This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded
on October 2, 1996, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral
History Project. The interview is being recorded at 48 S. Drexel. My name is
Hinda Riker and I am interviewing Naomi Schottenstein at whose home we are.
Naomi . . . .
Schottenstein: Yeah, I was born in Canton, Ohio, which is Stark County and
that’s about 130 some miles north of Columbus.
Interviewer: Who were you named after?
Schottenstein: I was named after my mother’s mother and her name was Nechama.
My Jewish name is Nechama.
Interviewer: That’s pretty.
Schottenstein: Yeah, and my sister Helen, my older sister, was in the French
class at the time and gave me a middle name of Yvonne. I’ve never hardly ever
used that but my middle name is Yvonne and my maiden name is Gendel,
G-E-N-D-E-L. The New York Cousins call it Gendel (dell) but in the western part
of the country, we pronounced it Gendel.
Interviewer: At what point can you start tracing your family history? When
did your family come here or . . . .
Schottenstein: My mother and father were married in Europe in the early
1900s, I don’t have the date exactly in my mind, but the early 1900s. And my
father actually was supposed to be an arranged marriage. My mother and father,
that wasn’t the original arrangement. My father was going to meet my mother’s
sister and when he came to the house to meet my mother’s sister, he saw my
mother and fell in love with her right away. She had reddish hair and she was a
beautiful woman and so he married her and they were only married a short time
and the pogroms were happening in Russia and so he had to leave to save his life
and so he came to America and he had to get himself established and save to
bring my mother over. In the meantime, my mother was pregnant with my sister and
they continued to live with my mother’s parents until my father could send for
them, which was in 1921. And so they were separated for most of the first seven
years of their married life and then my mother and my sister came to Canton,
Interviewer: Did you have family there? What made you choose Canton as the .
. . .
Schottenstein: Yeah. My mother had a brother there who was pretty well
established and my mother also had a sister there who was already married and
had a young family, so that’s why my father ended up there. My father did have
two other brothers in the United States, one in the New York area and one in
California and he was with each one of them and wasn’t really happy but he
came to Canton and that’s where he got established and that’s where he had
my mother and sister arrive in 1921.
Interviewer: That’s very interesting. And then what brought you to
Schottenstein: To Columbus. I was at a leadership training camp in
Zionsville, Indiana, in 1947 or ’48 and during that summer, I met Thelma
Zisenwine and Boots Nutis. They were both there. And Thelma had just graduated
from Ohio State University and she had a job offer in Canton, Ohio, at the
Jewish Center. She had just grad- uated as a social worker from Ohio State
University. But at that time, kids didn’t just go to another city, especially
kosher Jewish kids, and just live in an apartment. She had to have a kosher
family to live with and I immediately responded to her by saying, “I’m
sure my mother and dad will allow you to live with them. I’ll ask them when I
go home.” Which I did and of course they said, “Yes,” and that
Fall, Thelma came to live with us. She lived with us for a year and a half while
she worked at the Jewish Center in Canton.
Interviewer: They were both originally from Columbus, Thelma and Boots?
Schottenstein: Yes and Boots had just graduated also from Ohio State in
Social Work and she got a job at the Akron Jewish Center. So we were in pretty
Interviewer: And then you came to Columbus when you met Bernie, or . . . .
Schottenstein: Yes, Thelma would come home and visit her family for all the
holidays and she came home for Passover in April of 1948 and Bernie came to
visit with her. They were neighbors and she was also a real good friend of
Bernie’s sister Shirley. So when Bernie came to visit, Thelma said to Bernie,
“If you take me back,” Bernie had just gotten a new car. He had a new
Ford. And she said, “If you drive me back to Canton, I’ll introduce you
to my girlfriend Naomi,” which is what he did. He came, brought her back on
a Sunday and we dated and neither of us dated anybody else from that time. I met
him in April, we were engaged in October and married February, ’49.
Interviewer: That’s very interesting. Very, very nice. What did your folks
do, what did your family do in Canton?
Schottenstein: My father was a potato and onion dealer and he would go to the
country with his truck and get loads of potatoes, onions, bring them back to a
garage that we had rented in the neighborhood, and they would be, the potatoes
and onions would be dumped out and we would sort through them and put them in
burlap bags. Actually, we all helped, my mother, my sister, my brother and we
would help put the potatoes in hundred pound bags and don’t really remember
what we did with the onions, but I know my mother cooked a lot with potatoes and
Interviewer: Hummmm. Very, very nice. Did you belong to a congregation there?
Were your family Orthodox, Conservative?
Schottenstein: My family were, they considered themselves Orthodox and we
were not shomer, totally shomer Shabbos, somewhat observant. We
were very observant and my mother and dad, as I remember when we were little, my
mother and dad were shomer Shabbos. We had a Shabbos goy, somebody
who came in and turned on the lights and the stove and whatever on Shabbat.
And I think that as the kids got older, we ourselves did that, did the things
that the Shabbos goy used to do. So we belonged to a synagogue that was,
Shareh Torah was the name of our synagogue in Canton. And Agudas Achim. Agudas
Achim was the Orthodox synagogue.
Interviewer: That was in Canton?
Schottenstein: In Canton.
Interviewer: Because you belonged to Agudas Achim when you came to Columbus?
Schottenstein: Right, I guess I continued that tradition.
Interviewer: That’s very good. Tell me something about your brothers and
sisters now, their names and . . . .
Schottenstein: My oldest sister, Helen, is 14 years older than me and she was
born, as I said before, in Europe and then my next brother, Sidney and he’s 7
years older than me and he lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and Helen now, my older
sister, lives in Akron, Ohio. And then I have a younger sister, two years
younger than me, Joyce, and she lives in Cleveland, Ohio. We had another brother
who was 3 years older than me but he was killed in an automobile accident when
he was 5 years old. So I was quite little but I think I vaguely remember what
happened at the time.
Interviewer: And what about schooling? Did you go to public school or . . . .
Schottenstein: Yeah, we . . . .
Interviewer: Tell us something about your education.
Schottenstein: We lived in, I remember I think three different houses when I
was growing up in Canton. The first house we lived in, my parents were buying
and they lost it as a result of the Great Depression. So they were not able to
keep that house. So we moved into a rental house and then we finally were able
to buy a house. So I lived in five houses during my growing-up years in Canton,
Ohio, and went to public school. The last school I really remember was Cherry
Street Elementary School and that was near our house in a Jewish neighborhood;
our synagogue, everything was close by. But that’s been torn down and replaced
by a McDonald’s.
Interviewer: Oh my.
Schottenstein: Then I went to high school which was about three years old, I
think. Less than five years old when I went to it. It was rather a new school
called Timken Vocational School. It was quite rare too. That was a whole new
concept, a vocational school. So I graduated in the retailing class.
Interviewer: Oh. What were some of your hobbies and interests in high school?
Schottenstein: I was very interested in drama. I really was a stage helper
rather than an actress during high school but I seemed to be real involved in
organizations even then. I belonged to Buds of Hadassah. That was for the
younger people of Hadassah. And I did a lot of, I spent a lot of time at the
Jewish Center. That was my life.
Interviewer: Did you go to college at all?
Schottenstein: I didn’t go to college but I, at the time that I was old
enough to go to college, my family’s situation was such that we, my dad couldn’t
afford to send the girls and my brother to college and it was determined then
that it was more important for a boy to get an education so then he could take
care of his family, so my brother was designated to be the college graduate. He
came to Ohio State and we were really proud that we had the ability to send my
brother and have him graduate with a degree in chemistry from Ohio State. It was
important to all of us that he had that degree. But as for myself, I did go to
business school and I took a lot of business courses and that’s what I got for
Interviewer: And you’re still very active in the community as it is. That’s
very nice. Well, let’s see. Tell me about, a little bit about Bernie, your
going together, your family. I assume you got married and how old were you, did
you tell me?
Schottenstein: Well I was 20 when we got married. Bernie was 24. We often kid
when, I often kid that when we got married, he was four years older than me but
as time goes on, Bernie likes to tell people that he’s four years younger, but
he’s not. Born in 1924. He was the second of 9 children. He came from a large
family and they all welcomed me with open arms when I came to Columbus and I
integrated immediately into their family.
Schottenstein: You had asked me where we lived. Was that your question
Schottenstein: Yeah, when we first got married, our first apartment was at
1510 South High Street and that was right after the war, 1949, so apartments
were hard to find at that time and it just so happens that Uncle Harry and Aunt
Esther owned that building and if I remember correctly, we paid something like
$60 a month rent and Uncle Harry would give Bernie back $30 and always say,
“And don’t tell Esther.” But he would give us back $30 so 1510 South
High Street, we lived there. Beryl was born there and when she was about 2 years
old, we moved to 1199 S. 22nd Street and that’s where Harley was born. And we
lived there until we built our house at 307 S. Harding Road and that was in 1955
and then Sheri and Larry were born there.
Interviewer: You were there for a long time.
Schottenstein: We lived there for about 35 years. Uh huh, we lived there for
at least 35 years and then Harley and Vida bought the house from us and they
lived there 2 years and then Bernie and I bought 38 S. Drexel and we’ve been
here for 11 years.
Interviewer: Yeah, that’s lovely. Let’s hear about your children. Tell me
about each of them, Harley and Beryl and Sheri and Larry.
Schottenstein: Our oldest, Beryl, was born in 1951 and she was pretty much a
child of the 60s. She graduated high school in ’69 and she got caught up in
the fever of the excitement of 1969 and she was always very artistic and a
little more difficult for us to keep track of as a young, growing-up woman. And
our second child, Harley, was born in 1953 and he was kind of the intellectual,
book-reading person, and then our third child Sheri was born in 1956 and she
always seemed to be a real easy kid. Maybe by then we had had enough experience.
And then Larry was born in 1960 and he was the easiest one of all. He was really
a real terrific kid but the youngest of four and the kids all adored him.
Interviewer: Did you take a lot of family vacations? Tell me about some of
Schottenstein: We didn’t really have the ability financially to take
vacations but we did take trips and all of our trips were with all of the kids
and we usually went to some historical place like Williamsburg, Washington, D.C.
Bernie was a real fan of, avid interest of history and Civil War and World War
I, World War II. So we did have a lot of those kinds of trips. We took, one year
we took the kids to New Orleans and that was quite an ordeal. Our other trips
were very few and far between but they were to visit family like we went to
visit Shirley and Albert in Florida and other than that, it was really
Cleveland, Akron and Columbus.
Interviewer: What about their religious upbringing? Did they go to Hebrew
School or . . . .
Schottenstein: Well we always belonged to Agudas Achim and the children all
went to Sunday School, also at Agudas Achim. Beryl barely got through Sunday
School. She hated it and just barely got through. Sheri loved the idea of having
a Bat Mitzvah and so she sought training through Rabbi Rubenstein and was
Bat Mitzvahed . . . . graduating from high school but Sheri really got
into the swing of it. She was confirmed. Harley and Larry of course were Bar
Mitzvahed at Agudas Achim.
Interviewer: Well with the four children, how many grandchildren do you have?
Schottenstein: We have 7 grandchildren.
Interviewer: Tell me a little bit about them.
Schottenstein: Okay. Beryl and Garrett don’t have children. They’ve been
married, they’ve been living together, for about 20 years and they’re both
artists and family is not their interest but Harley has two children. Noah is
now 13 and Reva is now 9, almost 10. And then Sherry has three little girls, Mya
and Reva are just one week apart. They were both born in December, just one week
from each other. Tera is 7 and Jessica is 4. They live in Phoenix, Arizona. And
Larry and Amy have two boys. Ariel is 4 and Benjamin is almost 3. And they live
here in Columbus.
Interviewer: I’ll bet you have lots of fun times with them.
Schottenstein: Yeah we do. They’re a lot of fun when they’re all
together. They really enjoy being together.
Interviewer: Do you get the families together often?
Schottenstein: During the Summer, Sheri has been able to come to Columbus and
spend several weeks with us and we try to take little trips in Ohio, just little
day-time excursions like to Cedar Point or to, this year we went to visit a
place outside of Zanesville called “The Wilds” and so that, we go to
the Zoo and you know, swim. But they have a good time when they come here in the
Interviewer: Let me see what other questions. So those are a lot of your
happy events, being with your children and . . . .
Schottenstein: Well I think at this point it might be interesting to note
that while the children were growing up, especially, well all of the years that
we lived at Harding, on Harding Road, we had, Bernie and I would have a Hanukkah
party every year and invite all of his sisters and brothers and nieces and
nephews that lived in Columbus and we would have oh maybe 30, 35, 40 people.
Aunt Dora was always included, my mother-in-law was still living, my
Interviewer: Who’s Dora?
Schottenstein: Aunt Dora is my mother-in-law’s sister; Dora Abrams and my
mother-in-law were sisters.
Interviewer: Oh yeah.
Schottenstein: Dora was very much a part of our family. So Hanukkah every
year was a big, big event and we had a Hanukkah exchange and I made potato latkes
and the kids remember fondly those get-togethers. But holidays almost always,
always I would have every holiday.
Interviewer: At your house?
Schottenstein: For at least my own immediate family, our own children, and
sometimes some other family members. But that was always a big part of their
Interviewer: Tell me about some of the jobs you had growing up.
Schottenstein: When I graduated from high school, I was in the retailing
class and I really, I did very well and I, even with the high recommendation
from the high school, it was a very difficult time to get a job in some of the
department stores. I remember interviewing at Penney’s and I was rejected. I
was rejected because I was Jewish. It was hard for Jewish people to get . . . .
Interviewer: They told you that?
Schottenstein: It was a known policy that there weren’t any Jewish people
hired at Penney’s at that time and as I say, even with the high recommendation
from the high school, and so I was very discouraged. But I did eventually get a
job, well before high school, I started working for, actually I was probably 12
years old when I started working for my cousin . . . . Dave Adelman, whose son
Barry married my niece Debbie Adelman and they live in Columbus with their
Interviewer: That’s your niece?
Schottenstein: Yeah, my niece, uh huh. So my cousin became my nephew and I
worked for Dave Adelman. He had a drug store and I worked behind the soda
fountain and I loved it. I just really felt like it was important for me to earn
my own money too. Then I went to work for another cousin of mine, Morrey
Swimmer. He had a grocery store and that was during the war and I was cashier so
I remem- bered all about rationing and about things being short, not being able
to get a lot of the foods. But my mother was very enterprising and we always had
a full table and my dad being in the produce business would always be able to
have a lot of fresh stuff. My mother did all of her own canning so we always had
plenty. And then back to the jobs, then after high school I did get a job with
Superior Provision Company in the office. I was an office worker. And then I got
a job with Art Department Store, A-R-T Department Store. I worked in the
bookkeeping department. And after I was married, I took my sister-in-law Shirley’s
job with the Department of Public Welfare. I worked there for about a year or
two as a secretary.
Interviewer: Before your family came?
Schottenstein: Before my family started.
Interviewer: And then once your family started, you were not . . . .
Schottenstein: Yeah, I was a mother, housewife until actually Larry was in
high school. And that was about 1971.
Interviewer: And you did your volunteering . . . .
Schottenstein: Yeah, I did my volunteerism before that but in 1972 or 3,
something in there, I took my real estate test and became a realtor at that
point and I was in real estate for 10-12 years and that was when all four of our
children were in college at that time and it was really, I had a lot of
motivation. We had four tuitions to pay for. Two of them were in graduate
school. So those were my most productive years financially.
Interviewer: That’s neat. Anything else that you remember about growing up
just after the war, Second World War?
Schottenstein: I remember during Second, during the war, and I remember
D-Day. I was on my way to my sister’s house and I remember people being real
excited and anxious and everybody glued to the radio. Television was not out
yet. And remember- ing how distraught family members were. I think none of us
realized the gravity of the situation at that time. But shortly after that, we
sure did because they started drafting. I was in high school at that time and I
remember great anxiety in my own home because we had one male that was eligible,
my brother. And he eventually was recruited and, as all my cousins were, and my
brother was sent to Europe and I remember the anxiety that my mother had during
that time. He was in the Battle of the Bulge. It was during the Wintertime and
my mother would go outside in the deep Winter and just stand outside so she
could feel what my brother was feeling during the Wintertime, as far as cold.
Yeah, and I remember my brother and my cousins coming home to visit. And I also
remember the shortage of guys to date during those years. So it was not an easy
time to be a teen-ager.
Interviewer: Well that’s, that’s really interesting. It’s very neat,
very, very neat. What about other political things? Were you . . . .
Schottenstein: The only political situation I remember is President Roosevelt
during the war. He was a Democrat and everybody, the Jewish people at that time
were pretty much into being Democrat and at that time, President Roosevelt I
think was pretty much a hero of everybody but looking back as a Jewish person,
we realized that he was not in fact at all a hero. He was not; he did not help
the Jewish people who were sent to concentration camps and that was not; it took
a lot of years to realize what was going on. I don’t think anybody realized
the severity of the concentration camp situation of World War II, actually,
while it was going on. It just kind of hit afterwards.
Interviewer: Well, anything else that you would like to record or tell us
about? Anything, your life here in Columbus, some of your volunteer work? You
haven’t touched on that at all.
Schottenstein: Ever since the children first started school, I guess I was
always room mother, Sunday School mother, president of a lot of organizations:
Hadassah. I was always very involved in Sisterhood and when the kids were in
things like, when the girls were in Bluebirds and when the boys were Cub Scouts,
I was always Den Mother or whatever they called them at that time and actually,
during the war, we volunteered by making things for soldiers, knitting squares,
knitting hats and knitting gloves. And then my volunteer work continued all
during the years I was raising our children. And now, I’m a docent at the
Columbus Museum of Art. I guess that takes the biggest chunk of my volunteer
Interviewer: And that you really have to train for and study?
Schottenstein: Yes you do. We go to class two-three times a month and we had
a training period before we were a docent. But I’ve been doing that for over
10 years now.
Interviewer: Well that’s wonderful. One other thing I forgot to ask, what
about wonderful food? I understand you’re a wonderful cook. Tell us a little
bit about that.
Schottenstein: Well food was always a big part of our family. My mother was a
fantastic cook and did absolutely everything from scratch. We didn’t buy
anything; the biggest treat was when we bought a loaf of bread from the bakery,
that was almost as exciting as eating trafe, I guess because my mother
baked and cooked everything but I didn’t train with my mother but I guess some
of that did rub off on me because I was the one who always made stuff like gefilte
fish and tayglach and kreplach and all the very traditional
foods. I’m really a traditional cook and I guess I’m a gastronomical Jew
because all of our functions really circled around the importance of what I was
going to make, prepare for food. And I still enjoy doing that and I think my
grandkids are catching on to it too. They love for bubbe to make certain
Interviewer: Well, Naomi, on behalf of the Society, I want to thank you for
contributing to this interview today. This concludes this interview and I thank
you very much.
End of interview