t earning at that time, and could have afforded it they wanted to but that was an issue.  I always felt that the Country Club and the Jewish Center and buildings that were Jewish related were a symbol to the Gentile community of the Jewish community because they had no other way of recognizing the Jewish community outside of talking to a Jewish friend, but these were outstanding institutions which served both the Jewish and Gentile community for which the Gentile community could appreciate what the Jewish community was doing.  So, when they tore down the Country Club which was always one of the best clubs in the city in terms of food and the golf course and so forth, people loved that place, I told them they were taking away one of the symbolic symbols that the Gentile community could say, “Oh yea, that’s the Jewish club and it’s great. “

INTERVIEWER:  We probably have to, there’s no doubt that you were involved in a large number of Jewish institutions in Columbus, the Country Club, the Temple, the Federation, Hillel, so there’s a history here that we should probably get into now, ‘cause it is going to take some time, what were some of the institutions that you worked for either were president of or board of directors of or heavily involved starting with maybe Temple, or maybe not Temple, you want to start with Winding Hollow or Hillel?  Which were the early ones? Course you got into, now would you say you got into this stuff because it meant, because of Jack because he was so involved or this was because you were really truly involved?

ARONSON:  I was involved on my own…

INTERVIEWER:  I thought so.

ARONSON:  …although Jack was a nice guy to have behind me.  Jack was involved. Listen, Jack was a very generous guy just as an aside.  I remember one day, Eleanor was involved in a lot of things…

INTERVIEWER:  I think the Heritage House has an Eleanor Resler Wing.

ARONSON:  …but I remember one day Jack and I were at lunch, he said, “Let’s stop over.” There was a home on were alum Creek Drive I think maybe for indigent people who couldn’t take care of themselves. Eleanor was involved in that. He said Eleanor asked if I’d stop over there to see these people so we stopped over.  There were maybe seventy, eighty, ninety people there and Jack and I walked through the place and looked at everybody’s room and everything.  We walked out and I said to him, “You know, nobody had a television set. Isn’t that unusual?”   He said, “I noticed the same thing. Come on, we’re going over to Sun TV,” which was across the street. He bought a television set for everybody in that place so they’d have television in their room. I mean, that’s the kind of guy he was.

INTERVIEWER:  I understand he had a lot of faults but he had some…

ARONSON:  You know I can tell you stories about him and Leo Yassenoff.

INTERVIEWER:  Go ahead. Well, do it.  That’s what these things are for.

ARONSON:  Well, it’s not a nice story.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, then don’t’ tell it.  I mean that was a nice story about the TV sets.

ARONSON: Oh yea, he was a terrific guy like that.  I don’t know how he happened to give away for our temple out there, but  I think somebody talked to him.  He had some interest in real estate and he donated it,

INTERVIEWER:  The one up north too, didn’t he do Beth Tikvah?

ARONSON:  I don’t know. I don’t think.

INTERVIEWER:  I think he did.

ARONSON:  He may have but he did the kinds of things that people didn’t know.  He wasn’t a people person for a lot of reasons but Jack and I always, even after Bunny and I were separated, were good friends.

INTERVIEWER:  I mentioned Eleanor was easy to be with, she seemed like she could have been, I don’t know.

ARONSON:  Could have been what?

INTERVIEWER:  Nice to get along with or easy to get along with.

ARONSON:  Oh, she was pretty easy, she was but there were certain areas, but anyway, what did I get involved in?

INTERVIEWER:  What were some of them ‘cause I know you had your finger in a lot of pies.

ARONSON:   Well, I don’t know what the first thing was. Well, it might have been the temple. I had a great experience there. Want me to tell you?


ARONSON:  When we first came Jack said “yes, you should join Temple Israel.”  That’s the Reform, that was the only Reform temple in town.  So we joined there and then one day Rabbi Folkman asked for volunteers from the congregation who would be willing to go out and talk to Gentile groups because he had so many demands that he couldn’t fill them all.  So, there were about six of us that volunteered and I was one of them.

INTERVIEWER:  Who were the other five?

ARONSON:  Harold Minet was one, I was one, maybe Greg Wells, maybe Rudy [Sterzunger?] I’m not quite sure, so Folkman gave us some bibliography to read, or some history to read, and he had us each write a presentation as if we were giving it to a group.  Then we’d read in front of each other and critique it and so forth, and then he would add to it.  So, finally we polished off what we had to say and when he’d get a call he’d say, “Listen, I got a call from this church, Harold take this.  One day he called me up. He said, “Bob, there’s a Baptist convention in town of six hundred Baptist ministers.  I’m supposed to be the speaker tonight.  I’m sick. I can’t go.  Take my place.”  I said, “I can’t take your place,” I said, “I don’t,  Baptist ministers…”  He said, “Take my place.” So I did and I had a pretty good speech that I wrote and I’ll never forget it. At the end of the speech and there was a question answer period and someone asked me, “Tell me Sir, why do Jewish people bury their dead standing up?”  That’s the kind of questions I was getting.

INTERVIEWER:  What kind of answer did you give them?

ARONSON:  I said “Well, we found out we can get three to a plot instead of one” and stuff like that.

INTERVIEWER:  Did they laugh?

ARONSON:  Oh yea, yea.  Why do Jewish mothers yell louder at their children than Gentile mothers? I got all kinds of crazy questions like that so I kept a little book of the questions and the answers I gave and I always gave them funny answers. Fortunately [  ?  ]  but I’ll bet when that was over if I could have sold tickets to the [   ?]I could have sold four or five tickets, but that was the kind of experiences.  I remember talking to a couple over a kitchen table in some small town in Ohio, just two people.  They’d never seen a Jew before so those were the kind of experiences that I had at the temple.  Then we had a group of people who used to go on Friday night and after Friday night we’d to go to the Desert Inn and then I became interested in the Brotherhood and so eventually I [   ] and then I became president of the Hillel when some president before me died suddenly and I was the vice president and Rabbi Kaplan was there that was when I hired Aaron Leventhal and a couple of other guys, but I became very friendly with Harry Kaplan and his wife Theresa [  ?    ]

INTERVIEWER:  She’s gone?

ARONSON:  Yes, but not too long ago and then Rabbi [  ?   ] was up there. I remember him.  And then from there  I moved over to the Historical Society.

INTERVIEWER:  Now we’re going to take care of that. How about Federation? Were you chairman of the drive at any time?

ARONSON:  No, I never became chairman of the drive at any point because I was just too busy but I was an officer of some sort. I know I was on the board and on the allocation committee and all that sort of stuff. Then I became president of the Jewish Center.  That was a tough job because the Jewish Center was always bankrupt and I was good friends of Marc Glassman’s at that time.  The two of us happened to work together on a couple of other organizations and a United Way deal and we became friendly and we worked as a pretty good team.  At that time…

INTERVIEWER:  What year was this?

ARONSON:  Oh, G-d, I don’t know, sixties, seventies? One of the toughest jobs I had was to fire [? ] Mayer Rosen [?] but it never hurt our friendship I don’t think. We’re still friends.  The new guy who came in who’s now head of the he’s ready to retire, he was from Pittsburgh originally, Al something or other, anyway but the Jewish Center got straightened around pretty good.

INTERVIEWER:  Were you involved in Heritage House, too?

ARONSON:  Yes, I was on the board of Heritage House.  I resigned because, who was the head of Heritage House at the time?

INTERVIEWER:  Gerry Cohen.

ARONSON:  Gerry Cohen, I asked Gerry Cohen a question. I thought something was going on at Heritage House     [   ?] and after I asked him that question he never sent me another notice of a board meeting and so,

INTERVIEWER:  What happened happened.

ARONSON:  But I was involved there for a couple years.

INTERVIEWER:  Was there any major Jewish organization in Columbus that you weren’t involved in?

ARONSON:  The Jewish Historical Society.

INTERVIEWER:  It wasn’t even around then.

ARONSON:  It wasn’t even around then.

INTERVIEWER:  So, the Jewish Center, Heritage House, the Temple, {Federation}, Hillel, and Winding Hollow.  You were president of Winding Hollow. Probably should give you some time to write it all down because part of that is really historical history for Columbus history for groups that you were a part of and probably some of the things that you remember.

ARONSON:   I remember one night after we decided to move to Florida for six months, I would come back for every board meeting, I would never miss a board meeting of anything.  I would come back.  But one day I walked in to temple and there was an usher there that I didn’t’ know so I introduced myself as Bob Aaronson and he looks at me and says, “Oh yea, you’re our absentee president.” It was during the winter. I was president of the brotherhood out there, but it was fun.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, I think we’re probably missing the boat here because we should maybe should have another follow-up to this so that you could maybe get some of your thoughts together about some of the stuff that was going on in these organizations, you know, some of the decisions like at the Jewish Center you were involved in..

ARONSON: We were involved in the second major fundraising event.

INTERVIEWER:  See, we’re missing something here. We should have that off the record. Any thoughts and reminiscences of that time?

ARONSON:  I only have one.

INTERVIEWER:  Sounds like it’s funny.

ARONSON:  It is funny.  Do you know Irwin Cohen? They used to call him “Irt.” Well, at that time we were taking pledges for the new building which is not new now and we were taking volunteers from the audience to come up to the microphone, this is a great thing, blah, blah, blah, blah, I pledge so much money,  so Irwin raises his hand so I call on him. I say “Iet, come on up.” And he says, “Let me tell you something.” He says, “For what I’m gonna’ pledge you better call me Irwin.” I thought that was a good story.

INTERVIEWER:  They just had a big anniversary of the Jewish Center.   Did someone get to talk to you about your reminiscences?

ARONSON:  Oh yea, they called me, you should come down for past presidents…I didn’t go to that. I’ll tell you what else I was president of, across the street…

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, Jewish Family Services.

ARONSON:  Jewish Family Services.

INTERVIEWER:  Tell us about that. That was important.

ARONSON:  I was involved in that. If you remember, when I was president, there were refugees, not refugees but the resettlement, primarily people from Egypt in those days and one of the guides to bring them over as I remember, you had to make sure they were not going to be dependent on the state, they had to have jobs and so forth or they had to have an occupation where they could get a job, and one of the fellas we brought over was a guy who managed Winding Hollow, Albert was that his name?

INTERVIEWER:  Mr. Albert.  Albert Levy.

ARONSON:  Al Levy. And Al Levy had no accounting experience at all.  I think he came from a department store or men’s store or something but nothing to do with finance.  For some reason or another we had to put down as accountant and he came over and he had a couple jobs and couldn’t do anything but fortunately the manager of Winding Hollow who later was fired at that time had hired Al Levy.  I was president of Winding Hollow, so I could do that and he turned out to be a very good manager.

ARONSON: [Mary Dannenhurst?] was the executive director.

INTERVIEWER:  That was another organization you were part of.

ARONSON:  I was president.  You know, I should have been a Republican.  I always had the feeling and I always tried to [teach?]  this to my kids, number one that you should mature, that you should devote to something to your community and give back.  I think they do it where they live.

INTERVIEWER:  We should get in to this because some day somebody’s going to listen to this.

ARONSON:  No they won’t. I’ll listen to this.

INTERVIEWER:  Yea they will.  What about your children? How many, names, what are they doing now?

ARONSON:  Well, between Joan and me we’ve got six kids.  They’re all my kids.  I adopted them.  Well, after I was separated from Bunny, we had three kids.

INTERVIEWER:  And they were?

ARONSON:   Chris, Jane and Andy.  By the way I gotta’ tell you a story. Maybe you’ve heard it about the rabbi, the minister, and the priest and the priest says “Well, life begins at conception,” and the minister says, “No, life begins when the child comes out of the womb,” and the rabbi says, “Life begins when the dog dies and the kids go to college.”  So, fortunately all my kids are off the payroll.

INTERVIEWER:  What is Chrissy doing now?

ARONSON:  Well, Chris lives in New Zealand.  She moved there from Aspen with her husband.  His name is Terry…

INTERVIEWER:  I know it like she’s my daughter.

ARONSON:  …Eubank.  Her name is Chris but she kept the name Aronson.  They moved to New Zealand. They were over there on a trip and they found a town they loved, simply packed up. He was in the real estate business so he could do that, transferred his interest over there and they moved to a town called Rossel which is in the Bay of something, a well-known area just north of Auckland.  There’s a mountain over- looking the ocean, a fabulous place and she opened up an art gallery which was written up in a New Zealand major newspaper in the country.

INTERVIEWER:  Is she an artist herself?


INTERVIEWER:  She’s just a collector, a connoisseur.

ARONSON:  She was a professor at Colorado and then she got married and then she retired.  She taught a course a philosophy course but it had something to do with ethics.  I still keep her book on my desk for our discussion group there’s some great, great things in here if we want to discuss.

INTERVIEWER:  Just as an aside for the person transcribing this, Bob and I are in a group called The Serious Discussion Group and we get together every three weeks in the summer. The other boys in the club go to Florida in the winter and they leave me up here in the snow and they meet in Florida but in the summertime I enjoy immensely getting together with these guys and talking about politics so that’s who this Serious Discussion Group is.

ARONSON:  Anyway they went in to the real estate business over there.  My daughter Jane who lives in Chicago is an artist and she’s been in a number of galleries.  She’s not well known internationally or nationally but she’s very well..

INTERVIEWER:  Is she married too?

ARONSON:  She married a Baskin.  The Baskins are an interesting family.  For years they were, I guess, the leading men’s store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago under the name I think, Baskin, and then her father got sick and her brothers did some other things so eventually they sold the business.  Her husband is a major photographer in Chicago.  In fact, he takes all the pictures for Technical Institute.  They live in one of the suburbs.  And Andy lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.  He started the Drug Emporium Stores in that area with Gerry… whose dad was a doctor. I’m so bad with names anymore.

INTERVIEWER:  Whatever. How’d they get to North Carolina? Did he go to school down there or something?

ARONSON:  No, he bought a franchise of Drug Emporium which started in Columbus.  He bought; together they bought Winston-Salem – Greensboro – High Pointe.  At the time he bought them, that along with the guy from Youngstown who had the other in Columbus, [  ?]

INTERVIEWER:  …whom we know.

ARONSON:  …they did very well.  Then he sold that chain and he sort of became a financial advisor. That‘s what he does [   ] now.

INTERVIEWER:  Those were the three children that you had with Bunny.

ARONSON:  And then with Joanie we had three kids.

INTERVIEWER:  When did you get married to Joanie?

ARONSON:  We’ve been married fifty one years.


ARONSON:  Wow is right.  [phone] We’ve been talking quite a while.  Is it twelve o-clock?

INTERVIEWER:  Quarter til?

ARONSON:  So, we’ll go for another fifteen minutes.

INTERVIEWER:  So, the three children that are Joanie’s are…

ARONSON:  Bobby Jr.,…

INTERVIEWER:  …who goes by Aronson.

ARONSON:  They all go by Aronson.  I adopted her kids just because unfortunately their father who lives in Indiana, Pennsylvania, just sort of abandoned those kids so I’ve had those kids since they were like four or five years old. We’re all one family now. It’s terrific.

INTERVIEWER:  I had Bobby in Sunday school.

ARONSON:  Did you really?  When he was at Eastmoor?


ARONSON:  Well, Bobby, he’s kind of retired but he’s a good [ ?ist? ] and he worked for a couple internet companies and Andy is doing what he’s doing and, who’s the other one, Jay, no.

INTERVIEWER:  Those are Aaron’s kids.  Now Joanie’s kids, there’s Bobby Aronson.

ARONSON:   Lynn is married to Bill Shuman.  I don’t know if you know. His dad is [Cord?] and he was White’s Furniture and Billy, who’s my son-in-law has a good accounting firm [ ?  ]  and Lynn was the human resources officer/director for Columbia Gas and she retired about three or four years ago and became interested in dog rescue and cat rescue and she just takes cats or dogs, cats primarily that are destined to be euthanized and places them in homes.  That’s a full-time job. She’s built a small organization and it’s all volunteer work, but they do a great job and Laurie is in Boston. She married into the Starr family.  She uses the name [Maurice?] Starr and they have a business similar to Wasserstrom’s in Boston but she also works.  She’s an office manager, a paralegal for a law firm up there, and she’s got a boy Jacob who is going to be bar mitzvahed this year.  She was never bar mitzvahed.  She didn’t get bar mitzvahed until she was thirty. So, everybody’s pretty well, pretty well settled.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, Bob and I had an opportunity to talk before the meeting and I warned him I might be asking him a question like this so I imagine he probably thought about it, you know, after a certain amount of time you sort of pick up some things along the way of life that you’d like to pass on to your children and your grandchildren.  You have it written down maybe and this is an opportunity for Bob to maybe sort of share some of his philosophies and share some of the things in life that he considers important, share some of the things that he hopes that his children will get from him and from the life he has led and so you have a few minutes left and maybe we’d like to get that into the record.

ARONSON:  I have a philosophy that my dad taught me and I kind of think that that philosophy sort of generalizes major categories that I’d like to have my kids do.  I‘ve never gone to a funeral where somebody’s children didn’t stand out and say nice things about the deceased.  I’ve never heard any bad guy die and I told Joanie, I said, “You know these kids have such fond memories of their father that we should take that so that we can give it to our kids to say about me and you.”  Joanie goes, “I’m not sure.  They’re never going to say it.”  I’m kidding.

INTERVIEWER:  When you think about it you don’t ever hear your kids say the things they say at your funeral. It’s too bad.  They say it there when you can’t hear it.

ARONSON:  But there’s a philosophy, there’s a philosophy that I think I have and it’s about the guy who had four pennies. Penny one is spent for what you need for your immediate family in the way of food, shelter and clothing.  Penny two, you put aside for a rainy day because no matter how well things go for you, there’s going be a time when you’re going to have to have some additional support so you want that.   The third thing is that no matter how bad things are with you there are people that are worse off and you’ve got to take care of those people so you must give that third penny to someone who is less fortunate whether it’s physical or whatever it is, and then the last penny you can spend for what you want, and if you go through life with that kind of philosophy, fill in the gaps in between to live a full life.   I remember a story where a guy was given a choice of buying a new car, taking a trip around the world, or giving the equivalent amount to someone less fortunate than he was and the guy who bought the new car said, “You know I’d really love to have this car because if I do any of the other two things, they are fleeting but my car’s going to last me five years or six years and I’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of it,”  which was kind of selfish.   The second guy said, “Well, I’d like to go on a trip, he said, because well it has a termination point.  It’ll be remembered a long time and it’ll be a source of pleasure to me.”  And the guy who said, “I’d like to give the money away,” said, “You know I find more pleasure in giving something to someone less fortunate than I do in spending it on myself.”  And I think there’s a lot of philosophy and thought that other people don’t give to anyone but I just wrote something down.  I’m not sure it’s applicable here.  Being Jewish for me, for instance, has always been a stroke of luck.  I remember one time when I was involved in the Department of Transportation in one of my businesses and Elizabeth Dole was the Secretary of Transportation.  She was as Evangelical as they come and she called a meeting.  We were negotiating a treaty with the Russians on the export of [? ] and there were about eight of us on the committee.  I was the only Jewish person and she called the meeting on Yom Kippur and I called her up and I said, “Elizabeth, I can’t come to the meeting.  It’s a very holy day for us and I always observe it.”  She said, “Don’t worry about it.  We’ll change the meeting.”   And I said to myself, no, no, no, I don’t want you to change the meeting.  She said, “But you are supposed to deliver a very important paper.”  I said, “I’ll mail it in.”  She said, “No, I want you there personally so I’m going to change the meeting.”   And I said, “Well, don’t do it yet.  Let me think about it.”  And I thought to myself, “There’s eight people.  I’m one of eight people. I’m Jewish.  This is a problem that’s never come up before.  I don’t want to create a problem by having seven people have to change this because I have a Jewish holiday.”  So I called her back and I went to the meeting and I’m not sorry I went but I think in the long run, it didn’t do anything that would put the Jewish people in a perspective where someone could criticize them.  Whether they were even cognizant of the fact that I had done what I did, I never knew, but I feel that we have this community and around the world and we’ve got to preserve the Jewish faith and that’s one of the things that concerns me today.  So that’s [  ?]

INTERVIEWER:  So we need to do some boiler plate here, and the boiler plate is on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society, I want to thank you for contributing to the Oral History Project and if you have any thoughts that you maybe,  speak now or forever hold your peace. Anything that…there’s a lot that we missed I can tell you that ‘cause I know there were a lot of things that Bob was involved with that we really didn’t get a chance to explore here and as time goes by and we get a chance to maybe think about this, to reflect on this we might decide to kick this off again and maybe add some addendum to it because Bob had a rich life in Columbus and maybe because of time constraints didn’t get a chance to  tap into as much as we maybe could, so we’ll have maybe a P.S. to this someday, but this concludes this, this interview and I want to thank Bob for taking his time and sitting here with a bad tooth and this will conclude this interview.

Transcriber:  Linda Kalette Schottenstein