INTERVIEWER: In Columbus, Ohio, this is Dick Golden talking and I’m representing the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. This morning it is July the 9th, approximately eleven o’clock in the morning and it’s a little [?] but we’re in the home of Ernie and Aurelia Stern and the Sterns have been very nice to me and allowed me to come into their home and we’re going to be talking about their experiences and what they have accomplished, a lot of things here in Central Ohio and Columbus so I’m going to be quiet and I’ll ask a couple questions in a minute and Ernie and Rela will be speaking. First we’ll speak with Ernie, okay, Rela? Okay. Good Morning Ernie.
ERNEST: Good Morning, Dick.
INTERVIEWER: Ernie, I just wanted to ask you a few questions. You could start. When were you born? Give us your birth date.
ERNEST: March 9th, 1923.
INTERVIEWER: And Rela?
ERNEST: Rela was born April 24, 1923.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, so we now we’ve established that we are a couple of young kids sitting here, right?
INTERVIEWER: Ernie, where were you born?
ERNEST: I was born in Vienna, Austria. Rela was born in Poland. I don’t know what town, [Vitzkomen?]
INTERVIEWER: Okay, and what year did you arrive in the United States?
ERNEST: I came to the United States in 1938 after the Anschluss and Aurelia came after the War in 1948.
INTERVIEWER: And I’m going to ask you Aurelia, were you coming here as a young bride or were you married here in Columbus?
ERNEST: I didn’t know her as a matter of fact. I met her here when she was a single young lady.
INTERVIEWER: A very pretty lady and she’s still a very pretty lady. A little shmikling can go a long way is that right? Anyway it’s nice to see you both. Ernie, you came here as a young teenager. Could you tell us where you lived in Ohio at that time?
ERNEST: In Columbus, Ohio, I lived in Columbus on Bryden Road, 977 Bryden Road, close to the Bryden Road Temple which is Temple Israel and I went to school at Central High School in Columbus, Ohio, and…
INTERVIEWER: And what year did you graduate from Central High School?
ERNEST: I think I graduated in 1940 and went to Ohio State. It was supposed to be Class of 1944.
INTERVIEWER: Ohio State graduating class and then something happened.
ERNEST: I didn’t graduate until 1947 because I spent two years in the army of the United States overseas in Europe.
INTERVIEWER: What year did you arrive in the United States?
INTERVIEWER: Can you tell the Columbus people how you two nice people met?
ERNEST: I think Rela was working with an interpreter. She didn’t talk English and I didn’t speak any Polish but we both spoke German so we could communicate. She needed her academic records translated into English so she could go to Ohio State graduate school. She had been in medical school in Vienna, Austria. So, we went to the Hillel Foundation to Rabbi Kaplan who translated all of her information, however, it was Saturday and I forgot that the Hillel was closed so instead, I made a date to take her to Valley Dale dancing and that’s how we got started.
INTERVIEWER: So you went to Valley Dale and went dancing instead of getting married. Okay, but you did get married. That’s good news.
ERNEST: That’s right.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, Ernie, you mentioned that you went to Ohio State and you were a law student at that time.
ERNEST: I graduated in Economics from Ohio State and went to Law School at Capital. I graduated with a degree from Capital Law School.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. What year did you enter the United States military?
ERNEST: In 1943, beginning of 1943 and I got out in 1946. I had finished two years at Ohio State by the time and then I finished after I came back and that’s about it.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, and a little bit about your military experience. Will you share some of that with us?
INTERVIEWER: Sure, be happy to share it. I was in Camp Hale in the 10th Mountain Division. After about nine months, I…Camp Hale is about ten thousand feet up and I contacted rheumatic fever, and they transferred me out of there. I went to Military Intelligence School, in Camp Ritchie, Maryland and from there I was sent overseas to England to [?] in Manchester I think [?] was assigned to the 63rd Infantry Division at London. We were in France and Germany and that’s it.
INTERVIEWER: Okay and then you came home and you went to school and you met this beautiful lady. You took her dancing and then you got married.
ERNEST: Right. Now I remember we talked a little bit about your business experience. Can we talk about that now?
ERNEST: Sure. I worked part-time for Continental Office Supply, [?], a little office supply store, that Leo Eiferman started and I worked part-time as a printer and a handyman and after we met in 1950 I think, I was going to Law school at the time and I was nearly finished and Leo passed away and so I took over the company since there was nobody else and kept on doing and going to school at the same time, finished law school but I stayed at Continental as CEO. The company prospered a little bit, got a little bigger and that’s the end of the story.
INTERVIEWER: Well, I know that you’re modest about this but I feel that you were really responsible for the growth of Continental. You were a big part of that and that’s another part of the history but I know that you were active in leadership in Columbus. Tell us some of your leadership areas. What was going on with you?
ERNEST: The first thing I was president of Zion Lodge. Later I became president of All Ohio Lodges, and then became a governor of District Number 2. That’s the [?] activities. In the Federation I became president of the Federation (Jewish) and the Columbus Jewish Foundation, both. In my temple, I became president of Temple Israel. Later I was selected as a board member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and that was my experience with those. In general, in the general community, I was on the board of Symphony, Board of Trustees, and I was on the board of the United Way, and was active in [?]. Outside of that I think I was treasurer of the JCC and I was on the board of that also and those were all my activities.
INTERVIEWER: Well, it sounds like you and Aurelia were very busy people. On top of that you were raising a family. Tell us about your children.
ERNEST: (to Aurelia) Tell him about our children, about Linda and Estelle.
AURELIA: We have two daughters, one, Linda the number one and the other one Estelle.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, Ernie, now, [?] tell us about your grandchildren. I’m looking at a beautiful painting on the wall here, beautiful children.
ERNEST: Well, this one of our daughters [?] raised a boy and a girl. Estelle had a son who’s married now and has two children and a daughter who has one child, and Linda has a son who is married in Florida and has one child and a daughter who is now 23 years old and she is single.
INTERVIEWER: Now this is your granddaughter.
ERNEST: These are grandchildren, our grandchildren.
INTERVIEWER: Well, I’m looking at this painting. [?] Who are these children that I’m looking at?
ERNEST: Those are the grandchildren. You have Alex, the little one, who is our 23 year old. Next to her is Margot and she’s in Colorado. Next to her is Brent who has two daughters. They are right now in Colorado vacationing and last one is Maddie, who works for Florida Atlantic University and has one little girl and that’s the end of the story.
INTERVIEWER: Well, this is quite a story. Now we don’t want to sum this up in such a way but here are two people that I’m interviewing on behalf of the Columbus, Ohio Jewish Historical Society who came…
INTERVIEWER: Penniless, absolutely penniless who ran from the tyranny of the Nazi Movement in Europe who had the courage to come here and learn more and have the courtesy to share this information with the people of Columbus, Ohio, and we’re not going to cut this short but I want to just add a few things here. I remember Ernie when I first came here. He was a warm, friendly guy who welcomed us. We had some mutual friends. We had Helga Simon who married Jessie Eisen, may she rest in peace, and my wife, Tammie and Helga were friends and it was through Ernie and Rela that we met other terrific people. We met Jack and Betty Palestrant. I’d like to mention them Ernie, would you tell us about some of your friendships?
ERNEST: Well, Jack was not only a friend but he was our dentist as well and we spent some vacations together and we were in the Dinner Club with the Eisens and the Palestrants and my brother and two other couples and had a wonderful time in Dinner Club.
INTERVIEWER: What about some of your athletic sports? Were you a golfer?
ERNEST: I was a tennis player until my back went out and then after I healed I became a golfer but I really didn’t become a golfer. I played golf.
INTERVIEWER: You played golf and met the numbers. Okay. What about things that you’ve noticed the growth of Central Ohio and the Jewish community? Can you share some of that with us from the time you came here to present time?
ERNEST: Actually, I think when I was president of the Federation which was about maybe, it was late, middle sixties I think, I think that people were always under the impression that there were about twelve thousand Jewish people in Columbus. This is not true. They took a census through a a survey and found out there were actually about twenty some thousand Jews, a lot of them unaffiliated living up north connected either with Battelle or Ohio State University and they were unaffiliated sort of, so they fell through the cracks and we tried to reach out to them and established a synagogue up north and some [?] In Columbus, [?] there’s lots of different synagogues, maybe too many and…
INTERVIEWER: We are aware that the Sterns and other people who came as young people, as young adults to this country, have played a very important part in the growth of Central Ohio, not only in the commerce and religious, but social activities. What were some of the social things that you liked for entertainment?
ERNEST: Well, we were very active in the Columbus Symphony I told you as [?], but we loved the symphony and we had seasons tickets every year.
INTERVIEWER: Did you go to any of the football games and activities like that?
ERNEST: Of course. We had football tickets every year. I was, I am a member of the Presidents Club and we are real avid Buckeye fans, from the football games, and otherwise, we did a lot of traveling.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, some of the travel, can you share some of the trips that you took with us?
ERNEST: We were most all over Europe. We were in New Zealand and Australia and we traveled the United States pretty intensively. In fact, we met some very nice people going to some musical festival in Wyoming and other places. We also were in…I don’t know where else we were…[city,?] I guess that’s it.
INTERVIEWER: So in your younger years you did some extensive traveling. Okay . Now what, in looking in to the future, we can’t predict anything but what would you like to see happen to our community here in Central Ohio, not only the Jewish community but the general growth. What are you looking forward to in Central Ohio?
ERNEST: That Columbus has become a [?] metropolitan city by now and I don’t recognize it anymore. I’m a totally retired person, ninety some years old and I can just hope that Columbus will remain the vibrant city that it is and the State of Ohio and United States are gonna keep prospering and we can [all the things?] that are around us.
INTERVIEWER: Well, we will wind this up soon. I don’t want to take away from your lunch hour, but it’s been a pleasure to see Aurelia and Ernie Stern and they are alert people. They shared things with us and, Ernie, to wind this up, I see positive things happening in Central Ohio with the Jewish community and I think you can second that.
ERNEST: Yes, I do.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. We’re going to close this now. Again a thank you to the Sterns , Ernie and Aurelia and their family and I keep looking at this painting. I wish the people of Central Ohio could see this and put it on a billboard someplace, a beautiful thing so I am gonna say Al vita zane, Shalom, and good things to our friends. Aurelia, I’ll blow a kiss to you. (kiss, kiss) We’re gonna close it here. Thank you.
Transcribed: July 1-2, 2016 by Linda Kalette Schottenstein