This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on October 22nd, 2015 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at 117 North Ardmore in Bexley, Ohio. My name is Bill Cohen and I am interviewing Phyllis Roth Schlezinger Cantor.

INTERVIEWER:  OK.  Well we are here at 117 North Ardmore in Bexley (Ohio) and we are interviewing Phyllis Roth Schlezinger Cantor who has a lot to tell us about the Columbus Jewish community, a lot of memories. So let’s get started. First of all, tell us a little bit about your parents. Were they from Columbus? Were they from somewhere else? How did you get to Columbus, basically?  Talk about your parents.  Who were your parents?

CANTOR:  OK.  My mother was Mildred Pailet and her father was the local dairy farmer, the Tevye of Columbus.  He was the man who supplied the milk for the Jewish community on Passover and he was the dairy farmer.  They all lived in the country. They lived on Goshen Lane.  There were thirteen children and now the house where they originally lived is in the middle of one of Port Columbus’s runways.  That’s the area they lived in.  Johnstown Road near there was where we got eggs, picked up eggs if they didn’t have enough but on the Pailet Farm, it was basically a dairy farm but they also had a large chicken coop and they had a large building where they put the milk in the cans and scrubbed it and got it ready to be distributed.  There was a barn with an old Model T and it was a full working farm.

INTERVIEWER:  This was…your father’s name again?

CANTOR:  I’m talking about my mother and my mother’s family now – Mildred Pailet.  There were seven sisters.  There were six brothers.  Only one of the brothers died very young and the rest all lived to full adulthood.

INTERVIEWER:  Spell Pailet for us.

CANTOR:  P… well, actually there are six spellings.

INTERVIEWER:  Six different spellings?

CANTOR:  Six different spellings and we’re all related and there are fifteen hundred of us that my cousin Marcie found.  Anyway the way they spelled it is P-a-i-l-e-t and my grandfather’s name was Louis Henry and he had lots of grandchildren who had the initials L.H. or the names L. Henry or whatever including my brother who was Louis Jack.

INTERVIEWER:  So your mother had a farm…

CANTOR:  …lived on a farm, grew up on a farm.  My mother and her sisters and brothers went to Gahanna High School and there’s a picture around somewhere of my mother and sisters who were the Gahanna High School basketball team ‘cause there were so many of them.  They were the team.

INTERVIEWER:  This is interesting.  I don’t think of Gahanna way back then as being much of  Jewish component or even being very Jewish friendly and yet your mother was out there.

CANTOR:  Right.  My mother definitely.

INTERVIEWER:  What years would this have been?

CANTOR:  Oh gosh, I don’t know, in the twenties probably? My parents married I guess in their early thirties so it would have been mid-twenties probably that they were there.  In fact, if you go to Gahanna High School now, you can see the really old part of the building. That’s the original Gahanna School and that’s where they went to school.

INTERVIEWER:  So, your mother was out there on this farm in what is now Port Columbus, went to Gahanna High School and she was a child on the farm.

CANTOR:  Yes, one of these seven sisters who always stayed very close. Two of her brothers when they grew up took the dairy farm into the city and called it, it became a part of All-Star Dairy.  Originally it was Pailet Milk Company and then it became All-Star Dairy and my Uncle Ed and Uncle Herman were the two who did that. My Uncle Sam became a farmer and basically owned a lot of real estate in Athens, Ohio, but he had apple orchards and he sold apples, you know, raised apples, had apples and sold them.

INTERVIEWER:  This would have been one of your mother’s brothers.

CANTOR:  My mother’s brothers.  My mother’s family was very interesting in that they tended to intermarry, so Uncle Sam, the uncle who had the apple orchards was married to one of his very close cousins, Aunt Ida,  who came up to visit from New Orleans.  The Pailet family basically was in New Orleans and they would come to visit because it was cooler in the north.  How my grandmother did it with thirteen children of her own, Heaven only knows but that’s what they did in the summertime and another of my mother’s sisters, my Aunt Sarah, married her half uncle.   My grandfather’s mother died and my grandfather’s father remarried and from his second marriage he had Uncle Ike, Irvin Pailet and Irvin Pailet married my grandfather’s daughter Aunt Sarah.  The oldest of these seven girls lived in Chicago with her husband Jack Balaban and he was part of that family that owned the Balaban Theaters in Chicago.  They never had any children because being the oldest of all these girls, I think, Aunt Leah had had it with having children, but they were a very close family.  My grandmother had, her maiden name was Godofsky and again she was married to one of her cousins and these families were very close.  The Godofskys owned the butcher shop in the city and so Martin Godofsky was my mother’s first cousin, the one who owned Martin’s Store?

INTERVIEWER:  Of course.  Now let’s trace this again now.  Your mother had many, many brothers and sisters.

INTERVIEWER:  Very interesting ones.  My Aunt Edith married Ben Gordon whose family lived in Circleville, Ohio, and Uncle Ben owned an appliance store there and he was the mayor of Circleville for a lot of years and he was the judge, but he was the mayor until Aunt Edith said, “That’s enough,” but every year we would go down in the fall for the pumpkin festival and Aunt Edith and Uncle Ben would be riding in the festival with their friends Ted Lewis who was also from Circleville…

INTERVIEWER:  Of course.

CANTOR:  …and who’s the woman who sang with him?  She would be there as well, Sophie [Dinvy?] I’m not sure…

INTERVIEWER:  Famous for saying, “Is everybody happy?”

CANTOR:  That’s the one.  Yea.  We had lots of pumpkin pie so that happened and that’s where Aunt Edith went, and Hilda married a man, Al Abrams from Medina, Ohio, and his family, he was related to all the Zwellings and the Soloves, so they were a part of this big mishpocha, too.

INTERVIEWER:  So, you’re telling us how there were Jews and a big Jewish influence not just in Gahnna,  but in Circleville?

CANTOR:  That’s right. That’s right.  They just…the other sister, Aunt Mina, married a fellow named Gil Bernstein and, oh, and the other sister, Aunt Birdie, married Phil Katz.  That Katz family lives here.

INTERVIEWER:  So, the sisters, the Pailet sisters, they all seemed to marry Jews.

CANTOR:  Oh, they all married Jews.  None of them intermarried.  No way did they intermarry.   My Uncle Ed was married to Dorothy from…she was from Atlanta, Georgia.  I don’t know how he met her, and I told you about Uncle Sam.  Uncle Dave never married.  He was the youngest of the boys.   Uncle Fred died when he was very young, I guess a child, so, I never knew him, and so, it was a big, very close family, but the way my mother and father met, was that all these gentlemen, all these men who married these Pailet sisters, were all friends and they got together and somehow, my mother went to work at a dry goods store owned by Charlie Friedman on Fifth Avenue and my father happened to come in with his friends, took one look at my mother and boy, he was absolutely crazy about her.  He never got over treating her like a queen.  Gosh, he just loved her.  She was a beautiful woman and sweet and lovely.

INTERVIEWER:  This would have been approximately what year?

CANTOR:  Probably in the early nineteen thirties.  They all married about the same time, all these aunts and uncles that I’m telling you about and so, after they were married, they would gather and if they were gathering in Columbus, it was at our house.  So, there was nothing like twenty five people for dinner.  They didn’t think anything of it.  Before that they would gather when my grandparents were living, on the farm.  We always called it, “going out the farm,” not out “to” the farm.  My English teachers had a holy fit.  It was called “out the farm” and when my parents were married we went “out the farm” almost every Sunday and often there would be twenty, twenty-five people there with all the grandchildren so, all these first cousins.  I had twenty seven first cousins on the Pailet side, yea, and eighteen on the Roth side so it was a big, big family.

INTERVIEWER:  Tell us a little more about your father.   Where did he come from?

CANTOR:  My father lived, I think, it’s on Fulton Street and he was one of five children so, he had one brother and it’s an interesting story.  My grandmother had all these children.  My Uncle Carl who was eighteen or nineteen was about to go off to college.  He was the youngest and my grandmother thought that she had a tumor, went to the doctor and found out, lo, and behold, the tumor was my Aunt Shirly, so, Aunt Shirly is still around.   She’s, I think, eighty-five, eighty-six years old.

INTERVIEWER:  Now Shirly is the sister of your father.

CANTOR:  Yes, the baby sister on my father’s side and they spread, too.  One aunt, it was interesting, too. Aunt Sylvia married this really outstanding man. He was a geological engineer so, they lived in South America and he found oil wells for the big boys in Texas who, of course, I think, it was Clint Murchison.   Anyhow, they gave him an oil well. He owned oil wells.   He was a lovely, lovely man. He played classical piano and Aunt Sylvia, my father’s sister, was really something.  She would make up patterns and knit whole dresses, whole suits.  She was amazing.  She was a bridge player, but, I can’t remember what you call it, but the kind where you’ve gone as far as you can go, you’re really…

INTERVIEWER:  Master player.

CANTOR:  Yes.  She was that kind of player.   Very smart people, the Roths.  They really were.  The Roths, like the Pailets, the children, my grandparents children didn’t go to college but almost all of their children which is really, I mean, it touches me to say it.  Everyone went to college.  I think there were only two or three who were not college graduates of all those first cousins, and several have master’s degrees and a couple have PhD’s and MD’s.

INTERVIEWER:  So, your father was smitten with your mother when they met.

CANTOR:  Oh, yes.

INTERVIEWER:  They married approximately in the nineteen thirties and what did they… now she was from the farm.  She was his…

CANTOR:  Right. He owned a produce business.  Actually he started out owning a grocery store down on Fourth Street and it was a very classy grocery store and he said that the wealthy Jews on Saturday afternoon, their chauffeurs would drive them down to market…

INTERVIEWER:  Near the Central Market.

CANTOR:  Right near the Central Market, yes, very successful.  He would have things, I guess, like cans of ants, that kind of thing, you know, gourmet groceries, like a Whole Foods.

INTERVIEWER:  Cans of what?

CANTOR:  Ants. He had canned ants, delicacy.  He had all kinds of delicacies.

INTERVIEWER:  My ears aren’t very good.  Canned ants, you mean a-n-t-s.

CANTOR:  Yes, it was a delicacy of some sort.


CANTOR:  Yes.  Some people ate that and he sold, like a Whole Foods would have.

INTERVIEWER:  People ate ants. Okay.

CANTOR:   Yes, but I ate Hershey bars.

INTERVIEWER:  So, his store was near the Central market.

CANTOR:  Very near.

INTERVIEWER:  Near Fourth and Main, that area.

CANTOR:  Right, and then later he became a wholesale produce dealer instead.  He gave up the retail.  He opened a second retail store in Bexley on Main Street right near Cassingham and Main where I think it’s Paul’s Foods?


CANTOR:  Ok, before he owned that store…

INTERVIEWER:  That exact store front that later became Paul’s.

CANTOR:  That’s right.

INTERVIEWER:  In the fifties and sixties, I remember that. Before it was Paul’s it was your…

CANTOR:  My father’s and my uncle’s.  My father’s only brother ran it, but then they went into the produce, wholesale produce and my father was…I don’t know. He was very hard-working and the big thing about my father was that he was extremely ethical, very honorable and known for that.  If he gave you his word, that was it and he didn’t, he wouldn’t stoop to things like, during World War II, there were men who some sort of sugar, they sold sugar and they made a lot of money on it, but my father would not do that because it was wrong.

INTERVIEWER:  There were quotas and rationing and so forth.

CANTOR:  Right.

INTERVIEWER:  Other people tried to get around it or make profit from it.

CANTOR:  And they did.  There were men who did and I’m sure their families are millionaires to this day but my father, there was no way that he would ever do anything like that, so, his business really grew, really grew and then eventually they were packing potatoes.  They would do all the potatoes for Krogers and they had the packing facility right there, right across the street from Central Market, so, we went to Central Market to get fresh chicken, to get fresh everything but basically the chicken, [?].  The people were from the community.  It was wonderful.  He had a wonderful business.

INTERVIEWER:  Now that business though was mostly selling wholesale to the big stores…

CANTOR:  It was completely wholesale.

INTERVIEWER:  …but you, your family went and you got, you could also take advantage of that.

CANTOR:  Oh, yes.  When you walked into my father’s place, he had brown sacks and you’d hear him snapping the sack open, “What would you like? Do you want grapes? Do you want oranges?” and he did that for everyone who came in and on Saturday the Amish people would come in in their black cars and they bought from him.  He took care of them, too.

INTERVIEWER:  In their buggies?

CANTOR:  No, I never saw a buggy.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, they actually rode cars, the Amish…

CANTOR:  They always had black cars.  Well, I think they were Amish, yea, with the caps and…

INTERVIEWER:  You sure they weren’t ultra-Orthodox Jews?

CANTOR:  On Saturday?

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, sure …

CANTOR:  Well, there were some of those not on Saturday afternoons, but more than once I was there when  a man came in with a long beard and a satchel like a brief case, and came in to see if they could get a donation for whatever and my father never turned them down.  I know that. I sat in his office and saw that.

INTERVIEWER:  So, the name of that, even though that store was not for the general public, it was for the wholesalers…

CANTOR:  It was a wholesale dealer.

INTERVIEWER:  What was that called? Would that have a name to it?

CANTOR:  Roth Market it started out when it was over in the retail but then it was, I guess he called it Roth’s Market.

INTERVIEWER:  And is that the Roth Produce that we still see in Columbus?

CANTOR:  Yes because my brother Benson went into business, you know, worked for my father.  My own son Chuck would come up in the summers and go in the trucks when the guys delivered the produce.  Chuck would ride along and if the guy was planning to stop and see his girlfriend, he didn’t do it because Chuck was sitting right there next to him.

INTERVIEWER:  So, just to put this in perspective, this wholesale produce market, this would have been in the forties probably?

CANTOR:  Umhm.  I guess in the forties.

INTERVIEWER:  The nineteen forties.

CANTOR:  I remember in the summertime I would go with my dad. He would go out on Lockbourne Road and there were farms out there and he would pick up like baskets of peppers and fresh tomatoes, baskets of tomatoes and so, by the next day, those things would be sold and in the market, wonderful fresh produce.

INTERVIEWER:  So, he was the, he didn’t’ grow food, he was the middleman.  He was the wholesaler.  You bought from the farmers and then sold it to Krogers or others.

CANTOR:  Well, he bought from farmers like up in northern Wisconsin, there was a good friend of his that grew potatoes and so great big eighteen wheelers filled with potatoes would come in and they would be packed and sold. When I was a child, I’d go with him down to, I can’t believe it, Union Station and he would get out the crowbar or whatever it was and open the doors of the railroad cars to make sure they iced it because food came in from California and this would be like on a Sunday morning and he’d want to be sure it was still good for the next day when they were going to get it sold and on its way and he  was the first one who flew in pineapples by plane from Hawaii.  He was, I think, the first one to do that.

INTERVIEWER:  …to bring those into Columbus.

CANTOR:  …to fly them in so this was really fresh when he got it and the business got bigger and bigger and bigger and I know he eventually sold to Ohio State University.  That was one of his clients and the major country clubs were his clients and the finest, the finer restaurants because he sold such quality produce that you could trust him, you know, if he said it was good, it was good.

INTERVIEWER:  So, how did you arrive on the scene?  When did you arrive on the scene?

CANTOR:  Well, I don’t know how long they were married, probably two or three years before I was born and they lived on Oakwood Avenue.  I was born in 1934, so they must have been married about ’31, I guess, somewhere around in there.

INTERVIEWER:  You lived on what street?

CANTOR:  I think we lived, I know they had an apartment first and I’m not sure where it was.  We lived on Oakwood Avenue and the Bornsteins, who also were in the food business, wholesale food business, the Bornstein lived next door.  We lived there for several years and then five years later my brother Benson was born.  Then five years after that my sister Helen and then nineteen months after that my brother Jack was born.  My mother had the RH factor and they didn’t know it what it was so she would have miscarriages but once they found out, that’s why Helen and Jack could be born close together, and so, we were all spread out and we moved first to Kelton Street.  Then we moved to Lilly Avenue but when we lived on Kelton, the Soloves lived across the street.  The Solomons lived down the block.  Dr. Kohn [sp?] the ophthalmologist lived a few doors away.   We had a lot of Jewish neighbors who were, this is in Driving Park, lot of Jews lived there and of course, Martin’s wasn’t very far away either so it was a Jewish neighborhood.

INTERVIEWER:  Martin’s was at that point on Livingston?

CANTOR: Right and so was Pharmacy, uh, Gerry, I don’t even remember his last name, owned a big pharmacy on Livingston as well.

INTERVIEWER:  So, Livingston near the intersections of Kelton and Lilley…

CANTOR:  Yes, that whole area, Driving Park…

INTERVIEWER:  …was heavily Jewish and we walked to Fairwood Avenue School.  There were no school busses.  Nice long walk but that’s where we went and it was a great school.  It was a University school, like the lab school for Ohio State University so, we had great teachers.  One of them, our fifth grade teacher, Miss Neff, was especially pretty and she ended up having a television program, when television came in so she was, they were great teachers, great education, and from there we all went to Roosevelt Junior High and that’s when my family moved to Bexley.  We lived on Lilley Avenue for a while and my father wanted to stay there and my mother said, “No, we are moving to Bexley,” and my mother won.

INTERVIEWER:  Do you remember your address on Lilley?

CANTOR:  Eleven seventeen Lilley.

INTERVIEWER:  Was that down near Whittier?

CANTOR:  Yes, it was very close to Whittier, very close.

INTERVIEWER:  My grandparents lived on Lilley, south of Whittier.

CANTOR:  Oh, did they? Then they lived in our neighborhood.

INTERVIEWER:  Lauper was their name.

CANTOR:  Not Marsha?  Marsha Lauper?

INTERVIEWER:   Marsha Lauper was the granddaughter.

CANTOR:  Marsha Lauper and I were in the Brownies together and whenever I go to Tifereth Israel I see Marsha.

INTERVIEWER:  Marsha Lauper is my cousin.

CANTOR:  I’ll be darned.

INTERVIEWER:  Her grandparents were…now I’m drawing a blank…William, I think.  William Lauper… Yetta, Yetta Lauper.   So, anyway, let’s get, you were talking about at that point, at some point you said, “We are moving to Bexley.

CANTOR:  My mother said, “We’re going to Bexley.”  My father said, “No, no, no we’ll fix up this house.  We’ll add a room here.  We’ll do a room there,”  ‘cause we had four children by then and my mother said, “Uhn- uhn,” and so, we moved to Bexley and my mother, smart woman, we were like a block from the Bexley Schools, corner of Ardmore and Elm.  That’s where we lived.

INTERVIEWER:   You were near Cassingham Elementary at that point.

CANTOR:  And Bexley High School right next door to it.

INTERVIEWER:   Approximately what year would that have been?

CANTOR:  I’m not sure when we moved.  I graduated in 1953 from Bexley High so this had to be in the forties.

INTERVIEWER:  This was a time when  a lot of Jews moved from the Old Neighborhood west of Nelson to the new neighborhood in Bexley.

CANTOR:  Right, a lot, so we had again, when we lived on Ardmore, a lot of Jewish neighbors, several.  In fact, I saw some of them.  I saw Wes Rosenthal the other day and his cousins [Valcos?], lived right across the street and directly across from us was Dorothy Hepps who owned Hepps Delicatessen and her children Sandy and Barbara.

INTERVIEWER:  Remind us where Hepps Delicatessen was.

CANTOR:  I’m not sure. I know it was in the area where my father grew up, where his family lived.

INTERVIEWER:  It was in the old neighborhood.

CANTOR:  Yes, definitely.   I know that the place where they got the kosher chickens was around there and Schwartz Bakery was down the street and Hepps Delicatessen, all the Old Neighborhood, yea, and Kroll’s Deli across the street from my grandparents’ house.

INTERVIEWER:  Now when you were living west of Nelson in Driving Park in what we’d call the Old Neighborhood, the Old  –Jewish-  Neighborhoodwere most of your friends Jewish?

CANTOR:  Yes, yes they were and then I had all these cousins, but yes, my friends were basically Jewish.  My best friend was Phyllis Katz and Phyllis’s father, can’t think of his first name, but Phyllis’s father and my mother were cousins.  My mother was related to a whole group of Katzes but not the family that her sister married into. These Katzes originally in Europe were Godofskys and Pailets and they changed their name so they wouldn’t be conscripted into the Russian army, so this whole group, there have been Katzes who are part of our clan.

INTERVIEWER:  So, you had mostly Jewish friends but I assume when you went to school, that yo were still in a minority.

CANTOR:  Yes, we were, definitely we were.

INTERVIEWER:  So, what was that like?  Do you remember any anti-Semitism or was everybody friendly, the non-Jews and the Jews?  What was it like?

CANTOR:  Oh.  Well, when we walked home from Fairwood School, there were a group of boys who lived down the street from…this was when we lived on Lilley Avenue…who would stand in their front year and throw stones at us and call us “Dirty Jews.”  Yes, there were and the amazing part of that is, when I grew up and ended up living in Reynoldsburg my husband and I became friends with a family named Vollmer and he was an opthamologist, a very good one, very close friends of ours.  He lived down the street from us on Lilley Avenue and he was one of those guys who’d thrown stones at us when we were kids.

INTERVIEWER:  And when you were adults and you knew him…

CANTOR:  We were good friends.

INTERVIEWER:  And does he remember that?  Does he say, “I remember, I used to throw stones at you”?

CANTOR:  Oh yea, we both remembered. There was no way you could deny it. I remembered.

INTERVIEWER:  Wow. So what does he say years later?

CANTOR:  Well, we just kind of got over it.  We were very close friends.  In fact, I should call his wife, Valerie.  We’re still friends.  He died, of cancer, quite young.  He had opened a practice in Newark, Ohio, and they moved there from the area where we lived, but oh, yea.

INTERVIEWER:  So, you remember this.

CANTOR:  Oh, definitely there was prejudice.  The thing is we took a lot for granted.  As I think back on it, it’s so interesting.  We sang Christmas carols.  Our parents never objected.  Nowadays a parent would say, “Wait a minute, that shouldn’t be happening in a public school.”  Our parents never objected.  We said the Lord’s Prayer every morning along with pledging allegiance to the flag which I think is a good idea.  I don’t care what religion the person is, it somehow gave us some grounded values.  At Christmas time I was so envious of the kids who got gifts.  We would, my mother finally gave in. We would hang stockings on the fireplace because we were so inundated.  If we were coloring pictures in elementary school, it would be a picture of Santa Claus with the bag full of presents for the good little boys and girls.  You know, we were just totally cut out of the mainstream.  No one paid any attention to the fact that we were different and maybe should be respected for that.  It just did not happen.

INTERVIEWER:  But as a child you wanted to fit in…


INTERVIEWER:  …and your parents wanted to help you fit in so, you…

CANTOR:  So, we did.  And when we went to junior high it was the same thing.  I remember singing in the choir and we sang Christmas music.  We sang holy music, you know, “Jezu” and thought nothing of it.  Neither did our parents.  They were a little more enlightened when we moved to Bexley.  This didn’t really, I’m not sure why, but there wasn’t the same prejudice that wasn’t even called prejudice.  It was just a way of life.

INTERVIEWER:  That was in the Old Neighborhood.  Ironically, even though it was a very Jewish neighborhood…


INTERVIEWER:  …you were still in the minority and in school you had to fit in with the majority and so you sang the Christmas carols and religious music, but in Bexley, you say the school system was more sensitive that the Jews, though they weren’t a majority either,  they should be respected and not required to sing religious music.  That’s what you’re saying.

CANTOR:  Yea.  If you objected, you didn’t have to do it.  My son went to a top, probably the top private school in St Louis, and he said when they were doing the Christmas pageant, they said, “You have to be in this,” and my son Mike said, “I don’t want to be.  I’m a Jew,” and they said, “Well, it’s not really a Christmas pageant.  It’s a historical pageant, so be in it and see what you think.”  He was in it one year and he said, “I’m not going to be in this anymore because it’s not a historical pageant,” and when he took a class on the New Testament or the Old Testament, whatever it was, Michael corrected them a lot until they finally asked him to drop out of the class, because his viewpoint was a little different.  He’d been in the national, whatever it was, contest for students on the Book of, it was on the Book of Samuel, I think.  Anyhow, he came in like eighth in the country so, he knew the Bible and he corrected them, but he said when he said, “I’m correcting you,” they said, “Ok, we understand.  Goodbye. You don’t want to be in this class.”  This is not good.  Anyway, in Bexley , they seemed to be a little more enlightened and have a different point of view and there wasn’t, there just wasn’t’ any emphasis in this direction.

INTERVIEWER:  So, after you moved to Bexley, were still most of your friends Jewish, or did that change at all?

CANTOR:  It changed a lot because there were, somehow I just hooked up, you know.  By then I had friends from Sunday School, from Tifereth Israel, and those were my friends and they all went to Bexley, so, there was a group of five or six of us that always hung around together and that was great.  So, my friends were basically almost all Jewish.  They really were, my close friends and it was the same way for those kids. Our parents knew each other.  We knew each other. It was a different kind of a community.  Despite the fact that there were so many Jews in Driving Park, we were somehow more dispersed.  The people, it was closer I guess to the way that life had been in the Old Country.

INTERVIEWER:  So, you felt, is it fair to say you felt more Jewish in Bexley than you did in the old neighborhood?

CANTOR:  Yes, absolutely, and I think my friends did, too, after we moved. Yes. Yes.

INTERVIEWER:  What do you remember about bar mitzvahs at that time?

CANTOR:  Well, I couldn’t’ have one.  There were none for girls. For boys, I could skip a few pages and tell you about my daughter’s.  My daughter had a bat mitzvah.  My boys all had  bar mitzvahs.  This was all at Tifereth Israel.

INTERVIEWER:  That would have been in the sixties or seventies?

CANTOR:  Let’s see.  I graduated…in the sixties, yes.  My history was such that I was married, when I was fifteen, one of my good friends fixed me up – this was Lois Lewin Daniels who also grew up in Bexley, went to school with me – fixed me up with her cousin Clifford Schlezinger who was home from the service for a vacation stay and then he was going to Europe.  He was in the Air Force.

INTERVIEWER:  This would have been in the early fifties?

CANTOR:  This was in the fifties, yes, the early fifties, forty -nine or fifty, and we had a great time when he was home and we communicated while he was gone three and a half years and when he came back, he was still one of my best friends, and so, I went away to college first year at Michigan State with Louis Lewin Daniels, the cousin who fixed me up with him, the second year back to Ohio State and that’s when he came back and at the end of that year we were married in Columbus.  Very interesting, there were about six hundred people at our wedding at Tifereth Israel because we were related to so many people.  My father-in-law, I think, was president of Tifereth Israel at that time so, people, you know, a lot of people came.

INTERVIEWER:  Your father-in-law was …?

CANTOR:  Louis Schlezinger.  So, then we had a big party at Ilonka’s, lot of people there.  How do you cut a list when everybody’s your cousin?  So, anyhow, I said, everyone I wasn’t’ already related to, I got related to them then.

INTERVIEWER:  Remind me again.  Your husband’s name was…

CANTOR:  My husband’s name was Clifford Schlezinger, Clifford Charles Schlezinger.

INTERVIEWER:  Now, you said he was in the armed forces in the early fifties.   Was he in Korea?

CANTOR:  No, he was sent to Europe.  He had started college but he was just a guy who was just full of fun. He was very funny and he was very, very smart.  In high school he would spend time in the library just goofing off and the teacher said, oh and playing bridge and he got caught at it and the teacher said, “ When you get straight A’s you can play bridge in this library so, he got straight A’s.  That’s what he was like.  He really was, a great, great guy.  Anyone who knew him still says that about him.

INTERVIEWER:  Now was he from Columbus? From Belxey?

CANTOR:  Ummhmm, yes.  Well, the Schlezingers began Tifereth Israel.  His grandfather was the first president of Tifereth Israel, and he had gone to Bexley High School.  His family lived on Fair Avenue, maybe three blocks, four blocks from where I grew up, where my family moved.  They moved, the family moved when I was in the seventh grade and I think Cliff had always, his family  had lived on Fair Avenue.

INTERVIEWER:  When you say Fair Avenue, you mean west of Nelson in the old Driving Park.

CANTOR:  No, I mean Fair Avenue in the middle of Bexley.


CANTOR:  Fair right near Ardmore and I grew up on Ardmore, so he was like, down the street, but I didn’t know him then at all, but, yea,  that’s how I met him, but a lot, a lot of relatives, because of this. So, now Lois Lewin, my buddy from high school, becomes my cousin, because this is her first cousin, and Susan Polster Katz – Susan Polster’s family was related to Cliff, the Polsters and the Schlezingers, but she married this guy named Marv Katz.  He was the brother of my good friend Phyllis Katz, who was, so their father was my mother’s cousin.  So, now she’s married to one of my cousins and I’m married to one of her cousins, not first cousins but all family.

INTERVIEWER:  How do you keep all these relations straight?  Do you have a family tree, actually a tree on a canvas somewhere that you can trace?  How do you keep this straight?

CANTOR:  Actually this is a bad time for us. My mother’s sister, Aunt Hilda, had four children and one of them is Marcie.  Her name was Marcie Abrams and when she went to school at Ohio State, I knew a really, really nice guy, and I had gone back to school.  I had two little children.  MY husband Clifford had died.  That was one of the, THE tragedies in Columbus history.  People still remind me of it when I go to Tifereth Israel and I see someone I know.  People haven’t forgotten it.  My husband, I’ll back up and tell you. Clifford was…it was two weeks before his twenty -fifth birthday, and I was pregnant with our second child, four months pregnant and I had a twenty-two month old.  We had Lauren, twenty-two months old. Clifford had a sore throat and he went upstairs to get ready to go to the doctor and I see him.  We had been out in the back yard.  It was Memorial Day Weekend, the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend, which was going to be that weekend and the sun was so warm at the end of May, but there was a cool breeze.  So., he went upstairs to get ready to go to the doctor’s appointment and I heard this banging on the bedroom window upstairs.  There he was grabbing his throat so I ran up to see what had happened. I was, I think, twenty one at the time, and he was gasping for air and saying, “ I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.” And so I didn’t’ know what to do and I didn’t’ know who to call and I eventually called this doctor, didn’t really want to.   I first called…we didn’t have emergency squad like now. And there was no Nine One One.  So, I called this Dr. Palestrant and I also called the emergency squad and the squad came and so did Dr. Palestrant and Dr. Palestrant said this is nothing but an asthma attack and he sent away the emergency equipment and called his own private ambulance.  And I called my… Clifford was going to go right to the hospital so I called my parents to tell them and I called my in-laws to tell them and my parents were going out to dinner so they said, “Well, since it’s nothing bad, we’ll go ahead and go out to dinner with our friends,” and my in-laws said, “We will meet you at the hospital.”  When we got to the hospital, Clifford was like, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” and there were four interns, I think, from India taking care of him at St. Anthony’s hospital.  They took him up to the floor.  My father-in-law took one look at Cliff, and ran to the phone and called his cousin who was a doctor, and said, “Please come to the hospital.  My son is dying,” and his cousin said, “ I can’t do that.  He’s another man’s patient.  I can’t step in and I don’t have a car.”  My father-in-law said, “Take a taxi.  I’ll pay for it.  Please come, “but his cousin wouldn’t come, and so my husband Clifford was on the bed, jumping up and down and saying, “ I can’t breathe,”  and these two interns were trying to take a history: “Where were you born?  How old are you?” in these foreign accents.  What they needed was a nurse – this was a Catholic hospital, a nun, with a needle, with a pen, anything that if they had jabbed it into his throat, he would have lived.  Meanwhile the nun who had the keys to the emergency suite, the surgery suite where they could have gotten a large gage needle to put into his windpipe, was off the floor and they couldn’t find her so in that fifteen or twenty minutes, he died.  They later did an autopsy and there was nothing wrong with him except that his sore throat had swelled shut and he couldn’t breathe.

INTERVIEWER:  You’re saying he could have been saved by what would have been basically a tracheotomy…

CANTOR:  A tracheotomy…

INTERVIEWER: …just punching a hole

CANTOR:  That’s right.

INTERVIEWER: … in the throat.

CANTOR:  That’s right and after that I married a doctor five years later and my husband said, “My G-d, a Boy Scout should have known to take a pen, a fountain pen, anything and jab it into his windpipe and he would have lived.  So, this was the most terrible, terrible tragedy.  That was in May.

INTERVIEWER:  And since he was so active and people in the families were so connected it really had reverberations throughout the community.

CANTOR:  Oh, my G-d, beyond that, one of his close cousins drove in from Detroit, married to one of his cousins, his first cousin and was so upset over this, he got into a terrible auto accident.  He didn’t tell me ‘til several years later, driving to Columbus, from Detroit.   He was so overwrought.  So was I.  So, I kept our apartment which was an up and down, in Virginia Lee Apartments on North Gould.  That’s where we lived.

INTERVIEWER:  Just right at the edge of Bexley.

CANTOR:  Yes, right.

INTERVIEWER:  You were a young mother.  Now you were a widow.

CANTOR:  Yes, it was in May and my son was born in mid-September.  Yes.

INTERVIEWER:   This would have been in the, when was this, in the late nineteen fifties?

CANTOR:  When was Chuck born? Yea, I think Lauren was born in ‘56 and Chuck was born in ‘58.  Meanwhile, when Chuck was three…my in-laws were absolutely the most wonderful people.  They saw to it, my parents saw to it, I never wanted for anything.  We moved back to the apartment after Chuck was born and when he was three and Lauren was five I went back to school.  I felt like they didn’t, parents didn’t want me to.  They wanted me to stay at home with the children ‘til they were both in school and settled and I said, I felt I should support them, be able to support them so, I needed to finish my education.  Meanwhile, my father, the produce dealer, had a very good friend, Dr. Lewis, who was the head of a brand new program in the College of Preventive Medicine/Dietetics and I had been majoring in dietetics anyhow, been in the School of Economics so, I went in to that program and I had a full scholarship the first year and it was from, you wouldn’t guess in a million years, it was from White Castle.  That was my scholarship.  Yes, they really cared.  They really did.  This was in the College of Preventive Medicine and we did all of our work in the hospital.  It was strictly medical dietetics.

INTERVIEWER:  So, your degree was in, you were a major in…

CANTOR:  Medical Therapeutic Dietetics, but I didn’t’ get my degree, I didn’t get my degree from the School of Economics because by then I was married and they had a Home Economics House and they wanted me to go there and live in the Home Economics House for two weeks and learn how to wash clothes and iron and sweep the floors and my husband said, “ Well, she can go but you’re going to have to send someone to my house to take care of me and our two children while she’s there and learning.”  So, my

INTERVIEWER:  Your husband…

CANTOR:  My second husband, yes.  I married, I had a friend, one of Lucille Schlezinger, my mother-in-law’s friends had a daughter-in-law or daughter.  Her husband had died very suddenly.  They were at Hopkins  and she also was left with two little children and she was from, you know, they were from Columbus.  She was older than us but we became friends because we had this in common.  We both had children and husbands who had died so young.  So, she was dating a guy and so was I and she didn’t particularly like the guy she was dating.   He was too young for her and I really liked the car of the guy that I was dating, but what can you do? He had a convertible Mercedes Benz with a hard-top and a soft [?].   I loved that car.

INTERVIEWER:  You liked the car of the guy you were dating, but not the guy.

CANTOR:  He was a mathematician from Ohio State, so I fixed her up with him and she fixed me up with my husband.  We both ended up getting married to the guys we switched to, or were going out with and that’s how I met him, yea, my husband.  My second husband was a doctor, and he was in Columbus for an internship and a residency until he met me.

CANTOR:  And his name was Sol Cantor.


CANTOR:  His name was really Solomon but he was called sol.


CANTOR:  Yes, his middle initial, his middle name as Frederick and I’m mentioning that because when we moved to St. Louis, there was another Sol Cantor, first name and last name spelled identical.  We got mixed up a lot, a lot, but that’s how I met him and he gave up his residency in surgery and we got married because in those days, you didn’t live together until you were married and you didn’t have children until you were married all of which has changed very much at his point in time.

INTERVIEWER:  You were married to Sol, what year was that?

CANTOR:  1963 we were married.

INTERVIEWER:  And just before you were married you were living where?

CANTOR:  I lived on North Gould in an apartment and then we moved to Reynoldsburg and he had a private practice, family medicine, family practice.  He was a trained osteopathic physician, and by the way his family had been in the news lately because Eric Cantor who was in the House of Representatives, that’s Sol’s closest family.  Eric’s father and Sol were raised like brothers because their mothers were sisters and their fathers were brothers and they each had two boys and they raised them together so that’s Sol’s family.

INTERVIEWER:  So you have a link to a famous politician…

CANTOR:  Yes, so they tell me.

INTERVIEWER:  On a national level and my sister-in-law is Mary Lee Cantor, his mother, and Eric’s dad Eddie just died recently and his uncle, the other brother died a while ago.

INTERVIEWER:  So, now you say that you moved with your new husband around 1963.

CANTOR:  No, we lived in Columbus for ten years.

INTERVIEWER:  I’m sorry. You moved to Reynoldsburg around ’63.

CANTOR:  Yes, and we lived there for the next ten years.

INTERVIEWER:  Now, I want to ask you about that because it sounds like you were, you kind of symbolize how somebody who grew up in the Driving Park area which was the Jewish area, then moved to Bexley later which was also, not predominantly Jewish but a big chunk Jewish, and then something started happening in the sixties and seventies which was some people in the Jewish community moved even further out to, as you say, you moved to Reynoldsburg.  So, what was that like?  Did that change much to you, for you in terms of Judaism or the Jewish community moving to Reynoldsburg?

CANTOR:  Yes, there were no Jews.  I had no Jewish friends in Reynoldsburg.  We looked at a lot of houses in Bexley.  We really wanted to live in Bexley.  It just never happened but I was really, I drove the children back and forth to Tifereth Israel and the boys went to the Columbus Academy but Lauren, my daughter went to Reynoldsburg High school.  I wasn’t really happy living there ever.  I really wasn’t.


CANTOR:  there were no Jews on the street.  You know, I was used to this but at the same time part of me, there was a part of me that wanted to live there because I just wanted to escape the pain of what had happened to me in the past.  I never in my mind got over walking down Fair Avenue with my two children and having one of my cousins stop you know in her car and say to me, “I don’t know how you do it.  I can’t imagine surviving what you’ve survived,” and I never got over those memories.  It was so painful, so, in a way, I wanted to escape and when the chance came to leave Reynoldsburg and go to St. Louis, I was ready to go.  By then we had five children, but I was ready to go.

INTERVIEWER:  So, that’s when you moved from Reynoldsburg to St. Louis.


INTERVIEWER:  That was approximately what year?

CANTOR:  That would be what, 1973 or thereabouts, yea.

INTERVIEWER:  Let’s talk about while you were in Columbus, what institutions, you mentioned Tifereth Israel, any memories or impact that you felt from others, whether it be the Jewish Center or the Federation or anything?  What other memories might you have of other Jewish institutions?

CANTOR:  As I say, I just pulled away from all of that because of what had happened. When I was in high school, oh, my goodness, I ran this and ran that and ran the other.  I was a secretary to B’nai B’rith Girls and I was involved in, you name it, I was involved, but my kids did was something but what I did was a lot more.  When I was in high school, I was telling this yesterday to one of my cousins.  There was a woman here named Jerrie Mock.  You know Jerrie Mock.

INTERVIEWER:   The aviatrix who went around the world.

CANTOR:  .That isn’t all she did. She decided she would put on the first international telecast and so, she, I don’t know how she selected us, but she selected me and she selected a young man from North High School and we were the participants.  We went to the radio station, ‘er the television station, this was an international telecast, and we debated whether or not NATO was a good idea with two boys who were in London, England, and so this really was, Jerrie Mock put this on, and it was so successful that after that this young man and I, I’m trying to…I don’t remember his name.  I know he became a doctor.  I know he went to North High School, but the two of us had our own television show on Sunday afternoon and we would have two guests from different high schools around the city and we would debate issues of importance in the news.

INTERVIEWER:  This would have been during your high school years.  It would have been the early nineteen fifties.  Television was just coming into its own…


INTERVIEWER:  …and you were part of it.

CANTOR:  Yes, we were.  I saw her, Jerrie’s obituary in the New York Times.  It was so exciting to remember all that because, yes, we were.   That’s what we did.  Then I went down to WBNS, the big radio station.  All the kids listened to the records.



INTERVIEWER:  WBNS was a radio station, ok.

CANTOR:  And I talked to the “early [worm?],”  Irwin Johnson, and I said,  “I would like to work here in your record library,”  and he said,” Great, come on in,”  and so I helped to select the records that were played during the after school hours at WBNS and you know, it was no big deal in my family. Nobody thought anything of it.  There was a Jewish leadership camp for teenagers in New York, and I went to that. I think I went two years to it, so I definitely did a lot, uh, in high school, but then I pulled away from all that after this terrible tragedy.  It was very hard to go back and face it.

INTERVIEWER:  In some way, your Jewish background and your Jewish commitment, in some way, was so identified with your life with your first husband that you felt you needed to get away.

CANTOR:  Yep, but when I got to St. Louis, and especially, my husband died at fifty-six of cancer of the esophagus, so after he died and I’m in St. Louis…

INTERVIEWER:  Dr. Cantor died.

CANTOR:  …Dr. Cantor died.  My children are all grown, so, I’ve done a lot in St. Louis since then in the intervening years.

INTERVIEWER:   You have Jewish links

CANTOR:  Yea, and well other links. I somehow got, my children can’t believe I did it.  I went in to Walmart – Sam’s actually and they had all these big boxes of salad, you know, the three pound bags of salad in big cartons and they’re throwing it all out.  I don’t know if you’ll want this on your record, but they’re throwing this all out, and I said, “Why are you throwing that away?” and they said, “Well, it’s outdated,” and I said, “When was it outdated?”  “It was outdated today.”  So, I said, “Well, give it to me, please.  I’ll put it in the trunk of the car and take it to the food bank,” and they said, “Oh, no, we can’t do that.  We did that once and somebody sued us so now we just throw it all out.”  I said,” That’s, you can’t do that.”  Then I discovered they were doing the same thing with other foods, perishable foods.  So, I got in touch with my senator, my state senator, representative, I think, and I said, “We need to make a law to protect them so they can’t be sued, but, so they’ll give their food away. “   Well, we checked it out and there’s already a federal law that no one pays any attention to, the Emerson Law, but she checked the state law.  At first, she said, “Well, they’re protected,” but they weren’t. They had left out grocery stores even though they put restaurants into this law.  They could give their food away, so, she changed, got the state law changed, and then I was invited to come for the, you know, when they had a big party at Christmastime and she had this framed piece on her wall where she had changed the law and showing how it had changed, very exciting about Walmart still throwing away their food.  One of the people who worked there told me they threw out thirty pumpkin pies the day after Thanks giving.  I said, “You can’t do that.”  Once I saw them throwing out an entire rack of bread and I ran and got a camera, you know,  a disposable camera?  By the time I got back, that bread was gone.  They wouldn’t let me take a picture of it, of course.  There had to be a way to force them despite the law, of getting them to do this, so, I called, got in touch with one of the local television stations and they didn’t believe my story, but they had an undercover investigation.  They called me.  I was on vacation, a brief family reunion in Las Vegas and they called on the Fourth of July and they said, “Mrs. Cantor, we’re going to do an undercover thing and see what’s really going on here.”   Well, they did it from July to December and at the end of that time, they invited me to go with them into one of the stores. We went to Sam’s and the guy I was with, the announcer, under his plaid jacket was wearing a microphone and I just, you know, I knew what was going on.  They dropped us off and the truck from WBNS, television station, went far away.  We sort of strolled in, talked to the guy and said to him, “What do you do with your food so we can give it to the food pantry and the guy said, “Oh, we throw it out.  We used to give them steaks and the people would be fighting over it in the parking lot, the different food pantries, so we decided it was easier just to throw the stuff away.”  Unh, unh.  And the guy is recording all of this.  Well, first they did one expose on television and then they did a second one and they came out to the house.  You know, they interviewed me and I told them all the things, all the information I collected, all the times I had caught them throwing stuff away.  They interviewed me and that was on.  When they got ready to do the third expose in June, the bill had been signed.  You know, there was no excuse for them not…

INTERVIEWER:  The new law protecting them.

CANTOR:  The new law was in, yes, and to back up for a second, when they signed the new law, turns out the governor of Missouri  and I was there when he signed it, was a very close friend of Eric Cantor’s.  they had just gone to Israel together, lo and behold.  So he said to me, “What do you want me to do?  I’m going over to visit,” whatever his name is, “the president of Walmart tomorrow.”  I said, “See if you can get him to give his food to the food pantry.”  Even the governor of Missouri couldn’t do it, but when the third expose came along, that did it.  They said they were giving all their food and the amount of food they were giving equaled a football field sixteen stories high.  That’s what they were throwing out every day at Walmart stores that could have gone to the food pantries so they didn’t even invite me to come when they did that!  Uh!

INTERVIEWER:  You had a big impact.

CANTOR:  …and my kids called me and said, “You’re kidding. You took on Walmart? I said,  “Nobody told me I couldn’t.”

INTERVIEWER:  Where do you think you got the social justice drive to do that?  Where do you think that comes from?  Does that come from your parents?  Does it come from your religion? Does it just come from you?  Any…

CANTOR:  Oh, kind of from a combination of things :  what I did in high school, the fact that my parents were very Jewish, my mother was a member of Hadassah and I always knew that, my father was on the board at Tifereth Israel and I always knew that, the Schlezingers were all involved.  The sense of social justice, and when I got to St. Louis, another Cantor, Harvey Cantor, a neurologist in St. Louis, invited me or asked me to chair the social action committee at Congregation Bnai Amoona, the big Conservative congregation and that’s when I really got involved, once I started with that.  During the eleven years that I chaired it we did amazing things.   We had the largest…it was really amazing… electronics recycling collection in the country.  I saw this woman who was collecting electronics for recycling from the back of a truck, and I said, “Can you come an put on one of these programs at Bnai Amoona?”  and she came that fall and we collected like three truckloads of stuff and it kept growing and by the seventh year, we had gotten really big and the whole community in St. Louis, you know it’s a big city, and a lot of people would come and that year, Goodwill Industries asked if they could partner with us instead and we said yes and I knew that that meant that would be the end of our collecting, but amazingly enough, we collected thirty-three fifty-six foot long tractor trailers.  We only collected on Sunday and Monday but people came from miles around.

INTERVIEWER:  These were old cell phones, old computers, anything that they couldn’t use anymore.

CANTOR:  Anything with a battery, a plug or a gasoline engine we would take. Thirty-three of those semis!  It was unbelievable and all these people said to Goodwill, “Can you come to my community? Can you put this on for me?”  So, now, these drives are all over the city, so we’re not doing it anymore, plus we had, I had a major split with Goodwill because Goodwill, they’ve gotten a Jewish president, so I don’t quite understand it, but I said, “People are coming and they’re dropping these things off and our drive is in November.  I want to collect money to buy turkeys for the food pantries and we did and this president, this [Lou Chartok?] didn’t want us to do that.  He was afraid people would think that money was being donated to Goodwill. It had nothing to do with Goodwill, but we had kids out there with buckets collecting money.  We collected in that little Sunday and Monday drive fifty-six hundred dollars and I wrote out checks for nine different food pantries.  We made a deal with Walmart of all people so they would sell the turkeys for fifty-two cents a pound to the food pantries, so all those people got fed.   You know, it’s like, you do one good thing and it rolls on into the next. We started delivering cookies to fire stations and police stations.  It started out as a thank-you the year of the big, September Eleventh.

INTERVIEWER:  Two thousand one.

CANTOR:  Yea, it started then and we delivered, there was a terrible blizzard that year on Christmas and this was to be delivered on Christmas Day.  People volunteered to deliver the cookies.  Families were going to do that.  They were dropped off, all donated by members of the congregation, dropped off in three different houses in different locations in the city.  In this terrible blizzard I thought, this can’t happen, and you know what?  Every single cookie got delivered to sixty-two different venues.  We had a guy who was a computer genius.   He figured where all the police and fire stations were.  Anyhow that’s off the track of Columbus’s history but that’s what we’ve done in St. Louis.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, it just shows how you’ve taken your Judaism, your social justice commitment from Columbus where you were born and raised and you’ve taken it elsewhere.

CANTOR:  And I’m Jewish and I really many times have said, “I think the Almighty has a hand in this.  I really do.  Amazing things like this terrible blizzard.  How can anyone get out and do this and yet every volunteer showed up.  It was amazing.

INTERVIEWER:  So, you’ve been in St. Louis ever since…

CANTOR:  Been in St. Louis… long time.

INTERVIEWER:  …ever since the nineteen seventies.

CANTOR:  Right and my husband went into solo family practice and right after we got there he developed a beta hemolytic strep infection in his ankle, almost lost his foot and after that went into emergency room medicine and he was in that for like ten years, then went back into family practice., but back to Columbus, what more can I tell you about the Roths and the Pailet families?

INTERVIEWER:  Well, what is your feeling about the Columbus Jewish community, in general?  Course, you’ve been away but what’s your general take on it?

CANTOR:  All communities should be like this one.  I don’t know because I’m on the inside looking out.  Every time I turn around I see a cousin or I see, you know, a friend I’ve known since the Brownies, and I’m sure that for other people who come into the city, they don’t see it that way.  I don’t know how hard it is to get involved with the community.  From what I saw from when my brother Jack died, there were so many people who came to his house that I didn’t’ know who were new to the Columbus Jewish community  and yet, they were involved or they wouldn’t have been in Jack’s house. So, I think it’s a wonderful community.  There’s no place like Bexley. I can’t imagine another city.  I haven’t been to one where they have a community like this where they have all these wonderful, beautiful homes and smaller homes and the mansions all in one community, all working together, so many Jews involved and as far as I can tell it was the original involvement of Jewish community leaders that got Columbus to be the way Columbus is now, because when I was growing up it was a small town and now it’s the big city.  It was the “All-American Small Town” with Mayor Sensenbrenner and now the streets have changed, the buildings are new.  Progress came and it seems to me that that progress came when Jewish men really got involved.  I’m not sure that’s actually true but I can’t believe it’s not.  It feels like it is, really.

INTERVIEWER:   So, you have good memories of your growing up and your early years in Columbus.

CANTOR:   Oh, absolutely, absolutely I do, especially coming from two such large families.  They, that makes a difference. Those families were the foundation of this community.  One set of my grandparents went to the Agudas Achim and the other set of my grandparents, the Roth grandparents went to the Beth Jacob down the street, and they were both Orthodox shuls but even then they were very different.  People were very different.  They were much more outgoing, and a different kind of a community when you went to the Beth Jacob.  The kids were more wild.  We all have a memory if you talk to Jewish women my age of these kids with straight pins, shooting them with rubber bands, trying to poke holes in our hose and they allowed that to happen in the Beth Jacob.  At the Agudas Achim that did not happen, but at that time when I was growing up, both of the rabbis of both these congregations gave their sermons in, I guess, it was Yiddish and I couldn’t understand a word of it.  None of us could, so that’s how I ended up at Tifereth Israel.  When I was thirteen, my friend, Susan Polster Katz, said, “Do you want to go to services with me on the High Holidays?” and I went home and I said to my parents, “I’m never going back.  I understood every word of the sermon.  It was in English.  This was so wonderful.”  And my mother said, “I’m going to go,” and my father said, “You can’t do that.   We belong to the Beth Jacob.  That’s where my parents go,” but my mother went to Tifereth Israel and she said, “Irv, this is where we’re going.  Everybody can understand it.  It’s in English,” and that’s how we basically got to Tifereth Israel.

INTERVIEWER:  Who was the rabbi, was it Zelizer?

CANTOR:  Yes, it was.

INTERVIEWER:  Rabbi Nathan Zelizer, delivering the sermon in English.

CANTOR:  Yes, it was…in English.  That’s right.  I don’t remember the names of the rabbis at Agudas Achim but many, and the other thing was when you went to Beth Jacob or you went to the Agudas Achim, the women sat upstairs and visited and talked.   You know, they weren’t paying much attention.  Some of them were praying very hard but others were very busy talking, and the men were all downstairs praying.  Well, when we went to Tifereth Israel, oh my goodness, men and the women sat together.  That in itself was such a pleasure.  I could sit with my parents and not be upstairs with my mother and these ladies who were talking the whole time anyway. So, yes, that’s how we got to Tifereth Israel and that’s how I really got involved because you couldn’t be that involved if everything was in Yiddish, and they didn’t care much about children’s programming, but the children’s programming at Tifereth Israel was much different and much better.

INTERVIEWER:  Were you involved with USY?

CANTOR:  They didn’t have USY in those days.

INTERVIEWER:  They didn’t?

CANTOR:  No, no, but we did have programs, I think his name was Rosenthal.  There was a guy from the Jewish Center who was involved.   Even now I’m friends with this woman.  I see her every once in awhile.  Her name is Rochelle Harris and her husband, Les Harris, was a social worker at the J when I was a teenager.  They were a young couple and we’d have meetings at their house and all I remember about their house is that they had rows and rows of books, pocket edition books, lot of books, and years later who should I meet in St. Louis but Les and Rochelle Harris, and Les has since died, but Rochelle is still around and she goes to Bnai Amoona, the Conservative synagogue where I go, so I do see her and we’re old friends.  What a small world from my teenage years and she remembers all the things we did as kids in Columbus.

INTERVIEWER:  It’s been a big pleasure talking with you.

CANTOR:  Thank you.

INTERVIEWER:  This has been a marvelous interview, so let me just sign off here. This is Bill Cohen and we’ve just concluded an interview here at 117 North Ardmore in Bexley with Phyllis Roth Schlezinger Cantor.  It’s been a delight and we’ll sign off.

CANTOR:  We could do this for a whole day.




[Transcribed by Linda K. Schottenstein]