This is February 18, 2004. I’m Naomi Schottenstein and we are located at the
Federation Building at 1175 College Avenue in Columbus, Ohio. Today we’re going
to be interviewing Sylvia Mellman and I’m going to let Sylvia start this
interview and kind of set the pace for a theme and Sylvia, why don’t you get
Mellman: I’m not a Columbus native. I moved to Columbus in January, 1953
as a bride with really mixed feelings. There was excitement over my being
married and apprehension about my leaving behind what I had known and enjoyed. I
had spent four years at Smith College and my classes were stimulating, my dorm
mates were great fun, my lifelong friends in Cincinnati were warm and wonderful
and the opportunities of volunteerism which I had enjoyed in college and the
community were very satisfying and I felt that nothing would be needed from me
once the United Nations was established. Once Israel was declared a state which
was a lifelong occupation of my family in Cincinnati and once President Truman
recognized her I figured my days of advocacy were over, the causes and concerns
complete, and the college campus was behind me.
When I married and moved to Columbus I discovered a wonderful community, a
community that had a very well-informed continuing education, opportunities for
advocacy and altruism and I felt welcomed by the Columbus Jewish Community.
When we came looking for an apartment I learned that the little apartments
across from the Jewish Center on College Avenue were restricted and they weren’t
renting to Jewish people, which I found highly shocking. We were able to find a
nice apartment because my Aunt Flo and Uncle Jule had an apartment under rent
control which they had moved into between their houses. We took over their lease
so we were able to find many other young Jewish couples who were settling in
Columbus and begin a new life.
Interviewer: That’s a fantastic introduction and it really sets the pace
for why we are interviewing you. I know you were quite reluctant to start this
whole procedure but you are one of the important pillars of our community and
we’ll see that as we go along. Sylvia, let’s kind of go back to the beginning.
I’m going to ask for your full name and your Jewish name and if you know who you
were named after.
Mellman: My name was Sylvia June Shapiro and I became Sylvia Shapiro. I was named after my grandfather’s mother whose name was Sarah,
which is my Hebrew name.
Interviewer: Let’s talk a little bit about your family in Cincinnati. How
did your family happen to come to Cincinnati?
Mellman: My father and his parents came early in like 1905. My father was
five years old when they came. My mother’s father and mother had come when they
were teenagers to Cincinnati. They went to school in Cincinnati and were married
in Cincinnati and my mother was born in 1903 in Dayton, Ohio. My mother’s family
had been there for quite a while. My father came as a young boy from Russia, I
believe. I really don’t know what city. They never really talked about it much.
Interviewer: Did they ever talk about why they left Russia?
Mellman: No. The only thing my father ever said was he remembered walking
all night in the rain to get to the boat and that was all he ever said about it.
Interviewer: What business was your father in?
Mellman: My father was a pharmacist by profession and he and my uncle had
drug stores in Cincinnati – two or three of them – and it’s very interesting:
long before the days of the chain drug stores, my father and my uncle were in
business together and my mother said that they were like a buying combine. They
were able to buy in larger quantities and distribute to all of their stores
because they could get a better deal if they bought larger amounts. That was the
beginning of what we have now.
Interviewer: Were you involved growing up, did you go to the stores?
Mellman: Actually, when I was twelve I started working summers in the
stores and we had a soda fountain which was a gorgeous Italian marble and I used
to work behind the soda fountain and then when I went on to college I remember
coming home for winter vacation and working in the store on Christmas eve and
Christmas so the help could have the holiday off. In those days drug stores had
long hours – every day of the week: six days a week.
Interviewer: So it turned out to be a successful family business.
Mellman: It was.
Interviewer: Did your family live in many houses in Cincinnati?
Mellman: No, we didn’t. We lived in what they called St. Louis: a two
story house – actually Mrs.Zussman owned the house. It should be noted that she
was related somehow to the Schottensteins.
Interviewer: That’s a familiar name. That would be Anna Schottenstein’s
family, Uncle Ephraim’s family.
Mellman: She owned the house and we lived downstairs and they lived
upstairs on Cleveland Avenue. And then we lived in a house that my parents built,
a one family house on Egan Hills Drive and I lived there until the day I got
Interviewer: You mentioned that when you got married you came to
Columbus. Tell us how that came about. How did you meet your husband?
Mellman: I met him at a party when we were in college. Actually, I think
I had just graduated because it was the fall of 1950 and my cousins, Leon and
Bernice Marks were having a party one Saturday night and I came for the weekend
and went to the party and Carl was also there.
Interviewer: Now Bernice and Leon – are they your cousins?
Mellman: Leon is my first cousin, his father and my mother were brother
and sister, but also at the party where Lee and Marilyn Skilken. Lee and Carl
were first cousins and I assumed that was how Carl got invited because Leon and
Lee were friendly and he must have met Carl through Lee.
Interviewer: Tell us about your siblings. Are there more than one?
Mellman: I have one sister and she is two years younger than I am. She
graduated with Honors in Economics from Wellesley and went to work at the
Federated Department Stores in Cincinnati in 1952 because it was the only job
she saw advertised in the paper for women that didn’t require typing – her
career at Federated Stores, goes the story, she rose to the rank of Corporate
Vice President of the Federated Department Stores.
Interviewer: Tell us about her family.
Mellman: She has one son, Charles, who is married to Amy. They have two
daughters. They live in New York as does my daughter and her family.
Interviewer: Did you have grandparents that you remember at all?
Mellman: Very clearly! My mother’s parents lived to be quite elderly –
they were there at my wedding! My father’s parents died when I was in college, I
believe, so we had many years together as a family. They lived in Cincinnati and
it was very nice. My father had two brothers – one was just two years younger
than he and one who was twelve years younger than he. My uncle Bill Shapiro was
my father’s business partner, who was two years younger, and my uncle Nate
Shapiro was a doctor, he was twelve years younger and he just passed away at 91.
My father died in ’92 at the age of 92. My mother had three older brothers and
three younger brothers.
Interviewer: Can you tell us some of your childhood memories, let’s
Mellman: I remember having the seder at my grandfather’s house with large
numbers of people, and when my mother took over she had to rent tables and take
all the furniture out of the living room because there were always huge crowds
at the Passover Seders. I went to the Isaac M. Wise Temple Religious School
because the rabbis were Zionists. They were not a part of the American Council
for Judaism as other rabbis in Cincinnati were. That was anathema to my Zionist
My Confirmation took place at the Plum Street Temple which is a National
Historic Landmark. I was Valedictorian of my confirmation class.
Interviewer: Tell us about your schooling, starting with the beginning.
Mellman: I went to Avondale School – it was a public school in Cincinnati
and then from the seventh to the twelfth grades I went to Walnut Hills High
School which was a college preparatory high school. It was also a public school
with a test that you had to pass to be eligible to attend and after Walnut Hills
I went to Smith College. I majored in History and therefore was able to study
History of Art and History of Literature and all of the history courses
connected to my major so it was very broad-spectrummed.
Interviewer: Sounds like it was pretty exciting. Your college years
were good memories.
Mellman: Good memories – cold winters, beautiful fall and
springs in a beautiful area close to mountains. It was really gorgeous. Very
colorful in the fall…very cold winters, but I was young and it didn’t seem to
matter so much.
Interviewer: You mentioned your family’s interest in Zionism. How did
they react to Israel before it became a state?
Mellman: My grandfather was an ardent Zionist and he worked for the
Jewish National Fund and in 1936 he was on a trip to Palestine. I’m not sure why
or how – I was eight years old at the time but I remember the excitement that it
caused in the family because he had to take a train to New York and to go from
New York to Venice and then from Venice to Haifa, because that’s how people went
to Palestine in 1936 – I remember standing on the street corner with my
grandfather shaking a “blue box,” and I remember in religious school
that trees were planted in Israel.
Interviewer: Tell us about the blue box…explain what that is.
Mellman: The blue boxes were from the Jewish National Fund to buy land in
Palestine and we used to stand on the street corner and shake the blue boxes,
and people would drop coins in it for you, but in Cincinnati there is really a
dichotomy in the community between us as Zionists and those who were
anti-Zionists. It didn’t matter whether you were Orthodox or Conservative or
Reform, people were not divided along those lines. The thing that divided the
Jewish community was whether Israel was to be a Jewish State, whether we were a
State or a People, and The American Council on Judaism was very, very active in
Cincinnati as was the ZOA (Zionist Organization of America) and all of those
Interviewer: Were you active in organizations at that point?
Mellman: No, as a teenager, the only organization I was active in was
Sigma Theta Pi, which was my high school sorority which also had a chapter in
Columbus at that time and I was president of the sorority at that time and very
involved with my high school activities – I was co-editor of the newspaper and
involved in lots of activities at Walnut Hills and they were not necessarily
Jewish activities, I mean within the family.
Interviewer: It sounds like the seeds were planted regarding your
interest in Zionism
Mellman: Very early.
Interviewer: As a youngster, do you remember any incidents of anti-semitism?
Mellman: It’s not that I don’t remember, it’s when I was applying to
colleges that the Dean of Women at Walnut Hills High School said to me, that
“You’d better apply to more than one college because there are Jewish
quotas, and we just never know, it has nothing to do with your qualifications,
it has to do with the Jewish quota”, which was only six per cent at the
time I went to college. Six per cent of the students were Jewish at the eastern
schools where I applied, so on her recommendation, I applied to more than one
school and I did get into the one of my choice, but it was just sort of a creepy
thing – But otherwise I really wasn’t aware.
Interviewer: Once you got into college, were you involved in Jewish
Mellman: There were not many Jewish activities at Smith…there was a
Hillel at the University of Massachusetts which was in Amherst…in
Massachusetts there were Amherst and Smith College and we were involved in
Hillel, especially in the time we were advocating for The United Nations. We
were advocating for the recognition of Israel and there was that framework, but
there was also the framework of my college – I had a professor of American
Literature who was very liberal, who used all his students who wanted to
volunteer to sit in people’s homes in Northampton on election day and he would
take the women of the house to the polls while we sat with their children and we
worked with Americans for Democratic Action which at that time was just starting
and we got involved in some of that kind of volunteerism…
Interviewer: Once you came to Columbus after graduating from college,
fill us in with that
Mellman: I came to Columbus and I worked at Lazarus in their Training
Department, I guess – you know, for college graduates, and for eight months I
wrote advertising copy – it wasn’t hard for Lazarus but you had to have some
experience on the selling floor before we could do that and I found that the
selling floor was very interesting and very exciting, meeting a lot of people
and a lot of promotion and starting trends, fashion trends, whatever, by trends.
It was kind of interesting and exciting and I really enjoyed it and I stayed
there – I was Miss Becket’s assistant in the Better Suits Department, travelled
with her to New York to the Fashion market on two occasions – it was very nice..
It was an exciting job.
Carl was called into the Service – he didn’t really go during the Korean War
and they just activated him then – we had been married about a year, I guess,
and they activated him and I followed him to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia,
where he was stationed for two years.
Then we moved back to Columbus around 1956 and an interesting thing was
happening. Tammie Golden was starting an evening group in Hadassah that I
joined. It was the first evening group for young women so she asked me if I
would like to become a part of that group and I did. I really found it to be
lots of fun, very interesting, stimulating and a great outlet. I got involved
with Hadassah and the Young Matrons Division of the United Jewish Fund and I was
very active in the Sisterhood at Tifereth Israel, all of which I really enjoyed
a great deal. It was exciting, it was exhilarating, it was continuing education,
and it was opportunity again for advocacy and volunteerism which were things
that I really enjoyed doing.
In 1963. I was Chairman of the Young Matrons Division of the Federation and
in 1964 I won the Theresa Stem Kahn Young Leadership Membership Award from
Federation. I was Tifereth Israel Sisterhood Vice President so I did a lot of
volunteer work with religious school and the high school and the youth group. It
was very, very fulfilling. I was at the same time involved in the Evening Group
of Hadassah and elected President of the evening group and in ’67 and ’68 I was
president of the entire chapter of Hadassah – all the groups had a single
unifying area – I think there were five….
Interviewer: Now we have you as President of all the Hadassah Groups in
1967 and 1968.
Mellman: After that I became very active in the Hadassah Region and I was
president of the Central States Region of Hadassah from ’72 to ’75 and during
that time I served on the National Board of Hadassah and I kept at that service
on the National Board. For several years after that I was appointed to the
National President’s Council.
Interviewer: How did that work for you, Sylvia? Did you travel, or how
often did they meet?
Mellman: The National Board met twice a year and I travelled to represent
the National Board maybe once a month. I still had children at home. Mark was
born in ’55. He graduated from Bexley High School in ’73 and went to Princeton
as an undergraduate.
Randi was born in ’58, graduated from Bexley High School in ’76 and went to
the University of Michigan as an undergraduate. And then Mark went to Yale for
graduate school for six years studying Political Science, earning his graduate
degree from Yale.
Randi went to New York University and has an MBA and after her MBA she was
involved in Real Estate and became a member of the Appraisers’ Institute and she
continued on occasion to do commercial real estate appraising in New York. Mark,
after he left New Haven, went to Washington and started his own business, The
Mellman Group. They do polling and strategic planning for Democratic candidates
and for progressive issues.
Interviewer: We hear a lot about Mark nationally, but I’m going to let
you fill in about his family and so forth – when was he married?
Mellman: In 1988 he married Dr. Mindy Horowitz who has a PhD from Yale.
They have three children: Aryeh, who was just eleven on the 17th of
this month; Mira, who will be nine on the first of March and Yedeedya who is 14.
They live in Georgetown, near Washington.
Interviewer: And Mark travels quite a bit?
Mellman: Always. As needed.
Interviewer: And tell us about Randi’s family and where they live.
Mellman: In New York. It’s an interesting family. The family was living
in Baghdad – their name was Sassoon. His father came into Palestine when he was
17 years old, a young boy – spoke fluent Arabic and had a Semitic look. He
became involved in the Irgun – he didn’t want the name Sassoon – it was a Jewish
name. He wanted an Arabic-sounding name so he changed his name to Azziz, which
means “strength” in Arabic. When Avner grew up he didn’t want an
Arabic-sounding name, so he changed his name to Oz, which means
“strength” in Hebrew, so when I met the family I was really quite
surprised to see one with so many names.
When he came here Oz was a very strange name to America. He grew up in
Israel…he went to Bar Ilan University, he was a tank commander in the Yom
Kippur War and he came to this country after that.
Interviewer: How did they meet?
Mellman: In New York. They have one little girl, Molly -named after my
mother… she’s almost five. Now that I’m retired I go there quite often.
I was talking about being regional president of Hadassah on the National
Board of Hadassah and I just wanted to mention that in 1975 the Columbus Chapter
of Hadassah gave me a myrtle wreath award and then in 1995 the Columbus Chapter
of Hadassah gave me the Hadassah Lifetime Award. In addition to my role as
volunteer I was also a Professional in this community.
One of the great joys of being a volunteer is the pleasure of
working with people like Ben Mandelkorn, who was extremely well-organized and
visionary with an uncanny sense of community.
Interviewer: Ben had a lot to do with the continuation of the Columbus
Jewish Historical Society. He really had a strong interest and encouraged us a
Mellman: He did, he did and he was someone I worked with at the
Federation on many committees that I served on and the Council of Organizations
which I chaired for a couple of years. Actually I believe it was during the
Six-day War in ’67 I was the chairman and was really involved in a lot of
community activities. Hersh Adlerstein was The Professional – with the Council
of Organizations and then The Professional with the Federation and he taught me
a lot as did all of the leadership training courses that I took during my
Hadassah career. I think I learned a great deal from those leadership courses as
So in 1976 after Randi, who was my youngest, went off to college and I was
alone, I went to work part time at the Columbus Jewish Center with another
sterling Jewish professional, Mayer Rosenfeld. I was the membership director
there for about six months when Mayer retired and Bob Schacter came. Bob
Schacter was also a very fine administrator and did not think a membership
director should be working just part time, that it should become a full-time job
so I began to work full-time and I became the Director of Membership and then
the Director of Membership Services, and the responsibilities kept increasing as
I was able to add more and more activities to my calendar. l worked at the
Jewish Center for about five years and then I went to the Federation as a
Campaign Coordinator… which had been developed through all the years of work
as a volunteer in the Federation and as a volunteer in Hadassah.
I was with the Federation for about a year and a half as a campaign
coordinator when I went to the Agudas Achim Synagogue as Executive Director.
That was ’83, and I was there from ’83 until the end of ’97 and of course the
synagogue position included all of the things I had done as membership director,
as a fund-raising coordinator, as a programmer that I had done for all the years
of my Hadassah work, so I really felt that I was really prepared for that job
based on all my years as a layman and professional up to that point.
I had much training and I had the pleasure of working with Rabbi Alan Ciner,
a person for whom I had the highest regard both professionally and personally
and it was a very satisfying fourteen years with the Board of Directors and some
of the leading personalities who were officers and very fine membership, very
co-operative membership and very far-seeing membership and with someone with the
talents of Alan Ciner. It was really a very satisfying fourteen years and
finally, for health reasons I just couldn’t tolerate the long, long hours. I was
69 years old and really not able to tolerate the very long hours and I gave up
Interviewer: It was constantly demanding in that situation.
Mellman: Yes, you know, early morning meetings and late evening meetings
and all day in the office and I had a back problem. I had a scoliosis and
having had polio it further weakened the muscles in my back and it just got to
the place where spending those long hours at that age it was just too difficult.
Interviewer: Did you have polio as a youngster?
Mellman: When I had polio I was 30 years old – Randi was six weeks old.
It was after Salk but before Sabin and the Salk vaccine was only 85% effective.
Pregnant and postpartum women were very susceptible to the germ. I was sick and
I was at University Hospital for three months, I believe, and then I went for
physical therapy every day for a year. In the 50s there were still quite a few
polio cases. Of course it was rarer than it had been before Salk but it was –
there were quite a few cases considering the Salk vaccine was out and about.
Then I got the Sabin before I left, it was the more effective vaccine.
Interviewer: Are you involved at this point with any kind of
Mellman: I’m on the National Presidents’ Council for Hadassah – I still
play a role- a smaller role, but I still play a role in the National Presidents’
Council for Hadassah. I go a couple of times a year to meetings in New York – one’s
in New York and one’s at the Convention, wherever it may be and I receive
packets of information once a month from National and I’m available to do
whatever the Regional President wants me to do, like at one point she’ll ask me
to lead a workshop or to sub for someone who may have illness in the family.
Interviewer: Do you still go to conventions?
Mellman: I got to go to this last one in New York. I had the opportunity
to see my children and grandchild and so I did go and I do, sometimes – it
Interviewer: I guess that through the years, being as involved as
you’ve been you’ve met a lot of new friends.
Mellman: Yes, I must say that I have made many worthwhile friends – women
who have preceded me and followed me as regional presidents of Hadassah have a
little group, a little club, we get together and we talk to each other
frequently: Marilyn Moosnick, Judy Sacks and Gail Cohen in Lexington, Kentucky,
Shirley Flacks in Dayton, Marilyn Myers and Phyllis Berlas in Cleveland have our
In this community I’ve met wonderful, wonderful lay people and professional
people – it’s been a very warm, enveloping community and I must say that’s one
of the strengths of Columbus..
Interviewer: I know that you’ve certainly gotten used to being in
Mellman: It’s certainly home. Even though I wasn’t born here I consider
it home. My children who left it very young because they went away to a college
and really never came back, look back on it as a great place to grow up, even
though their careers have taken them to national markets – they have fond
memories of Columbus.
Interviewer: The names you were mentioning from these Hadassah
experiences bring back memories to me, too because I heard of lots of these
women and I know what a thrill it’s been to my life, too.
Interviewer: I think that we’ve covered pretty much your professional
and volunteer experiences and you were saying that you have travelled a lot by
plane to visit your children: I wanted to ask how your family gets together
Mellman: It used to be, when I was working – not free to travel, I had
the holidays here but once I retired, Randi makes Thanksgivings for all of us in
New York and Mindy, my daughter-in-law, makes Pesach for all of us in Washington
because there’s only one of me to travel and there are four of them or five of
them – it’s a little more convenient for me, so I spend a lot of time in
airplanes, but everybody wanted us to go home for the Bexley Fourth of July
Parade – not every year but a lot and we do get together a lot – for two weeks
in December we go to Grand Cayman and we share a couple of condominiums on the
beach for all of us as family and it’s very nice because Marilyn and Lee Skilken
own a condominium there and their children are there and grandchildren so that’s
really – we’re now in the fourth generation and my parents and Lee and Marilyn’s
parents were friendly and we’re like in the fourth generation when our
grandchildren are all friends and doing things together. That makes it very,
Interviewer: Where do you live now, Sylvia?
Mellman: I live in a condominium on Chowning Way across
from the Torah Academy on Noe-Bixby Road. I lived in a house in Bexley – I can’t
really remember how long, I know it’s been a long time– Mark was away at
college – Randi was gone two years. And then she spent the summer in Israel and
I decided it was silly to keep the big house. We had ice and snow and nobody in
the neighborhood to help clear. I decided it was silly to live in that big house
and worry about the big yard by myself.
Interviewer: How do you like where you’re living?
Mellman: I like it fine. It’s very convenient. Very comfortable. I have
three bedrooms and two bathrooms –
Interviewer: And you’re still driving.
Mellman: Oh, yes, yes.
Interviewer: Has Hadassah changed a lot in terms of the meetings and
the groups, the structure…?
Mellman: It has changed a great deal but I think that it’s following the
lives of the women who have changed a great deal. You have more and more women
who work. The young women have homes and families and a very busy schedule.
There are different interest groups of women and even in the daytime there’re
different interest groups of women. For instance our Hadassah book group meets
every six weeks. We read contemporary books of Jewish interest that are
submitted by the national Hadassah office. We have group discussions that are
real interesting. There are 2 or 3 major meetings a year following Hadassah
programs. There are still lots of opportunities to do things and learn things of
value that does not always include lunch and lunch meetings with receptions and
socialization because we don’t have time to do that any more.
Interviewer: Life has changed for everybody. I want to ask, – I know
you worked at Agudas Achim for a number of years – did your children grow up
there as well or were they …
Mellman: No, my children grew up at Tifereth Israel and Saul Wachs had a
profound influence on both of them – they …
Interviewer: Tell us about Saul Wachs. Who was…
Mellman: Saul Wachs was the Education Director at Tifereth Israel
Religious School when my children were in the program – he had just come along
with two teachers, Linda Sperber and Anne Bonowitz: – I don’t remember what Anne
Bonowitz’s maiden name was – it was Schiffman – Anne Schiffman and Linda Sperber
and the three of them had a profound influence. Anne married Marvin and stayed
in the community, Linda Sperber eventually went back to New York but Saul Wachs
and Anne Bonowitz were here for many years and so …and they had a profound
influence on a whole generation at Tifereth Israel and Mark participated in USY
missions to Russia and Israel in the summer of ’71 at the time when the Soviet
Jewry movement was just beginning and it had a profound effect on him – seeing
people suffer because of their religion in Russia and immediately afterwards
arriving in Israel. It was really a very serendipitous affair for him – after
that trip he became more observant as far as Shabbat is concerned and the
dietary laws and he has become more orthodox in his life style – he is now
affiliated in Washington with the Orthodox synagogue in Georgetown where he
lives. We don’t have any markings of an event but Randi participated in USY, and
USY Conventions and became kosher in her eating habits. Not only is her house
kosher but she only eats vegetarian or pasta – or fish. Outside of the house she
didn’t eat any meat that wasn’t kosher and she married a practicing sephardic
orthodox Jew and became orthodox in her lifestyle.
Interviewer: That’s interesting…and you go with the flow, then.
Mellman: My house was always kosher.
Interviewer: I know this is going back pretty far in
time, but I’m always curious – do you have any memories of what was going on
during World War II, in your community, in your family…?
Mellman: Oh, yes…my mother was very involved with the U S O. She was
working with the USO at the terminal train station in Cincinnati meeting the
trainloads of servicemen who came through and offering coffee. She was there on
a regular schedule three or four days a week My father’s youngest brother, the
doctor, was in the service and he was stationed in Massachusetts and once the
war was over in Europe he was sent to the Philippines and he was in charge of
the Army Hospital in Manila.
Interviewer: There probably was a change in the atmosphere at school,
too, in Cincinnati. Were you in high school at that point?
Mellman: Yes. I was. I remember in the sixth grade we had some kids-
young people who had relatives- Cincinnati was a German community, Jewish or
non-Jewish – but German – who had relatives who sent their kids out of Germany
to the United States to be educated and to live because they were fearful and I
remember we had some children in my sixth grade class but that was the first
year I was aware of their coming and living with relatives in Cincinnati and
then, of course, into high school there were a lot of changes.
Interviewer: Are you still involved in card-playing, or meeting with
Mellman: I started playing when I was still a volunteer. I started in the
Hadassah Bridge Marathon- Marilyn Skilken and I were partners in the Hadassah
Bridge Marathon and then of course, when I went to work, I didn’t have any time
for anything like that. Since I retired I started to play Ma Jung and I would
play – when everybody that was into, once a week on Monday afternoons but
everybody’s private schedule was such that it was not too often we would play.
But I had fun.
I have been part of the Friday lunch bunch where for many, many, many years.
I can’t really remember, over thirty, probably closer to forty. There were a
group of us who had gone out to lunch together every Friday. It started when
there was a RAX on Broad Street, when they had a salad bar. We used to go there
and make salad at the salad bar, have a quick lunch and visit with each other
once a week
Interviewer: Who were some of these women that you had lunch with?
Mellman: My cousin Leon’s wife, Bernice Mark, Joan Folpe and Diane
Tyroler, Gilda Abramson, Sadie Stern, Barbara Mickler, Elsie Oppenheimer, Hinda
Riker and Marcia Wolpert , Joan Marks, Ethel Meizlish; there was just a group
and everyone that can, comes – we had a schedule, “this is where we’re
gonna go this Friday.” We have a chance to be together and talk about our
grandchildren and where we’ve been and what’s going on; new movies, new
books, candidates and issues.
Interviewer: So your life is full in another way…
Mellman: In a different way, yes.
Interviewer: Well, Sylvia, you’ve given us a lot of great information
and your memories are very valuable. If you think that’s about – you know I just
had an idea: we’re in the midst of a political event, getting ready for a new
presidential election-You have some memories of presidents in the past? Did you
work for any political campaigns?
Mellman: I remember when John F. Kennedy came to Columbus and we went
downtown to the old Mills Restaurant and stood in front of the old Mills
Restaurant on Broad Street to see if he was by the state capitol – what an
exciting time that was – he was really a rather charismatic personality – I
remember that very clearly. I’ve been a political junkie for most of my life – I
was interested in what was going on, who said what and why – what positions they
held, and what the congressmen and president and senators were doing and in
petitioning and writing letters. I’ve always been very interested in advocacy
programs, being enlightened and aware of issues and expressing my opinions.
Interviewer: Knowing of Mark’s situation, I’m sure there are a lot of
Mellman: A lot more than any of these. I could tell about…
Interviewer: Are you “computer aware?”
Mellman: I do – my children decided when I was 75 that it was time to go
into the 21st Century and they gave me a computer for my birthday,
which I really enjoy even though I prefer talking on the telephone, but it’s
sometimes difficult, especially with Mark’s travel schedule.
Interviewer: It certainly fills a need in today’s world.
Mellman: It does indeed, and I read the New York Times every morning on
the computer; the headlines – and my grandchildren communicate with me on the
computer – I really do prefer the telephone and my sister who is just two years
younger than I am, every once-in-a-while, you know, I’ll send her an e-mail
saying, this or that and she’ll send me back an e-mail saying, “Call
Interviewer: You’ve still gotta talk! I understand.
Interviewer: Well, Sylvia, on behalf of the Jewish Historical Society I
want to thank you for the time you spent with me this afternoon.
Mellman: I’m sure you probably haven’t gotten everything I really wanted
to say about what was really important to my life in Columbus –
Interviewer: You can always add a “p.s.” if we need to…
You’ve given us a lot of names, too, of people that we do remember.
Mellman: Thank you.