Interviewer: This is Naomi Schottenstein. I am an interviewer for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society of Columbus, Ohio. I am at the residence of Phil and Florence Waldman. Their home is at 120 South Merkle in Bexley. This is December 13, 1999. We are sitting in the warm kitchen; the outdoors is freezing but we’re having a nice warm conversation here in the house I’m going to start, Phil, by asking your full name.
Waldman: Philip Waldman.
Interviewer: Was that always your name?
Waldman: No. My name use to be Osha Follick. So when I got here my
uncle changed it, see, Osha is from the tribes, the ten tribes. From Follick,
I made Phil. I didn’t want to change my Hebrew name. I changed it, Unighinik,
like Follick. From Follick I made Phil. I didn’t make it. My
uncle, he was the one who fixed it up.
Interviewer: Were going to talk about your uncle in a few minutes. I want
to find out…
Waldman: That’s the reason I got…
Waldman: Phil. From Follick. But I still keep my Hebrew name Osha.
When they call me to the Torah, they don’t call me Philip, they call me Osha.
Interviewer: So that’s your Hebrew name. What about Waldman?
Waldman: Waldman is the original name.
Interviewer: That was always your name. And do you remember who you might
have been named after?
Waldman: Yeah, my great-grandfather.
Interviewer: On your father or mother’s side?
Waldman: On my mother’s side.
Interviewer: Tell us the names of your parents.
Waldman: My father’s name was Abraham Isoh Waldman. My mother’s name
was Zirhcha Rahel. Her maiden name was Masser.
Waldman: M-a-s-s-e-r. Like Harry Masser.
Interviewer: Oh, Masser. OK. Are you related to the Massers here in
Waldman: I think so.
Interviewer: Well, we’re going to talk about that in a little bit. Do
you remember any of your grandparents?
Waldman: Yeah, my grandfather from my father’s side and my grandfather
from my mother’s side. My grandmothers from both sides, I remember them.
Interviewer: You do. What do you remember about them?
Waldman: My father’s father, my grandfather, he was a scholar.
Interviewer: What was his name?
Waldman: Yoshin. Yoshin Waldman. His main reason was to teach people.
This was his livelihood. He studied a lot, and also, he was selling glass for
windows. This was his livelihood.
Interviewer: He had to earn a living.
Waldman: Yeah. The rest was the cheder deal.
Interviewer: Teaching was, he didn’t get paid for that at all?
Waldman: No, no. My father took over after he got older, my father took
over. He use to teach 300 people.
Interviewer: Your grandfather?
Waldman: My father. After my grandfather got old, he couldn’t do it.
From 5 o’clock at night until seven, eight o’clock. Standing only; there was
no place to sit.
Interviewer: Where did they do this teaching?
Waldman: In the Talmud.
Interviewer: I mean where was it? In the shul?
Waldman: In the shul, shul.
Interviewer: So he was a learned man? So your father was a learned man as
well. Now I know where you got your background. You’re a learned man too.
Waldman: I did. The only thing I was sorry about was that I left young,
too young. I should have been there another five-ten years with him. I would
have more knowledge.
Interviewer: Should have been where?
Waldman: I should have been there in Poland.
Interviewer: Tell us where you come from.
Waldman: I come from a small town near Lublin.
Waldman: Lublin. It’s the second largest city.
Interviewer: In Poland?
Waldman: In Poland. Lublin use to be the most famous yeshiva. He was
called Robert Shapiro. It was known all over the world. Everybody knew about it,
but rabbis, he was one of the greats of all times.
Interviewer: How big a community was it? Can you give us any idea?
Waldman: About 3,500 Jewish people.
Interviewer: Did it have a large Christian population?
Waldman: The Christian population was living on farms. The city was all
Interviewer: Is that right?
Waldman: All Jews. Friday, twelve o’clock, you couldn’t find a goy no
where. You had Shabbos already.
Interviewer: You mean on Friday afternoon.
Waldman: All the stores were closed. So the peasants would come in before
twelve o’clock to buy stuff. Twelve o’clock was closed.
Interviewer: Getting ready for Shabbos. Let’s go back and tell
us a little more about other grandparents that you remember. You remembered your
Interviewer: Let’s finish with your grandparents.
Waldman: My grandfather from my mother’s side, he was supplying cattle
to the czar. This was his business.
Interviewer: He was probably one of many.
Waldman: No. He was the only one from that section.
Interviewer: Who was the czar?
Waldman: The Russian czar.
Interviewer: What was his name?
Waldman: The Russian czar.
Interviewer: OK, I’m just trying to get a little history in here.
Waldman: Well, the czar, his name was Nikolai Nikolaiowich.
Interviewer: OK. That’s good, there, we got that. So your grandfather
provided him with…
Waldman: The cattle, sheep, stuff like that.
Interviewer: So he must have had a large farm then he. Did he?
Waldman: No, he bought it from people.
Interviewer: Oh, he was like a broker?
Waldman: Yeah. He bought livestock and then he had a place where he
killed them, a kosher schochet place.
Interviewer: But he didn’t have to kill kosher for the czar?
Waldman: No, no.
Interviewer: Did he kill for other people too?
Waldman: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: So he slaughtered for other individuals as well.
Waldman: Yeah. But his main livelihood was to sell to the Russian czar.
Interviewer: Did he sell to the Jewish population too?
Interviewer: Were there other people who sold to Jewish people?
Waldman: They had kosher stuff.
Interviewer: Did both sets of grandparents live in the same community?
Waldman: No. They were seven miles apart.
Interviewer: What was the other community that your other grandparents?
Interviewer: Well, this is going to be difficult to spell this, but at
least we’ve got the sound of it. And, I certainly couldn’t spell it and
Waldman: Let me tell you something from the beginning. I think you’ll
Waldman: My Uncle Harry Messer, you remember him?
Waldman: He was my uncle; this was my mother’s brother. He came over to
Europe to visit me. He didn’t even know I was alive.
Interviewer: What was the year? Tell us the time.
Waldman: This was the early 30s.
Interviewer: The 30s. OK.
Waldman: Right after the First World War, you know. And he couldn’t
find us because we wasn’t in the same town. Our town was burned down
Interviewer: During World War I.
Waldman: During World War I, yeah. So what he did, he sent out letters to
Warsaw, Lublin, he looking for the Waldman family. And my father, some one
called him up, and told him some one is looking for you in America, and here’s
his address, and everything else. He started writing letters to find where we’re
at. So he came there. This was before Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur; about a month
before. He took some liking to me for some reason. He said I’m going to take
you out of here. I don’t want you to go into the army; you got to go in the
army in Europe for four years. And they wouldn’t give you a visa or passport
or nothing until you go into the army. I was too young to go anyway. They wouldn’t
let you go out. I’ll make the story short.
Interviewer: That’s OK. Tell it how you want to, Phil. We’ve got
Waldman: Anyhow, he went to Warsaw to see if he could do something for me
to get a visa to get out of Poland. He offered a $1000. At that time a $1000 in
Poland in American money, you could afford Poland. Unbelievable.
Interviewer: Yeah, a lot of value.
Waldman: It was nothing. The sloty use to be their money; it was called a
sloty. A 100 slotys for one dollar. For a $1000 dollars, you bought Poland, I’m
telling you. But couldn’t get nothing. No place in the world, couldn’t get
it. First of all, they wouldn’t let them go out anyhow. I had to go in the
army first for two years and eight months, and after [for?] 10 years, you had to
go every year for two months. Any how, I couldn’t get a visa and he decided he
was going to take me out of there cause I hated Poland like poison. I think when
I was in my mother’s womb I hated Poland. Biggest anti-Semites there ever was.
Interviewer: Life was hard then, wasn’t it?
Waldman: Terrible. It was after the war, you know, everything was burned
Interviewer: But your family was involved in business?
Waldman: But we hardly made a living. Everything was burned down, there
was nothing there, see. My father’s business, of blessed memory, he had sewing
machines from London. Sold sewing machines, he learned how to fix them, and also
had a jewelry store, watches and rings and all kinds of stuff. This was a
living. But my mother wanted a place and he was studying with 300 people.
Interviewer: He was a scholar and he devoted his life more to that, so
the business, like secondary. So, how did Harry…
Waldman: So I’ll tell you what happened. Anyhow we couldn’t get no
place. We came back to my father and told him the story. He said I got an idea.
Everybody knew him. The chief of police knew him, was a good friend. He says you
know on Friday night, Saturday night at 12 o’clock, called the laven malcha.
Ever heard of that?
Interviewer: I’m not sure. Tell us what it is.
Waldman: You know Friday night is Abraham; in honor of Abraham. In the
morning is Issac.
Interviewer: Oh, okay.
Waldman: In the evening is Jacob. Twelve o’clock Saturday night, twelve
o’clock, in honor of King David. They’re called laven malcha. You
know, the Sabbath is called malcha like a women. You know, we invited
her, you know when we sit around on Friday night we honor the Shabbos. We
bow, we face east.
Waldman: Anyhow, I’m going to have a lot of malcha on Saturday
night. I’ll invite all my people.
Interviewer: Like a celebration.
Waldman: Like a malcha they celebrate all the time. And I’m
going to have the chief of police too. And the only thing I can give you is that
everybody should say gave a “shalom,” “go in peace”. Shook
hands, and this will take you down any place you want to go.
Interviewer: He had confidence.
Waldman: Listen to this.
Interviewer: Or he believed.
Waldman: Yeah, yeah. So my father was the first president of Zionist
organization, a board. So when I was a kid, eight years old, the kids, we had
our own organization. I was the president; they made the president of that. I
didn’t know anything about it, they didn’t either. So I had a piece of
paper, I still got it in the safety deposit, in Hebrew written on a typewriter
in Hebrew and a big stamp, the Zionist organization of Poland.
Interviewer: So that was your passport?
Waldman: That was my passport. So after it was all done everybody shook
hands with me, gave a “shalom“.
Interviewer: No body else knew what was going to happen?
Waldman: No, no. You tell nothing. So we left to go to Warsaw. We said
good by to my parents and went to Warsaw. And for some reason I got on the train
to go to Danzig.
Interviewer: Wait a minute. What year was this? Tell us.
Waldman: Early 30s, I don’t remember.
Interviewer: Was Harry with you still?
Waldman: Oh yeah. I couldn’t go without him.
Interviewer: He accompanied you?
Waldman: I couldn’t go without him; cause I didn’t have anything.
Interviewer: How old were you?
Waldman: Young enough.
Interviewer: Can you tell us at this point when you were born? It’s
going to go on record so we have to. When were you born?
Waldman: I don’t want to tell you. Guess, guess how old I am.
Interviewer: Well, I know you are between 60 and 90.
Waldman: In between. [Laughter]
Interviewer: Just in between?
Waldman: Yeah. [Laughter]
Waldman: So, any how, we went to Warsaw. He went again to the American
counsel to see if I could get a visa; couldn’t get it.
Interviewer: The reason I wanted to know your age, I wanted to know how
old you are at this stage. You had to go into the army so you had to be 18?
Waldman: Well, 10 years old, you can’t go out of there until you were
Waldman: After 18 you had to go into the army too, see? You know a lot of
people took off their fingers, cut off their fingers, not to go into the army.
Interviewer: So, they would be handicapped.
Waldman: Yeah. They’d cut off toes. They were no rushing off to army.
They were anti-Semites. They were in the army, they’d call them a “dirty
Jew” in the army.
Interviewer: That’s why I thought it was important to know how old you
were at this point.
Waldman: Any how, we decided to go to Danzig. May be you’ve heard of
it? They use to, the president of Poland, they use to have, use to have an iron
factory, to make iron there.
Interviewer: Iron? Uh, huh.
Waldman: Now it’s called Deyan in Poland. But we knew Danzig. Danzig
was a fiefstat. Years ago, about a hundred years ago whatever it was, it
belonged to Germany. After the world war they gave it back to Poland. But the
fief belonged in Germany. So, we gone to Danzig and see what we can do. So, we
got on the train. In Europe the train got separate cabins, not like over here,
you know. Separate cabins. So, we stop before we get to Danzig; we stop and the
secret service men come up and, and plainclothesmen come up, and so, my uncle
Harry says you stay on this side and I’ll go on the other side, see what’s
going to happen. So the policeman in uniform comes over and says
“passport”. I didn’t have it. Take out a piece of paper and show it
to him; he stamps it.
Interviewer: This was that piece of paper the Zionist organization did.
He didn’t even look?
Waldman: No, I gave him the paper; he couldn’t even read, he couldn’t
write, nothing. The secret service man, he knew how to write and how to read,
and he wanted to take Uncle Harry back to Warsaw because if you leave Poland
without a visa going out, the United States is going to say what happened to my citizen. This is kind of story; I don’t know if it’s true or not. So, I said to my uncle give “a bish a gelt” in Hebrew.
Interviewer: What is that?
Waldman: Five dollars. The momser says “ha mish a su a der
sale an ten a du(?)” in Hebrew.
Interviewer: So he knew what he was doing. He was pumping you for some
Interviewer: Payoff. It probably happened all the time, didn’t it?
Waldman: Yeah. So, I told him in Hebrew give him five dollars. So he says
in Hebrew five dollars won’t do, a “sale” will do.
Interviewer: Ten dollars.
Waldman: Ten dollars and it’s fine. Now we got to come to Danzig and in
Danzig they’re all educated. You know educated people.
Interviewer: So it’s going to be a tougher road.
Waldman: Yeah. Now I don’t know what’s going to be. So we come to
Danzig and we had a little room down there to push in my passport. I took the
little piece of paper. I go first. He says, “You go first in case something
happens. I’ll be with you.” So he’s behind me. I put the little piece
of paper and they stamp it.
Interviewer: Didn’t even look again.
Waldman: They didn’t even look at it.
Interviewer: Somebody was with you above, from above.
Waldman: Now we go from Danzig to…we found out I had an uncle in Danzig.
He had a cigar store.
Interviewer: Who found out you had an uncle? How did you find out that
you had an uncle?
Waldman: I didn’t know; my uncle.
Interviewer: Harry must…
Waldman: I didn’t know. So we stayed a few days and we asked him if
there was any possible chance to do something, to get a visa. So finally they
decided they were going to give me a paper, a man without a country.
Interviewer: Is that right? So this is the uncle from Danzig and Harry
came up with that idea?
Interviewer: OK. A man without a paper.
Waldman: A man without a country.
Interviewer: A man without a country. Sounds like a movie, Phil.
Waldman: Yes, it is. So, they made me a passport, a German passport, a
paper, not a German passport, a piece of paper. This was in Berlin; had to go to
Interviewer: So who made the paper?
Waldman: The German government. My uncle in Danzig he knew, must have
known something about other kinds of things. You go down there and they’ll
give you a paper. You got to have something to show, you know you can’t go no
place else. And they decided the only thing open was Cuba. Cuba will take you in
but you got to have something, you know. So this piece of paper, a man without a
Waldman: OK, I’ll make it shorter. It’s a long story.
Interviewer: No, it’s fabulous.
Waldman: You can stay until tomorrow morning.
Interviewer: Well, I don’t have to go anyplace. I’ll call my husband
and tell him I’ll be home later. Except you told me you don’t have very much
food here, Phil, so I don’t know if I’ll stay that long. You told me about
Waldman: I cut out a lot of stuff. I give you the basics.
Interviewer: That’s OK. This is interesting. We’re not going to get
this kind of story from very many people so be comfortable with what you’re
Waldman: So anyhow we go to Cuba and there’s about 18 or 20 boys from
all over Europe.
Interviewer: Young men?
Waldman: Young men. Jewish people.
Interviewer: Doing the same thing you’re doing, escaping.
Waldman: Oh, yeah. They’re from Austria, from Hungary, from
Czechoslovakia. For some reason, God help them, they got a boy twice as old as I
was. He loved me; became my older brother. He watched me whatever we did. So
going down to Cuba there were a bunch of Jews from the United States. There was
a con artist. They took us to like Ellis Island in Cuba.
Interviewer: Con artist?
Waldman: Con artist. Yeah, they gave them $40.
Interviewer: So you paid them.
Waldman: So if you didn’t got no $40 they took you over to like Ellis
Island, you know.
Interview: Ellis Island, uh huh. So if you didn’t have $40…
Waldman: If you didn’t, they take you down there. And if you had
somebody in the United States, you write to them and they give you money, and
pay them $40.
Waldman: But my friend, my “older brother” from Czechoslovakia,
said, “We going to wait for the last one. Let them all go. Maybe they fill
up the jail, there’s no room and they let us go.” [Laughter]
Interviewer: You have to think ahead. OK.
Waldman: Yeah. So we waited the last one. He came over, got me first;
cause he wouldn’t let me go without him. I said, “How you going to have
$40?” My uncle gave me $40.
I said, “I got $40.”
“That’s all you have?”
“You got anybody here?”
Says “No, but I got my friend here. He’s got a brother in Matonza,
Interviewer: In Cuba?
Waldman: Cuba. He had a brother.
Interviewer: Did he really have a brother?
Waldman: Yeah, yeah, he did.
Interviewer: Now this is the young man that took you under his wing?
Interviewer: OK. Where’s your uncle during all this?
Waldman: He was here.
Interviewer: Oh, he came back.
Waldman: He went on a boat to come back, he left me off, I went to
Interviewer: Cherbourg, ok.
Waldman: Yeah. There I took a boat.
Interviewer: So he parted with you?
Waldman: He parted in Berlin.
Waldman: In fact he went to Paris with me too, you know.
Waldman: But he took a boat going to the United States. He left me all by
myself. I’ll tell you I was like a lost sheep.
Interviewer: But he got you through the first part of it?
Waldman: Yeah, this guy, he saved me, I’m telling you.
Interviewer: Who was this man? Did you ever get his name?
Interviewer: Never knew who he was?
Waldman: Never knew who he was; cause his brother was in another town
called Matonza, Cuba. I never met him; I stayed in Havana and he went to his
Interviewer: How much time did you spend actually with this person?
Waldman: It was two weeks on the boat. Two weeks. It was like a cattle
Interviewer: You didn’t go first class?
Waldman: No. This wasn’t first class. There was no first class.
Interviewer: I’m sure; I’m sure. Steerage. You all went the same way.
Waldman: Any way, it was terrible. So he left me because I told him I’d
find something. Then got to find some family there.
Interviewer: Where was he heading for? Where was he going to go?
Waldman: A little town in Cuba.
Interviewer: OK, he was going to stay in Cuba?
Waldman: His brother was there; he had a store.
Waldman: He had a store; his brother had a store. So he kissed me and
cried and I cried. He left and that’s it. Then I found another family down
there the next day. It was so hot I thought I was going to die. All the stay,
there in a hotel, a dollar a day.
Interviewer: A dollar a day.
Waldman: A dollar a day. No air conditioning, no nothing. So help me, not
use to it. I came from a country, it was ten below zero, it was nothing to it.
Interviewer: Sure. Sure. You were use to the…
Waldman: Anyhow, I through with it. I found a little work. Everything
was all right because he sent me a little money every month, Harry havah
Interviewer: Harry. How did he know where to send it to you?
Waldman: I got his address in Columbus, Ohio.
Interviewer: OK, so you wrote to him and he knew where you were.
Waldman: He knew where I was because he wrote to me. He told me
everything. Anyhow, I stayed there two years. This…I don’t like to…
Interviewer: That’s OK. You stayed two years in Cuba.
Waldman: He came over to Cuba with Mary, havah hashalom, his wife,
and he offered again a $1000, $2000; nothing doing.
You know, the United States was closed. There was a momser in Alabama,
a senator, he made a suggestion in the Senate, the United States Senate, not,
nobody let in. You couldn’t get in for nothing. So I couldn’t get in.
So, anyhow, he had a hotel in Miami.
Interviewer: He had a hotel room?
Waldman: In Miami, a hotel. Let’s see, 727 Collins Avenue, use to be
the London Arms Hotel. He bought it; he bought a hotel.
Interviewer: Oh, he owned a hotel.
Waldman: He owned it.
Interviewer: My gosh. He was a…
Waldman: It cost a fortune in there, a fortune. They sold the pillows,
they sold the towels, they sold the silverware. They didn’t know anything
about owning a hotel. So, any how I got there for some other reason. I couldn’t
get a visa. So, you know what they did? They sent me to Virginia. He bought a
plant, a steel plant. He was flying to close it up, but there was a lot of stuff
down there. He bought it for $40,000.
Interviewer: You remember Ben Silverstein?
Interviewer: Yeah, Ben? Dr. Silverstein’s uncle or father?
Interviewer: Uncle. OK.
Waldman: So, he worked for him. He sent me down there. He had 300 people
working for him. I said, “What am I going to do down there?” He said,
“You’re going to be the timekeeper.” “Timekeeper? I don’t
know from John and Joe, what do you mean I’m going to be a timekeeper?”
He says, “You’ll learn.”
Interviewer: Make you a job. He made you a job.
Waldman: Yeah. “You’ll learn.” Twelve dollars a week.
Interviewer: Well, that probably wasn’t such bad pay then?
Interviewer: We’re still talking in the mid- to late-30s. The war hadn’t
Waldman: Yeah. I couldn’t see at all. I wanted to become a citizen. I
wanted to become, you know, Americanized.
Interviewer: Who did you live with? What city where you in now? You were
Waldman: Virginia, Clifton Forge, a tiny little town in the mountains.
Interviewer: Clifton Forge.
Waldman: Right in the mountains.
Interviewer: You didn’t know anybody there?
Waldman: I didn’t know anybody except two Jews down there. That’s all.
Interviewer: Two Jews.
Waldman: Two Jews, two Jewish families. One had a store and the other one
had a taxi cab.
Interviewer: Phil, during all this time, Cuba and coming to America, you
had to be observant. You wanted to be observant in some way, didn’t you?
Waldman: I’ll tell you what happened. First, we got here and there were
only 18 Jewish boys; slept in a railroad car. Few months later people come in
from all over to Cuba; it was the only place open, Mexico and Cuba and
Argentina. Those were the only three countries. So they start coming in and open
up a kosher restaurant. They’ve got a shul.
Interviewer: From just that small group?
Waldman: Yeah. From the shul, a home of some kind on the third floor.
Interviewer: That’s fascinating. Shows you that under any handicap you
can make something work if you are determined.
Waldman: So, I found that coming over here and everything was manna from
heaven. Had to be someone watching me. I couldn’t go through all that. It’s
impossible. You know, when I got to Danzig I know they’re educated people, the
German people. They stamped the book, they didn’t even look at it. He’s an
American citizen and got a passport and they want to take him back to Warsaw.
Interviewer: So for some reason you were a selected person.
Waldman: Yes. Honest to God. And if I think about it I’d tell the
scenes and you wouldn’t believe it.
Interviewer: Well, I believe you and I think it’s absolutely incredible
and I know you’ve relived this many time, the story.
Waldman: So, anyhow, I stayed a little while and I couldn’t take it
any longer down in the mountain cause we had to go to Roanoke there was a kosher
place. You know, Ben Silverstein of blessed memory, he didn’t eat there either.
We use to come here on Friday. It was 250 miles from Columbus. We both got stuff
and took it back and we had enough to eat for a week; kosher stuff. And if you
needed anything it was 50 miles from Roanoke.
Interviewer: An established community.
Waldman: Yeah. Two shuls, a kosher place, everything. Went down there and
get stuff. Any how, I had a good friend, an attorney. He knew my problem. He met
a senator and he knew him. I’ll tell you who he was, a senator named Donohue.
Interviewer: He was a senator from Ohio?
Waldman: From Ohio. And this guy, he [Donohue] was governor first, he
knew Donohue, the senator real well. In fact, he was his right hand man; his
advisor and everything else. We went to this guy and I told him the story – I
wanted to become a citizen, I wanted to become an American. I can’t go around
like this. Any how, we went to Washington, and this guy, this attorney, his name
is Cy P. Dunkle; he was at 44 East Broad Street, his office.
Interviewer: What was his name?
Waldman: Cy P. Dunkle.
Interviewer: Cy Dunkle.
Waldman: Cy P. Dunkle.
Interviewer: Cy P. Dunkle.
Waldman: And I told him the story, and in fact, it didn’t cost me a
penny. He paid expenses to Washington. We saw the senator, and this was a little
later, and the senator said, “You go to Canada and when you get there
everything will be ready and you get papers and when you get papers, you come
back to the United States and become a citizen.”
Interviewer: How much time did that take, that process?
Waldman: Seven years.
Interviewer: Seven years.
Waldman: So I went to Canada, stayed overnight, and then I came the next
day. Everything was ready. I got all the papers. When I got back to Detroit, I
kissed the ground, and prayed to God, “I’m an American.”
Interviewer: That was your whole goal in life.
Waldman: My whole goal. That was the greatest thing. That day when I came
back to the United States, that’s it, the greatest thing in my whole life.
Interviewer: Sure, that’s what you were aiming for.
Waldman: Then from then on I went into business, I worked with somebody,
I make a shul.
Interviewer: Well, we’re going to talk about that in a little bit. But
during this whole seven year process were you able to communicate with your
family in Poland at all?
Waldman: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: You wrote to them?
Waldman: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: And they wanted you to be safe, they wanted you to go where
you had to be.
Waldman: Yeah. For a while they didn’t hear from me because I was
traveling; back and forth to Berlin, Berlin to Paris trying to work out
something. Because you know.
Interviewer: Did you have any have any brothers or sisters?
Waldman: I had one brother, two sisters, all perished in the Holocaust.
My whole family was gone.
Interviewer: But when you left Poland they were still living? They were
Waldman: Yeah. My grandmother was still living and I had one brother and
Interviewer: Tell us your brother and sisters’ names.
Waldman: One was Aaron.
Interviewer: Your brother was Aaron.
Waldman: And one of the sisters was Esther, and the other one was Tammy.
Interviewer: And you didn’t see, that was it after you left, you didn’t
see the rest of your family? None of them were married, your sisters or brother?
Interviewer: Were you the oldest in your family?
Interviewer: You were the oldest. Well, you were lucky that Harry took to
you and that he was a pretty gutsy man too. He could have gotten into trouble
too, couldn’t he?
Waldman: In a way, yes and no.
Interviewer: He was still an American citizen.
Waldman: He was an American citizen; he was in the Army too, he was
wounded in Flint, Michigan. He was in the American Army in the First World War.
And if you got wounded, they had a hospital in Flint, Michigan, sent him over
there. He wouldn’t have got into trouble. He fixed it up so well that all the
trouble I had, not him.
This has to be real confidential by the way. I went into all of this; I’m
just telling you.
Interviewer: Well, this is on tape. This is an interesting story and it’s
a fascinating story of how you accomplished what you wanted and you went through
a lot. I mean a lot of people went through a terrible life.
Waldman: Not like that, not like that.
Interviewer: But thank God you’re here to tell us.
Waldman: So I’ll tell you what happened. When I got here, he sent me to
Virginia. But I hated the place. It was up in the mountains, and two Jewish
people. And one Jewish family was all German Jews; they didn’t know from
anything. And one guy, there were two brothers; they had a store; two bachelors.
This was my livelihood; to live in place like that?
Interviewer: It’s not your kind of environment at all.
Waldman: No. No shul, no life, no Jews. We use to go to Roanoke to dayven
Interviewer: And German Jews and Polish Jews just didn’t mix well?
Waldman: No, no, it was alright, but they weren’t religious; they weren’t
malicious. They didn’t know from anything. They were nice people, wonderful
people. I liked them but they weren’t my Jews, so to speak.
But I’ll go back, make a long story short. You know Ben Silverstein went
bankrupt. He had a bag shop.
Interviewer: Bags, like burlap bags?
Waldman: Burlap bags, all containers. He was in with Ornstein.
Waldman: Yeah. His place used to be on…he had a paint factory called
Waldman: Paint. His place was on…Honey, what do you call that place on
Voice: Veterans Memorial.
Interviewer: Veterans Memorial on West Broad Street.
Waldman: This used to be Ornstein’s place.
Interviewer: Oh, it use to be Ornstein, Shepard Paint. Oh, that’s an
important piece of property.
Waldman: So, they were in business and they had problems. So while I was
in New York, my uncle bought him out; he bought it from Sig Ornstein.
Interviewer: Sig Ornstein?
Waldman: He didn’t know from nothing. He had a fish shop here in
Columbus; bought a fish shop; lost a fortune.
Interviewer: Well, it seems like they were trying to latch on to
something, a business that would make it.
Waldman: Yeah, whatever. Anyhow, I left for New York; I left Virginia,
went to New York. It was terrible in New York, couldn’t get a job for no
place. It was a Depression.
Interviewer: What made you go to New York?
Waldman: Where was I going to go?
Interviewer: Ohio? Why didn’t you come to Columbus?
Waldman: I don’t know. I went to New York with someone. I had a friend
of mine; I knew him from Cuba; he went out there. So he said come to New York,
maybe we’ll find a job. I don’t know; to tell the truth I forgot what I did
Interviewer: In New York? You don’t remember what you did to make a
Waldman: I made a living.
Interviewer: Well, you must have done something, because you had to live.
Waldman: Yeah, I’ll tell you. We use to buy, use to go to a farmer and
buy his crop, like potatoes, and sell it to commission houses.
Interviewer: That’s what my father did for a living.
Waldman: Is that right?
Interviewer: Uh huh. Went to the country.
Waldman: They had to pray that the farmer had a good crop.
Interviewer: If you prayed the farmer has a good crop and you’re in
Waldman: Anyhow, it’s no good. I couldn’t make a living. I hated New
York. I had to go to 48th Street; it took me five hours to get there,
on a boat, from the subway, I missed this subway, I got the other subway. I
Interviewer: Where did you live?
Waldman: In Bay Parkway, in Brooklyn. Anyhow, I’ll make the story
short. I decided that I don’t know what to do. Any how I get a letter from my
uncle, “Phil, I want you to come down here because I got a bake shop (with
Ben Silverstein, or whatever it is, Orenstein; he bought it from him) and I need
Interviewer: This is Uncle Harry?
Waldman: Yeah. So I go here and he had a bake shop. Ben Silverstein was
there with us; he was the expert, you know. So, he give me a truck and he give
me a driver, and he put a few bags on the floor and said this is this and this
is that and bye.
Interviewer: So, he’s showing you how to operate the business?
Waldman: How to buy. Meantime, he had a brother-in-law, Harry haveshalom,
one of the Goldens. I don’t know if you remember them. The Goldens?
Interviewer: That was his brother-n-law?
Waldman: Brother-in-law. So he did the same thing. He got a truck and a
driver. I got a truck and a driver. I left Monday morning with a truck and a
driver and went around in grocery stores and basement and big companies. I
bought back Friday a load all the way down. I use to make $600 in one week, on
bags. They paid me $12; the same amount of money they paid me in Virginia.
Interviewer: But you made a lot more business for them; you created a lot
of business. What were these bags used for?
Waldman: For farmers. For feed, for animals. This was my business
Interviewer: They filled it up with feed, with grain?
Waldman: Yeah, yeah. This was my business afterwards, called Buckeye Bag
and Burlap Company.
Interviewer: Buckeye Bag and Burlap. So you ended up with it eventually.
Waldman: They had a brother-in-law and another Silverstein; it was a
mess. So I decided I’d leave it and have it for myself. My partner was…remember
Interviewer: Harry Maybrook? Sure.
Waldman: Not, which Harry Maybrook?
Interviewer: Oh, there’s two Harry Maybrooks. I only knew the one that
was Stanley Maybrook’s father.
Interviewer: No, there was another. OK.
Waldman: This was Scheslinger’s father-in-law.
Interviewer: Ed Schelsinger’s father-in-law.
Waldman: So, anyhow, he had a business and I got into trouble with him
because I couldn’t work with him. And Ben Silverstein had trouble.
Interviewer: What kind of business was he in?
Waldman: Buying bags, same as me.
Waldman: So, Harry Maybrook, haveshalom, called me up one time,
“Phil, I want you to come to me, I’ll treat you right, I want you, I need
you.” So, I went and he treated me like a million dollars. And then he was
an old man and I was a young kid. He had a brother-in-law named Goldstein, Joe
Goldstein. I don’t know if you remember him either.
Interviewer: No. You’re talking about before my time. What was the year
you went to into…
Waldman: This was the thirties.
Interviewer: Still in the thirties, and you’re still a young man.
Waldman: Middle thirties. He had a brother-in-law, they didn’t get
along. So they separated, and Maybrook, haveshalom, is a prince of a guy.
And he and I started out. I didn’t have to put up no money. What I did, what
little money I brought in, I got in and everything was going fine. God was with
me all the way down the line.
Interviewer: God was still with you. Well, thank goodness for that.
Waldman: He got sick. They took off his leg for something and I all by
myself I had about 50, 60 people working.
Interviewer: Is that right? In the bag business? Where was your business
Waldman: I got the business on Cleveland Avenue.
Interviewer: Cleveland and what?
Waldman: And Fifth, on Fifth Avenue. Also, I had developed something
which they didn’t have. You know the farmers would buy a thousand feed bags,
you know, and throw them away; they were 60 cents a piece, the bag alone. It was
$12 for a bag of feed, but the bag alone was 60 cents to sell. I developed
something. I could take those bags and fumigate them and fix them all up and
send them back so they can use them five times. And 60 comes out to 32.
Interviewer: So you recycled them.
Waldman: This was an outfit, a big outfit. I don’t know if you ever
heard of them, called the Purina Company, Ralston Purina.
Waldman: They got cereal.
Interviewer: Yeah, sure, it’s a big company.
Waldman: Checkerboard. They got milk chow and all sorts of chow. They’re
in St. Louis. They had a mill in Circleville. A big mill, about 500 people
working there. And they use to get the bags down there and throw them away; 60
cents. They didn’t know what to do. So the manager says to me, “You and I
go to St. Louis, and tell them story; I think you’ve got something
there.” So I got to St. Louis and told them the story, and they said
“Come back in two weeks and we’ll think it over.” And they gave me
Interviewer: So you provided the all the bags for the Purina Company?
Waldman: No, the people, you got a thousand feed bags, like chicken and
cattle; they use to throw them away, 60 cents a piece. I said send the bags to
me and I’ll fumigate them and take them out. I didn’t know I needed a
chemical; I didn’t know what to do with them, I couldn’t figure it out.
Interviewer: When you were talking about fumigating what were you
Waldman: Wait a minute. I knew I had to fumigate them. I got to do
something because you can’t use them if they’re not fumigated.
Interviewer: Sure, it’s not healthy.
Waldman: I went to the, right here, they call it the Battelle Memorial.
Somebody told me to go down there. I told them the story, you got something.
They said I’ll tell you what to do. The government had a big place on Morse
and they have boxes of chemicals that’s perfect and you can buy them for
nothing practically, called methyl bromide. A chemical and it comes in cans. But
you got to leave the room. Put the bags in there and you got to have something
to blow in the can, leave overnight and fumigate all the things and kill them.
The bugs and things.
Interviewer: You were going into this pretty blind?
Waldman: I had to figure out something. Something had to be done. It’s
a shame to pay 60 cents and throw them away. So I got an idea and I went to them
and spent two and explained it to them and they fell for the guy thinking I like
it. Told me to come back in two weeks and we’ll talk about it and told me
“Phil, you got it.” The most finest people in the whole world I had.
Interviewer: So you were able to work with them.
Waldman: I had Virginia, West Virginia, the state of Ohio, Indiana,
Kentucky and part of Pennsylvania. The farmers sent their bags to me. They paid
Interviewer: So now you were just involved in recycling. How many people
did you have working at that time?
Waldman: 50, 60 people. If I needed extra, there was a place called Spot
Labor. A lot of people go down there; it’s Ohio State and they gave you all
the people you needed, spot labor, like I need to unload a car or load a car.
Interviewer: Well, they still have spot labor.
Waldman: Still got spot labor?
Interviewer: Yeah, I think they’re called bureaus or something.
Waldman: I don’t know but I spot labor because that’s what we use to
call them. And, thank God, everything was fine.
Interviewer: And you did that for how long?
Waldman: Until I retired in 1973.
Waldman: I sold all my businesses to Grossman boys.
Waldman: Herb and Marvin and Arnold.
Interviewer: The Grossmans.
Waldman: They needed the bags for something. So they found out I wanted
to sell the place in 1973. So Herbie came over and looked over the place and he
says, “Tomorrow morning I’ll send over my auditors to check your
Interviewer: OK, so the Grossmans are sending their auditors to check
Waldman: To check my books. So he came over and checked the books.
Interviewer: What year was this? Do you remember?
Waldman: I sold it in 1973. The next day Herbie comes over and says,
“How much do you want?” I says you sure you want to buy the building.
My building was on Bonham Avenue on 11th Avenue and Cleveland. He
looked it over. He came with two men, I didn’t know who they were. Looked it
over and said, “How much?” I said, “You going to buy the
building, and the whole thing, machinery and everything?” “Tell me the
price, I got to have everything you have.” So I gave him a price and he
said, “I’ll take it.”
Interviewer: Just like that?
Waldman: Never argued with me.
Interviewer: Well, that was a clean deal. You were ready and they were
Waldman: Yeah. Well, he needed stuff right here. Not for the same
purpose. The bags and burlap he needed to package a lot of stuff. He was in the
rag wiping business.
Interviewer: They were already established in business?
Waldman: Oh, yeah. This was my business but they needed the burlap to
make the bale, the covers. And they got it from New York and it cost them a
fortune. I was involved with another company, a coffee company, in Sunbury. They
Interviewer: Nestle, OK.
Waldman: I brought them loads of them. And they needed that stuff, bad.
In fact, he paid 34 cents apiece and he got it for four cents.
Interviewer: From 34 to four.
Waldman: Four! He didn’t know any better. He did that because in New
York he had to buy it.
Interviewer: It was still a deal for him.
Waldman: Sure. He said, “I’ll take it, and get your lawyer
whatever you want to do and I’ll sign it.” I got Morris Luper.
Interviewer: Morris Luper was your attorney.
Waldman: My attorney. The nicest guy, but he cost me a lot of money.
Every time I sold something, he said, “Don’t do it.” I wanted to buy
a lot to build a house, he said, “Don’t do it. What do you need it
for?” My house was across the street here.
Interviewer: I thought you lived in another house here. You built another
Waldman: This one.
Interviewer: The house you live in now, you built this one. But you also
built one across the street?
Interviewer: You were going to buy.
Waldman: I bought it already. I lived there 10-12 years.
Interviewer: But it was a two story?
Waldman: Yeah, it was too much, a big house, I didn’t need it. Any how,
I made a deal, I said, “I’ll stay with you six months and I’ll break it
in, somebody to run the business.” I’ll make the story short, I was there
Interviewer: Twenty years with the Grossmans?
Waldman: They wouldn’t let me go. But thing I told them, “I’m
coming in at 9 o’clock and leaving at 11:30.”
Interviewer: Well, that’s a pretty good day.
Waldman: “And it wouldn’t cost you nothing.”
Interviewer: Such a deal.
Waldman: Wouldn’t cost them. So, twenty years I was there helping them
out because I liked them. They were wonderful people. Herbie was the nicest guy
that ever lived.
Interviewer: So it was a success for you and a success for them.
Waldman: And they treated me like a god, I’m telling you.
Interviewer: Well, you were valuable to their business.
Waldman: So I was hoping and praying they made money. They made a lot of
money from that.
Interviewer: You can still look them in the face.
Waldman: Oh, yeah. They still love me. Every time they see me, you know,
they think I’m Jesus. But my name is Phil.
Interviewer: Or Moses maybe.
Waldman: Or Moses. Here’s another story. They had a place in Newark,
Ohio, a shul. Their shul was upstairs; downstairs was some kind of company, and
upstairs was empty and they built a shul there.
Interviewer: You’re talking about the people in Newark.
Waldman: Yeah, yeah. A nice community; from Zanesville they come and
everything else. There was a fellow by the name of Worley, an old man, who was
related to those Worleys here.
Interviewer: Do you remember his first name?
Waldman: I don’t remember his name. He use to pedal papers.
Interviewer: Could this have been Al Worley’s father?
Waldman: No, no, an uncle. He was there and he was a learned man. And he
served them, davened and things. He got married two days before Rosh
Hashonah. So my uncle use to play poker with these guys every week. You
know, his name Moishe Horowitz, he had a brother down there. There were quite a
few nice people down there. So my uncle was down there on a Thursday night to
play poker. They told him the story and said, “Herman, you got anybody who
can serve Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur in two weeks?” He
said, “Don’t worry about it, I got a cousin.”
Interviewer: And here comes Phil.
Waldman: Yeah. I was there 14 years.
Interviewer: You went a rabbi, you were a learned man.
Waldman: I did Shabbas, I davened, everything.
Interviewer: How about shochet? They didn’t have t have a shocet.
Waldman: No, they got all the meat from here.
Interviewer: They got the meat from Columbus.
Waldman: Someone who kept kosher, came here.
Interviewer: So, you served the needs of the Jews from Newark.
Waldman: All 14 years I was there. I took my better half a few times and
she said, “I don’t want to go no more, you’re going to quit.” So I
quit. So what happens? Another story. Harry Meschel, haveshalom, was
president of Tifereth Israel. They had a hazzen by the name of Halpern.
Do you remember him?
Interviewer: Yes, I do.
Waldman: Well, this guy, he had a choir. They started up in July and he
was worried that he was going to catch a cold. He came in July, it was 90
degrees, in a big overcoat and a big scarf.
Interviewer: So he shouldn’t catch a cold?
Waldman: So he wouldn’t catch a cold. Week before Rosh Hashonah
he couldn’t daven, he couldn’t talk. Uncle Harry says, “Don’t
worry, I’ve got somebody.” He talked to Rabbi Zelizer.
Interviewer: Rabbi Zelizer? Nathan Zelizer?
Waldman: Yeah. He says, “I got somebody, don’t worry about it. He’ll
do the whole thing for us, won’t cost you nothing.” So I started and went
Interviewer: So, four years you?
Waldman: Four years I served Tifereth Israel.
Interviewer: As what, the choirmaster?
Waldman: No, no. Davened, read the Torah, and blew the shofar
and everything. The hazzen was sick, couldn’t talk.
Interviewer: So, you helped them out too.
Waldman: What was his name that had a pawn shop? He was president at that
time. Goldsmith? Do you remember his name? Goldsmith? He passed away not too
long ago. Mrs. Waldman: David Goldsmith.
Interviewer: David Goldsmith. And he had a pawn shop?
Waldman: Yeah, and he was the president. I got through and he said,
“Phil, here’s $300 and I want you to take it.”
Interviewer: By then you were retired?
Waldman: No, no, I was still young yet.
Interviewer: Do you know the year you were still at Tifereth Israel?
Waldman: (to wife) We was married already, wasn’t we?
Waldman: We was married already. It must have been in the 40s; because we
were married in 1940.
Interviewer: And before that you were in Newark?
Interviewer: And all that time you’re managing a business too.
Waldman: Oh, yeah, just did it on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur.
But I felt good. I liked the people there; were just wonderful.
Interviewer: And after you left Tifereth Israel were did you go?
Waldman: I liked Agudas Achim. I lived with my uncle on Brentwood and
Cassingham; I lived with him. I use to walk with the old man, Yenkin, he lived
on Drexel and he walked to Agudas Achim, all the way down there.
Interviewer: You talking about Abe Yenkin?
Waldman: No, his father. He lived on…
Interviewer: He did live on South Drexel.
Waldman: I met him and we walked to Agudas Achim. You know, I didn’t
like, he was a comedian, what’s the rabbi’s name?
Waldman: At that time they were about the same, Agudas Achim, except they
had men and women sitting together. There was no women going to the bima,
nothing, it was like Agudas Achim except mixed seating.
Interviewer: It was much more orthodox.
Waldman: Yeah, but he was a comedian.
Interviewer: Well, you were not as comfortable there so you wanted to
come to Agudas Achim. You came with Mr. Yenkin. You’re talking about Agudas
Achim on Broad Street?
Waldman: No, this was the Washington Avenue.
Interviewer: So you walked from Drexel, from Bexley to Washington and
Waldman: Then coming back, he’d invite me to dinner once in a while.
Interviewer: He was a nice man, very fine people.
Waldman: Yeah, yeah. And Abe was a prince of a guy. You know when I
became president of Agudas Achim, Abe Yenkin, haveshalom, took me down to
all the banks where all the money was for Agudas Achim; showed me how much money
they got. He said, “I want you to know in case something happens to
Interviewer: He was treasurer for years.
Waldman: For years. He took me to all the banks. “Phil, we have so
much here. If something happens, you what it’s all about. You the only one I
Interviewer: That’s something. So you were president of Agudas Achim?
Do you know what year?
Waldman: ’73 I became president.
Interviewer: That was a busy time for you, in your life.
Waldman: And then he gave me honor, flowers for the living. And all the
honors I got, they don’t got no more honors.
Interviewer: They ran out of honors for you. Flowers for the Living and
what else was there?
Waldman: Pride of the Brotherhood. Whatever they had.
Interviewer: So, how long were you president of the shul?
Waldman: Well, I was vice-president under Sam Luper. And he was a
wonderful person. Do you remember him?
Interviewer: An attorney?
Waldman: A wonderful guy. I was vice-president under him and after him. I
was two years vice-president and two years president. That was all you could go.
Interviewer: That was the maximum amount they allowed.
Waldman: So, I’m still there.
Interviewer: You’re still there, and I know we look forward to you
blowing the shofar every year; still keep blowing, you’re doing okay.
Waldman: I’ll tell you this, the last time after I got through blowing
the shofar and I was going home and I heard, “Mr. Waldman, Mr.
Waldman, I want to talk to you. Wait a minute, wait a minute.” I look
around and see Hoffman and Mrs. Schottenstein.
Waldman: She says, “It’s unbelievable, I enjoyed it so much.”
Took me around and grabbed me, and a woman in the back said, “We’re going
to miss you. You better stay here; we’ll miss you.”
Interviewer: Where we’re you going?
Waldman: I was going home after services.
Interviewer: I know. They wanted you keep well. I know that’s what you
mean to us too because we’ve heard you so many years and that’s an important
part. So you enjoy it, you love it?
Waldman: Well, I’ll tell you. When I go up to blow the shofar, I’m
in a different world. My father, haveshalom, my grandfather, they use to
do the same thing. My grandfather use to go when I was a kid in a little town,
there were very few Jews. They didn’t go to shul, didn’t bother to
serve or nothing, for Yom Kippur. He use to go down there and use to take
me along to be his helper. And I learned a lot of stuff from him.
Interviewer: It just so happens that you loved all that and so you
Waldman: How can you not love that?
Interviewer: Some kids are subjected to it and they don’t feel the same
as you did.
Waldman: Well, I feel I do something I’m satisfied with. I didn’t
take no money. A lot of people at Agundas Achim wanted to know how much money I
Interviewer: You mean for what you’re doing?
Waldman: Yeah. So a woman standing there I told her one time I said,
“I’m going to tell you something. I don’t even think about taking the
money; you’ve got to tell them I don’t take no money.” In fact, when I
blow the shofar and get my kids here to go up on the bima, I pay
them $125 for that.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Waldman: Yeah. Every time I had the whole family, you know, Martin
Interviewer: For the honors?
Waldman: For the honors. So to call them up. I pay $125 just like
Interviewer: Well, that’s your pleasure. Phil, can you give us any more
information about your business? Do you own property?
Waldman: I use to own properties. I was in partnership with Ed Paylet. He
bought a lot of, he built a lot of apartment houses on the west side. He sold
it. I had a piece of property on the east side on Hamilton Road; a piece of
property down there. They built it for automobile company. And then I had a
piece of property on Neil Avenue next to the university; all professors. But I
couldn’t take care of it and Ed couldn’t take care of it because we had the
milk business on Main Street, called Harmony Barns. I couldn’t take of it, so
we sold out of it.
Interviewer: So you don’t any property now?
Waldman: The house.
Interviewer: The house. You own the house we’re in right now. OK.
Alright, we got a lot of information covered, but we’re not done with you, we’re
You told us about your brothers and sisters and where did you get your
education? How were you educated? How far did you go with your training or was
it all just from your…?
Waldman: I got a lot from my father, and then I went to yeshiva in
Austria called Belz Aroche. You know that song?
Interviewer: No, I don’t know that.
Waldman: The whole world knows that. What do you mean you don’t know
that? You never heard the song My Staytele Belz?
Interviewer: OK, ok, you’re talking about a song.
Waldman: It was a little town in Austria.
Interviewer: So that’s where you went to yeshiva? Through high
school? How long?
Waldman: Well, it’s not a high school. At that time it was a yeshiva.
I was 8 years old and my father was over there and I got on the train one time
to go to Belz to see my father on Succoth. He was there on Rosh
Hashonah and Yom Kippur. I was 8 years old and I got on the train and
I got to Belz, called Halovitz, a little town, because Belz was destroyed. A lot
of people from Russia, Moscow and someplace else, I got on the train, went down
there, 8 years old, and I couldn’t find my father there because there were
50,000 Jews down there.
Interviewer: You went by there yourself?
Interviewer: And you were 8 years old?
Waldman: Yeah. When I got there I couldn’t find my father. I never
found him. And the Belz Aroche, one of the greats of all times, wanted to
know where that little boy from Poland. So, this was outside, they couldn’t
get inside, the place was destroyed, the big shop next to it.
Interviewer: Was this destroyed during World War, the war?
Waldman: No, this was after the war.
Interviewer: The czar? So, who destroyed it?
Waldman: From the first world war.
Interviewer: Oh, so it was destroyed during World War I.
Waldman: Finally, I found my father. There were 50,000 Jews down there.
Interviewer: How long do you think it took until you found him?
Waldman: A couple of days.
Interviewer: A couple of days. So, 8 years old you were roaming around.
Waldman: They watched me. There were a lot of Jews from Moscow, Russian
Jews. The whole train, like they were going to the rabbi. It would take two
weeks to talk about it.
Interviewer: I don’t know, I’ll have to come back, Phil. I’ll run
out of tape if I take two weeks with you. Tell us about how you met Florence and
how she came into your life.
Waldman: [To his wife] You go ahead and tell it. You tell it.
Interviewer: You’re doing a good job. She fills in when you don’t
Waldman: I met her somewhere. I forgot where it was.
Florence Waldman: You know how you met me.
Waldman: I met her on New Year’s Eve or something. I don’t know. I
called her up and we got together and she’s still here.
Interviewer: What year did you get married?
Waldman: 1940. Lag B’Omer, a Sunday. It’s the only time you
could get married, between Pesach and Shavuot.
Interviewer: OK, so you fit in that time you could get married. Alright,
Florence, tell me about your background. What was your maiden name? Who was your
family? Where do you come from?
Florence: I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and my name was
Interviewer: You almost forgot, you’ve married so long.
Florence: That’s right, 58 years going on 59. I had three brothers
and a sister.
Interviewer: Tell us who your brothers and sister were.
Florence: My brother was, one of my brother’s was Jack Irwin, Herman
Irwin and Alexander Irwin.
Interviewer: Did they all live in Columbus?
Florence: At one time we all did. But then everybody moved somewhere
else. I had a sister, Elizabeth Zircon; she lived in California. One of my
brothers lived in Toledo; one in Elgin, Illinois and one in Louisville,
Kentucky. Now the only one I have left is my brother Al in Louisville, Kentucky.
Interviewer: Phil kind of told us how he met you at a party.
Florence: No, he got it wrong.
Interviewer: Oh, you said New Year’s. Jewish New Year’s?
Florence: No, English.
Waldman: Jewish New Year you don’t meet no body.
Interviewer: Right, you’re busy.
Florence: A friend of mine had a date with Phil and brought him over
New Year’s evening to introduce us. She just went with him. He called me up
and wanted to go out. I said, “No, you’re going out with my friend
Sarah.” He said, “No, I’m not.” I said “Well, I’ll let
you know.” I called Sarah and I asked her, “Are you going out with
Phil?” She said, “No, we’re just friends. If you want to go with
him, you’re welcome to go with him.”
Interviewer: You didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
Florence: No, I wouldn’t have gone with him. So, he called me; it was
in August, I remember. My girlfriend was getting married and I was in the bridal
party. And she was having the rehearsal that night.
Interviewer: Who was your girlfriend?
Florence: Ida Biales, you wouldn’t remember her. But she married a
rabbi in Peoria, Illinois. So I couldn’t go out with him. He didn’t call for
a while. Then he called one time; I forget what month it was already. I said,
“Okay, I” go out with you.” So we went out that night and kept on
going. The next April we got engaged and in May we got married. We didn’t
Interviewer: And your family approved?
Florence: Oh, yes. We had a wedding.
Interviewer: Did you have a big wedding?
Florence: : No, we had the wedding in the house. We were going to the
rabbi’s to get married, Hirschburn. I don’t think you’d remember him.
Interviewer: I remember hearing a lot about him, Agudas Achim. It wasn’t
unusual for people to get married in their homes?
Florence: No, no. In those days you didn’t have the kind of elaborate
weddings you have know.
Interviewer: You didn’t have caterers like you have now?
Florence: No, unless you wealthy.
Waldman: You couldn’t get married between Pesach and Shavuot.
You had to wait 33 days after Pesach. The only day, it so happened that
year Sunday was the 33rd day.
Interviewer: So, it worked out.
Florence: Yeah. So we got married and we’re still living together for
58, going on 59 years.
Interviewer: You’re still talking to each other?
Florence: Yes we are.
Interviewer: Tell us about your children.
Florence: We’ve got two children; two girls, both married. One has
Interviewer: Tell us their names.
Florence: Rita and Janet. Rita lives in Toledo.
Interviewer: And her last name?
Florence: Her husband’s name is Bob, Robert, Shall.
Interviewer: And their children?
Florence: Missy, Melissa; Betsey; and Benjamin.
Interviewer: They have three children?
Florence: Yeah. We used to call him Benjy but not any more since he
works. Now his name is Ben.
Interviewer: And how old are they?
Florence: They’re old enough to… Missy is 32.
Interviewer: Is she married?
Florence: Oh, yes. She has two children. Our two great-grandchildren.
Interviewer: And what’s their names?
Florence: Sidney and Justin. She lives in Chicago, Buffalo Grove.
Interviewer: And who is she married to?
Florence: She’s married to Ronald Nanberg. Ben lives in Chicago and
he’s not married; he’s too immature yet.
Interviewer: Too immature? Still trying to find himself?
Interviewer: What does he do?
Florence: He’s in steel; sells steel. Very good. And Betsey lives in
Interviewer: Is she married?
Florence: No, no, only got one married one. Janet has two boys. One is
Jeffrey; he works for a computer company.
Interviewer: Is he married?
Florence: No. And the other one is Mark, and he’s in a yeshiva.
Interviewer: Takes after his grandfather, Phil?
Florence: Yeah, yeah. He davens. He had a nice voice.
Waldman: They have a chabad house in Lexington. He davens
Interviewer: Tell me about his…what’s his father’s name?
Florence: Marvin Greenberg.
Interviewer: Do you get to see them very often?
Florence: Yeah, well Janet and Marvin were in just about a month ago.
Rita comes in and brings her three dogs; monsters.
Interviewer: Not too happy about that?
Florence: I like them.
Waldman: I don’t care.
Florence: I’m glad when she brings them. They’re gorgeous dogs.
Interviewer: Tell us about when you first got married. Where did you
Florence: We lived with our parents.
Interviewer: Your mother…
Florence: And father. On 18th Street; 666 South 18th
Interviewer: That wasn’t unusual either?
Florence: Oh no. In those days people did. We lived with them four
years until I was pregnant with the second one. Then we moved into Bexley,
Interviewer: You bought a house on Vernon Road. Then after Vernon Road,
how long did you live on Vernon Road?
Florence: About 10 years. Then we moved to Merkle Road, across the
street from where we are now. We lived there about 11 years or so and then built
a house across from there, 120 South Merkle.
Interviewer: Where we are now. So you built this house?
Interviewer: So even though your attorney told you not to, this was a
Florence: That’s right. We thought it was. My mother was living with
us then and it was hard for her to climb those stairs.
Interviewer: What did your dad do? Tell us your mother and dad’s names.
Florence: My dad was Samuel Morris Irwin. And my mother was Fannie
Interviewer: I remember your mother; she was a wonderful knitter.
Florence: Yeah, yeah. I got a lot of her things. She won a lot of
Interviewer: What business was your father in?
Florence: He delivered bread. These were not rich people.
Interviewer: Delivering bread was an honorable way to earn a living.
Florence: It was a way to earn a living. But he died not a rich man,
but he died not leaving any bills.
Interviewer: Tell us about your relatives. I know you come from a large
Florence: My mother had four sisters. Goldie Godefsky, Alice Feinberg
Grilder, Hannah Peshall, Payless, they use to have a dairy farm.
Interviewer: What was her English name? Who was her husband?
Florence: Payless I guess. Louis. They had a dairy farm where the
airport is now.
Interviewer: That was a good piece of property.
Florence: Yeah. They had 13 children, so we had a lot of cousins.
Interviewer: Were you close?
Florence: Oh, yes. At one time we were very close. We use to visit each
other. Go get that picture of my family, honey. You want to? It’s right there
in the cupboard.
Interviewer: So when you were growing up, your social life was visiting
Florence: Oh, yeah. We were very close. Close-knit family.
Interviewer: Did you all go to Agudas Achim too?
Florence: Oh yeah. I remember my uncle and all the boys would come in
and stay at our house during the holidays. You know, the ones from the farm.
Interviewer: So, they lived on the farm then, the Payless?
Florence: They seven boys and six girls I think.
Interviewer: Are any of them left?
Interviewer: Who are they?
Florence: Hilda Abrams. You remember her? She use to live in Columbus.
She lives in Cuyahoga Falls now. And Myna Bernstein.
Interviewer: You’re showing me this picture of your family. It’s a
good looking picture.
Waldman: I’ll show you my family.
Florence: I wasn’t there yet.
Interviewer: You weren’t born here.
Interviewer: This is a great picture. I’m going to ask if we can get a
Florence: I’m not giving this out; I’ll tell you why. I had another
one, it was wonderful. I loaned it to somebody and I’ve never gotten it back.
I said never again.
Interviewer: What school did you go to?
Florence: Well, I started out at the Livingston Avenue School and then
I went to Fulton Street School which I don’t think is there any more. And then
I went to Mound Street School which is not there any more either. Then I went to
Central High. Then I went to college, to Ohio State, for a year.
Interviewer: For a year? Well, not a lot of women went to college at that
Florence: That’s right. All I could take social work or a teacher,
and I didn’t want either one of them.
Interviewer: So it didn’t pay for you to go to college.
Florence: No. I went to work.
Interviewer: Where did you work?
Florence: The Cook Coffee Company. Did you hear of them?
Florence: Worked there 12 years.
Interviewer: What kind of work?
Florence: As a private secretary. Took care of all the business.
Waldman: Twelve dollars a week.
Interviewer: Twelve dollars?
Florence: No, I made $22 when I started. Then things got real bad and
he called everybody in and he says, “You can have it two ways. Either I
have to let some people go, or else you can half salary.” We all chose half
salary. Where were we going to go?
Interviewer: You all worked. Do you remember that period of time, what
Florence: It was in the ’30s I think.
Interviewer: So it was the early ’30s, the Depression?
Interviewer: What about hardships? Where there hardships at home with the
Florence: Well, it wasn’t easy. You know, like everybody had the same
thing. You had a lot of company.
Interviewer: Everybody was poor but they didn’t realize it.
Florence: That’s right. Everybody was close.
Interviewer: You didn’t think about being poor.
Florence: Oh, no, no. You had a good life.
Interviewer: You had what you needed.
Florence: Right. We had love. One of my brothers was a comedian. He
used to work at the James Theater. It’s now the Ohio Theater.
Interviewer: Is that right? He actually performed?
Florence: No, no. It used to be vaudeville and he was an usher.
Interviewer: Which brother was this?
Florence: That’s Herman. My middle brother. He’d come home and tell
us all these jokes and everything, and he was funny.
Interviewer: So he entertained you?
Florence: Yes, he entertained us.
Interviewer: What did your other brothers do?
Florence: They all graduated from college. Two were graduated as
accountants and in those days they didn’t need accountants. There weren’t
Interviewer: There wasn’t anything to account for.
Florence: So they opened up a shoe store in London. They worked on that
until my oldest brother got married, and my other brother said, “There isn’t
enough for both of us after you’re married.” So he got a job, use to be
the Schiff Company.
Interviewer: Schiff Shoes?
Florence: Yes. And they sent him to Elgin, Illinois.
Interviewer: So that’s where he ended up?
Florence: Yeah, that’s where he ended up. Well, he went to California
after he retired.
Interviewer: So your father was able to get the boys to college.
Florence: Oh, yeah. But they all worked. They did all right.
Interviewer: Well, I guess it was pretty much expected? Nobody thought
about it, you just did it.
Florence: No, you just did it. It wasn’t like now.
Waldman: Everybody was poor.
Florence: Everybody was in the same boat.
Interviewer: So, you mentioned the James Theater which is now the Ohio
Florence: It used to be across from the Palace.
Interviewer: It used to be across from the Palace?
Florence: Um huh.
Interviewer: Because the Ohio is on State Street.
Florence: I know it is, but they moved afterwards.
Interviewer: So the Ohio Theatre, or the James Theater used to be on
Florence: On Broad across from the Palace.
Interviewer: Ok, then the Ohio was built like 1928.
Florence: I don’t know when it was.
Waldman: The Palace was on West Broad Street.
Interviewer: Yeah, the Palace was on West Broad Street.
Florence: Yeah, it was across the street there.
Interviewer: What else, tell us what downtown Columbus was at that time?
Florence: It was a very quiet, Columbus was a quiet town at one time.
Waldman: Where are you from originally?
Interviewer: I’m from Canton, Ohio.
Waldman: Kenton with a K?
Florence: That’s Kenton.
Interviewer: No, I’m from Canton, Ohio.
Waldman: I used to go down there.
Interviewer: Yeah, use to do business?
Waldman: Yeah, was huge fellow down there.
Interviewer: Who was that?
Waldman: Who knows? A long time ago.
Interviewer: I probably wouldn’t remember either.
Florence: But that’s where Sarah came from.
Waldman: There weren’t too many Jews down there.
Interviewer: Well, Canton had a good Jewish community. So, what do you
remember about your childhood, we’re in Columbus, where did you go to shul?
Florence: We went to Agudas Achim.
Interviewer: Always went to Agudas Achim.
Florence: Well, we use to live near the old Agudas Achim. All the Jews
lived on Washington or Donaldson. And the shul was on the corner.
Interviewer: Where did you live as a kid?
Florence: We lived on Washington. The shul was right down at the
Interviewer: Can you tell us about some of the businesses that were in
operation at that time?
Florence: Well, we had five Jewish butcher shops.
Interviewer: Where were they?
Florence: One was on Fulton Street, two were on Livingston.
Interviewer: Wait a minute, the one on Fulton, do you remember who the
butcher was there?
Florence: Yes, Senters. Remember Senters? Gale?
Interviewer: Yes, I remember Gale Senters. Was it her father?
Interviewer: Where were the other?
Florence: One on Livingston, Katz, Sol Katz and his sons. Remember Ben
Florence: And Mickey. They moved to New Orleans. And Gedeffsky was on
Parsons Avenue at one time. And then Breyer, was it Breyer?
Florence: I don’t remember who the fifth one was.
Interviewer: But there were five all operating at the same time. Well,
that’s pretty amazing.
Florence: Isn’t it? And look what we got now, nothing.
Interviewer: What about deli, delicatessens?
Florence: That was included.
Interviewer: I remember Haps.
Florence: Oh, Haps, but they weren’t a butcher.
Interviewer: They weren’t a butcher, they were a delicatessen.
Waldman: Main and Washington.
Florence: We use to stop and get pickles there.
Interviewer: Barrel of pickles. You know as we’re talking about it I
can smell it.
Florence: Oh, they were delicious.
Interviewer: What about bakeries?
Florence: Yeah, we had Schwartzes, and I think Reuben’s.
Interviewer: Where was Schwartzes?
Florence: Mound and Washington.
Interviewer: And who was the other baker?
Florence: Reuben, on Fulton Street. And they got more then than we have
Interviewer: But you didn’t have more Jews then?
Florence: No, I don’t think so.
Interviewer: Let’s see what we can talk about. Did you do any traveling
Florence: Not when I was a kid. After we got married we did a lot.
Interviewer: Tell us about some of the travels you and Phil went on.
Florence: Oh, went on, the best one that stands in my mind was the last
one we took was the cruise we took through the Panama Canal on Passover.
Interviewer: On Passover.
Florence: Oh, it was all Jews.
Interviewer: You probably remember that because you didn’t have to make
have to make Pesach that year.
Florence: We didn’t make Pesach for a long time. We went to
Spain and Acapulco. Israel but we didn’t go on Passover.
Waldman: We went to Rome.
Florence: England. We were at a lot of places.
Waldman: Spain and Mexico.
Interviewer: Did you go to Spain for Peseach?
Interviewer: Yeah. We used to go with the Bornsteins. You know Ida and
Phil? For 12 years we went and we became friends.
Waldman: We used to call it, the place down there, in Spain?
Florence: Costa del Sol.
Waldman: Just like Miami Beach. And they brought all the tourists and
food from New York.
Interviewer: Who did, your tour did?
Waldman: Yes, and the maiskeach was from Morocco. The most pious
Jew you ever want to see in your life, unbelievable, the whole family, and we
had a wonderful time.
Interviewer: So, you brought your own, whatever you needed,
Interviewer: The tour did.
Waldman: Everything you could think of.
Interviewer: To set up for Pesach that wasn’t already there.
Waldman: This hotel for the first time in history had an American flag on
the hotel and an Israeli flag flying.
Interviewer: When was this?
Waldman: What year was this? The 40s? No, later than that, the 50s.
Florence: Who knows.
Waldman: The 50s, the 60s.
Florence: No, we were there in the 80s.
Waldman: I’m talking about the 60s.
Florence: Oh, you’re talking about the flags.
Waldman: Yeah, the 60s. I’ll tell you it was unbelievable.
Interviewer: Who all went at that time?
Waldman: Most of them were from New York.
Interviewer: Did you take your children then?
Florence: No, just the Bornsteins and we went and we met the Gertners,
they went too.
Waldman: It was a trip I found out from New York. They took whole food,
Torahs and everything else from New York. We had a wonderful time. And the maiskeach
was a rabbi from Morocco, and he brought his whole family. Frum, you
wouldn’t believe it.
We stayed on the third floor. One time I went to a misrachi convention
in Atlantic City and we were on the third floor. But the law says that if you
have an elevator and the elevator stops on every floor, it’s alright, it’s a
Shabbas elevator. So, in Israel we had the same thing, every floor they
Interviewer: So it was OK to use the elevator then?
Waldman: Yeah. So listen to this. Remember Rabbi Baker? I was at the
convention in Atlantic City, all rabbis from Israel and everywhere. So, he says
to me on Friday night, “I don’t want to go on the first floor, it doesn’t
look good.” I said, “So what? It stops there; what’s the
difference?” He says, “Do me a favor, let’s go on the second
floor.” I said, “It’s nuts, but alright.” We go to the second
floor and all the rabbis were waiting there.
But it was unbelievable in Spain; they had the American flag and the Israeli
flag. Also we went to Madrid.
Interviewer: The flags, was that in honor of the tour?
Waldman: Yeah. They asked the hotel to do that. It was the first time in
history. Cause Spain was an anti-Semitic country. The Israeli flag and the
Interviewer: It was unusual.
Waldman: Very unusual. So we went to Madrid and I met the chief rabbi of
Spain, and I got a Siddur, he gave me a Siddur. He signed it. At
that time there was on the third floor, a bank from downstairs, and they didn’t
want any Jewish shul with a name on it.
But there were good times. We went to Florida twelve times and all the
hotels. We had a picnic.
Interviewer: You all traveled together so you had your own start.
Florence: Sylvia and Joe Schecter.
Waldman: Oh, yes.
Interviewer: I know that all of you people had the same interest and the
same love for Judaism.
Waldman: I’ll tell you what I love. It’s very unusual. Jay
Schottenstein invited the chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Lowe, know all over the
world. I wasn’t there that Shabbas, I had a cold or something.
Interviewer: You’re talking about his son’s Bar Mitzvah?
Interviewer: His youngest son’s Bar Mitzvah which was just last
Waldman: Yeah. But Rabbi Ciner told me that. So he was sitting on the
first, downstairs, in the first row, you know, where I sit there. So he says,
“Rabbi, why don’t you go up on the bima, why are you sitting
here?” So, you know what he told him? He told him, “I want to sit with
my people here.”
Interviewer: He wanted to sit with his people, on their level.
Waldman: No wonder he’s chief rabbi of Israel.
Interviewer: He wanted to sit with his own people; he didn’t want to be
This is the start of the second tape. Phil has been telling me that he hasn’t
begun to tell me all of his stories.
Waldman: I’ll tell you, my father’s father during the war, you know
during the First World War I was a kid. He was going down12 miles to his family,
there was no transportation. His parents and his family lived in one town and we
lived in another town. We used to go visit his parents and there was a great big
mountain. He started walking and there was a German Shepard met him in one place
every time he went. That German Shepard met him on top of a hill and went with
him up the mountain to the town. And every time he left he met a dog.
Interviewer: So the dog accompanied him like to protect him?
Waldman: Yes. A German Shepard, every time he went, like in the same
Interviewer: And you remember…
Waldman: I didn’t remember, my father told me.
Interviewer: So you said there was no transportation, so they’d walk.
You said 12 miles?
Waldman: Well, their miles and our miles are different. Over there is was
12 yorst, they called it. Here they call it a mile. A yorst and a
mile are two different stories. It wasn’t 12 miles it was 12 yorst,
maybe 2 miles and a half.
Interviewer: I’m glad we talked about that. So you could do that in a
Waldman: Oh, yeah. You got up early in the morning and started walking
and he met the German Shepard at the top of the hill…
Interviewer: Like the dog was waiting for him.
Interviewer: What do you remember about the shtetel, village or
community that you came from in Europe? Can you tell us anything about it? What
do you remember as far as the buildings?
Waldman: It wasn’t like the United States. The United States at that
time wasn’t either. We didn’t have any hot water coming in or cold water;
you had to go out to the lake to get water.
Interviewer: Not even a pump?
Waldman: We had a pump in the middle of the city. The water was
wonderful, cold and clean and to go down there and bring a bucket and bring to
the house. It was a tough living. But not bad.
Interviewer: But everybody was doing the same thing.
Waldman: I’ll tell you another thing that happened which still been in
my mind. My father was a violinist. We used to sell all kind of instruments. And
Saturday night before the malcha, like two hours before, he opened up the
windows and happened to see who was there and my father had young people, young
scholars, in a club. Something happened in that club, someone got sick or
something, and a whole bunch got in and helped out. It was the most wonderful
thing in the world.
Interviewer: Hmm uh, community.
Waldman: Unbelievable, this whole group, scholars. Like someone came by
and got married, like I don’t know where, like a scholar and they took him
into that club. So, Saturday night about 10 o’clock, 10:30, the windows were
open in the summer and everybody was playing the instruments and dancing and
singing, you hear it all over the town.
Interviewer: So it was a joyous time and celebration. So you had to be
happy and celebrate.
Waldman: Oh, yeah. Everybody was listening and dancing, you know.
Interviewer: Do they do this in Israel now?
Waldman: Oh, yeah, in Israel, they do some.
They had malcha in the old shul. Hirschman, oveh hashalom, when
he was a rabbi, Rabbi Baker, oveh hashalom, all of them would have malcha
in the old shul, twelve o’clock Saturday night. Used to go to Schwartzs
and get bread, was baked on Friday, not Saturday. That was Schwartz, Melvin
Schwartz, Harris’ father, oveh hashalom. I used to drive him that time
to Schwartz Bakery, Saturday night to get the bread that they baked on Friday.
And we danced
Interviewer: Because they couldn’t bake on Shabbas.
Waldman: But they did too.
Interviewer: But you wouldn’t eat bread that was made on Shabbas?
Waldman: No. And Schwartz was a saint. Harry Schwartz’s father was a
saint. Unbelievable. A Zionist. So, we had a picnic in the shul down
there. And the toilets were right there downstairs, it was terrible.
Interviewer: Wasn’t as sanitary like it is now.
Waldman: No, it was terrible. It was hot and the doors were open for the
toilets and washrooms in the hallways. We had a good time. We studied before
about Torah. We had a wonderful time until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.
Interviewer: You mentioned something about Harry Schwartz was a Zionist.
Tell us about how people feel about Israel, Palestine at that time?
Waldman: They weren’t talking about Israel, Palestine, at that time.
Interviewer: But as a kid, do you remember Palestine?
Waldman: Yeah, but it wasn’t like in the papers and radio and
Interviewer: How did you feel, what did you think about Palestine?
Waldman: I felt this was our land; a Jewish homeland. But we didn’t
have no homeland at that time because the British were there and the Turks was
Interviewer: But that’s what we wanted for our homeland.
Waldman: If it weren’t for the Zionists, we wouldn’t have Israel now.
It was a joyous night we studied; everybody gave a haftorah, and
danced and had a wonderful time every Saturday night.
Interviewer: So you looked forward to it. When was the first time you
went to Israel? Was it Israel the first time you went?
Waldman: Yeah, it was ’62, wasn’t it?
Waldman: ’68. The war was ’67, we went one year later. We had a good
Interviewer: How many times have you been to Israel?
Waldman: Once, that’s all we went.
Interviewer: That’s the only time you went. How did you feel about
Israel becoming a nation?
Waldman: I kvelled.
Interviewer: You felt satisfied?
Waldman: Satisfied, it was my whole life. I went to shul down
there. I went to Hebron where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah and Leah and
Rebecca were there.
Interviewer: Where they are buried.
Waldman: Yeah, where they are buried. A little tiny house; this side
where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and this side the other three.
Interviewer: It was unbelievable that you saw that.
Waldman: I couldn’t believe it when I studied it as a kid; I studied it
about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and they’re buried in Hebron, called in Hebrew
Morris Apalech. And I was there, couldn’t believe it.
Interviewer: It was always the written word, it was in the book, the
Bible, and here you were seeing it.
Waldman: Yeah, I was right there, couldn’t believe it. We met someone
Florence: The Simons.
Waldman: Simons. They were there too. But I couldn’t believe it when
you study Talmud and you see all that; it was like a dream, it was. It
was a 1000 years ago, 2000, who knows.
Interviewer: But it became real.
Waldman: It was real. This was Israel
Interviewer: That was beautiful. I know you were real active always in shul,
and in Jewish activities. Do you remember any other organizations that you were
involved in? B’nai B’rith?
Waldman: Oh yeah, all my life.
Interviewer: Were you active in there?
Waldman: No, I was a member and used to go to meetings.
Interviewer: Well, going to meetings like that was kind of a
socialization thing, wasn’t it?
Waldman: No, they had good speakers, wonderful speakers. One was Garrick,
he was an attorney.
Florence: Iz Garrick.
Waldman: Oh, was he a speaker. And the other one was Mr. Silman. It was
pleasure to listen to. Haven’t got anybody like that now.
Interviewer: No, it’s hard to imagine there aren’t any more of that
Waldman: They were just a pleasure to listen to.
Interviewer: They were totally dedicated.
Florence: The Columbus Hebrew School.
Interviewer: Yeah, what about the Columbus Hebrew School?
Waldman: All my life I belonged. Stavsky just told me a few weeks ago in shul,
he said, “Remember in ’63 we were together about a year?” I was a
Interviewer: You fought for what was right?
Waldman: I had fights with Stavsky, in 1963, he remembered. He said we
were still good friends.
Interviewer: Well, because you believed in something and wanted to do
Waldman: Well, I’ll tell you something. We had Hazzan Gellman,
he was a sherpa and a moel. And they had a hazzan down
there and he was kind of jealous of Hazzan Gellman. And he was going
around and talking about Hazzan Gellman and this and that and it wasn’t
good and we had a meeting and I gave it to him.
Interviewer: This is politics, Phil.
Waldman: I know it was politics but it was wrong. Gellman, havashalom,
was a wonderful guy. He didn’t know how to have no money, this he didn’t
Interviewer: Well, he didn’t have that kind of skill.
Waldman: We didn’t pay him. We paid him $1500 a year.
Interviewer: He was a wonderful hazzan; we all loved him. He had
the voice of a real hazzan.
Waldman: He was my best friend. I’ll tell you about another problem. I
forgot who was batorah, he got sick. I think it was Goddard; he’d read
Interviewer: Batorah is someone who reads the Torah?
Waldman: Yeah. He got sick. So Rubenstein said to Hazzan Gellman,
“You can read the Torah.” Because he was sick or something. He
didn’t know how to read the Torah. So he was such a good friend, he
said, “Do me a favor you read the Torah.” We sat there. We get
through and Rubenstein comes over and says to him, “I told you to read the Torah.”
He says, “But I’m not batorah I can’t read the Torah.”
Interviewer: But he was honest about it. He didn’t want to do something
he knew he wouldn’t do right.
Waldman: Yeah, yeah. See, the Torah reading is very unusual. It’s
memorized, the Torah has no notes. Did you ever see the Torah and
the writing? Unbelievable, everything’s together.
Interviewer: No separation of words?
Waldman: No separation. Sometimes there is a separation. But the
sentences are altogether, and there are notes and you have to memorize it.
Interviewer: Is there a reason it doesn’t have notes or why it’s not
Waldman: I don’t know, nobody knows.
Interviewer: Well, we accept what we have to.
Waldman: Yeah. But it’s got to be memorized. I used to sit here, nights
to memorize. I started learning the Torah when I was 13 years old.
Interviewer: Now you understood what you were reading, not only you knew
the words did you understand what they were, the meaning of what you were
Waldman: Yeah, yeah. They got notes; every word has a note. But the notes
are not there, you have to memorize it. It’s a job.
Interviewer: So, when you learned Hebrew as a youngster, you learned to
read and you learned to read the Torah, did you learn how to understand
it at that time too?
Waldman: We had everything but when we were young men we went to cheder
down there you got to study what you are talking about. You got to know what you
Interviewer: They’re not just words; they’re words with meaning.
Waldman: Meaning, I know what I’m talking about. And every hazzan should
know what he is singing. Singing doesn’t mean nothing if he doesn’t know
what he is saying. And if you don’t understand the words you’re singing, you
mix it up. You jump from one sentence to another. Our hazzan knows what
he’s talking about. He’s a wonderful hazzan; I like Schifman.
Interviewer: Well, he has the Hebrew background.
Waldman: He has Israel in his background and his father was a scholar. I
met him here one time, a terrific scholar. So he’s a hazzan in Israel,
he knows what he’s saying.
Interviewer: Let’s go back a little bit before we get too far. I want
to know more about your family here. You kept talking about your Uncle Harry
Masser. There’s more family than that. How did Harry get to Columbus, Ohio?
Waldman: I’ll tell you what I know. See, he was here before the First
World War. And he was living in Flint, Michigan. He was in the real estate
business. He used to buy land and cut it up in lots and sell people, to buy a
lot to build a home someday. He had a good business in Flint and then he come
over here and bought a piece of land off of James Road. He bought it from Quinn
Milling Company. They’re closed now. They had a lot of land near James Road
and he bought land and he cut it up in lots and sold it. He made a lot of money.
He was a businessman.
Interviewer: Sounds like he had a lot of entrepreneurship. He went into
different kind of businesses. Did he have brothers? No, he was your mother’s
Florence: Sixteen girls.
Interviewer: Sixteen girls in your mother’s family? Sixteen girls and
Waldman: One boy.
Interviewer: Did the others come to the United States? He was the only
one who came. No wonder he had a close tie.
Waldman: He ran away because he didn’t want to go into the army. That
time it was the Russian Army, worse than the Polacks. He left from Russia, there
was no Poland.
Interviewer: I understand that. That’s when my father left for the same
reason. A lot of people did.
Waldman: He was in Poland too?
Waldman: Where from?
Interviewer: Well, Velnageberna.
Waldman: Do you understand a little Jewish?
Interviewer: Yeah, I understand a Jewish.
Waldman: A kid comes over from Velnagorem and says, “Tell me how do
you become a velnagorem?” He says, “Vel know.” You get it?
Interviewer: Yeah, “we’ll know.” He’s making a play on
Waldman: In Jewish “vel know” means “if you want to.”
Interviewer: Now, who did Harry marry?
Waldman: He married a girl from Michigan. Her name was Mary.
Interviewer: And did they have children?
Waldman: Oh, yeah, they had Bob Masser and Shirley. And Jack Masser; he
lives in Detroit right now.
Interviewer: Jack, Bob and Shirley.
Waldman: They live in Delaware, Wilmington, Delaware. He worked for
Dupont, a big engineer. Bob just passed away.
Interviewer: I just wanted to establish who the Massers were. And did you
have other relatives who came to Columbus? George Waldman?
Waldman: Yes. I brought him here.
Interviewer: You brought George here. Tell us about that.
Waldman: After the war, and I used to write letters to whom it may
concern, kept writing Poland and Lublin and Warsaw, every place else. Someone
found my address in a German camp. George Waldman was in a concentration camp
and they gave it to him and said, “Got a letter from your cousin in
Columbus, Ohio.” So he wrote me a letter and I wrote him back a letter and
ask him to tell me your father’s name, your mother’s name, your grandfather’s
name, your grandmother’s name and then I’ll know if you’re my cousin;
which he did. So went to the Silverstein girl who used to work for HIAS,
bringing people in here.
Florence: Dr. Gordon.
Waldman: Dr. Gordon. She was a Silverstein girl; sister to Vince
Silverstein. I went down to her and told her what I wanted to do. I made out the
papers and sent $200.
Interviewer: When was this, after World War II?
Waldman: Oh, yes. He was in the concentration camp; he was 15 years old.
Interviewer: So, it was in the late 40s then?
Waldman: So I brought him over here. Thank G-d, he did wonderful.
Interviewer: Did you help him get established?
Waldman: He worked for Harry Masser. He had a place in Livingston Avenue,
a store, he worked for a while. Then he when and got a job to do remodeling with
Interviewer: Was that Nate?
Waldman: Yeah. He learned the business and became a builder, one of the
best builders you can think of. He’s got about 100 units in Athens, Ohio right
across from the university.
Interviewer: I remember that. He did okay. Thank G-d you brought him
here, you found him. When did you find out what was going on with your family
that you lost your family?
Waldman: I didn’t find out in the war. Couldn’t write, nobody was
there, they were in the concentration camps. Who knows where they were.
Interviewer: So you never heard after that?
Waldman: No body did. In fact, my daughter went to Poland, couldn’t
find any body there.
Interviewer: No signs.
Waldman: She went to the town I was living and the shul, I told
her where the shul was, it was a shirt factory. She brought me a shirt,
not to wear it, but just to know that the shul, they got a shirt factory.
Interviewer: Well, everything changed.
Waldman: Terrible. You know, Poland was the cream of the crop of the
Jewish people, lot of scholars come from there.
Interviewer: They were known for yeshivas.
Waldman: Great scholars come from there. You know Begin?
Interviewer: Menachem Begin?
Waldman: Menachem Begin, he came from Poland. Peretz come from Poland.
Interviewer: Well, how are you feeling? Are you holding up okay? You said
you weren’t going to remember, I think we did okay.
Waldman: Well, it’s a long story, I can’t think of everything.
Interviewer: I think we covered a lot of territory.
Waldman: I think we did.
Interviewer: So what kind of message can you give us with your whole
story? You’re here to tell us about it. Can you give any messages that would
be lasting, memorable, meaningful?
Waldman: I’ll tell you a story that they ask at school. “Who is
the richest man in your family?” So one kid gets up and says, “My
father.” “How come he’s the richest man?” “He lives in
Florida, he’s got a boat, got all kind of Mercedes and you know, and a place
in Washington, you know.”
Interviewer: Material things.
Waldman: “Fine. What’s the next one?” “My father’s got
a big farm, and a 1000 cattle and some other stuff, and people working for him
and everything on the farm.” A Jewish boy or girl gets up, “My father’s
the richest man.” “What’s he got?” “Got nothing but he’s
satisfied with his lot.”
Interviewer: That’s great, that’s great. That’s the important
thing. That’s a beautiful message; that really is. So, are you satisfied with
Waldman: Thank g-d, I’ve got no problems, got a nice wife, nice
wonderful kids, got grandchildren, got two great-grandchildren. What else do you
want? Got a nice house. I go to Agudas Achim. I love them, they love me.
Interviewer: You sure have made your place there. Well, Phil, I think we’re
going to wrap it up. On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society I want
to thank you for the time we have spent together and it’s been interesting.
We’re going to sign off and thanks again. Florence, you contributed too.
End of interview