Interviewer: Alright. This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on September the 26th as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at… something College Avenue. My name is Ron Robins and I’m interviewing the Ziskind sisters, Marcia Herschfield and …
Ellen: Ellen Siegel Pollack.
Interviewer: Ellen Siegel. Yes, alright. So, I’ve been looking forward to this. Marcia and I were talking about this just a second ago and this has been in the works for a long time. We’ve been trying to get together and get this done so I am so pleased that we got this going. So, let’s get started and what we’ll do maybe is start to talk about your family, your grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts and then maybe some things that you might have heard them say about early days in Columbus, places they lived, places they worshipped, those kinds of things and then maybe we’ll go a little further up and talk about you growing up in, wherever you grew up, in Bexley, and some of your reminiscences of being in school in Bexley, the friendships, the things you did and then on to your later life and then maybe some of all of that at the end. I just learned something though. I was talking to Marcia and she said that they are three generations in Columbus. I always thought that their father was born in Europe but he isn’t so let’s start there. He had an unusual nickname. You might tell me how he got that. I thought it had something to do with mud. Of course, it didn’t. So, let’s start and whoever wants to start.
Marcia/Ellen: I think they called him Moti or Motel. His actual Hebrew name was..
Marcia/Ellen: No, that’s his father.
Marcia/Ellen: Oh. He was Mordechai.
Marcia/Ellen: Our grandpa was Yehiel and our father was Mordechai and I think they called him Moti and it became Muddy. It was Anglicized.
Marcia/Ellen: Yeah, the kids in the neighborhood thought that his parents were saying Muddy when they were saying Moti, so pretty much…
Interviewer: But your family’s sort of was blessed with a lot of interesting nicknames. You had an uncle…
Marcia/Ellen: We had an Uncle Doc. We had an Uncle Rebbe and we had an Uncle Coffee, so…his Yiddish name was Kuppel we were told and they ended up calling him Coffee and Doc was a doctor and Bernard was a Rebbe so those were their nicknames.
Interviewer: Did they have any sisters?
Marcia/Ellen: They had four brothers and four sisters.
Interviewer: Who were their sisters?
Marcia/Ellen: Their sisters were…Esther was the oldest and then…
Interviewer: Esther became…
Marcia/Ellen: Esther Wiseman.
Ellen: She had one son named Lawrence Sherman Wiseman but they called him Shimma Lazar.
Ellen: Shimma Lazar and he was best friends with Buzzy Kantor. They were inseparable when they were growing up. They were very close and then we don’t know what order the sisters were in because they never wanted anyone to know their age, in fact it was a deep dark secret. I will tell you a cute story about my daughter Vickie. When she was five years old, my dad’s three sisters were living, the were sitting on the couch together. One passed away and she said, “ Who’s the oldest?” and there was like a dead silence. Nobody said anything so then she thought about it for a minute and then she said, “Well, who was five first?” and they still didn’t tell here so it’s deep dark secret. We don’t know but one was Priscilla…Peshky. One was Anne and one was Ruth but her name was Anchie and she was the baby in the family. The questionable order was whether Anne was older than Priscilla or Priscilla was older than Anne. Esther we know was the oldest and Anchie was the youngest.
Interviewer: What did the other two… who did they marry and what did…
Ellen: Anne married a man named Morris Vexler and she moved to Wooster, Massachusetts and lived there for most of her adult life and then after he passed away, she ended up moving back to Columbus. They had no children. Priscilla never got married. Anchie was married and has twins, one of whom just passed away this last year. They’re a year younger than I am. Michael and Gail Pearlman. Their name is Pearlman and they grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, but my father had everybody move back here so he could take care of them.
Ellen: He was a caretaker.
Interviewer: He was a neat guy. I have to say for the record. I did know her dad and he was a neat guy. What about your grandparents? Did you know them? Were they still alive when you were… or were they already gone?
Marcia: My father’s parents died before we were born. I think on the same day only a different year, like a year apart.
Ellen: A year apart.
Marcia: In March. They both have the same date on their tombstones and they’re buried in the Old Agudas Achim Cemetery… Not probably where they were originally buried because you know they have moved those headstones around, but…
Interviewer: You think they’re actually under there?
Ellen: Well, somewhere…
Marcia: Supposedly but the vandalism, there’s been vandalism so it’s been a problem…
Interviewer: It has been a problem.
Marcia/Ellen: and then…
Interviewer: Do you know where they came from? I know they came from Europe but do you know where in Europe they came from?
Interviewer: They were Lithuanians.
Ellen: I think Cousin Gloria (Ziskind-White) said Volkevich. That’s what Dad used to say and they, my grandmother, our grandfather came first and then she came later. And Gloria also said, he came with 3 brothers. We don’t know anything about his brothers and his name was Ishishke, Yehiel Ishishke, and they changed it to Ziskind at, at, when he got to Ellis Island.
Interviewer: That’s very interesting, yeah.
Ellen: He was, knew the London family and he worked in their matzo business in New York. At Pesach he would go back to New York and he would work in the matzo business and our aunts used to say that he brought home beautiful new clothes for them to wear for Passover after he worked there, so… I have no idea what years those were.
Interviewer: That must have been the early 1920’s.
Ellen: Yeah and then our grandmother, and Gloria told me this I think, she took a raft across a river…
Marcia: I didn’t know that.
Ellen: I didn’t know anything about that, but she was deterred from emigrating and then she finally took this raft to get a boat and she brought Uncle Doc and Aunt Esther I think.
Marcia: Well, the only two born in this country were Anchie and Dad.
Ellen: Everybody else was born in Europe.
Marcia/Ellen: My dad was the second youngest and Anchie was the youngest.
Interviewer: Now, what about your mom?
Marcia/Ellen: We know very little about our mom’s family.
Interviewer: Isn’t that sad there’s nobody to ask anymore.
Marcia/Ellen: I know and at the time when we could have asked, we…
Interviewer: …you weren’t interested.
Interviewer: That’s…all of us have the same, all of us.
Marcia/Ellen: That’s so, yeah.
Marcia/Ellen: Yes, we have a lot of regret about that but she, she grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She met my dad at Ohio State.
Ellen: They were fixed up. They were very big on fixing people up because they were fixed up and, my dad… Freddie Luper told me that my dad fixed up his mother and father.
Marcia: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Ellen: Did you know that? He told me that, but my mom’s father, this was the story we always heard, came to this country by himself when he was like 12 years old and it was on Thanksgiving Day. They just sent him and he was supposed to, I think, find a first cousin in New York and he didn’t have anything to eat and he was alone, and ultimately he did find these cousins, but for him, Thanksgiving was the most important holiday and he always made it very special and elaborate because he remembers coming to this country on that day and having nothing.
Interviewer: And what was your mom’s maiden name?
Marcia/Ellen (both): Zipkin. Z-i-p-k-i-n.
Interviewer: So, a Zipkin married a Ziskind.
Interviewer: And do you know her Hebrew name?
Ellen: Lesha. Lesha bat Feivel and Devora.
Interviewer: OK. Alright so, now do you, did your dad talk about early days in Columbus because he was certainly here when the whole thing was getting started – the “Old Agudas Achim,” the “Old Neighborhood,” the old friends, some of that local history that’s going to get to be lost pretty soon.
Marcia: When my son interviewed him, he said that he lived at 405 Donaldson Street and he said it was a three bedroom house and the four girls had one bedroom and the four brothers had another bedroom and across the street there was Reb Heschel who we think was a Schottenstein and they had a milk cow and a cholent oven in their back yard and they would use the cholent oven every Shabbos and he said on Saturday afternoons he’d go to the old Carnegie Library. They’d walk there and that’s what they would do on Saturday afternoons.
Ellen: But then he also told us one story that on Shabbos when everybody was sleeping, he and Harold Schottenstein would push the car out of the driveway. I don’t know whether it was Harold’s car – I don’t think it was my parents/my grandparents’ – down the alley so no one would hear that they started the car on Shabbos and then they would go do whatever they were doing and then get back before everybody woke up from their nap.
Interviewer: Thank you for blowing my image of your dad.
Ellen: Well, he had a little bit of the devil in him.
Interviewer: Oh, my gosh. OK. Anything else that he remembered back…? I think the old Beth Jacob was on Donaldson so that must have been…
Marcia: Two shuls were, they said it was near or was this on Champion Avenue? They moved to Champion Avenue and he said he went to Roosevelt Junior High and, I think he, and I never heard this story ‘til I read this in my son’s book, he had a Hebrew tutor, on, when he was growing up that was sick and taught him from his bed. He never got out of bed and we can’t figure out who that could have been.
Interviewer: Hmm. They didn’t have a…? I don’t know, they should have had a Hebrew school at the time. The shuls probably had…
Marcia/Ellen: They probably did but who knew?
Interviewer: I don’t know. Yeah. Was he always at Agudas Achim or did he…?
Interviewer: He was always at Agudas Achim.
Marcia/Ellen: They’ve always been Agudas Achim and I guess both shuls were close to each other.
Interviewer: Yeah, one was on Donaldson and one was on Washington.
Marcia: Right. Right. He said the two shuls were very close.
Interviewer: And he remembers going? Does he remember anything about going there on the holidays?
Marcia: Well, he, it isn’t in here but I’m sure…
Ellen: I remember before we moved the Agudas Achim to Bexley, being in the social hall and they had long tables and they had white paper on them and I remember that there was a balcony. That’s all. I had to be very little because we moved to Bexley when I was, at the end of my first grade.
Interviewer: OK, so you started at Bexley. And you did, too Marcia.
Marcia: No, I was, I’m younger, so, I, yeah, I started, I never, I went…
Interviewer: You didn’t start…no…
Ellen: I was never… I went to Fairwood…
Interviewer: Did you go to Fairwood to begin with?
Interviewer: So, what grade did you…?
Interviewer: First grade
Marcia: …says here half of second.
Ellen: Was it half of second?
Ellen: I always thought it was first grade.
Marcia: Yeah, but according to this…
Ellen: Jeremy’s probably right.
Interviewer: You might consider sharing that with the Historical Society. They would probably enjoy…
Marcia: Well, I hate to give it away but maybe they could…
Interviewer: No, no they can digitize it.
Marcia: Oh, so maybe I could leave it here and then they could…
Interviewer: … digitize it. Yeah, ok. Alright, and how about his brothers? Do you know anything about the family? His brothers and sisters, get togethers, big seders, big, uh, that kind of stuff?
Ellen: Doc Ziskind always had…my Aunt Tillie always had the first night of every holiday and Coffee’s wife had the second night of every holiday, and my aunt…
Interviewer: This is Ellen speaking now.
Ellen: Aunt Tillie was a wonderful cook and we really loved going to her house and for Pesach, lots of times our cousins would come in from out of town, from St. Paul and of course, Joel and Gloria Zisskind were there, that’s Coffee’s kids. Susan Portman, Susan Ziskind was an only child. She was the oldest. Sometimes Steven Zelkowitz, her cousin would be there. Sammy and Sharon Weiner would be there sometimes because Abe Weiner was Tillie Ziskind’s brother. So, those were fun times and the cousins got very wild. We always had to sit at a different table. They sang the old Yiddish tunes for all the songs and we had to sit and wait until it was our turn and then we sang all the songs we learned in Hebrew school with the modern tunes, and now, at our seders all our kids the old time songs so, we basically sing all the old Yiddish songs that our parents and our father and uncle used to sing.
Interviewer: Can you do the Four Questions in Yiddish?
Ellen: No. No, they’re really, it’s really the songs at the end.
Interviewer: Chad Gadya
Interviewer: Adir Hu…
Marcia/Ellen: Right. The actual telling of the story they would just read in Hebrew without stopping and in a kind of a chant. The four brothers would read it together, with just straight through without any talking.
Ellen: And because Abe Weiner didn’t’ really read Hebrew, he always read something in English.
Interviewer: Really? Even in those days?
Marcia/Ellen: I don’t think…I think, and every once in a while, somebody would read one thing in English just to be respectful of that person but they really weren’t interested in…they just wanted to get it done.
Interviewer: Well, the whole family
Marcia/Ellen: Well, yeah, I’m sure that’s the way their parents…
Interviewer: I was going to say the whole family is very observant and it’s, you know, it’s not unusual that they would all do that.
Ellen: But we, we were wild. We, the kids would run. My cousin…
Marcia: We’d play Hide and Go Seek.
Interviewer: During the seder?
Ellen: Well, afterwards, when we were really young.
Marcia/Ellen: We ate fast and then we got up and played.
Interviewer: ‘Course, most of the heavy lifting comes before you eat, so yeah…
Marcia/Ellen: Yeah, right.
Interviewer: So yeah, OK, alright. How many would there be about?
Marcia/Ellen: Maybe eighteen, something like that.
Ellen: But when did our mother take over because, well, I think after Aunt, after Aunt Tillie and Uncle Doc moved out of their house on Linwood their house wasn’t big enough and so my mother…
Interviewer: The one in Eastmoor?
Marcia/Ellen: Yeah and by that time he was sick…
Marcia/Ellen: So, my mother took over.
Interviewer: OK and Coffee? Tell me a little bit about Coffee ‘cause I think the next interview I’m going to do sort of ties into what Coffee did and where he lived and where he did it, so tell me a little bit about Coffee.
Marcia/Ellen: Well, I think growing up he was always interested in being a history major and he was a history major and he was getting his masters in history and I think he wanted to teach but he had heart problems and I think he was diagnosed with a very serious and debilitating diagnosis. I, he never felt that he really was going to live very long and I think that had a real impact on how he lived his life and so, he never really finished. I don’t know whether he was married and he had to work and had a job and everything but then he had the store on Mt. Vernon Avenue and that’s basically what his livelihood was.
Interviewer: After the Jewish holidays, after this I wanted to get ahold of Sonny Romanoff who…
Marcia/Ellen: Oh, right.
Interviewer: …was probably the last Jew on Mt. Vernon Avenue.
Marcia/Ellen: Well, didn’t, did Sonny buy his business?
Interviewer: Yeah, I think so.
Marcia/Ellen: Yeah, Sonny bought his business.
Marcia/Ellen: Yes, he did.
Interviewer: Yeah so, I’d like to do something about Mt. Vernon Avenue and that was a sort of a vibrant Jewish area for sure.
Marcia: Oh, for sure. Did anybody ever interview Marvin Bonowitz, because that would be a shame…?
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Marcia: …because I know he did a lot of interviewing himself. He was very active in Mt. Vernon Avenue…
Interviewer: In the Mt. Vernon thing…yeah, that was a big deal.
Ellen: But Joel Ziskind really could tell you and he lives in California.
Interviewer: You guys are doing a good job, I have to tell you.
Ellen: He really knows everything about Mt. Vernon Avenue.
Marcia: And so does Gloria. They used to hang out in the store a lot. He did. Joel did for sure.
Interviewer: Did you ever go there? Do you remember the store?
Ellen: I vaguely remember.
Ellen: It was just dark and old stuff. I just remember a bunch of old stuff.
Interviewer: It smelled moldy. OK. I think that pretty much…is there anything else I’m missing here? Do you think that there’s some things that you wanted to tell us about…family stuff?
Marcia/Ellen: Well, the thing that we were always impressed with is the fact that every one of these eight children got a college education in a time when…
Interviewer: …that was unusual.
Marcia/Ellen: …it was very, very unusual and they went on, the four brothers went on and either got an advanced degree…one was a doctor, one was as a lawyer, one was a rabbi and one was working on his master’s degree and so they… and the sisters, three of the sisters taught, were…became teachers so, I think, in that sense, their parents were unusual in the fact that they didn’t have a lot of money but they saw to it that their kids all got advanced education.
Interviewer: That was a big Jewish thing, I think. Education was a…
Marcia: …and our father graduated high school. He was 14.
Ellen: He went to Ohio State when he was 14. He was wearing knee pants.
Marcia: …’cause he went to summer school every year and, I think, they said he was the youngest person admitted into the law school, ‘cause he finished college very early, too.
Interviewer: I did not know that.
Marcia/Ellen: …and then…
Interviewer: I thought I knew him.
Ellen: …he couldn’t practice law because he was too young to take the Bar. I think he graduated law school and was, like, nineteen, so, he had a year and half or two before he could take the Bar so he worked for Harry Gilbert and in the shoe store and…
Marcia: …sold shoes.
Ellen: …with a bunch of other guys and they used to shoot craps in the alley. That’s what he said they did in their spare time when business was…
Interviewer: …blow their, blow their salary. Alright, so that sort of covers a little bit of that.
Interviewer: …and so, move along and talk about growing up in Bexley, going to school in Bexley, some of your memories, some of the, some of the friends you had, some of the things you did, some of the groups you were a part of, so who wants to lead off with that? Ellen, do you want to go first?
Ellen: I guess I will go first. I had a terrific class at Bexley. It was, there were a lot of smart kids in it and they were lots of fun people. I mean, it was really fun being part of that class and, I think, from and intellectual standpoint, when we were in high school, everybody kind of promoted that. You didn’t have, you could still be smart and be popular in our class and there wasn’t that big of a division between who was popular and who was smart as in some classes, there was. You know, if you weren’t, you didn’t have to be an athlete to be respected and have…and so, we had a lot of fun. Some of my best friends were Michael Friedman who doesn’t live here anymore. He was very liberal, became a Communist for a while and then many years later became a lawyer. I think he lives in Detroit now. Buddy Tannenbaum, Barbara – the twins, Frankie Kass, Steve Tuckerman, Colman Kahn, Donny Ruben – Blair and Buddy Ruben’s son – He lives in England now. He’s a professor. And of course, Bruce Siegel whom I married and he was my boyfriend from the time I was, well, we were all friends, his sister Debbie was one of my good friends. We were all friends from the time we were kids. He moved here in fourth grade and Frankie Kas, when we were in junior high school said, “I think you should go to…” He told Bruce he should ask me to a dance, The Presidential, which I think was one of the sorority dances, so he took me to that dance and we started dating in our junior year in high school and then we got married, right, two weeks after we were out of college and he went to Ohio State Medical School. We already had two kids by that time.
Interviewer: Oh, is that right? You had kids in school? You were married when he was in med school?
Ellen: Yeah. I’d had, my kids are a year and thre days apart and they were born on junior and senior and he wanted, really wanted to go away for his internship and I said I can’t do that with two little kids to a strange city. We had both of our parents here and our parents were wonderful, wonderful grandparents, really. I mean our kids had the most terrific life because of that. They, we always spent Shabbos every other week at one grandparents’ house and then the kids would sleep over there.
Interviewer: Did they Siegels do some for Cha..Shabbos?
Ellen: They did.
Interviewer: Did they?
Ellen: …and they made their house kosher for me
Ellen: …and you know Gilbert was a staunch…
Interviewer: …Reform Jew.
Ellen: …Reform Jew, but….
Interviewer: ‘course her father was Moishe at the, at the…
Ellen: Well, that was his first wife’s father.
Ellen: Bruce’s, she died young…
Interviewer: Oh, right.
Ellen: …and Debbie, Rozi and Seyril were all sisters. Bruce was their step-brother…
Ellen: …and he remarried Minnie Greenfield was her maiden name and then, Minnie Tushban.
Marcia: She was from Dayton.
Ellen: …and she was from Dayton…and Freda Kauffman fixed them up. Freda was her aunt and lied about her age ‘cause I think she was a year and a half older than my father- in- law and he probably never would have married her. So, it was great. Growing up in Bexley was looking back on it I realize that it probably wasn’t great for everybody as it never is in high school but I found it a very fun place to be and I think I got a good education. Yeah, so I was happy about that.
Interviewer: OK. And now Marcia.
Marcia: Well, I started…
Marcia: Well, pretty much ditto, but I did go to kindergarten here and I had the notorious kindergarten teacher by the name of Miss Barbara. She had generations after generations, and I, too had a lot of strong academic kids in my class and a lot of them are, are still in Columbus. Bobbie Greene was in my class, Mike Talis, Sandy Erkis, I’m trying to think of, Diane Mathless, Leonard Mathless. These were all…and we were all really close. There was a group of us that was, remained pretty traditional. We went to Agudas Achim. We all stayed out for all the Jewish holidays together and we just had a really core group of good friends.
Ellen: Norma and Nancy.
Marcia: Yeah, my two best friends were Norma Meizlish and Nancy Nathans. Nancy’s maiden name…
Ellen: It’ll come to me.
Marcia: Herman, Nancy Herman.
Marcia: So, Norma doesn’t live here but Nancy does. So, and I think, we’ve had our fiftieth reunion. I think it’s fifty-two years maybe? and every time we meet, we talk about how growing up in the Fifties in Bexley was pretty idyllic. I mean, kids, you were totally free to walk around, to walk to Rubinos after the football games. We used to have before…we had to eat home on Friday night dinner. It was a requirement that we had Shabbos dinner at home but after dinner, once we ate together, we were allowed to go to the football games and…
Ellen: …and even, they used to have spreads…
Marcia: I was just going to say that, right, which were dinners they would have before the game and we had to eat home but we were allowed to show up at the end of that and then go to the game.
Ellen: Our mother would give us an early Shabbos dinner before we left so we could go to our friends’ house and then go with them to the game.
Interviewer: Was it difficult, now staying out the second day of the Jewish Holidays, you staying out for some…did you encounter any kind of problems with that? Did teachers give you any blow-back?
Ellen: I don’t think so.
Marcia: No, I think we were very fortunate in the fact that there was a group of us, so, particularly in my class. Ronnie Shkolnik was another one and Joel Seiferas and these were kids that were all traditional…
Interviewer: Those were all traditional…
Marcia: …traditional kids and they all stayed out for the Holidays.
Ellen: I didn’t have as many but you just did your work. There was no thought that anyone was going not have school on first day of Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur like they do now. I mean it’s amazing.
Interviewer: It is amazing. It is.
Ellen: ‘cause now they don’t have school.
Interviewer: They don’t have school.
Marcia: But they did.
Interviewer: …and they don’t schedule football games or anything like that.
Ellen: That’s just very respectful.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah, but you would think that’s it’s only Bexley but…
Ellen: No, New Albany didn’t have school on Rosh Hashana.
Marcia: My kids out of town, they don’t have school on Rosh Hashana. My son lives in a suburb of Boston that isn’t a particularly religious sub, you know, community, but they didn’t have school on the first day of Rosh Hashana, either, Arlington.
Ellen: Right. I’ll tell you another fun thing was the Excelsior Club.
Interviewer: Oh, yeah. Tell us about it.
Ellen: Well, we went there every day. We did not go to camp. We had, our cousins from St. Paul used to come in the summer and stay with us for months it seemed like, and so, we did not go to camp or day camp or out of town or anything like that so we went to the pool every single day. At 12:00 our mothers would play cards. We’d have a ticket book. We got our lunch. Sometimes we would even come back after dinner to swim. We were on the swimming team. No air conditioning so that that was what we did, if it was a really, really hot summer night. It was open ‘til 9:00 so you could go back and cool off.
Interviewer: Did you ride your bikes over?
Marcia: No. I think our mother drove us.
Ellen: We might have taken the Bexley bus, too.
Interviewer: Didn’t you live on Columbia then?
Marcia/Ellen: No. We lived on Ardmore, 50 South Ardmore.
Ellen: It wasn’t even that long of a walk. We could’ve walked but we never would have done that.
Marcia: Well, but Mom was going…
Marcia: … and she was playing cards and so, she, we went with her usually. That was…but pretty much unsupervised. We were, you know, running around all day long, I always say, no sunscreen, no hat, no nothing ‘cause in those days you didn’t and we were there all day every day during the summer.
Interviewer: Do you remember that some of the girls would use iodine and baby oil?
Marcia: Oh, yeah, and those shields.
Interviewer: ‘Cause I went there in the summer.
Ellen: Well, and I remember Lou Goldfarb and what was the other guy, uh…
Ellen: Oh, Ben Tolpen and they had chairs in the same place by the deep end…
Interviewer: Everybody had their places.
Marcia: That’s right. Every day they were there.
Interviewer: Those were good days.
Ellen: We had a lot of fun.
Marcia: It was a lot of really fun.
Interviewer: Well, that was high school so then you go to college and Ellen went to…
Ellen: And so, did Marcia.
Interviewer: Oh, you did?
Ellen Yep, we had a whole crew from our family that went to Northwestern. I did, Marcia did. Josh Portman, David Portman?
Ellen: David Portman, Debbie Siegel, Stevie Siegel. My son Steven went there. So, we…
Marcia: Jesse got her masters at Northwestern and Bob, my husband, got his PhD at Northwestern. That’s where I met him.
Interviewer: Oh, is that where?
Interviewer: And you met Bruce in Columbus in high school.
Ellen: Well, fourth grade when he moved to Columbus.
Marcia: I was an undergraduate, actually a freshman at Northwestern when I met Bob who was in graduate school getting his PhD in physical organic chemistry, which he did get and then after that, well, he did two post-docs before he went to medical school, so, he had a long training.
Interviewer: And then you married and now tell us about, you know, coming back to Columbus, starting a house here, starting a family, what was that like?
Ellen: Well, for me it was like being in the womb ‘cause I had kids and my parents, both of our parents were here as I said. The kids went to the Jewish Center Preschool and when, during the summers I always worked at the Jewish Center as a day-camp counselor so that was my only job.
Marcia: As did I.
Ellen: When I graduated from college I taught for two years and then I got pregnant and had my kids and then I did not go back to work, but when the kids were little I wasn’t working and I was just very involved in the community, ‘cause I worked for Torah Academy and I was very active in the Federation and went through all the positions in the Federation, Young Women’s Young Matrons chairperson, Women’s Division chairperson and eventually Federation President, and was lucky enough to be in the Wexner Program for the initial Wexner/Heritage Program where he started his leadership training for lay leaders and then we continued studying in that group, the original group continued studying for about four or five years after.
Interviewer: Who was in that group?
Ellen: Well, let’s see: Danny Kayne, Bobbie Schottenstein, Norman Traeger, me, Bernie and Miriam Yenkin, Dennis Mellman of blessed memory, who else? Oh, the Genshafts. There were, I think, 15 of us. Can’t remember everyone else, but that was a phenomenal experience, so that was a, really a way of sort of managing my interest in the Jewish community which I really had until I went to graduate school after my kids went away to school, I applied to graduate school but then Bruce died that year in 1988 so I had just been accepted to graduate school and I was going to go full-time but I really, emotionally, wasn’t up to that so, in the fall of ’88, I decided to go part-time so it took me three years to get a master’s in social work and then I went to work at Children’s Hospital from ’91 until 2000 and had really a wonderful job there. I really loved it. It was a great second part to my life, totally different from anything.
Interviewer: You want to tell us a little?
Ellen: Well, I worked as a social worker in the dialysis and transplant unit for kidney disease so, it was a team and it was one of the first medical teams that was really, got its blessing from the government because when people were, when dialysis was invented or discovered, it was felt that it wasn’t a cure but it was a way to keep life going for a chronic illness but they needed a doctor, the nurses who were in charge of the dialysis, a dietician because that had a lot to do with the medical care, a social worker, so it was a team thing. I was actually the oldest one on the team but I really loved the doctors that I worked with. One was Marc Mentser who eventually left and moved to California but he was a wonderful doctor and I had just a terrific experience. I loved working with kids. I had done that all my life anyway and I had a lot of life experience which I brought to the job because I was a lot older than everybody else. I was already in my fifties when I got my master’s, so that was just a wonderful career and then in ’99 I met Art Pollack and I took a leave of absence from the job and then I was married in 2000 and then really most of my life I was a resident of Florida for sixteen years.
Interviewer: One thing we haven’t talked about, you haven’t said the names of your children or how many…We need to get that little naches in there.
Ellen: Vickie Siegel is married to Tom Hymanson and they’ve been married for 22 years. They live in Minneapolis. They have a daughter Alex, Alexandra Bryce named after Bruce. She’s a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin. They have a son Jack and he is a senior in Minneapolis in high school and they have Olivia who is going to be twelve and she’s in sixth grade at the Minneapolis Jewish Day School.
Interviewer: Oh, they were Day School kids. And how about Marcia’s family now?
Ellen: Well, you didn’t cover Stevie.
Ellen: Stevie, Steven Laurence Siegel, Stevie to us and mostly everybody else, married Jennifer Schwartz who was originally from Dayton but her parents moved to Columbus when she was in college and they have two kids. He wasn’t, he was 37 when he got married so, at age 50, he now has a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old. So, he’s very busy
Ellen: …and Jennifer was a pharmaceutical representative and as that job started to dry up, she decided to go back to school so she is entering Mt. Carmel School of Nursing for the accelerated program for people who’ve already got an undergraduate degree and she’s been taking all the pre-requisites for that and she’s starting January first.
Interviewer: Great, so I wasn’t counting. You’re not supposed to count, so about how many grandchildren do you have?
Ellen: Well, I have five of my own and then when I married Art, he had five grandchildren. They are all now married. I have nine great-grandchildren.
Ellen: So, I have a really wonderful family.
Interviewer: Are you close with Art’s grandchildren?
Ellen: His granddaughter, Hallie Raskin, lives in Bexley and she has Sandra and Ayla, two little ones. She’s the head of the Bexley Community Foundation. She’s the exec, so, she’s now part of the Shabbos crew.
Interviewer: What’s the Shabbos crew?
Ellen: Well, every, Marcia and I, we still do Shabbos for whomever’s available of the kids so, we alternate weeks and…
Interviewer: What’s your favorite dish to make?
Marcia: Well, we make a lot.
Interviewer: Who’s the better cook?
Ellen: We each have our specialties.
Marcia/Ellen: Yeah, right.
Interviewer: And yours is…?
Ellen: Chopped liver. We don’t have it every week anymore but we used to when we were growing up.
Marcia: But we do make all our mother’s recipes for the Holidays. We make gefilte fish. We make all the baked things that she made and we do it together so it’s a…
Interviewer: It’s nice, it’s sort of nice when sisters are together.
Marcia: It is. We are lucky. We feel very grateful for that. Very grateful.
Interviewer: Yeah, Now, your family.
Interviewer: So, you were married when?
Marcia: Well, I was married as a junior in college and I finished, I had only one more semester to go which I did my student teaching and we stayed in Evanston until Bob finished his PhD and then Bob did a post-doc in New Haven at Yale and at the end of that post-doc he decided to do another post-doc with another PhD with another chemistry faculty at Yale and at the end of that post-doc he decided he didn’t want to get a job in chemistry so he decided to apply to Yale Medical School and he got in on the wait list the week before – because he was old – the week before school started and then we stayed in New Haven all those years for his post-doc until he finished medical school and at that point, if he had been a chemist I would have moved wherever he wanted to move but since he was going to be a doctor, we could easily go back to Columbus and he had a very, very close relationship with Ellen’s husband Bruce and they were really like brothers and so, he was…
Interviewer: How did that happen?
Marcia: Just through the family…
Ellen: We just had fun together. Bruce is very intellectual and Bobbie is really very intellectual and they had a lot in common and we did all the holidays together and so they just became very close so…
Interviewer: …and they went into practice together too.
Marcia: …and so Bob came back to go into practice with Bruce and unfortunately it was not very many years and Bruce passed away, so, but then we remained in Columbus and we had two children. Our oldest son is Jeremy and he’s married and he has two little girls, Lila and Zoe and they are five and one and he’s married to Rachel who is a lawyer and they live in Boston, and my daughter is, she’s married also to a lawyer so both my kids are teachers married to lawyers and my son has two little girls and my daughter has two little boys. They’re ten and seven and tey live in Chicago and we like to get them home for all the holidays and we try to continue to do all the holidays together, Ellen’s family and my family so, we, we are busy cooking a lot of the time.
Interviewer: I want to hear some of these recipes. You know, it seems to me that you have a sort of a unique relationship and I would think that it might be interesting for you to comment about how, what do you think that went in to this recipe for the two of you to be that close? You know a lot of sisters aren’t so close. A lot of families aren’t so close. This sounds like this is a very close-knit family. It sounds like it always was a very close-knit family so, it might be interesting for future generations who might be hearing this, you know, someday, what’s the secret?
Ellen: I’m older and my father used to, my mother and father which they didn’t do often would go someplace and they wanted me to take her along and I’d always be so ticked off and she didn’t want to go either because she knew I didn’t want her but she’s also four years younger and she really didn’t have anything in common with any of my friends. My father always said to me, “You have one sister. I don’t care how good your friends are. All these other people they don’t mean a thing to you but your one sister,” and really, he was so right and really it’s just amazing. I think part of it was that the values in our family, first of all our parents were united and what they felt was important and if they didn’t agree, it wasn’t in front of us, for the most part and family was like right at the top.
Marcia: Number one.
Ellen: My dad would do anything for his family and often did and at the expense sometimes of my mom and really. He used to drive my Uncle Doc around on his calls when he made house calls at night because they were all in the hood and he didn’t think he should go t here by himself, so he didn’t like to drive so my mother had to drive with him and they would sit in the car while Doc made his house calls for these people.
Interviewer: Doesn’t seem like a plan today.
Ellen: I don’t know what they thought they were going to do for him. It’s a joke, but, and if there was a family emergency or somebody was in need, my father was always right on that. He jumped to, rose to the occasion and this is the story that I think is very funny about him. My cousin Shimi, Larry, who was an only child and lived with his mother and my aunt, who was unmarried and she was divorced and the other one was married, he was going to Ohio State and he wanted to be a doctor, so, he liked to play bridge. So, they were only, the two, his mother and his aunt were only worried that he was going to get bad grades and he wasn’t going to get into medical school so they would call my father and say, “He’s not home. We don’t know where he is. He must be playing bridge at the Ohio Union,” and my Uncle Coffee would pick up my father and go up to campus and drag him out of a bridge game like he thought he was doing drugs or human trafficking. You know, it was like the worst thing in the world. They were playing bridge but he was going to get to medical school and they were going to be instrumental in making that happen and he did and he became a very successful surgeon in Detroit, but family came first.
Marcia: …and it was that example. I mean, they set that example and they had those values and those principles and they instilled that in us, but in addition we really like each other so, that’s a nice thing. You know, it isn’t always true but, we really have a lot in common. We share a history and so, we’re happy to do things together.
Interviewer: Now, do you see that going forward to the next generation?
Ellen: They don’t live in the same town which is sad but our kids, when we get together, have the best time. They really do and our kids, my kids and Ellen’s kids, they spent every Shabbos together and slept together at my parents’ house.
Marcia: …so they slept over Friday night…
Ellen: …on the floor in my parents’…
Marcia/Ellen: …on the floor in my parents’ bedroom so those four cousins are like siblings, very, very close and when they come in for holidays, they laugh and they share all these old stories and everything. The question is whether the next generation because they’re spread out are going to have, but they still come in for the holidays so, I think that is something, you know, if you can perpetuate it, that’s a way to do it.
Interviewer: It’s conceivable that somebody could listen to this tape someday and it’s conceivable that the things you’re saying now might resonate with them and that they might, you know, take it to heart.
Marcia: Well, they do like each other. I have to say my four grandchildren that the ten-year-old boy is very loving and very protective of the five and one-year-old cousins, girls, and it’s lovely to see them together because they really do seem to show that they care about each other and they realize that family is important. A ten-year-old boy doesn’t necessarily have to pay any attention…
Ellen: to a five-year-old girl, but when they’re together they seem very close so, hopefully it’ll take.
Interviewer: That, I think, it’s a good interview that we’ve had. I think it’s productive. I think that somebody’s going to want to hear this someday, I hope. Any parting shots? I mean you’ve pretty much covered the bases, but I think it’s a remarkable story and I think it’s one worth recording that these kinds of values, these kinds of families still exist and family’s important.
Marcia: We believe it absolutely.
Interviewer: OK. Well, on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society I want to thank you for contributing to the Oral History Project and this concludes the interview.
Transcribed/completed by Linda Kalette Schottenstein September 11, 2019