This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on June 19, 2012, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society’s Oral History Project. This interview is being recorded at the Jewish Federation Building. My name is Helena Schlam, and I am interviewing Rose Luttinger. Let us begin.
Interviewer: Rose, how long have you lived in Columbus? And were you born here?
Luttinger: I’ve lived in Columbus for about sixty-six years. I was born in Detroit, Michigan. My parents actually met here in Columbus. They lived on the same street, Wager Street, and they were neighbors. After they married, my father decided to move to Detroit. So they moved there, and I was born there. When I was five, they decided to move back to Columbus. My mother came first and rented a home and got settled. And then my father was to finish his job and follow. But in the meantime, he died.
Interviewer: Well, that was tragic.
Luttinger: So, I have been in Columbus ever since.
Interviewer: Did your mother have family in Columbus? Or was she all alone?
Luttinger: She had an aunt here in Columbus. Her name was Esther Wolman. She had five cousins: Abe, Eva, Jack, Morton and Ruth. They all lived here in Columbus with the exception of Morton, who lived in Indianapolis. So she did have relatives here in Columbus, which she was a little bit dependent on at times.
Interviewer: What about your father? Had he also left some relatives in Columbus?
Luttinger: I really don’t know that much about my father’s background. My mother had told me that he lived in Cleveland. He was born in Lithuania. My mother was born in Poland – small village called Rozhysche, in the Ukraine,, and as far as I can tell, he came from a place called Angst, Lithuania. I was told that he had five brothers in Cleveland. He was married before. He and his family came here from Cleveland. His first wife’s brother was Louis Madison who owned the Madison Store. He worked for Madison’s as a tailor. His wife died, and he was left with two teenagers. He met my mother shortly after that happened, maybe six months or more after that.
Interviewer: Was he older than your mother?
Luttinger: I believe so, yes.
Interviewer: But it sounds like you didn’t have grandparents on either side. They were in Europe.
Luttinger: No, not here. Well, there is a picture that I’ve seen that shows a woman who could have been my father’s mother with four men. I’m just not sure if that is a grandmother or not.
Interviewer: Well, that is a mystery because you were so young.
Luttinger: I’ve never been able to find anybody on my father’s side. The name spelling has changed, and I don’t know what the original name was. Everybody I’ve asked in Cleveland who has a name near mine doesn’t seem to know anything about my father.
Interviewer: What was your maiden name?
Luttinger: Well, it was Gefan, and I spelled it “Gefan.” But I’ve seen all kinds of different spellings for it. I’ve even seen Gaffin and all kinds of spellings.
Interviewer: Well, that is interesting. Let’s go on and find out what it was like growing up in Columbus.
Luttinger: Well, my parents met on Wager Street, and that’s where my mother rented a home. At that time, Wager Street was probably 95% Jewish. Most of the homes were half-doubles, two families with a divided porch. There were a few single family homes on the street, but very rare. Wager Street was the first block east of Parsons Avenue. We kind of lived in the middle, between Livingston and Whittier Street. It was a very Jewish ghetto-type neighborhood. Everybody knew everybody, pretty much. We knew their backgrounds and so on. I went to Livingston Avenue School. I walked there four times a day – in the morning, at lunch and coming back.
Interviewer: I assume there were many Jews in the school.
Luttinger: You know, I really don’t know, but there probably were. I didn’t really pay that much attention at the time. It was kind of mixed. There were a lot of blacks in the school also, because on Columbus Street, which was about two blocks from us, off of Wager, there were a lot of black families. As the Jewish community kept going east on Livingston Avenue, the houses became more single family, and the people became more affluent the further east you got, with Driving Park being the most affluent outside of Bexley. Bexley was always affluent. I was told that before my time, Neil Avenue was a very affluent neighborhood, and Bryden Road.
Interviewer: What was it like for you being Jewish since you didn’t even seem to feel much of a difference?
Luttinger: Well, my mother kept kosher. The house that we lived in was a living room, dining room and kitchen downstairs and three bedrooms and a bath upstairs, and a basement. She rented out one of the bedrooms. It didn’t matter if it was Jews or Gentiles. My playmates were Jewish – the kids in the neighborhood. I went to a Sunday School for a very short time at Ahavas Sholom, which was then on Ohio Avenue and Forest. I can remember coloring pictures of Bible scenes, and that’s about it. I remember that we always walked to the kosher butcher to get our groceries and so on, which was a fair walk. The one we went to was Haas, and he was on Livingston Avenue near Ohio.
Interviewer: So there was more than one kosher butcher.
Luttinger: Well, when I was growing up, there were about seven. There was Center’s, which I think was on Fulton Street. There was another one I don’t remember the name of. Then on Livingston there was Mendelman’s and Briar’s and Haas and Martin’s.
Interviewer: Oh, Martin’s already existed.
Luttinger: I guess there were six that I mentioned.
Interviewer: Do you have any idea why your family went to the one they did?
Luttinger: No, I really don’t know why my mother chose that one. Haas’s was Katz’s at first and then they left Columbus and Mr. Haas and his wife bought the store. It was Emil and Greta Haas, I believe. They had it for a number of years and then I think they moved to Main Street. Then he gave up the business entirely and went to work for Martin’s as a butcher.
Interviewer: Interesting. And did you belong to a synagogue?
Luttinger: Not really. My mother’s family was very involved in Agudas Achim. Uncle Abe was president for about ten years. So they all went there, and once in awhile we would go there on the High Holidays. If we went, we went to Agudas Achim or Tifereth Israel on the High Holidays. We didn’t always go, but still kept the holiday.
Interviewer: Where did you graduate from high school?
Luttinger: Well, I went to Livingston Avenue School and Roosevelt Junior High School, which was on Studer Avenue. That was quite a walk from where I lived. Sometimes I took the bus and sometimes I walked. Then we moved a number of times. We lived on Wager Street for about eight years. Then my mother met a non-Jewish friend who convinced her to move to the west side. So we lived on the west side for about six months. We didn’t like it, so we moved to Carpenter Street.
From there we moved to Berkeley Road. When I lived on Berkeley Road, I had a choice of going to South or East, and I went to East High School, because it allowed me to graduate earlier. I forgot about this, but I have to say that I did have the Jewishness in that I went to Hebrew School for four years. There was a bus that picked us up at the elementary schools and then brought us home in the evenings. It was run by the Hebrew School, so I did meet a lot of Jewish kids there.
Interviewer: What do you remember about Hebrew School?
Luttinger: Well, at first it was in a mansion on E. Rich Street. It was across from the old Schonthal Center. I remember some of the teachers. Daniel Harrison was the principal. Bernard Solomon was the teacher, and then there was, I believe, Eliazer Kass. We had a number of teachers, one of whom was Meshulam Riklis who eventually came to own Playtex, a bra company. He came here from Israel for a business degree at OSU, and he taught part-time.
Interviewer: Was he a good teacher?
Luttinger: He was pretty good. He was a more fun teacher because he was younger. Then there was another young teacher by the last name of Medini. I forgot his first name. I don’t know what happened to him. But Riklis was the most famous one. We used to have recitals every year and the parents would come and listen to us. We would recite poems or something in Hebrew.
Interviewer: So did you learn modern Hebrew or biblical Hebrew?
Luttinger: All I learned in that four years was to read and only with the vowels. I couldn’t read without the vowels.
Interviewer: But at your recitals, what you recited were poems. Were they biblical?
Luttinger: We had taken them from readings with vowels. Not biblical. I remember doing something by Bialik. From Rich Street the Hebrew School moved for a short time to Fairwood Avenue School. They rented rooms in Fairwood Avenue School. From there they went to the Jewish Center. They occupied the second floor at the Jewish Center. During that time is when I was finally finished with it.
Interviewer: Was there a graduation from Hebrew School?
Luttinger: I don’t recall that, but I’m sure there was, but I may not have gone to it.
Interviewer: But it is interesting that you had recitals. That’s something new that I never heard of. Where do you live now, Rose?
Luttinger: Now I live in Upper Arlington near Lane Avenue Shopping Center.
Interviewer: That is with your husband. So tell us how you met your spouse.
Luttinger: OK. The Jewish Center had a young adult group. Every Sunday night they would meet in the Adult Lounge at the Jewish Center. People would just come on their own and they had music and people would talk, etc. One time my husband happened to come there, and that’s where we met. We dated for about a year and a half and got married in my aunt’s home in her garden – Rose and Abe Wolman. Rabbi Rubenstein performed the ceremony. We lived for awhile on W. Third Avenue. My husband Manfred is from Germany. He lived in Switzerland during the war and then he came to New York and lived there. Then he saw an opening at Battelle Memorial Institute. He decided to come here. This was going to be temporary but turned out not to be. He lived here for awhile before I met him. He wanted to live close to work, and that’s how we ended up on the northwest side of town, which to me was like going to a different city. But that’s where he wanted to be.
Interviewer: I believe even before you married, you were working. So tell us about your history of employment.
Luttinger: When I was about fourteen, I worked for a store downtown, owned by middle-eastern Jews. They sold all kinds of knick-knacks and Persian rugs and pottery and things like that. It was in the block next to Lazarus. I worked there in the summers. And then later in my last couple years of high school, I worked for Kay Jewelers at Town & Country Shopping Center. A man by the name of Arthur Levy was the manager, and a Jewish man named Leslie Weber was the assistant manager. I worked there until before I graduated from high school. I also worked behind the desk at the Jewish Center on Sundays as a receptionist. I remember they had those old-time switchboards with wires that you plug in. That was kind of fun actually.
During my last three months of high school, in December (I was supposed to graduate in January) my mother died. All my work stopped then. I went to live with her relatives, eventually living with her Aunt Esther on Virginia Lee. I didn’t work for awhile, and then my first real job was for the Huntington National Bank. I was a typist. I would type names on the ledger cards for peoples’ bank accounts. It was a very small bank at that time, and some of the Huntingtons were still there. It was at 17 S. High where it is now. I worked for that bank for some 35-40 years, off and on. I started out as a typist, and then I became a statement teller, and then I was a foreign exchange teller, which was an interesting job. What was interesting about the bank was when they got the first woman teller. It was really an uproar. The men certainly didn’t want it, and even some of the women were upset about it.
Interviewer: At what point in time was that?
Luttinger: That would have been in the early 1960’s.
Interviewer: That recent?
Luttinger: Yes. But it was a really big uproar. But then after she started working, then more women started. Everyone kind of calmed down. Then they had women on the platform, and that was another big deal. Then that subsided. But it turned out that teller was like a respected job, and customers looked up to tellers at that time. It seemed like gradually that job has become an entry level position.
Interviewer: What about Jews? Were there other Jews working with you?
Interviewer: And in your years of work, were there any?
Luttinger: There were maybe one or two. Everybody talked about Jews being in banking, but there were really not that many, at least not at the Huntington. After the foreign exchange department, my son David came along, and at that time, you couldn’t take leaves-of-absence. You had to come back immediately or quit. So I left and then about a year later somebody told me about a part-time job there at Lane Avenue, which was in walking distance. So I became a part-time teller at Lane Avenue. I worked two days a week, which was perfect. I transferred to the Stock Transfer Department where we took care of stocks at the time. It was a part of the Trust Department. Then I went to Human Resources and stayed until I retired in 1994. I started in 1957 and worked off and on, but they counted it as all one thing. They were very nice to me, I have to say that. I did come across questions when I first started working as a teller downtown. I came across co-workers who would ask why all the Jews owned all the stores downtown and things like that.
Interviewer: What did you answer? Do you remember?
Luttinger: I don’t remember really. I was just so taken aback by the question. While I was working at the Huntington, when I was single, I also worked part-time at Lazarus. I floated around from department to department in the evening when they were open and then on Saturday. That was kind of an interesting experience.
Interviewer: It must not have been easy being orphaned at such a young point in your life.
Luttinger: Well, it was a shock. My mother died quite suddenly. Even though she had family here, we were not that close to them. I would see them once in awhile, but we never went there for holidays. That was a change also, getting to know people that I really didn’t know that well. Uncle Abe was very good to me and offered to put me through Ohio State. I did go part-time for awhile. At that time you really didn’t need a college degree except a lot of people went for a “MRS” degree. I felt that I was kind of wasting his money, because I didn’t have a specific goal like teacher or something that I wanted to do. So I stopped, which in retrospect was a mistake. I should have kept on.
Interviewer: But you’ve continued learning all your life.
Interviewer: And now I would like to hear about the synagogue you are affiliated with in Columbus.
Luttinger: Well, after we were married, my husband’s mother moved here with him. We had separate apartments across the hall from each other on W. Third Avenue. They belonged to Tifereth Israel. She belonged to Beth Jacob and Tifereth Israel, but Tifereth Israel was easier for her to go to on the High Holidays because there was a woman she knew who lived close that she stayed with. After that there was a hotel next door that she could stay in. He went with her on the High Holidays. He was raised Orthodox. His mother was very Orthodox. I’ve kept kosher all our married life. When we moved up there, I wanted to see who the other Jews were who lived up there, if there were any. So we heard about this synagogue that had formed on North High Street. So we decided to check it out. My husband checked it out, and then I went with him. He was kind of taken with it because it was kind of small, only thirty families. They were very welcoming. It was like one big family. He also liked the idea that he could kind of have a hand in forming what it would be like. So we ended up joining Congregation Beth Tikvah. It was on North High Street for the first two years and then the building was sold. They moved to Indianola Avenue, to an old church on Indianola and East North Broadway. Then that building became too small and so Jack Resler was kind of like a guardian angel to the congregation. He ended up giving us the proceeds from the sale of some property and we were able to build the present building we are in on Olentangy River Road near 161.
Interviewer: And you have been quite active in Beth Tikvah for all these years.
Luttinger: Yes, very active. Not as much now, but very active in the beginning. I’m still active, I guess.
Interviewer: So tell us about some of the things that you did.
Luttinger: Well, of course, I was part of Sisterhood. At that time Sisterhood was in charge of Onegs and fundraising and all kinds of things like that. I helped out with that. At one time I was Co-president with Rhoda Gilbert. Early on, my husband started an Adult Education group which met every other Sunday evening. We’ve been meeting all these years and are still doing it. We discuss books on Jewish subjects. Not novels, but more meaty books.
Interviewer: And you served as the Adult Education Chairperson for a number of years.
Luttinger: I only served for two years. Manfred served for a number of years. He was also President of the synagogue, early on, and he was on the Board for a number of years. He was very active in pretty much all aspects of the temple.
Interviewer: Well, and most recently, you were one of the co-chairs that did the history of the synagogue for the fiftieth anniversary, which was this past October.
Luttinger: Right. We interviewed all the past presidents and past rabbis, or tried to interview the past rabbis. Our first rabbi was John Rayner, and he came to HUC as an established rabbi in London, England. He came for additional training to HUC. We were chosen as his congregation to go to, which was lucky for us. We had an experienced rabbi. Then our second rabbi was Bennett Herman, and he was a student at HUC. He came to us also bi-weekly. We liked him so much that we decided to band together and pledge enough money to secure his first year as the full-time rabbi. He was with us for a few years, maybe five or six years, after he graduated. Then we had Rabbi Allen Ponn for a year, who was really kind of a mismatch to the congregation in terms of what was wanted. And then Mark Raphael, who was a history professor at OSU and later Melton Chair, became a part-time rabbi for us. He wrote his own Services, so every Friday night we had a different Service. He brought different kinds of music and so on, and we became the “avant” congregation to go to at the time. During his time we drew a lot of east-end people. Then Marc decided to leave us, and he suggested a man by the name of Roger Klein, who came to us from Cleveland. Roger was our rabbi for a few years, probably six or seven. Then he decided he didn’t want to be a rabbi anymore. He went to Israel for a year and came back to Cleveland and became a teacher there. Now he is a rabbi again in one of the big congregations there. After Roger we had a man from South Africa by the name of Tony Holz, who was a very nice man. He was with us for two years, and then Gary Huber came to us. He had been an Assistant Rabbi in St. Louis, where he grew up. He was with us for twenty-eight years. Now we have a young man, Richard Keller, who has just come to us a year ago.
Interviewer: Well, that is a wonderful history of Beth Tikvah. You were certainly active through all those rabbis. It is an important part of your life. Have you been active in other organizations in Columbus?
Luttinger: Well, I kind of followed Manfred early on. He was interested in social action as well as adult education. And early on in the 1960’s there was a Columbus Area Civil Rights Council. Beth Tikvah sent representatives. Manfred was one of the representatives. Later he became very active and became President of this group. So I mainly ended up helping Manfred with all of his endeavors. Now he is interested in a group called BREAD, which is a group of churches and synagogues that meet together to improve the lot of people. It is an apolitical association, but they work with politicians to get certain laws passed and funding for projects that would benefit people. Other than that, I belonged to National Council of Jewish Woman and Hadassah for awhile. I never really held any leadership positions. I still belong to ORT, but I’m not active. I also belong to League of Women Voters and have for a number of years.
Interviewer: And you’re now on the Board of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society, which we are very thankful for. So what would you consider your most significant experience in the Columbus Jewish community?
Luttinger: I guess my years with Beth Tikvah have been my most significant experiences in Columbus.
Interviewer: And you certainly have made a great impact there.
Luttinger: Well, Beth Tikvah has helped me to grow as I’ve helped them to grow.
Interviewer: Well, from your perspective, how has the Jewish community in Columbus changed? And you have seen a change, have you not?
Luttinger: Well, a lot of the people that I grew up with and knew as young people are gone. They left Columbus. As I said, it went from six or seven butcher shops and a Jewish delicatessen (Hepps), and the Jewish bakery early on, (they didn’t have one for years, from being more observant to being less. The community became more open to different lifestyles and ways of living and to social action kind of things than it was years ago. It is certainly growing, scattered in different sections of town which it wasn’t before. Everything was in either the East side or Bexley. Now it is in New Albany and Northwest where we are, Clintonville, Worthington. At one time there were quite a number of Jewish families in Worthington. Now we have Powell, Dublin, Delaware. It is really spread out. I guess these are the main changes.
Interviewer: Well, I forgot to ask you about your son David. Where does he live?
Luttinger: David lives in Columbus near Sawmill Road, off of Snouffer Road. It is pretty far north and a little bit west. He has a house there and sells real estate. He so far has not joined a temple. What is interesting to me is that a lot of the families who were so active at Beth Tikvah in the beginning, their children, in at least half the cases, are not interested. In other cases they have joined temples and even started some temples where they live. It is a mixed bag.
Interviewer: That’s what change means and what happens as time moves on. You are lucky to have your son in town and be involved with him.
Luttinger: Right. When he was young, we had Friday night dinner every week until he became a teenager. That kind of ended, and we don’t do that anymore.
Interviewer: Well, this has been a very informing interview, and if you have anything else that you would like to add, I would ask you to do so before we conclude.
Luttinger: I can’t think of anything right now.
Interviewer: Then, 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, June 23, 2012
Edited by Helena Schlam, June 27, 2012