This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on October 6, 2010 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at the Esther C. Melton Center in Bexley. My name is Helena Schlam and I am interviewing Sam Osipow and I was thinking I should refer to you as Professor/Doctor but you’ll tell me how you like to be addressed.
Osipow: Well the first address can be as Professor but after that we can call me Sam.
Interviewer: Good. Well Sam it really is a pleasure to be able to interview you and I have some questions. How long have you lived in Columbus?
Osipow: It’s about 43 years, I think, yes, 43 years.
Interviewer: Because you came in 1967?
Osipow: Came in August of ’67 so it’s just a little over 43.
Interviewer: And what brought you to Columbus?
Osipow: A job at Ohio State University in the Psychology Department.
Interviewer: And from where did you come?
Osipow: I came from Penn State where I was both a faculty member in Psychology and also I worked in the University Counseling Center, joint employment.
Interviewer: Okay. Well can you tell us about your family and your Jewish experience while growing up and I have to also ask where you grew up?
Osipow: I was born and grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania. My family consisted of course of my parents and my older sister Janice. My early Jewish experience there was probably pretty typical. I went to Hebrew School.
Interviewer: Do you remember how many days a week?
Osipow: It was four days a week plus Sundays. So anyway I went to Hebrew School till I was Bar Mitzvahed which was . . . . about when I was 13 and that was the end of the school year so I never went back after that.
Interviewer: Was it not a positive experience?
Osipow: It was not. We had a variety of teachers, some of whom were very authoritarian and in those days you could hit kids in school so we had a teacher who used his stick very liberally. Not, I never got hit but other kids did. And so it wasn’t really a pleasant experience. And so that’s why I never went back after I was Bar Mitzvahed.
Interviewer: And do you remember your Hebrew or use it or no?
Osipow: You know if I go to the services I can follow along silently and I can say the prayers and so on but if I have to do it alone out loud, I stumble so I would say probably not. We went to, we’ve been in Israel a number of times and the first time we went was for three months and I tried to learn some conversational Hebrew before we went and when I tried to use it there, I think my accent was so bad they thought I was speaking bad English so I quit, I stopped doing it.
Interviewer: So I want to hear about the Israeli experience. Were you teaching at the time?
Osipow: Right. I was teaching at Tel Aviv University at that time for three months. Another Jewish committee member here, Si Dinitz actually, got me going and to do that. At the time I was editing a periodical and one of the authors, one of the people who submitted manuscripts, was a faculty member at Tel Aviv University and I just casually asked if they had any interest in a visitor so they jumped on it. And I was happy to do that. So he arranged for me to be a Visiting Professor there. I chose to stay only three months ’cause that’s all I could get away from here so in the, when was this, the fall of ’72, my whole family, kids and all, we went to Tel Aviv and had a very interesting three months there.
Interviewer: And did you find Israeli students different from American students?
Osipow: Yes and no. My recollection of the way the higher education system worked there was they were very narrow, specialized approach to education so that in Psychology the graduate students probably had greater depth of knowledge in Psychology than they did here. But here the education was broader so they knew more about other things than the Israeli students did. So it was an interesting comparison and of course not all of them spoke really good English and I didn’t speak good Hebrew obviously so they assigned a graduate student to me as an interpreter kind of and he came to, he sat in class with me and if there was something I said that wasn’t entirely clear, he would translate it and then he would translate their questions if they weren’t clear to me. As it turned out, the fellow who was my assistant then originally came here and got a Ph. D. with me and then went back to Israel so I’m still in contact with him actually after all these years.
Interviewer: Wonderful. What is his name?
Osipow: Azy Barak.
Interviewer: Azy Barak? Would that be B-A-R-A-K?
Osipow: That’s right.
Interviewer: And is he in the same area as you with counseling?
Osipow: Yes, well he’s branched out a bit beyond the narrow specialty and I think the last thing he was doing was looking at some, as I recall, some gender differences and experiences and I did a little work in that area myself but he’s in a world beyond what I was doing. He teaches at Haifa, University of Haifa.
Interviewer: Very interesting. Well I want to come back to your early Jewish experience in Pennsylvania. We talked about Hebrew education but what was it like growing up Jewish in those days in Pennsylvania?
Osipow: My experience was Jews were not totally accepted in those days. We lived in a neighborhood that did not have a lot of Jews in it. Most of the Jewish families lived on the other side of town and so I had little contact with other Jewish kids until I went to junior high school. There were some Jewish children in the elementary school I attended but they didn’t live near me so I really didn’t see them outside of school very much. The only other Jewish kids I came in contact with were the ones that I met at Hebrew School and at the Jewish Community Center where, that’s where the Hebrew School was when I started and of course there were other activities there, sports and clubs and so on. When I got to be a teenager and I went to junior high school, that’s when I really met a lot of other Jewish kids and felt more accepted.
Interviewer: Well I didn’t ask about your mother and father. We have the information that you have filled out for us but what was your father and mother’s name?
Osipow: My father’s name was Louis.
Interviewer: Is that L-O-U-I-S?
Osipow: Yes. And my mother’s name was Tillie, T-I-L-L-I-E.
Interviewer: Okay. And your name Osipow, would you spell that?
Interviewer: And your mother’s maiden name and would you spell it?
Osipow: Wolfe, W-O-L-F-E.
Interviewer: Okay. Well tell me about your parents and where they were born.
Osipow: Both of my parents were born in New York City in 1906. I don’t know if they knew each other when they were very young but they married fairly young, I think they were about 22 when they got married. So that would have been about 1928 and just about that time my father got sick, he had some respiratory problems and they advised him to move to the country which was, in those days little Allentown was the country. So they moved to Allentown. He had a job there and that’s where they stayed all those years later till he retired. They moved there in, I guess, ’29 right at the start of the Depression. My sister was born in 1930 and in those days, interestingly enough, they went back to New York to have my sister. She was born in New York too because they didn’t think anybody could get good medical care outside of New York.
Interviewer: That is interesting.
Osipow: And that, not only is that amusing ’cause when we had our first child we lived in Syracuse. I was still a graduate student. And my mother thought we should probably go back to Allentown to have the baby and my mother-in-law thought we should go back to New York to have the baby, which amused us since it was the same attitude, only 30 years later.
Interviewer: And where did you have the baby?
Osipow: We had the baby in Syracuse.
Interviewer: And that baby was a boy or a girl?
Osipow: A boy, Randy.
Interviewer: And where does Randy live now?
Osipow: Right now he’s living with us because he was having trouble finding work and so he moved back to Columbus, stayed with us, and as things developed we can use him around the house. He’s, it’s very hard to find a job at, he’s 52 now. So he’s been doing a lot of, he’s been very helpful to us. We’re both getting a little less facile with things any more so he does all the work around the house, he does all the grocery shopping, other things. We would miss him if he didn’t live with us but it would be nice if he got a job and moved out too. He lives with us. Do you want to go back to my parents some more or do you want me to go…
Interviewer: I would like to hear more about your parents and whether you had family that you visited in New York.
Osipow: Yeah. The whole family lived in New York with one exception. My mother had a brother who lived in Massachusetts which, we never went there. Well every year we went to New York on vacation. We stayed part of the time with my mother’s family and part of the time with my father’s family. His…
Interviewer: Where did they live in New York?
Osipow: My mother’s family lived in the lower east side.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Osipow: I got a good taste of that. And I didn’t like it very much ’cause it was so alien to me from Allentown. My father’s family lived in Brighton Beach which was a little easier to deal with since it was a resort area too and I liked going to the beach and so on and it was nice to see my cousins. Well my father was the youngest of seven children and I was the youngest of that whole bunch of cousins so I had cousins who were more than 20 years older than I so I didn’t have a lot to do with those cousins. I had more to do with my mother’s nieces and nephews who were a little closer to me in age and I was more close to those. But it was nice to see them in New York.
I still have good memories of some of those experiences. One of my cousins still…we’re still in pretty good contact with each other. When we go to New York, which we haven’t in the last year or two, but we always manage to see him and a couple of the others. And my wife’s family, they’re also, most of them live in New York as well. So we saw them when we went.
Interviewer:And did they ever come to visit you in Columbus?
Osipow: Well my parents did and my sister did but not very often. My cousins, the only time my cousins came, and not all of them, were when some of our children got married. But they really, Columbus was fly-over country to the New Yorkers. They don’t know that there really is life out here so they didn’t come very often. Well we had a place in Florida for seven years and we saw a lot of them, a lot of them lived there in the winters and so we saw a lot of them then, my cousins. But they were all getting older too and they were dying off so they were getting hard to get ahold of.
Interviewer: So let’s go to Allentown. What was it like in terms of a Jewish population compared with Columbus, how large?
Osipow: I would say proportionately it was about the same as Columbus. Allentown of course is a much smaller city, about 100,000 at the time I lived there, so I would say the Jewish population was probably a fifth or a sixth the size of Columbus. And most of the people lived in the same area of town and went to the same schools, all the kids went to the same schools. The Jewish life for me centered mostly around the Jewish Center where I was a member of AZA and as I said there were a lot of sports played at the Center which I participated in although I wasn’t particularly an athlete. It was a social activity for me.
When I was 15 I went away to school. I went to Valley Forge Military Academy so I was kind of separated from my Jewish friends in Allentown. Valley Forge had some Jewish people there but not very many. Right around the time I was there probably there were, you know I’m not really sure how many students there were. There were maybe 500 and I would say there weren’t more than 25 or 30 Jewish students there at the time I was there. One of the amusing memories I have was at Passover, we always were able to make arrangements to go to Jewish families nearby and have a decent meal for a change. But there wasn’t much Jewish life there.
Interviewer:And what prompted you to go or your parents to decide to send you to Valley Forge?
Osipow: It was really my decision. It sounds silly in retrospect but I thought it would be good for me. I’d get some discipline and become more physically strong. And academically it was not an issue for me but I really felt that I needed to get away on my own kind of, you know, at that point. I went there for two years and it was again, like Hebrew School. I didn’t like it but it was good for me and I graduated high school from there.
Interviewer: And when you graduated high school did you know you wanted to be a psychologist?
Osipow: No. I’m not even sure I knew what it was at that time. I’m not, this is kind of interesting. My whole, my professional life has largely been studying careers and how people’s careers develop. And my own career, in retrospect, was kind of hit or miss. So when I graduated high school, I was, one evening I went out to the mail box to mail a letter to somebody and I ran into a guy I knew from Allentown who was in school with me. And he was mailing an application to Lafayette College and I said, “That might be a nice place to go,” so I got an application and I mailed it to them. And they had a special program then where you could get a degree in three years and that appealed to me. So I applied for that. I was admitted there in that special three-year program. But it was just almost an accident actually. And then when I was there, I was an Arts and Science major and like a lot of other Jewish boys, I was a Pre-Med and that was not suitable for me and but I was interested in Psychology so that’s what I majored in.
Interviewer: So you became focused on your career as an undergraduate?
Osipow: Yeah except that that was in 1950, early 50s. Psychology wasn’t as visible a career then as it is now and so I wasn’t sure what kind of career I would have once I graduated. As it happened, I graduated during the Korean War. Well, actually I was in college during the Korean War. It ended just when I graduated and I had, I’d been an ROTC student so I got a commission and I was supposed to go in the Army but since the war was over, they had very little need for people at that time. And I got orders to active duty for something like eight months later. So I had to figure out what am I going to do in these eight months? So I decided, oh I’ll go to graduate school which again was almost like an accidental decision. I went to Columbia for their master’s program and that’s when I really got interested in what I was doing. They permitted students to get an extension on their period of service. So I got delays in calls to active duty until I finished my doctorate and then I went in the Army. By that time I was promoted to first lieutenant and I spent two years in the Army as a first lieutenant after my Ph. D. which is not the way people usually did it but…
Interviewer: So did you work as a psychologist in the Army?
Osipow: Not the way I would have thought a psychologist would work. I got assigned as a Personnel Psychologist in a recruiting station, administering tests to recruits to see if they were smart enough to join the Army. Manpower needs were very low in those days so there were relatively high standards, relatively high standards. But I didn’t think that was much of a professional activity but I had no choice at that point so I did spend those two years, most of those two years, doing that. The other interesting thing about being Jewish was after the, I spent three months in Indianapolis in Officer’s Basic Course and then I was assigned to a recruiting station in Abilene, Texas. And we didn’t even know where that was. It turned out to be a very, well we called it “the buckle in the Bible belt,” a very religious, very Christian-oriented place. Not a lot of Jews there. There were some Jews there and we did affiliate with the Jewish community while we were there.
My wife, I was married by that time and when I reported in for duty at the recruiting station, since I was a first lieutenant they assumed I was a career officer. But when they found out I was not a career officer, they were disappointed. And when they found out I was Jewish and from the northeast, they were really disappointed. So I had a little difficulty dealing with that viewpoint those two years I was there. But it was an education. As far as the Jewish community in Abilene, there were another couple of funny stories. My wife, we got there just before Passover and my wife was very concerned about where would we get Kosher for Passover food. My wife is a very energetic person. She found a store called Stein’s. She figured the owner must be Jewish. Well it turned out to be a chain but as it happened the manager was Jewish and so she left a message for him to call. He called, or his wife called, and they invited us for Passover Seders, which was very nice. And then she gave my wife all the dope about where you could get kosher food and how to do it and it was a very helpful experience. Just again, a coincidence really. The one person she called was the one person in that city who was kosher.
Interviewer: Very interesting. Well I want to ask you if you think that you ended up in Psychology in any way related to being Jewish because sometimes Psychology is a course said to be the Jewish profession.
Osipow: No, I would say that that had nothing to do with it for me actually. I was interested in, well my specialty was Counseling Psychology. Most of the people are interested in Clinical Psychology and so most of the Jewish people I know who are Psychologists, that was what they did. Counseling was kind of an outrider and there were few Jewish people in the counseling area. No I don’t think it really had a whole lot to do with being Jewish. It was just a matter of something I was interested in doing. I finished, I was pretty young when I finished my Ph. D. I was 24 so the two years I spent in the Army were probably not the worst thing for me to do since at 24 I would have been pretty hard-pressed to find a decent job.
Interviewer: Yes well what was the title of your doctoral dissertation?
Osipow: You know you never forget that. It’s so funny: “Verbal Mediation of Approach and Avoidance Responses” and it was a conditioning study. And I did, the first few years I was working professionally I did a number of studies dealing with verbal behavior, how people learn language and how it affects their behavior. And then about four or five years later, out of school, at that time I was already at Penn State, I got interested in the career development area and was lucky enough to get a visiting lecturership at Harvard in the Graduate School of Education where I met some very distinguished people in the field and had an opportunity to work on a book I was writing at that time. That’s when my career really focused more and more on the career area.
Interviewer: And what is the title of the book that you wrote?
Osipow: That book was…
Interviewer: Maybe there is more than one.
Osipow: There is more than one book, yes. That particular book though was probably the most successful one I wrote. It was kind of a trailblazing book. It was called “Theories of Career Development.” At that time there were a number of more senior people who were in the career development area but they didn’t pull together all the different pieces and it was my idea to see if we could pull them together and see if we could create some kind of a theoretical structure to understand what was going on. So I worked on that book for about four years I guess and it was eventually published by Appleton, Century Crofts which was a good publisher. Over the years it’s gone through four editions and it’s changed. We’ve been through I don’t know how many publishers. Appleton went out of business and Prentice Hall took it over. Then somebody else took Prentice Hall over and last I heard Pearson was publishing it.
Interviewer: So it is still in print?
Osipow: Just barely. As a matter of fact, last spring I received a copy of a Chinese translation of the book which I was not aware was going on but I have this, I assume that’s my book. It says it is. So yes, yeah it’s still actively used here and there. It was considered a classic in the field here and I’ve written a number of other books. None of them had as much impact as that one did though.
Interviewer: Well perhaps later we can get a copy of your resume. It did not occur to me to ask for that but that might help with the transcription.
Interviewer: Well I would like to shift here and find out how you met your wife and a little bit about her, how long you’ve been married and where you were married.
Osipow: The way I met my wife was kind of also a curious event. My mother’s brother was married to her mother’s sister and so we weren’t related to each other but we had mutual cousins. And one of the cousins had an engagement party in Massachusetts and at that time I was at Columbia so I went to the party and there she was and I always tell her now I knew it was love at first sight. She laughs when I say that but actually it was and so as soon as we got back to New York, or actually before we got back to New York, I asked her out for a date and I knew she liked ballet so I took her to a ballet and from there we went on to see each other quite a bit and a little over a year later we got married in 1956. So we’re married a little over 54 years.
Interviewer: Mazal Tov.
Osipow: Thank you.
Interviewer: And did you get married in New York?
Osipow: Yes of course. Yeah that’s where all the family was so yeah, we got married in New York.
Interviewer: And in what synagogue or was it in…
Osipow: It wasn’t in a synagogue; it was in a hotel, the Croyden I believe was the name of the hotel. Her mother’s family was, had a lot of rabbis in it so there were a lot of rabbis at the wedding and one of them officiated. I don’t know which one frankly.
Interviewer: So and I’m assuming then it was an Orthodox wedding or not necessarily?
Osipow: It was probably borderline. It was Orthodox, it wasn’t Orthodox, because that’s when the men and women were separated. But the ceremony itself was probably more Orthodox than not. Yeah.
Interviewer: So and you mentioned your son. Do you have other children or?
Interviewer: Can you tell us about them?
Osipow: We have a son who lives here in Columbus who is married and has three children. They live in Gahanna. And my daughter who was married and is divorced lives in San Francisco and my son who lived with us who also was married and divorced. My kids haven’t had good luck with their marriages. My son who is married still is getting divorced too so as I said, they haven’t had good luck. I had another son. Unfortunately he died about ten years ago.
Interviewer: I’m sorry.
Osipow: He had Multiple Sclerosis and a very bad case. He lingered for 13 years. He was in Heritage House most of that time. So that was a difficult period for us.
Interviewer: Certainly. Well your daughter, no your son who lives in Gahanna…
Osipow: Uh huh.
Interviewer: …and his family. Are they involved in the Jewish community?
Osipow: No, his wife’s not Jewish so they are pretty well separated from the Jewish community, unfortunately. Not a rare story either I suppose.
Interviewer: No, not a rare story. And so are the children…
Osipow: They’re not being raised…
Interviewer: …do they have any Jewish identity would you say?
Osipow: I don’t think so. Since their mother’s not Jewish, you know, they’d have to be converted to be Jews and that wasn’t in the cards so they don’t have any Jewish identity. When they were younger they would occasionally celebrate some of the holidays with us but as they’ve gotten older, they haven’t even done that which is a source of considerable disappointment to my wife, more than even to me I think.
Interviewer: Yes well that’s one of the patterns I don’t need to tell you.
Interviewer: American Jewish life.
Osipow: The irony is that all of our kids went to Hebrew School. They all graduated from Hebrew High at Tifereth Israel. They all went to Camp Ramah more than one year and yet their Jewish identity never got stamped in as much as you would have thought. Now my oldest son who lives with us now has started going to the Minyan three days a week and he’s still quite fluent in Hebrew. He occasionally does a Haftorah or reads from the Torah at T.I. But he’s the only one. The others don’t.
Interviewer: So do you think it’s just a matter of personality and chance experience?
Osipow: No. I think it’s a matter of environment. I mean we lived, our kids’ friends were not Jewish for the most part. There were some Jewish people in our neighborhood and one of two of them were close friends of ours, but in the main their friends were not Jewish. So that’s, I think that’s what really happens. We’d have probably been better off in moving into Bexley at the time we came here we weren’t aware of that.
Interviewer: So where do you live?
Osipow: We live in Eastmoor and where we live now is only a few blocks away from where we lived when we first came here. So, and now there are more Jews there than when we moved there. In fact of our neighbors, there, right, the neighbor on either side of us is Jewish, across the street the neighbor is Jewish, up the street there’s a whole bunch of Jewish people too. So the neighborhood has gotten much more Jewish in the last few years.
Interviewer: Tell us about your various involvements with the Columbus Jewish community. You mentioned being a member of Tifereth Israel.
Osipow: Right, one of the reasons we wanted to come to Columbus, besides my job, was that the Jewish community in State College, Pennsylvania was very small and my wife was getting more and more concerned about the Jewish educational possibilities for the children. Before we left State College, a group of us got together and founded a Jewish, it wasn’t a synagogue exactly but it was a Jewish center which had synagogue services in it. That was about six months before we left. So we were involved in the creation of this organization and ironically we left soon afterwards.
When we came here, one of the first things we did was get in touch with Rabbi Zelizer at Tifereth Israel and that was, and Rabbi Zelizer if you knew him at all, was a very funny guy and when we went to meet him at the synagogue and he said, “To think I would see the day that a Psychology professor would want to join my synagogue.” He was very amused about that and he teased me about that for a few years before he got used to the idea. But actually the synagogue was very welcoming and we made a lot of friends there and he was also very welcoming. During that earlier period, both my wife and I were on the Board of T.I. She stayed on the Board much longer than I did. I think, I can’t remember how many years but it was 10 or 15 years that she was a Board Member. She was President of the Sisterhood and then she was Regional President of the Sisterhood. I was the Chair of the Education Committee there for a number of years. So we were pretty heavily involved in the synagogue activities.
Then, it must have been about, well when my son got sick I think, a little before that was when my interest kind of began to wane, I was feeling, well I can’t think of another word for it, a little disillusioned with things at that point. My wife’s reaction was just the opposite. She felt even more strongly religious at that point. It’s interesting how that affects people differently. So she remained pretty active in the synagogue. My participation is largely I go to services now and then and we go to the Jewish events that are not necessarily religious services. I don’t know if you belong, where do you belong to a synagogue?
Interviewer: I belong to Agudas Achim.
Osipow: Okay. Well a few years ago they started a group at T.I. for over 55 members, Hazak, and we’ve been going to those events pretty regularly and enjoying them too, so. The first probably 10 or 15 years we lived here I was pretty active in the synagogue but then as I said, after that, from the late 70s, early 80s, I stopped being quite so active.
Interviewer: As the Chairman of the Education Committee at Tifereth Israel, did you work at all with Sam Melton or have any involvement with him?
Osipow: Well working with him would be an overstatement actually. He was obviously the prime mover of the school.
Osipow: But he didn’t come to the Board of Education meetings, anything like that. He had a great influence on what we did. By that time he was getting pretty old and he didn’t involve himself in the day-to-day activities in the school. I met him, I knew him slightly but I didn’t have enough contact with him to say I really knew him.
Interviewer: So what would you say was his influence on the Education Committee?
Osipow: Well he developed, they developed under his auspices a curriculum which produced a number of textbooks for kids at different ages. And that was really where his influence directly on the Education Committee was. He was also kind of a role model for somebody who was very successful and very committed to Jewish life so in that sense he was important. But no, in day-to-day we worked mostly with the teachers and the rabbi.
Interviewer: And was Saul Wachs there?
Osipow: Saul Wachs was there. Saul was there when we first came and he was very influential in getting us involved actually. I don’t know if you knew Saul…
Interviewer: I did.
Osipow: …but he was a very personable, energetic, almost inspirational guy and he got us involved and then I don’t know when he left but it was, we didn’t know very much here but he had a big impact on us because of his style. I haven’t seen him in a long time. I don’t know if he still, you know, teaches in Philadelphia somewhere now.
Interviewer: Yes. Well that’s interesting because he is something of a legend I believe…
Interviewer: …at Tifereth Israel.
Osipow: Yes he definitely was. He was, had a lot to do with the development of that curriculum. Sam Melton had kind of the idea and the money but Saul Wachs was the guy who really ran the nuts and bolts of that.
Interviewer: Well now I would like to shift to your experience as a Professor in the Department of Pyschology at Ohio State. In particular, how being Jewish might have come into play, if at all.
Osipow: Okay. The Psychology Department had a history of anti-Semitism.
Interviewer: It did?
Osipow: Yes it did. A lot of the faculty, the older faculty when I came were either covertly or overtly anti-Semitic. And they, there was a very famous Psychologist named Julian Rotter who was on the faculty. Just before I came he left. And he was very famous and they used to refer to him as “that Jewish boy down the hall.” Now that’s the kind of attitude…and I didn’t know that when I came here. And I never really encountered that face-to-face like that. And I just blithely went about my way doing my work and my research and my teaching. And the Department Chairman at the time, after I was here about two years, three years, he resigned and somebody else was hired as Chair who was a little more, he wasn’t Jewish, but he was a little more receptive to Jewish people. And I got to know him pretty well. He got to like me actually and after he was Chairman for just about two years, he died so they were floundering around to figure out who was going to replace him and ultimately I did which was kind of surprising given that there weren’t a lot of people who were sympathetic to Jewish people in the department although by that time the active, overt host hostility was pretty well gone.
Interviewer: What year was that?
Osipow: That was, I became Chairman in 1973 and I stayed as Chairman until 1986.
Interviewer: That’s quite a long tenure.
Osipow: Yeah it was a long time, it was a long time. As a matter of fact, we went to Israel in the fall of ’72. He hadn’t, you know he hadn’t, he was still alive then. When we came back we were considering going back to Israel the next year for the full year. But that’s when I got appointed Department Chairman and I didn’t want to give that up so we didn’t go back. And that would have changed our lives quite a bit had we done so. So yeah, I chaired the department for those years. And actually those were pretty good years at the University in terms of finances. It was a lot of growth then. So it made me look good because I was able to give people raises, which I had very little to do with actually. But I continued to teach, I didn’t have to teach as the Chairman. It was a large department. But I did continue to teach the courses and I continued to take home graduate students, Ph. D. students, so those years were pretty satisfying for me. All told I had about 40 Ph. D.s that I worked with and I was a very energetic Department Chairman and Psychologist. I wrote or co-authored or edited, co-edited I think it was 19 books or 20 books.
Interviewer: You were energetic.
Osipow: Yeah, I was the Editor of, I was the founding Editor of a journal called Journal Of Vocational Behavior and then I was Editor of the Journal of Counseling Psychology and then later I was the Editor of Applied and Preventive Psychology and so I had a lot of editorial experience. And then also I was very busy with the American Psychological Association. I was on the Board of Directors there for a few years. I was the President of the Counseling Division. I was on a lot of committees and so it was like having three jobs almost. In retrospect I don’t know how I had the energy to do that because I don’t have much time now but at that time it was very satisfying to me to do all that.
Interviewer: Let me go back to the beginning of your time at OSU. Do you recall how many Jews were in the Department?
Osipow: I could probably give you an estimate. But when I first came I don’t think there were maybe three or four.
Interviewer: Out of how many.
Osipow: At that time there were probably about 45 faculty and at least one of them was Jewish in name only. He didn’t really identify at all with the Jewish community. So I think Herb Mirels and me were the two most visible Jews in the Department at that time. Herb was here when I came. Oh Saul Siegel was here. He was a Professor in Clinical. There were not a lot. Then over the years, actually there were some Jewish people came and went. But the number really never got very large, not more than a half a dozen who were overtly Jewish, who identified as Jews.
Interviewer: You anticipated where I was going and I assumed that there would be many more Jews, for example, today in the Psychology Department at Ohio State?
Interviewer: So how many Jews would you say are in the Psychology Department at Ohio State today?
Osipow: All right, let me preface that. I’ve been retired 12 years.
Osipow: I really don’t know a lot of the people there now. It’s amazing how much turnover occurred in the Department over that period of time. So I couldn’t even begin to make a guess of how many but I would presume there are not very many. It’s a very high, a traditional department. It’s not therapy oriented which is where you find most of the Jews. And most of the Jewish people I knew retired. Jerry Winer’s retired, Herb is retired, Saul left, Jack Kazwan left and I guess he’s died since then and I would guess that there’s probably still not more than a very small handful in the Department.
Interviewer: Now I would like to ask you about how it was that you became the Chair since your Jewishness didn’t seem to be relevant at all for that.
Osipow: No as a matter of fact, some of the older, retired faculty members must have shuddered when they found out a Jewish guy was the Department Chairman. But they were all very nice to me. But I’m sure they had a hard time doing that. When I came here I guess I wasn’t very self-conscious about being Jewish. It wasn’t that I didn’t think about it. I just, you know, that was just the way it is. The department had factions. The Psychology Department was very big and it had, it was divided into areas of study. At that time maybe there were six or seven groups of six or seven people. My group was the counseling group and I got along very well with all of it’s people. The larger department was divided into a bunch of younger and older people. The younger people didn’t like the way things were and so every Friday night after work they would go to a bar on Lane Avenue, I can’t remember the name of it, and they would drink and complain about what was going on and I was invited to go but I never went. I never once went because we had Friday night dinner at home and I didn’t want to, you know, I wasn’t going to miss.
So as it turned out I was never identified with either the young turks or the old guys. By age I was young but by temperament I sounded more like the older people. When the time came to hire a Chairman, I was kind of a neutral figure and I met some of the other criteria in terms of professional visibility and publications and so on. So it was really almost, it wasn’t that easy, I mean there was still some controversy about me. They wanted to go, some of the people wanted to go outside and hire somebody. But so, well anyway, I wound up being appointed the Department Chair and there were some times when there was a struggle. People didn’t like what I did. But I never took it to be a result of my being Jewish. I always took it more to be a result of what I did they didn’t like, some of the policies that I pushed through.
At that time I was very active in trying to recruit more minorities and women to the Department. We had one woman, two women faculty out of 50 and a lot of the students were women. And we had no minority groups in the faculty and there was a lot of pressure at that time to work in that area. So I spent a lot of time trying to develop connections where we could find people that we wanted to hire. But I didn’t have so much good luck with the minority groups but we wound up with probably, oh by the time I left, probably 10 or 15 women and now it’s even more women in the department. So that was one of the things that got me into some trouble with some of my colleagues who weren’t too thrilled with that. But anyway it had nothing to do with being Jewish except maybe being liberal.
Interviewer: Well that’s what I was about to ask you because Jews have been in the forefront promoting the progress of minorities.
Osipow: Yeah that’s true. And that is probably where my attitude came from I think.
Interviewer: From Jewish values, you suspect that?
Osipow: Yeah I do. And I…
Interviewer: Not connected directly but…
Osipow: Oh you know when I think about it, I can. And when I was…professionally when I was an editor of the journal, all the people, well the journal I created, I put the people on the editorial board that I wanted. But then the journal that I inherited, the Journal of Counseling Psychology, almost all the people on the board were men. And so I started inviting women to be on the board ’cause there were a lot of women in the field who did good work. So by the time I left I think there were more women on the board than men and again it was a matter, and also my…so it was an outgrowth of my liberalism which stems from being Jewish I think, you know.
Interviewer: Well you self-identify as liberal. I guess there is a trend now for Jews to become more conservative or at least so the media tells us. Would you care to comment on that or perhaps not?
Osipow: Well I don’t know what the media, you know the media is hard for me to understand. I have not changed. I’m still fairly liberal and most of the people I know well are also probably fairly liberal. But I, there’s a natural swing back and forth in society between liberal and conservative. In terms of religion, you know, we were, I was on the Board when the, at Tifereth Israel, when the first girls got to be Bat Mitzvahed and also when they got called to the bima. That was during the time I was on the Board. I wasn’t the only one who favored it but I was certainly among those who were eager for that sort of thing to happen.
Interviewer: Was it a controversial issue or was it one whose time had come?
Osipow: I think both really. There were a number of people who were not happy with that. I don’t know how many, if any, people left because of it but there were a number of people who did not like having the roles of men and women changing like that. But over a period of just a few years, it, the pendulum swung so that that became more acceptable to more people. I think Rabbi Zelizer was just about to retire. I can’t remember what his attitude was but he was followed by David Zisenwine who was a very liberal kind of guy and the Board became more and more liberal with respect to those kinds of issues. So it was controversial, there was no doubt about it.
Interviewer: Well that is a good segue to expanding on my question of how do you see the Jewish community in Columbus as having changed in your lifetime?
Osipow: That’s why, just the other day I was driving down Broad Street and I was thinking about when we first came to town, how many synagogues there were and how many synagogues there are now. I think about twice as many now as there were when we came. That’s a significant change. I don’t know that they’re bigger but there are more of them and there are more choices of the variety of Judaism people want to follow.
Interviewer: So when you came, what were the synagogues that were possibilities for you to join?
Osipow: Well Beth Tikvah up north, Tifereth Israel, Temple Israel and Beth Jacob. I don’t recall, oh yeah…
Interviewer: And Agudas Achim.
Osipow: …Agudas Achim and…
Osipow: …Ahavas Sholom. Yeah so there were six. Now…
Interviewer: There’s Beth Shalom.
Osipow: Yeah and I think, aren’t there two on Main Street now? I think so. And then there’s a synagogue in New Albany which is, I don’t know what you would call it. It’s not Reconstructionist but it’s Reform I guess. So maybe I was overstating it when I said there were twice as many, but there are considerably more than there were then. And looking around this area, this campus area around the Federation Building and Heritage House and Heritage Tower and Creekside and the Center, this is much more visible as a Jewish community area than it was when we first came which, you know, there was a Federation Building and there were, Heritage House was here and the Center was here. But it seems to have expanded a lot so I think the Jewish community has grown and also my impression is that more, a higher proportion of the Jews in the area identify to, with some Jewish institution than did before. I don’t know if that’s accurate but it’s my impression.
Interviewer: Well I was asking for your experience. Well I want to go back because I didn’t actually ask you about your grandparents and from where they came. Perhaps they were born in America?
Osipow: No, they were all born in Russia. My father’s parents were born in Russia. I never knew my father’s father. He died before I was born. But I did know his mother. She lived to what we thought then was ripe old age. Now it’s not so ripe, middle 80s. So, but I did know her. She died in 1946 or ‘7. And she was probably the strongest influence that got me started to go to Hebrew School. And she pestered my parents until they finally sent me. My mother’s parents were younger and they were from Russia too and I knew them better.
Interviewer: Yes. And so you don’t know where in Russia though or do you know…
Osipow: I’m really…
Interviewer: …the circumstances under which they came?
Osipow: I don’t know where for sure. I heard various versions over time. The circumstances I can only surmised from what people have said. Both my grandfathers left Russia because they didn’t want to go in the Army.
Osipow: And so they were able to leave and then sent for their wives soon after.
Interviewer: But they were already married?
Osipow: Yeah, they were already married. My father’s siblings, he’s the only one who’s born in the United States. The other six were born in Russia. My mother’s side, she was the second oldest in hers. Her older sister was born in Russia. The others were born here. So, yeah they were married and had well established families by the time they came here. They came around l904 or ‘5, somewhere in there.
Interviewer: And there weren’t stories in the family about how they managed to get out?
Osipow: Never heard a single story about that, interestingly. You know, I wasn’t curious. I should have been and, but I thought in later years I should l have pressed my father more on it because he lived to 88 and he was around long enough for me to have pressed him. But for some reason I didn’t and I regret that now.
Interviewer: But you do know that they were avoiding their military…
Osipow: That I’m, yeah.
Osipow: Yeah. Jews in the Russian Army were not in a very good position.
Interviewer: Yes. Well I am coming to the last question that I have which is what do you consider your most significant contribution to the Columbus Jewish community? You’ve lived here since 1967 and that makes you a Columbus Jewish person.
Osipow: Right. Very hard for me to answer that. I think that, well the years that I was on the Board at T.I. were, I think I contributed a reasonable amount then. I think also being a Jewish professor and a Department Chairman was also significant because I think I was the only Jewish Department Chairman in the college and it just, I just made Jews more visible to the population on campus than they had been previously. But I don’t think there’s any big single thing that I can point to that I felt was a remarkable contribution.
Interviewer: That makes me think about the fact that you were there when the Melton Center for Jewish Studies was established. Were you in any way involved or did you hear about it or how was it received?
Osipow: I heard about it and I knew about it and it was well received. But I wasn’t involved in its development. My son who died was, went to Ohio State and majored in Hebrew and Jewish Studies. And then after he got sick he came back to Columbus and enrolled in a number of the courses in the Jewish Studies Department. But, and he was going to go on and study linguistics at the University of Chicago. But when he got really sick he couldn’t do that. So I knew about what was going on there because, partly because of the fact that people from Tifereth Israel were involved and also because my son was interested. And also, you know, I had some sympathy with that because again, it made Jews more visible on the campus.
Interviewer: So you were happy for Jews to be visible?
Interviewer: Well that is interesting in and of itself.
Interviewer: Not all Jews were glad to be visible.
Osipow: You’re right. As I said, in the Psychology Department there were other Jews who buried their Jewishness so nobody knew and there were a few of us who were very open about it like Ervin and me and Saul. You’re right, there were two approaches to that. I also, I, the other thing I, well I have mentioned, I’ve been to Israel four times, professionally and developed a lot of colleagues and friends there in the university communities there and done some research with them and published some things with them. These are, do you know Itamar Gati ? I think you mentioned…
Interviewer: Yes his wife taught in the Hebrew School for me.
Osipow: Right. The first time Itamar came was, well I was largely responsible for finding a niche for him in the Psychology Department and he and I got to be pretty good friends and he’s been very, very successful over the years. And as I said, we’ve done a number of cross-cultural studies and instrument-developmental studies and published a few things together. And there were other Jewish people in, well I’ve had a number of Israeli students over the years too who went back to Israel. Some did not but more did go back and make contributions too so I thought that was important.
Interviewer: That is important and as a personal aside, my daughter who now lives in Israel and is married to an Israeli took Hebrew with Itamar Gati’s wife. So we never know how the influences carry over.
Osipow: Right. Didn’t you say you had a daughter who was a psychologist too?
Interviewer: Yes, that’s a different daughter. So I wonder if there’s anything that you think I might have missed in asking you that would be significant for us to report today and that you would like to talk about.
Osipow: I think you ve pretty well covered it.
Interviewer: Well in that case, 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.
Osipow: It was my pleasure.
Interviewer: And mine.
End of interview
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Transcribed by Honey Abramson
Corrected by Sam Osipow
Proofread by Marvin Bonowitz
Checked by Gilda and Sam Abramson