This is an interview of Maury Portman for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and it is being on August 4, 1985 by J. Maynard Kaplan. Maury Portman has been one of the most noted members of our community for many years and has occupied positions of strength in the Columbus City Government; has been for some years president of City Council; was a candidate for mayor; is known as the expert in the city on financing and I will let him speak for himself.
Interviewer: You are a transplant; you came here from Cleveland, wasn’t it?
Portman: Yes. I was born and raised in Cleveland. Went to Ohio State in 1934 and went to a few cities in Ohio and came back to Columbus in 1945, after getting out of the service.
Interviewer: What year were you born?
Portman: Was born in 1914 in Cleveland.
Interviewer: So then you left Cleveland to come to Columbus. You were already how old?
Portman: I was 31.
Interviewer: What can you tell us about your background in Cleveland before you came here?
Portman: Well, basically, my education was in journalism and political science, history, in which I got my degree in at Ohio State. And I was a newspaperman. I started in small cities in Sandusky, Ohio. Spent almost four years there and then went back to Cleveland for one of the newspaper then wound up with the Associated Press as a writer, reporter and went into the service from there. When I got back to Cleveland, after being discharged from the service, the Associated Press transferred me to Columbus. That’s how I got back here in 1944. Worked for the AP for a number of years, then switched over to the old Columbus Citizen as a political writer. After leaving the paper to do some other work, I wound up handling the campaign for the previous mayor, Mayor Sensenbrenner, and he was elected and he asked me to become his executive assistant and that’s how I got into politics.
Interviewer: Alright, getting back to your early days in Cleveland, what can you tell us about your parents; what did they do; where did they come from; how long had they been in Cleveland?
Portman: My parents were both born in Russia.
Interviewer: What town?
Portman: They were very reminiscent of “Fiddler on the Roof” as a matter or fact. They came from communities like that. My father talks about a village called Povolich and my mother used to talk about a village called Hudokov, both of which were near Kiev, so I would say that they were from the outskirts of Kiev.
Interviewer: How long have they been in the country; when did they come over?
Portman: My father came here in 1907, young man, and sent for my mother about three years later. They were married in Cleveland, by the way. They knew each other in the old country.
Interviewer: What did your father do?
Portman: My father was a tailor. He started working as an apprentice with a furrier in Russia. He’d get the skins and they would prepare the furs and he was an apprentice to his uncle. And of course he knew tannery as a boy. When he came to this country, he went from New York to Baltimore; he couldn’t find work there. He went from Baltimore to Philadelphia and he wound up in Cleveland where some friends of his told him that Cleveland at one time was the center, next to NY, of the garment industry. So, he wound up in Cleveland working for dress manufacturers.
Interviewer: Were there any relatives of his in the area?
Portman: Not in Cleveland. The people that told him to come to Cleveland, that told him about the job in Cleveland, were the husband of my mother’s step-sister, with whom he was friendly as children. They knew each other in the little towns in Russia and they had come to this country before he did. They had sent for my mother’s father and of course, he was very friendly with them in the old Jewish neighborhood in Cleveland. That’s how– he gradually brought my grandfather over and his brothers, and one brother brought over another brother. World War I interfered with his bringing over his mother, two brothers, and a sister. Incidently, one of the brothers that he helped bring over is the father of Dr. Sam Portman here in Columbus. And my Uncle Harold lives in Akron. But he was one of the brothers that my father brought over after World War I.
Interviewer: When were your father and mother married?
Portman: They were married in 1909 or 1910, right in through there, cause my sister was born in 1911 and she was their first-born.
Interviewer: So, they got married here.
Portman: Oh, yes. He sent for my mother and they were married shortly after she arrived here but they knew each other as children, in the same village.
Interviewer: The area in which you lived in Cleveland, I believe as you mentioned was a Jewish area, it must have been populated with many of the transplants we now have here from Cleveland.
Portman: That’s correct; I was born in the old Woodland Avenue area of Cleveland but only lived there a short time. My parents moved farther out to the east side known as the east 105th Street area, which became the center of the Jewish community for many, many years in Cleveland. There was another Jewish community on the south side of Cleveland called the Kinsman area but the large Jewish population was centered around the 105th Street area. About a five square mile area, not too far from Lake Erie and the Glenbrook High School was, I would say, consisted of about 80% Jewish students of people like Senator Howard Metzenbaum graduated from Glenbrook, Joel Morritz, playwright, graduated from Glenbrook. Willie Gilbert is a graduate of Glenbrook. Oh, there is one very prominent…Jerry Seigel, the innovator of Superman was a graduate of Glenbrook. It was quite a neighborhood of very active in scholarship and in Judaism; the Jewish Center on 105th Street, Practically every corner on 105th Street had a synagogue named after some schtetle in Europe. So, it was a really close-knit Jewish community and we grew up in that atmosphere.
Interviewer: Later on, many years later when you went into politics, did you feel at that time that this was a sudden departure from, perhaps, the game-plan you may have had before or did you, on the other hand, feel maybe there was something in you that leaned towards politics before? And the next question I’m going to ask you is, “Was there anybody in your family earlier who had been so inclined?”
Portman: The answer to the last question is definitely not. My exposure to politics I think was an offshoot of my studies in history in college. And my first job, on the newspaper was in a town of about 25,000 people covering city hall and writing about the political activities in that particular town in northern Ohio. When I got back to Cleveland, when I wasn’t working on the newspaper, in the interim that I did some P.R. for the democratic party in Cuyahoga County writing releases for some of the politicians there. And, I think that’s how I really got exposed to it.
Interviewer: Was journalism your first job? And how did that come about?
Portman: Yes. Well, I was a graduate of Ohio State and I had been in the journalism school although I switched to the Arts College. The journalism school at Ohio State, during those years, was part of the College of Commerce. And I wanted a B.A. Degree and a major in History, particularly American history and foreign policy and things of that nature. So, I switched to the Arts College and that’s how I became interested.
Interviewer: Did you feel at that time that perhaps you were going to stay in journalism?
Portman: Yes, I did. I was very much wrapped up….I did some free-lance writing when I was in Sandusky and Cleveland and, after I got to Columbus. But I became disenchanted after the children were born here and was tired of moving around and got to like Columbus real well and got involved in city government and the years went by and the children grew up and here I am.
Interviewer: Thinking back on your boyhood and your education as a boy, first of all, were there any close friends you had who are now in Columbus?
Portman: Oh, yes. Dr. Guilder and I live on the same street. There’s one but I don’t see very much anymore – Sheldon Levy, I don’t know what happened to him. Maury Blich, who recently passed away, we were in the same club in high school and he stayed in Columbus after he got out of Ohio State. He married Phyllis Kenowitz and..we were close friends.
Interviewer: In those years, did you have any affiliations with synagogue or temple or were there any clubs that you belonged to?
Portman: Oh, yeah. Of course, …you must remember I left Cleveland when I went away to college and my family was a member of an orthodox synagogue and, of course, that’s where I was bar mitzvah in an orthodox synagogue and I took my lessons for bar mitzvah at the old Jewish Center on 105th Street.
Interviewer: How about organizations, were you a member of things like bnai brith, the juniors, or the aza, or the young Maccabees or anything of that sort?
Portman: No, actually, we were not too exposed to those things in those days, as I recall. We had our own club of young men, high school fellows, that went to Glenville. They were all Jews of course, and when I got out of Ohio State, however, and went to Sandusky, I immediately joined the B’nai Brith lodge there and have been a member ever since, since 1937, with a few lapses in between, like moving around. But renewing my membership after I became established in Columbus.
Interviewer: Growing up in your family, there were siblings? Brothers, sisters?
Portman: There was one sister, my older sister, who now lives in Celina.
Interviewer: Is your mother still living or did she pass away?
Portman: My mother passed away in 1974. My father is now at Heritage House; came down here in March.
Interviewer: When you finally came to Columbus, what was the incident that provoked the decision to come here?
Portman: The Associated Press made the decision for me. They were reorganizing their Ohio staff and a lot of fellows were coming back from the service and there was a glut of fellows in Cleveland and they needed more staff in Columbus because they were increasing the operations here and it was more attractive in many ways to come here. It was perfectly alright with me because the opportunities in the journalistic field, at that time with the AP, were much more attractive here because it was the state capitol, having the legislature, and the center of Ohio political activity, and I knew quite a few people here in Columbus, having met them when I went to school, particularly in the journalism field.
Interviewer: And at that time, tho, Columbus was no where near Cleveland in population or in physical size, was it?
Portman: That’s correct. Columbus was a small to medium sized city. It was anywhere from 250 to 300,000 in population and the city limits, I think, I remember the street car stopped at Drexel and Main and Arcadia at High (that’s when they had the street car system). And most of the highly developed areas we know now were in the country, rural.
Interviewer: On the other hand, Cleveland still retained its reputation as being a sophisticated metropolitan city whereas, Columbus in those days, was still regarded at a lower level.
Portman: That’s right. I think there are reasons for that. You’ve got to remember that Cleveland, basically, was populated originally by New Englanders, as was northern Ohio. And, because of that, it became a place where a lot of immigrants from Europe settled during the 1900th century and the early 20th century, primarily because it was a lake port. It became a lake-port because of the iron ore coming down from the Great Lakes and the steel mills that were there. So, it attracted a lot of ethnic people from Europe, Poles, Checks, Hungarians, Jews, so forth. That’s the difference, the sophistication was based primarily on culture and tradition. It became amalgamated into a certain type of characteristics. Columbus, on the other hand, was settled by generally speaking, by people from Appalachia – Virginia, West Virginia, and that area – and although there was an ethnic inflow from Germany, in the middle of the 19th century after the German revolution. There were some other ethnic populations but that’s the difference in type of cities; that’s the why you have such a difference.
Interviewer: In terms of today’s situation, you have many people coming into Columbus being transferred by Borden’s, AEP, and other companies, and you constantly hear talk about the desirability of living in Columbus, vis a vis, the communities they came from, most of the time, New York. And there’s a lot of talk about difference in culture, sophistication, and so on. Were people back in the early 40s, when you came here, were people thinking along those lines when they moved to Columbus or was this something that never occurred to them?
Portman: I think, no; I don’t think it occurred to them. I think people who moved here were generally people who came here because of employment needs. For example, people that came here to work for the state – lawyers; I know a number of lawyers who came down from Cleveland who worked for the Attorney General’s Office and wound up staying here. The same way with other people who worked for various governors who took jobs from other parts of the state and decided they liked Columbus and got job opportunities in law, or accounting and remained. Another large factor was the immense growth of Ohio State University. I know a lot of people who went to school at Ohio State – lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects – and decided why go back to a big city and fight the employment problem when there seemed to be more opportunities in the smaller city. And, the environment. A lot of people were glad to get away from the congestion of a New York or a Philadelphia or a Chicago and preferred the quieter atmosphere that was here in Columbus. And then, there are other factors that happened since that time. As I said, after the War (WW II), Rockwell, for example, which took over North American expanded tremendously. Western Electric moved…they needed a midwestern location and Columbus was ideal because of the political climate, the taxation situation, and so forth. And then there was Battelle, which has become a major attraction for high technology engineers, scientists, and their reputation attracted people from all over the world. So, all those things have made Columbus an attractive city.
Interviewer: In your particular case, when you ultimately moved here, you weren’t moving here cold, like many other people are doing today, you had already been here at the university. How many years transpired between when you left Ohio State and when you came back to Columbus?
Portman: Eight years.
Interviewer: Was there any noticeable change or feeling in the community then, first of all, the general community and secondly, the Jewish community?
Portman: There wasn’t too much change. No. There was an atmosphere of anticipation, I should say. You could see that the city was beginning to change because the war had left certain marks on the city. After all, there was a naval installation at Port Columbus. The Navy owned the property; they were making a lot of parts for the defense, Lockbourne Air Force Base expanded. As I said, there were a lot of Jewish students who remained here; a lot of the local Jewish young people married men who had been in the service and came back to school on the GI Bill. And the congregation started to expand and, there was a noticeable change, because of the war, like many other places in the United States.
Interviewer: You ultimately moved here permanently on what date?
Portman: I came down here on December 1, 1945, to work for the AP. My wife and son joined me a couple of months later.
Interviewer: We haven’t gone over your war experience.
Portman: I was drafted out of Cleveland and I wound up with the 63rd Division – 94th then they transferred us to the 63rd. I wound up in France and Germany, in World War II with the 63rd. We were part of the 7th Army and invaded Germany in March of 1945 with the 7th Army, came up from the south and occupied the Shauer Region and crossed the Rhine at Worms in March of 1945. Would up capturing Heidelberg and wound up outside Augsburg and very sorry to say, had the experience of being one of the troops that happened to break up on. And, anybody that says that there was no such thing as the Holocaust; all they gotta do is ask me and I’ll tell them that I saw the effect of all it. I didn’t get inside the camp but some of my fellow Gis did. If somebody would like a first-hand description, I’d be glad to give it to these people who question the fact that there was such a place as that.
Interviewer: Have you ever run across here in Columbus any people who survived Dachau?
Portman: No, not Dachau, but of course I’ve run into people who survived Auschwitz and other some of the other places.
Interviewer: During your undergraduate here, did you have much exposure with the Jewish community in Columbus?
Portman: Not too much. I was very active with the Hillel Foundation. I used to go there regularly; there were a lot of Hillel plays. I was very friendly with Rabbi Levenger and his wife, who were very marvelous people.
Interviewer: By the way, before I forget it. Who directed the plays for Hillel in those days?
Portman: We had several. Harriet Parker, who directed some plays. I think Paul Lipson directed a few. And then we had a non-Jewish man by the name of Oliver Loud, who incidently married a Jewish woman, Mildred Dworkin; he was a director. And then they had another non-Jewish director who they got from The Strollers. It was a mixed group of talented people. And there were non-Jewish students who participated in some of those plays.
Interviewer: Do you remember any plays that you were in?
Portman: Oh, yeah. I was in Paths of Glory; I was in Six Characters in Search of an Author by Gwen Dillom. I was in Lillian and I was in several other plays. So, I was very active in Hillel plays. As a matter of fact, Maynard, I almost went into the theater of work. When I was in college, I became very much interested in dramatics. I was very interest in dramatics in High School and, there for a while, it was a toss-up between journalism and the theater.
Interviewer: Do you very regret having made the turn in the road that you did?
Portman: Not really. When I look back, it was a hazardous occupation. And, I always felt that unless you made it big, it would be a struggle. And, those were Depression days and, going through adult poverty, would have been compounded, I suppose. But, I sometimes think that, maybe, I should have but those are things that you don’t know anything about.
Interviewer: What other exposure to Jewish community did you have while you were an undergraduate?
Portman: Really not that much. I was very active in Hillel and went to the services there when they had them and that was about it. I knew people who were Jewish but mostly students and their parents. But, frankly, I didn’t have much time because to work when I went through school. I was so busy trying to earn my way during those days that I didn’t have much time for anything else, except the few extra-curricular activities and getting that degree and getting out and getting a job.
Interviewer: The alternate choice that you made for a career seems to indicate that you must have been under the tutelage of some pretty good teachers at Ohio State, in that field at least.
Portman: I’m glad you mentioned that. I had some tremendous professors and I still remember them. I can name them. There was George Washburn, head of the History Department, who was a magnificent teacher. There was Harland Hatcher who taught a course in the Novel, who was a fascinating man. There was George Hammons, with whom I took courses in French literature. And then there was Don Demorest, who was an authority on Flaubert and, as a project paid by the Euclid Administration, I was assigned to him to help him write the book about Flaubert. I did some research for him, took notes for him. Those were some….And there was another professor by the name of McDonald who taught and I took one of his course in Ancient History.
And one of the outstanding professors in those days who I still remember, was Walter Durren, who was an authority on German history. And, during that period, when I took a couple of his courses, was during the Hitler period and had been to Germany several times and told us many interesting anecdotes about the rise of Nazism, the historical origins of Nazism and German militarism. And there was, that was in the senior years, the others, there was an economics professor, who was fantastic. What was his name? Everybody liked him. He was quite a man. I forget his name now. I’ll think of it. But, in those days, I felt that the professors and the instructors I had were outstanding. And left a mark on me for the rest of my life.
Interviewer: What year did you get your degree?
Interviewer: Of course, that was before the great tragedy with Hitler so what you were learning about the Nazi Socialist Party was only in its incipient stage at the time.
Portman: That’s correct. That’s why Walter Durren was such an interesting and valuable teacher because he had been to Germany many times and described the rise of Nazism and practically predicted what was in store. Incidently, George Washburn, who was head of the History Department when I was a student was also an authority on foreign policy and his courses were fascinating. And, he discussed America’s foreign policy in the far east and Europe. And another course I took, which I thought was… I almost forgot about this one, was a professor by the name of Sims, who taught a course on the history of the United States after the Civil War, which most people overlook, between the Civil War and World War I, particularly the history of the South. Then there was another history professor who I thought left a definite impression on me was a man by the name Rosebloom, who taught a history of the American political parties. This man discussed every political convention since the days of Thomas Jefferson, in this country, up to that time which was 1936-37. I kept notes on every one of his lectures and read them and re-read them because he described these conventions in detail and, in journalism, if you’re going into journalism, courses like that are invaluable.
Interviewer: Your involvement in the International Youth Project would indicate you were already well regarded as a writer?
Portman: Yes, I was a news writer with the Lantern at the time and in my senior year, the last couple of quarters I did some free-lancing for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Interviewer: And now jumping forward to when you ultimately came to live here permanently, what was your perception then of the Jewish community in Columbus? Now this is…you’re no longer a student and you’re living in the open community and you must have had different or expanded thoughts from what you had before.
Portman: Yes. There were some very obvious differences between the Jewish community I knew in Cleveland and the Jewish community here. Except for a few families, there was the Lazarus family, the Levy’s, one or two others. Except for families like that, the Jewish community was isolated; they had no apparent or obvious involvement in civic affairs or in political affairs. A Jew in politics in Columbus was a rarity, absolutely almost unknown, maybe one or two that had become involved, people like Bubba Frank and maybe one or two others that I don’t even recall. But that was very obvious. The Jewish community was not involved in any of the civic activities, prominently, or in politics.
Interviewer: So, when you came here, first of all, where did you live? Where was your first residence?
Portman: Well, I couldn’t find a place to live when I first got down here and so I had rented a room on Neil Avenue and started looking around for an apartment and could not find it for Alice and Jeffrey. Jeffrey was not even three years old and so I wound up buying an old house on Cole Street, between Miller and Kimble Place and didn’t have a car; and got a part-time job during the day so I could scrape up enough money to buy a car, which I did. And then we sold the house after about a year and moved out to Brookside Drive, which was a new area. There weren’t even any buses going out there; it was a GI house, story and a half, which a man by the name of Bernard Shingleman was building for Gis. And moved in there in 1947 and lived there nine years til we sold it in 1956 then moved to Cheshire Grove, where we’re living now.
Interviewer: And you’ve been here ever since, since January 1956. Now you’ve already touched upon what you perceived as the difference between the Jewish community then and the Jewish community here now. Can you expand on that a little bit.. And you can talk about personalities, or people you recall, or what they were doing, or what life was like in the Jewish community here in those days.
Portman: Yes, it was obvious that the differentiation between the Orthodox and the Reformed was quite distinct, as well as the residential places that we lived. This is true in many cities but much more obvious, of course, in Columbus because of the relatively small Jewish population here, compared to… The ratio of Jews to the total population is much bigger in a city like Youngstown than it is in Columbus. We used to take about 15,000 Jews in greater Columbus, in a population of almost a million. That’s a pretty small ratio and it’s much larger than other cities like Cincinnati, Dayton, Youngstown, Cleveland, Toledo – so it’s unusual. That was one of the apparent differences that I noticed. The Jewish community here still is not, except for some young people on the fringes, are not prominently identified in political activity. Now it may not be entirely the fault of the Jewish community; they may find them shut out, but there’s no…it’s beginning to change by the way. In the last ten years or so it’s beginning to change considerably, but even so, I think, I think, and I hope I’m not misunderstood when I say this, I think some of the prominent Jewish leaders, financially speaking, don’t encourage it, like they do in other cities.
Interviewer: Have you actually run into this yourself, or are you just surmising?
Portman: I’ve seen religious leaders, I don’t want to name any names but, when I first got involved in politics, I ran smack into it.
Interviewer: Well, do you think that’s changed now?
Portman: I think it’s changed, yes. I think that the financial support of candidates is increased, but even now, Jewish community leaders do not hold in high regard a Jewish politician, as they do in other cities, like New York, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit. They don’t. I think it’s quite obvious. They just don’t care.
Interviewer: Am I to surmise…deduce from that, that you had the feeling at times, when you were running for office, that you were somewhat isolated and not supported?
Portman: Yes, I did. I shouldn’t generalize; there were a very strong effort had to be made to convince people that you needed help. Very frankly, there’s a reluctance to go after political contributions, when you know that some of your Jewish leaders are not too…they keep you at arms length, in many ways.
Interviewer: Do you think that was…I’m not talking about now but back in those days, do you think that that was because of an aversion to politics or the desire to keep a low profile for the whole Jewish community or, perhaps, that the community itself was less affluent than it is now. To what do you attribute this?
Portman: I attribute that to a combination of factors; you can’t just point your finger to one thing. I think one of the factors is that, a lot of people of Jewish persuasion, who don’t want to get involved because they feel they are going to be embarrassed and they are very touchy about it. I think that’s very true because I was told that, bluntly, indirectly by a friend of some Jewish leaders back in the 1950s that they were a little apprehensive about a Jew being prominently identified in politics because it could cause embarrassment to the Jewish community. It’s changing somewhat. I think what will change it. And the Jewish community is not entirely responsible for that feeling. I think an undercurrent of antisemitism and, in politics, like in the ethnic affiliation has a lot to do with it in major cities like in Chicago, Philadelphia, or New York. The blacks go all out for a black candidate in Chicago and other major cities. The Poles go for their ethnic brother or sister, whatever the case may be, but there are not enough Jews in Columbus to have the same effect that they have in these other cities. So, it’s been natural that the Jewish impact in political life here has been very nominal for that reason, cause there’s not that many of them.
Interviewer: Well, I’ve only been here since 1951 so I can’t speak to the years before that but I don’t recall any incidents where I felt that your prominence in politics was any, for any reason, an embarrassment to the Jewish community. Did you, at any time ever feel that anything you did or said was an embarrassment?
Portman: I’m not saying that it happened; I’m saying that there was an apprehension that it could have happened or a fear that it would happen in those days, but I think that’s been dispelled and I think it’s changed. I think it’s changed largely because the Jewish population has increased, the children have grown up and their children, in turn, have become involved and, as the city grows and the younger Jewish people mature and go into the professions, this has changed. We have a Jewish judge; we have Sid Golden; we’ve got Ms Solwels; we’ve got other candidates who have run with good support and this has; myself of course, a Romanoff, and these people are elected on a countywide basis, so it’s changed. But originally it was different.
Interviewer: Now, getting back to your first perceptions. So the Jewish community at the time you landed here was not highly visible in the area of politics and government; how about in other areas? We had Lazarus and I know that we had other merchants. What was your first perception of the community in the commercial sense?
Portman: The Lazarus’s played a great part in civic improvements; they were prominently identified, particularly in social services. The building on State Street for the headquarters for these community service league. Bob Lazarus, Charles Lazarus, his wife, they were prominently identified and they were also active, along with other civic leaders in helping organizations that promoted capital improvements. They helped to organize the new members of the organization that promoted bond issues back in the 1950s; they helped to organize the committee for Greater Columbus. Bob Levy was very active in that and those were the two prominent names. And, in the second tier, there were other Jewish merchants and lawyers who were active in a lot of these civic affairs.
Interviewer: You’re leaning back toward the political area. Your talking about merchants but how they regarded participation in politics and in government. What about across the community as a whole; were the Jews at that time perceived as being the merchants or just some of the merchants, or a few of the merchants. In some communities, they seem to be overwhelming, in terms of being the merchants for the entire community.
Portman: It was that way in Columbus too. When you talk about the Jewish community in Columbus in those days, the first thing that came to mind was F & R Lazarus, The Union. Oh, there was another one I forgot…Madisons? I was thinking of Harry Halfarmers father-in-law. He was head of The Fashion.
Interviewer: You mean Allen Gundersheimer?
Portman: Allen Gundersheimer; that’s the one. He was very active; I’m sorry I forgot his name. They were all active, not only in civic activities, generally in the downtown, so to speak.
Interviewer: And, do you feel that below that top few in that category, that below that there was no involvement at all in civic affairs?
Portman: Very little.
Interviewer: How about by Rabbis?
Portman: The Rabbis were. Yes, I’m sorry. I’m glad you mentioned that. In the old days, there was Rabbi Guph; there was Rabbi Zellizer who was a member of the city recreation commission for years; he was very active in many, many committees and was a friend of many people in political life and in corporate cultural life of the city for many, many years. And then there was another Rabbi during the 1930s, who had a radio program who was highly regarded.
Interviewer: Was he a Reform Rabbi?
Portman: Yes, he was a Reform Rabbi. I can’t think of his name right. Rabbi Tarshish. He was a personality in this city and highly regarded by all segments of the community because of his programs on the air.
Interviewer: In those early days, I suppose you were affiliated with a Synagogue, soon after you got here?
Portman: Yes, as soon as Alice and Jeffery arrived, I joined the Tifereth Israel.
Interviewer: And you’ve been there ever since? What ever affiliations did you make?
Portman: Well, I re-joined the B’nai Brith and Jewish War Veterans and that’s about it.
Interviewer: Are you still a member of the Army Reserve?
Portman: No. Well, if you’re talking about Jewish Affairs, I’m a member of the American Legion and, for a while, I was a member of the VFW, but I’m not a member now. I was a member of the Kiwanis Club and I was in organizations affiliated with city government, like the NAA Foundation, etc.
Interviewer: As you look back on your early days here, are there any personalities that you want to invoke who left a lasting impression on you and who are really a part of the fabric of the Jewish community history, even though they may not have been prominent in these other ways that we’re talking about?
Portman: You’re talking about Jewish people? I think that Rabbi Levenger at Ohio State, Rabbi Kaplan, who is succeeding him, Charles Lazarus; I didn’t know Bob Lazarus very well. Allen Gundersheimer was a good friend. Rabbi Zellezer. There have been so many that it’s hard and a few that really stand out.
Interviewer: And I suppose including the few who are not in those fields of endeavor but others terribly different; Benny Klein, people of that sort?
Portman: That’s right; Benny Klein. Let’s not forget the Schottenstein family. I forgot to mention earlier when you talk about merchants, the Schottensteins have been low-key as far as the so-called downtown city, but I think we cannot overlook the fact that the Schottenstein family has been outstanding in their contribution to making the Jewish society in Columbus strong and they’ve always been….I’d like to mention this now. That very few people know that some of the Schottensteins, particularly Leon and Jerry, have done things for the city that has not been publicized. I found this out by helping out in various causes and they have certainly been strong forces in strengthening our Jewish social life. So, you can’t overlook the Schottenstein influence in this community, absolutely not.
Interviewer: Any other threads that have run across your career here that you want to mention?
Portman: The only thing I’d like to say is that I think I’ve been very fortunate that, being Jewish and not concealing it or trying to cover it up, that the population as a whole, with certain exceptions, has been very liberal towards me. After all, I’ve been elected five times in the city, running city-wide. It’s not a running it from one section of the city, and I get a good cross-section of votes. I’ve taken some controversial positions and it didn’t seem to hurt me in the elections. I’ve been friends of several mayors, regardless of their politics- Sensenbrenner, Moody, Rinehart, even Ross Westlake, in the short time he was mayor before he was married, he and I were very friendly. I’ve had some good associations with non-Jewish people in political life who are strong supporters of mine and, so I’m very grateful to these people of Columbus, which indicates that, if you do a good job and you thank and become involved with what’s best for the city, that your religion is not going to make any difference.
So, anybody who is apprehensive, because of their being Jewish, I think is wrong. It’s harder, of course, as it is for a black or a Pole or a person with a Hungarian name. In the white Anglo-Saxon or a Catholic, white Irish or German atmosphere, the Jewish person can succeed. I know I have and it’s been good to us. It depends on the person.
Interviewer: I know you had a painful experience running for mayor. Would you still apply the previous statement to that…being Jewish or not being Jewish would have nothing to do with the ultimate result?
Portman: Well, I don’t think being Jewish had anything to do with it. I think it was an unfortunate situation where we were five candidates, one was a black. The blacks vote heavily democratic. One of their own was running. He got a big vote in the black community in the primary and the other four candidates divided it up and the other candidates had strong political organizations. I didn’t. My strongest suit is in a general election with the independent vote, and I got cut up because Dr. Roseman got a big percentage of the black votes and he won the primary. And people like Dorian, who was a long-time political name in Columbus with a strong political organization came in, I think, third. So, I should have known better to run in an atmosphere like that. But I don’t think being Jewish had anything to do with it. I may not have won the election, if I were nominated, but I think that was definitely the reason.
Interviewer: Of course, there were rumors to the effect that the black candidate, who was a very good man and had an excellent record on council, was put up to run for that very purpose, in order to cut up your vote. But that’s politics. That’s got nothing to do with being a Jew or not being a Jew, I would concede.
Portman: That could have happened, yes. I heard rumors of that type in the political campaign.
Interviewer: How about your presentation; the contacts to the city council, are you comfortable there; you feel that you are capable of doing anything that you’ve always done, with the new makeup of the city council, are you as comfortable with these people, being a Jew as you have been with previous councils?
Portman: I don’t think being a Jew is the real problem there now. I think you have a problem now where the democrats, particularly Hammond, Espey, and Maloney, and Little want a strong partisan clout in city political affairs and civic affairs and anything they…they build a strictly a divided political situation. Contrary to the way I perceive the city government should be and, in that case, I’m not one of the boys, so to speak. Of course, Pinky Cecil is a neutral mind; she has to go along so, on the surface we get along, although I don’t agree with some of their policies and I’ll continue to speak out on them because I don’t intend to change.
Interviewer: Have I missed anything in summarizing your career before; what have you done, for example, that I failed to mention?
Portman: Well, I think, maybe, the only thing we didn’t mention was the fact that when I worked for Sensenbrenner, I was the city’s first finance director. I set up the Department of Finance for him while I was assistant to the mayor. I started the city’s investment program, the capital budget program, and many other programs and then, when I ran for city council, I became a councilman and was president of the council for twelve years. I led the ticket several times with big majorities. As a member of city council, I participated in a lot of the innovative policies – about fourteen or fifteen major changes in the city government that I was involved in. I got along very well with Mayor Moody and we’re still very good friends, even though he’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat. I can’t think of anything else, unless you want to…
Interviewer: Say it louder so that we may…
Portman: And I’m forty-nine years and this is Alice sitting here and supplementing that Maury is forgetting to mention.
Interviewer: That’s an achievement. Looking back over all this, what would you do today that would be different from what you did do, having the benefit of hindsight? If anything, maybe you wouldn’t.
Portman: That’s an interesting question. First of all, I would not run for mayor since it was a disastrous experience and any other office. I probably wouldn’t have run as often for council, looking back. I take not that the time was wasted, but I think that I might have been engaged in some other pursuits that were much more productive financially. I mean that’s the only thing that could have…
Interviewer: Well, that gets us to something that we have failed to talk about, which is your other occupation. It’s not as glamorous as being on the city council or perhaps being mayor or aspiring to be mayor, but you’re a stockbroker. Are you saying that you would have maybe started out that way and stayed with that alone, had you known what you know?
Portman: Oh, no, no, no. I don’t regret the other fields that I was in. The things I engaged in were by choice and have been productive and made life interesting. After all, I have a nice home. Two of my sons are well educated; my daughter was in college for a while. We traveled and so I don’t have any regrets, as far as that’s concerned; I might have made more money if I had spent more time in the brokerage business. But I like the brokerage business. I’ve been in it 22 years. It gives you a cross…; you are involved every day in what makes this country operate and everything…There are two things in this country which are basic. One is the government and politics, it’s effect on the commercial and industrial life of the nation. And so I’m involved in both and what could be more interesting? When you talk about the brokerage business, you’re talking about the financial life of this country. The wherewithal to make and provide employment and everything you look at in your home, in your cities, in the outside-the physical aspects is involved in what my occupation does. Anything you touch has something to do with the stock market, with the financial resources of this country and I’m involved in that too which makes life very interesting.
Interviewer: And you have been a big cog in the general movement of the city for many years now…how it expands, what direction it takes, under what guidelines it operates, and so on. What do you see ahead for the city of Columbus?
Portman: The city of Columbus is facing some major problems. Course, they always face major problems, in seems, in every generation, in every era. I think right now the one immediate problem is finding the resources to fund the infrastructure of the city, which are the things that provide life and support…water, sewer, streets, highways, health, the blight of the inner city, keeping the older sections from collapsing, and the farther you stretch out into the suburbs or the outlying sections, the costlier it becomes. Where are we going to get the money? We facing that right now with Sawmill Road/Bethel situation. That is a typical example of what’s happening. We have tremendous growth, both residential and commercial and the city does not have the money to supply the traffic, the roads, and eventually, right now, we’re facing the need to expand the sewage treatment program and the water treatment program by $360 million dollars, which ultimately will have an effect on raising the water and sewer rates. The Federal government is turning to the cities, in that respect, so here we’re facing problems of infrastructure funding, which is what effects every family, every person in the city, including the industrial and the commercial life of the city. So that’s the number one problem right there.
Portman: Number two, is that are we gong to do about economic growth, growth. Now it’s come to pass, apparently, that many responsible citizens, who equate economic growth with the number of shopping strips you can build. Any time you have a new development, you have a shopping center going there. That’s growth, according to the problem of the last decade or so. Now, the question is, “How much of these can the city support? Can the average person support? Shouldn’t we be more interested in concentrating on economic growth that provides employment; that provides capital goods; that provides essential services in the area of high technology? What about the economic growth then that will provide the income and the buying power for people that patronize these shopping strips. I mean, I wonder if the so-called planners are using economic factors in providing for this so-called growth. These are major problems that I think a city like Columbus has to face.
Now, you go to other cities like Chicago, and they have these tremendous shopping malls in these very absolute suburbs, but they know that they are going to draw from these affluent suburbs. How many absolute suburbs do we have? We don’t have that many like Chicago or White Plains, NY or Grosse Point, Michigan or the outskirts of Los Angeles, or Florida, Atlanta. These are factors; they are anticipating growth but the anticipation, I think, is exceeding what is actually going to happen. And there’s not enough to go…Your downtown, they have been postponing dragging their feet, like they say, on the development of a $35 million investment the city government has on a project that’s taking over ten years to even get started in commercial. The thing that brings people into a downtown to spend money, instead of going to the suburbs. So, you have a depreciation of property, a stagnant section in the heart of the city, and they say it’s starting to happen. A department store is going to move in there in the next couple of years. It won’t be until 1987 or 88 that they’ll even get started.
Meanwhile, what about the rest of it. You won’t see it and, meanwhile, they’re talking about huge malls and shopping centers at various outlying sections of the city. Who is going to patronize these places and what kind of money. I don’t think there is that kind of money around. Unless you accompany it with economic development. In other words, economic development is not only retail stores; it’s got to be the other stuff too. That’s what I’m trying to tell people. And that’s a major issue. Those two things.
Interviewer: Let me supplement that question – the last question by asking what do you see ahead for the Jewish community here, considering all the things that are taking place; the expansion of Heritage Village, the expansion of the Jewish Center; the flourishing, apparently, of a good deal more religious houses of worship than you had when we first came here.
Portman: I think that particular of Jewish life is excellent; I think it’s very encouraging. And I notice a lot more activity by young people in the various organizations related to B’nai Brith women, the various lodges, and the Jewish war veterans. Heritage House is a glorious example of commitment by the Jewish community. The expansion of our temple, where they spent millions of dollars to expand our temple. Of course, Agoutis ACM is constantly growing, I understand. I think the…I think there seems to be a, and I may be wrong about this point, the only thing I see missing, and that’s changing by the way, is the relationship between the Jewish religious organizations and the affairs outside of the Jewish community. There’s still a weakness there. I don’t know who’s responsible for that. It might be that the numbers in the Jewish community is not that big compared to other cities but I think, I’d like to see the Jewish community more involved in overall civic affairs in this community.
Interviewer: You’re not saying that there is a lack of progress. You’re just saying that you would like to see more progress?
Portman: Right. Recently there has been some. Rabbi Berman is a member of this community. Rabbi Temposhia, and not as much….personalities may have a lot to do with it, you know. Like Rabbi Zelezer’s personality brought him in contact with the downtown community, the city government, the state government and I think we need more people like Rabbi Zelezer, if I may say so. He can articulate. And there’s another thing. Our Jewish community, including the Rabbis, and it happens once in a great while in a crisis period, but I don’t see the Rabbis and individuals, Jewish leaders, openly articulate on local issues.
Interviewer: You mean, the general community?
Portman: That’s right. Take stands on issues. And that enhances the problems…and I’ll tell you, that has a great effect on the young people. When they see the leadership of their religious organizations becoming more effective in the general affairs of the community, it encourages them to become more active. And if they are not going to be encouraged, they’re not going to be any better at it. If they become discouraged, they withdraw to their own little shells and you see that.
Interviewer: Perhaps the efforts they are making need a little more exposure, publicity.
Portman: We’re giving that. We have people like Mel Schottenstein, who is going to be chamber of commerce this year. We’ve got Les Wexner, who is certainly speaking out and, whether you agree with Les or not, he’s to be commended for what he’s doing. Victor Goodman who is head of the Columbus Symphony this year. It’s changing and this is what I’m talking about. It is changing for the good and more of that is needed. I see this happening now and, with the experiences of the Jewish community in the civic and cultural affairs, with Mel, Les, and Victor and a few others are doing, is going to make the difference. And I am very happy to see that. This has been lacking and it’s starting to change for the better.
Interviewer: Just so we don’t lose sight of the few you touched upon some area where progress could and should be made, I’m sure you know that the community relations committee of the Federation has had a Catholic-Jewish dialogue going for years and now, Rabbi Berman of your temple is the co-chairman of that committee and they have just recently instituted a committee with the NAACP to better black relations. And these little steps forward are very valuable and worthwhile and should be multiplied, as well as exposed to public attention.
Portman: Yeah. I want to clarify some of the statements I have made. I said at the outset I notice the lack of this but it has been changing and I think, as I’ve said, it’s a question of personality and leadership that does it. You’ve got people who don’t care; they are not going to do this, but if you have people that do care, that are concerned about the future, then, the situations change.
Interviewer: If you were giving advice to a young man now who is today considering moving from Cleveland to Columbus, doesn’t have any established roots here, he’s coming into a city cold, what kind of advice would you give him as to how to interact with the general community and the Jewish community.
Portman: Well, first of all, I think it depends on the individual, of course; you can’t force people to be religious. Now I think the first thing, if he has a Jewish background, I think that he intends to have a family, I think it’s important to join a synagogue or a temple and to become active in its affairs because then, he learns about his community that way. And, it depends on what kind of work he’s in. I think he should try to join as many organizations as possible. If he’s a veteran, he should join the American Legion just to participate, to get exposure. You find very few Jews are members of American Legion here. I think it’s wrong; I think whether they like it or not, they should join it just to be part of the community; not to be isolated, see. And they’ll welcome you; they welcomed me. Become active in a political party, if you want to. Become part of the community organization. Practically every large neighborhood in this city has a civic association – northland community council in the north end, the triple R association. We have the Eastmoor association; they should become active in that because by becoming in that, you become active in your city’s affairs. And it has an impact on the city government and you have something to contribute to the life of the community, not just to make money, or to just go to temple.
After all, you live here; you have a stake in the quality of life in your city and, being Jewish alone is not enough. You have to be a…you’re a citizen of Columbus and, by golly, they should stand up and be counted that way. Alice and I were at a meeting yesterday, last night, on Cleveland Avenue. It was a Republican gathering, sponsored by the Republican councilwoman, Mrs. Shoemaker, and they were all non-Jewish people there. One black couple; there were a couple of black young women there. And we had a very fine time, talking about city government and neighborhood problems and I think that’s good. We should have more of those. I think this strengthens the Jewish status in any city.
Interviewer: Having come this far, are there any things that you think you would like to have added here that I didn’t give you a chance to put in?
Portman: I think I have covered about everything.
Interviewer: Now I notice that Alice, who has been sitting here, supplementing your recollections on some things that you overlooked, has just mentioned something about another subject. Why don’t you go ahead and speak to it.
Portman: Yes, I’m glad that she reminded me of something. And this ties into my generalistic background, by the way, and I should have mentioned this earlier. Having been a newspaperman for fourteen years and involved in politics and so forth, there is one element that’s sorely lacking, I believe, compared to other cities and that’s coverage of Jewish affairs and civic affairs by the one Jewish newspaper that we have here. Now, I know it’s not going to be like The Jewish Daily Forward, the Society of the Jewish News in Cleveland but there’s a lack of coverage and I think it’s very noticeable in the Chronicle. I know it’s costly and filling space without advertising and it seems to me that, if the news coverage of things other than just these mundane subjects were expanded, I think that paper would get more advertising. I’m qualified to speak on that subject, since I spent time in the newspaper business for many, many years and I see it as very, very lacking. The areas of reporting and coverage of politics, of civic affairs as they relate to the Jewish community, politics in the city as they relate to the Jewish community, you don’t see that in the Chronicle. And, I often wonder, what is everybody afraid of? I’ve had some personal experiences along that line and I don’t want to get into it because it would seem like I have a selfish motive, but it’s quite noticeable that the Columbus Jewish Chronicle does not cover important subjects that could have a tremendous impact on Jewish life, as it relates to the general community and they just don’t do it, and even in foreign affairs, they have a few sketchy stories and, I read Jewish publications from other cities and the difference is noticeable, drastically noticeable. So that’s one suggestion I would make, that the Jewish Chronicle expand it’s coverage.
Interviewer: Alice, has he said anything that you would have said. She nods her head Yes. Any other things that we’ve failed to mention.
Portman: I can’t think of anything.
Interviewer: OK. Thanks, Maury and Alice, for your patience. It’s been a long time since we tried to get this thing together but it was well worth it. And, incidentally, if there is anything that you think of that we failed to have in here that you want to add in, any time you want, we can supplement on this tape.
Portman: Thank you!
Interviewer: Thank you, Maury, for sharing your personal life experiences with the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.
End of Part 1
* * *
INTERVIEW WITH MAURICE D. PORTMAN
Interview with Maurice D. Portman on 8/4/85 by J. Maynard Kaplan. Follow-up ten years later, on 3/21/95, this interview is taking place at Mr. Portman’s home, Columbus, Ohio, as part of the Oral History program of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. Maury Portman is being interviewed at his residence by Naomi Schottenstein and Bette Young.
Interviewer: What we want to do, Maury, is bring our information up to date from ten years ago. You gave a real wonderful review at that time and there are a few more things that we thought of and maybe you would like an opportunity to embellish on a few things, as well. One of the thoughts that we had, if you can enlighten us anymore about any connection or thoughts, while you were living in Cleveland , about Columbus, Ohio, at that time. What did the people in Cleveland think about the Jewish community in Columbus or what did you think about it?
Portman: Very little, to be truthful about it. I was born and raised in Cleveland and left there to come to Ohio State in 1934. After I graduated and tried to get a job in Cleveland and it was a little rough. So I wound up in Sandusky, Ohio for four years and worked for the newspaper there and when they consolidated, I went back to Cleveland News. That didn’t work out too well; they were having all kinds of trouble so I dabbled in some P.R. and short other efforts until I wound up with the Associated Press in Cleveland, then went into the service. In the service, they told me my job was secured before I left but they said when I got back that they were expanding the office in Columbus and they wanted me to go down there because the experience I had in Cleveland before I went into the service. I could have gone to Cincinnati but it was a very small bureau and I wouldn’t even consider it. So I went to Columbus.
So, I got here in December 1, 1945. Any knowledge I had of Columbus, particularly the Jewish community, was very little, hardly any at all. The only knowledge I had during my early days in Cleveland was my knowledge of Ohio State, the fact that it was the state capital, OSU football, and that’s about it. Until I came down to go to school, then I really got to know about the city, in 1934 and I graduated in 1937. I was active in Hillel, ….hill place, people like Jerry Lawrence and Willie Gomberg and Paul Lipson, Rabbi Lee Levenger. A lot of Jewish people who live in Columbus today, I knew from my days at Ohio State and Hillel and it was a great experience, believe me. Hillel meant an awful lot to me. The first place I lived was on 18th Avenue, across the street from the old Hillel house and I practically lived there. In fact, Alice’s cousin lived there and worked in the Hillel. He had been in the three CCC’s, and when he got out he went to Ohio State and he wound up at Hillel. That was a little bit later. But he was there for a short time while I was there. So, my knowledge of Columbus goes back to those days at Ohio State.
Interviewer: Was your wife from Columbus?
Portman: No, Alice and I graduated from the same high school class in Cleveland. We were married when I went into the service. We had one child. My oldest son was born nine months before I left. Actually, we grew up in the same Jewish neighborhood and were in the same high school class at Glenville High School. And we eloped in 1936. Christmas Day and I was a senior at Ohio State and we were running around with the same group and we had known each other for several years. I was a senior and we were at a party at her girlfriend’s house, Miriam Bishko. She’s still living with her husband who is a doctor and he was there. They were engaged and there was another couple, one of her girlfriends, who was a senior at Oberlin College and she and her husband had eloped. He was non-Jewish. And the other couple, Florence Orgel; they both passed away last year; it was very sad. They were from Canton. He was from New Jersey; she was from Cleveland. These three girls, Florence, Alice, and Miriam B. (Rosenberg, now) were friends since junior high school.
Miriam Gogolick from Oberlin was also from junior high school. So, we all got together Christmas Eve and they said, everyone was kidding about the other couple that eloped. They said, why don’t you and Alice get married? Still a senior at Ohio State to go out and get married was ridiculous. Besides which, you have to wait five days in Ohio. So, the only thing I could do is drive to New York, like you did. 500 and some miles away. And I don’t have a car, so how can I do it and I have to go back to school next week. So Henry, my buddy from Canton, Florence’s husband. He said, “I’ll tell you what; I’ll loan you my car, big shot. Keep it!” So, I asked Alice if she wanted to do it and she said, yeah, let’s do it.
So, early the next morning, I walked over to Florence mother’s house, picked up Henry’s car, and we drove together to New York. OK? And we were there in three hours. Going through Ashtabula on the way, I said we don’t have a ring, so we stopped at a jewelry store. There was a man at the jewelry store, taking inventory probably, so I knocked on the window and I went in and he sold me the ring for ten bucks. So, we got married , crazy! And we got back to Cleveland by 6:00 and were having dinner at my mother’s house.
Interviewer: How did your…
Portman: Wait! Wait! Wait! The best is yet to come. So I went back to school and around April I was living on Chittendon Avenue. The phone rings. It’s Alice. She’s crying. I said, what’s the matter? She says, Daddy found out that we’re married. I said, how did he find out? She’s says, Wilma was going through her purse and found the ring. So she told her parents, Alice must be married. I found this ring in her purse. So, her father told her, Tell Maury I gotta see him right away. See, her parents were Orthodox but they also belonged to the Conservative…they belonged to two temples. But they were Orthodox. Her father was a delightful man. He was just a wonderful person; he just passed away. So, I said, how can I leave in the middle of a quarter? She said, he’s got to see you; you’ve got to come home this weekend. OK. So, I went to Cleveland that weekend and I confronted Ernie Gross, her father. So, I walked in. They lived only 2 or 3 blocks away, like from here to Gould Road, or something like that. So, I walked over there and I said, OK. He said, how could you do a thing like that? Do you come from an Orthodox home and you get married by a J.P.? And you’re living in sin. You can’t do a thing like that.
Interviewer: He wasn’t ready to recognize the union?
Portman: Absolutely not! So, he said, you’ve got to get married by a Rabbi immediately. I said, That’s out of the question. My mother will have a nervous breakdown. Ha! Ha! She’ll think Alice is pregnant and that sort of thing. So, he said, What are you going to do? I said, Look, I’ve got six months before I get my degree. When I get my degree, you can plan the wedding for early Fall. I was going to graduate in the summer quarter because I had enough credits built up, I didn’t have to wait, see? So, I just found out that I can get a degree in August. OK, he said, but don’t you go near my daughter!
Interviewer: Off limits, huh?
Portman: Ok, no problem! So I went back to school and we got married in October at the Heights Temple and we had a big wedding. Meanwhile, I had gotten this job in Sandusky. She was working for this Snodel Gogolick’s father, a wholesale diamond dealer. She was working for him. And she worked there until January and then she joined me in Sandusky. So, we made it kosher.
Interviewer: Was it unusual for Jewish couples to be eloping at that time?
Portman: Oh, absolutely! Yes, Yes. I mean, very unusual. Only one other person I knew that did that….Herman Scott. And that’s a coincidence…Herman Scott! His cousin, Ruth Scott’s daughter, is married to Jerry Cohen from the Heritage House. Susan Braugh? Yes, her mother was Ruth Scott. They were my neighbors in Cleveland. Cause I saw them here. And she married also a school-mate; Ruth married Izzie Gordon. His father was a butcher on Lakeview Road. So, I’m writing my memoirs, now!
Interviewer: Well, you have time to do it because you have a lot of memories and you do recall things quite well!
Portman: You’ve heard of 105th Street in Cleveland?
Interviewer: Yeah! Uh-huh!
Portman: A Jewish neighborhood! And I describe…
Interviewer: I don’t want to get personal, Maury, but did you know my father, Dick Abel?
Interviewer: He grew up in Cleveland; did you know that?
Portman: I didn’t know that. I knew Dick Abel, Sure.
Interviewer: Yeah, he came here and grew up the same time you did; a little earlier than you did.
Portman: Yeah, he passed away. He died in Florida. Sure I knew Dick; not real well, but I knew him. And I really liked him; very pleasant person. What was his business?
Interviewer: He was in auto…tires. He had the tire center. Sounds like there were a lot of Jewish students at your high school in Cleveland – Glendale.
Portman: Glendale High School was 70-80% Jewish. At a Jewish Holiday they could close up the school.
Interviewer: Like Bexley?
Portman: Much more so than Bexley. I mean, 105th Street area was the corn beef belt. Kosher chicken store; I mean where they slaughtered the chickens. Every corner of the Orthodox Synagogue named after the village in Europe where these people came from.
Interviewer: Well, how many Jews were there then, do you know? Do you have a ballpark idea when you were growing up?
Portman: Thousands! Thousands! I’d say at least 20-25,000. I mean, it was a solid, solid Jewish neighborhood. And it extended, off 105th Street, it branched out, see? Between St. Clair Avenue on the north, which is near the lake, and you go south to Euclid/Superior Avenue. At Euclid was where the university was and Oak and a lot of big mansions and old mansions. In that strip between St. Clair and Superior, and between Gordon park on the west and E. Cleveland on the east; that was the Jewish neighborhood. But there was another Jewish neighborhood, south, the Kinsman area, which was about 10 miles from 105th Street area. And the 105th Street Jews looked down on the Kinsman Jews, in the old days.
Interviewer: From the other side of the line, huh?
Portman: Right. I’ll tell you why. In that part of Cleveland was the ethnic-the Poles, the Czechs, big Bohemian Polish/Slavish neighborhood and a lot of the Jews who lived there were carpenters, the common workman.
Interviewer: Skilled tradesmen.
Portman: Right. The 105th Street Jews were tailors, pawn shops, another class.
Interviewer: Were you comfortable when you came to Columbus with the Jewish community here; there was quite a difference.
Portman: If it had not been for Hillel, it would have….that was my life, you see. It was during the Depression. I had to work.
Interviewer: You were lucky to be able to go to college, weren’t you?
Portman: I had to stay out almost two years. I worked in a department store in Cleveland, in the shoe department. Gilberts was a palace compared to that place. I worked there and even then it was not full-time. But then some of my friends were lucky enough to go to Ohio State and they would come home on vacation and they would say, hey look, I was laid off. They were working me maybe two days a week, $2.50 a day, $5.00 if you’re lucky. So I scraped together a couple of hundred dollars and they said, why stay, come down to Columbus. You’ve got a couple of hundred bucks, you were in the dough then…enough for tuition and a room and you get a job. That’s what I did. So, when I first got down here, I worked for a short time for my meals, which I didn’t like. I worked for a short time in the ZBT house. The Jewish boys worked in the kitchen. The Gentile boys waited tables. That was the policy.
Interviewer: You got the dirty work.
Portman: They didn’t want the Jewish boys waiting on Jewish boys. It was that way in Gentile fraternities, too. I didn’t like it anyway, so I got a job selling shoes. I worked at three different places for a while here in Columbus…Saturdays. I worked for a while at Gilberts, like everybody else. I didn’t like it there. And I got a job working at Thom McAn for a short while on Town Street, not far from the market. Then I got the best job of all…at Lazarus. My landlady, I moved to a place on West Ninth, her nephew was a buyer in the Florsheim shoe department… his name was Jones, I remember and she was a lovely woman, she was a widow and she was the landlady. She would only rent to Jewish boys.
Interviewer: She wasn’t Jewish?
Portman: No. My roommate was Mike Perlin from Cleveland Hts. He was in pre-med; he became a doctor and a couple of boys from New York went to Optometry School and she got me a job at Lazarus selling Florsheim shoes. That was big time then.
Interviewer: Why do you think she wanted specifically to rent to Jewish boys?
Portman: I don’t know; I just don’t know.
Interviewer: She probably felt that the way they were raised, that they were very well behaved?
Portman: Yeah! But that was the way it was and she was a lovely woman. She had…I wish I could remember her name. Anyway, that’s where I worked until I graduated.
Interviewer: I wanted to ask you…when you got your first job as a reporter, did you find that a real coup for a young Jewish person? I think Jews had a lot of problem getting into publishing.
Portman: Correct! I wrote letters all over. If I had persisted, I might have gotten a job in Cleveland if I kept plugging away at it, but it was real hard. And so I took this job in Sandusky cause, if I hadn’t been married, I probably could have waited a little longer, you see. But, I wanted to get started anyway in the newspaper, I just didn’t want to take anything. The newspaper that I first worked for was a former shopping news there and it was owned by the Horvits people from Mansfield. Didn’t last very long and I didn’t like it because the guy who was running it was a real S.O.B., excuse the expression.
So I made friends with the reporter from the old newspaper…this old family-owned the rival newspaper; they had been there for years. They owned the morning paper and the afternoon paper and they owned the paper in Norwalk, Ohio and one other. The reporter was a little Irishman by the name of Tim Brady. We got to be real good friends. We would cover city hall in Sandusky and he said, you don’t want to work over there, it’s not for you. He said that we were going to have a vacancy pretty soon. He tipped me off, see? So, I went over there and talked to them. His name was Earl Walrath; very nice man; very liberal man, and the city editor was a little guy by the name Dave Spalding. I introduced myself; he says that Tim Brady says that you don’t like it at that other paper. I said, no it’s not for me; I’d just as soon go back to Cleveland. He said, well, we’re going to have a vacancy here and I’ll have Brady tip you off. So, he did, and the man who was doing the hiring was the editor of the morning paper, Paul Heiberger, he was a devout Catholic. And he was also a very nice person and the other guy, he was nothing. He was very liberal. The afternoon paper was Democrat; the morning paper was Republican. Anyway, so he says you don’t have to talk with Heiberger because the job we have open, you’re going to be writing copy for both papers. So, I went to see Heiberger; it was a very pleasant interview and he says Tim Brady speaks highly of you and, he says, it will be a few weeks before the job opens up and we’ll call you. And as far as I’m concerned, you’re OK.
Meanwhile, you can go back to Cleveland and we’ll call you. We have your telephone number. I go back to Cleveland and I don’t hear from them. So, I figure I’m not going to get the job. So, I walked into the Cleveland Plain Dealer office. The state editor, Jake Schmidt, I used to send him stuff from Ohio State. I used to do a little free-lancing for the Plain Dealer from Columbus and he and I got along real well. He’s quite a character; he knew everybody in the newspaper business in Ohio. He was the state editor. So, I walked in to see Joe Schmidt (called him Jake) and he said, “What are you doing here?” I said I was going to ask you if you know of any vacancies in the newspaper. He said, “You’ve got a job in Sandusky.” I said that they were supposed to call me. He says, “You’re hired.” Get on the next inter-urban car and go to Sandusky; they’re waiting for you to go to work.
Interviewer: So, if you had not pursued it, and not gone in to talk to him, you would not have known the job was waiting for you?
Portman: Well, Heiberger would have probably called me but Schmidt found out about it that day. And it was late afternoon so I called Alice and told her that I was getting on the inter-urban car and I’m going to Sandusky to go to work. So, I walked into The Register’s office, that’s the name of the paper, and Heiberger was there and he said, “I was just trying to get in touch with you.” So, I went to work there.
Interviewer: How long were you there? With Alice?
Portman: She finished working in Cleveland til the first of the year, then she came down. So, I came home that weekend, got my clothes and everything. To answer your question, I got a promotion and the last couple of years I was there, I edited the morning newspaper. I made up the front page and saw to it that the paper went to press, and the city editor, a guy by the name of Bill Wade, we became very good friends. He was truly a marvelous person, eccentric, and everything. So, one night, we’re sitting there talking and he says, you know, you remember you weren’t sure you were going to work here? Yeah, I was waiting for him to call me. They told me that I had the job and he would tell me when to report. He said, “I’ll tell you why there was a delay.” OK. I says, “Why?” He says, when Heiberger told the publisher, R.C. Snyder, in Norwalk, he was a right-wing Republican, you know, something like the guys you’ve got in Washington now. He says who are you hiring for that job, we’ve had all this trouble with that job? He says a guy by the name of Portman from Cleveland. Portman, what’s his full name? Morris Portman. Is he Jewish? Yeah, he’s Jewish. Well, he says, “We don’t want any smart Jew-boys from Cleveland working here.” So Heiberger was a devout Catholic. He said, “Look, he says, he’s a real nice person; he comes highly recommended from Jake Schmidt , state editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Dave knows him from covering city hall, and he’s got a good background at Ohio State, and he said, I think we got a good man and, Heiberger says, I’ll be personally responsible for this guy.
Interviewer: So, it helped that you had somebody in your corner?
Portman: Oh, Yeah.
Interviewer: What happened to Heiberger?
Portman: We became active in the Jewish community. There were twenty Jewish facilities in the whole town.
Interviewer: Really, there were that many?
Portman: And, most of them were merchants. They had a B’nai B’rith lodge, but members were from all around. They came from the other city.
Interviewer: Did you have a synagogue?
Portman: No, but we had services every other Friday night and the rabbi from Lima used to come. Rabbi Dorfman, I still remember him. And, in order to pay our dues at the Temple, Alice taught Sunday School.
Interviewer: Was it Conservative?
Portman: Yeah. Sort of Conservative/Reformed, most Reformed.
Interviewer: What other little communities around there were the Jewish families from?
Portman: There were several Jewish families in Norwalk, Fremont, Port Clinton, Tiffin, Massillon.
Interviewer: So, they kind of congregated, though, in Sandusky, where the synagogue was.
Portman: Yeah. Well, you see, Cedar Point is right across the Bay. And it was the center of a lot of activity. And, along the lake, a lot of resorts. And there was gambling at Cedar Point in those days, wide open. You’d go to Cedar Point on a Saturday or Sunday, you’d see people from Cleveland and Detroit, and Toledo. Although there were Jewish families in Port Clinton, too.
Interviewer: What were these Jewish families doing there?
Portman: Merchants, they had clothing stores. There was a Jewish couple, Al Finberg, who was a tailor. His shop was right next door to the newspaper plant. He was originally from Russia, spoke with a Jewish accent and was a character. Man, he was something – you could write a book about him. Always walked around with a hat and his sleeves rolled up, and they used to meet in back of his shop, all the labor leaders and liberals, and he’d come into the newspaper office to talk to the editor.
Interviewer: What were they meeting about?
Portman: They’d talk about politics, talk about local affairs.
Interviewer: What about unions, was that a big issue?
Portman: The unions were not very strong there. They had a few; the printers union. The printers were organized.
Interviewer: How many people lived in Sandusky?
Portman: There were 25,000 at that time.
Interviewer: Are there a lot more now?
Portman: It hasn’t changed much. I had a lot of interesting experiences there. Things that you can write about.
Interviewer: Do you think being born in Sandusky, which was really much more assimilated, helped you when you moved to Columbus?
Portman: Yes, definitely. That’s a very good question. My first job was re-writing the news from all the farming communities. That was the life blood of the paper, in Sandusky. That was my job and they told me that people would call the information in, they would mail it in. I would get the stuff, re-write it. Every now and then there would be a Mr. & Mrs. So-and So of Willard, Ohio or Bellview, was another small town, visited their children, “Personals”. You see them now in the Society section. Every now and then there would be an incident that they would mention and I would blow it up into a feature story. And, I was particularly good at that and they loved it.
The circulation man, Lambert Lidell, he said, “Boy, The Plain Dealer and the Toledo Blade which had circulation there.” This was the life blood of our paper and I handled that. I did that for quite a while and then they had vacancies which I filled as telegraph editor and edited the news. I laid out the front page the day that the Germans attacked Poland. I had the front page. I used to re-write the news and then we had an Associated Press wire in the office at night and, if anything happened in Sandusky or in the immediate area, I would put it on the AP wire and send it from right there but my relationship with the small town people, not only in Sandusky but in the area, helped me in later years, politically and…
Interviewer: I’ll bet in did.
Interviewer: You really had a great understanding of people?
Portman: That’s right. Right. I’ll give you an example. World War II came along and the Hercules Powder Company, which is a subsidiary of DuPont, wanted to build a powder plant outside of Sandusky near the Plum Brook River, they called it, because there was a lot of water there, readily accessible…
Interviewer: What do you mean by powder plant?
Portman: To load bombs with. They were bombs – gun powder. And, in order to do this, they had to buy a lot of acreage. I mean, you don’t just put up a big plant. General Motors took it over after the war. So this is called the Plum Brook Ordinance and they had to buy this property. That was a hell of a big story. So the farmers, used to sell to the Ostendorf-Morris Real Estate Company from Cleveland.
Interviewer: So they knew what the property was going to be used for? What was the date?
Portman: This was in 1940 when they were revving up for the war. And, the farmers were descendants from the settlers. The settlers of that area, called the Firelands District of Northern Ohio. Why was it called the Firelands? Because the settlers were veterans of the Revolutionary War. Their farms were burned in the Connecticut and Massachusetts and the government gave them this land in the Western Reserve and so they refused to sell. They said, “Look, our ancestors came here and the government gave us this land; we settled it; we don’t want to sell.” The newspaper was for this project and they had meeting after meeting and finally, there was a deadline. They had to have this property. So, they called a meeting of all the farmers in the area one Saturday night. So, the editor, Hiburger says, “Portman, I want you to go out there. I had a car – an old Chevie – want you to go to the Grange Hall and cover that story and find out what these farmers are going to vote.” So, I went out there and it was a real hum-dinger and somebody spotted me there and it was late at night, it was dark and I thought I was going to be lynched when they found out there was a reporter for The Register there.
And they said that God-damned reporter from that paper…There’s that Jewish reporter from The Register. I thought they were going to throw me out of there but one of the fellows who owned property there was the manager of the Western Union office in Sandusky, Wayne. He was a good friend of mine because I used to send stuff through him to the Cleveland papers. I used to make extra money that way. So, he said, “Portman only works for the paper; he doesn’t write the editorials. He’s just here cause his boss sent him here, so leave him alone.” It was a good story and so, I sold the story to The Sunday Dispatch. I wrote a feature story for The Columbus Dispatch. I still have a copy of it. So, they built the plant. Oh, I forgot the best part. Right at the climax, this old man gets up. I still remember his name, Isaac Hoyt. He gets up. It’s funny how you retain these things.
Interviewer: Yes, I’m impressed with the names that you remember.
Portman: So. Isaac Hoyt gets up; he had a beard and he says, “I don’t understand you People; I’m here because I got this land because our government was being attacked and they gave us this land during an emergency to help this country grow and now our country is facing another emergency and, by golly, we have to be patriotic enough to go along with our government. I’m going to sell my farm.”
Interviewer: So, he came through?
Portman: Yeah, so everybody else followed the old man and it made a good story.
Interviewer: It sounds like it was very timely.
Interviewer: Now, let me ask you a; you moved back to Cleveland and joined the AP?
Portman: Yeah, see I went back to Cleveland to go on The Cleveland News but the job they hired me for…it was heavily organized by the American Newspaper Guild and I wasn’t qualified for. So, I said, All right, so they gave me another assignment but for a lower amount of pay. And the Guild wouldn’t hold still for it so they got into a fight, and I said, To hell with it; I’m not going to get involved in this fight. So, for a while, I was on the police beat of The Cleveland News. And then I left and did some work for The Cleveland Press temporarily cause they didn’t have a vacancy and then I wound up for a short time in Springfield, just for about a month, but I couldn’t find a place to live, so I didn’t stay there. And, from there, I went back to Cleveland and that’s when I went with the AP. For a short while I did some radio work.
Interviewer: What kind of reporting did you do for the AP?
Portman: How can I explain it? See, the Associated Press is situated in cities. Whenever something happens in Cleveland, you have to decide what goes on the wire to be used…When you pick up the newspaper, the Dispatch has AP service. You see a story out of Washington, it’s AP. Somebody has written that story and put it on the wire so the Dispatch can use it. We did that in Cleveland but Columbus was more important to the AP because it’s the State capital. So, the stuff that came out of the legislature had to be disseminated to the AP clients all over the State of Ohio and, if it deserved coverage outside the State of Ohio, the editor had to make that decision as the editor.
Interviewer: You’re the one who did it? So, that’s how you became familiar with government?
Portman: Oh, Yeah!
Interviewer: I want to ask you a question. Why did you-you never wanted a higher office, Right? You just wanted city government?
Portman: That’s a good question. I tried others a couple of times and didn’t make it. Timing is very important in politics, see. And, I couldn’t make…I tried for mayor once and couldn’t make the primary because there were too many running. That was a long time ago. And I got out of….I decided I didn’t want a full-time political job.
Interviewer: We wanted to ask, too, if there are very many Jews in politics right now in Columbus? And, also, maybe you can tie it in with the fact that Lee Fisher and Solove didn’t make it through the last re-election.
Portman: Lee Fisher, that was a big surprise. He lost because there was a big Republican sweep and Voinovich poured money into this woman’s campaign and Fisher made some kind of a nasty remark about this woman and, at the last minute, he lost some women’s votes. But that’s not the main reason why he lost; he lost because of this big Republican landslide. Look at the people like Mike Stinsiano; He was popular and he worked like a dog and I was sorry to see him lose. He was in there for 22 years and he get’s beat, what he did for his neighborhood, for the district.
Interviewer: And he was devoted to the community.
Portman: Yes, and he wasn’t the only one; nationally. I became interested in city government primarily. I just happened to stick to it.
Interviewer: Is that why you chose to live in Eastmoor and not in Bexley?
Portman: That’s right!
Interviewer: Another thing I wanted to ask…in your other tape, you talked about the fact that Jews weren’t more interested in the political life of this city and I keep thinking; I want to know, do you think maybe it’s because of the way they isolate themselves in Bexley; I mean, if you don’t live in the city, do you really have a vested interest in the city or do you feel that, you might have one, but you don’t know that you do? If you know what I mean? You know, all these people live in…
Portman: We have – you take, there’s a Jewish councilman in Dublin. There was a Jewish councilman in Worthington and David Madison…but that’s Bexley. Jews have a habit; now you take in other parts of the country in communities that are not particularly Jewish, you have Jewish elected officials – mayors. The mayor of Tampa, Florida is Jewish. The mayor of Pittsburgh was an elderly Jewish woman. The mayor of New York. In Oregon, you had a Jewish governor and he was mayor of Portland and he became governor, not particularly a Jewish state. It depends on the individual – how he gets involved. Florida – that’s not a good example because southern Florida has a lot of Jews. It depends on the individual and how he’s perceived and what his relationships are.
Interviewer: Portman, you mentioned different communities – Dublin, Bexley, and other little communities around here. I’m just wondering how you feel about the proposed sites that are coming along. I know New Albany is already moving along and Polaris. How do you feel about these little communities.
Interviewer: The expansion…In the other interview that you don’t like the extension of suburbs.
Portman: I’m not too pleased with the expansion of suburbs. One of the reasons we relaxed the annexation program was because of the building industry. A lot of people didn’t want to live in Columbus because of the school system and there’s no use kidding yourself. That’s the reason. So, we relaxed a little bit and we fight these suburbs that wanted to enclose Columbus completely. I was responsible for cutting Lashutka off about a year and a half ago; he may have entered into a contract with the mayor of Hilliard which would have surrounded Columbus and caused unlimited development of Hilliard. More so, now they’re paying the price so, he made that agreement with the Mayor of Hilliard and submitted the ordinance to city council last minute without our even knowing what was in the agreement. When it came across my committee and I said, “No, we’re not going to vote on this thing.” So, the newspaperman asked me, “Why?” I said would you sign a contract without reading it?
Interviewer: Why would Lashutka want something like that?
Portman: Why he would do that? Lashutka is kind of a tricky guy. He is. He’s either tricky or stupid. He does a lot of stupid things, believe me. I can mention a few but I’ll soften my criticism. He and I used to be very cordial but I don’t think he’s very smart. He just doesn’t have that grasp that a smart politician has in city/local government. Like he made a deal with the mayor of Hilliard to annex a huge section of Brown Township. If we would have signed and approved that annexation, it would have cut the growth of Columbus off considerably and we would have had to expand the service agreement with Hilliard to give them more in water and sewer services from Columbus. So, I’m not an engineer; I don’t anything about this but I did know that it was too big of an annexation so we held up the Ordinance.
Somebody suggested that I call Hap Camino, former service director under Sensenbrenner and a very capable guy. He knows the sewer and water system like a book. But he was in Florida; this was over a year ago. Camino said to send him a copy of the ordinance. So, we read it to him. He said, “This is ridiculous! Why don’t you guys revise it.” He gave us his telephone number and address and we faxed it to him. He faxed it back and we held up the Ordinance. So, at the last minute, he gets with the president of the council, John Kennedy (this was about a year ago) and he wants us to work out a compromise. I said that there is not going to be any compromise. We’ll give him the Ordinance that we’re going to write. We’re not going to vote on it tonight.” So we held it up for a couple of weeks. Now Hilliard has problems; their schools, they can’t handle what they’ve got. Dublin’s got all kinds of problems.
Interviewer: Well, what about this thing that Leslie Wexner wants to put in the northeast? It’s adjacent to his kingdom.
Interviewer: It’s kind of interesting that there are some heavy-duty Jewish developers all around – at Polaris, and New Albany.
Interviewer: Is Polaris part of Columbus?
Portman: Yeah! Wexner’s development will be at Morse Road in Columbus. My skepticism is based on the fact that Wexner is going to build his big shopping center, another mall, and these huge developments. Where are the people going to come from? Do you understand what I am saying? He doesn’t have to build it that fast.
Interviewer: Will it attract people from other areas?
Portman: There’s just so much. This is not the kind of community that generates people, like an industrial.
Interviewer: How much has the population grown in the last 10 years?
Portman: It’s growing gradually…about 10% or something like that through annexation but he’s building some in Columbus and some in New Albany. We’re not unhappy with New Albany; it’s a little village so they had a perfect right to annex something from the township, see. But they wanted to annex the whole township but we were opposed to that because it would have cut off Columbus and it would have increased the demand for water and sewer. What happens, if you increase the capacity, our water and sewer bills will go up and their water and sewer bills will go up, so you have to limit the growth, see? And that’s what I’m in favor of.
Interviewer: What’s the exact population now of Columbus metropolitan area?
Portman: It’s about 670,000 and some.
Interviewer: What about Franklin County?
Portman: It’s over a million.
Interviewer: Do you see the inner city as coming back at all? Cities coming back to any significant degree? Re-gentrifying at any degree…Bryden Road, etc?
Portman: Only, only, only if you provide employment, if you provide housing, if you get people with the wherewithal to make a living. I think that eventually it will come back, if the school system is improved. That’s the key; you improve the neighborhoods. Now you take Main Street, for example, between Bexley and Parsons Avenue, there’s a black fellow, Robert Casey, works like a dog to try to improve it and I like him, see; he’s a good friend of mine. He’s a real mench. He is devoted to improving that neighborhood; day and night, he calls me all the time. He says you’re the only one that helps me. It’s unusual for someone who is black – compatriots. Most others wouldn’t give him the time of day. There’s no reason for Main Street to deteriorate that way. What they need is a massive effort – they have to attract industry there; doesn’t have to be a major industry; they have to attract people who can be employed; housing, and it will come back. It’s slowly being improved. Parsons Avenue is another one.
Interviewer: In your last tape, toward the end, you mentioned something about the fact that there were some Schottensteins that were very instrumental in advancing the Columbus community…downtown area specifically, I guess. I know the Ohio Theatre was an example. Can you site other instances where…
Portman: Oh, absolutely, Schottenstein, the two brothers. There was a strong drive to tear down the Beggs building and they resisted that and they did a beautiful job of renovating it.
Interviewer: And that was Tommy and Billy Schottenstein?
Portman: That’s right and I have a lot of respect for them. It’s an attractive building; it didn’t have to be torn down. They’re remodeling the Worly Building in the Brewery District and, for a while, they wanted to make it larger and the restoration people made quite an issue out of it. I thought they were wrong but, like one of the Schottenstein boys, Bill or Tom…..It was Bill told me, look, he says, we’re going to remodel this and we’ve got to put something in it. If we can’t do it with what’s available, we won’t build. So they pulled out of it but then they came up with a revised plan. They said, OK, we’ll remodel it but not make it bigger so it will detract. So, that’s what they’re doing, see.
Interviewer: What will that building be used for?
Portman: Offices. But it will retain the historic appearance. Of course, Dick Solove, has got a problem. He’s building a shopping center down there and the historic people want him to build it to look like a 19th Century….but he can’t do it, he says. They want him to put the building at the sidewalk and put the parking in the back. He said, I can’t do that.
Interviewer: Where is he building it?
Portman: South of the Worly Building on Front Street. But he’s in a battle now with the Brewery District Commission on the appearance of the design, see? They want a certain design and he says I can’t come up that way. If they insist, he says he won’t build it. Dick Solove is a pretty stubborn guy.
Interviewer: It sounds like there have been quite a few influences of Jewish developers on this community.
Portman: Oh, yes, there’s Solove, there’s the Schottensteins, Wexner, Weiler.
Interviewer: You might say that, in the old days, it was the merchants, the department store people and now it’s the developers.
Interviewer: Herb Glimcher, he’s another one. It’s interesting. Thank you, Maury.
This ends the interview with Maury Portman for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project.
End of Part 2
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