This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on February 24, 2009 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at 303 Eastmoor Boulevard, the home of Sylvia Ebner. My name is Helena Schlam and I am interviewing Sylvia Ebner. Let’s begin. Sylvia, how long have you lived in Columbus?
Ebner: Since 1934.
Interviewer: That must be your birthday?
Ebner: That’s right.
Interviewer: Well that is wonderful to have someone who can give us Columbus from the beginning. Do you know, were you born in a hospital?
Ebner: Yes I was.
Interviewer: Which hospital?
Ebner: It was White Cross Hospital which is now Riverside.
Interviewer: Oh my.
Ebner: At that time it was White Cross and then when they built the new hospital, they named it Riverside.
Interviewer: How long had your parents been in Columbus when you were born? Were they born here by chance?
Ebner: No they weren’t. No, they were born in Europe.
Interviewer: Good. Can you tell me about your parents, their names and where they were born?
Ebner: Well Goldie Ruben, who was a Schottenstein, and she was born in Lithuania.
Interviewer: And Goldie was your mother?
Ebner: That’s right. And my father was Max Ruben and he was also from Lithuania. It was Poland at that time but then it’s been changed to Lithuania.
Interviewer: And did your parents talk to you about their lives in Lithuania or did they even remember? How old were they?
Ebner: Oh they were young when they came. They were young but they remembered a little bit and they were very poor.
Interviewer: And do you know, did they come directly to Columbus?
Ebner: My mother did but my father, I think he went to Pittsburgh first with an uncle, Ike Newpoff. And I think he went there to work for a while and then he decided that, they decided both of them, he and the uncle came to Columbus. My father came to America in 1905 and my mother came in 1908.
Interviewer: Very interesting.
Ebner: And my father was born in 1886 and my mother in 1896.
Interviewer: And do you know what it was that attracted your father and his uncle…
Ebner: My grandmother’s brother.
Interviewer: Your grandmother’s brother?
Ebner: That’s right. And…
Interviewer: to come to Columbus?
Ebner: To come to Columbus. I don’t know…and I think they went down High Street somehow to find customers.
Interviewer: Now did your grandmother come to America or was, did she remain in Lithuania?
Ebner: She may have been in Lithuania at that time but later on she came. And I don’t know what year she came… But my grandparents were here and their children, they had two sons and four daughters.
Interviewer: Oh so you had a large family?
Ebner: That’s right, they settled in Columbus.
Interviewer: Tell me a little bit about your aunts and uncles then.
Ebner: Well one, Aunt Minnie, was married to a man named Max Stein who owned Roy’s Jewelers at Broad and High.
Ebner: And another sister, Mary Davis, lived behind us when we lived at 323 S. Kellner Road and in later years we built this house right across the street from her on Eastmoor Boulevard. And she had five daughters. Now she has one daughter living, Betty Glickler, who is going to be 95 years old and she lives in Dayton. And the other daughters have all died.
Interviewer: But you were lucky to grow up in a large extended family.
Ebner: Oh yes. I have a large family and part of all the Schottenstein family.
Interviewer: Well you told me about the Rubens.
Ebner: Yes, right.
Interviewer: Now let’s see, what about the Schottensteins? They are from your father’s side?
Ebner: No the Schottensteins are from my mother’s side.
Interviewer: Mother’s side, excuse me.
Ebner: That’s right.
Ebner: And my mother’s brother was E. L. Schottenstein from the Value City stores.
Ebner: And that was her oldest brother. And then she had several other brothers. He was the oldest of the family, E. L. And my mother was the only daughter. She was…the only one. And then after my mother they had several sons. And three of them lived here in Columbus. One was Meyer Schottenstein and Harry Schottenstein and one was Bernard Schottenstein. That was her half-brother. And the other brothers lived out of town.
Interviewer: As I said, you were lucky to have such an extended family.
Ebner: …a lot of cousins.
Interviewer: Now to go back to your mother and your father, do you know how they met in Columbus?
Ebner: I think my father just heard of my mother and…they saw each other and…
Interviewer: And do you know were they actually married in Columbus or you don’t know anything about the wedding or any…
Ebner: They did have a wedding but I can’t even say where it was. I never gave it a thought to ask.
Interviewer: Of course.
Ebner: And we have no pictures.
Ebner: and so otherwise my…
Ebner: My mother was 17 when she got married and my father 27.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful. You anticipated my next question.
Ebner: And so I knew that much.
Interviewer: And they were married for many years?
Ebner: Oh yes. They got married in 1914 and they were married until ’58 which was when my father died. And my mother died in ’67.
Interviewer: Your parents did know your children, or no?
Ebner: Yes. My mother knew all my children and my father only knew my oldest.
Interviewer: Well tell us about your children. Well perhaps I am coming too fast because I haven’t yet found out about your getting married. So we’ll come back to your children.
Ebner: All right.
Interviewer: So you grew up in Columbus?
Interviewer: And where did you live growing up?
Ebner: Well I lived on Bedford Avenue and that’s toward the downtown. And we belonged to Agudas Achim Synagogue at the time. And we lived there till I was ten years old. And then after that we moved to Driving Park. That’s a little farther out, right near Kelton and Livingston, in that area, a little south of there. And we lived there a few years and then we moved to Fair and Eastmoor Boulevard and we lived there until 1952 and then we bought a house in ’52 on Broad Street between Eastmoor and Kellner.
Ebner: 3171 E. Broad Street and then I got married in 1953 and we lived with my parents for three years. And my husband was a traveling salesman and then in ’56 we decided to get an apartment of our own.
Interviewer: How did you meet your husband?
Ebner: Oh I had seen him working at Schottenstein’s and then I met him at a wedding and that was in 1953 and then we went out after that and a few months later we were married.
Interviewer: How nice.
Ebner: Thanksgiving Day of 1953.
Interviewer: And you were married here in Columbus?
Ebner: Yes right here at the Agudas Achim, at the new Agudas Achim.
Ebner: At the time that was exciting because it was new.
Interviewer: I’m sure it was very exciting.
Ebner: Very exciting.
Interviewer: And who was the rabbi?
Ebner: Rabbi Rubenstein.
Interviewer: It was?
Ebner: That’s right.
Interviewer: Wonderful. Well I will back up and ask if you can tell us, if you can tell us about your elementary school and your high school days and…
Ebner: Okay. I went to elementary school right near our house on Bedford. That was the Main Street School. And then a few years later we had moved to Driving Park so then I went to another school called Fairwood School. I liked that school much better because they had Jewish kids there now and they didn’t have any Jewish kids at the Main Street School. And then I went to Roosevelt Junior High and around the ninth grade we moved and so I could go to Bexley Schools and we moved to Fair Avenue and Eastmoor and we lived in the apartment there until we moved to the Broad Street house. And that was in 1952. And also for a year we took off in 1950. We moved to Florida for a year.
Ebner: And I lived with my parents there in Hollywood, Florida for one year and went to school there for the 11th grade. And then we came back here for the 12th grade and I graduated from Bexley. And then went to college at Ohio State.
Interviewer: Oh you did go to Ohio State?
Ebner: Yes. That’s right, I went to college.
Interviewer: Well I, you answered part of the question I had already. I wondered how it felt to be a Jewish student with other students and as you mentioned, there weren’t so many Jewish kids in your elementary school.
Ebner: That’s right, it was a lot of white and black kids there and I got along fine but I liked it so much better when I transferred to Fairwood School. It was so much nicer…
Interviewer: But am I correct then that you didn’t have any problems being Jewish, people…
Ebner: No I did not, never had a problem with being Jewish.
Interviewer: People didn’t treat you or point you out as Jewish?
Ebner: No. Maybe they didn’t even know I was Jewish. It could have been. I never acted any different so maybe they didn’t even know, but I never had a problem.
Interviewer: Well that is an interesting thing to note in terms of early history in Columbus.
Ebner: Right. And then one time I remember Eddie Rickenbacker came to visit our school when I was in the first grade and it was wartime at that time. I remember that. He lived on Livingston Avenue and so he must have gone to that school too.
Interviewer: And it made an impression?
Ebner: Oh it did. It made a big impression on me.
Interviewer: And what did your parents think? How did they respond, do you recall that?
Ebner: About him coming?
Ebner: Oh they thought it was very nice and all that…
Interviewer: Well that’s an interesting childhood memory. So did you ever do any work with your parents?
Ebner: My father had a clothing store on North Third Street between Long and Spring. And I used to work there…and when I was a senior in high school I worked there. And then I went to college. I got the Chicken Pox in college.
Interviewer: Oh dear.
Ebner: So I had to stay at home of course and then after that I went to work at the Farm Bureau Insurance Company which is now Nationwide Insurance. And I went there to work and I worked at the Ruben Clothing Store on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays too.
Interviewer: Did you enjoy that sort of work?
Ebner: Yes I did. It was just really too much work, working at the Farm Bureau all week and then on the weekends to work at Rubens. I didn’t have too much time, you know, to have fun.
Interviewer: How long did Rubens remain a clothing store?
Ebner: I worked there…in ’53 and in ’58 they decided to go out of business. And then later on my husband went into business with my brother.
Interviewer: Oh, that is very nice. So you have a family business?
Ebner: Now that is Plaza Properties and so we own part of the properties that they have. We own the property together and my husband manages some and the Rubens manage some. And then the Rubens own a lot of their own property and…we have developed our own property too called Ebner Properties.
Interviewer: And were you then active in the business or not at all?
Ebner: I was not active in it but in the background.
Ebner: I didn’t work there but I was active in the development of it and am still active in it.
Interviewer: Well that’s very interesting and a very important part of Columbus history. So do you own properties primarily in Bexley or all over?
Ebner: All over the city of Columbus. Even Tuttle Crossing and in Powell and all over parts of Columbus.
Interviewer: But do you extend beyond central Ohio or are you based primarily in Ohio?
Ebner: We have one piece in Indiana but mostly primarily I want to be in Columbus because I don’t believe in really having property out of town. We do have it in Ashville, Ohio and in Pataskala but I really don’t like it because I like to have property closer so my husband shouldn’t have to travel so far when he wants to go to the properties.
Interviewer: I can understand that philosophy.
Ebner: . . . . much closer to home. That’s where I want to be.
Interviewer: Well I do know your husband because he has been a speaker as a Holocaust survivor and one of the questions I wanted to ask you is how has his past as a Holocaust survivor affected you, if it has?
Ebner: He talks about it every day. It’s just an every-day thing I guess.
Interviewer: And was that always true or only recently?
Ebner: Well not so much before, but now he talks about it more often.
Interviewer: Well those kinds of experiences early in life are so important…
Ebner: He’s always felt that loneliness.
Interviewer: Well your family is a wonderful legacy and a way of continuing the memories.
Ebner: Ebner Building. That means a lot. There’s a little Holocaust museum.
Interviewer: Oh yes. It is a wonderful building.
Ebner: It belongs to the community.
Interviewer: And tell us about your children who are the living legacy.
Ebner: Well my Lisa, she has three children and she lives in Bexley on Fair Avenue. And her former husband is in our business. He’s been in the business for many years and is still there. And my Mark is running the business and he’s married and has three children. And my Cindy is a lawyer. She’s not married and she has two homes and she is quite busy.
Ebner: And my oldest grandchild is 23 years old and she has a boyfriend. And she would like to be a dentist. And then her brother is 21 and he has a girlfriend and he has a nice apartment that we own and he lives there. And then their brother is 16 and he’s in the tenth grade at Bexley High School and he’d like to be a doctor. And Mark has three children and the oldest is Zachary. He’s 16. And then Julian is 14 and they are very good at ice skating or ice hockey, and they’re very good in their field for their age. And then Sabrina, she is 12 years old. She goes to Torah Academy. Zachary also goes to Torah Academy. All of our grandchildren went to Torah Academy. All of my children graduated from Torah Academy and now Zachary was at Bexley for a year but he decided to go back to Torah Academy. And Sabrina is still at Torah Academy. And we both believe in a good Jewish education but Lisa’s children did not graduate from Torah Academy. They go to Bexley and Julian is my grandson and he’s currently in ninth grade and he goes to Bexley too. And he travels almost every weekend and so does Zachary for their ice hockey. He’s in all different cities and they also have gone to Germany and Julian went to Iceland last year and Julian has gone to Canada many times for the ice hockey and they just travel all the time.
Interviewer: But clearly you are a very close-knit family…
Ebner: Oh yes, yes we are.
Interviewer: and share your lives every day.
Ebner: And we go to their games. Sometimes it’s too much for me to make dinner for the family so we go out to dinner. So that we get together often.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful. And certainly an important contribution to the Columbus Jewish community in many ways. Now how, were you and your husband involved with Torah Academy and its founding?
Ebner: A little later.
Interviewer: A little later?
Ebner: It was too soon for us to be able to be involved but we got involved later and my husband has given a lot of money and he’s also given money to the Heritage House.
Ebner: And also given money now to Torat Emet, to their new building.
Interviewer: So you are also a member of Torat Emet?
Ebner: Oh yes. We are a member of all the four Orthodox shuls.
Interviewer: Good for you.
Ebner: We are active in all of them. My husband was honored by Beth Jacob shul and by the Ahavas Sholom shul and also by Agudas Achim. He was the honoree for the “Flowers for the Living.”
Interviewer: Yes I think that is what it’s called.
Ebner: Yes, exactly. And we’ve really been active in all the shuls.
Interviewer: And you also were active in the Sisterhood?
Ebner: No in Ranana, I was active. That was the Mizrachi years ago.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Ebner: I was active in that. I belong to all the Sisterhoods…I am a member of the Orthodox Sisterhoods and Chevra Kadisha.
Interviewer: Oh that is very fine.
Ebner: And my daughter too is on the Chevra Kadisha. We represent Agudas Achim.
Interviewer: That is an important role.
Ebner: The Chevra Kadisha doesn’t have very many people representing Agudas Achim so we represent Agudas Achim.
Interviewer: Very important. Well you have contributed in many different ways to the community. I’m interested in knowing if you think things have changed very much and if so, how?
Ebner: Well I’m really not that active, you know, in the community itself. Just been doing the things that I think are important and I do give a lot of money to charity. We have a lot of good people doing charity work. Years ago when I was very young, I was not active in the community. I didn’t know that much about what was going on. I just remember the names of the people that were very active in the community and I see that some of the people that were so active in the community, their children have not been as active as the parents were.
Interviewer: But your children are very active in the community? How do you explain that happening?
Ebner: Well I just think they just wanted to do it, nobody told them to do it. They wanted to do it on their own. Mark is very active in all different organizations. He’s the President of Hillel and he was one of the youngest Presidents of Agudas Achim.
Ebner: And Cindy is very active in all different things. She started “Children of the Holocaust Survivors” at Ohio State University. They have a Holocaust Remembrance program at Ohio State every April and we support that. She has gone to Israel also for Israel Bonds Leadership Cabinet. They had 15 people that they invited and she was one of them. Lisa is not as active…she takes care of her family. And now she’s getting a little more active. Mark was honored also by Israel Bonds. He has gone to Israel for them twice.
Interviewer: Well your model, your values that you communicated in your family obviously took root and that is a lot to be proud of.
Ebner: Thank you.
Interviewer: So you say that you weren’t so active yourself but your family saw that it was important?
Ebner: That’s right, to do certain things and we did it. Wherever they really needed the money and we thought that it was important to give, we gave.
Interviewer: Well I think that a community needs strong support of families and today, many families are scattered.
Ebner: That’s right.
Interviewer: And so I think your family being so close…
Ebner: That’s right.
Interviewer: here in Columbus is a kind of model family.
Ebner: There’s not that many families that are doing that.
Interviewer: And so are you still close with the rest of your extended family from your childhood or not so much?
Ebner: No…I’m just close mostly with my own family and friends and I don’t go out that much socially. I’ve got spinal stenosis and now I have eye problems.
Interviewer: Oh, I’m sorry. Thank you so much for taking the time…
Ebner: You’re very welcome. It is very hard on me nowadays…The doctors…medicine…I’m 74 years old. I just do what I can…
Interviewer: Well I think that I have asked the questions that I had written and wonder if there’s anything you would like to add about Columbus or the Jewish community or Judaism in general or…
Ebner: Well I remember where the Jewish places were in the neighborhoods. All of that’s gone now.
Interviewer: Oh tell us about the Jewish places.
Ebner: Well Martin’s used to be on Livingston Avenue at Ellsworth. And there were just so many different changes. And of course, so much of the neighborhoods have been torn down because of the freeways. And Epstein’s Funeral Home used to be on Main Street, toward downtown. And so I remember that. And one day I took my Cindy out riding and showed her where things were and all through this area. New people have come here but they have no idea where things used to be. They just know where it is now and that’s it. But it’s interesting to know how the city has changed, gone to different neighborhoods where we would never think years ago that we would have congregations other than the east end like Beth Tikvah and we would never think that it would reach out that far. But of course they have.
Interviewer: Well when you belong to four congregations do you divide your time with them or…
Ebner: My husband really enjoys the Torah Emet now. I’m more an Agudas Achim person. I don’t believe in separate seating so Agudas Achim is still my favorite. But I do belong to those other shuls and I do support them. But otherwise I’m not a big shul goer.
Interviewer: And was that true when you were young as well?
Ebner: That’s right. My husband loves going to shul. He goes every Shabbos… When we first got married, he couldn’t go to shul on Shabbos because he worked. But then later on he didn’t have to work on Saturday so he decided that he was going to go to shul and that day we don’t do any cooking or laundry or any work that we don’t have to do. We are observant but we do use the car. We try to observe the Sabbath as closely as we can. And my husband makes Havdalah every Saturday evening and davens every day and he really is a very Orthodox Jew.
Interviewer: Well you have a very strong Jewish identity even though you weren’t that much of a shul goer as you put it, so there are different ways one expresses one’s Jewish…
Ebner: My house is strictly kosher and we never keep anything that’s not kosher in our house and we do eat in restaurants because there are no really kosher restaurants here. But when we do eat in restaurants we’re very careful. We only eat fish and vegetables.
Interviewer: As a child, do you remember observing Jewish holidays at home?
Ebner: Yes we did. We observed the Jewish holidays. My mother kept a kosher home and my parents hardly ever ate in a restaurant and we were religious. I didn’t realize that we were very religious compared to a lot of other people.
Interviewer: Well your story is a wonderful story and I thank you so much…
Ebner: You’re certainly welcome.
Interviewer: for sharing it with the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. It gives us an insight into a woman’s perspective and as a Columbus-born Jew. That’s very valuable.
Ebner: Thank you.
Interviewer: On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society I want to thank you for contributing to the Oral History Project.
Ebner: You’re welcome.
Interviewer: This concludes the interview.
Ebner: Fine, thank you.
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Interviewer: This is an addendum, a memory that just came to Sylvia Ebner’s mind about a Jewish gathering-place in Columbus. Sylvia, tell us.
Ebner: That’s right. It was a delicatessen and my mother used to buy her Pesach order from her every year. Actually my mother didn’t use a lot of delicatessen but she felt that this woman deserved her business for her Pesach order every year.
Interviewer: So what was the name of the store?
Ebner: Hepp’s, H-E-P-P-‘S, Hepp’s Delicatessen. And that was on the corner of Main Street and Washington.
Interviewer: And this was when you were a child?
Ebner: Yes this was when I was a child and there was also a place where the Goldfarb family used to sell chickens from the back of their home and my mother used to go there every Thursday to buy her chickens.
Interviewer: And a live chicken?
Interviewer: They had a shochet?
Ebner: It was already killed. She took it home and cleaned it.
Interviewer: Right, remembering that you needed to clean your chicken…
Ebner: That’s right.
Interviewer: Do you have other memories of your mother that you can share with us?
Ebner: Well she was a woman who stayed home and I think I’m like my mother and she enjoyed her home, she enjoyed cooking and she was thrifty and she didn’t have maids and she just kept her home and her family. I was the youngest because I was 12 years younger than the youngest brother. And so my oldest brother is 20 years older than I am and then I had a brother about 17 years older. And then I came and so I grew up in a home that was like an only child but still not an only child.
Interviewer: Were you close to your oldest brother or to your brother nearest you in age?
Ebner: Nearest in age, he and I were closer. The older two I was not very close with. And now my oldest brother and I are the survivors. So we talk occasionally. He lives in Pittsburgh. And he’s 94.
Interviewer: So the family returned to Pittsburgh?
Ebner: Yes the oldest brother. He is a widower and he lives alone now. He remained there and then his wife died. In 1959 his first wife died and he’s got two daughters and then two years later he married another lady from Pittsburgh and he’s remained in Pittsburgh and she died two years ago. And he’s in Pittsburgh with one daughter and the other daughter lives in Connecticut.
Interviewer: And your mother’s last years were here in Columbus…
Ebner: Yes they were.
Interviewer: And I’m sure that you were very important to her during those years.
Ebner: Oh yes. I lived on Kellner Road…and I was the only daughter…
Interviewer: And you were there for her?
Ebner: I was there… And I always tried to be there.
Interviewer: Well I’m sure you were a comfort to her.
Ebner: Yes I was with her very often.
Interviewer: And again so that it will be clear, your mother’s name?
Ebner: Was Goldie Ruben.
Ebner: Goldie Schottenstein Ruben.
Interviewer: Thank you.
Ebner: You’re very welcome.
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Transcribed by Honey Abramson
Edited by Toby Brief
Corrected by Sylvia Ebner