Interviewer: Today is Monday, January 5, 1997. This is Carol Shkolnik,
a volunteer interviewer for the Oral History Project of the Columbus
Jewish Historical Society. I’m interviewing Ethel Neustadt in her home
at 81 S. Kellner. Ethel, can you tell me your name?
Neustadt: Ethel Atkin Neustadt..
Interviewer: Do you know who you were named for?
Neustadt: I think it was my grandmother.
Interviewer: What was her name?
Neustadt: I don’t know. She never came to this country.
Interviewer: Where was your father born?
Neustadt: In a small town near Minsk. My mother comes from Minsk, a
Interviewer: Do you know the name of that small town?
Neustadt: I can’t remember it.
Interviewer: Do you know when you came to this country?
Neustadt: My dad came ahead of time. He came to Columbus and lived
with his sister and brother – in – law and my cousins her for a while.
Interviewer: Were your parents married in Russia?
Neustadt: In Russia.
Interviewer: Were any of the children in your family born in Russia?
Neustadt: My oldest brother, I think, had a picture there. It wasn’t
quite a year, when they came to this country. They were here quite some
time before I was born. I was five years younger than he is.
Interviewer: You told me you were born where?
Neustadt: In Manhattan.
Interviewer: When were you born?
Neustadt: December 20, 1906.
Interviewer: Do you know anything about your family, earlier than
Neustadt: My grandfather came to this country in the 1800s, didn’t
like it and went back.
Interviewer: Really! Which grandfather was that?
Neustadt: My mother’s dad.
Interviewer: Why didn’t he like it?
Neustadt: I don’t know. He must have gone back to Minsk.
Interviewer: Where in this country did he go?
Neustadt: He went to Newark, New Jersey. He had a brother living
there. I don’t know how long he stayed, but he decided to go back.
Interviewer: Did he bring anybody with him?
Neustadt: At that time, no.
Interviewer: He just came to check it out?
Interviewer: Did you know your great uncle who lived in Newark?
Neustadt: We had a close relationship.
Interviewer: Did your grandfather come again later?
Neustadt: Oh, yes, I remember when they came, we went to the boat to
meet them. My grandmother, my grandfather. I was very close to them
after they came.
Interviewer: When did you come to Columbus and how did that happen?
Neustadt: My aunt and uncle used to come to New York and visit with
Grandmother and my cousins, Lina and Terry Herman and – when I graduated
high school my folks said I could come out, so I came out to see her for
a couple of weeks and went back. The following year I wanted to come out
again, because I had a good time here. That’s when I met Ben. I wasn’t
too impressed at the time.
Neustadt: I don’t know – it was a big affair. He’d come down
because he wanted to meet me. I don’t know, I really don’t know why.
He wanted to meet me to have lunch with him the next day, and I said,
“No.” And when I came home it was quite late and Lina – my
cousin – was waiting up and she wanted to know what kind of a time I
had. I told her it was quite a lovely affair, and that I’d met some
guy there. She said, “What’s his name,” and I said,
“Ben Neustadt.” She says, “What?” “Yeah, he
wanted to go have lunch with him, and I said “No.” She said,
“You’re getting on the phone and calling him, and having lunch
with him.” I said, “I’m not!” She said, “If you
don’t, I’ll call him and tell him you will.” So for years I
teased her that she was responsible for the whole thing.
Interviewer: So she called and you didn’t?
Neustadt: No, I finally called him. Then when he came to New York (I
saw him almost two
weeks in Columbus at some fellow’s I was dating, and then he told
me on the phone that he was coming in for the Princeton – Ohio State
game, and he’d like for me to go with him. I was hearing from him
right along – calls, and mail and all that sort of thing.
Interviewer: He was giving you the whirl, huh?
Neustadt: Oh, yeah. So when he came, actually, it was at least a
month after I’d been there. It was after the Princeton game and he was
staying at a hotel – and he kind of proposed to me and he moved in with
the folks – into the house with me to meet the folks, and then he went
back. I got my engagement ring through the American Express Company. He
was so busy with the paper he couldn’t find time to get away. When we
finally made our wedding date, I’d actually known him three weeks,
although this was over a period of several months. He was so busy with
So my younger brother – one of the twins – went with me to the
station to pick him up. We went right to the County House to get our
marriage license. I had just passed my twenty – first birthday, and they
didn’t believe it. My folks should have been with me. I finally told
them and made them understand that I really was. I was just 21. Then Ben
put down his age. I said, “This is a serious matter, put down your
right age!” He says, “But this is my right age.” We had
the clerks there hysterical. Ben never looked his age. He was eleven
years older than I was.
Interviewer: And you had no idea?
Neustadt: No, it just happened that way.
Interviewer: So he was never married before that? What year did you
meet, and tell me the date you got married.
Neustadt: We met in September, 1927 and married March 15, 1928 in New
York. We went on our honeymoon and stopped in New York before we came
out here. It was still home to me. We stayed at the Fort Hayes Hotel for
a while until we found an apartment, got our furniture and things.
Interviewer: Where was your first apartment?
Neustadt: On Brunson Avenue. They had just finished these apartments
just west of Nelson Road, just off Broad Street. Sixty-one years ago, it
was “out in the country.”
We later moved to Bexley, near the school. We lived there nearly
thirty years. When the boys started school there I had to caution them
not to go into the woods! We moved here (to Kellner Road) when doctor
ordered us not to climb stairs. Of course, now they want you to climb
stairs. Everything changes. I’m here 37 years.
Interviewer: Tell me about your childhood in New York.
Neustadt: It was a terrific childhood, because we’re a very close –
knit family. I was the only girl, had three or four brothers – was the
second child. My oldest brother, Samuel, was five years older than I.
Today he lives in Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida. My twin brothers are
two years younger than I am. The younger passed away several years ago.
The older lived in Wheeling, West Virginia for many, many, many years,
and now lives in Dallas, Texas.
Interviewer: What are the names of your brothers?
Neustadt: Reuben is the brother who passed away. His twin is George.
Interviewer: Your father was a furrier?
Neustadt: Leather business. He managed a factory. I have a lot of
Interviewer: What kind of religious upbringing did you have?
Neustadt: We’re Conservative.
Interviewer: Did you have a lot of family living near you in New
Neustadt: Oh, yes, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents lived there.
I was very close to all of them. There were five boys born in the family
before I came, so I got quite a bit of attention.
Interviewer: One of your grandfathers went back to Russia, but one
remained in America.
Neustadt: There were eight children on my mother’s side. One by
one, when they got married they came over here. My grandmother wasn’t
ready to, my grandfather certainly wasn’t – he went back. And they
were left with teen – age children, and they were talking about coming
to the States. My grandmother said that they can, and I’m going too. I’ve
got pictures of them all celebrating.
Interviewer: In what year was The Ohio Jewish Chronicle founded?
Neustadt: In 1922 – long before me. Ben did a terrific job, worked
very hard. His father died when Ben was 17. He was a rabbi with four
congregations in Indianapolis and Ben was asked to come to Columbus. I
don’t know whether it was the Lazaruses, or the Schanfarbers, or
Schonthals who were interested in him and in having a newspaper. His
younger brother and sister Cele (Celia) worked on it, too. It was a
Jewish paper. They talked him into coming here, and starting it. Shortly
after starting it, Aaron came – his brother – did part of the marketing,
and Cele came and married Herb Byer. Cele Neustadt was the oldest girl,
and I’ve got a cute story about that.
She was married about a year before Ben and I were married. Ben was
the oldest. As a matter of fact, his baby sister was born after her
father died – that’s Naomi Canowitz – she was married to Dr. Canowitz.
She passed away last year – she was the baby of six girls and three
boys. Ben was the oldest.
When he was 17 his father died, and Ben raised that family with his
mother, he went to school, to college at Butler University, he just did
so many things. That’s why he was very, very close with his siblings.
To them, he was their father, and that’s the way it was until they all
Interviewer: Did Ben study Journalism, or what, in college?
Neustadt: Originally he was in medicine until they took him to the
morgue and he fainted! I’ll never forget when Dick was born, my
oldest. They brought me back to my room – in those days, men weren’t
anywhere near where the delivery room was, and he came into the room, he
bent down and kissed me and fainted! (Laughter.) So he wouldn’t have
made a good doctor – he couldn’t take that.
The Chronicle was his life. When he took ill, the doctors said
that he mustn’t go to the office. And he was in his fifties then! He’d
had several bad heart attacks by that time.
There was one day we sent a tray up to his room for his lunch, and he
fell on the ___ . I said, “Honey, what are you doing. You know what
the doctor’s orders are,” and he said, “Well, if the doctors
think I’m going to sit and twiddle my thumbs until the Good Lord takes
me, you’re all wet.” And he was absolutely right, ’cause he got
worse, he got better, he still ran The Chronicle for many years
after that day.
Dick was there for a while and then he got Milt Pinsky into the
business and when Ben got to the point where he couldn’t go, Milt took
over, because Dick wasn’t too much interested at the time.
Interviewer: What was Columbus like when you first moved here?
Neustadt: It was a little town. They had just finished the LeVeque
Tower. I’ll never forget Ben took me up in the elevator – you know, it
was the first tall building in Columbus, and this was before we were
married and we were dating and then I watched the city grow.
When the airport was built and it was dedicated and we were invited
out for the dedication, they wanted everybody to take a ride in an
aeroplane, (now spelled airplane) and they didn’t want to go!
It was a two – seater! In those days we hadn’t got into aeroplanes
yet. They made such a deal about it, Ben said, “Let’s go,”
and I went with him.
While we were going, Ben grabbed my arm, and said, “It feels
like it stopped.” And then I got to thinking – I had left a four –
month old baby at home – Dick – and we’re flying around in a two –
seater. So we were on our first aeroplane. You picked up the plane to
fly west. We came out here by train, so it was a lot, lot different. A
lot smaller. The schools were all very small at the time –
Dick and Jim went to a private kindergarten – there was no
kindergarten at the time.
Interviewer: What was the Jewish community like, and what was your
impression of it when you first came here?
Neustadt: The people I met were very gracious and very nice. Ben with
his sisters and brother made a very close – knit family and when my
folks came out, my children telling me time and time again the closeness
of my children and me and Ben before he passed away. They’re scattered
all over the country, and for any occasion, they’re here – with the
great – grandchildren and all. That’s how close we all were – and very
devoted. They were all young when Ben died. The oldest was seventeen.
Even though Columbus was a small town, I was getting into New York
from time to time. Dick was born ten months after we were married, and
Jim was born eighteen months after that. There were five years
difference between Charles and Jim.
Interviewer: Do you think that Ben’s father, having been a rabbi,
had any impact on his childhood in the way you had your family?
Neustadt: We belonged to all the synagogues and all the temples. At
Temple Israel we were very active. I still belong as a contributing
member. When the boys were close to thirteen, Temple Israel didn’t
have bar mitzvahs in those days, so we sent them to Tifereth Israel for
their bar mitzvahs.
Interviewer: Beside The Chronicle, what were some of the
things that were important to you as a family? What were your special
interests, what were Ben’s interests outside of work?
Neustadt: There were many organizations he was interested in. I did a
lot of Braille work and at one time I didn’t have much time for
anything else. I transposed books into Braille for many years. The
equipment that I used – they haven’t used that in many years. I just
had a nice meeting with Rabbi Nemitoff. He asked if he could come back
again. I told him he could.
We were always close with our rabbis. Rabbi Folkman and Bessie – I’ll
never forget what Bess said when Ben passed away. We came back from the
funeral and they came to the house with members of the family and all,
and Jerry (Rabbi Folkman) said, “You know, Ethel, I don’t know
what I can do. I have no one to talk to.”
Interviewer: That’s really something –
Neustadt: When the rabbi says that about you. Ben made quite a name
for himself. If somebody doesn’t know the name – how to spell it, then
I know they’re a newcomer. I just had a birthday a couple of weeks ago
and I got the contributions. I had over a hundred letters. I’m not
capable of doing anything in the way of “thank yous.” I made
some “thank you notes” there. I’ll be able to write my name
and I hope I can address them all. Don’t you notice all the cards in
the hall out there? All the contributions there, so many flowers and
all. It was amazing. People I hadn’t heard from in years. I was really
very touched by it.
Interviewer: Tell me some of the things you remember about your
Neustadt: I was very close with my mother’s parents when they came
to this country. Their names were “Good.” Nathan was
grandfather’s name. I didn’t know my grandmother’s maiden name or
given name – she was “Grandma.” They were very warm, terrific
A horrible thing there happened. My grandfather took ill and he was
bedridden for four years. My grandmother didn’t leave him alone. She
took care of him the entire time. I’ve never forgotten that. When he
passed away she was so very close to us and she got killed in an
My cousin, who was the oldest of her grandchildren, was in the
hospital and she went to see him. When she got to the hospital a car hit
her. It was sad, very sad. She was such a wonderful person. My dad’s
sister, Rose Herman, and their daughter was born here.
Interviewer: You said you had a wonderful family. Did you have
responsibilities at home when you were growing up in New York?
Neustadt: I’ll tell you what I think is a cute story. I started to
take piano lessons when I was about seven or eight years old, and like
everybody else, I didn’t like to practice. They had a German music
professor for us. He’d sit there with a ruler. He didn’t have to
write notes, he hit my finger! And this one time that he did, I got so
disgusted, that when he left I sat down and wrote him a letter and said,
“Dear So – and – So, we are leaving for vacation, and we will call
you when we get back,” and I signed my mother’s name!
The next week rolled around and he didn’t come, so my mother called
him. He said, “Well, Mrs. Atkin, I got your note where you said you
weren’t going to be in town.” Well, she let it go at that, but
when my dad came home, she told him what happened. He went to the piano
– you’d have thought he’d graduated in psychology and childhood – he
was fantastic. He went to the piano and locked it. And I started crying.
He says, “Until you’ve learned how to take your lessons without
aggravating Mom, this piano stays closed.” And I cried so for ten
days. After ten days, he said, “I think I can trust you now.”
Interviewer: That’s really special. What other stories do you
Neustadt: My mother had diabetes so bad. She was only 66 when she
passed away – she had a shot every day, and when my brothers were home
they’d give her her shots. After she died, my dad wasn’t too well.
He was eight years older than my mom. My brothers and I got together and
we left this up to him that if he wanted to save his apartment and live
there, it would be perfectly all right, providing that he has full –
time help, and if not, each one of us would have to come and that was
Well, I was thrilled when he said he would come and be with me. So I
brought him back to Columbus to live with me. Everyone in the family of
the Neustadts was so wonderful to him. And Aaron Canowitz just watched
over him so – he was the doctor. Everybody loved him. I knew he had to
be a little unhappy. You know Mom passed away, with family in New York
and people he’d been friendly with and all.
One time he said something about going to New York. I said,
“Okay, Dad, anytime you want to go, we’ll go, and when you’ve
seen your sisters and your brothers, whoever, so we’ll come back
whenever you’re ready to,” and he says, “Oh, I have to
That was the first and only time I got the inkling that he wasn’t
really happy. He was just putting on an act.
Interviewer: So did he go back?
Neustadt: No, he didn’t go. He passed away after about two and a
half years with me. We took his body back to New York and he was buried
right next to my mom.
Interviewer: When did your father pass away?
Neustadt: The night before my birthday, December 19, 1937
approximately. I have so many memories, it’s difficult for me to go
through them. Especially now, there’s so little I can do.
Interviewer: What did you do for fun when your kids were growing up?
Neustadt: They were all very active – all graduated – Jim from
Northwestern, the other two from Ohio State. Charles went for his Master’s
at Thunderbird Institute in California. Jim went to Law School. We had a
close relationship. If they wanted to go dancing, I could dance with
them. Now, with Jim gone, Dick and Charles sometimes annoy me with their
attention. They don’t trust me for anything
Interviewer: They’re overprotective, maybe. Were you like that with
your parents? At all?
Neustadt: When there was something wrong, um – hum.
Interviewer: What was it like being a teenager in New York?
Neustadt: I had to go to high school on the bus. We moved from
Manhattan to The Bronx, where our apartment was across the street from
farm land, would you believe it, there? I went to kindergarten, first
and second grade on Broome Street, I think, P.S. 23. Then to Morris
High, after Governor Morris. There was no problem finding Jewish
friends. My two closest friends were Jewish. I had friends who came to
Columbus to visit me and enjoyed it. So much entertainment here.
Interviewer: What kind of social life did you have? Were you allowed
to go out with boys?
Neustadt: When we were past sixteen we’d go to theater parties.
Interviewer: So you went to plays, the theater – you went to college
for one year. Why did you stop?
Neustadt: In the summer before, for the J. J. Newberry Company – that’s
like a Woolworth’s, you know, I had worked with one of the buyers and
they liked my work, and I kind of liked it, but after I started school
my mom became ill and I stayed home and nursed her. When she got better,
I had missed too much school. And they wanted me back at this job in the
buyers department, so I took it. I didn’t stay there very long,
because it wasn’t too long after that I was getting married.
Interviewer: Where did you get married?
Neustadt: The folks had arrangements for quite a big wedding, but
this was shortly after my grandmother had passed away and we had a large
apartment at that time on Fox Avenue, so it was held at home. My aunts
and uncles were there. The reception and dinner were at a lovely
Interviewer: Where did you live after Brunson Avenue?
Neustadt: After living on Brunson Avenue, we moved to 236 S. Ardmore
Road. It was equivalent to a four – bedroom house with a good – size
basement. Part of it we turned into a recreation room for the boys.
There was a third floor with a private bath up there and Jim used to
come home from games with his cronies from school and used that as a
They were athletically inclined – tennis players – but they watched
all the games. We were in that big house over thirty years.
Interviewer: Did they always bring their girlfriends home for you to
Neustadt: Yes. I probably knew them about the same time they knew
them, maybe before.
Sally, who Charles is married to now, I knew her mother, her whole
family. Her mother used to come up from the south, where she lived, to
visit, and she was related to Gussie Abel and Gussie was married to
Dick. And when Gladys came up, they were together, so I knew Gladys, and
when she married Armand, you know, I knew him, and then, when Charles
was divorced and Sally – he didn’t pay any attention to her – we were
club members from the time the children were little. Before they were
born, as a matter of fact.
Sally was there too, but Charles was three or four years older – but
you know, at that age, they’re not interested in anybody that’s
younger like that. And the cute thing was that when Gladys found out
that Charles and Sally were dating, she said to Sally, “Don’t let
him get away.”
It’s true, you know, from the time he was a little boy, and she was
there for my birthday party dinner a couple of weeks ago. She should be
in this weekend to attend her – Jimmy Feibel’s daughter, Laurie’s
getting married this weekend.
Interviewer: You didn’t live in very many different houses. That’s
Neustadt: When we lived in the Fort Hayes Hotel after we were married
and they were building these apartments. I said I’m not living in one
of these old apartments – they were all renovated – from homes, you
know, so we waited in our suite at the hotel until those apartments were
ready. When Charles comes home from Baltimore, where he lives, after he
leaves here he drives by to look at the house on Ardmore. When he came
back from the service, he said, “Mom, do you think I can get the
people to let me go through there?” I says, “I think they
He went over there and went through it from top to bottom, I guess,
and when he came home, he said, “You know, Mom, they still have
your draperies up.”
When we moved here, I had my nephew, David Canowitz come over and
take pictures of each room here so I could send it to Charles, and we’d
get a letter back saying, “Don’t get me wrong – you did the right
thing, just as the doctor told you to, but -” By the time I got
through reading his letter, the tears were rolling down all our faces,
and every time he’d come to Columbus, he’d take his two little boys
and take them over there and show them where he was born.
Interviewer: When was Dick born?
Neustadt: January, 1929. And Jim in 1930. September 15. He was 62
years old when he passed away. He never got married. Had too many girl
friends. He didn’t leave them alone.
Interviewer: Your grandchildren –
Neustadt: Dick has four children. Young Jim is about 43. Bret was six
last week. Carol is 41, Betsy is 39 or 40. Robert is past 30 – he has a
little girl. Robert’s wife is Lois. She was from Cleveland, but they
met in California. Robert was in the moving picture business. Willoughby
Pictures. Robert produces. They just moved to Chicago a couple of weeks
ago. They have one daughter, just 16 months old. She’s something. She
weighed 9 pounds, six ounces at birth. She’s a big girl, adorable.
Carol has two boys and two girls – she’s the only child in
Columbus. Her husband is Barry Cohen, but she uses the name Neustadt. He’s
an attorney – from New York. Their children are Joshua, 7 last
September; little Jacob, 16 months now; Young Jim has one little boy.
Betsy has Claire, 5, and Mac, 2 years old. Two blondies. Blue eyes and
Interviewer: What does Carol do?
Neustadt: Social work. She has a Master’s in it and she’s been
with them for years.
Interviewer: Betsy and her husband are both doctors and they live in
Neustadt: That’s right.
Interviewer: You’ve been to Israel a couple of times.
Neustadt: We saw all the things we wanted to. The second time was
after Ben passed away. I went over to really visit my grandson who was
doing his junior year as an exchange student.
Interviewer: How many children does Charles have?
Neustadt: Two boys – John and Kevin. Bret is young Jim’s son. Kevin
was an exchange student in Israel.
Interviewer: Other traveling?
Neustadt: It got to be we couldn’t travel – couldn’t wait to get
home, while the folks were alive. We used to go to Florida. For three
months in the winter Ben had to be away from this climate. We’re going
to have a heat wave, tomorrow. It’s going to be 15 low and 25 high,
something like that.
Interviewer: That’s January for you.
Neustadt: When Charles was living in California and Jim was with the
State Department – as an attorney, we started going to Palm Springs, and
that’s where we were still going, until the last few years. We couldn’t
make a trip any more.
Interviewer: Were all three of your sons in the service?
Neustadt: All three. That didn’t help my husband any. Dick was
married to Ellen – they just celebrated their 46th anniversary a couple
of weeks ago. Charles’s second marriage to Sally – they’ll be
married 24 years on January 25.
Interviewer: Where was your recent big birthday party?
Neustadt: At the Bexley Monk. It was video taped. Charles spoke, Dick
and my oldest and youngest grandson, Robert, gave speeches.
Interviewer: What were some milestones of The Chronicle, or
some things that were special to your husband and the rest of your
Neustadt: The biggest event was a dinner dedicated to Ben – he had
worked there 60 years – he did some work from the house, until two years
before he died. He had a stroke then and died.
Interviewer: Any words of wisdom for people who might be hearing this
recording in coming years – anything you would like to say?
Neustadt: Yes – that Ben was so well known for his work, things that
he has done – not only with The Chronicle but in the background –
you would know that part of my contribution from The Foundation goes to
Hillel – Ben was very active in Hillel.
That’s why I did it. Plus the other part goes to Heritage House –
well it’s Wexner now, but it wasn’t. And another thing I forgot to
mention – he was quite a violinist. In our early days, a lot of
organizations, when they had affairs, I would play the piano and he
would play the violin.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful. What did you play? Did you practice
a lot at home? Did your children take piano lessons?
Neustadt: All of them are musical. Charles sings in the choir at his
Temple in Baltimore.
Interviewer: Did your family make a big deal about the Jewish
Neustadt: Here? Definitely. Dick and Ellen’s youngest son, Robert,
who had just moved to Chicago from California, in every letter I get
from him and when he sees me, he talks about the latkes I made for him
and his family. I don’t make anything anymore. I did until a few years
ago, and I’m getting tire of TV Dinners. A lot of weekends, and Friday
nights and all the holidays, I’ve had them all, but it’s been a few
years and I’ve had some back problems.
Interviewer: This concludes the interview of Carol Shkolnik
interviewing Ethel Neustadt for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society
Oral History Project.
* * *