Esther Mirvis

 

Interviewer:  Ok. This is Bill Cohen for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and we are at 1001 Parkview Boulevard in Columbus, at the home of Esther Mirvis and we’re going to interview her now about her growing up in Ohio as a Jewish child and later as a Jewish adult and her experiences. So, Esther, let’s start off by having you tell us about your parents. Who were your parents?

Mirvis:  My parents came from Russia and they came over on the Belgravia ship.  It left Hamburg, Germany on May the 4th, Nineteen Four and it arrived in New York on May the 20th, Nineteen Four. Incidentally, this Belgravia ship was bombed in 1945 by the Japanese, but my parents landed in Zanesville, Ohio, when they left New York after their arrival, and they stayed in Zanesville, Ohio.  This was in Nineteen Four, May, Nineteen Four when they landed.

Interviewer:  So, so tell me they came to New York in the boat, so did they go through Ellis Island?

Mirvis:  Yes.  They landed at Ellis Island, yes, and then went on to Zanesville.

Interviewer:  They were already married in Russia and then they came on the boat to Ellis Island.  They were already married.

Mirvis:  …and they came with my oldest sister who was six months old at the time.  She was born in Russia. And they stayed in Zanesville for a short while and they moved to a town called Woodsfield, W-o-o-d-s-f-i-e-l-d, Ohio, located in [?]because my mother had a brother that had moved there, came over, and he had started a scrap iron business. He was the only Jewish man to arrive there. He was single at the time so it was a…he was my mother’s brother as I stated.

Interviewer:  Now, let’s get the names of your mother and father.

Mirvis:  Ok.  My father’s name was Meyer Schahet, S-c-h-a-h-e-t.  My mother’s name was Toba Kirshet Schahet.

Interviewer:  And Meyer, your father’s first name, how was that spelled?

Mirvis:  M-e-y-e-r, Meyer, and they landed in this town and my father bought my uncle’s scrap yard and they began life there in Nineteen Four.  They were the only Jewish people in the entire county, my father found out later.  He always kind of made jokes of the fact that he controlled all the Jewish votes in Monroe County.  Anyhow, he started up in business and took over the junk yard and in Nineteen Six my other sister was born and in Nineteen Eleven…

Interviewer:  Now let’s, let’s get her name. Your sister’s name…

Mirvis:  …was Bessie, Bessie, B-e-double s-i-e.

Interviewer:  Bessie, okay.  Now, there was another sister you had who was born in Russia.

Mirvis:  Russia.

Interviewer: …and what was her name?

Mirvis:  Jennie.

Interviewer:  Okay, so Jenny and then Bessie and then you still hadn’t come along yet.

Mirvis:  No, and then five years later in 1911 my brother was born, Harold Schahet who became a teacher in Fremont Ross High School eventually.

Interviewer:  What high school was that?

Mirvis:  Fremont, Fremont, Fremont, Ohio.

Interviewer:  Oh, that was far away from Woodsfield, Ohio.

Mirvis:  Yes.

Interviewer:   But, they were all, the other children though were born there in Woodsfield, and then when did you come along?  When was that/

Mirvis:  Then in 1920 I was born, in March of 1920, but I was born in Zanesville, Ohio, because when my brother was born, he was born in Woodsfield and there were no Jews there…

Interviewer:  Except for your family…

Mirvis:  …so my father had to take a wagon with, to go to Zanesville and pick up ten men to go to Woodsfield which was about seventy miles away for my brother’s bris.

Interviewer:  You actually, your brother had an actual bris in Woodsfield, Ohio, even though your family…

Mirvis:  There was no rabbis, nobody there, and they brought a rabbi and ten men from Zanesville to Woodsfield, and my mother had to put them up for the night, They found.. and then the next day the teamster had to take all the men back to Zanesville.

Interviewer:  The teamster, when you say the teamster, you mean…

Mirvis:  It was in a wagon. They came down in a wagon in 1911.

Interviewer:  There were no cars.

Mirvis:  There were no cars.  My father didn’t’ have a car and it took them a long time.  It was about seventy miles, and my mother put them all up for the night, and took the men back and then of course the teamster came back.  He worked for my father in the scrapyard.

Interviewer:  But that was the reason.  The fact that Woodsfield had only your family as the only Jews, that’s the reason your mother and father decided then to move to Zanesville?

Mirvis:  No, they didn’t.

Interviewer:  No.

Mirvis:  They didn’t move to Zanesville. My father made a good living and especially World War I came about and he made a very good living at that time. Well, that was in 1917 and 18, and we continued living there and we all went to school there.

Interviewer:  In Woodsfield.

Mirvis:  In Woodsfield.

Interviewer:  Oh, Okay. I thought, maybe I misheard you.  I thought you said you were born in Zanesville.

Mirvis:  I was born in Zanesville. I was.

Interviewer:  Well, how did that come about?

Mirvis:  My mother thought that if another boy comes along, they would have to haul a rabbi and the men again to Woodsfield.  My mother had a sister living in Zanesville so during her pregnancy she lived with the aunt until I came along and I don’t know whether I disappointed them but they didn’t need… Anyhow, when I was born in March of 1920, at that time the old R &W Railroad was running rom Wheeling to Zanesville and it went through Monroe County

Interviewer:  …to near Woodsfield.

Mirvis:  Yeah, so I was two weeks old and my mother took the train with me and landed in Woodsfield.

Interviewer:  So, it turned out since you were a girl they didn’t’ really need to have you born in Zanesville but it worked out that way.

Mirvis:  Yes.

Interviewer:  So, your family was still living in Woodsfield.  You were, just happened to be born in Zanesville.

Mirvis:  That’s right.

Interviewer:  Okay.  So, what are your memories of growing up in Woodsfield, Ohio, virtually the only Jewish family.  What was that like?

Mirvis:  It was wonderful. Oh, I loved it.  When my mother and, especially my mother was strictly Jewish and followed all the Jewish traits and we weren’t allowed to turn on the lights after Friday night.  We kept a dim light all the time and she would not do anything on Friday night to Saturday night.  She was very strictly Jewish. She spoke very little English but she learned some things and she got along beautifully with all the neighbors, especially one particular neighbor. Of course, they were all Gentile. And to this day I am friends with the grandchildren of all these neighbors. As a matter of fact, I talked to one of them last night. And we children grew up, went

to school with all the Gentile people. And my brother didn’t have an opportunity to go to cheder school, and.

INTERVIEWER:  What kind of school?

Mirvis:  Cheder school.

INTERVIEWER:  The religious school. ‘Didn’t have that opportunity because there was none.

Mirvis:  No. No. That’s right and we grew up in a Gentile community and I had never gone to Sunday School or Hebrew School, anything. But my parents talked Yiddish and I understand that and I and talk some of it. But we lived in Woodsfield during World War I, and my father, as I said, made very well, and when it came to 1933, I was thirteen years old at the time, and my parents noticed that the little Gentile boys had an eye for me. So they thought they’d better get me out of there. And so we moved to Cleveland in 1933, the summer of 1933, when I finished the eighth grade. And when we moved to Cleveland, my father continued keeping the scrapyard in Woodsfield, but he would be home.  He stayed in Woodsfield only about two, three, maybe four days a week and then he would come back to Cleveland and then go back. And he had a man taking care of the yard, but he couldn’t sell it and it was doing quite well and keeping us up. In the meantime, my older sister married and left the nest. And then in 1939, my second sister married and left the nest, and my brother was in college, and I had graduated high school in Cleveland in 1937, and I was working and I really didn’t have any opportunity to learn any Hebrew because I was working and my parents lived there until the end of 1945.  There was a scrapyard for sale in Zanesville so my father bought it, and my mother and father and I moved to Zanesville.  The other three children had left the nest and were married. So I stayed with my mother and father and I worked in the scrapyard with my father in the office. I was there, I don’t know, perhaps ten, twelve years, I don’t recall, and I stayed with them until he sold, no , yeah, he sold the yard in Zanesville. And then I wanted to move to Columbus, so I moved them to Columbus with me. They were already in their seventies.

Interviewer:  They moved to Columbus with you?

Mirvis:  Yes. They moved to Columbus with me, the three of us.

Interviewer:  About what year would that have been you moved to Columbus?

Mirvis:  Nineteen… fifty-eight or sixty… something like that.

Interviewer:  Let’s go back a little bit again though to Woodsfield when you were just a child.

Mirvis:  Oh, it was wonderful.

Interviewer:  So, even though you were the only Jewish family and your parents didn’t even speak English and they were very observant Jews, as observant as they could be, everybody got along.

Mirvis:  Beautifully.

Interviewer:  You didn’t experience any anti-Semitism.

Mirvis:  Never. Oh no, not at that time. Oh, no.  They were crazy about my father. My father had a beautiful personality and he belonged to everything. He belonged to the Kiwanis, he belonged to the KMP and the KMC, he belonged to every lodge that was down there and he was very outgoing.  He had a beautiful personality.  My mother was more-or-less quiet and reserved and he was willing to learn the American ways, you know. After all he was in business.  He had to do business and….

Interviewer:  So, he eventually did learn English so he could deal with it.

Mirvis:  Yeah, he could write a little bit.  My mother never was, she always wrote Hebrew.  She was very well learned in Hebrew.

Interviewer:  She wrote Hebrew not Yiddish but Hebrew.

Mirvis:  Yiddish.

Interviewer:  Oh, Yiddish. She wrote Yiddish. Okay.

Mirvis:  And her sister in Zanesville, they used to correspond.  That’s the sister she lived with when I was due.

Interviewer:  So, your parents, when you were a little child, your parents spoke Yiddish to you?

Mirvis:  Yes.

Interviewer:  That was the language you grew up with was Yiddish.

Mirvis:  Yes, it was. My mother couldn’t speak English very well.  Oh yeah, we learned very early and we spoke it. I still can speak Yiddish and….

Interviewer:  Now, when you went to school, that’s when you learned English.

Mirvis:  Yes. Yes.  Well, I was born you know, I was two weeks old when I got to Woodsfield and I was, all the neighbors, you know, were neighborly.  They were very neighborly to my mother and they used to help my mother. They used to want to bring her a piece of pork or something and ooo…

Interviewer:  What would she say?

Mirvis:  She would just thank them and say, “No, I have something else planned.”

Interviewer:  I see.

Mirvis: …and no, we weren’t allowed to do anything wrong, you know, outside of…dishes you know. We had two sets of dishes constantly and we had two sets of Passover dishes and we had to wash the kitchen down.  I remember when it came Passover and I remember the baskets that was packed in our chamaitzic dishes and then they brought up, my father and my brother would bring up the Passover dishes, and the kitchen was completely changed at Passover time. And then when it came to holidays like Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, we closed down the house and we went to Zanesville and stayed with my mother’s sister for two days or however long the holiday was and that’s where we observed our holidays.

Interviewer:  It was a synagogue, an actual synagogue in Zanesville.

Mirvis:  It was Orthodox.  Oh, yeah, my parents belonged to the Orthodox.  At the time, my father told us once at the time they first landed in Zanesville, there were four, there were three synagogues and one temple at the time in Nineteen Four.

Interviewer:  In Zanesville.

Mirvis:  In Zanesville, yeah.

Interviewer:  The small town of Zanesville had four Jewish places of worship.

Mirvis: Yeah. Well, Zanesville was a bustling town at that time, very active and they had three synagogues and one temple and this was way back around Nineteen Four or Five.

Interviewer:  Now when you say, “one temple,” are you using different words because you’re using the word temple to describe a Reform congregation?

Mirvis:  Reform. Yes, Reform.

Interviewer:  I see but the other three that were called synagogues were Orthodox.

Mirvis: Synagogues were Orthodox

Interviewer:  All three were Orthodox?

Mirvis:  I think there were three Orthodox.

Interviewer:  Wow.

Mirvis:  … And, I don’t know of any other form of religion than the Orthodox. They used to say there was four in Zanesville, but one was Reform so, I assume that the other three were Orthodox.

Interviewer:  Now, you say your family was very observant in Woodsfield, even though it would be hard to be observant because you were the only Jewish family. Now you had dishes for milk, and you had dishes for meat because you didn’t want to mix them and that’s understandable. But let me ask you this though. Can I assume you couldn’t keep totally, you couldn’t have Kosher meat or was there a way you got kosher meat all the way in Woodsfield, Ohio?

Mirvis:  Every Thursday my father would drive to Bellaire, Ohio, forty miles away, and he’d have a container, a huge container with ice in it, and, yeah, blocks of ice or sometimes he would buy the ice there, you know, and he’d pack up chickens already flicked and ready for cooking, and he’d pick up chickens in Bellaire or Wheeling. They had kosher stores, and it was…Wheeling was just across the River, and my father would go and shop and pick up all meat and chickens and pack them in the ice with containers he had and then bring ‘em home, and my mother would clean them and kosher them, whatever had to be done. And we would have enough meat for the whole week whenever we wanted. However, we had a garden, a vegetable garden, and my mother and father and my brother would plant corn and tomatoes and pickles and lettuce and cucumbers. And my mother would make all those items for our milhicha meals because we had two cows and my father would milk two cows in the morning and at night time and my mother made her own butter and cheese. And we had chickens but we lived right in town. We didn’t live on a farm. My father’s junkyard was right in the center of town, and…

Interviewer:  Wow

Mirvis:  …and my mother kept, either we had a fleishahicah meal or else we would have a milhicha meal, and the two cows produced beautiful milk.

Interviewer:  So, you really did keep kosher totally because you had kosher meat…

Mirvis:  Oh, yes.

Interviewer:  You had to go all the way to Bellaire or Wheeling to get it.

Mirvis:  Yes, that’s right, and he would pack…

Interviewer:  Wow.

Mirvis:  I can see the chickens now. She would come home sometimes and flick the chickens at night time. I can see her putting them over the burners so it would singe off, all the feathers would singe off and she would cut up chickens and put them on ice for the next day cooking which was Friday morning because he went Thursday. And that’s the way we lived. And to this day I’ve never had milk taste as good as the milk that came from our two cows. And it was sifted through two bags. She sifted the milk and then kept, made cream and made [shmirkeys?] and chesses, all kinds of things from cheeses.

Interviewer:  Now one things we haven’t established, did your father’s junkyard or metal salvage company, did it have a particular name?

Mirvis:  No, it was Mike Schahet that’s all. He was the only one and it was just a junkyard but he didn’t have a particular name. It was just his personal name, Mike Schahet Junk.

Interviewer:  Meyer, again his name was Meyer.

Mirvis: Yeah Meyer, but they called him Mike.

Interviewer:  Oh, Mike. OK

Mirvis:  Yeah it was always Mike and that’s the way we children lived. And when my oldest sister graduated high school she went to OSU and she went through pharmaceutical school for two years and then found a boyfriend from Cleveland so she didn’t further her education.  She went to Cleveland to live with my father’s brother’s family and she married.

Interviewer:  Now you mentioned that when you were about twelve your mother saw that the boys in Woodsfield were starting to get interested in you and she wanted you to meet Jewish boys, and there weren’t any in Woodsfield so you moved to Cleveland. What was that like to move from that small town of Woodsfield to that big city Cleveland?

Mirvis:  I didn’t like it.  I had to walk to the streetcar and I had to take a streetcar to go to school. It was all new to me.  I didn’t know what to do and then after I got to school I became acquainted with a girl that lived up [?] from me, a Jewish girl, and we became friends and then I began to learn how it is to live in Cleveland, and I didn’t like it. No, at first, I wanted to go back to my friends, my Gentile friends in Woodsfield. And it’s a funny thing, a girl my age lived three doors away from me and she and I became so close and today is her 98th birthday. She died three years ago and we were friends all these 95 years.

Interviewer:  She died at age 95.

Mirvis:  She died at 95 and today is her 98th birthday. And she and I were so close.  After we moved to Cleveland when I was thirteen my father would go to Woodsfield for three or four days because of the yard, and he brought her home a couple times to visit with us and of course she ate with all our meals and everything. And sometimes when my mother had chicken or meat and the girl would want butter for her bread and my mother gave her some butter on a milhiacha plate with a milahicha knife, and we explained it to her and she understood but she didn’t mix, you know. She ate the bread and butter separate.

Interviewer:  This was a friend from Woodsfield and yet even after you moved to Cleveland you were friends with her…

Mirvis:  Yeah, all my life.

Interviewer:  …and she visited and then even in to her later years you were friends.

Mirvis:  and I’d go back to Woodsfield with my father and visit.  I never failed to see her. She was perhaps my closest friend and she was a darling.  She had graduated college and found a job in a

bank in Woodsfield.  I always stopped to see her.

Interviewer:  And what was her name?

Mirvis:  Her married name was Jean Turner, her maiden name.  Her married name was Jean Klein.  Today happens to be her 98th birthday and I miss her terribly. But it was a very happy time in down there. Of course, I was only a child and the other children, if they lived in the cities they went to cheder school but I didn’t.

Interviewer:  Religious school.

Mirvis:  Yes, religious school, but I didn’t.   I never learned Hebrew.

Interviewer:  Now though, your family moved to Cleveland though when you were about twelve…

Mirvis:  Thirteen.

Interviewer:  Thirteen, and you were surrounded by at least a lot of Jews there.

Mirvis:  Yes.

Interviewer:  So, then did you start to get more of a Jewish education or anything?

Mirvis:  Yes, I got more of a Jewish education but I didn’t go to school. I didn’t go to Hebrew school.   I went to high school. I went to John Hay High School. I graduated. I took a secretarial course and I graduated in 1937 from John Hay. And I got a job and I just kept on working.

Interviewer:  Let me ask you this.  In high school in Cleveland, you lived in the city of Cleveland itself?

Mirvis:  Yes.

Interviewer:  Okay and were there Jews at the high school?

Mirvis:  Oh, yes.  I had Jewish friends in Cleveland. Oh, sure. As a matter of fact, my parents insisted I begin to mix with Jewish children.  I never knew, you know, but oh, yes, I had a very close Jewish friend. Her name was Esther.

Interviewer:  Two Esthers together.

Mirvis:  Yeah. And we became very close. We went all through high school and graduated together and she’s gone now and we were friends up until the time we left Cleveland and moved to Zanesville.

Interviewer:  Let me ask you this. Now in the late 1950’s you moved, or 1960, you say you and your parents moved from Zanesville to Columbus.

Mirvis:  Yes. It was long after the war. We moved to Columbus.  It was around in the late Fifties we moved to Columbus.  My parents were aging and my father couldn’t take care of [?] and then my mother needed help.  She was aging. So I liked Columbus and I had them move to Columbus with me.

Interviewer:  In what neighborhood were you living in Columbus?

Mirvis:  What made what?

Interviewer:  What neighborhood, what area of Columbus?

Mirvis:  I lived on 18th Street, South 18th Street, just south of Livingston and I lived there, I don’t recall for how long and….

Interviewer:  Your parents were with you.

Mirvis:  Yeah. We moved in to the Mayfair Apartments.

Interviewer:  After that you moved to the Mayfair Apartments.

Mirvis:  Yeah.

Interviewer:  Is that near Broad Street and James?

Mirvis: Yeah, it’s right off of Broad Street and James.

Interviewer:  On the East side.

Mirvis:  Yes.

Interviewer:  Eastmoor.

Mirvis:  Eastmoor, well, it was…

Interviewer:  Close to Eastmoor.

Mirvis:  East of Eastmoor, I believe, yeah and we lived in the Mayfair Apartments until 1964.  My mother passed away.  My father and I continued living and in ’68 my brother passed away, and six years later in ’74, my father passed away and I was all alone.  The only one living was my older sister in Cleveland, who then at that time was a widow. She had no children and she was living alone, and she lived to be about 98, and I continued living in Columbus until seventy… I forget what June ‘70. My husband and I were married and I…

Interviewer:  You got married in the 1970’s.

Mirvis:  I got married in Nineteen Seventy…he died in seventy… I got married in 1978, I think.

Interviewer:  And who was your husband?

Mirvis:  Well, his father and my father were buddies when they first lived in Zanesville. My husband’s father landed in Zanesville about the time my parents did, but he wasn’t married at the time. And then he was married, and Joe was his first child. And the two fathers were very close friends until his father married and they moved to Wooster, Ohio.

Interviewer:  Now, this is, you’re talking about your husband, the man who would later become your husband.

Mirvis:  Yes.

Interviewer:  …and his name was …

Mirvis:  Mirvis.  Joe Mirvis.

Interviewer:  Joe Mirvis, OK …and he was married to somebody else.

Mirvis:  No, he wasn’t.

Interviewer: Oh, Oh

Mirvis: He wasn’t

Interviewer: Okay, he was unmarried.

Mirvis:  Yeah. He was…Joe was two and a half years older than me.

Interviewer:   Okay.  He was in Zanesville but then he moved.

Mirvis:  They moved eventually to Wooster and the father opened a shoe store. He was a shoe cobbler.

Interviewer:  The father of Joe Mirvis.

Mirvis:  Yes, my father-in-law.  He was a shoe cobbler. Then Joe grew up in Wooster and went to school and he enlisted in the army in September of 1941, three months before Peral Harbor because he said he wanted to get in and ask for what he wanted so enlisted. And after his training in California and then Pearl Harbor happened, and he asked to be put in the Air Force which he was in but he told them he didn’t want to fly. He wouldn’t fly or he told them his preference.  So, they put him in the ground crew, And he was shipped overseas and he landed in Casablanca and he was there for a while as maintenance crew of the airplanes and from there he was shipped to Sicily, and I think he stayed in Italy, in the Sicily area until the end of the War. In August of 1945.  He was discharged, honorably discharged. He was in four years, shy one month of four years. And he came back home and he helped his parents and we renewed acquaintances.  I had met him before and our parents had met each other, and we renewed acquaintances.  I stayed with my parents, and he would come to see me, but I didn’t want to marry because I wanted to take care of my parents.  I wanted to live with them and he had his parents to take care of.

Interviewer: …and he was still in Wooster.

Mirvis:  Yes, he was in Wooster. And he would come to Zanesville occasionally, but it wasn’t often but we kept up a friendship. And then my mother had died, and my father had died, and his father had died over the years, And then he was left with his mother. And in Nineteen…boy there’s so many dates going in my head.  We got married in Nineteen Seventy-Five or something like that.

Interviewer: … and up to that point you were in Columbus and he was in Wooster …

Mirvis:  Yeah.

Interviewer: …but than after your parents died and at least one of his parents died, that’s when you really got together…

Mirvis:  Yes.

Interviewer: …and you got married here in Columbus?

Mirvis:  No, we went to Cincinnati and got married. We just decided.  I don’t know, I don’t know at the time what happened. We just decided to take off for Cincinnati.  Oh, I had somebody in Cincinnati I was telling we were coming down and she brought a cake and, you know, something like that and we, they got in contact with a rabbi and there was men there that’d come to synagogue each morning, you know and they heard that a couple was getting married and the women, a couple women brought a cake and they brought wine ,and we got married. And he brought me home, dumped me off in Columbus, and he had to go to his mother. And he put his house up for sale and eventually we found a house in Granville, Ohio, and he put his house for sale and got rid of it.

Interviewer:  That was the house in Wooster.

Mirvis:  Yeah and we bought the house in Granville and set up shop.

Interviewer:  So, in the 1970’s you got married and started living in Granville

Mirvis:  Granville.

Interviewer:  …which is east of Columbus.

Mirvis:  …Columbus, with his mother. We had his mother. Oh, yes.

Interviewer:  His mother was still alive.

Mirvis:  Yes, the mother was still alive.  She was in her eighties and we had a lovely home and we lived there all these years until here, seven, six, seven years ago we sold it and moved to Kensington Place.  His mother had died in the meantime.  His mother died I think four, three or four years after we got married.

Interviewer:  So, you lived in the eighties and nineties and two thousand’s. You married.  You were together, you and Joe in Granville, Ohio, and then you even moved with him here to Kensington.

Mirvis:  Yes, and he passed away this past October 31st, 2016, just about eight months ago.  He’s been gone and I’m gonna’ do my best to keep on breathing.

Interviewer:  And about how old was he when he died?

Mirvis:  He was ninety-nine years and one month.

Interviewer:  Ninety-nine years and one month and you are ninety…

Mirvis:  I am ninety-seven and I will, well, I’ve got another half year to go, I’ll be ninety-eight.

Interviewer:  Now, let’s see, in Granville…so, you lived in Granville for many, many years, you and Joe.

Mirvis:  Yes, I think thirty-nine years, something like that.

Interviewer:  Wow and now, what was that like in terms of being Jewish?  You and Joe were both Jewish.  Granville’s not particularly Jewish.  What was that like for you?

Mirvis:  Well, we’re near Columbus and we’re near Zanesville.  His parents all these years belonged to the Zanesville synagogue the same as mine and we, all our holidays we went to Zanesville and we weren’t far so we would take off for Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana and spend our holidays there.  It was only perhaps a thirty-five-mile drive, so we just continued, and I’m still a member in Zanesville.

Interviewer:  …and that’s the synagogue that just recently closed shop.

Mirvis:  Yeah, well, they’re shutting down October 31st.

Interviewer:  In a few months that synagogue will be gone.

Mirvis:  Yeah, they’re going to finish the Holidays.

Interviewer:  What’s the name of that synagogue?

Mirvis:  Beth Abraham Congregation.

Interviewer:  Beth Abraham.

Mirvis:  Yeah. It was originally Orthodox, but now it’s they changed to Conservative.

Interviewer:  It sounds like there’s a theme in your life where, in general, you have lived for most of your life in towns that did not have many Jews and yet you’ve been able to continue Jewish traditions, celebrate Jewish holidays and continue to have a strong Jewish identity.

Mirvis:  Oh, yes. Well, it was ingrained in me when I was a child and I followed my parents’ beliefs as closely as possible. And I believed in the Jewish traditions and I carried them out and I still believe in them at my age.  That’s the way it should be. That’s the way I was raised. And I don’t know from any other, you know, so, I don’t have any comparisons.

Interviewer:  But it’s interesting that you, you haven’t moved to areas that are predominantly Jewish. You’ve stayed mostly in towns or areas that don’t have many Jews and yet you’ve, you cling to your Jewish beliefs and Jewish tradition.

Mirvis: Oh, yes, because of my first thirteen years it was so ingrained in me. And I would never deviate, of course, and that’s the way my life was and it was very happy. I had a very good life, beautiful parents, a beautiful, beautiful brother.  My heavens, I had the world’s greatest brother, the world’s greatest father and mother and my two sisters were…carried me around like I was, a, you know, a new-born baby to them.  My older sister was seventeen years old when I was born and she didn’t like it. She didn’t like it one bit .But then I was two years old she left for Ohio State so, she didn’t have much to do with me. And she was, but she and I were the last ones to be alive.  She outlived the second sister and my brother and my parents. But she was way up in her years.  She was about 97 or 98 and the only family left, my second sister had a boy and a girl and the only blood relative I have is her boy.  My niece died four years ago and I still have a nephew in Cleveland. That’s my closest.

Interviewer: Now you’ve been living here at Kensington Retirement Community for how many years?

Mirvis:  October will be seven.

Interviewer:  Seven years. Now Kensington here was founded by Lutherans but there’s a mix.

Mirvis:  Yes.

Interviewer:  There are several dozen Jews here.  What is it like here being Jewish having some Jews here but most of the people not being Jewish. What’s that like?

Mirvis:  Well, it’s wonderful because I grew up with Gentiles and they’re just as good friends of me as the Jewish people here. And it’s a good mix, but I find no problem. Maybe they have a problem but, I don’t. And I love it here. I have a lovely apartment.  My husband and I moved in to a two- bedroom apartment and he had a hobby of clocks and various little toys. I called them toys and upon his demise I, I moved in to a one-bedroom and then I’m now in an assisted living studio apartment and it’s just right for me and I’m very comfortable and happy with Gentiles and Jews alike.  I hope to live at, I’ll be 98 in next March and well, if God gives me time I will keep on living regardless of what it is.  You hope for the best.  I get along alright and I take care of myself and I have a good life now although my loved ones are gone.

Interviewer:  Well, Esther Mirvis, that sounds like maybe a good note on which to end this interview so thank you.  Thank you so much for your time.

Mirvis: Yes. Well, Thank you.

Interviewer:  We’ve been talking with Esther Mirvis here in her apartment at 1001 Parkview Boulevard.  It’s the Kensington Retirement Community and the date is August 16, 2017 and I’m Bill Cohen for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.