INTERVIEWER: Okay, the date is February 16th, Nineteen, I’m sorry, Two Thousand Eighteen, and we are at the home of Michael Dworkin, Michael and Carol Dworkin in Berwick, Columbus, Ohio and this is Bill Cohen and I’m doing this interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. Mr. Dworkin, maybe we could start by whatever you can remember here, how is it that you came to be in Ohio? Tell us about your parents or your grandparents. How did they get to this area or get to the United States?
DWORKIN: Okay, on my mother’s side they came to the United States to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and ended up in Lancaster, Ohio. On my fathers’ side they came to New York City where my father and one of his sisters was born and then they moved to Columbus, Ohio, where there was relatives on both sides of my grandparents – Lillian – I mean Rachel Leah and Sam which is the Jewish names would have been Rachel Leah and Shmuel and they both had brothers and sisters here in Columbus, Ohio, on both sides and that’s how my grandparents ended up in Columbus. They came to the states in 1904 and to New York and they came to Columbus in 1908.
INTERVIEWER: …and they came from…?
DWORKIN: I don’t know, somewhere in the Russian area.
INTERVIEWER: Both sets of grandparents?
DWORKIN: No. The other set, my Grandfather Silver was born in Philadelphia and my Grandmother Silver was born in Austria-Hungary and then she came to Pittsburgh because she had brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. So, now let’s get the names of your parents.
DWORKIN: My parents were Katherine – Kate – Dworkin and Al Dworkin – Alfred Dworkin.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, and then, okay. Now, you, at some point, you were in Lancaster, Ohio, a small town.
DWORKIN: Correct. Correct.
INTERVIEWER: We don’t think of many Jews being in some of the small towns in central Ohio. How did you come to be in Lancaster?
DWORKIN: Okay, I was born, [skip in the recording] so, [skip] and my dad obviously being and living here. My parents lived here on Brunson Ave and then they lived there until, I would say, World War II started and then they moved to Lancaster where my parents, my mother’s parents, were ‘cause my dad thought he would be drafted into the service, but, because of, I guess, health reasons and brothers on both sides of the family were already in and my dad’s age, which he must have been about thirty eight, he was deferred so he never had to go to the service, so, we, that’s how we ended up in Lancaster, Ohio.
INTERVIEWER: Now, your one set of grandparents, they were already in Lancaster. What were they doing in Lancaster?
DWORKIN: They came from the Pittsburgh area, probably Carnegie. My grandfather wanted opportunities knowing nobody in Lancaster. He came to Lancaster and opened a farmers’ market much like the markets were on Town Street downtown. He had a block, a whole block of a building that was a farmers’ market that he had in Lancaster from probably, I’d say, about Nineteen Ten until about Nineteen Forty Six.
INTERVIEWER: So, he ran the farmers’ market.
DWORKIN: He had a farmers’ market. Yes.
INTERVIEWER: So, he didn’t, he didn’t grow the food but he organized, he had the farmers bring their produce in?
DWORKIN: Correct. The local farmers in the Lancaster area brought the produce to him and everything was sold from whatever he got from various farmers.
INTERVIEWER: If he started in 1910, I imagine that at least for the first several years, this produce was brought in by horse and buggy.
DWORKIN: I would gather so and in those days from what I, no not from those days but from when I noticed, when I was, after I was born, Lancaster was the town where the retail merchants were open on Saturday to nine o’clock and they closed early every other day and I guess, basically the market was open for most of the, for most businesses from Thursday through Sunday, Saturday or Sunday.
INTERVIEWER: Hmm. So, your dad, brought the family, brought your family and you to live in grandparent’s, your grandparent’s home town, adopted home town of Lancaster. So, what did your dad do and your mom?
DWORKIN: Well, at that time, when I first was growing up, my dad, as many people in Columbus was doing, he was employed by a new store called Gilbert’s Shoe and jokingly, Gilbert’s had had a lot of Jewish employees at their Town Street store on 210 East Town and my dad was employed there, I would say, from about, uh, I’d say about from Nineteen Thirties, he was, probably, early 30s and then he left there and for a while he had a bar on the west side of Columbus, [a skip] for a period of time. Then, I guess, because of the Depression and things it didn’t work out and he eventually went back to Gilbert’s and he was back there working in Gilbert’s and at the time he was working there in the 40s, uh, and my parents were in Lancaster, it also created a problem for him because of the War with the ration on gas, so he had to be careful. The number of times he would be traveling back and forth, so many for, during the week, say from Monday through Wednesday, he would stay at my grandmother’s house on Carpenter Street, 646 Carpenter which was on the corner of Carpenter and Newton and he would stay there and then Thursday night he came back down to Lancaster and he would bring our kosher meat from Martin’s because in those days, most people had small refrigerators and you couldn’t really keep things very long, so, he would get his, the meat on Thursdays and bring it down to Lancaster and stay Thursday night and then Friday night he would go back, stay at my grandmother’s and then on Saturday night he would come back to Lancaster and then sometimes on Saturday, my mother and I would come up to Columbus to visit my grandmother and we stopped at [skip] of course we got off the bus right, it was a little different place and we would just hop, skip and jump from Lazarus and [Morehouse?] Martin’s and Fashion, but we would beforehand, we would go past all of the fruit stores, stalls and go to Gilbert’s and see my dad and then we would, we would go somewhere and do our shopping. Then we would come back and get the car and with him we would end up going back down to Lancaster, but if we had no gas problems and my dad could come up on Sundays, he would bring my mother and me to Columbus to visit my grandparents, and we would come up Sunday afternoon and visit them and then get more things kosher to take back to Lancaster and then wouldn’t need any thing until Thursday and that was, over the years that’s what happened.
INTERVIEWER: So, you were born in Columbus…
DWORKIN: …at Grant Hospital.
INTERVIEWER: Grant Hospital. What year was that?
INTERVIEWER: 1937 just as the Nazis were consolidating their power…
INTERVIEWER: …and so, you, you knew, actually knew Columbus and you knew Lancaster because you spent a lot of time in both places.
DWORKIN: Correct. Now, one minor detail about my birth. I was a preemie baby and I only weighed two pounds which was unusual in those days and so, I happened to be in the hospital for a month before they discharged me and got me up to five pounds. I guess that was what you had to be in those days.
INTERVIEWER: Wow. So, your early years were a lot in Lancaster.
DWORKIN: Correct, until I left to go to Ohio State.
INTERVIEWER: So, tell us a little. What was that like being Jewish, living in Lancaster, Ohio.
DWORKIN: Basically, I was lucky. It wasn’t too much different that going to school here and I didn’t necessarily have all of the problems that some Jewish kids would have because the Jewish kids were fortunately, were popular kids and we never seemed to have a problem, the ones preceding us and the ones after me, so, we got along and went with the so-called right crowds all of us so it was never a problem and then, for example, even though our country club would not have Jewish members, when the country club had functions for the children and dances and so forth, which in my case, they started in the eighth grade, I was always invited to participate and go to the functions and I never had a problem in that sense.
INTERVIEWER: You’re talking about a Lancaster Country Club.
INTERVIEWER: And so, you say that Jews were not members, Jewish adults were not members but Jewish children would sometimes participate.
DWORKIN: Well, they were able to. I’m assuming in my case it was because of who I was friends with and their parents saw that I was able to participate and so that’s all I can tell you along that line.
INTERVIEWER: So, were there many other Jewish children among your classmates or were you pretty much alone?
DWORKIN: Well, I, there were, before I entered high school and what I can remember, there were two older boys that attended. One was Jack Schatz and the other was Marvin “Dusty” Snider and then once I entered high school, the only ones that were, none were older than me when I entered. After me, Dick Snider and Barbara Fogel were in the class behind me and then David Moler would have been a freshman when I was a senior and, but those were the only, and that pretty much was the way it worked with the classes before me and the classes after me, just a few here and there.
INTERVIEWER: So, were your friends then mostly non-Jewish?
DWORKIN: Yes. Yes.
INTERVIEWER: And how did, how did everybody get along?
DWORKIN: We got along fine, I mean, other than the fact there were certain things, times I wouldn’t be able to do things for one way or another. For example, when I was going to have my bar mitzvah I had a small minor problem that it was scheduled on a day that, it was scheduled on a day that I was supposed to have a championship basketball game at the YMCA, my team, and I couldn’t participate and then my friends, the boys, couldn’t come to my bar mitzvah and they felt bad about that, but our synagogue was called B’nai Israel in Lancaster and it was a very nice synagogue and the odd thing about my bar mitzvah was I didn’t’ appreciate it and I will explain why. It was a normal bar mitzvah, fine in those days. I learned what I had to do and I did it, but, here’s the but. Both of my grandmothers were alive in those days. Each of them were a fantastic cook. All of the adults who came to my bar mitzvah were not coming to my bar mitzvah. They knew my one grandmother was going to cook the Saturday night meal, the other the Sunday night meal. They were there for that, not for me and I never appreciated until I was adult of what that meant because so many of the adults already had lost their parents and my grandmothers, each of them, they knew on both sides what fantastic cooks, so, that was one of the best I would say bar mitzvahs they could attend because of my two grandmothers and I, we had like I said, a small synagogue, but it probably could fill about two hundred people, but, and that would have been probably what we would have had for my bar mitzvah and, anyway that was in March.
INTERVIEWER: That would have been around the year 1950?
DWORKIN: Fifty, but I neglected to say, the bar mitzvah was supposed to be, have the first week in December, no, the last week of December in 1949, but due to my having a sleighing accident and running over a car on Sunday December the 17th, which was the Sunday before my bar mitzvah, I got hit by a car and I broke my pelvis and I was lucky to be alive, and that’s why my bar mitzvah was postponed until March, and that didn’t really bother me about my bar mitzvah ‘cause I was smart enough to do everything and that was fine. I had a major problem though. I can’t sing and I couldn’t sing in those days and for a rabbi to teach me to sing two different times and he had different recordings to do it, it was really a chore and I guess, I made it presentable when I finally did have it and our rabbi in those days was Rabbi Julius Baker who later was the rabbi up here and the odd thing about him was when we used to have him come down during for our services, especially for the holidays, he would stay at Hotel Lancaster and then make his way up Broad Street to a couple of the houses, one was my grandmother’s and one was an Epstein house and he would always come for desserts or lunch or whatever and when he came to our house, of course, my grandmother was very nice to him but she never called him “Rabbi.” She always called him Mr. Baker ‘cause she said he got his degree, for rabbinic degree from the wrong place and she didn’t really accept where he got his which I don’t know where it came from, but that was just her belief and he, in turn, was very nice to her and always polite and that was the way it was. She was Mrs. Silver. He was Mr. Baker and it worked out fine until around 1952 or 53 or somewhere around that when he took over his rabbinical duties here in Columbus.
INTERVIEWER: Now, tell us a little more about this synagogue – B’nai Israel – and it was, was it its own free-standing building or…?
DWORKIN: Yes. It was a free-standing building that, like I say would have had, maybe you could seat around 200 people on each side and when I was growing up, at first, the men were on one side and the women were on the other and before my time there was an upstairs place where the women would sit in the upstairs seats but by the time I was born, they weren’t using the upstairs at all because the people began to mingle and they didn’t mind the men and women sitting together.
INTERVIEWER: So, this was an Orthodox…
DWORKIN: It was an Orthodox originally but by the time the 40s came along it was Orthodox style but it did many other things because they had to help the congregation so they could see things. Now, our congregation was basically…Morris Moler who was a Russian Jew and had a iron, uh, a shop and, where he sold goods and so forth from, I’m not sure what he sold, but
INTERVIEWER: Morris Moler -M-o-l-e-r.
DWORKIN: …e-r. Right.
INTERVIEWER: He was in Lancaster and he had a store.
DWORKIN: He was, he was the head of the synagogue and he really ran it from up to when he died and after he passed away. William Snider, Bill, was more or less in charge with Morton Epstein from Lancaster. There’s two Morton Epsteins, one from Lancaster and one from Logan, and Morton would usually help him with it and there was really no problems with things. The only real problems they had was sometimes on the holidays because they did not have any Koheynim, but they had an excess number of Levites so, they had to be careful when they gave the aliyahs so, and two of my two uncles would come in from Detroit so, they were careful that they got their own aliyahs in first and then the local people that had, that were Levites, they let them come and take them afterwards which they didn’t mind at all, but growing up at my age we still had a number of people come in to town from out of town. Well, we had people come in from Nelsonville and Athens and Circleville but we never had anybody from Chillicothe, and people in Zanesville had their own congregations and in Newark had their own congregations and but from what I know of my mother, previously but not before I was alive, they used to go to Zanesville for dances after Rosh Hashanah ended and, but the two communities, Newark and Lancaster and Zanesville didn’t get together that much because in those days it would be over an hour to get to any of those two towns or for them to come to Lancaster. In fact, when I was growing up, to go from Lancaster to Columbus was not the way it is now. It was a good hour’s drive, at least an hour’s drive and it was, it could be even worse, so that was why we didn’t come up to Columbus as much as maybe we should have to visit relatives.
INTERVIEWER: But this is interesting. Your small congregation served also as a congregation for some of the small number of Jews in some of the other Appalachian towns.
DWORKIN: Yes, a few of them would come in to our services and people in Lancaster would be hospitable and kept them overnight and so forth and not too often when, did I see it when I was growing up but I guess when my mother was younger there was quite a bit and then some of the places eventually go their own synagogues so they were able to have their own services.
INTERVIEWER: This small congregation, although actually it’s not so small if you had two hundred people…
DWORKIN: …in those days but then it got smaller and smaller and I think, I’m not sure about this, probably somewhere about the 80swhen they closed up the congregation, probably mid-80s or so because there just weren’t enough people living in there to have services. Now what I neglected to say when I was growing up, we didn’t have services on Saturday or Friday nights other than the holidays and the reason for that is most of the members had businesses in downtown Lancaster and being open Friday night and Saturday night and that was their livelihood so, we couldn’t get minyans. So these individuals well, had to be at their businesses to make a living and I can think of, most of, like I say, most of the stores were either individually owned or somebody worked for a chain and managed them and the only exception was a store called the Economy Store that was owned by a gentleman by the name of Dave Levinson from Columbus and he was a strikingly good-looking handsome man and very tall, immaculately dressed all the time and he would come every day from Columbus to his business and he was the exception. Everybody else was local and they would basically, had to work for the living so, we were unable to get minyans, but having said that, if there was an occasion where we had a yahrzeit and we had to get a minyan we had no problem. Everybody would leave or make sure they made minyans, so…
INTERVIEWER: Now, you already talked about how the children, the Jewish children got along with the non- Jewish majority. What about the adults? As far as you know, did the adults get along or was there any anti-Semitism that you heard about?
DWORKIN: No, not necessarily. I think the adults got along, too, except for like the country club, they couldn’t belong and, but they were friendly with everybody and my, fortunately for me, my mother’s family was a very popular family in Lancaster and my one uncle was class president of his class for three of his four years in high school so, popularity was not a problem with any of us and we seemed to get along with everybody.
INTERVIEWER: And the Jewish adults were out in the mainstream community, active?
DWORKIN: Right, doing whatever. Some of them belonged to organizations and participated and some just didn’t, but like in Columbus, you can see many people that now when you read the Columbus obituaries, they don’t belong to anything Jewish. You just see their obituaries and who they, who survived them and that’s it and that could hold true for back in Lancaster days.
INTERVIEWER: So, you were in Lancaster in high school and you graduated from Lancaster High School…
DWORKIN: Lancaster High and came up to Columbus to go to Ohio State and I never left Columbus after that. I stayed here and was very happy here in Columbus and it got easier and easier to go down to Lancaster because the road structures improved and timing was faster, but every year up until they closed the synagogue, I would go and then when I married Carol, we would go down to Lancaster for services for the High Holidays and, because they needed us plus many other people like in other communities, people would come back just for the Holidays and that they wouldn’t be there, you know, the rest of the year, so, it was just, I felt I was needed there. I wasn’t needed here where I belonged to Agudas Achim, so that was the reason I would go down to Lancaster. We went down to Lancaster for the holidays.
INTERVIEWER: So, after you came to Ohio State, you became a member of Agudas Achim…
DWORKIN: No, not really. I was one of those young people that didn’t really participate anywhere and my grandparents had belonged to Agudas Achim and the only time I went to Agudas Achim is if I went to services with somebody in the family or something like that and, but I wasn’t a member and I never really joined a congregation until it was time for us to get married and then we both agreed to go to Agudas Achim and I still have a lot of members on my father’s side of the family that belong there, but at that time, many of their children were beginning to switch and they would start to go to other synagogues for whatever reason and so we lost a lot of members of people that I was related to that started to go to other synagogues, and some people even belonged to two or three synagogues starting and they felt they had to participate and belong to all of them.
INTERVIEWER: So, how did you meet your wife Carol? That was here in Columbus?
DWORKIN: Right. That was some, somewhat of a surprise. We both went to Ohio State at the same time. We did not know each other at all there. Later, I was friendly and knew her best friend and her husband but they did not know. They never introduced Carol and me to each other, so they didn’t even, not know that we knew each other I don’t think until sometime after we started to date and how we met was at a Jewish Center adult singles group and, I’m not sure the first time might have been at Koenig’s on East Main.
INTERVIEWER: Koenig’s Restaurant?
DWORKIN: Yes, and so, that might have been it and later, not too long after that there was a place, there was a function down at Christopher Inn that, which was still downtown. It was a big round place and we had met there and then we had started to talk to each other at something at that time still she was either going through or had just gotten her divorce and she didn’t feel that she should be involved with another young man at that time yet, so it was a little later when we first had our first date and it worked out that it was fine but I know that if she had had any idea that maybe she could have done dating sooner, maybe cause the divorce wasn’t quite final, that wouldn’t be because her dad would have been very upset and so she was a good girl and we never had a date until after it was set and for the first time we didn’t even go together. We met at some place. I forget where we had met and we had dinner and so forth and then after that we had started to date.
INTERVIEWER: So, this would have been in the 1950s or 60s…
DWORKIN: No, no, no. This was back in 1980.
INTERVIEWER: …’80. The 1980s is when you met.
DWORKIN: No, we probably met in 1978.
INTERVIEWER: ’78. You were, now when were you at Ohio State?
DWORKIN: I was at Ohio State from ’56 to ’60.
INTERVIEWER: From ’56 to ’60 and she was also at Ohio State but you didn’t really, that was long before you really went together.
DWORKIN: No, no, we didn’t know each other. Another odd thing about our relationship at that time was one of her, I’ll say roommates, but it was a dormmate was Barbara Fogel from Lancaster who went to school with me and they both knew each other but we never met each other since then and unfortunately, we have never tried to contact Barbara wherever she’s at and tell her that we are now husband and wife and that she knew, she had known both of us which has been quite ironic.
INTERVIEWER: Now, Carol’s maiden name was…
DWORKIN: …was Silbert, S-i-l-b-e-r-t, and she grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where her father was an appellate judge in Cleveland, Ohio.
INTERVIEWER: Wow. Okay and then she went to Ohio State.
DWORKIN: Correct and she tells me about taking the train from Cleveland, Ohio to Columbus and then when it goes back it was always stopping in Galion first and whatever other stops it made before it went to Cleveland.
INTERVIEWER: Now, once you really had settled back in Columbus, where did you live?
DWORKIN: When I first got out of school I was living on, I still lived on Chittenden which was a four-bedroom apartment which was owned by, I can’t think of his first name but he was the brother of I. M. Harris.
INTERVIEWER: He was the brother of who?
DWORKIN: …of I. M. Harris, the attorney.
INTERVIEWER: I. M. Harris?
INTERVIEWER: I. M. Harris, the attorney, okay and Chittenden is a street close to campus on the south end of campus.
DWORKIN: Right, right and then from there I moved over with some friends – one friend from Lancaster and a friend from Lancaster just stayed on weekends and my buddy from Lancaster who was working at Lazarus then and one of his friends from Lazarus and we lived on Grandview in brand new apartments and I probably lived there until 1966, that I was going to move, well, we looked at new apartments in Thurber Village. One of them was called Alexandria Colony and we went there to look at the place and they wanted more references. We were just young kids not too far out of college and they wanted to see what we could get, so, I said, “You want references? I’ll bring my parents up from Lancaster.” I brought my parents up and it turned out my dad, Al Dworkin was a friend of one of the owners, Harold Kayne, from Columbus here in the Jewish community.
INTERVIEWER: Harold Kayne, K-a-y-n-e?
DWORKIN: Yes. So, Harold was in, partners with these non-Jewish guys, but with my mother and dad with us, my roommates didn’t even have to bring anybody up for approval because Harold and my dad went way back so they approved of us, so we, when Alexandria Colony opened we were the third people to move in and we had a three bedroom townhouse with my one buddy I grew up from Lancaster who worked at Lazarus and a friend of his from Lazarus and a third guy from Lancaster who came up on the weekends to spend with us and he paid his share, probably more so than he needed to, but we lived there for about four years together and then that started to break up because one guy got transferred by Lazarus to new stores in Mansfield and another guy was getting married and at that time I went, I ended up going to a two bedroom, but just before I went to a two bedroom one of my Lancaster buddies says, “We need a third guy,” and it was only the two of us then. “I got this friend from Lazarus. Do you mind if he would live with us?” and here this guy had known me all my life and knew I was Jewish. This is what’s funny. He says, “Do you mind of this guy would room with us? He’s Jewish,” and I said, “Of course not,” and I knew this gentleman just a little bit of the time. I said, “Fine,” so, then it turns out this gentleman’s name was Harold Nurotsky [sp?]and he was from Niles, Ohio, where his parents had a small menswear store and Harold came to Ohio State after he had graduated from Michigan and he was here and, where he ended up staying and he had some other relatives that were here, Ruth – wait a minute I can’t think of her name. [to Carol] What’s Ruth’s last name? Ruth – his cousin Ruthie? [Carol: I can’t think of it] I can’t think of her name.
INTERVIEWER: Let me make sure I understand this a little bit back from what you said three minutes ago. You were with this other guy who was one of your roommates and you said you needed a third guy and this guy who was not Jewish…
INTERVIEWER: …says to you, ‘Do you mind I got this third guy I’d like to bring in. Do you mind if he’s Jewish?’ Does that mean that he didn’t know you were Jewish?
DWORKIN: No. He knew it ‘cause he grew up with me but he never thought anything of it, but this other guy, obviously he knew he was Jewish and he didn’t, he had completely forgot the fact that I was Jewish, and so, of course, when I mentioned that back to him, he admitted, “I forgot.” He never thought anything of it.
INTERVIEWER: This kind of symbolizes how, as you say the Jews and the non-Jews, they got together, they, they got along okay.
DWORKIN: Correct. Yeah. So anyway, I then lived in a different apartment in Alexandria Colony for a period of time with this other friend of mine who was Jewish until Carol and I ended up getting married.
INTERVIEWER: And then where did you live after you got married?
DWORKIN: From there we moved to Wyandotte East and we lived out at Wyandotte East for nine years and at the time, at that time, before that happened say, in 1984 or ’85 we were beginning to have a lot of deaths in our family. Carol lost her mother and I lost two uncles and an aunt within two and a half months so at that time I had said to my mother, “ You know, I would hope you would move to Columbus because at this point in time, there’s you and your one brother and one sister left and I would love to see the three of you move to Columbus, but I don’t want something to happen to you and then the other two would move to Columbus to be nearer to me to be helpful and to Carol and I,” and but then, so they ended up moving to Columbus which pleased Carol and I because it made it much easier than going back and forth to Lancaster with our normal lives and so forth and being helpful to them, so, we appreciate the four years that we did have all of them until they got ill and passed away, my mother in ’89, my aunt a year later on the same day my mother died in ’90and then my uncle in ’91, so that worked out tremendous for us and we were very thrilled to be able to do that.
INTERVIEWER: Now, from then on did you spend, for instance did you then start going to Columbus synagogues as opposed to going down to Lancaster or did you continue going down to Lancaster?
DWORKIN: Well, in ’85, once my parents, my mother had moved, my aunt and uncle moved up here, shortly after that is when the synagogue closed and so that’s when we went full time for the holidays at Agudas Achim as did my mother and aunt and uncle and, but, going back to, going back to, let’s see when, I would say going back to when I was out of school at Ohio State, I started to go to, I was active in the Jewish Center. I played visibly in the young adult basketball league. Luckily, I was on a championship team in spite of myself and I had fun doing things like that, belonging to the Center and then I would sometimes do things at the synagogues but not very often and then later on, say 1970, I ended up joining B’nai B’rith and the reason I had joined…well, before that, before that, though I joined B’nai B’rith then, 1962 I did join B’nai B’rith then at that point in time, Zion Lodge and the reason I did that is not because of my parents or myself. I went to a function where Jerry Lucas was one of the guests and Ohio State was very good basketball team then and I was [there?]…and one of my dad’s buddies knew that I was there and he said to my dad, “Does Mike belong?” and I said, “No,” He said, “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I don’t trust your dad. I’m going to pay for your year’s membership into Zion Lodge. You or your dad has to pay after that.” So, I stayed a member of Zion Lodge until 1970 when a new lodge, Maccabee Lodge, opened up and I became a member of that not for any reason against Zion, but Zion was more older. There weren’t that many younger people participating and Maccabee was new with young people participating, so, I joined Maccabee and I became very active and I was president of that in 1977-Seventy Eight and by joining Maccabee and then becoming active in it and president, I became active in helping ADL and functions.
INTERVIEWER: The Anti-Defamation League.
DWORKIN: Right and so, at that point I then started doing things in ADL and I became a member of ADL, so, at one point there, I was on the ADL board – Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana board – for about eight years and before that starting when I was the president of Maccabee, I became active in B’nai B’rith District 2 which comprised the same states and I became very active in the district and I eventually, I became an officer in the district on the regional district board and I was on the district board various times for eight years and I enjoyed B’nai B’rith. I enjoyed meeting all these people from all these other towns and Carol and I ended up starting to going to international events and we would go to the international conventions and the district conventions and we had many friends from, basically from our district that we both knew and had fun doing things with until the districts went out of existence and they became regionalized and now it’s a little different type situation. But, I continue to pay my B’nai B’rith dues because, not because I’m so active or caring, I felt I owed it to B’nai B’rith because it did so much for me in all the friends and good things that we had always done and, in fact, through the district, one of the district presidents who I was very friendly with, Rich Heideman (sp?) from Louisville was, became international president, so, he was running for international president in 1998 in Jerusalem and Carol and I were lucky enough to go there and that was the impetus that got us to go. We wanted to participate in his trying to win the election so, we did and we enjoyed it very much and that was our experience how we got to Israel and we enjoyed the B’nai B’rith convention. We enjoyed our time afterwards touring Israel. We got to go three days in Cairo and the only minor part of that all that problem, as the district convention was ending, we had a food poisoning or something where people were getting sick and at various times different people got sick. I started to get sick when we were getting ready to go to Israel and then I was very sick and then when we came back and we were touring Israel I was still sick and the last couple days we were there I had a prescription and Carol started to get sick and she shared my prescription for two days until we got home to the doctor. Now the only other similar type thing I had a, that same thing happened to me after a, during a B’nai B’rith convention in Indianapolis. I don’t eat fish and we went through the buffet line at this place where we were and I saw they just brought out a fresh fish – salmon. It looked delicious. It was fresh. I took a little bit of the first, from that particular fish. I, it couldn’t have been more than, you make a small “o” in your hands. It couldn’t have been more than that. It turned out I got deathly sick. When we found out the caterer didn’t have room for all of her fish to put away, she left one out all night and that’s what had happened. Over half of the people from the convention got sick. One guy lost a spleen. Another guy something else very serious. All that happened to me was I was just very, very sick.
INTERVIEWER: What year do you think that was?
INTERVIEWER: ‘85. That was the convention here, in Indianapolis.
DWORKIN: In Indianapolis. It’s a district convention in this Rich Heideman I told you later was president of the international and district, he was my attorney for all of this, when I went through all of this and yes, I got a little bit of money. He made a little bit but for as sick as I was, it wasn’t worth anything you got and I won’t name who my doctor was at the time but he was very uncooperative with Rich. He wouldn’t cooperate at all. He wouldn’t even use a radio device where he could, like we’re using now, where you could speak into it to give his disposition and then they could use if for the attorney. He just did not want to be involved, so shortly after that gentleman, after that happened, I just dropped that guy as a physician and went somewhere else and my next physician was very, very nice gentleman by the name of Maynard Goldmeier who is here in the community, very active.
INTERVIEWER: Dr. Maynard Goldmeier.
DWORKIN: Maynard Goldmeier, right, and it was a pleasure having him as my physician after my previous experience but this brings up another time. I want to tell you. When I was in early seventies, I had to have my…
INTERVIEWER: When you were in your early seventies?
DWORKIN: No, no,
INTERVIEWER: In the Nineteen Seventies.
DWORKIN: Yeah. I needed to have a doctor which I didn’t have and this friend of mine mentioned this doctor in German Village. He said, “He’ll be good and he’ll take care of you. Go see him.” That doctor turned out to be Dr. Brief who was very, he was an active doctor here in this community.
INTERVIEWER: What was his name?
DWORKIN: Brief. Dr. Brief.
INTERVIEWER: Brief. B-r-i-e-f. [ transcriber note: it is B-r-i-e-f]
DWORKIN: Right. Right and his daughter was later president of the Jewish Historical Society.
INTERVIEWER: Toby Brief.
DWORKIN: Correct, so, anyway, I go into his office and I’m there. There’s nobody to greet me but I was warned, you’ll have to wait. A patient came out with Dr. Brief. He then saw, took my name and asked me some questions, said just a minute and fill out this or that or whatever and then I went back to his office and he took care of me. As you can tell from this, he had no assistants in those days. Some would come in. You would just wait until your turn and then he would take care of you and then that’s the way it worked in his particular office. I was quite amused because I’d never experienced that in the few doctors I’d seen in my lifetime but I thought that was very interesting to bring that up, so that ends that part of the…now as far as the Jewish community, like I said, I was always active in the young adults through the Jewish Center until I ended up marrying Carol and, of course, there was several different leaders of the young adults at the Center but it serves a good point for the people of this community and many people…that was it. They did not know people so, that’s how they learned to meet people and among the people I met through that was guys who were going to Lockbourne Air Force Base who were servicemen in the Air Force and some were enlisted men. Some were officers and they knew about the Center and they would come to our functions and some of them ended up marrying Columbus girls.
INTERVIEWER: Now you mentioned that in your youth you even remember Martin’s, martin’s Kosher Foods. Now how ‘bout after you got up here and basically made Columbus your home in the eighties and beyond? Did you have much dealings at Martin’s?
DWORKIN: Yeah, always. The only difference is I didn’t keep kosher in my apartment. It would be kosher style at best, and, but I would still always get there. Now, backtracking again, I don’t mean to do this but, when I was younger, I enjoyed doing this, too. I loved going to Hepps which was right near Schwartz’s Bakery.
INTERVIEWER: Hepps Delicatessan.
DWORKIN: Right, and then they moved on East Broad before it was taken over by another couple and…
INTERVIEWER: Now, what years would this have been when you went to Hepps?
DWORKIN: Oh, any times from ’60 on until I would still go to there, even there and Schwartz’s when they were both together and then when they moved on out east, I would go there. I liked their corned beef but what I really liked was their kosher hot dogs that they had in pickle barrels that you got ‘em out of pickle barrels like you got pickles out of those pickle barrels and they were so much better than any of the hot dogs that I get now and you just put ‘em in water and boil ‘em and they break apart and they would be fantastic and I always remember that and Mrs. Hepps had this Black gentleman worked with them by the name of Paul and he was always so pleasing and nice to everybody, too, and then, of course, when they sold the place, the people that bought it were very, very nice and it continued until, like anything, it ended and I had to bring…
INTERVIEWER: But in the early days when you first remember Hepps, it was located…
DWORKIN: I think it’s Fulton Street, one block off of Main. Let’s see.
INTERVIEWER: ‘Cause Fulton is a couple blocks from Main, yes, and this was closer to downtown.
DWORKIN: Yeah. Right and Schwartz was there and I’m not sure whether…there may have been one, there might have been one kosher meat market there ,too, over in those days, but I forget, but basically, my family always dealt with Martin’s especially because how nice Martin Godofsky was during World War II and when everything was on ration and it was hard to get this or that, and being from Lancaster, he made sure that whatever we wanted he always had stuff that we wanted because it was so difficult to get to Columbus and he was wonderful as far as my grandparents were concerned in those days ‘cause it was so difficult, and then I remember a little bit about…the…there was…Goldmeirs had, parents had a place…
DWORKIN: Yeah, Dr. Goldmeier’s parents had a place somewhere around Ohio and Main or Champion and Main, I forget which and directly across the street, catty corner, a cousin of mine had a drug store there, so, once in a while I would end up over at his drug store and…
INTERVIEWER: Now that was when that area was generally a Jewish neighborhood.
DWORKIN: Still a Jewish neighborhood, yeah, cause my parents, my dad, like I say, had grown up on Carpenter and Newton which was approximately no more than two blocks from there, and so, but I remember, since my dad’s family was so large, I knew a lot of people from Columbus because of being related to him. So many people in the old days, prior to ’56 somebody come in new they couldn’t say anything about anybody because everybody knew everybody else so they didn’t know who they might be saying the wrong thing to.
INTERVIEWER: You had to be careful who you gossiped to.
DWORKIN: Right, in those days and my dad’s family had, they used to have picnics in the summer place, in the summer. I don’t remember where it is, was but it was somewhere around Monk’s corner and, but, and I can’t exactly tell you what that was but it was off of College and I’m not sure if it was College and Refugee…
INTERVIEWER: College and Refugee was Monk’s Corner. It seemed to be way out in the country back then.
DWORKIN: Right, and we would go to family reunions all the time in the summer there and also in the summer we’re going up, we’d go to Pittsburgh to reunions on my mother’s side and, but, they had ‘em twice a year, once in the summer at one of the most popular parks today – I can’t think of the name of it in the Pittsburgh area- and the other at a shul and we always had to have it at the same shul because it was the biggest shul in Pittsburgh in order to have it. Now, being living here in Lancaster of Columbus, we only went to a couple of those winter ones but they were always well attended and, of course, the summer ones were fantastic and just like anything on both sides those reunions seemed to end. I think it’s my dad and mother’s generation that enjoyed them. The kids of my generation didn’t care for them as much so, we didn’t’ follow up on ‘em which was a shame, but, uh, I guess that’s the way it goes.
INTERVIEWER: Since you came to Ohio State, you got a…what, did you get a degree or did you, did you, did graduate or you just…?
DWORKIN: No, I didn’t finish.
INTERVIEWER: You were taking what kind of, was there a particular courses…?
DWORKIN: I was taking business and in commerce college and, as some people called it in those days, Haggerty High School.
INTERVIEWER: Haggerty High School because named after Haggerty Hall?
DWORKIN: Haggerty Hall, yeah, and then, of course, in those days a lot of the buildings were very, very old and some of the places were…if you had classes on the second or third floor, the buildings were really rickety and you wouldn’t know how long they would last and then going still because of that, they still were using foam. When service men after World War II they built like barracks, these buildings just north of campus. Some of ‘em were way out on Olentangy. Some of ‘em were just attached to campus but they were really not much of anything but they had ten classes there and first the older places the married people lived and then other people could live and then back when I started Ohio State they, the, they had two or three women’s dorms – I think Canfield and Oxley – and Baker was all men’s, fairly, fairly new and that’s just the…that was all they had in dorms and I remember the old armory which later became Mershon Auditorium and that was used for R-O-T-C stuff until they tore that down and R-O-T-C’s went over on campus right next to where St. John’s Arena is. There was a building and all the R-O-T-C’s were over there and I remember when I was in, uh, classes on the second or third floor of someplace over on campus and had to get over to R-O-T-C building it was what you would say, a schlepp, and if you were on the second or third floor you had twelve minutes and rushing very hard. It wasn’t easy to do. Well, I was one of those students that didn’t rush enough and I was very good grade-wise. I had an A but one quarter my A went to a D with all my demerits from being late to classes and I was lucky I didn’t have another day of classes ‘cause I would have flunked it, of course, that quarter otherwise, so, but, you know, everybody had to learn to adjust to the schedules in those days the way it was.
INTERVIEWER: We haven’t talked about what you did for a living.
DWORKIN: Oh, okay. When I was in school, I, during the school year I worked for the State Treasurer and I was able to get jobs working there and luckily I was able to get that through political pull and in the summer, one of my best friends from Lancaster who is, happens to be a judge in Lancaster and his dad, was one of the, his dad’s family was one of the oldest most prestigious families in Lancaster, and his dad and my mother had a deal.
INTERVIEWER: Had a what?
DWORKIN: Had a deal. They were different political faiths. They would get John and me jobs in the summer. His dad ended up, would get us, try to get us jobs and my mother both. Sometimes they would be able to get each of us. Sometimes they couldn’t. One year his dad got him a job on a farm picking corn and stuff and my mother got my job which I was on the road surveying out of Lancaster with one of the county surveying crews that surveyed all of Ohio. We happened to be survey where they were building 70 East and we would build, we would go survey in Cambridge area. We did it in the Zanesville area. In fact, when we were in Zanesville doing it, uh, we used to stop for breaks to eat our lunch and it so happened in Zanesville it was at the Jewish cemetery where we ate our lunch, and so, but then when later on, when we got farther east we worked out of Quaker City, Ohio, and that’s where we went every day from Lancaster to Quaker City and back and through the trees and the swamps area and so forth, we did surveying to build what turned out to be 70 East and I did that a couple summers and all I cared about was I was making money and it didn’t bother me whatsoever and that, so, that was enjoyable doing that in that [sense], and of course, like I say, making money I enjoyed saving the money and as much as I could, so, by the time 1959 came around I had saved done a pretty good job saving and I wanted a car and my parents agreed and I went looking for a convertible and I found a Chevy convertible that I was interested in at a place in Bexley called Lex-Mayers.
INTERVIEWER: Lex Mayers Chevrolet.
DWORKIN: They had this beautiful convertible I wanted and Lex, when I went to get it after we agreed on it, he did two things: one, he said he forgot to include the tax. Second thing he did he said, “We can forget all this and work out a heck of a deal.” He says to my mother, and my parents had a jewelry store in Lancaster, “What kind of, what will you give me for a diamond?” He wanted a good deal and my mother said, “You know, you suddenly want a diamond so, you’re going to give us a good deal but you wouldn’t give us any other thing beforehand and then when we came up now to deal, to get the car, you suddenly add the tax. You know I don’t want my son spending his money with you. We’ll get it somewhere else.” So, we left and so, I ended up getting my car at Bob’s Chevrolet and it was on Parsons Avenue right off of Livingston and the only difference was my convertible wasn’t quite what I had wanted because it had, the one I wanted had a beautiful red/blue top that matched the blue of the car otherwise so I had to settle for the white top which was fine and people would say, “Why do you want a convertible? You’re going to have to replace your windows.” I said, “I’ll worry about that when the time comes and when I need to replace my convertible windows, I’ll go to my uncle’s place at Central Seat Cover which was owned by my uncle Len Dworkin. “I’ll replace it and get a window for the convertible there,” and which four years later that’s what I end up doing, but back to the convertible when I first got it. I got the convertible, took it down to Lancaster. Two days later I was leaving with two Jewish boys from Lancaster to the Catskills. We were going to a singles event in the Catskills. Is aid to my parents, “I hate leaving my car but mom, you’ll be glad ‘cause you can drive it all the time I’m gone. You’ll love it,” and she said, “You’re right.” So, I come back from that singles trip. I see my mother put a lot of miles on it – five miles. She didn’t want to drive it anymore than she had to being a good mother, but, like I say, in those days I was able to save all my monies from working in the summers and the jobs I had in the winter because my parents paid for my schooling. I didn’t have to pay for anything else and my monies I made was mine for whatever I did, so, in those days I was able to pay for a car like that. Doing the same thing today I would never be able to, getting paid, I still wouldn’t have enough money to be able to buy a car myself.
INTERVIEWER: Now, you talked about how you had the survey jobs that helped to build I-70, the Interstate. What did you do after that? What kind of jobs have you had since then?
DWORKIN: Well, by the time I was out of school then, that’s when I started to go to work normally and I went with the Huntington Bank and I was with the Huntington in various capacities for thirty-nine years and eight months, and everybody said, “Why didn’t you stay til forty?” I said, “Nothing against the Huntington but thirty-nine years and eight months was enough,” and I was eligible for retirement and that was fine with me. I didn’t need the extra four, four months to get forty in., but, like I say, it was very enjoyable working for them. They were very good to me and everything but having said all that now that I’ve been retired for thirteen to fifteen years I wonder where I had time to work, and, uh…
INTERVIEWER: You wondered how you had time to work because you had such fun otherwise?
DWORKIN: No, no, because of the way things are today, with everything I’m doing, I wouldn’t be able to get my doctors’ appointments in or this or that.
INTERVIEWER: That’s what a lot of retired people say. Tell me about your job. What did you do for the Huntington? You were a number guy, you were an auditor, a treasurer, what?
DWORKIN: I was in an accounting area where we did all the bank’s reports that they had to turn, reports to the government or give out to the country, everybody else. You see their balance sheets and this and that they had to turn in. In addition to that, we took care of all of the reports of all the employees that needed to be reimbursed. Their reimbursements went through us. We checked them out to verify that they could get ‘em and if they passed inspections we issued the checks and they got their money. If they didn’t we’d return the reports until they settled and to our satisfaction and then they got their pays, but we did that type of things for the whole and of course, when I started the bank had Market Exchange which they had just bought, Eastmoor which they had just built, and Lane Avenue which I don’t know whether it was just built or what but, those were the only three branches they had, and then they built that up to where they are today and at the same times, we did our accounting as everything together, and, for example, of Ohio National, whatever branches they had, they did everything branch by branch. Every branch had their own accounting system and they did it and then when they were finished, you’d just add the two, three, four branches the figures for them together to come up with one, but they were like just putting everything together in individual things. Huntington went through putting everything together right at the first step so you never had any breakdown of what any particular branch did, even though we could tell you what each branch did but it was a little different set-up.
INTERVIEWER: So, you must have been pretty good with numbers.
DWORKIN: Well, I don’t know that but I wasn’t too bad and I’ll put it this way. With mathematical type stuff, and history type stuff I was very good and, I was very good, but when it comes to things you have to do artistic-wise, or drawings or even singing, I’m at the bottom of the list when it comes to those two sides, so I guess, everybody has their own forte, and mine certainly wasn’t music or art and I was lucky on the other end.
INTERVIEWER: So, do you have any analysis, as you look at the Jewish community in Columbus, and you’ve been here for many decades now, how has it changed or has it changed?
DWORKIN: It’s, ye…oh, it’s definitely changed. It’s much, much bigger than it was then and, in those days, the, basically, it was three of four synagogues and those synagogues basically were, basically the type of people that where the families came from. I think Tifereth Israel was mostly, Tifereth…Austrian-Hungary, somewhat Sephardic and Agudas Achim would have been Russian or German, mostly Russian and it depends on the type of, and Temple Israel would have been mostly German, I think, and I’m not sure what became Ahavas Sholom and Beth Jacob, which they were. I think Beth Jacob was an off-shoot of Agudas Achim at one time and maybe even Ahavas Sholom, but, as, I guess as you, as people age, different generations do things different and in many cases, the so-called everybody being religious changes to other than where you belong to because of your history of your family, people modernize or whatever terminology you want to use and don’t do things quite the way previous generations do, so, that’s why they change as they have. Now, as far as I can see with the synagogues, I think they have a big problem, and I think it is, of course, the greater bulk of people are aging. The younger generation is not so much into synagogues. Previously, it was a question of, in my opinion, of people either joined and participated in synagogues and other Jewish organizations or they didn’t and that meant, I would have, say, I don’t know, at one point I would have said, 50% of the Jews in Columbus participated, either belonged to Jewish organizations or to a synagogue. The others chose not to for whatever reason. They were Jews in name and participant, they did not want to belong to anything. Now, I feel it’s changing even more because of, well, intermarriage has a problem in that, too. That’s changing. Now, not all the synagogues are changing enough to involve the families and you need to involve the families, if possible, so that’s got to happen in the future because the old group’s aging and you’re not replacing and the new people who come in in my opinion, are not the thousands that you would need to replace the ones dying off, so, if the ones you get, if you get a hundred families a year, which I don’t know if that’s good or bad but let’s just use that, you’re getting a hundred families a year and you get four synagogues, you get twenty-five families to join each of four synagogues and you get more than that people dying off, so, that problem’s going to age and age and become more and more… so, I think eventually we’re going to have less synagogues in town because of costs and how we satisfy the members of the Jewish community that you have is a tough rock to follow for all the synagogues and for the Jewish community and, I think, the Federation and the people involved in that way, are trying to accommodate the Jewish population to get as many of them to participate and do things as possible whatever way they can, but it’s a tough road to haul.
INTERVIEWER: So, you’re not necessarily optimistic about the future of the Columbus Jewish community?
DWORKIN: I think I’m optimistic in the sense of whatever there is will do a good job but it won’t be the numbers that you would like. I would say something like that.
INTERVIEWER: I think we’ve covered a lot of ground here. Is there anything you haven’t said that you’d like to say about, about the Central Ohio Jewish community, what it was like, anything, any final thoughts?
DWORKIN: Well, I’ll just say because I was a member of a large family on my father’s side with a large number of people here, where I had a lot of relatives, I really had a lot of people that I knew and participated and done things with so, I wasn’t really too far off living in a small town with what I did have here to help make up for what I was missing, so, I really think that was goo what I had and really because I had, because of one cousin on my mother’s side, Lois Polster, who was a year younger than me and her parents were Evelyn, Jr. and Martin Polster, who was a past president and treasurer of Tifereth Israel, they were very good to me and I participated and met a lot of people in Columbus through Lois and in the summers she came down to Camp Fire Girls in, outside of Lancaster, functions and she’d bring her girlfriends and of course they would come to Lancaster to my place so I met them that way and then her parents would come once a month to visit my grandmother who was her mother’s aunt and I always got to, they would bring friends all the time so, other relatives of Marty’s, so I, myself, knew a lot of people all the time in Columbus, which made it very, very nice and then, so, I appreciated that, so, I always felt like I was a member, you know, of the Columbus community, and through my dad’s side of course, I always felt a big portion to Agudas Achim and because of Marty and Evelyn, I knew a lot of people and participated in Tifereth Israel, so, I was, I didn’t seem like I missed too much, and even, like I say, going back to the high school years, Columbus kids had sororities and fraternities through the Jewish Center. Some of them were Jewish Center groups. Some of them were through temple groups or synagogue groups or whatever and I was always invited to those dances and participate even though I didn’t belong to those things because of being known and so, I was really glad that I was able to participate and, of course, my parents being able to belong, and later, when I first was at college, I didn’t mention this, my parents belonged to Excelsior Club, so, I, for a while, I participated in that when I was in college and with the kids who went there because of my parents and my uncle and aunt had belonged, too, so, I didn’t really feel like I missed out on anything and I was always able to, you know, join with Jewish groups and do things so, as a young adult I belonged to the Center and I did things through the physical ed department, and, as a single person, I did through the young adult part, party, part of the Center so, I always was lucky to be able to belong to groups and the same, the same way when I first went to college. I joined a fraternity and I participated in the fraternity thing for a couple of years and I was never in a position where I didn’t feel I belonged to something or was part of something. I was always in it or able to do things. I never felt a loss or anything.
INTERVIEWER: That’s a nice positive note to end this interview on, the idea that the Central Ohio Jewish community has many decades, for many decades reached out even in to the small towns around Columbus and brought in people and made people, made Jewish people feel welcome as part of the community. We’ve been talking with Michael Dworkin here at his home in Berwick on February 16th of 2018. My name’s Bill Cohen and we’ve been doing this oral history for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. Thank you so much.