This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on July 30, 2012, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society’s Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded with Phyllis Levine Komerofsky and Paula Levine Weinstein at the Columbus Jewish Federation. My name is Helena Schlam.
Interviewer: My first question is how long have you lived in Columbus, and if you weren’t born in Columbus, what brought you here?
WEINSTEIN: I was born in Columbus in 1947 and lived here my entire life except for a few years that I was away at college and the first two years I was married when we lived in Dayton. We came back here in April, 1971, and I’ve been here ever since.
Interviewer: Good Columbus credentials. And, Phyllis, you haven’t been as loyal, but you stayed in Ohio, I think.
KOMEROFSKY: Right, I was born in Columbus in 1944 (I’m older than she is) and I lived here until I went to college in 1961. Then I went to Cleveland to teach for one year, met my husband, got married and went to Akron. I was there for 40 years until a year ago today when I moved to Columbus from Akron.
Interviewer: So we are celebrating your anniversary.
KOMEROFSKY: July 30, 2011, I moved back to Columbus. I have my daughter and her family here, I have Paula and Mark here, and just decided that it was a good move to make. And it was and I’m happy I made it.
Interviewer: And we are happy that you are involved with the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.
KOMEROFSKY: Thank you.
Interviewer: Well, what we are interested in is your family. Tell us about them, especially your mother and father and what it was like growing up Jewish in Columbus.
KOMEROFSKY: My mother was born in Columbus and lived here her whole life. Her name was Helen Berliner Levine. Her mother was part of the Luper family, and there were a lot of Berliners around, too. She was the youngest of six children of Samuel and Rebecca Luper Berliner. There were 5 sisters and a brother. Her oldest sister was Mollie Berliner Kahn, and she was interviewed for this project. Tillie Berliner Shifman who lived in Canton and then came to Columbus. Sarah Berliner Weisskerz lived in Columbus most of her life except for a short time in Florida. Uncle Louie, our famous relative – Lou Berliner. He wrote for the Columbus Dispatch. Florence Berliner Mark, who died in 1942. I was named after her, and then my mother. My mother and Florence were the two youngest and were the first two to die. Aunt Tillie lived to be 100-1/2 and died in November, 2008.
Interviewer: A wonderful family line.
WEINSTEIN: Our father was born in Olivet, South Dakota. How they ended up there we really don’t know. Our paternal grandfather, Israel Levine, was in the Russian Army and he defected and somehow ended up in South Dakota. When he left Russia, he changed his name to Nicholas Martinoff so that he wouldn’t sound Jewish. In South Dakota he met my grandmother whose name was Pauline Mueller and they got married and had four children. Gerry, my father (Marvin) and two girls, Vera and Lorraine. When my father was 12, his mother died. Our grandfather then found out about the Jewish Orphan Home in Cleveland and took all the kids and moved them to Cleveland, because in that orphan home, you could live there if you had one parent who had to work. So the children could live at the orphanage. Our grandfather was a barber, and he had a barber shop across the street from the orphanage. So the kids lived at the orphanage until they were 18 and could see their dad all the time. When they got back to Cleveland, they became Levine again. The Martinoff thing was then history. We never even knew about it until the early 1970’s when our father was in the hospital and asked us to bring him some paperwork. We were going through his papers and found his birth certificate, and it said his name was Marvin Martinoff. Our grandfather was Nicholas Martinoff, and I’m thinking, what did we just discover? Thankfully he was alive and with it and told us the story. I’m sure had he lived to Social Security age, it would have been a nightmare because his birth certificate was a different name than what he went by his whole life. But he passed away when he was 61-1/2 so he never made it to Social Security to have those issues. But they lived in Cleveland until they became 18 and they could do whatever they wanted when they were emancipated. I think our father stayed in Cleveland for awhile and then somehow at a singles thing at Indian Lake Russell’s Point where they used to go on weekends, he met our mother. They were married in 1941 and stayed in Columbus the whole rest of their lives.
Interviewer: Wonderful story! Really fascinating picture of American Jewish history.
KOMEROFSKY: She forgot one thing though. When our grandfather defected and came across the border as Nicholas Martinoff, he wore a dress. He didn’t want to identify as a soldier, I guess. I really don’t know.
WEINSTEIN: I don’t think I ever heard that.
Interviewer: I’m glad you learned something new by doing this interview.
WEINSTEIN: I did indeed.
Interviewer: Do you have anything more to tell us about your grandparents? I guess I wanted to find out about your Jewish experiences in Columbus growing up. So, I give you the option of either talking about your grandparents now, which seems to come naturally, and then perhaps doing the Jewish experience after that.
KOMEROFSKY: The Jewish experience is pretty quick. We grew up not far from the Jewish Center, but when she was in the third grade and I was in the seventh, we moved to Whitehall. So as younger people, I don’t think we did a whole lot. We went to Sunday School at Agudas Achim, but we weren’t really involved at the Jewish Center. I don’t think they could afford to send us to camp. I remember a couple of winter camps during holiday breaks. We went to the pool. Our father played in the Alta Kacker (AK) League. When we moved to Whitehall, it was sort of the same. It was Agudas Achim where we went to Sunday School and confirmed. We were both married there. The year I was confirmed, 1959, I was given some kind of an award and I got to go to Camp Monroe in the Catskills. It was an orthodox camp. I could not stand it and wanted to get out of there. It was my first plane ride. I went with three other kids – Ann Carol Epstein, Diana Friedman and Joel Ziskind. It was way too orthodox for me. Other than that, I don’t know that we did a whole lot of Jewish activities. But we always stayed tied with Judaism.
Interviewer: I’m guessing there weren’t so many Jewish kids in Whitehall, or am I wrong?
WEINSTEIN: You are right. There were two in my class and had about 6-8 four years later.
Interviewer: So was that a difficulty or not?
KOMEROFSKY: Not at all.
WEINSTEIN: There was never any anti-Semitism. Never any issues at all. We were just more involved with high school activities and friends from there and never really had any problems growing up. It was a very different community then that it is now. We moved into a neighborhood that was just built. Everybody moved in at the same time. A lot of engineers from Rockwell and Western Electric lived there. It was a very mixed neighborhood, but quite a few families with young children in school. Whitehall at that time had a reputable school system. It was really good growing up in Whitehall.
KOMEROFSKY: I remember every year at Passover our mother would have a luncheon with all the Pesach foods and invite all the Christian neighbors. They looked forward to it every year.
Interviewer: Well, that’s lovely!
KOMEROFSKY: There was just mutual respect among people. No problems.
Interviewer: We could use some mutual respect.
WEINSTEIN: The teens were pretty cliquish. I was really shy – hard to believe now. I went to Sunday School and nobody talked to me because they all went to Bexley or Eastmoor, and they all had their friends. So I just sat there with two other girls from Whitehall who went to Agudas Achim. We were just never a part of the bigger group. So therefore I wasn’t too excited to go to BBYO or any youth group things. So we were just active in our high school activities.
KOMEROFSKY: Same with me. It was very cliquish in Sunday School. Same thing – Bexley, Eastmoor and me from Whitehall. There was one girl from south Bexley, which wasn’t the same as other parts of Bexley. She and I are still friends, but we weren’t interested in BBYO and all those things.
Interviewer: But, as you said, your Jewish identity was strong and prevailed. I think we were afraid of our parents if we brought somebody home who wasn’t Jewish.
KOMEROFSKY: We used to go to Friday night services now and then, so they would drag us to Agudas Achim. I remember going, I remember the Oneg Shabbat, and I remember that we always got home in to watch Edward R. Murrow “Person to Person” on Friday night at 10:00 p.m. We didn’t like going particularly, but during my time in Akron, especially when my daughter started Confirmation class, I went every Friday night for years. I don’t know where that came from after the other experiences. And Paula has strong connections with Tifereth Israel.
Interviewer: It’s our Jewish genes.
WEINSTEIN: They are pretty strong.
Interviewer: So let me go on to your grandparents. Did you know them personally?
WEINSTEIN: Just the grandfathers.
KOMEROFSKY: Grandpa Samuel Berliner was married to Rebecca. She died when my mother, the youngest child, was three years old in 1918. Our mother was raised by her grandparents, Morris and Anna Luper. When we were kids, there was this thing that everyone went to Grandpa’s house on Sunday afternoon. All the cousins went. We aren’t really sure he even knew who we were. We also aren’t sure if he knew English. He just sat in the corner of the couch with his white shirt and suspenders. He would take your hand and squeeze really hard. But I don’t ever remember having a conversation with him. He had a lot of grandchildren. He remarried a widowed woman named Sarah Friedman. She had two sons, Sam and Benny. And then they had two sons together – Israel (Buster) Berliner and Morris (Moe) Berliner. One of her sons, Sam Friedman, was the same age as our mother and they crossed paths one day in the coatroom in school. They were in the same class and didn’t know it because my mother was being raised by her grandparents.
WEINSTEIN: They went home that one day after school and found out they were step siblings. I guess the families didn’t share when they were dating. They didn’t seem to know anything about them, and all of a sudden there were these two other boys there.
KOMEROFSKY: Grandpa Berliner, who was a tailor, died in November, 1960 at 84.
WEINSTEIN: Grandpa Levine was a barber. He somehow or other ended up in Detroit with his two daughters. I don’t know why. He died in 1955. I remember visiting him periodically, but we didn’t see that much of him because he was in Detroit. We used to drive to Detroit and see him on occasion. I don’t remember how old he was when he died. We really missed out on grandparents during most of our childhood. For sure the grandmothers, and we had grandfathers until I was 13. I was 8 when the one in Michigan died.
KOMEROFSKY: In this Berliner history there is something that said that Grandpa Samuel Berliner came to Columbus in 1905 with his wife and Aunt Mollie, who was about a year old. He came because his in-laws were here. For some people, they would run the other way! His in-laws, the Lupers, were here. That’s why he settled in Columbus, where he was a tailor. They lived at 443 E. Mound Street when he was young with all the kids.
Interviewer: Did he have his own tailor shop or did he work for someone, or do you know?
WEINSTEIN: I think he worked for someone. I thought he worked for Frenchy the Tailor. It says in this history that he had a brother or two that were also tailors. We don’t know if they all worked together or not. Aunt Mollie was born in Russia. All the rest of the kids were born in the United States in Columbus. Allegedly, the Lupers came over here with the help of Frank Nutis’s family. They knew each other from the old country. And then the Nutis people ended up in Burlington, VT, and the Lupers were trying to decide where to come, and told them about Columbus. So they came, and then the Nutises relocated from Vermont and came to Columbus. So they all knew each other in Russia.
KOMEROFSKY: I think all the Luper kids were born in Russia, weren’t they?
WEINSTEIN: All 12 of them? Probably. You have a picture of all the Lupers here somewhere.
Interviewer: So the immigration patterns worked that way. But it is fascinating.
KOMEROFSKY: It is, to think of them coming on these boats and dragging kids around and not knowing the language. But they all learned the language, sort of, and they all worked and supported themselves. I think they had a good life here. They were Orthodox, and our grandfather Berliner lived at 47 N. Chesterfield, so he could walk to Agudas Achim. They kept kosher.
Interviewer: Any family traditions that you recall that were special?
KOMEROFSKY: We used to go there for seder. We wouldn’t eat until about 10:00 p.m. because all the men were still in the shul. We were hungry.
WEINSTEIN: We never understood a thing they said because they did it all in Hebrew, and nobody participated. You just sat there and listened to all of the men do the whole Haggadah in Hebrew.
KOMEROFSKY: All the men were in the dining room, and the rest of us were at big long tables in the living room and down the hall. There were a lot of us.
WEINSTEIN: Certain people had certain holidays after the grandparents died.
Interviewer: So you all came together for the Jewish holidays. Also for Thanksgiving?
WEINSTEIN: Every time there was a holiday, somebody had a picnic or cookout somewhere. You know, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day. My mother and her sisters played cards all the time. The uncles too. The boys played Hearts and the girls played Canasta. We always had holidays together. Aunt Blanche and Uncle Louie would have Passover. Our parents would have lunch after Rosh Hashanah, and I think Uncle Louie had break the fast, too, because he was closest to the synagogue because they lived on S. Remington, so everybody could get there fastest. We had a lot of single aunts who participated in everything along with the families. We were always together at holidays.
KOMEROFSKY: One thing about the Luper family. They had 12 children. Five of the girls never married, so they had all these descendants from just 7 of their children.
WEINSTEIN: It would have been a huge tree had those 5 married and had children. A couple of them married but some never married or died young. One aunt named Ethel was married to a guy named Henry Miller. When she died, he married another sister, Sarah.
KOMEROFSKY: He just wanted a Luper girl, I guess.
WEINSTEIN: They used to do that for the sake of children, but neither one of them had children. We don’t know why they kept it in the family. I doubt if he was that big of a catch.
Interviewer: There is a biblical precedent for that, of course.
WEINSTEIN: So that’s it. He was following precedent. There were enough girls to choose from that he could take his pick.
Interviewer: Moving on, I would like to know about each of your childhood and college experiences. We talked a little bit about school.
KOMEROFSKY: I went to Fairwood Elementary School, all the way from kindergarten to sixth grade. I started at Roosevelt Junior High for six weeks, and then we moved to Whitehall in October, 1955. I wouldn’t let myself get attached to anybody or anything at Roosevelt. I went through Whitehall and graduated in 1961. I then went to Ohio University and graduated in 1965 as a teacher. I taught second grade in inner-city Cleveland for one year and didn’t like. Then I stopped teaching. I substituted occasionally after that. I went to work at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Cleveland as a secretary, stayed there until my daughter was born in June, 1968. I didn’t go back to work again until 1981, the Monday after her bat mitzvah I started a job in an office, worked in a couple of different places and ended up at Akron Children’s Hospital and retired in June, 2011.
WEINSTEIN: I went to Fairwood until I was in the third grade and then went to Etna Road Elementary School in Whitehall through 6th grade. Then I went to Rosemore Junior High School in the first class to inhabit that school, which they just tore down and rebuilt. Then I went to Whitehall-Yearling High School and graduated in 1965. I also went to Ohio University, but I had no idea what I wanted to be, so I took a two-year associate degree in home economics, which I had no idea what I would do with, but figured it would come in handy in some way. Then I came back to Columbus and was working in an office at Robert S. Curl & Associates. They were a Jewish consulting engineering firm. I was the receptionist. I worked there for a few years and then worked at Allstate Insurance for a few years and in the middle of that, I met my husband on a blind date. He was teaching at Whitehall-Yearling High School and asked the secretary if there were any Jewish people that she knew. She lived across the street from my family, so she said that yes, she knew somebody, so he called and we met on a blind date. That was in October, 1967, and we got married in March, 1969. So I didn’t know that the home economics would come in handy, but then it did. I started the catering after being involved with B’nai B’rith Women as a president. At the end of my term I decided to have a thank you buffet for those people who had served on the board. People said that I should sell this food. And that’s how the company was born. We started making appetizers and desserts for people and filling in. Then people asked if we would do a wedding, a brunch, etc. It just grew from there. My college degree did come in handy.
Interviewer: So, Paula, what was the name of your catering as it started, and how did it evolve?
KOMEROFSKY: When it started, it was called Simply Delicious. I was in business with Helen Stewart. We used to just collect our money and put it in a peanut butter jar. When the jar got filled, we split it. Then we would fill it up again. And then, she got divorced and had to go back to teaching full-time, was on my own for awhile, and a few more people came in and out of the business but didn’t want to work full-time. And then I was on my own. In 1984, we incorporated and it became Catering by Paula Weinstein. Then we had Dinner du Jour at Broad and Chesterfield from 1996 to 2001, at which point I sold the business to Sammy’s Bagels, worked for him for a few years and then one of the women who worked for us started her own company and I left Sammy’s and went with her. That is called Simply Special Catering and I work with them now.
Interviewer: Well, that has been a very good and important contribution in the Jewish community. I’ve been around a long time.
KOMEROFSKY: When my daughter, Julie Komerofsky Remer, graduated from college, she was working in public relations in the Akron area and Paula asked if she would like to come and join her business. So she did. Then she became part of it. She was also very shy but for some reason, she walked into some singles group at Tifereth Israel and met her husband. And Dinner du Jour opened when their first child, Elliot Remer, was one month old.
WEINSTEIN: I still feel guilty about that because she had to work so many long hours with this newborn baby. It was really hard for her, but she did it.
Interviewer: Elliot turned out very well.
WEINSTEIN: He did.
KOMEROFSKY: You closed the business right about the time Emily was born.
WEINSTEIN: We closed it in December, 2001, so she was about a year old. It was hard for Julie to work with two little kids, get them to daycare. But we all survived and it was a good business.
Interviewer: You mentioned your husbands, but let me find out about more detail about them, and I think for the transcriber, we need to identify who is speaking each time.
KOMEROFSKY: I met my husband Ralph Komerofsky right after I moved to Cleveland to teach. It turns out we were both at Ohio University at the same time, but we didn’t know each other there. When I went to Cleveland, I was rooming with two girls. One of them knew somebody who knew Ralph. We talked on the phone and about a month later he came to Cleveland and we met. That was in August, 1965, when we first met. We got married in December, 1966. He was a chemist by schooling and then got interested in computers and just went from there. He learned computers on his own and programming and he was a programmer. We lived in Cleveland and Julie was born in June, 1968. In 1971 we moved to Akron, and our son David was born there in 1971. We stayed in Akron. Ralph died in July, 2009, and I waited a couple of years and moved to Columbus.
WEINSTEIN: I met Mark on this blind date, and he was from Dayton and was supposed to go into the service, but he flunked his physical. He has a histoplasmosis thing on his lung, which doesn’t affect him in the least, but it kept him out of the service. But he really wanted to go and was going to be in officers’ candidate school. When he didn’t get to go, he was left up in the air and found a teaching job in Whitehall. He taught math for a year there. Then, shortly into his second year, he hated it and left and got a job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a mathematician and stayed there. We were married in 1969, and I moved to Dayton. We stayed there until 1971, and at that point he got a job with the Federal Government in Columbus at DCSC and he worked there all the rest of his working years and retired when he was 55. He was also into computers. We came back here because we had more friends here than we did in Dayton. Then it turned out when we came back that our parents got sick and it was good that we were here.
KOMEROFSKY: Paula’s kids were our mother’s best medicine.
WEINSTEIN: We lived about 10 minutes away.
Interviewer: You said your husband was originally from Cleveland?
WEINSTEIN: Dayton. He was from a huge family in Dayton. His mother was one of nine, and our mother was one of six, but with two halves and two steps. So I have 26 first cousins and he has 23.
KOMEROFSKY: Mine was from Cleveland. Ralph had 18 first cousins. His father had seven younger sisters. His mother only had one brother. But there are lots of cousins.
WEINSTEIN: We had lots and lots of cousins, and most of them stayed around here when they were young. All of the Berliners were in Columbus. They aren’t any longer, but when we were all kids, we were all in Columbus. When we went to our grandfather’s on Sunday, we used to beg anybody to take us to Norwoods. This was an amusement park at Main and Alum Creek across from what is now Kroger’s in that empty field. It was a small amusement part and relatively inexpensive to get in, I think. We used to beg, beg, beg anyone who would take us to Norwoods. Once in awhile we got lucky and someone would take us. We would also beg anybody to take us to the Esquire Movie Theater, which was on the corner of Broad and North Chesterfield, just a few steps from Grandpa’s house. It was a movie theater where Bexley Kosher used to be. But we always grew up with a lot of family around.
KOMEROFSKY: On Ralph’s side, on the Komerofsky side, my father-in-law had seven sisters, so they always had family things. I went to my first Komerofsky family function without Ralph, because he lived in Buffalo, and his parents invited me to go to a seder. So I met the whole Komerofsky in one fell swoop, and we weren’t even engaged. And he wasn’t even there. Now only two of my father-in-law’s sisters are left. Everybody else is gone. We still do two family things. We have a family picnic in August, and we have a seder. For a long time they split for the seders. Every family would have their own, but as they started dying off, we went back together and had a big seder.
Interviewer: You’re very lucky to have such a rich family and that you like each other and want to be together.
WEINSTEIN: It is very strange now that our kids have four cousins and we had so many. It was really fun having all that family.
Interviewer: We’ve covered some of my sixth question to tell us about your family and their Jewish experiences. But perhaps there is something that we haven’t spoken of. Can either of you think of anything?
Interviewer: You referred to going to Agudas Achim with your family. Paula, you mentioned that have been a long-time member of Tifereth Israel.
KOMEROFSKY: I belonged to Temple Israel in Akron from 1973 on. I still have a membership because I have a cemetery plot. That is a Reform congregation. When I moved here, I joined Temple Israel because my daughter and her family belong there. I was involved in Sisterhood a little bit. Before I even moved here, they signed me up as recording secretary. I only did it one year and didn’t want to continue. It was a good way to put names and faces together, so I do know people there.
Interviewer: How have you been involved at Tifereth Israel, Paula?
WEINSTEIN: We switched from Agudas Achim to Tifereth Israel shortly after our parents died. I think we joined Tifereth in the fall of 1976. Mark was raised Conservative. Agudas Achim at that point didn’t know what it was, and we just made the switch. Our kids were bar mitzvahed at Tifereth Israel, and I was involved in Sisterhood. I’ve been gift shop chair for the Sisterhood for years. I took on other board positions. We’ve been there since 1976, so it’s kind of just been there a long time. I feel like it is an important part of our Jewish life. I’ve never been Sisterhood president. I got out of that when the business was taking off.
KOMEROFSKY: I was Sisterhood president in Akron from 1992-1994. It ended right when Julie was getting married.
WEINSTEIN: I was more involved with the volunteer stuff when the kids were littler. In the 1980’s when they got older and I started to work, I didn’t have as much time to devote to the volunteer stuff.
Interviewer: I think that that actually covers number seven, your most significant involvement with the Jewish community.
KOMEROFSKY: I was also president of ORT when the kids were young.
WEINSTEIN: I was also president of the B’nai B’rith Women’s chapter. When we moved back here in 1971, BBW was the active organization of the time. There was a huge chapter called Twin Rivers, which was getting very large. They wanted to start a new chapter for the people who were maybe 5-6 years younger than the folks in Twin Rivers. So we chartered a new chapter called Masada. I was a charter member of Masada and was the president of that chapter in 1975 and 1976, the years that my parents died. Maybe that was a good thing to have something to take my mind off of everything else that was going on. I was involved in BBW for years, and that was probably my most active part before becoming involved with Sisterhood. I belonged to all the other organizations, but am not that involved with it. But BBW was pretty significant. I am still friendly with a lot of people who were charter members of that group, and because of having the thank you buffet, it really helped to expand the business, too. I had a lot of contacts with people through that organization. I felt a connection to that organization because the home where our father grew up was a B’nai B’rith sponsored orphanage. I felt like I could give something back. He loved that orphanage. You think of orphanages as being less than stellar circumstances. From the stories he used to tell, it seemed like camp all year round. He had lots and lots of kids around all the time – “the kids.”
KOMEROFSKY: They used to have summer reunions every so often. Our mother hated to go because she wasn’t a part of it. But there were spouses.
WEINSTEIN: He loved it. Lots of the people there went on to become very well-known business people, and they stayed in touch with a lot of people throughout their entire lives. Maurice Saltzman, the guy who started Bobbie Brooks, was a product of the home.
Interviewer: Very interesting about orphanages. I don’t know what kind of research has been done. I never heard that there was such a Jewish orphanage in Columbus.
KOMEROFSKY: JOH became Bellefaire. This is now a place for emotionally disturbed youth. JOH first opened in 1868, and in 1929 it transitioned to become Bellefaire.
Interviewer: But it is also very nice that it is a positive story. The family stayed together and the father was able to work across the street.
WEINSTEIN: Another interesting thing about the Berliner family which we forgot to mention was that we don’t know how they got their name Berliner. It was Pereplotcyk when they came over and our Uncle Louie used to tease and called his wife Mrs. Pereplotcyk. That apparently was their name. We don’t really know how it was spelled, but I have since found a friend of mine whose grandmother’s maiden name was also Pereplotcyk. We are trying to figure out if we are related. Her father also grew up in the JOH in Cleveland. We are finding through talking to people that other people our age had parents who grew up in that home. We are trying to find out who the Pereplotcyks are and how we are all related and where the Berliner name came from.
KOMEROFSKY: The way this book has it spelled is Pereplotcyk. That’s almost as good as Komerofsky.
WEINSTEIN: So the original family name apparently was Pereplotcyk. Our great grandfather, Morris Luper, was adopted by the Lupers. So we don’t really know who his other family was.
KOMEROFSKY: I heard on one of the other transcriptions that I did about Schwartz’s Bakery. Originally Schwartz’s Bakery was Luper Bakery. They started it and then maybe the Schwartz family purchased it. My mother used to take me for a walk there in the stroller and she had a big long string. They put a bagel on it and then tied it around my neck. Then I could chew on the bagel during the walk.
Interviewer: Now that you don’t remember but were told that.
WEINSTEIN: I find it interesting that our grandparents were bakers and I like to bake. I wonder if some of these things are genetic. My cousin Ellen likes to bake and had a baking business for awhile. We had the so-called bakery and home meal replacement store. So baking is in the genes, I think. Morris and Anna Luper did supposedly have the first kosher bakery in Columbus. I’m sure some of the girls must have worked there.
Interviewer: Well, we certainly should get some of that information. I’m glad that you mentioned that Schwartz Bakery was previously Luper Bakery.
Interviewer: So now I would ask both of you, but you will have different perspectives, how you have seen Jewish Columbus change over the years.
KOMEROFSKY: I haven’t been back here that long, but that it has really spread out. Everyone used to be in the same area not far from the Jewish Center, now they are everywhere, all over. That’s probably all I’ve really noticed.
WEINSTEIN: Well, I think that is true that a lot of Jewish people live north, northwest, Hilliard, Dublin – all over the place – a lot near the university since a lot of them work there. I am now more involved in the Jewish part of Columbus than I ever was as a kid. As an adult, I sort of came back and got immersed into it. I don’t notice the changes as much since you live here all the time. I think there are more people now doing Jewish day school education. Nobody ever went to a day school unless they were Orthodox. Our kids went to Torah Academy primarily to avoid bussing in the early 1980’s. There was a mixture of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform children attending Torah Academy because it was the only Jewish day school in town. Now with the Columbus Jewish Day School and Torah Academy, it is not just an Orthodox school anymore. People from all denominations attend these schools. I think Jewish education in a day school type setting has definitely changed over the years, which I think is a good thing. We have a lot more options now and you don’t feel like you have to be Orthodox to attend those schools. It is more open and receptive to everybody.
Interviewer: That is a very interesting observation. When your parents built their new home and there weren’t so many Jews in the neighborhood, that wasn’t really a concern.
KOMEROFSKY: I don’t know why they looked there. I guess it was an area that was growing and was affordable. The area was called Whitehall Park and there were two different floor plans. A couple of years after they moved in, there were some Mennonite carpenters who came around. They offered to build screened-in porches and carports for $500. Almost everybody signed up. Our mother loved that screened-in porch. She would go out there and read the paper and eat breakfast in the morning. But these homes, brand spanking new were $15,300, I think.
WEINSTEIN: Their house payment was $84/month.
Interviewer: It is wonderful that you know that!
KOMEROFSKY: They weren’t there that long. That was 1955 and she died in 1975 and he died in 1976. It was only 20-some years, but we sold it for twice as much as they paid for it. Now we’ve seen real estate transfers in the $80’s.
Interviewer: So it was a good investment.
WEINSTEIN: Unfortunately they didn’t live to reap the benefits of it, but they loved their home. We had a lot of good neighbors and we had a lot of family things there. I don’t know why. We must have had room or something. When we look at pictures, they are always eating, no matter whatever event is there. They did get together for anything that came along, it seemed like.
KOMEROFSKY: They enjoyed their time there. But the Judaism thing never bothered us there at all.
Interviewer: But it seems to have enriched you.
KOMEROFSKY: Somewhere along the line something clicked.
WEINSTEIN: Recently I found out something. We belonged to Swimland, which was a privately owned family swim club at the corner of Etna and Hamilton. We could walk there. I saw an African-American classmate a few years ago at a reunion, and I said, “Did you see where they tore down our Swimland?” And she said, “Yes, finally when I can go they tore it down.” I asked her what she meant and she said they were not allowed to go to Swimland. I started to cry, because I couldn’t believe that I lived in a time when I went to a swimming pool that was segregated. It just floored me that that happened in my tiny little community. We were not aware of it.
Interviewer: But it means there was an African-American living in Whitehall.
WEINSTEIN: We had 3-4 families. My Brownie troop leader was a black woman and they were wonderful families. Everyone in Whitehall were just middle class working people. Most families were white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. But there were 6-8 Jewish families in my class and maybe 6 African-American families.
Interviewer: And how about Catholics?
WEINSTEIN: Yes, there were Catholics. We were in the Holy Spirit parish. Very few of my classmates had divorced parents. Out of 300+ in my graduating class, there were probably 8 who were from divorced families. Things have changed.
KOMEROFSKY: When you mentioned that the Jewish part was “in there.” My son became a rabbi. I can’t say that it came from me, but I did take him to services every Friday night. We had a rabbi who was very nurturing for David. From the time he was 12 he knew he wanted to become a rabbi, and he did it.
Interviewer: And that is what I missed in my questions. Tell me about your children. Why don’t you start with David, the rabbi?
KOMEROFSKY: He is my youngest, David Komerofsky. He was born in December, 1971 in Akron and grew up in Akron. He left as soon as he could go to college. He went to the University of Cincinnati and then to Hebrew Union College. After ordination, he worked at the college. He was the Associate Dean of the school, and then he became the director of the rabbinic school. Then he moved to Austin, TX in January, 2006, to become the executive director of Hillel at UT in Austin. He was not looking for the job. They found him. He was married to Rachel Stern for about ten years. But they have twins, Gabriel and Elaina who are currently 12-1/2 and will have their b’nai mitzvah in January, 2013. Julie Komerofsky Remer, married to Todd Remer, is my older child. He is from Toledo. She went to Ohio University and majored in journalism. She came back and was working for a couple we knew from temple who had a business. Then Paula invited her to come to Columbus, and she has been here ever since. They have Elliot, 15-1/2 and Emily who is 11-1/2.
Interviewer: I know them too. I have taught Emily Hebrew and Elliot too.
WEINSTEIN: I have two sons. Danny was born in February,1971. He now lives in Florida and is married and has a one-year old daughter. He works at a golf course in Florida. He has never been one to sit behind a desk and wear a suit and tie. He is an outdoor kind of guy. They had moved to Santa Fe, NM, for a few years. He took a job as an assistant superintendent of a course there. But they felt very isolated after they had the baby. My daughter-in-law’s family is from Florida. It is a lot easier to get there, and so after the baby was born, they went back to the Ft. Myers area of Florida. Our younger son Brian was born in March, 1972. They are just 13 months apart. David is in the middle of the two. We had three boys under one year old. Julie was not happy because there were too many boys. Brian is living in Columbus and currently looking for a job. He has a masters in business from Rollins College. He also went to Ohio University. We had a lot of family who went there. He went to graduate school at Rollins in Florida and has worked at different jobs and is currently looking for another one. He is single.
KOMEROFSKY: It took her 40 years to get a daughter-in-law, and then she got a baby girl. It is all good.
Interviewer: I think that we are winding down. My last question, and you have provided wonderful Jewish stories, is if you have any more that come to mind, or anything I’ve failed to ask about.
WEINSTEIN: We’ll probably remember in an hour. I think we’ve covered it all.
KOMEROFSKY: I can’t think of anything.
Interviewer: Well, I have certainly enjoyed this. On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society, I want to thank you for contributing to the Oral History Project. This concludes the interview.
Transcribed by Phyllis Komerofsky on July 15, 2013.