This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on April 22, 2010, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at the Esther C. Melton Building and my name is Helena Schlam and I am interviewing Ruth Rosenthal. Now let us begin.
Interviewer: My first question is how long you have lived in Columbus Ruth, and what brought you here?
Rosenthal: I moved here in 1945. My brother had returned from World War II and was at Ohio State and I came down here to be with him. I unfortunately did not get my education at Ohio State because I happened to graduate in the middle of the war. My father had been a World War I veteran who was afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome his whole life and he didn’t know it because he was one of five people in his Infantry division that returned alive from World War I. And so I had a younger sister and my brother was in the service and I just was needed at home so I just never got my education which was sad because I was a very, very good student and one of the five valedictorians in our class of over three hundred.
Interviewer: And where was that?
Rosenthal: It was in Warren, Ohio
Rosenthal: Northeastern Ohio, and I…later when I did move to Ohio, to Columbus, we lived on Chittenden Avenue and I took many, many courses at night and in those days it was perfectly safe for a single person to walk across campus and go to the buildings so I didn’t get a degree but I took a number of courses that interested me. I guess you would say I more or less, oh what’s the word when you don’t get grades, monitored or whatever.
Rosenthal: Audited, yes. So, and I worked and…
Interviewer: Where did you work?
Rosenthal: I worked, first I worked for a company that was in the Huntington Building downtown and they, they, I can’t quite describe it. It was…they were a Coal Company and the Coal Companies were of course in West Virginia, whatever, and they were the company that owned them and had, there was a lot of clerical work that we did. And then I worked, after I got married, before my children were born, I worked part-time at a law office on Broad Street.
Interviewer: What law company was that?
Rosenthal: Maugan and Vacca. I’m sure they’re long gone. They lived in…their offices were in one of those old big buildings on Broad Street.
Interviewer: It doesn’t sound like they were a Jewish firm.
Rosenthal: No they were not.
Interviewer: So the fact that you worked for them brings up a question. I have heard that some people who were Jewish were not hired because they were Jewish.
Rosenthal: I had no problem at all. Mr. Vacca was Italian and Italians and Jews usually get along well. I had no problem at all with that. And I also, I forgot to say, that before I was married I worked for an insurance company, Bates and Company, and Mr. Bates had never married and had no children and, but he was very philanthropic and he used to give us all a bonus at the end of the year which in those days was quite unheard of and he actually left his business to the two young men, when he passed away, who were running it or worked for him. He was a very, very wonderful person and ahead of his time.
Interviewer: Let me ask you to spell his name and that of the law firm.
Rosenthal: I think Maugan was M-A-U-G-A-N and Vacca was V-A-C-C-A I believe.
Interviewer: That sounds right.
Rosenthal: And Mr. Bates, I don’t know what his, B-A-T-E-S, just like it sounds.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Rosenthal: But I had, I don’t remember ever having any kind of anti-Semitism, I mean people were very, very nice.
Interviewer: Well I expect you did a good job and they appreciated it.
Rosenthal: Well (laughter) I don’t know about that. I was young.
Interviewer: Let me go back to Warren, Ohio and your family that was left there. How often did you see them?
Rosenthal: Oh I would, we would go back, you know, occasionally. Who had cars in those, in fact my father never ever learned to drive. And part was because of his mental condition as far as driving made him too nervous. And another thing, he never allowed my brother and I to learn how to ride a bike…
Rosenthal: because he was, he was frightened. And my sister, we lived away and she got to do all those things. (Laughter) And, but my Dad was, came here in 1911 and he was in World War I in the Infantry as I said. He was one of five who came back alive from his company and my, our synagogue was built in Warren. I think it was 1918 because I was there for its 90th anniversary, I went up. And my grandfather donated the first Torah to the synagogue in honor of my father coming home alive from World War I.
Interviewer: What a lovely story.
Rosenthal: And then I also had my father’s, had uncles that lived in the area. Well one lived in Warren, one lived in Akron and there was one in Passaic, New Jersey. And his sister lived in Warren and his brother lived in Niles, Ohio, one of, my Uncle Paul. One of my uncles lived in Akron and one of them lived in Ashtabula or something but moved back to Warren.
Interviewer: But they all came to America from Europe?
Rosenthal: Yes. My, well what happened was my grandmother, you know, in those days, the fathers would come and earn enough money to bring the family over. Well my Dad came first and then my grandmother was supposed to bring the other four children. But she unfortunately passed away in Europe when she was only 36 so my Tante who was the oldest, and then there were four boys, she brought the other three younger boys. Now my uncles were able to go to school and high school and one of them played football and everything. Daddy never did. He came here and he was put to work.
Interviewer: And from where did he come exactly, do you know?
Rosenthal: Depending on who had won the last war in Europe. It was, you know, Poland, Lithuania, you know, whichever one when that was. My mother on the other hand came from a very large city in Russia called Briansk. And when I lived in, we lived in Cleveland for a short time and we had some Russian émigrés that came, immigrants, and lived across the street and I, I didn’t have any Russian, of course, but I could converse with them in my broken Yiddish and I told them that my mother was from Russia and…and they recognized the city. And it was a big city. I guess it was over a million. You know, Russia is so big you don’t hear about all those things.
Interviewer: So at what age did you end up moving to Warren?
Rosenthal: You mean moving from Warren?
Interviewer: No, well we were talking about being in Cleveland.
Rosenthal: No, no, no. I wasn’t in Cleveland.
Interviewer: Oh, you were…
Rosenthal: I lived in Warren. I was born in Warren, grew up there and then I came to Columbus when I was 20.
Interviewer: I see…
Rosenthal: What had happened was I was engaged to a young man that I met when I was sixteen. And he wasn’t from Columbus and we got engaged when I was nineteen and he was an M.P. And it was one of those situations where his mother was not Jewish. His father was Jewish and he was from New Castle, Pennsylvania and they had a friend who had moved to Warren from Newcastle and that’s how I got to know him. And he was one of the people who liberated the camps.
Rosenthal: And he was always, his friends were all Jewish. His brother was not. His one brother…was not. And he had lovely parents and his mother was just lovely and I got a “dear Ruth” letter from him. (Laughter) Well not really a “dear Ruth” but he wrote in the letter that if being Jewish meant that you suffered like he had seen in the camps, then he didn’t want to be Jewish. And I wrote him back that I could never be anything else. And in the meantime my father was most disapproving of this whole situation. I mean his mother wasn’t Jewish, he wasn’t Jewish, you know. But he’d never said anything to me. He didn’t have to.
Anyway, so I got on a train to Newcastle and took my engagement ring back and his mother cried so bitterly because she said it was the first time she had ever regretted marrying her husband because, you know, it caused her children such trouble and she really liked me and I her and in fact his Jewish aunt and uncle lived in Warren. So, but it was, in fact it was funny because after the war when I had already moved back to Columbus, I went back once for a week.
I used to go back, you know, occasionally for a weekend. And my girlfriend who we used to double date with called me and she said Bud’s family had moved to California in the meantime. She says, “Guess who’s here.” And I said, “Who.” And she said, “Bud Fisher’s here and he’s got your ring and so he wants to see you .” And I thought OK. So anyway, I said to my mother, “I’m going over to Shirley’s.” And she said, “What’s going on?” And I told her and she never said a word to me but in front of my eyes, she aged ten years. And I said, “You know, it’s over. I’m not,” you know, “I’m not starting it all.” And I just called and said, “I can’t see him.”
And so as a result I was here in Columbus and I used to date a lot and I met my husband. We got married when I was 25. I was a generation ahead of myself. I mean I was engaged at nineteen and all, you know, my friends, by the time they were twenty-two, had their families and I didn’t get married till I was twenty-five and then I didn’t have my first child till I was almost thirty. So I said I did what all the kids do now. My aunt was wringing her hands because I wasn’t married. (Laughter) And I did the right thing ’cause I picked the right man.
Interviewer: And how did you meet your husband?
Rosenthal: On a blind date. And interestingly enough, I had gone from campus to Helen Nutis’ house to a Junior Hadassah meeting. Hadassah has always been very big, my mother and my aunt had started the Hadassah program in Warren in the 20s so I went, I was Young Judea and…So I went there and I met this darling girl and we hit it off and she had like four brothers. This was on a Sunday afternoon and they were having their Sunday poker game. So she went home and told all these guys that she had met such a darling girl, you know. (Laughter) So I had several calls and my husband worked practically around the corner from where I worked. I mean, what the heck, you know, I’m a working girl, not in that sense of the word. A free lunch, you know. So that’s how it started. He took me to lunch. And then one of the other guys, I used to date him too so they would check and see who was asking me for what day.
Interviewer: What were their names?
Rosenthal: Well my husband was Marvin Rosenthal, better known as Bud or Nicky to his friends. And the other was one of the Sokol boys, Mal Sokol. So anyway, and we got married in October of 1950 and got into our apartment and that was when they had the Blizzard of 1950 and we were stuck in our new apartment.
Interviewer: And where was your apartment?
Rosenthal: It was on Lilley Avenue in Driving Park which was a very Jewish section at that time. I, it so happened that my mother-in-law owned the four-family apartment building that we were in and it was the Korean War at that time, hard to get apartments. So she had to vacate Rabbi Zelizer and his family from the one-bedroom apartment so we could have a place to live and you were able to do that, you know, if…
Interviewer: Oh my goodness. That’s quite a story. How did Rabbi Zelizer feel about that?
Rosenthal: I have no idea. But he, you know, there were four of them living in this one-bedroom apartment and we really had to go in and redo the whole thing. And my mother-in-law was thrilled to be able to get them out, frankly. No, I mean, as far as Rabbi Zelizer was concerned, my in-laws belonged to Tifereth and my grandchildren are fourth generation there and we have had three years of B’nai, three generations of B’nai Mitzvahs there.
Interviewer: Which is a wonderful tradition.
Rosenthal: Yes, yes.
Interviewer: Well that is such an interesting story and I want to hear more about your family and your life after you got married.
Rosenthal: Okay. Well my husband, he worked, as I told you before, Gilberts were related to my husband. He was in World War II.
Interviewer: Oh your husband?
Rosenthal: Yes in Germany and, but he was one of those fortunate few who could type so he did clerical work.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Rosenthal: And he used to tell me that my mother-in-law used to send him packages and she would take sausages, I mean little salamis, kosher salamis, and she would put wax on them, you know, and send them and everything and he said they had, and he was a clerk in a hospital. He said they’d have the surgeon open it, you know, peel it. (Laughter) And she always sent him stuff that he would share with everybody and so anyway, when he came back he had gone to Ohio State for a few years but he just never wanted to go back. And so he started working for Gilbert’s and March 15 of ’55 my son Brent was born and then on October 10 of 1957 my son Lee was born. And we built our first little house on Brookside Drive south of Main. My husband had a conflict because they lived, they had built a house, his parents in 1928, on Euclaire in Bexley. And of course there was always this thing about, they always lived south of Main. You know, there was this thing about south of Main and.
But anyway so we built this house and at the time Brookside Drive was a couple of blocks from James Road and it was, it was, and when we built the house my father-in-law said, “Why are you going out in the country?” Because there was, James Road was, you know, not even paved and I don’t know how far the bus went. Well we first lived in that apartment for five years and Brent was nine months old when we moved in there. And but it was very nice living on Lilley Avenue because the kosher markets were there and the bakery was there. It was really very, very nice. And they had some lovely homes, private homes there. They’re still pretty. I mean that neighborhood is shot and there was a big grocery store there and there were pharmacies and several, Martin’s was there, the kosher butcher, and all kinds of kosher butchers. In fact, Harry Topolosky taught me how to cook. I would go to, I was kosher, I would go to Martin’s to get meat and he’d tell me what to do with it (Laughter).
Interviewer: And it worked?
Rosenthal: And it worked. And I am still kosher and…
Interviewer: Well I would ask since your two kids are boys, do you remember their brisses?
Rosenthal: Oh, absolutely.
Interviewer: Well tell us about that.
Rosenthal: When Brent was born…His bris would have been in our apartment. And I don’t remember too much about that. I remember the Pidyan Ha Ben.
Interviewer: What . . . .
Rosenthal: But it’s just, you know, vaguely. And then when Lee was born we were living on Brookside. And one of the things I do remember is my children were both born a month early and I never gained much weight and when they were seven days old on their bris, I was in a straight skirt. (Laughter) So that was, I never forgot that, so.
Interviewer: Well do you remember who was the Mohel?
Rosenthal: I think Rabbi Baker was the Mohel. And in fact with Lee, it seems it was Shovuos or Succos or something because it was October. It was after Succos, yeah Succos and he walked to do the bris because it was a holiday.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Rosenthal: So Succos isn’t a holiday. Shavuos …
Interviewer: Yeah, no. Succos is after the High Holy days.
Rosenthal: I know.
Interviewer: But it all gets mixed up sometimes.
Rosenthal: Well it’s been over 50 years, I mean.
Interviewer: Okay. Well tell us a little more about your family.
Rosenthal: Well they, my children as I said, they were in the era when people started to experiment with drugs and all that and to my knowledge, I never had any problems with that. We never had any problems with that. They were extremely close to my husband and I, especially my, I mean my husband was one of these, he actually would travel sometimes. He had to be gone two or three nights a week sometimes, not always, and he always called home every single night when he traveled and talked to all of us, all three of us. He always brought them something back and he was the kind of dad that went to their baseball games which was pretty grueling because these little kids, and whatever they were doing. And so they went to first, they went to James Road School which is now where the Montessori is and it was an excellent, excellent school. The principal was very, very ahead of herself. And Brent was especially bright and she taught some of the, in fact, do you know Tammy Golden?
Rosenthal: Well Tammy, when she, after her children were grown enough that she came back to work, she taught my son Brent and it happened and I think it might have been a split class. He was in the lower one and the upper one and she told me that in all the years afterwards and she taught at Bexley and everything, that was the best class she ever had. And so Miss, what was her name, anyway she taught a few kids how to type in elementary school and she also started them on French. And one of my big things has always been, it just enrages me that our children at seven can go to Hebrew School, learn a different alphabet and everything. I mean they should start children on languages when they’re in their elementary school because their minds are like sponges and they, you know, and they don’t do it of course. But when Brent had French, he took it all through high school too. And after he got his, I guess he took a, he got a Political Science degree at Ohio State and he wanted to teach and my husband said, “I don’t know,” because he was pretty bright and he didn’t have too much patience with people to begin with. (Laughter)
Anyway he decided he wanted to get a Master’s in City and Urban Development. And he did his research in French and of course the professor published it, you know. They take the credit for those things. And he worked, he went to work at a company who wanted him to crunch numbers and he quit. And then he became, he decided to go to Law School. And I said to my husband, “What’s next, medicine?” (Laughter) He said, “Well you know he’s young.” He was only twenty-five at this point. He was newly married and he did become a lawyer, he’s a very successful lawyer and…
Interviewer: Here in Columbus?
Rosenthal: Here in Columbus, yes. See they live in Westerville but he was in, worked at…
Interviewer: And they have children, your grandchildren?
Rosenthal: They have three daughters and Rachel is twenty-four. She has her Master’s Degree in Social Work and she actually skipped two grades and she graduated from, she got her Master’s when she was, what, she wasn’t even, she was just twenty-one when she got her degree and then she got her Master’s and she’d been working, this is a year and she’s already got her Master’s in Social Work.
Interviewer: And is that here in Columbus?
Rosenthal: Yes. She’s working here in Columbus. She graduated from Capital and then got her Master’s at Ohio State. My three younger granddaughters all were at Miami or are at Miami. The second one graduated with a double major in three-and-a-half years so she had to miss a whole semester because she had debilitating migraines, Cum Laude and she is now at Pitt. She’s getting a degree, her Master’s in Speech Pathology. She wants to be in a hospital. She’s getting some kind of a Doctor’s with it too, so it’s a five year course so it may be her Ph.D. also. And her younger sister is just finishing up her first year at Miami. My other son, now we can come to Lee, also is an attorney and he graduated from, he got his Law Degree at Ohio State and that was when it was sort of like it is today. It’s hard to get a job and he got a job in Canton, Ohio and there was a young woman who worked there and she says, “Have I got a gal for you!” She had a cousin who was going to Kent State.
Well it was funny because I guess he was a young, eligible Jewish bachelor with a profession, you know. I guess he said every Jewish mother in Canton, Ohio had somebody for him to go out with. But he did meet Stacy and they married and she got her degree from Kent and they have two children. The fourth grandchild was another girl, Andrea, who is finishing her sophomore year at Ohio State, I mean at Miami, and their son is Max who was named after my husband because my husband, unfortunately, when we moved back to Columbus in 1989, he passed away within nine months. He was sixty-seven. He had a very, very rare condition and Mayo Clinic, we went up there and they were doing an international study and had 250 people. So I always said my husband was a classy guy and he even got a classy disease that most people never even heard of. And anyway, so Lee married Stacy and got his law degree and they were in Canton. Then they moved back here and the children were, in fact Andrea was six months old when my husband passed away and so then the last grandchild was a boy and so he was named for my husband. So and Max is finishing, he’ll be a high school senior next year.
Interviewer: So you mentioned that you moved away from Columbus briefly.
Interviewer: And that was, for what purpose?
Rosenthal: Well we liked, I developed this disgusting habit at an early age. I liked to eat. (Laughter) And he was, took a position in Cleveland and we were there for about nineteen months and then he got a job in Massachusetts and he was the men’s shoe buyer for the Marshall stores, you know. You’ve…
Rosenthal: And so we were there for about three years and we used to take the kids to Cape Cod almost every Summer, so. You know I really liked Massachusetts except they were very bigoted there. I was really upset. But, and of course if you haven’t been there for ten generations you’re a newcomer. But we had friends there that we knew from the shoe business and the friends that we had were people who were not natives. But and then from there, my husband got a job with, oh it was this shoe company out of Cincinnati. Is this too long or something?
Interviewer: No, no, no. We wanted to know what were these examples of bigotry. It wasn’t anti-Semitism?
Rosenthal: Oh well. I don’t know if you remember but it was not anti-Semitism particularly. But I remember while we were there at Bunker Hill, they had a school group that had come on a trip. And there was one black boy there and they killed him. They beat up on him to the point where he died.
Interviewer: That’s a disturbing story.
Rosenthal: Yes. And you know, and I know, especially in the north end which is Italian, the blacks didn’t go there. But the same thing holds true of Cleveland and their Italians. I don’t know how it is now but I know when we were there in the middle 70s it wasn’t too good, so. But I just, I, you know, I was appalled because Massachusetts is, you know, it’s the founding of our country, you know.
Interviewer: Well I would like to shift to your involvement in the Columbus Jewish community. You mentioned Hadassah. So tell us about it.
Rosenthal: Well I started out when I was a young married and we belonged to a Twig.
Interviewer: I don’t know what a Twig is.
Rosenthal: Oh a Twig is…it’s a group that, the funds go for Children’s Hospital.
Rosenthal: And there was one very, the Jewish social people in Columbus belonged to the, the Jewish women belonged to this one. And then we had this one where there were a bunch of us young marrieds. We never had less than six of us that were pregnant at the same time. And we used to, I remember, they had a Bazaar. They still do every year. Now I don’t know where it is now but it was at the Vet’s Memorial. And we used to make, remember Casper the Camel, the dolls that were made with the brown sox and everything? And anyway we used to make those. And many years later when my first granddaughter was born, I found one. ‘Cause my son had, you know, my kids had them. And my son got a kick out of it ’cause I sent one to Rachel. (Laughter) And then we used to bake, and I remember I always made sour cream coffee cakes and they were these huge things and we charged $5 for them which was an outrageous price at that time, and we had people lined up. They waited from year to year for it and we raised quite a bit of money at Children’s.
Interviewer: But this was a mixed group, not just Jewish?
Rosenthal: No these were, all the women were Jewish. But there were a number of Twigs. I mean we were 109.
Rosenthal: So there were a lot of them and still are. And as I said the recipient of that is Children’s Hospital. So we I did that. And then when the kids started Sunday School, I joined Sisterhood, of course. And I, we used, now we have a staff that does this, the cooking and T.I. is known you know, people come. They always have a Kiddush, no matter what. And we used to go there and do the cooking. And I remember, I think it’s when they finish the Torah, we’d have a big dinner and we’d have briskets and lokshen kugel, noodle kugel, and veggies. And I remember we had these big red Beefsteak tomato slices and desserts and everything. And we all did that. We didn’t have Margaret there and her staff and so I was active in that and…
Interviewer: To go back to Twig, what, does T-W-I-G stand for something?
Rosenthal: Not that I know of. It was just the Twig. And, let’s see, what else?
Interviewer: Well the Hadassah.
Rosenthal: Well Hadassah, yeah. Well as I told you, I was brought up on Hadassah. It was, my aunt and my mother being one of the founders. And my mother passed away ten years before my Dad did and until the day he died he always gave her money every year in her memory.
Interviewer: To Hadassah?
Rosenthal: To Hadassah. And let’s see, right now I do belong, I’m active at Heritage House. I volunteer there every, I, at the, in the Gift Shop every week. And once a month we have birthday parties for everybody who has birthdays that month.
Interviewer: How nice.
Rosenthal: And we do, I do that. And it’s very gratifying. It really is. I mean there are people there younger than I am now, you know. Although it’s changed quite a bit. And I know there are a lot of people that feel very strongly that it’s original purpose is not being served any more.
Interviewer: What do you mean by that?
Rosenthal: Well Heritage House started, there was on Woodland Avenue off of Broad, not too far from the shul, they had a big, old house and they had older, well it’s mostly women, that lived there who didn’t have any other place to live. Now my brother-in-law’s grandmother lived with them for a number of years and she decided it was time to go there. So she was one of the early residents.
Interviewer: What was her name?
Rosenthal: Pauline Block. And everybody knew her. She was the raffle lady. (Laughter) She belonged to Pioneer Women and they were always selling, they were always selling raffles and God rest her soul, she always, she used to count her grandchildren, she always counted my kids too. They were…
Rosenthal: I was, you know, we were all close. And let’s see, so there was Heritage House.
Interviewer: Well I distracted you but that’s very interesting. That was the beginning of Heritage.
Rosenthal: That was the beginning of it. And now it’s more, they’re doing more rehab because see, a lot of people, they have these kind of institutions like, First Community was one of the biggest ones. And it was going bankrupt. There was just an article in the paper yesterday about it. I don’t remember the details about it. Ralph, I mean not Ralph, David Rosen was saying that if they would have continued on the path they were on, they’d have been broke in six months.
Interviewer: Heritage House?
Rosenthal: Yes because, you know, it started out as strictly a Jewish entity with Jewish patients, occupants or whatever, only. And then it got to the point where they couldn’t afford it and that’s when they became part of the Red Feather…But I know, my family doctor is Dr. Hackman and he was very upset. He says that was made for people to, you know, to live, so. They still have some people who are living there but they’ve cut down on those number of beds.
Interviewer: Humph. Well one of the questions I wanted to ask you’ve prepared for very well by bringing up Heritage House, how have you seen Jewish Columbus change over the years?
Rosenthal: Well Columbus is just like, I think most of the country had changed. It’s, I mean when I look back on it, when I was a child we were poor but I didn’t know it ’cause nobody else was in any better circumstances. I mean my parents bought their house in 1920 when they got married and I can remember hobos coming to our house during the Depression. My dad kept chickens in the backyard. He was from a shtetl and he liked to have chickens and I have to tell you that you haven’t had an egg until you’ve had eggs that are fresh out of the nest. And, but during the Depression we would have people come to our door for food and we always had eggs and my mother baked chala and she would have, you know coffee and stuff and I think they must have had us marked because there were always a lot and they never turned them down.
Interviewer: Well that’s the Jewish way.
Rosenthal: Yeah, and Daddy was always bringing these meshulach, I don’t know if you know what a meshulach is.
Interviewer: What is a meshulach?
Rosenthal: There’s Rabbis and stuff who, I would, they, lily-white hands. They never did a day’s work in their life and all they do is schnor.
Rosenthal: I shouldn’t say that, that’s not…
Interviewer: They were asking for money?
Rosenthal: Always, always. And my dad would bring them home from shul for dinner all the time.
Interviewer: How large, I forgot to ask, how large was the Congregation in Warren?
Rosenthal: Warren had one shul and there were about maybe 42,000 people in the town when I was there.
Rosenthal: And I don’t know.
Rosenthal: I don’t know. But we did have a nice synagogue and I was married in that synagogue. But now we have a new one and they’re really barely hanging on by their fingers, to it. And the difference is we’re close to Youngstown.
Rosenthal: And Youngstown has them. I mean in our day people didn’t even have cars to go to Youngstown. So now a lot of people do go to Youngstown and it’s just so sad that this shul that my grandfather helped establish, you know, is just barely hanging on. And the original synagogue was bought by a black synagogue, by a black church and they have very, very nice relationships with our Congregation and they were just saying something about, they they were very curious to know what the synagogue had looked like in our day, in, when we were there. And I do remember when I was a child that the bima was in the middle and then they moved it to the front of the synagogue. And I had copies made of my wedding, some of my wedding pictures so that they, and they were so appreciative. But I was married in that synagogue. So I sent the pictures to them for…
Interviewer: How nice.
Rosenthal: …for them to have.
Interviewer: That is a wonderful story and we…
Voice: End of side one.
Rosenthal: Oh gee…
Interviewer: You know that pattern is true in New York, in Harlem.
Rosenthal: Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Interviewer: Okay, so we’re trying to go to Side 2.
Rosenthal: Do we have more to talk about?
Interviewer: Well, you just brought some wonderful stories.
Rosenthal: Not that much about Columbus.
Interviewer: Well, but Warren, Ohio, and I want to mention to you…
Rosenthal: Before you start, are you recording?
Interviewer: Okay. We want the history of Central Ohio as well as Columbus.
Rosenthal: Well, Warren is northeast Ohio.
Rosenthal: And I do remember that we used to have a lot more snow up there when I was a child and you know what, we never had a Snow Day. I can remember trudging to sch… and walking, we didn’t get driven to school either. You know, we used to go a mile with bare feet and all those old stories.
Interviewer: Well speaking of change, can you describe how you see the change at Tifereth Israel and was your synagogue Conservative or Orthodox in Warren?
Rosenthal: It started out as being Orthodox and I remember the women sitting upstairs and I also remember my mother had actually gone to Gymnasia in Russia. So she could read Hebrew and a lot of the women then could not and so they were always asking her what page it was on, you know, and then sitting upstairs, which was beastly hot and, but in later years then the women and men did sit together so it became more Conservative because we only had one synagogue for whatever you felt like, you know, whatever you felt, so. And Tifereth it’s, I think it’s much friendlier. I know there was cliques when I got married and, but people are much friendlier now. I think that comes from having had younger Rabbis and now we just got notice that Rabbi Ungar is going to take over for Rabbi Berman in 1913 and he’s just a delightful young man. I’m very happy…
Interviewer: You didn’t mean 1913; you meant 2013 that Rabbi Ungar…
Rosenthal: Oh yes, I’m sorry.
Interviewer: No of course it’s hard to believe that we’re in the 21st Century.
Rosenthal: I know. I can remember when I was a child thinking I’d love to see the year 2000. You’re not going to live that long, you know. I mean I was born in 1925 so I would have been seventy-four and a half. So here I am and it’s like 2010.
Interviewer: It’s wonderful. And I hope you’ll continue to tell us many stories because the last thing that I had was, you’re already, it was, do you have any special Jewish stories and you’ve given us so many wonderful stories. But let me ask specifically special Jewish stories connected to Columbus or to your husband’s work at Gilbert’s.
Rosenthal: Well as I told you, I think I mentioned that thanks to Gilbert’s, all the guys in Ohio State had jobs at Gilbert’s. Not all of them but many, many of…
Interviewer: All the Jewish guys?
Rosenthal: Yeah and I mean dentists and lawyers and doctors and everything else and they were very generous in doing that and so I think that was, you know, quite a feather in their cap that they were responsible for so many people getting, and it was during the Depression also, so.
Interviewer: And did your husband work at Gilbert’s until it closed?
Rosenthal: Oh no, no, no, no. He left there and that was when we, first we went to Cleveland and then we, in fact I bought and sold three houses in five years.
Interviewer: Quite a feat.
Rosenthal: (Laughter) And I did it easily. In those days it was pretty easy. But we were in Rockford, Illinois and we had a lovely home there and lots of nice friends and everything. But our children and our grandchildren have never left Columbus. So that was where we wanted, I said everybody retires to Arizona or Florida and we retire to Columbus, Ohio. And I was so glad we did because in less than a year after we moved back my husband had passed away and, I mean, the boys would have been crazy if they couldn’t, you know, had been so far away and this way they would bring, you know, the children up and they could see him and when he would be in the hospital, and it was, it was difficult enough without, you know, at least the kids were here.
Interviewer: And you had the tradition as you said of four generations at Tifereth Israel?
Rosenthal: Yeah, yeah. And there are people who have more, you know, were the founders. There are a lot of them who are the founders.
Interviewer: Well now do you still have family in Warren?
Rosenthal: I do. I have a cousin, two cousins. I have a cousin and her husband and then I have my kid cousin. We called him our kid cousin but he’s still there with his wife and his, he had two sons and one unfortunately killed himself. It was a drug thing. Anyway this kid was really drop-dead handsome. He was so gorgeous but the eyes were blank, and it was a terrible tragedy. But Mark was there with his wife and two kids and also his son had a daughter and the mother of his son’s child is like a daughter to them. She is the most remarkable young woman. She went back to school, became a gym teacher, got her degree and she remarried and had another child and her husband has a child so my, I mean these kids are all my cousins’ grandchildren regardless of the blood or not. So it’s, you know, that’s good.
Interviewer: Family is very important.
Rosenthal: Yes. And I have a few friends in Warren that I, well one of them, I was her Maid of Honor at her wedding and she never moved away. And she’s gets very indignant at me when I don’t remember something that happened sixty years ago. Because she never left. But I did, you know. (Laughter)
Interviewer: And is she Jewish?
Rosenthal: Oh yes, oh yes. I did, we had a group, you know, as I said, and we were Young Judeans.
Interviewer: There was a Young Judea in Warren, Ohio?
Rosenthal: Yes, yes there was. And some of the girls that I, we had, I had very, very dear non-Jewish friends there too. And the last class reunion I went to was, let’s see, I think sixty….I think I went to the sixty…we graduated in ’43 and I can’t remember, I might have gone to the ’65. I talk, my two friends live in Cleveland and they weren’t going to come and I talked them into it and of course their children had to bring them. But they were so, afterwards they thanked me for making them come. It was just so wonderful to be together.
Interviewer: Well I think that you have given us just a wonderful picture of Warren, Ohio and some very interesting information about Jewish life in Columbus and your story is very valuable for our Jewish Historical Society.
Rosenthal: Thank you. And I also wanted to tell you that the Rabbi when I was growing up, his name was Rabbi Leon Stitskin. He was actually Canadian by birth and he was more Orthodox and after he left our Congregation he went to the Yeshiva University and I believe he was either, he had a big job there. He taught something. But he was just a super, super man.
Interviewer: So was he responsible for organizing Young Judea?
Rosenthal: No, we had a woman there, what was her name? I can see her face in front of me and she wasn’t a native but she had moved there and she organized these girls. And we were, what, I don’t know, 11, 12, something like that and so I’m a third generation, what, actually not, I mean I’ve been all three of the Hadassah things too, Young Judea, Junior Hadassah and now I’ve been a life member for a number of years, so.
Rosenthal: It’s very dear to my heart, the Hadassah, it really is. And also as I said, I do enjoy Heritage House too because, kids say, “How can you be with all those old people?” And I, first of all, I say, “I’m old.” I say I get at least as much out of it as they do because they’re so appreciative and so dear and, and some of them die off and, you know, so that’s sad, but.
Interviewer: Well it seems to me that you understand what mitzvah means in the Jewish tradition and certainly your work at Heritage House is a mitzvah.
Rosenthal: Thank you. Did I tell you I belong also to the Bexley Book Club?
Interviewer: No, what is the Bexley Book Club?
Rosenthal: Oh we’ve been meeting for about fifteen years now at least and it meets on the third Thursday of the month. And it’s not Jewish or anything. We have Jewish friends and Jewish, and it’s readers and we just have, we, I love it because I’m an avid reader and when you do, people suggest things to read. So many times it’s something that you would never dream of reading. Like I actually read a sci-fi thing which I would never have read and an Ann Rice thing which I would never have read. But it’s just, you know, it’s very nice and they’re all very, very nice people.
Interviewer: So you have a clear place in Bexley as well as the Jewish community?
Rosenthal: (Laughter) Well it was, it was, it’s just. Do you need these by the way?
Interviewer: Yes. So if there are a number of stories I end our interview by saying on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society I want to thank you for contributing to the Oral History Project and this concludes the interview.
Rosenthal: Thank you.
Interviewer: Thank you.
Rosenthal: Well, I…you know, any time I get a chance to talk, I…(Laughter)
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Transcribed by Honey Abramson
Proofread by Marvin Bonowitz
Corrected by Ruth Rosenthal