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Featured Oral History

Marion Soomsky

I’m Naomi Schottenstein and I’m an interviewer with the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. We’re located
at the Federation Building, 1175 College Avenue in Columbus and it’s October 7, 1999. I’m interviewing
Marion Soomsky for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project and I’m going to let Marion
tell about her Jewish name, who she was named after and nicknames. Marion?

Soomsky: My Yiddish name is Masha. Some people call me Mashka and I was named after my grandfather Moisha and my nickname is Soomie which is derived from my last name and it sticks to me to this day. I have friends that don’t call me Marion, they call me Soomie. And the other name that I was known by was “Little Bit” because I have always been very short.

Interviewer: How tall are you now Marion?

Soomsky: I’m, right now I think I’m four foot, nine. At that time when I was, you know, I was like, I was never five foot tall. But I have lost, you know…

Interviewer: Some inches?

Soomsky: …some inches.

Interviewer: Some inches disappear.

Soomsky: Yeah, they disappear and you get that bone loss.

Interviewer: So the mountains shorten a little bit. So it’s okay. Okay, and do you think this was your original family name or do you think that it was changed?

Soomsky: Well, I really, I was, one year when I was in Israel, I went to the Diaspora Museum where you can find out where your name originated, in what city, and so forth, and I was told then or I got a printout that the family name was probably Chomsky, C-H-O-M-S-K-Y or Shumsky, S-H-U-M-S-K-Y and that it was named, the Chomsky were from people who lived in the city of Chom or Chom or something.

Interviewer: What country was that?

Soomsky: Now I thought that that was Lithuania because my father always told me that we were Litvaks. But one year, now I’ll start telling you all these stories, you won’t have, one year I went to Poland and when we were almost through with the tour the guide said to me, “Soomsky, I’ll bet you’re Polish”. And I said, “No, I’m Lithuania, from Lithuania”. He said, “Well where, what city?” And I said, “Yavestoff,” because that’s where my father was born. He says, “That’s in Poland”.

So there had been, from the time my father was born, there were so many changes in…

Interviewer: The boundaries kept changing.

Soomsky: …the boundaries kept changing.

Interviewer: It depended who…

Soomsky: …and now, now, it’s still there. There’s a piece of, well you have gone there. And I said, “Now you tell me,” when this, you know, when the tour was over and we were ready to get on the plane the next day. But I would have loved to have gone there. And the Zisenwines were also from Yavestoff.

Interviewer: Oh, the Zisenwines?

Soomsky: The Zisenwine family. And when Mr. Zisenwine was at Heritage House, he had this book with all these pictures of Yavestoff and I would love to get them.

Interviewer: Is that Gabriel Zisenwine?

Soomsky: Yeah, uh huh. And so I got to see the little village that my father lived in.

Interviewer: Oh so you did go there?

Soomsky: No, no, I got to see all the pictures.

Interviewer: The pictures, okay.

Soomsky: The pictures.

Interviewer: Marion, I’m just going to stop.

Soomsky: Now we’re talking, going into too much detail?

Interviewer: No, you can go into detail. That’s what we want. We want detail. You’re doing fine. So your family, okay you told us where your dad came from. How did they come, how did, you, where were you born?

Soomsky: I was born in Columbus, Ohio.

Interviewer: And how did your family happen to be in Columbus?

Soomsky: Well, my father and mother were married in New York and they had three children in New York. One of them died and my father was in business with another man. He was a carpenter and a contractor in New York City and this man did him in. He, and Poppa didn’t have any, he was going west to find his fortune. He was on his way to California on a train, alone. He had left my mother and her children, you know, the children in New York.

Interviewer: Where in New York were they?

Soomsky: New York City. I don’t know exactly where. And there was a flood here. It was in 1913 and there was a flood. And the train was stopped and it couldn’t go any further. And my father who was a carpenter, he had his tool box on his, you know, with him, with all his, you know, his saws and his hammers and everything. He had a long box. In fact my nephew has it now with all his tools. And he walked up, Union Station, walked up to the, and there was plenty of work there for carpenters because of the devastation from the flood. And so, and they had a union, Carpenter’s Local Union No. 200.

Interviewer: Oh, you knew that?

Soomsky: Oh yes, I was, that was part of my life. We went, he was very active in that union. He was the only Jewish carpenter in Columbus.

Interviewer: Oh that’s interesting. We don’t hear much about Jewish carpenters.

Soomsky: No, no. But his father was a carpenter. He was a carpenter in the Old Coun…

Interviewer: In Europe?

Soomsky: In Europe, my father was.

Interviewer: Before we go too far, when did your father come to this country?

Soomsky: I really don’t know when he really came to this country. But my father came through Boston, I know that, on a ship. And I’m pretty sure that, I’m pretty sure that his marriage was a shiddach, arranged marriage. To my mother.

Interviewer: And tell me your father’s full name.

Soomsky: His name was Sam Soomsky. That’s all. And my mother’s name was Eva and her maiden name was Gron, G-R-O-N. And they both had family in New York. They had sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews.

Interviewer: Where was your mother born?

Soomsky: I don’t really know. I see when, that’s the trouble. When you’re young you’re not interested in where they were born. You know we were, they were foreigners and when you’re a kid you didn’t like the accents, you know, and everything.

Interviewer: There was no need for you to know all that.

Soomsky: No you didn’t, they didn’t really, because they didn’t come from the same place. See. But we were in close touch with our relatives and when I was a little girl I went on a train to New York and I still remember it. From Columbus we went to Cleveland and then came across and down the Hudson River to New York. And my brother and I went with my mother for a vacation.

Interviewer: Do you know how old you might have been?

Soomsky: Yes, I was, I must have been around eight or nine but I looked like I was under five. And my mother said to me, “Don’t you dare talk or read a book because, or anything,” because I was going for free because I was supposed to be under six years old.

Interviewer: And you could pass for that?

Soomsky: Yeah, and I could pass for it. And I did. And I did. And she had a shoe box full of food and that’s what we ate on our trip.

Interviewer: Back in New York, now you said three siblings were born there.

Soomsky: Yes.

Interviewer: Give me their names.

Soomsky: I don’t know the name of the one that died. I never found out. I never was curious enough to know.

Interviewer: And they didn’t talk about it?

Soomsky: No.

Interviewer: This is, did that baby die, was that a baby that died in infancy?

Soomsky: I don’t…I think so. But I’m not real sure. My sister’s name is Ethel Soomsky Shuchat. She’s…you know she’s married.

Interviewer: How do you spell her last name?

Soomsky: S-H-U-C-H-A-T. She’s deceased. My other sister’s name was Rose Leslie. Her last name was Leslie, I mean her married name was Leslie. And she’s deceased. And then my brother’s name was Sanford and he had a middle name, Sanford Saul Soomsky. And he’s deceased. I am the only one left in the family.

Interviewer: And you were born in Columbus?

Soomsky: Right. And so was Sanford.

Interviewer: Okay. Let’s go back to your sisters and fill in with their families.

Soomsky: Okay. All right.

Interviewer: Your first sister.

Soomsky: Ethel?

Interviewer: Was she the first one born?

Soomsky: She’s the oldest sister. She had two children.

Interviewer: Who was her husband?

Soomsky: Her husband’s name was Sam Shuchat. And he lived in Piqua, Ohio. And she met him through, my sister went to Ohio State; Ethel graduated from Ohio State University. And she met him through a friend of hers that was going to Ohio State and Sam was her cousin. And that’s how she met him. And she lived in Sidney. She lived in Piqua and then she lived in Sidney, Ohio which was practically devoid of Jews at the time.

Interviewer: What did they do in Sidney? How did they, why did they go to Sidney?

Soomsky: They had a dry cleaning place. They had a dry cleaning, his father had a dry cleaning plant and then, and then they had little stores, dry cleaning stores in the little cities around Piqua. Wapa- koneta, all these little cities around there. And they would drive.

Interviewer: Give us a geography lesson. Tell us about where Wapakoneta is or Sidney.

Soomsky: Well, Sidney is…

Interviewer: What part of Ohio?

Soomsky: Sidney is now on Route 75. I don’t mean…not Route 75, on the freeway. It’s between Toledo and Dayton. And…

Interviewer: Well Highway 75 goes between Toledo and Dayton.

Soomsky: That’s right. And it’s kind of like in the middle. And Piqua is where the Shuchats lived, is a larger city than Sidney. After Sam got married and Ethel got married, they moved to Sidney to start their own business, see. But they used the plant. And then Sam went into the, you want this?

Interviewer: Sure.

Soomsky: And then Sam went into the laundromat business, when the laun–, when the washers and the dryers came in.

Interviewer: So he went along with modern…

Soomsky: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Interviewer: Technology?

Soomsky: And they drove those kids, both of their kids were, Gary was Bar Mitzvahed. They drove him to Dayton. And they, to have their, and Evey, their daughter, was Bat Mitzvahed in Dayton.

Interviewer: I think Jews who lived in small communities went through a lot more effort, or a lot went through, it had to be more effort because they had to go out of their way…than we people in larger communities So it strengthens their ties to Judaism.

Soomsky: And they were, and the ones that lived there, regardless of the age, the Jews, regardless of the age, they were all very friendly. You know? I know Dutch Geichman and Libby lived in Sidney…

Interviewer: Oh did they?

Soomsky: at one time. Because he worked for Stones Grill Company and they had a grill there. See? And all, on Saturday night, you know, they’d all get together and they’d play cards and they’d…

Interviewer: Socialize?

Soomsky: they socialized regardless of the ages. It was really nice. It really and truly was.

Interviewer: Well they didn’t have television. They didn’t go to movies that much and…

Soomsky: Right.

Interviewer: it was kind of nice to have each other.

Soomsky: They did and they were very, very good friends to each other.

Interviewer: Yeah. It was a lot of caring. I think we’re missing that in today’s world.

Soomsky: In fact, I don’t know whether you want this on the tape or not, isn’t that terrible. Kasten, you know…

Interviewer: Brad?

Soomsky: Brad Kasten’s uncle had a jewelry store in Sidney.

Interviewer: Oh?

Soomsky: And that’s where I got all my jewelry and so did Ethel. We all, you know, everybody went there.

Interviewer: Yeah. If you know somebody.

Soomsky: …. with him. Uh huh. Now his brother lives in Columbus.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Soomsky: Well that’s Brad Kasten’s father is, lives in Columbus now.

Interviewer: Yeah he does.

Soomsky: His wife is at Heritage House. And then…

Interviewer: What happened to Ethel’s children? Where are Ethel’s…

Soomsky: Okay. Ethel’s children, her daughter has a master’s degree, I’m going to do my bragging rights now, from Ohio State University in Social Work…and she’s the Director of the Family Service in Canton, Ohio.

Interviewer: Oh well that’s my home town.

Soomsky Is it really?

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Soomsky: How about that?

Interviewer: Well it’s been a few years though.

Soomsky: Yeah. That’s where she works. She doesn’t live there. She is the token Jew in Sugar Creek, Ohio.

Interviewer: Oh goodness? Well that’s a little village.

Soomsky: Yes. And she’s the only Jew there.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Is she married?

Soomsky: Yeah she’s married. She did not marry a Jewish, she married a young man that she met at Ohio State…fell in love with him the first time she saw him. She called me and said, “Aunt Miriam, I’ve seen this boy in this class. I’ve got to meet him.” And she met him and he did convert to Judaism. And she has, I’m talking about Ethel’s kids, right?

Interviewer: Yeah. Uh huh.

Soomsky: And she has a son, Gary Shuchat who lives in Sidney, Ohio. And he has, he’s been very successful. He has a cleaning service like, you know, they clean factories and some…

Interviewer: So it’s commercial? It’s all commercial kind of cleaning?

Soomsky: It’s commercial, that’s right. And I think he has over a hundred people, you know, working in his company and his son is in business with him. So that’s all that Ethel had. She had the two children and then my sister Rosie had a son and he’s adopted and he is a doctor. He’s an OB-GYN now.

Interviewer: What’s his name?

Soomsky: His name is Sanford. He’s named after my brother.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Now what was Rosie’s…

Soomsky: Leslie. L-E-S-L-I-E.

Interviewer: Her husband?

Soomsky: Frank, she was, she did not, he wasn’t Jewish.

Interviewer: Okay. Okay. And where does their son live now?

Soomsky: In Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Interviewer: Okay. Okay. Are you in touch with him?

Soomsky: Oh yes. Very much so.

Interviewer: Well it sounds like you…

Soomsky: In fact I was, in fact I was, his son, Sandy, my nephew’s son, just graduated this year from Brown University and I was there for the whole week, you know, we had big celebrations because their daughter who is adopted, they adopted a Korean child. Sandy felt that he was so lucky that he was adopted and had, he went to the best schools. He went to Exeter, he went to Georgetown. I mean he was, he went to Johns Hopkins. I mean…

Interviewer: But he turned out okay?

Soomsky: Oh was a wonderful, I mean, he’s not Jewish because Rosie intermarried. I told you that and he has, and he married a girl in his class who is a doctor. And they have three children and, brilliant children. One of them is a marine bi—, the girl, Heather is a marine biologist. The boy, Jim is, left last month with the Peace Corps. He’s in Paraguay now. He just graduated from Brown. And the girl who was adopted and she’s a Korean child, Suzanne is going, she’s just starting her first year at Georgetown University. She wanted to go to the same school her parents went to.

Interviewer: Oh how nice.

Soomsky: Uh huh. So it’s really a wonderful family

Interviewer: Yes.

Soomsky: And they’re very happy and…

Interviewer: It sounds like you’re their favorite aunt.

Soomsky: Huh?

Interviewer: You’re their favorite aunt. Sounds like you’re in close…

Soomsky: Well, I’m the old…

Interviewer: …close touch.

Soomsky: don’t forget, I’m the old maid. I have no, I have no children see?

Interviewer: But you add that need, that tie-in in their life to family.

Soomsky: Yeah I feel like Evey’s, yes I do. And in fact Heather who is the marine biologist, she’s working on her doctorate now. She’s on a scholarship. See I’m doing my bragging. At the University of Oregon. And she and her husband, she’s married, and her husband is working on his doctorate and she said to me, “You know Aunt Marion, you have been an in–, not an inspiration exactly, you just affect me,” because I’ve always traveled. And that…

Interviewer: Well you probably are an inspiration.

Soomsky: and she wanted to travel and she’s been, and you know, this is one of the reasons I think she got interested in what she’s doing. She’s a brilliant girl, really is.

Interviewer: Well that’s interesting.

Soomsky: No I am, I am very close to my nieces and nephews. And the great ones.

Interviewer: Uh huh. That right, another generation.

Soomsky: Now I have a great, great. One of my great nieces just had a baby.

Interviewer: Keep in touch. Just always…

Soomsky: Oh I do, I do. And I get, and then Evey, my niece Evey who lives in, you know, that works in Canton, she has two boys. And Adam and Joshua. And Adam graduated from Ohio State and he decided he wanted to go in the Peace Corps.

Interviewer: This is…

Soomsky: I’ll have to get back to Shauna but, anyhow, he now is in Ghaha in Africa. And Evey and Jim, his mother and father, are visiting him right at this very moment.

Interviewer: Oh how exciting. That’s a wonderful opportunity.

Soomsky: Isn’t that marvelous?

Interviewer: Are you going to go visit him?

Soomsky: No I am not going to go visit him. I have no, really no desire to go to the part of the…

Interviewer: That part of the world?

Soomsky: that part of the world.

Interviewer: Yes the Peace Corps is a wonderful way for these young people to…

Soomsky: Oh he…

Interviewer: grow up and to…

Soomsky: he loves it. And then Shauna, see I have three in my family that have been in the Peace Corps.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well that might be your inspiration too, the travel.

Soomsky: And Shauna was in the Fiji Islands. She’s the first one that went to the Peace Corps. And she was in the Fiji Islands and she got very sick and she had to come home. She didn’t get to stay her full two years and she’s married now and she just had a little baby boy.

Interviewer: So that’s another generation.

Soomsky: Yeah.

Interviewer: Uh huh. It goes on. It sounds like we’ve pretty much covered your sister’s families.

Soomsky: You didn’t tell, I didn’t tell you about how, yeah.

Interviewer: Pretty much, your sister’s. Okay, okay. Now we’re to your brother. Let’s talk about your brother.

Soomsky: It’s hard for me to talk about my brother.

Interviewer: Well do you want to come back to it?

Soomsky: Well no.

Interviewer: Let me ask you this thing before we go on to that, did your family live in very many, tell us where you lived in Columbus.

Soomsky: I lived on, I was born on Parsons Avenue and Beck Street I think it is and then my father bought the house at 477 S. 17th Street and I lived there until they knocked it down for the freeway.

Interviewer: Oh yuk.

Soomsky: Huh?

Interviewer: Yeah that happens. They changed the neighborhood around.

Soomsky: Uh huh, yeah. Uh huh. So that’s where I lived and…

Interviewer: When did your parents pass away Marion?

Soomsky: It’s hard for me, I don’t really remember. Oh I can’t remember the dates.

Interviewer: The year, the approximate year? Did they die within a short time of each other?

Soomsky: No, I lived with my father for a long time. Did I write it down anyplace?

Interviewer: Well we’ll come back to that. So your father was in the carpentry business then?

Soomsky: My father was the only Jewish carpenter in Columbus for a long time.

Interviewer: Uh huh. And he had his own…

Soomsky: And he belonged to the Carpenter’s Local Union No. 200. I told you that.

Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.

Soomsky: And so…

Interviewer: You said you lived with your father…

Soomsky: After my mother died.

Interviewer: Yeah I’m trying to establish all the places that you might have lived.

Soomsky: That’s the only place I lived with my father.

Interviewer: Okay. And then after that, were did you…

Soomsky: Oh I didn’t know that you wanted that.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Soomsky: After my father died, I lived in that house by myself after my father died. And I moved to the Berwick, I think they called it Berwick Apartments. They were brand new, had a swimming pool in the middle. Sam Sherman built them, built the apartments. They’re on the corner of Livingston and; that wasn’t the first place I moved to. I moved after Papa died, I…

Interviewer: No this area you’re talking about, is that Driving Park, this Berwick Apartments? No Berwick would not be Driving Park. It would be further…

Soomsky: When, after my father died, I lived in the house by myself until they knocked it down for the freeway. And then I moved on, I can’t think of the street, where’s the Kahiki, what’s the name of that street that the Kahiki…

Interviewer: Napoleon?

Soomsky: There they had built some new apartments on Napoleon Avenue and I moved into those apartments. I lived there for I think maybe two or three years and then they built these apartments on, Sam Sherman built these apartments on Livingston. Isn’t that terrible, I can’t think of the name. I just went by them coming over here.

Interviewer: Oh well just give us a general idea. We don’t have to know the street exactly.

Soomsky: I know…

Interviewer: But on Livingston?

Soomsky: but it’s terrible. And it was the first apartment of its kind in Columbus. It had apartments around it and it had a swimming pool in the middle. And it was like a fun place.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Soomsky: You know?

Interviewer: It was a little resort…

Soomsky: It was and there were all young, you know, young people there. And I moved in there and I lived in there.

Interviewer: Who were some of the people that lived there? Did you have any friends or did you know anybody that moved in there when you did?

Soomsky: Ahhhhh.

Interviewer: It was a new community. There must have been some attraction to it.

Soomsky: Well it was attractive and I love to swim and so I, and they were, you know, they were cute little apartments and they were smaller than the apartment that I had on Napoleon Avenue.

Interviewer: But it had other amenities to it?

Soomsky: Yeah it had the swimming pool. That was…

Interviewer: That was the main attraction?

Soomsky: the main thing. That was my main attraction there. And it was kind of party time, you know, we had different things…

Interviewer: So after…

Soomsky: …went on.

Interviewer: after that apartment, how long did you stay there and where did you move to after that?

Soomsky: Wyandotte.

Interviewer: At Wyandotte?

Soomsky: I lived at Wyandotte. But I’m trying to think…

Interviewer: Well Wyandotte is a fun community too.

Soomsky: Well I don’t, you know, I’m too old for all the fun that they have there. Now…

Interviewer: Well let’s go back to establishing your family picture. Do you feel like you can talk about your brother a little bit now? And it will probably come up again as we go on with this interview.

Soomsky: I brought this picture with me.

Interviewer: What was your brother’s name?

Soomsky: Sanford.

Interviewer: He was the one that was born in New York with your two sisters?

Soomsky: No.

Interviewer: No?

Soomsky: He was not born in New York. He was the one that was born in Columbus.

Interviewer: He was born in Columbus?

Soomsky: He’s the only one that was born in Columbus.

Interviewer: Okay I thought you were born in Columbus too. Okay.

Soomsky: Yes I was, wasn’t I. Now I got so distracted now.

Interviewer: What was…

Soomsky: I was born in Columbus and Sanford was born in Columbus. My two sisters, my two older sisters were born in New York.

Interviewer: Okay, okay. Well we’ve got that…

Soomsky: Now what did I do? I get, see I get all…

Interviewer: Okay. Go back to you notes. Maybe that will help if you follow your own. I wanted to kind of establish who your brother was because we’ve talked about your sisters.

Soomsky: Well my brother was a four-letter man at, well my brother was a wonderful kid in the first place. He was an outstanding boy and if you know anybody of his age, they would know who he was. He was, he played football at East High School. He was an athlete. He was…

Interviewer: What did he do for a living?

Soomsky: He was killed. He went to Canada and enlisted in the RCAF. He was too young to get into the U.S. Air Corps.

Interviewer: You’re talking about during the war, during World War II?

Soomsky: Right. And he had just had one year of college and he ran away ’cause my father didn’t want him to go. And he went up to Canada and enlisted in the RCAF.

Interviewer: Tell us what RCAF is.

Soomsky: Royal Canadian Air Force. Canadian Royal. No it’s Royal Canadian, RC…

Interviewer: Air Force?

Soomsky: Air Force. Yeah, RCAF.

Interviewer: That’s interesting because it’s a whole different…

Soomsky: My brother wasn’t like the normal or the…

Interviewer: The usual?

Soomsky: …the usual. My brother was an athlete. He was on the football team at East High School. He was a weight lifter. He was a lifeguard.

Interviewer: Did he graduate from East High?

Soomsky: He did.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Did he go to…

Soomsky: And he went to Ohio State for one year and then he dropped out to go to Canada. He was too young, they wouldn’t take him in the U.S. Air Force. So he went up to Canada. They were very happy to get him up in Canada.

Interviewer: I bet. So that was during World War II?

Soomsky: Because he played football. My brother, as small as I am, that’s my brother.

Interviewer: As small as you?

Soomsky: No he was BIG.

Interviewer: Big, he was big?

Soomsky: He was a city wrestler, in his weight…He was a friend of Moe Mendel’s.

Interviewer: Uh huh. We’re going to talk about some of these people that you brought up before our interview. We’ll talk about some of those colorful personalities.

Soomsky: And…

Interviewer: Was Moe one of his best friends?

Soomsky: Yes Moe was one of his best friends. And…

Interviewer: So when was he, was he killed then during the war?

Soomsky: No he was killed in Canada. He was too young to be, they wouldn’t take him into the United States Air Corps. He was too young. So he went up to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Air Corps.

Interviewer: Do you know how long he might have been in that service?

Soomsky: Yeah. He, well he was killed in Canada.

Interviewer: During that, during the service, during the war?

Soomsky: During the war. He tried to get into the U. S. Air Corps but he couldn’t because he was too young.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Was he in service during the war? Is that how he got killed?

Soomsky: He got killed in Canada.

Interviewer: But during…

Soomsky: Yes.

Interviewer: his military service?

Soomsky: Well he was a flight officer at that time when he was killed and he took a kid up in an airplane and forgot, it was a, he was a fighter pilot and he forgot to take the stick out in the back and he, I guess…

Interviewer: How old was he when…

Soomsky: He was about 20 years old but my brother was a, he was just a special person, especially for a Jewish boy because he was an athlete. He was a very good friend of Moe Mendel’s.

Interviewer: Well he didn’t, he wasn’t married then was he?

Soomsky: No, no, no. He was…

Interviewer: He didn’t live long enough to establish all those, that kind of life?

Soomsky: No, no because he was, he was a four-letter man at East High School. My brother was an athlete. He was a football player. He was city wrestling champion in his weight. He was, you know, the high gymnast. He was really, you could ask…

Interviewer: Very athletic?

Soomsky: …anybody. But besides that he was a wonderful, wonderful person.

Interviewer: Did he have nicknames? Did…

Soomsky: Yeah he had this, Moe, you know who was a good friend of his was Moe Mendel, was one of his best friends. And they used to call him Shlump. And he was, he was just an extra special kid.

Interviewer: Was he younger than you?

Soomsky: Yeah.

Interviewer: He was younger?

Soomsky: He was. And he…

Interviewer: So he was like your little brother, huh?

Soomsky: Yeah and he had gone to Ohio State for a year. And you ask, you know, anybody in his age bracket that’s still alive, remembers him. You know? He was an athlete. He played football. He went to East High School. He was a wrestler. He was unusual for a Jewish boy.

Interviewer: Yeah. They weren’t usually that athletic and during World War II they went off to the service and…

Soomsky: And then he went to Canada. See that’s what he did. He went to…

Interviewer: It was a different direction that he went?

Soomsky: My father tried to get him back. But they said they would have to go to jail, you know, and put out a…And Poppa said, “No, he couldn’t do that”. You know? But he ran away.


Soomsky: He ran away to Canada and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and that’s how he was killed.

Interviewer: Marion can you tell us something about any of the neighbors that you lived with…

Soomsky: Yes I can.

Interviewer: …in your, like childhood and your growing-up years?

Soomsky: I can. I’ll tell you who lived right next door on either side. We had about, one, two, three, four, okay. Jerome Solove and Rae Solove lived across the street from me and they had, do you want to know who their children were?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Soomsky: Is that what you want me to tell you? Florence and Alvin Solove and Richard Jack Solove and Bernice. That was that family. And then next door, they lived across the street. Next door to me was the Finkelsteins, Hayim Finkelstein and their children were Betty and, Betty, what’s her name now? Betty, humm, I can’t think of her last name, and Henry were their children.

Interviewer: Finkelstein. Betty Clawson.

Soomsky: Clawson, but I can’t think. Yeah Betty Clawson and Henry Finkelstein were their children. And then on the other side of me lived Mrs. Romanoff who had been married to a man by the name of Cohen first. And then she married Mr. Romanoff and Sylvia…

Interviewer: Schecter?

Soomsky: Schecter, Cohen, Sylvia Cohen Schecter and Ivan Romanoff and they had three and Sophie and, what was the other one’s name?

There were four children. Four children. And…

Interviewer: That…

Soomsky: What am I telling you about? Ivan?

Interviewer: You were telling us about some of your neighbors from your childhood neighborhood.

Soomsky: Okay. The Finkelsteins lived on one side and the Soloves lived across the street.

Interviewer: Yeah you gave us that.

Soomsky: I did tell you that? And…

Interviewer: What were some of your activities during that time of your life? How did you get along as neighbors and kids and where did you go? Where did you go to school? Tell us about the schools you went to.

Soomsky: Well I went to South, well I went to Ohio Avenue and Roosevelt Junior High School and South High School and my neighbors on one side was Mrs. Romanoff and on the other side was Mrs. Hayim Finkelstein.

Interviewer: Yeah we got your neighbors there but I don’t want to distract you but let’s go back to school. You said you graduated from South High? Did you go to college at all after that?

Soomsky: No.

Interviewer: Okay. All right then tell us as kids, what did you all do as kids? Where did you play? Where did you have your social life?

Soomsky: Well we went to…

Interviewer: You were talking about Schonthal Center before.

Soomsky: You know I’m having, turn that thing off for a minute. I’m having…

Interviewer: We’re going to continue here. Can you tell us about any of your other relatives that you remember, aunts, uncles or cousins.

Soomsky: Well we were the only one of our family in Columbus, Ohio. My father, did I tell you how my father came here?

Interviewer: Uh huh. Yeah you did.

Soomsky: Okay.

Interviewer: Yeah we got that covered.

Soomsky: Okay. Oh that’s in…

Interviewer: Way at the beginning.

Soomsky: I wrote this. That’s all written. So now you’re asking me things in addition to what…

Interviewer: I might have gotten you a little bit distracted. All I wanted to know is if you have any other mishpocha here, any family?

Soomsky: No. My father came here because of the flood. He was stopped on the train and he had to get off. He was on his way to California.

Interviewer: Okay. We’ve got that pretty much covered.

Soomsky: Okay.

Interviewer: Okay. Let’s, we stopped a few minutes ago when we talked about South High School and now I’m trying to put you back into your youth. Like what did kids do when you were in grade school and elementary school and high school? What did kids do socially? Where did you meet?

Soomsky: Well the Schonthal Center was the place that we met.

Interviewer: Okay tell us some of your memories of Schonthal Center.

Soomsky: Well…

Interviewer: Where was it located?

Soomsky: It was at 555 E. Rich Street. I remember that.

Interviewer: Everybody remembers that.

Soomsky: I’ll tell you that. It was at 555 and it was a, somebody’s palatial home. I don’t even know whose it was. And they, on the top floor they had, I took dancing lessons up there. I know that. And it had everything. It had a gym in the garage that had been probably not a garage I don’t think. I think it was probably for the horses or the stables. I don’t know.

Interviewer: So you mentioned that your brother was athletic. Were you athletic also as a youngster?

Soomsky: Ummm.

Interviewer: You said you liked swimming.

Soomsky: Well I did. I was a senior lifesaver. I went to Schonthal Camp every year from the time I was about probably eight, or till I was 15 years old probably. And I learned how to swim at Schonthal Camp. I was a life–, I got my Red Cross Lifesaving.

Interviewer: Can you remember any of the kids you went to camp with?

Soomsky: Oh yes I can remember some of them. I know Fanny Nitches was one of them. She came from the Orphan’s Home in Cleveland, Ohio. But she was from Columbus, Ohio. She was from Columbus. She was a very good friend of Fagel Shkolnik also but she was raised at the Orphan’s Home in Cleveland. And then she came back to Columbus. Her mother lived here and a brother.

Interviewer: Her real mother?

Soomsky: Her real mother. Uh huh. And…

Interviewer: What did you like best about Schonthal? Was it the kids you were with?

Soomsky: I loved camp. I loved camp the best of all. I went there every, I think I went there for, I went there first, they had a cottage, the first cottage had mothers and their children when their children were little. And so…

Interviewer: The camp did?

Soomsky: Yeah the first cottage. There was a mess hall. I can just see it now. The mess hall. I loved it and the cottage, cottages down the row. I wonder, I think I probably have some pictures of it.

Interviewer: That would be great if you could give us some of them.

Soomsky: And they had a big Jewish star down in, I can just see it, see it made out of, and at night on Friday night we had a ceremony there and of course the girls went at one time and then the boys went. My brother Sanford went and I went and my sister Ethel was a counselor there at one time. And I can remember the Jewish star and we’d have, it was made out of wood, you know, and we’d sit on it.

Interviewer: Oh it was like your bench?

Soomsky: Like a bench. It was a bench. And then if you were honored like, you could, out of this corner of the star, you know, in here, you could be, “I am the spirit of Esther”, you know. That was a big honor or, “I am the spirit of Naomi”. Or I am, or all of the Jewish women…

Interviewer: Matriarchs?

Soomsky: matriarchs. And that, we had this service on Friday night where you would come out, you know, and you were the spirit of…

Interviewer: So it was a real special…

Soomsky: It was a special…

Interviewer: communion?

Soomsky: I kind of, I still get like, I want to cry.

Interviewer: Yeah, well I can understand. It was exciting when you think about it.

Soomsky: And I get.

Interviewer: Thank God you had that experience. You were lucky. You had that experience and it was a good part of your life.

Soomsky: And my brother went to camp too see. He was, and my brother was an athlete. He was, he played football, he was city wrestling champion in his weight. Oh he was…

Interviewer: Marion, I’m going to distract you for a minute because we have some information about your brother but I don’t want to take you off track too much but I know (mixed voices). Hold on just a second. I need, Marion, going back to…

Soomsky: I can talk about Schonthal Camp.

Interviewer: Well we were just talking a little bit about it but before we started this interviewer, you were sharing some feeling you had about the fact that Mr. Schonthal was well, not cast aside, but that wasn’t honored in the way that you thought should be today. Can you share that feeling that you had with us?

Soomsky: Yes I can share it. I hope I can express it the way I…

Interviewer: Well you did, you did before.

Soomsky: want to. Well I felt that if it wasn’t for Daddy or Joseph Schonthal.

evidently, I’m sure it would have happened, but there would not have been a community center as early as there was. There wouldn’t have been a Schonthal Camp and I was privileged to have been able to share experiences, wonderful experiences as a child at both the Schonthal Home, as we called it or the camp. I went to camp for the first year, I think it was built, and when they took the mothers and the children together. And I can remember being in the first cottage. There was the mess hall, you know, and where we had the programs and everything.

Interviewer: Do you have any idea what year that might have been? Or what area? Give us a range maybe of five years or six.

Soomsky: Oh I can probably find out because I have my pictures from Schonthal Camp.

Interviewer: Side B of Tape 1 and we were talking about your feelings about Schonthal Center and I think you expressed in a great way that Joe Schonthal, who everybody called “Daddy”…

Soomsky: I never called him anything but Daddy.

Interviewer: Daddy Schonthal. He was a pioneer. He established this wonderful…

Soomsky: He was a philanthropist…

Interviewer: And a philanthropist and a lot of people didn’t have big-time money at that time. It was kind of lean years. So that was really an innovation to establish a Jewish community center and a camp and I know it was an important part of many people here in the Columbus Jewish community. I’m going to get you beyond Camp Schonthal and we’re out of South High School. What did you do for a job, your first job? Do you remember your first job?

Soomsky: I can’t think of what my first job, well I worked when I was in high school. Do you mean that? When I was…

Interviewer: Okay. What did you do in high school?

Soomsky: when I was going. I sold shoes at Gilberts. Everybody…

Interviewer: Everybody went to the Gilbert College of Shoes.

Soomsky: Every, because you didn’t get paid, you know. You just worked on commission. They didn’t care how many kids they had there and on Saturday, it was fun because everybody you knew was there.

Interviewer: Kind of a social thing?

Soomsky: You know? Maybe you didn’t make enough money to even pay for your lunch…

Interviewer: Is that right?

Soomsky: because it was commission.

Interviewer: But who cared?

Soomsky: But who cared because you saw everybody you knew and it was, you know…

Interviewer: Well it was fun.

Soomsky: It was fun.

Interviewer: It took the place of camp?

Soomsky: Well…

Interviewer: In a way?

Soomsky: In a way. But it was, and we worked on, you know, we worked on, and there were shoes that were P.M.s, that if you sold those shoes, you got a little extra money because they weren’t that great shoes.

Interviewer: So you pushed them no doubt?

Soomsky: Tried to sell them.

Interviewer: How long did you work at Gilberts? Do you remember?

Soomsky: Well I don’t know, I worked at Gilberts from probably, at first they didn’t want to even take me because I was so small and I looked so young…

Interviewer: Thought you were a kid?

Soomsky: you know, and I was too young-looking. But all my friends were working there so that’s what I wanted to, I wanted to work there.

Interviewer: What about your first real paying job? What did you eventually do for a career?

Soomsky: For my career, because I got paid, you know I worked at, on Saturdays I used to work at, what was the name of that store, Bornheim and Kahn I think it was the name of it.

Interviewer: What kind of a store…

Soomsky: On Main Street. It was a store, you know, that sold clothes and, men’s and women’s and children’s and…

Interviewer: I have not heard of that one.

Soomsky: Yes.

Interviewer: Bornheim…

Soomsky: Bornheim and Kahn. They were, I don’t know whether they were related to each other or not. I really don’t.

Interviewer: Uh huh. But it was a Jewish…

Soomsky: Oh yes.

Interviewer: establishment?

Soomsky: Is that mine or…

Interviewer: Yeah that’s yours. Or is it empty?

Soomsky: No.

Interviewer: So you worked there…

Soomsky: I worked there and then I was a baby-sitter before that. And I, I’m trying to think of who I sat for.

Interviewer: Do you remember how much you got paid for baby-sitting?

Soomsky: I think I got a dollar maybe for the whole day or the, if I got a dollar, I was lucky. I’m trying to think of the name. I wish I could remember the name of this doctor, had a kid, that they lived on the corner of Bryden Road and Parsons Avenue. Harris, I think his name was Dr. Harris. He had a little girl and I, was probably as big as I was.

Interviewer: But you’re little…

Soomsky: I baby-sat for them.

Interviewer: Uh huh…What about working?

Soomsky: Huh?

Interviewer: Eventually, where did, you retired. When did you retire?

Soomsky: I retired quite a while ago. I worked for the government.

Interviewer: What did you do for the government?

Soomsky: I, I’m trying to think of my first job for the government. I think I proofread checks was my first job. And because there was a Treasury Department and I, I took, I went to comptometer school which was the forerunner of the computers. I…

Interviewer: Yeah, I think it’s important to tell us a little bit about the comptometers because this generation doesn’t even know what we’re talking about.

Soomsky: There was a Jewish woman that, and I cannot think of her name. I thought about it before I came here today, if I could remember her name. But she had this school and it was in, it was in the building next to Lazarus. Like and then you had to walk up these stairs, I remember, and she had all these comptometers. A lot of people took it. Florence Solove, Florence Hurwitz took it because there was a need, you know, that was, at that time it was difficult to get a job and this was giving you a skill.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Tell us what a comptometer is. Explain…

Soomsky: Well it was not an electrical machine like, you know, but it could add, subtract and multiply and…

Interviewer: It was like a cash register kind of thing but it was…

Soomsky: No it was…

Interviewer: …recorded…

Soomsky: No it read. It didn’t have a tape on it.

Interviewer: Didn’t have a tape, okay.

Soomsky: Not like an adding machine.

Interviewer: But it did bookkeeping?

Soomsky: Yes you could and then you’d have to write down.

Interviewer: Accounting?

Soomsky: Accounting.

Interviewer: Uh huh. I think it’s just kind of interesting to tell what that machine is ’cause…

Soomsky: Yeah. But it wasn’t, I don’t think it was an electric, I don’t think it was electric. I don’t really think it was, now that I think about it. I don’t think it was electric.

Interviewer: Uh huh. But you did have to have training for it?

Soomsky: Yes you would have to. So I went to this school. Florence Solove, Florence Hurwitz went to that, there were a lot of, and the woman, I can’t think of her name, that had the school was Jewish, that taught this. And this was going to give me a skill, see, that I could get a job.

Interviewer: Sure. Well you didn’t go to college so you needed…

Soomsky: No.

Interviewer: some kind of training. So you worked for the government most of your…

Soomsky: Yeah.

Interviewer: working years?

Soomsky: Yeah most of my, either the federal or the state.

Interviewer: And usually in the Accounting Department or was it bookkeeping?

Soomsky: No, no. I ended up working for the Army Reserve. I was, I had a very, I had a good job. I was Chief of the Officer Branch of the Army Reserve. At Fort Hayes. I worked at Fort Hayes. And at one time I had the officer and the enlisted section but then it got, they split it.

Interviewer: So you had a good career then? You had a very secure career?

Soomsky: Yes. It was the best thing I ever did was to work for the government.

Interviewer: So it gave you security when you retired too and it established…

Soomsky: Right, right.

Interviewer: a life work for you. Did you do any, I know I just have to continue with this interview and get into your travels ’cause I know that was a large part of your life and I know it’s an interesting part of your life. When you did start your travels?

Soomsky: Well I really started traveling when I was very young. My mother took me to New York when I was maybe five or six years old. We went on the train. I can remember going on the train. I think I told you that already.

Interviewer: Yeah that was at the beginning. Yeah.

Soomsky: (Laughs)

Interviewer: Yeah. But it’s fun to remember though. I remember…

Soomsky: And I remember the box she packed with the, the shoe box with the food. And…

Interviewer: She probably was concerned about having kosher food?

Soomsky: Probably. Or didn’t have enough money to pay for…

Interviewer: True, true.

Soomsky: the food on the train, the, and…

Interviewer: So other than that travel, that trip, then during your teen-age years did you travel?

Soomsky: Yes I traveled. I traveled. I, as soon as I got enough money, you know, to go someplace, I went. We’d go to Chicago and we’d go to Niagara Falls. I’m just trying to think of where, New York

Interviewer: So you went for a good time, you didn’t go to visit family or friends?

Soomsky: Well I visited family and, I mean, I only had family in New York.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay, okay. So you did visit there?

Soomsky: Yeah. So I visited them. And I was always interested in the theater so we would go and I’d always go with a girlfriend usually or when I went to visit the family, I’d stay with my aunt. I had aunts on both sides of the family that lived in New York.

Interviewer: Your interest in theater, how did you satisfy that interest? Were you involved with…

Soomsky: Well I took…

Interviewer: shows here?

Soomsky: Yes. I took elocution from the time I, in fact I got, in these days they would call it a scholarship. A woman by the name of Ann Lee Johnson, and she lived on Oak Street and she was an elocution teacher at that, you know, now they would call it drama or something. And they thought that I had talent, that I was, should take lessons, but we didn’t have enough money to have, to take lessons. And someone, I can’t remember who, took me to her. She lived on Oak Street. And I can still see her house.

Interviewer: So that was kind of a scholarship?

Soomsky: And she listened to, you know, I had something I did for her and she gave me a, she just wanted to give me lessons for nothing because she felt that I was talented.

Interviewer: Well that was fortunate for you and fortunate…

Soomsky: So, but I didn’t do that much with it. But, and we’d have, you know, recitals. I can still remember some of them, the pieces that I did. And I went every week and had a lesson. And then when I went to high school, I mean, then when I, and in elementary school I was in little plays. And, you know, all the plays that they had. And then when I went to junior high school, I went to Roosevelt Junior High School, I was in plays there. And then at South High School I was in plays. So.

Interviewer: Did you continue your drama interest after…

Soomsky: Well then I joined, I joined Gallery Players. I was in plays at Gallery Players.

Interviewer: Can you remember any of the plays you were in?

Soomsky: Oh yeah I can remember, probably. I was in “Fifth Season”. I was in, now see I said, “Oh yes I can remember”.

Interviewer: You don’t have that jotted down here on your notes do you?

Soomsky: No, huh uh. I was…

Interviewer: Did you sing as well? Did you sing in some of these parts that you had?

Soomsky: No but we used to have shows, you know, where we sang. I’d have, I used to have shows in, when we, when I was growing up, when I was a kid, Florence Solove lived across the street from me, Florence Hurwitz. And the Finkelsteins lived next door to me. On one side, Hayim Finkelstein. On the other side. Did you ask me that before?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Soomsky: And I told you all this?

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Soomsky: Well I’m losing my mind.

Interviewer: No just…

Soomsky: And so we would have shows in my back yard.

Interviewer: It was kind of a neighborhood thing?

Soomsky: And you’d we’d have to, I think we didn’t have any money so pins, we would charge pins to go in. And so we would have, you know, sing and dance and do…

Interviewer: So you used your imagination but you entertained each other?

Soomsky: Yeah. Uh huh. And Florence Solove, Florence Hurwitz…

Interviewer: Were you in, you said you were in some Gallery shows.

Soomsky: I was.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Any other community…

Soomsky: Shows? Well before Gallery Players I was in things at Schonthal Center. We had shows you know? And I would…

Interviewer: Can you remember any of those shows?

Soomsky: The names of them? No they were, they were mostly like vaudeville shows.

Interviewer: Okay.

Soomsky: You know. The Newpoff sisters would dance and…

Interviewer: So it was singing and dancing?

Soomsky: And I would sing like “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”. You know? I can still…

Interviewer: Still shuffle a little bit, huh?

Soomsky: I can still remember, you know: “Off we’re going to shuffle.” I still remember the song of course.

Interviewer: Do you want to give us a little phrase of it?

Soomsky: (laughs)

Interviewer: Give us a line.

Soomsky: “You go home and get your panties, I’ll go home and get my scanties,
And away we’ll go. Ooh, ooh, ooh, off we’re going to shuffle, shuffle off to Buffalo.”

Interviewer: Great, that’s great. Well you entertained me and I’m sure you did other audiences…

Soomsky: Oh well I used to be on, you know I was…

Interviewer: You were with…

Soomsky: with shows. Actually time, I can remember from the beginning I used to…

Interviewer: So you had a great intro…

Soomsky: I was on shows at Schonthal Center. And I took dancing lessons at Schonthal Center.

Interviewer: Marion, I hope I don’t distract you but we might skip on to some other, another phase of your life that I wanted to kind of get covered. Unless you, if I’m distracting you tell me, but I wanted to know about your interest in your trips to Israel. I know that was a fascinating, when I heard several years ago that you have been going to Israel as a volunteer. Tell us about that. How did you get started?

Soomsky: Well I went to Israel before that. I went to Israel three times before that.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Just as a visitor, as a traveler?

Soomsky: As a tourist, as a tourist. I went by myself the first time. I wanted to go to Israel. I was working for the government. I had money saved and I wanted to go to Israel and this was right after they, it had been made…

Interviewer: Independent?

Soomsky: independent state and Sarah, I always said to Sarah Schwartz who is a good friend of mine, every- body else wanted to go to Florida for the winter or something. I wanted to go to Israel, I wanted to go to Israel. And she found this trip that was a B’nai B’rith trip. And she told me about it and I wrote away and I went on the trip, all by myself. I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t know anybody.

Interviewer: That’s what I was just going to ask you, if you knew anybody.

Soomsky: I did, it wasn’t a trip from Columbus. She found this. You know Sarah?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Soomsky: She found this trip. It was from New York. I was the only person from Columbus on that trip.
And everybody else was from the east with the accent. And I went on that trip. That was my first trip to Israel. And it was not too long. I can’t, I should, did I put it in my notes? Wait a minute. I think, see I’ve got these notes here that I…

Interviewer: I’m going to turn this off a minute. Okay we were talking here about the first trip you went to Israel and went through New York.

Soomsky: Yeah I went on a B’nai B’rith, it was a B’nai B’rith trip.

Interviewer: Uh huh. How did you feel about Israel when you got there?

Soomsky: Oh I still get chills. You know, it was such a wonderful thing for me to be able to be there. And…

Interviewer: So you were totally enthralled with…

Soomsky: Well first of all it was so wonderful being in a country where everybody was Jewish almost, you know, where you were meeting all these Jewish people and seeing the Red Sea and seeing the Masada and seeing all these things that you had read about and you couldn’t, and seeing, it was just…

Interviewer: It was kind of like being with family too, wasn’t it?

Soomsky: Well it was like being in the Bible. It really was. It was, and then at that time there weren’t that many people that had been to Israel.

Interviewer: Sure, sure. So it was real special that you…

Soomsky: And so it was, it, when I came back, you know, that was, everybody wanted, and I talked, you know, about it and everything.

Interviewer: You spoke to organizations about it?

Soomsky: Yeah, uh huh.

Interviewer: And told them about your experience? Not that many people had been going yet.

Soomsky: Right, right.

Interviewer: Not like today.

Soomsky: And…

Interviewer: So did you, do you know how much longer after that you went again to Israel?

Soomsky: I went there three times. Now I’ve got, I know. Put, take, put that thing off.

Interviewer: Okay we were trying to establish when you first went to Israel but it’s okay, we’ll go on with it.

Soomsky: Just a minute, just a minute.

Interviewer: Now in your notes you have jotted down that you retired in 1971. So you’ve had a few years to enjoy your retirement.

Soomsky: Right. Did I, was it ’71?

Interviewer: Yeah it looks like that’s what you jotted down there. So when did you start going as a volunteer though?

Soomsky: Oh see, that’s what I’m sure I put here and I can’t find it. Now wait. Was it back here? No.

Interviewer: You went more than once as a volunteer?

Soomsky: I’ve been to Israel 12 times, nine years as a volunteer.

Interviewer: Oh my, that’s…

Soomsky: That’s what I’ve got here.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well that’s, that’s real–, that’s telling us a lot.

Soomsky: Well see three times I went on my own…

Interviewer: Right.

Soomsky: to travel. I went, the first time I went by myself. Sarah told me about this trip.

Interviewer: B’nai B’rith?

Soomsky: B’nai B’rith trip. And I was the only person from Columbus on that trip. And I went by myself, not knowing a soul because I wanted to go to Israel. And then I went, I was so excited about Israel that I wanted my sisters to go. I had two sisters. I told you that. So then my sister, I didn’t ask my sister Ethel to go because she was married and she had children and I asked my sister Rosie to go and she went with me. And then my sister Ethel said, “You didn’t ask me to go”. Then I went with Ethel.

Interviewer: Oh great. Well it’s better that you probably went with one at a time.

Soomsky: Yeah. And then I started, then when I retired, after I retired, Sarah Schwartz, maybe you ought to put this on tape because Sarah played an important part…

Interviewer: Okay.

Soomsky: in my getting to go to Israel. I mean, in finding this…

Interviewer: The volunteer program?

Soomsky: for me. This volunteer. I always told, wait, wait now just a minute. Let’s just…

Interviewer: Well there weren’t many people doing this volunteer programs when you started?

Soomsky: I was in the beginning. Wait a minute. I just want to tell you…

Interviewer: We’re going to talk about your volunteer experience. What did you do as a volunteer?

Soomsky: I did everything as a volunteer. I, the first year that I went, because of my activity with Heritage House here in Columbus, I felt that I was best qualified to work in a home for the aged probably there. And that was my first thing that I did. But more important than that, I’ve got to find it because I’ve got it here someplace I know and I think I… Or, is that thing on?

Interviewer: Yeah. How long did you stay when you went as a volunteer?

Soomsky: Well the first, I went for three months the first, for the first three or four years I went for three months

Interviewer: Did you go year-after-year?

Soomsky: Yes I did. Until I finally decided that I should see some other parts of the world because I wanted to travel and I wanted to see the world. And…

Interviewer: Now before you went to Israel you hadn’t gone to any other parts…

Soomsky: Oh yes.

Interviewer: Had you?

Soomsky: I had.

Interviewer: Where did you…

Soomsky: I’d been traveling, Edith Schwartz Doctor, do you know who she is?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Soomsky: Was my best friend, one of my best friends. And we both worked and we saved our money and we started traveling. First we went to New York every Thanksgiving, you know, because we had three, we had Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and we went on the train to New York and saw all the plays. Saw the plays. Then we saved our money and we went to Mexico. We went to Cuba and this was before people were going, you know, I mean even people who had money weren’t doing the things that we were doing.

Interviewer: Uh huh. It was too remote, wasn’t it, for most people?

Soomsky: And, well they didn’t have the desire. They didn’t have the imagination or the…

Interviewer: The interest…

Soomsky: interest. And I have, ever since I’ve been a little kid, I’ve been, I’ve wanted to go, you know. I went with my mother to New York when I was just a child and I’ve always had that desire to travel.

Interviewer: Where else did you and your friend Edith travel to? You said Cuba…

Soomsky: We went to Cuba, we went to Mexico…

Interviewer: Did you go to Europe at all?

Soomsky: Oh I, not with her. I went to, I’ve been to almost every country in Europe and I’ve been to China, Japan, Taiwan, Russia. Well I that, is that considered part of Europe?

Interviewer: Uh huh. Asia.

Soomsky: Asia, I said China, Japan. I really ought to write it down sometime, all the countries. India, I went to India. I loved that. And I went to Peru which I really liked very much.

Interviewer: Now on most of these trips did you go with another friend or…

Soomsky: Most of the trips, some of them I went alone because they didn’t have, see I was working. I had, and I saved my money and then some of my friends got married and I never married so I would go alone if I had no one else to go with.

Interviewer: But you’d latch on to a tour?

Soomsky: I’d go on a tour and I always looked up the Jewish places. And then later in my life I traveled with Harry and Sarah Schwartz because they traveled a lot.

Interviewer: Do you want me to get some, I’ll get you some water. Hold on a minute. I just wanted to ask you, on your trips as a volunteer to Israel, you told me about the first ones that you worked with older people. Now every time…

Soomsky: And that was also the year that, I can’t believe that that’s not here.

Interviewer: Well don’t worry about it. We’ll just kind of wing it from this point. It’s okay. What other volunteer activities did you participate in in Israel?

Soomsky: Well I was there the year of Operation Moses when the first Ethiopians came. And some of them, a large group came to Natanya where I was staying, where the program, B’nai B’rith had this program. And so you…

Interviewer: Did you always go with the B’nai B’rith volunteer program?

Soomsky: No I ended up going with, isn’t that terrible, Jewish National Fund. Okay? Because I liked their program. They both still have, B’nai B’rith still has a program and so does the Jewish National Fund.

Interviewer: Were you actively involved in Operation Moses…

Soomsky: Yes.

Interviewer: …as a volunteer?

Soomsky: Well yes, we were all, we set up a store for these people. And we got the, I was in, we were in Natanya. We got clothing from the residents, you know, of Natanya. We wrote letters home to our family and friends and they sent us money to use to buy shoes and things, you know. And what did they buy? They bought them tennis shoes which were heavy and these poor people had never even worn shoes.

Interviewer: No shoes?

Soomsky: No shoes. And they, it was so difficult for them to walk in those tennis shoes. But we set up the store. Oh I could tell you stories that are just absolutely unbelievable. We set up the store and we, I’ll never forget the day it opened and we had, and one of the men that was in our group had been a buyer at the May Company. So we had it all set up with the children’s here a little bit, the women’s here, the men’s there, you know.

Interviewer: Kind of departmentalized?

Soomsky: Yeah we had it all set up. And I can still to this day, it gives me chills really, see those people walking in.

Interviewer: They had never seen anything like that?

Soomsky: No they had, that’s right.

Interviewer: Yeah they came from the wilderness.

Soomsky: Well not from, some of them lived in the cities in Ethiopia, you know. They didn’t, but they didn’t have any, they didn’t have shoes, they didn’t have clothing, the kind of clothing that we had for them and they walked in the door. We had the big room in a synagogue. That’s where we had set up our store. And they walked in and they were dumbfounded to see all these dresses and under- wear and sh—. It was a regular store, you know. And they’d come in, they started kissing our hands and it was, I still get, as you can see, I still get…

Interviewer: Do you have any idea what year that might have been? It might have been, had to be like 20 years ago, 15?

Soomsky: Oh more than that, I’m sure. It’s more than that, more than that.

Interviewer: So these Ethiopians…

Soomsky: Well I see the, isn’t that terrible that I…

Interviewer: Well it’s not…

Soomsky: I’ve got it. I can get it for you Naomi.

Interviewer: Okay. Well, you know, I’m going to have you, when you go home I’m going to have you take some time and just jot all these memories down for us. I think it would be fun, it would be great to have them written down. Was that, that’s probably, was that the most emotional experience you’ve had as a volunteer, the Operation Moses?

Soomsky: Yeah. Well that and…

Interviewer: Of course the Israelis have gone through so many wars. Were you there during any of the skirmishes?

Soomsky: Yeah we were, I was.

Interviewer: Do you remember how you participated?

Soomsky: Well in volunteer work. You know, we set up, well we set up that store. And…

Interviewer: Whenever you went to Israel, did you usually stay three months or?

Soomsky: In the beginning B’nai B’rith had it for three months. And then they changed it. Then they changed it to, JNF changed theirs to two months. To two months. So in the end I was just going for two months. And now I think they just have it for two months

Interviewer: Have, did you have the opportunity to learn to speak or read Hebrew?

Soomsky: I had the opportunity but I didn’t take advantage of it. It was, I went to the Ulpan. It was very difficult for me. I could not do it.

Interviewer: I can understand that. I’m having a difficult time with Hebrew myself so I appreciate that.

Soomsky: I could not, I could not do it at all. And…

Interviewer: I’m sure you weren’t the only one…

Soomsky: Now I know I wrote that down because Doby Lakin, turn it off, Doby Lakin…

Interviewer: We’re going to just kind of continue ’cause you have so many things to tell us Marion that I’m going to, I’m going to send you home with an assignment. And your assignment is to jot down memories because you have so many more things to cover with us. And I’m going to give you time to…

Soomsky: I just get chills.

Interviewer: Well, it makes you emotional. But that’s okay because you’ve had some really emotional, fantastic experiences. There are a couple of things that I do want to ask you about. Let’s go back to your family life and I want to ask you about what synagogue did you belong to? Did your family go to synagogue? Did you go to Sunday School or Hebrew School?

Soomsky: I went to Sunday School at Schonthal Center and I was confirmed there. In fact I have my picture from my Confirmation Class.

Interviewer: Well we’ll have to get a copy of that one too.

Soomsky: And my father was not a religious Jew. He was a good Jew and he supported Israel. But he was not the kind of, he didn’t go to shul on Shabbat.

Interviewer: Wasn’t observant?

Soomsky: No. And as I told you, he was a Socialist. My father was, you know, a thinker. He was a pretty intelligent man. He was an intelligent man, not a pretty intelligent man. He read the Forvartz. We got it at our house every morning, you know, from New York, which is also a Socialist paper. You know what the Forvartz is? Have you ever heard of it? The Forward.

Interviewer: Yeah, tell us about it.

Soomsky: Huh.

Interviewer: Tell us the Forvartz, what…

Soomsky: The Forvartz. My father used to read to me out of the Forvartz because they, and I love to call it the Forvartz because that’s what he called it. And I…

Interviewer: What would it mean in English, what would the Forward…

Soomsky: Forward, F-O-R-W-A-R-D.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Was it in English or Hebrew?

Soomsky: No it was in Yiddish.

Interviewer: Yiddish.

Soomsky: It was in Yiddish. And he would, and I understood Yiddish and I speak Yiddish ’cause my parents spoke it and that was for us, so we wouldn’t know what they were talking about. But we caught on, you know. See, I lost my train of thought again.

Interviewer: Well we were talking about your Jewish background, you know, your…

Soomsky: Well I really, my mother went to the synagogue.

Interviewer: Which synagogue?

Soomsky: She went to Agudas Achim. And I would go to the synagogue. And I wanted my father to go because I felt like I didn’t belong, you know, because everybody on my street, I told you already who lived on our street, and there were a lot of Jewish people on that street and…

Interviewer: Sure. So you wanted to be a part of it?

Soomsky: Yes. And he never, he did not go to the synagogue. My mother would go.

Interviewer: Was your brother Bar Mitzvahed?

Soomsky: I don’t think so. No, my brother was not Bar Mitzvahed. But the girls, all three of us girls were confirmed. Maybe because we could go ourselves, you know. And Sanford didn’t want to go to, I think Sanford went to Hebrew School for a while and then he didn’t want to go and so he didn’t have to go. You know, if he didn’t want to go, well he didn’t have to.

Interviewer: Well it wasn’t important to your father.

Soomsky: No, huh uh.

Interviewer: That’s really what made you.

Soomsky: And my fath–, he was different than, my father was different than everybody else’s father that I knew because of the way he thought.

Interviewer: He was a free thinker probably.

Soomsky: Right. Because the way he thought, you know, he did not, he wasn’t like Mr. Solove or.

Interviewer: He wasn’t a conformist?

Soomsky: No he wasn’t.

Interviewer: Okay. Well that’s interesting.

Soomsky: And I loved him. He was, we lived together after my mother died and we.

Interviewer: Well he was his own person. He definitely was, which was unusual for people of that era.

Soomsky: I think so.

Interviewer: Yeah it was.

Soomsky: I really think so.

Interviewer: Yeah. They were forced to conformity ’cause that’s how they got along. But he got along.

Soomsky: And like he belonged to the Carpenter’s Local Union #200. He was the only Jewish carpenter, the only one that, I mean it was, I didn’t have I don’t think the same kind of background as most of the Jewish kids had because of the way my father thought and because he belonged to Car—, are you recording this?

Interviewer: Yes.

Soomsky: And because he belonged to the Union and we used to, and in those days the Jewish people, that’s who they were with. They were with Jewish people. They really didn’t have too much to do with the Christian people.

Interviewer: But your father was associated with Jewish people, wasn’t he?

Soomsky: Yeah, my father belonged to Workman’s Circle.

Interviewer: Okay. But his friends were.

Soomsky: Yeah. Avrom Volk was his best friend who, you know who Avrom Volk is? No.

Interviewer: No.

Soomsky: That’s Ruth Mellman’s father. Ruth Mellman and you know, Minnie.

Interviewer: Schwartz?

Soomsky: Schwartz, their father.

Interviewer: Ruth Mellman who’s still living, is over 90.

Soomsky: I know.

Interviewer: And you’re talking about her father?

Soomsky: I’m talking about her father Avrom Volk.

Interviewer: Uh huh. So we’re talking.

Soomsky: who was my father’s friend. In fact he was our boarder. Mr. Volk was our boarder at our house before he brought his family over. They were all born in Europe. I’m going to tell you that.

Interviewer: Well I.

Soomsky: You’ve already got that.

Interviewer: I know that.

Soomsky: They were all born in Europe. But Mr. Avrom, which I called him, and he was, I was a little ki–, I was born, he was there when I was born I think.

Interviewer: Because you remember him?

Soomsky: Oh yes. I was crazy about him. He was a character. He was a real character. And.

Interviewer: I might add that it wasn’t unusual for somebody to come and stay with another family.

Soomsky: A lot of people had boarders. That supplemented their, because my father wasn’t always working because he was a Union carpenter and the scabs worked for less, see. And so, and I can remember my mother saying, “Shmaya,” you know. “For votz?” Should I talk Yiddish? “For votz arbiter nicht?” You know, Mr. Joe who lived next door to us who was a Gentile man who was, he was a carpenter and he was a scab, you know. But my father wouldn’t work as a scab.

Interviewer: ‘Cause he.

Soomsky: Because he would only work as a.

Interviewer: So your mother wanted to know why isn’t he working?

Soomsky: Yeah why he’s working and my father isn’t working because they’re on strike, you know. So, anyhow I personally think, and it may be because it’s just me, but I don’t think that I had the same kind of upbringing or environment as most young Orthodox Jewish people were having. We were raised with Christian people. There were Christians, our neighbors you know were Christian. I was friendly with them. I had Christmas at Aunt Bee’s house, you know. She wasn’t my aunt but.

Interviewer: She was your dear friend?

Soomsky: and she, Christmas presents under the tree for Marion and.

Interviewer: You had a diversified life it sounds like.

Soomsky: I did. I did. I did. It wasn’t, I wasn’t, it wasn’t a ghettoized life. I’ve always had Christian friends to this day. So okay, I’m talking too much.

Interviewer: No, no, you’re not talking too much. I’m going to use another tape on you Marion at another time but couple more things before we go too far off. Did we establish or do you want to tell us what year you were born or do you want to pass by?

Soomsky: Welllll.

Interviewer: If you’re comfortable with it. I mean I’ve asked that question. Some people reject it, some people don’t.

Soomsky: Well I mean I don’t want to tell you but, you know.

Interviewer: Well this is for record and if you’re comfortable with it you can tell us. If not it’s okay, you know. Whatever.

Soomsky: I might, the next tape. I want to think about it.

Interviewer: Okay. Think about it.

Soomsky: But you know I’m not a child.

Interviewer: Well.

Soomsky: And that I’ve.

Interviewer: you’ve had wonderful experiences in your life.

Soomsky: I have, I have. For someone that has never married or had the joy, I guess, of having a child, I think I’ve had a.

Interviewer: Very satisfying life?

Soomsky: I have made it for myself.

Interviewer: Yes you have, you have. I know that there are, you know, people in the community have talked about the plays that you were in, that you’ve entertained and that this fascination with being a volunteer in Israel, which is really unusual. I mean, I’ve known people who have done the volunteer program but maybe once or twice.

Soomsky: Well but now I think it’s more, see, when I started that was right in the beginning and I just want to give credit for this, that Sarah Schwartz is how I found out about it.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well she knew you were the right person to do it too.

Soomsky: I told her that I, I told Sarah Schwartz that I, instead of going to Florida for the winter, I would like to go to Israel. And how was I going to do this? Well leave it to Sarah.

Interviewer: She found.

Soomsky: She found that the B’nai B’rith had just initiated a program the year before.

Interviewer: Let me just ask you now, when you go on these programs, let’s talk about the B’nai B’rith program.

Soomsky: And I’m going back on this program before I die.

Interviewer: You going back again? I hope so.

Soomsky: I hope to go next year.

Interviewer: Now you pay for going?

Soomsky: Oh of course.

Interviewer: They don’t pay you anything? You, do you get room and board?

Soomsky: You get nothing.

Interviewer: You pay for everything?

Soomsky: You pay for everything.

Interviewer: It’s a package deal?

Soomsky: Plus they expect you to give a donation usually and you get involved with people that you give them, oh you did. I don’t. I have not been there for three years.

Interviewer: Oh you haven’t?

Soomsky: No. Because I just decided that there were other places I want to go, that I want to see. I went to South Africa. I went to Russia. And in January I’m going to South America. We’re going around the Cape. I went around the Cape in Africa.

Interviewer: Who are you going with?

Soomsky: Dorothy Kahn.

Interviewer: Great, great. Have you traveled with her before?

Soomsky: Yes. We went to Russia and Africa together.

Interviewer: Oh okay. Well I know she keeps copious notes too. She writes.

Soomsky: She writes books. And I don’t have to do anything.

Interviewer: Yeah, well we’ll get more of that. But our tape is almost at an end and I’m not done with you Marion so we’re going to continue but we’re going to wind this tape up and I’m going to go to Tape 2, but we’ll do that another day.

Soomsky: Okay.

Interviewer: But at this moment, October 7, 1999, we’re going to wind up. And I want to thank you on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. I know that it’s not real easy all the time.

Soomsky: No it evokes a lot of things that.

Interviewer: Yeah it stirs up things you haven’t had to think about for a while. But I’ve enjoyed talking to you.


This is the afternoon of November 9, 1999. I’m Naomi Schottenstein and we’re at the Federation Building at 1175 College Avenue. I’m an interviewer for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and this afternoon I’m continuing my interviewer with Marion Soomsky. And we started our first interview was October 7 and Marion and I both kind of fizzled out at that time and she came this afternoon loaded with some fantastic pictures and articles and we’ll try to touch on some of the stuff that she brought with her this afternoon. Marion, I’m going to let you first talk a little bit, I think you need to, let’s talk about your brother. Let’s get that because that was a big part of your life even though his death occurred many, many years ago and you’ve brought some pictures and articles and fantastic pictures of Schonthal Center.

Soomsky: From the camp, from the camp.

Interviewer: Of Schonthal Camp, right.

Soomsky: Where my brother’s.

Interviewer: Yeah. Did you tell us where Schonthal Camp was located?

Soomsky: I don’t know whether I did or not.

Interviewer: If you did, tell me again.

Soomsky: Well it’s near Magnetic Springs, Ohio.

Interviewer: Which is about how far from, what direction?

Soomsky: Well I think it is west, northwest. It’s funny because one day Betty Dworkin said to me, “Let’s go to Magnetic Springs,” because that was the place that most of the Jewish ladies went to in the summertime. Did you know that?

Interviewer: Well tell me a little bit about that. The Jewish ladies, where were the men?

Soomsky: Well the men were working and the ladies would go with their children to Magnetic Springs, rent a little house or a few rooms someplace, bring their pots and pans because they were all kosher and then the men would come on the weekend. Just like in the mountains.

Interviewer: I was just going to say, “It sounds like the Catskills”.

Soomsky: It was, it was the Columbus Catskills.

Interviewer: Yes, you, well I never heard it described that way but that’s exactly what it was.

Soomsky: Well it’s.

Interviewer: Is that toward Delaware, Ohio?

Soomsky: It’s past.

Interviewer: Past Delaware?

Soomsky: Past Delaware, Ohio. The camp is still, so anyhow we saw the camp. The camp is still there. I think it’s a Christian camp now but it was built by Joseph Schonthal on the, it was called Schonthal Camp and I think there were ten cottages that were in a semi-circle like. And there was a mess hall and a swimming pool.

Interviewer: And we have pictures of those.

Soomsky: Yes that I’ve given, that my brother took when he was at Schonthal Camp and they had a, on Friday night we had a campfire, at a campfire that we sat, the benches were built like a Mogen Dovid and we sat at there.

Interviewer: At those angles?

Soomsky: and the, all around they.

And it was an honor if you were chosen to be one of the Jewish matriarchs.

Interviewer: I remember you telling me about that on the first tape. But let’s concentrate more on what your brother’s relationship was to Schonthal Center.

Soomsky: Okay. Well my brother, we all, both of us, that’s what we did was go to Schonthal Center after school.

Interviewer: You mean when school was out for the summer?

Soomsky: No even after school was.

Interviewer: Even during the year?

Soomsky: Oh yes, oh yeah. Because for me they had cooking, sewing, dancing, exercises. They had clubs. They had everything imaginable that you could take part in. They had.

Interviewer: How did you get there from.

Soomsky: Walked. Oh you walked everyplace.

Interviewer: Now wait, that’s not Schonthal Camp? You’re talking about Schonthal Center?

Soomsky: Oh are we talking about.

Interviewer: Okay, we’re talking about Schonthal Center.

Soomsky: You keep saying “Center,” so I started to tell you about going there.

Interviewer: Okay, that’s fine. That’s great. We’re at Schonthal Center. Tell me where that was located.

Soomsky: 555 E. Rich Street and it was across the street from the Talmud Torah.

Interviewer: What activities did your brother participate in?

Soomsky: My brother, I really don’t, probably athletic activities. I don’t really know what kind of things he participated in at Schonthal Center other than he would go there; they had a gym. They had a big, I guess at one time it was for the horses, you know, a great big.

Interviewer: Like a riding.

Soomsky: Way in the back.

Interviewer: Place?

Soomsky: No it was more like a big garage and that’s where the gym was. And I was confirmed there and I went to Sunday School and I think Sanford went to Sunday School too. We all did, my sisters.

Interviewer: So you think you were confirmed at Schonthal?

Soomsky: I know I was confirmed at Schonthal Center.

Interviewer: Okay. Well you have a picture of your Confirmation.

Soomsky: Yes I do, I do.

Interviewer: It’s right here.

Soomsky: Yes I was confirmed at Schonthal Center. And, but my brother was always athletic. He was always interested in sports. When he, and he went to Schonthal Camp as I did and he, his counselor was Jerry Fisher who later became a doctor and practiced in Columbus. And he had a big influence, I think, on my brother. My brother looked up to him, he idolized him. He played football at Ohio State University.

Interviewer: Jerry? Jerry did?

Soomsky: Yeah, yeah. And my brother was a football player. He played football at East High School. He also lettered in tennis. He was a city champion wrestler in his weight. He also was doing gymnastics on the high bar. And I think I forgot one thing but anyhow that’s enough.

Interviewer: You’re not large in stature. You’re certainly a monumental person but not large in stature.

Soomsky: I’m under five foot tall.

Interviewer: Was your brother a larger person?

Soomsky: My brother was six foot tall.

Interviewer: Is that right?

Soomsky: Right. And built like a Greek god.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well he’s in one of the pictures here and.

Soomsky: Well he really was and besides that he was a terrific guy. Had a lot of good boyfriends and you know, he had a lot of friends and.

Interviewer: I think we talked a little bit about some of his friends. I remember you talked about Moe Mendel and.

Soomsky: Morris Howitz was his best friend and Jack Marks. But.

Interviewer: Which Jack Marks?

Soomsky: Not Jack Marks that practiced in Columbus. This is the Jack, his cousin Jack Marks. It was, I think he was also a dentist but he practiced in Cincinnati.

Interviewer: Uh huh. And then he lived in London, Ohio I think, that Jack Marks did.

Soomsky: Could be. But San–, when he graduated from high school, he graduated from East High School, Mr. Lazarus was very interested in him because there weren’t too many Jewish athletes, and wanted to give him a job at Lazarus so that he could, you know, go to Ohio State and Sanford said no he wanted to build up his body. He felt he needed, and he joined the 3 Cs. He became a member of the 3 Cs. Do you, did you ever hear of the 3 Cs?

Interviewer: I did, I did. But it was unusual for a Jewish person to be a part of that.

Soomsky: Yeah, that’s why I wanted you to know about him. Because in his 20 years, this kid really did a lot.

Interviewer: Made a lot of.

Soomsky: And he went out to Wyoming and joined a 3 C camp.

Interviewer: Tell us what 3 C, do you remember what it stands for? That was.

Soomsky: Ahhh, Conservation Corps. What was the first one for? Conservation, I forget what the first one was for. (Editor � “Civilian”)

Interviewer: What was their function? What was their purpose?

Soomsky: Their function was to go into areas and clean them and build up, something like the Peace Corps is today only they did it here in the United States, you know. But they didn’t actually work with people. They, Conservation Corps, what did, well I can’t think of it. But anyhow, and he was a wonderful swimmer. He was also on the swimming team. Did I say that?

Interviewer: Yeah, uh huh.

Soomsky: And he was a lifeguard. And he was a lifeguard up at Hinkley Lake up near Cleveland, Ohio, in the summer.

Interviewer: Yeah I’ve never heard of that.

Soomsky: Uh huh. And.

Interviewer: So he joined the 3 Cs so that he could.

Soomsky: He joined the 3 Cs so he could build up his body.

Interviewer: Develop his.

Soomsky: But then my mother died and he came home and then he stayed home and he went to Ohio State for a year. And then he decided that he wanted, he was too young to go into the American air force but he wanted to fly. He went out to Norton Field. There was a Norton, an air, yeah. And he took flying lessons and he decided he wanted to be a aviator, he wanted to be a flyer.

Interviewer: How much difference in age was there between you and your brother?

Soomsky: I’m about six years older than my brother.

Interviewer: Uh huh. So you remember him really, I mean.

Soomsky: Ohhhh.

Interviewer: You were always like together then?

Soomsky: We were really good friends. I loved him.

Interviewer: Did your mother die unexpectedly while he was away? Was that.

Soomsky: Well my mother got sick. See my mother was always kind of sick like and she just got sick and she said, when he left she didn’t want him to go. And I remember sitting on the porch and she said, “If he goes, I’ll never see him again”. And that was the truth.

Interviewer: Well maybe she was heartbroken and she.

Soomsky: Well she.

Interviewer: And she was frail anyhow.

Soomsky: Well but she, anyhow she died and Sanford came home. And then he went to Ohio State and he also went out for the football, you know, team. And he also won a, in fact I have it, a medal for gymnastics. And.

Interviewer: So in his short life, he was only 20–.

Soomsky: He was 20 years old.

Interviewer: 20 years old, yeah. So he accomplished a lot.

Soomsky: Then he went up to Canada and he and Moe, his friend, and they became, he became a pilot as you can see

Interviewer: There’s a fantastic picture here that Marion. We were talking about when your brother went to Canada. What was his going to Canada for? What was that about?

Soomsky: Well he joined the RCAF, Royal Canadian Air Force.

Interviewer: Yeah, why did he join.

Soomsky: Because he wanted to be a pilot.

Interviewer: Well why didn’t he.

Soomsky: And he was too young. They wouldn’t take him. He had to be 21 in order.

Interviewer: to go to the American Air Force?

Soomsky: Right. And he was only 20 at that time. So he could not, they wouldn’t accept him. So Moe, who had been, had washed out of the American Air Force, kept, he wanted to go to Canada because he knew he could get in in Canada.

Interviewer: So he encouraged your brother?

Soomsky: He encouraged my brother and they went.

Interviewer: How did your family feel about him going to do that?

Soomsky: We didn’t want him to go. I went to the police station with Aaron Kahn, who was a friend of his, tried to get him back, for them to make him come back. And the police officer said to me, “Did he steal anything?” and I said, “No, he didn’t”. I said, “Oh but he did take my father’s citizenship papers”. He had to have my father’s citizenship papers and to show that he was a cit–, you know, that he was a cit–, he was, that my father was a citizen, he was a citizen. And I said, “Oh I hate to have him arrested”, you know, and brought back. Now.

Interviewer: That’s not what your goal was?

Soomsky: No. And then I was sorry that I didn’t after what happened. But he loved to fly. He absolutely loved to fly. When he came home, he was on leave, he was on shpilkes. He didn’t, you know.

Interviewer: Restless. He wanted to go back?

Soomsky: He wanted to go back. And when he’d have papers at home. When he graduated, graduated, when he got his wings and was made a pilot-officer, he was made the commander of his group.

Interviewer: So he had to be very.

Soomsky: He was.

Interviewer: accomplished?

Soomsky: He was. And he.

Interviewer: How long then was he in the service?

Soomsky: Well he was in the service almost two years. He must have been 19 when he, see, he was killed on September 10,19–. Oh my gosh, isn’t that terrible, September 10, 194–, haven’t I got it down there, 19–, 1942 I think it was. I’m pretty sure.

Interviewer: Well he was probably 21.

Soomsky: Yeah, it’s 1942. So he was, well he was going to be, his birthday was September 30th and he was killed on September 10th. He would have been 21. So that was a real tragedy. My father was never, never, never the same.

Interviewer: Well he was an only son.

Soomsky: That’s right.

Interviewer: Okay. Are there any more things that you can tell us? I know you enjoy talking about your brother and we certainly have enjoyed listening to his accomplishments. Do you think this might be a good time for us to go and tell us a little more about Schonthal?

Soomsky: Camp…

Interviewer: and Daddy Schonthal. Let’s combine that all together.

Soomsky: Okay.

Interviewer: Is there anything else that you feel that you want to.

Soomsky: No I think, I.

Interviewer: I think we’ve pretty well covered it

Soomsky: I just wanted to bring out the fact that not, you can talk to any of his friends that are still here with us and it seems that whenever somebody meets me of his, you know, they always ask me, “Are you Sanford Soomsky’s.”

Interviewer: Sister?

Soomsky: Sister, to this day, over 50 years later.

Interviewer: Can you think of some of the people that are still here that would have been his friends from way back?

Soomsky: Well, who’s still alive? Oh Arnie Grossman is still here. And see the girls, I found with this group of pictures that I found, there were pictures that he had taken in front of Sloan’s Drug Store with Bobby Goldberg and Moe Howitz and Charlotte, isn’t that terrible, I can’t think of her last name, Charlotte Nathan was her name. And a couple of other girls. And.

Interviewer: You mentioned Sloan’s Drugs. Tell us where that was.

Soomsky: That was on the corner of Ohio and Main Street. It was a hangout for this group, you know, they, I don’t think kids have hangouts like that any more do they? I don’t know?

Interviewer: Well they go to virtual reality stores and it’s not the same, it’s just not the same.

Soomsky: But they used to hang out at Sloan’s and I had all these pictures. In fact I sent Charlotte a group of pictures and Ruthie Kahn, I sent her some.

Interviewer: Do you know who operated Sloan’s Drugs?

Soomsky: Oh yeah. “Oh yeah” she says and doesn’t know. Schlonsky, what was his name? And Dorothy Blank’s husband and, Ted Schlonsky were partners and they owned Sloan’s Drug Store. I think Ted owned it first and then I think it was Al Blank.

Interviewer: Al? Uh huh. And were they pharmacists?

Soomsky: I don’t think that, Ted was. Ted was a pharmacist. And they also had another drug store on the corner of Livingston and Whittier, not Livingston, Parsons and Whittier. They owned a drug store there. And so that’s where the kids hung out, that. And all these pictures. I should have made it, but I did. Charlotte called me and she said, “Marion, you don’t know how happy you made me sending me those pictures”.

Interviewer: She didn’t have them?

Soomsky: Oh no.

Interviewer: Well that was such a valuable part of life. You know, it was so clean and fun and available, just hanging out.

Soomsky: Yeah. And the phone was ringing all the time, of course. The girls were calling him but he really didn’t have a, you know, he dated a few girls. I know he went with Norma Bornstein. I found a picture of her I think. And he went with, he didn’t really go, then Charlotte told me he went with Libby Geichman but I don’t remember that at all.

Interviewer: Well he was young. He was.

Soomsky: And the other thing, oh I told you that he was a lifeguard one summer. Okay.

Interviewer: Okay can you tell us.

Soomsky: He was just a great kid. He was really a great.

Interviewer: Tell us about your, you know, how you felt about Daddy Schonthal. What was his real name, why did they call.

Soomsky: Joe. Well they called him “Daddy Schonthal” because he was like a daddy to everybody. He was so sweet and so kind and.

Interviewer: Was he a wealthy man?

Soomsky: Very rich. I guess he was like this says he was. He was Joseph Schonthal, citizen, businessman, philanthropist.

Interviewer: We’re looking at a cartoon that was in the, what was it, the Dispatch, or whatever the paper was at that time.

Soomsky: And it says “Joseph Schonthal, countless benefactions to the less,” I never heard that word bene- factions, “to the less fortunate in life”.

Interviewer: How did he make his money?

Soomsky: I really don’t know. I think maybe he had a steel company or something like that. Did he? I think it was a steel company.

Interviewer: Steel manufacturing, something in that order?

Soomsky: But this was a very touching car–, I don’t call it a cartoon because I think of cartoons as being funny. But it says, “Goodbye Uncle Joe,” and he’s waving and saying, “Goodbye my children”.

Interviewer: Was he an Orthodox man?

Soomsky: I don’t, no, I think he belonged to Temple Israel. And this, the Schonthal Center was really named after his wife, Hermine Schonthal Center. And, but he, when I knew him, she wasn’t living.

Interviewer: She had already passed away?

Soomsky: Yes, uh huh.

Interviewer: So this was a memorial to her?

Soomsky: Yes. So he would come to Schonthal Camp like on the weekends when I was there and while he was still, you know, we went there afterwards, after he died, I went. I really ought to sing you a song that we sang about him.

Interviewer: Go ahead, please do, please do. I’d love to have that on record.

Soomsky: Let me take a little drink. I still remember it.

Interviewer: This is drinking water, by the way.


Dear Old Daddy Schonthal,
Here’s a message from us all:
We always loved you Dad, right from the start,

You have forever a place in our heart.
When we saw your beaming smile,

It just made our lives worthwhile.
God bless you Dad.

And rest in peace, dear Old Daddy Schonthal.

Interviewer: Terrific. Did you make that up?

Soomsky: No I didn’t. One of the counselors did.

Interviewer: Oh but you remembered the words.

Soomsky: Of course. And we sang it every Friday night at the campfire.

Interviewer: That’s terrific.

Soomsky: And I have never forgotten it nor have I ever forgotten him. I used to take, he used to, I was kind of like his pet. Now that’s terrible to say that but.

Interviewer: No but tell us about that. I mean that’s what I.

Soomsky: I really, and when he was there on the weekends, he’d get me, you know, and we would just go for walks and talk and I don’t remember anything really outstanding about it but it was just an honor, you know, for me to go walking with him.

Interviewer: But you were comfortable about it?

Soomsky: Oh yes, yes.

Interviewer: Well you probably were involved in the singing and in a lot of the activities.

Soomsky: Oh yes. And one year I was the captain. The camp was divided into teams so there was compe-tition, you know, in the playing baseball and the swimming and in the volleyball and all this, and the different activities that we did.

Interviewer: Did you participate in all those?

Soomsky: Oh yes, oh yes. I participated in everything. And I was captain of the blue team and a girl by the name of Fanny Mitches was the captain of the white team. She was from Belfair. See they would bring in these kids from Belfair and they would get to.

Interviewer: Where, what was Belfair?

Soomsky: Belfair was a B’nai B’rith orphan home in Cleveland, Ohio. And she became a very good friend of mine after. She was originally from Columbus but then after she had graduated from, I forget, maybe Junior High School or something, she came home to live with her mother and she.

Interviewer: Uh huh. I remember hearing that name.

Soomsky: She’s deceased now. But, and then from the camp we used to walk to Magnetic Springs, you know. If we had dime or a nickel to buy a piece of candy, we would, you know, walk up to Magnetic Springs.

Interviewer: So it was walking distance?

Soomsky: Yeah. Kids and we weren’t used to having a car, you know, shlep us all around.

Interviewer: Right. So even if it was a mile or two.

Soomsky: Didn’t make any difference. And, you know, we had shows and we had, and I always, from the time I was a little three-four years old, I would sing and dance and I took elocution lessons. And then when I went to school I was always in the plays in elementary school and I went to Roose- velt Junior High; I was in the plays. In senior high I was in the plays. And then I was in the plays at Gallery Players for a while, for maybe five-six-seven years.

Interviewer: Were these plays mostly musicals?

Soomsky: No, no, huh uh, no. I didn’t, but I did, you know, do skits and entertainment.

Interviewer: Do you remember some of the kids you were at camp with?

Soomsky: There weren’t that many kids. It seems like that I was that, I was more, there were kids at that camp from Pittsburgh and from Dayton and from, the one girl that I was friendly with at camp was Betty Uretsky who is now, I forget what’s her, Betty Siegel. And she lives in, oh now I forget where she lives, on the east coast someplace. And but I was friendly with the girls from Dayton and the ones from Pittsburgh.

Interviewer: So you’re saying, it sounds to me like you’re saying it was mostly out-of-town kids?

Soomsky: No there were a lot of kids from Columbus but it just seemed like the kids that I was the most friendly with, and I learned to swim, I got my senior lifesaving at Schonthal Camp. And of course my brother, that’s another thing I forgot to tell you, he was a lifeguard. I did tell you that he was a lifeguard. So he learned to swim at Schonthal Camp too. We both did. And it was just a camaraderie and of course, we didn’t have a bath–, we had to walk, you know, they had a shower in a building with a toilets there, you know. And if you had to go at night, you had to get up out of your cot and walk down the, you know, in the dark and.

Interviewer: You weren’t afraid?

Soomsky: You weren’t afraid.

Interviewer: You didn’t think about it?

Soomsky: You didn’t even think about it at all.

Interviewer: How many years did you to go camp?

Soomsky: Oh I don’t know. I can’t, I imagine it was about five years. But when the war started, that was the end see because they couldn’t get counselors for the boys and it just, that ended, you know, the camp. It really did. But I feel very fortunate and as I look back on it now, I thought, I belonged to Girl Scouts at Schonthal Camp. I was a Girl Scout. And we sold candy bars to go to camp. I thought I was paying, you know, to go to camp but as I think back, I feel that that was just a token that I, because my father wasn’t working all the time at that time.

Interviewer: So you were subsidized?

Soomsky: I was subsid–, I feel certain I was subsidized.

Interviewer: I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the kids at the camp were subsidized.

Soomsky: Uh huh. Probably. Except these kids from Pittsburgh were rich. I mean, you know, you could tell. They had different clothes than we did, but they came and they, we just had a great time together and.

Interviewer: Well the camp must have been a good camp or they wouldn’t have come from another.

Soomsky: Well it was. It was a great camp and it was just a wonderful experience for me. I feel very fortunate and I feel that I do owe the Columbus Federation, you know, support for what I received and I’m sure that I, that it was subsidized.

Interviewer: Well fortunately there are still programs that the community offers to kids to really can’t afford, you know, the total amount, whatever it might be. I think that you’ve pretty much covered Schonthal camping and we’ve gotten some information. But I wanted, just before we go too far off, I know you’ve got some great notes there but you mentioned Sloan’s Drug Store and one of the questions that I’ve been wanting to ask you is what do you remember about other neighbor- hood stores? I know in interviewing some other people, they’ve mentioned stores, maybe even butcher shops that were in operation.

Soomsky: Did anybody ever tell you about Mr. Kanterovich’s store?

Interviewer: Who was Mr. Kanterovich?

Soomsky: Mr. Kanterovich was the father of the Kanter doctors, of Abe Kanter and what was the other one?

Interviewer: Max?

Soomsky: Max. He was the father and he had a store on the corner of Fulton and Parsons Avenue. In fact I’ll tell you about an experience I had there. When I was a girl, the big thing in the summertime was the Dispatch picnic. And you read the Dispatch and you clipped coupons out of the Dispatch and they had free tickets to Olentangy Park to go on the rides. And.

Interviewer: This Olentangy Park, was that an amusement park?

Soomsky: That was an amusement park out on North High Street and I loved to go to it, up to Olentangy Park. And so my mother would pack a basket and we would get on the street car and we would go to Olentangy Park. This was way past the University. Way out. There’s a big apartment complex right now where the, so this morning my mother gives me money to go to Kroll’s. I know you’ve heard about Kroll’s.

Interviewer: Which was a.

Soomsky: It was a delicatessen. On Washington Avenue where all the, the know, where all the Jewish stores were. And she gives me money to go and to buy some corned beef, you know, to make sand- wiches and things. And I’m so excited about going. I hadn’t eaten breakfast. And I’m running from my house, I lived on 17th Street, and I have to go to Washington Avenue. So I go down Fulton Street. I can still see it. I have to run, I ran practically all the way to Fulton Street, down to Parsons Avenue. And I’m standing on the corner of Parsons waiting for the light, they had lights then, for the light to change, and I fainted.

Interviewer: Oh goodness.

Soomsky: dead away. And Mr. Kanterovich came out and he picked me up and he, the store was a long, I think it was a long store.

Interviewer: What kind of a store was it?

Soomsky: It was a grocery store. And it had a long counter and he laid me on that counter and he took vinegar and put it under.

Interviewer: Your nose?

Soomsky: I think it was ammonia.

Interviewer: Ammonia then.

Soomsky: Ammonia and put it under my nose and brought me, and I came to. I must have been about maybe nine years old, eight or nine years old and he says, “Du daf gain in drain arine,” you have to go home. And I said, “No, I’m not going home”. I ran all the way. Then I ran all the way from there to Kroll’s, got the corned beef, came back home, never told my mother about it and she made the sandwiches and we, Sanford and my mother and I went off to the Olentangy Park with the basket.

Interviewer: I’ll bet you went by street car.

Soomsky: Of course, of course. We never really had, my father had a truck. My father was a carpenter. I told you that. He was a carpenter contractor and he bought a truck. He, at that time I guess he was doing pretty good. But he did buy his own, he owned two houses. But.

Interviewer: You mean he owned two houses for investment?

Soomsky: No, no, no. He owned the first house he bought when my mother and my two sisters came to Columbus. And then he moved at 477 S. 17th Street. He bought that house. What am I talking about? Olentangy Park.

Interviewer: You took the street car out?

Soomsky: We took the, and then we went on all the rides and they had a great big swimming pool and we went swimming.

Interviewer: You didn’t faint any more?

Soomsky: No I didn’t, no because I had something to eat and I was, I guess I was starving or, you know, I was excited and I can remember how we used to go wait for the Dispatch and then go around to different people with houses if they weren’t going to go to the picnic, for them to give us their tickets, you know.

Interviewer: Yeah. Well you had to find a way to do it. That’s great, that’s a wonderful memory. I know, okay, you mentioned Kroll’s. That was a deli?

Soomsky: Yeah that was a delicatessen. And then there was, that was on the corner of Fulton and Washing- ton Avenue and then I’m sure that somebody has told you about, oh, isn’t that terrible.

Interviewer: The butcher shop.

Soomsky: The butcher shop, I can’t think of the name of it.

Interviewer: Godofsky’s? That was.

Soomsky: No Godofsky’s was on Parsons Avenue. No this was, Center’s, Center’s. Yeah that was on Fulton Street and then around the corner was Rose Meyerson (mumbling).

Interviewer: Was there another deli or.

Soomsky: No this was a chicken, where you bought chickens and, Rose Levin, Levins had that and then catty-corner was the shochet where you, from there, you’d go across the street to have your chickens killed, see.

Interviewer: So it was all neatly arranged there?

Soomsky: It was all so. And I remember, I used to take the chickens there for my mother sometimes because we had a chicken coop in our back yard. My father bought this house and he felt that he was out in the country someplace. It didn’t have any trees in the backyard, you know, and he started planting trees. He wanted trees. He had planted a garden and besides that, he had a chicken coop.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well it was Old Europe, it was Old World.

Soomsky: Yes. With a, you know, with a yard, the chickens had a little yard. We’d feed them the feed. And then, you know, when my mother did a chicken and I’d have to take the chicken in the basket to the shochet. And I can feel, feel that terrible smell, you know, where he slit the throat and turned it upside down into this pen thing and the blood would run out.

Interviewer: Yeah, I remember that.

Soomsky: The kids wouldn’t believe this would they? That a little girl, you know, maybe six or seven years old, would take a chicken.

Interviewer: A live chicken?

Soomsky: A live chicken to the shochet.

Interviewer: Yeah. It was a scary thing but we had to do it. We didn’t ask questions. You’d just do it.

Soomsky: No, no, that’s right.

Interviewer: You did it ’cause it had to be done. It was a way of life.

Soomsky: But my gosh, I’m trying to think of any other stores around there. There was another store across the street from Kroll’s, but I can’t.

And then there were some other stores. See the syna- gogues were on Washington Avenue. You know that?

Interviewer: Yeah close together. But it really gave a lot of comfort and warmth to the neighborhood, kind of attachment, you know, that you could go to the stores easily, easily enough.

Soomsky: Oh yeah.

Interviewer: And you took the street car probably by yourself?

Soomsky: Oh sure.

Interviewer: Do you remember what the street car might have cost?

Soomsky: I think it was a nickel in the beginning and see, the thing is that like on our street, on 17th Street, I found, I want to thank you Naomi.

Interviewer: Okay so it’s on the record.

Soomsky: for asking me because I have discovered a lot of things that I had put away and hadn’t read or seen or, and I found a diary that I kept when, I think I first started working. And it says, “Went over to Solove’s tonight as usual”. And Soloves lived across the street from me and that Florence was my friend, see. She was my friend.

Interviewer: I think in the first part of the tape you told us their name.

Soomsky: But that’s where you went. You sent to Soloves. You know, you didn’t go to a movie. Well you went to the, I went to the Hollywood.

Interviewer: Where was the Hollywood?

Soomsky: The Hollywood was on Main between 17th and 18th. Or the Champion which was, the Champion was on Livingston Avenue near Champion. And then on Saturday sometimes when, after I started working, we’d get dressed up and we always wore gloves and we wore hats and.

Interviewer: Got all dressed up?

Soomsky: and went and had lunch at a downtown, for lunch, and then we would go to the Ohio or the Palace.

Interviewer: Where did you usually have lunch, do you remember some of the places you might have gone to?

Soomsky: Yes we went, we used to go to Lazarus’ Tea Room. That was the, or there was a, I can’t think of the name of it. It was in the next block from Lazarus, we used to go there.

Interviewer: Mill’s?

Soomsky: No, Mills was.

Interviewer: Forester’s?

Soomsky: Forester’s, yeah. We’d go there. And then there was a place on State Street and then sometimes we’d go up to the, there was a, oh the State.

Interviewer: Was that a theater?

Soomsky: There was a State Theater but this was like, they served lunch but they also had an orchestra and they had dancing. You could dance, you know, if you had a man with you.

Interviewer: Somebody you could dance with?

Soomsky: Band, yes you could dance. The State Restaurant, that’s what it was called. And you, they used to have showers there, you know, when these Jewish girls got married they’d have showers for them there. Didn’t anybody ever tell you about the State Restaurant?

Interviewer: I don’t remember that place, huh uh, no. I don’t remember anybody telling me.

Soomsky: Yeah I’m telling you all these things that you never heard about.

Interviewer: Some of the things I’ve heard about and I’ve been in Columbus myself a little over 50 years so I do remember some of them. But I don’t remember the State Restaurant.

Soomsky: And the Deshler, and sometimes we’d go. And they had tea dancing there too, you know, the Deshler. Or the Neil House. See there were all these different places.

Interviewer: You just mentioned tea dancing and nobody’s talked about that. Give us a little review of tea dancing.

Soomsky: Welllllll that was.

Interviewer: It was the time of the day, wasn’t it?

Soomsky: Yeah, yeah, uh huh.

Interviewer: In the afternoon?

Soomsky: In the afternoon and you could get sandwiches or, you know, usually it was after lunch, I think. I don’t remember. I don’t know why I think tea dancing.

Interviewer: I think that’s what it was. ‘Cause it was in the afternoon. Maybe at the time that people would have tea, high tea.

Soomsky: Yeah. So there was, and there was on, you know, Saturday afternoon you got dressed up.

Interviewer: Then you went to the Ohio Theater? You would see.

Soomsky: Vaudeville.

Interviewer: Vaudeville? Live show?

Soomsky: Live show. And they’d have movies.

Interviewer: Would you see vaudeville, a live show, and a movie at the same time?

Soomsky: No we’d see vaudeville and a movie. That’s what you’d see.

Interviewer: That would be the whole afternoon then? You’d see one.

Soomsky: And then there was the Hartman Theater and so.

Interviewer: The Hartman Theater was live theater?

Soomsky: That was theater. I saw some of the greats there, I mean, some of the, like Helen Hayes and now that I’ve said the words I can’t think of who I saw. But that, you know, that comes with age. But I went, I think this is kind of cute. My sisters were like 7 and 8 years older than me and they were working when I was in school and they, the Hartman had a gallery and you could “rush the gallery” but you had to stand in line outside, not in the theater or anyplace, but outside on, is it Third Street?

Interviewer: Third and State?

Soomsky: Third and State. And you’d have to stand in line. So what I would do, they would pay me to cut school and I would cut school around, you know, after the matinee was over with so, you know, because my sisters were working. I would cut and they’d give me enough, they’d give me like I think about 15 or 25 cents for, to eat. You could go to the ten cent store and get a hot dog and a coke, you know. And I’d stand in line for them. And they’d pay for me to go. And then we would rush, run, dash up these stairs, way up and we sat on, did anybody ever tell you about that?

Interviewer: I was there.

Soomsky: Oh did you rush the gallery?

Interviewer: It was very steep?

Soomsky: Yeah.

Interviewer: I think in today’s world I’d need oxygen to go up there.

Soomsky: And we used to run up those stairs, even Sanford went, see. We even had him going to the shows.

Interviewer: I think we called it “the peanut gallery”.

Soomsky: Wellll, the peanut gal–, yeah, well, it is the peanut gallery and then Sanford would lay down, see, lay down and he was tall, and save our seats for us, so we wouldn’t have to, of the bench.

Interviewer: He really was protecting them?

Soomsky: Yes.

Interviewer: That was great.

Soomsky: And that was.

Interviewer: That was a great memory.

Soomsky: Oh that was great. And then we also used to go to concerts at, on Broad Street, where the COSI is now. Can’t, not the new COSI, the old COSI.

Interviewer: The old COSI that just moved last week.

Soomsky: Yeah and we.

Interviewer: There was a theater in there too?

Soomsky: Oh yeah. It was a big, it was where they had all the.

Interviewer: Was it Vet’s.

Soomsky: No it’s not Vet’s Memorial. That’s a long.

Interviewer: No I know but I was trying to think what they called the building.

Soomsky: But that’s where Lily Pons, I mean, all the opera singers came and.

Interviewer: That’s on East Broad Street?

Soomsky: East Broad.

Interviewer: Uh huh. About Fifth I think it is.

Soomsky: And so we would, you know, we would go to the concerts. Well it was like, if you go to the concerts today at Wexner or the Palace, the Ohio. No not those, that kind of, these were classical, classical music that you heard and so that was, that was.

Interviewer: I’m going to have you refer to your notes now and tell us, is that your, about your volunteer program or.

Soomsky: This is about Israel if that’s what you want.

Interviewer: Okay. Yes I need to get that on record because I know that’s been an important part of your life and a lot of people have talked about the fact that you’ve done this volunteering and something that a lot of us think about but haven’t done.

Soomsky: Well I’m going to start and tell you about when I first went to Israel which was before they ever had a volunteer program. I wanted to go, of course everyone was excited about the new State of Israel and I wanted to take my vacation there. Talked to Sarah Schwartz, I don’t know whether I told you this before. But she found this trip B’nai B’rith had and it was to, it started on the 16th of June, 1962. And it went to Israel, Italy, Switzerland and Paris. And it cost about $900 which I thought was.

Interviewer: A mountain of money? How long was that?

Soomsky: I was the only one, it was I think maybe three weeks. It was with B’nai B’rith and I was the only one from Columbus on the trip and I just opted to room with someone that I didn’t know ’cause I didn’t have any money. I had been saving for I don’t know how long so.

Interviewer: And you were still working?

Soomsky: I was still working then, yes. And on that trip, the first day that we came to Israel, it was so exciting that, what I’ll never forget is they took us to, now I can’t remember the name of this, up north.

Interviewer: Natanya? No that was on the other.

Soomsky: Up further where the boats come in.

Interviewer: Haifa?

Soomsky: Haifa. Thank you. They took us to Haifa. That was the first place they took us and they had a boatload of Moroccan Jews that were coming to Israel and they took us on that boat.

Interviewer: Now these were refugees, people who were escaping?

Soomsky: Right, that’s right.

Interviewer: Uh huh, hardship?

Soomsky: Escaping. This is when everybody was trying to come to Israel. This was in ’62. And this whole boatload, and they took us right on that ship and here were these old people, some of them had to be carried off of the ship on gurneys, you know. And I said to one of our leaders, I said, “Why are they bringing all of these old people here?” And he said, “It’s written in the Bible that Israel is for the halt, the lame, the people that are healthy. It’s for all Jews and regardless of how sick you are, you can come here.” And it was so interesting because they had these different groups of people and there was like a patriarch in the white, with a white turban on his head and the.

and surrounded by his, you know, by his people. And that was really so moving that I have never forgotten it and it was ironic that when I went back to Israel when the, it was ’85.

Interviewer: What was the part that you played with the Moroccan refugees when they came in? What did you.

Soomsky: Not, we didn’t, I wasn’t.

Interviewer: You just happened.

Soomsky: Volunteering.

Interviewer: Oh okay. You just were there? Okay.

Soomsky: This was just a trip. This was just a trip. But what I wanted to tell you was that in 1985 when I went back on as a volunteer, to work, the Ethiopian Jews came to Israel and I worked with them and I thought that was so ironic in a way that the first time I went to Israel the Moroccan Jews were coming and now in ’85 when I went with B’nai B’rith and we worked with the Ethiopian Jews. And I’ll tell you about that.

Interviewer: Well in ’62 you didn’t anticipate.

Soomsky: Oh no.

Interviewer: what would happen 20-some years later?

Soomsky: No and I was working after all. I didn’t. But you know the city was divided then and there was, there were, you couldn’t even get to the Wall. You couldn’t do anything.

Interviewer: The city of Jerusalem?

Soomsky: The city of Jerusalem. And you couldn’t get to the Wall but we stayed at the King David Hotel on that trip and Ben Gurion and Golda Maier were there at the King David entertaining a chief from Africa. And in fact he was on the same floor that I was on and they had two guards, they had these guards in front of the chief’s, you know, room. Anyhow that was a wonderful trip and we saw as much as we could see. We saw the Moshavs which was new to, you know, to us and the.

Interviewer: Tell us what a Moshav was.

Soomsky: Well Moshav is different than a.

Interviewer: Kibbutz?

Soomsky: kibbutz in that the people, I don’t think they have them any more because I think that the kibbutzes have become more like Moshavs, where they had their children at home with them and they, where a kibbutz, the children, at that time, lived in like kindergarten.

Interviewer: Separate, separate.

Soomsky: Separately. They didn’t see their, the parents might have gone to say hello to them or, but they were working. The parents were working and maybe on Shabbat they came into their kibbutz, into their houses. But the Moshavs were, and where they, I think now I don’t want to be quoted. I think that they also got a, weren’t just given their clothes and, you know, like in a kibbutz where, and got so much money. I think that they got part of the profits.

Interviewer: Yeah they did. It was operated like a business.

Soomsky: Uh huh. Yeah, yes, uh huh.

Interviewer: And they lived more like family units.

Soomsky: They did. They did live in family units. And we, you know, we went to the Sea of Galilee, that’s not, no. But went to the, that’s where we went. And, you know, we went to Bethlehem, we went to Nazareth, we went to places that you don’t go to now, when you go to Israel.

Interviewer: They’re off limits now, yeah.

Soomsky: But see I got to see all of those things then and went in, which I thought was very interesting, you know, to see where Jesus was born and supposed to be born and all that. Okay then the second, my second trip was in May of ’73 and that was the 25th anniversary of Israel and I got to see, I went with my sister Ethel Shuchat and we went really for all the celebrations and everything for the 25th and got to see the parade and the Golda, you know, and everybody.

Interviewer: Where was that?

Soomsky: That was in Jerusalem and it was right around the Wall. It was outside of the Wall where the Arab section begins, you know that side. You know, around there. I can just see it but I don’t know what the name of the street is but it was a wonderful parade with airplanes flying and the tanks coming down and the soldiers marching.

Interviewer: It was a real celebration?

Soomsky: It was a real celebration. And they had dancing in the streets and it was wonderful to be there, it really was. Besides we traveled, you know, we saw everything that you see when you go to Israel and my sister especially. She graduated from Ohio State and she was a history major so she knew all about the history.

Interviewer: It was a special time for her?

Soomsky: It was special. And my third trip was in November of ’79 with Rabbi Stavsky with my sister Rosie. And that was just a regular, but we did go to Greece and Egypt which, I had been to Greece before but I had never been to Egypt so that was and, that was, you know, it’s wonderful going to Israel. You’ve been there many times. You know what it’s like to see and feel a part of being Jewish and being the majority. That’s what is so wonderful, that you.

Interviewer: Yeah, it was home. It belonged with us, it belonged to us.

Soomsky: Yeah. Uh huh. And then from 1985 to the present time I have gone on what is now called the CARI Program, Canadian, American Retirees for Israel.

Interviewer: Okay, CARI, uh huh.

Soomsky: It wasn’t called that then but we’ll call it that now. Because B’nai B’rith, at that time B’nai B’rith was the only one that had a program. Now B’nai B’rith has this program, Hadassah has the program and JNF has the program. So Hadassah.

Interviewer: We’re talking about volunteer program?

Soomsky: This is a volunteer program, yeah, the CARI program. Now I went in 1985.

Interviewer: Let me, let me just interrupt for a second. This volunteer program, let’s not mislead and even though you’re a volunteer, you pay to go within the program?

Soomsky: Oh you pay very much. At this time I didn’t pay that much but now it costs over $6,000 for the program.

Interviewer: ‘Cause when you use the word “volunteer” that usually means.

Soomsky: No, no. You pay for your hotel. You pay for your food. You pay for your transportation. You pay for everything. But at that time in ’85, well at that time in ’85 I think I must have paid about $2,000 or something like that.

Interviewer: We’re talking about a longer period of time.

Soomsky: And I, it was three months. This was three months and I was in Natanya where they just had those bombings. That’s where I stayed. Darling, wonderful little town.

Interviewer: Just last week I think it was, wasn’t it?

Soomsky: Yesterday.

Interviewer: Was it yesterday?

Soomsky: They had another bombing yesterday, yesterday or the day before. Shirley and Bill Engelman also went from Columbus and it was because of them, I think I told you that on the other tape, that I got to go because I told Sarah Schwartz that I wanted to go on, I didn’t want to go to Florida and I wanted to go to Israel. Joanie Rosenbloom happened to be at a party with Shirley and Bill and they said they were going to Israel for three months and they said, “Oh my gosh, I have a friend that wants to do that and do you mind if I tell her about it”? And they said, “No”. I didn’t know Shirley and Bill Engelman and Joanie had a brunch for us to meet each other and.

Interviewer: How nice. Well that was a good connection.

Soomsky: And we went. So, and Shirley’s an artist you know. So she did, she painted stained glass windows on a school. That was what she did. And I worked at a mallbaun which was a home for the aged. I haven’t talked about my work with Heritage House here but it’s been extensive.

Interviewer: But we’ll come back to it. Let’s finish here with Israel.

Soomsky: But anyhow I worked at this, and I.

Interviewer: What kind of work did you do?

Soomsky: Well I worked with the old people. They were old people. I had said, “I’m not going to work with the old people because I’ve been working with old people here in Columbus”. But I decided that that’s what I would do and there was this one blind man there from Morocco that was, it was so cute. He couldn’t see me and I had, and he couldn’t speak Yiddish. I can speak Yiddish. So that’s the way I could get along with a lot of the older people that were from Europe, you know, but he couldn’t. But I would take him for walks and when I would come and all I had to do is put my hand on his hand and he would say, “Americana”.

Interviewer: Oh he knew?

Soomsky: He knew who I was.

Interviewer: That’s wonderful.

Soomsky: and I used to walk him. And I would play dominoes with, they liked to play dominoes so I played dominoes. I helped serve, you know, when they were eating and I did everything that I could, entertained them and so forth.

Interviewer: Did you do some of your song and dance numbers?

Soomsky: Well sometimes. And then what happened was the Ethiopians came to Natanya too. This is when they had Operation Moses. They took over a whole hotel, the Princess Hotel that was right down the street from our hotel. And we took on the Ethiopians.

Interviewer: So this was the first batch that came?

Soomsky: That’s right, this was in ’85. It makes, it gives me chills when I think about it now. It really and truly does. We were so excited and we decided to open up a store so that they could get clothes because these people came barefooted, skinny as a rail, barefooted with like sheets over them.

Interviewer: Well that was the way they dressed in their country.

Soomsky: That’s right. That’s right. They had never seen a toilet. They had never seen a bathtub. They had never slept in beds. They had never flown on an airplane. And here they come into this hotel and it was, it was absolutely amazing and what an experience for us. It was wonderful. And I sent letters home and people were sending money and, you know, making contri–. I sent letters to everybody that I thought would make contributions.

Interviewer: Well it was a huge time for campaigning for funds. There was a desperate need. So what could you actually physically do with them?

Soomsky: Actually, what we actually physically did, we set up a store. We got clothing that we didn’t want. We contributed money. We bought things. We, this one man in our group had been a manager at the May Company. We set the store up in a synagogue and we had children’s, men’s, ladies’. We set it up just like that.

Interviewer: Mini department store?

Soomsky: Had it all, and that’s what we did. We had to get all this stuff ready, you know. And then we had, they didn’t have shoes so instead of buying them some kind of a sandal, they went and bought them tennis shoes. Well these poor people could hardly lift their feet. They weren’t used to, you know, wearing, well, Naomi, the first day they opened up that store and these people had never ridden in a car, don’t forget. We had cars lined up to take them to, from the Princess Hotel to the synagogue. And they walked in there and they looked around. They just didn’t know what to think.

Interviewer: They were overwhelmed?

Soomsky: And so I went, I remember, well we all did.

We all went and got somebody, you know.

Interviewer: You latched onto one person.

Soomsky: Well we had to wait on them. So put, sat them down in a chair and finally somebody said, “Marion, listen there are more people, you don’t have to give them so much stuff”. But you just, and then they started, kissed your hand. They just did, it was such a, we were all crying like I am right now, even thinking about it. It was such a, it was such a moving experience. And so that’s what happened. We set the store up. And then they found that some of the people were going, just wanted to take rides. They would come downstairs. They’d come in the lobby and say they’d never been there, to the store. And they would, they wanted to take a ride in the car.

Interviewer: Gave them a way to get.

Soomsky: So then they’d get more clothes. So then I had the job of going through the closets to see who had too many, you know. We had to see who had too much clothes. They were never going to wear them. And but I want to tell you, if we have time for a funny story about the Ethiopians. My friend Fay that I met, she’s from Massachusetts, and we’re still friends to this day.

Interviewer: What was her last name?

Soomsky: I did, I’m not.

Interviewer: Well if you think about.

Soomsky: Well Glickman. She and Lillian Glickman, isn’t that terrible? Lillian Glickman is still, well I was friendlier with her and I still am. But she was a nurse in real life so she, but they wouldn’t let her be a nurse because she wasn’t, you know, she wasn’t licensed in Israel. So she had to, until they, but the nurse said she could assist her. So she went around and helped her give the shots, you know. They had to all have shots. And some of them got sick and some of them were pregnant. They had babies. One of them had a little baby. And so anyhow Fay comes home one might and she says to me, “Marion, do I look like a man?” And I said, well she had a mannish haircut kind of like.

Interviewer: Real short hair?

Soomsky: Real short hair. I said, “No, why?” She says , “Well one of the women pointed to me and then pointed to herself and said, ‘No,’ and I think she’s saying, ‘You’re a man and I’m a woman’.” So I, she says, you know, you’ve got a way with them. You go down in Room 71 and see if this woman, you know. So I go down and she does the same thing to me.

Interviewer: Points to you and points to her?

Soomsky: Points to me. No she points and then shakes her head. So I don’t know, I had a sweater on and I pulled it up and I had a brassiere, you know, a brassiere on and she said, oh she was saying that she wanted that, she had never had a brassiere. We, she didn’t have a brassiere. You’ve got a brassiere and I haven’t.

Interviewer: Oh I see. So she was giving you that message?

Soomsky: That’s what she wanted. She wanted a brassiere. So I go home and I say, “Fay, don’t worry. She wants a brassiere.” She said, “How did you find that out?” And I said, “Well, I don’t know whatever possessed me to pull up my blouse and show her.” I just, what I wanted to show her is that I had a bust, that I was a woman like she was. So anyhow…

Interviewer: And you’d wonder why a brassiere is so important ’cause they never had a brassiere. But it brought.

Soomsky: She didn’t really know, she, but it was something new, see. She didn’t really need one.

Interviewer: It was an introduction to another culture?

Soomsky: But she’d never seen one before. So luckily another woman next door to me, someone had given her three sets of bras and panties and she takes me, she tells me I can have them to give to this girl. Well I said, “I better ask about the”, the panties had, were like a little girdle. So I asked the nurse if I could, you know, if I could give them, not the panties. They’d be too restrictive. And so I go up with my bras. And there she is and she is so excited.

Interviewer: Isn’t that funny.

Soomsky: She is so ex–.

Interviewer: Of all the things she could have wanted.

Soomsky: I show her, I fix the straps for her and have her bend down and put this, and she sees I’ve got another bra. She says, “Ima, Ima”.

Interviewer: Her mother?

Soomsky: Her mother. She wanted. I said, “No Ima”. I said, “I’ll.” I didn’t want to give her the other bra. But wasn’t that interesting?

Interviewer: Oh that’s fabulous. Introduction to another era.

Soomsky: Yeah, never saw. And that’s what she wanted. She wanted a bra. And so anyhow, we would go down there and we would play with the kids and, but those Israelis, they’re really something. The second day that they were there they already had a school set up in the ballroom of the hotel. They were teaching those kids Hebrew. They did not, and they, everything had to be kosher. And they were Orthodox Jews. They were not Reform, they were not Conservative. They had to be Orthodox Jews according to the rabbi.

Interviewer: Did they practice any kind of Judaism in Ethiopia?

Soomsky: I don’t really think so but I don’t know. They practiced, they had some of their own practices, you know,.

Interviewer: Rituals?

Soomsky: rituals that were similar to ours, I guess.

Interviewer: That’s what I had heard.

Soomsky: But anyhow they were wonderful. We would, you know, go there every day. And then we made dolls for them out of socks. Have you ever seen those sock dolls?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Soomsky: And we made dolls at night, the women.

Interviewer: Did they integrate into the community comfortably?

Soomsky: I don’t.

Interviewer: Eventually, I’m not talking about.

Soomsky: I don’t know. I think some of them do but. They’re.

Interviewer: Still some problems with.

Soomsky: Well I think there is, myself, through the years seeing it. But usually the Ethiopians would stay with their, just like the Jews stay with. But they do practice the religion, you know, Judaism and.

Interviewer: Well you find that the different ethnic groups pretty much stay with their own people, like the Russians are, live in little communities. It is more comfortable.

Soomsky: But they were just so sweet and so, you know, looked forward to us coming.

Interviewer: Appreciated you?

Soomsky: And so.

Interviewer: What about some of your other experiences? We’re going to have to move along with this tape here ’cause there’s some more stuff I want to ask you.

Soomsky: And in ’86 I worked for the army and what I did then was I was taken by a.

Now in ’86, I just want to tell you, I’m going to be fast. B’nai B’rith decided that we should live, see we were second year. This was originally set up, this program, for just one year, just to give you a taste and maybe you’ll come to Israel to live. That’s what it was. So the second year, you know, they had such a, people wanted to come that were there the first year, they wanted to come again. So they set up this program in Tapiot which is right outside of Jerusalem. They rented a hotel and wanted us to live like Israelis. We had kitchens and we had, you know, we had a living room, dining room, not a din–, a living room, a bedroom and I had had my own room before but you couldn’t on this program. You had to share a room with someone. And so anyhow that was the difference in the program. Well it didn’t work, didn’t work.

Interviewer: So you think they were trying to make, you had to consider making aliyah? Is that.

Soomsky: Well they wanted to the first year but then the second year, maybe, not, nobody that I ever knew that took this program made aliyah but it was a great idea. But if they had picked the right place, if it had been clean and if the food would have been good. But the food was terrible, everything. It was just a disaster. This Danny Mann had to come from B’nai B’rith, from Washington, and it was really a disaster. But I worked for the army. Got an army uniform. A Mercedes-Benz came to pick us up at the hotel and I inspected soldier’s bags, you know, their.

Interviewer: Back packs?

Soomsky: Their back packs. Only they were like this. We were told what was supposed to be in the bag, to make sure, because these bags, it wasn’t like in the American army where you got your things and you kept them, you know. You came home with your uniform, you came home with your stuff. But, like your blankets, your towels, your soap, the dish, you know that you ate out of, all of these things that were in this bag, that’s what we inspected them to make sure that they were there, everything was there. Because, and they were beat up bags, the bags were beat up. I mean it was, I always say it’s miraculous that they won the wars that they did, I mean, with the equipment that they had. And then we replaced. And then besides that we cleaned, we swept, we cleaned the walls, you know, of the storage rooms that that was in.

Interviewer: Well not the barracks? This was the storage room?

Soomsky: This is, we were working in the storage where they, where, you know, the stuff, it was a camp. We were working in a camp. So, and I also helped Shirley Engelman. Shirley Engelman came the second year too. And she painted a mural on a school in downtown Jerusalem right off of Ben Yehuda. And I was her apprentice and she would, you know, outline and then tell me what color to paint.

Interviewer: Kind of paint-by-numbers?

Soomsky: Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer: How wonderful.

Soomsky: And the kids, you know, were around us all the time. This school was for children that were not too bright. And we became very friendly with the children. There was a little girl by the name of
Miriam that I went to see for years, even though I didn’t have, you know, I wasn’t working there. And she thought it was because my name was Marion and hers Miriam.

Interviewer: You were buddies?

Soomsky: And I bought her all kinds of stuff and things. And that.

And then I also, we always had somebody that we taught, you know.

Interviewer: English?

Soomsky: English to.

Interviewer: Did you learn Hebrew?

Soomsky: No I never could. And that mural that Shirley and I painted, the last time I was there it was still there but very faint, very, very.

Interviewer: Fading?

Soomsky: Fading. Well then the other years, I don’t have the dates of the other years. So I.

Interviewer: But those were the last two years you were there?

Soomsky: No those were the first two years I was there.

Interviewer: Okay. But now how many years were you there altogether, how many years did you go back-and- forth?

Soomsky: I was there for nine years.

Interviewer: Nine different years? Isn’t that something?

Soomsky: Years, uh huh. And I stayed in, my headquarters, you know, were, was in Tel Aviv most of the time and then for three years I stayed for a month in Eilat. And I also worked for the army again.

Interviewer: In a different capacity?

Soomsky: when I, I worked, yes, I worked for the army when I was in Tel Aviv and they took us to a camp and I filled coffee in bags. They bring the coffee from Brazil in these great big bags and there’s a place up above and then they have a thing and you have to, it was like in a movie, you know, where you move, the coffee comes down, you put the.

Interviewer: Coffee machine?

Soomsky: No it’s a, the coffee just comes down the chute, the coffee beans.

Interviewer: Kind of like a filter?

Soomsky: The beans.

Interviewer: Yeah it comes down like a filter?

Soomsky: And you have a bag and you have to put the bag under there.

Interviewer: Just like in the grocery store if you buy coffee beans?

Soomsky: Then you have to push it, you know. Then somebody else folds it. Then somebody else seals it.

Interviewer: Oh, it’s an assembly line?

Soomsky: It’s assembly line. And there we worked with Russian immigrants. And that was really some- thing. And.

Interviewer: Were you able, were they easy to work with?

Soomsky: Oh yeah we got along great. And then besides that we did other things in the camp that they wanted us to do. And we always got to eat lunch with the soldiers when they were in the camp. We always got to eat lunch with the soldiers. Then the third time that I worked for the army was in Eilat and there I painted. I painted the guard house. I painted, and then I worked in the flower gardens and I, you know, did extra things like that.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well you showed me a picture of that fence you painted.

Soomsky: Yes.

Interviewer: Veri-colored.

Soomsky: Yeah but that was in Eilat. But that was at an Orthodox school. That was at a school. That was another year I was in Eilat.

Interviewer: Uh huh. So you didn’t choose your program did you when you went there? They just put you in place.

Soomsky: No, no. I choose because I like to be outside. So, or I like to be with children. And I didn’t want to, some of them took a full-time job as teaching. I never did that. I never did that because I wanted just to have more contact than just one child, you see. So, although I told you about my three jobs now with the army, didn’t I?

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Soomsky: I also, at other years I worked in day care centers with small children. I fed them, I played with them. I held them. I, you know whatever they told me to do, I did. And in Tel Aviv, let’s see what else did I, oh and then I worked in the public school in Eilat with kindergarten children and helped them make things and was like a recess teacher, you know, during recess. And I also, when I was in Jerusalem, I worked for Lifeline for the Old. Do you know about that program?

Interviewer: Huh uh.

Soomsky: It’s a wonderful, if you ever go back to Israel and you’re in Jerusalem, you go to Lifeline for the Old. It’s a wonderful program.

Interviewer: Tell us what it is.

Soomsky: Well it was started by a woman by the name of Marion Manlow. And she was unhappy seeing all the beggars on the streets in Jerusalem, all the Jewish beggars.

Interviewer: Where was she from?

Soomsky: I don’t know.

Interviewer: But from the United States?

Soomsky: No I don’t think so. I think that she was from England or, I don’t know exactly where she was from. I could find out but she was a won–, I knew her. She was a wonderful person. And she started this place where these people could come and do something and learn how to do things and then they could sell them. She had a little shop there.

Interviewer: So it took them off the street?

Soomsky: It took them off the street. She even had showers there for them to take showers. And she had lunch, they had lunch there. Now at Cage, they were there, Lifeline for the Old, they sold all their things there. I have things at home, I used to bring gifts from there. And be sure if you go back to Israel or know anybody that’s going, to tell them to go to Lifeline for the Old. It’s close to the Wall, I don’t mean the Old City. It’s close to the new City Hall, on that end street before you go to the Old City, that’s where it is. And they make all kinds of items. And I just helped the people, you know, do things, get them things, whatever was required of me. But that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Interviewer: So what’s the last year that you were in the volunteer program?

Soomsky: Ninety–, that’s ’96. This is when I was, that’s my last year.

Interviewer: And do you plan to go back again?

Soomsky: Yes I hope to go back next year. I’m going to South America this year. At the same time, it so happens that all the programs that I want to go on, the time to go is in the winter because I went to South Africa and that’s when you should, you know.

Interviewer: Their season.

Soomsky: Last, was it two years ago I went to South Africa? And then this year I’m going to South America, down south, clear to the Arctic like, almost.

Interviewer: How long will this trip be?

Soomsky: Three weeks.

Interviewer: Uh huh. So you’re hoping that in the year 2000 you’ll go back there again?

Soomsky: I hope so. But I want to tell you this one thing. I’ve got this in front of me, a picture of Anatole Sharansky and it so happens that I was in Israel 5 April, 1986 when he came and there was so much excitement, such excitement.

Interviewer: Well tell us who he was.

Soomsky: Well he was a Russian dissident that was in jail for I don’t know how many years, six or seven years.

Interviewer: Yeah he was in jail.

Soomsky: In Russia. And he was freed. I can’t remember the circumstances, how he got freed.

Interviewer: So when he came back?

Soomsky: So when he came, he came, he’s still in Jerusalem and he’s still, I think he’s in the Knesset now. I’m pretty sure. And this was his first public discussion since his release and it was really for students but since we were volunteers, we were given the privilege of going.

Interviewer: Oh great. So that was an opportunity?

Soomsky: And he spoke English. He spoke in English you see. And that was such an exciting evening. I’ll never forget it, really. And I just happened to find this card.

Interviewer: Why don’t we put this in the pile of stuff here. Maybe we’ll make a copy of that too. We can do that on our machine.

Soomsky: And, but I saw, I have seen all the greats, all the greats, all the greats of Israel.

Interviewer: You know we’re coming close to the end of this tape.

Soomsky: Okay.

Interviewer: But I want to allow time for you to tell us about your involvement with Heritage House as a volunteer. I know you’ve done a lot of stuff there.

Soomsky: Well when I retired I decided that I would go to Heritage House and I have. I’ve devoted a lot of my time to Heritage House. I was an officer at one time. Now I’m on the Board. I’m Chairman of Happy Hour and I was Chairman of Mother’s Day and I.

Interviewer: As Chairman of Happy Hour what do you do?

Soomsky: What do I do? I, we serve, and I’m also like the Master of Ceremonies. We have a pianist, Rose Nafzger used to play piano for us but she doesn’t. In fact I called her to try to get in touch with her but I can’t. I guess I’ll have to go there. And now John, I don’t know John’s last name, but his wife Rosie works at Heritage House, plays the piano for us. And I sing or I try to get, I really try to get the residents to partake. And ask them what their fav–, what songs they like. And then they, some of them will sing like Vi Goldfarb. She knows the words to all the songs.

Interviewer: Does she really?

Soomsky: All the songs.

Interviewer: She must have been a singer when she was younger.

Soomsky: Well she likes, you know, we, that was part of our life to have all these songs. I still know the words to all, you know, to the songs. And I accompany them when they go to see the ballet and when they go to the Zoo, when they, they have a Fall Foliage program.

Interviewer: How much time do you devote to Heritage House? Are you on a regular schedule?

Soomsky: I’m on a regular schedule. I play Canasta. Fagel Shkolnik, Vi Goldfarb and Eve Munster and I play Canasta every Thursday. We have a seat game and after that we have Happy Hour and then I feed up in the Special Care, I feed the residents in Special Care. And that’s my, that’s what I do on Thursday. So I’m usually through about, I get there at 1:30 and I’m through around 6:00 or a quarter after six or 6:30.

Interviewer: So you put in a good day’s work, half a day’s work there?

Soomsky: Yeah, uh huh. But I enjoy it. I really, it’s really been a big part of my life. I used to sell, you know, I’ve done everything there. I really have.

Interviewer: Well you bring joy to the residents and that’s a ray of sunshine for them.

Soomsky: Well I, yeah, well they, you know, I try to talk to them and.

Interviewer: It lightens up their life a little, gives them something to look forward to.

Soomsky: Yes it does.

Interviewer: But they know that you’re coming on Thursday?

Soomsky: Yeah they know. When they see me, they’ll say, “Oh it’s Thursday”. Yeah.

Interviewer: But then if they go on trips and you help with.

Soomsky: Oh and then the other thing that I do is I have always talked about my trips when I come back, no matter where I go. But their favorites, of course, are Israel. And then I bring all of the things, not all of the things, but things that I buy and I put it on the table in front of me so that they can see what I have bought, you know. And I usually wear my, a tee shirt or something. And now I have an army hat that I got when I was working for the army and I have pins on it from all the different things that I have done in Israel and all the places that I, and I wear that.

Interviewer: That’s great. That’s kind of your costume? Wonderful. Well you’ve shared so much with so many people and thank goodness you’re in our community.

Soomsky: Well thank you but I say that I have never married or, but I think that I’ve had a full life.

Interviewer: You sure have, you sure have. And you’ve touched many lives.

Soomsky: And I’ve always enjoyed my, I had a good job. I don’t know whether we ever talked about my job but that doesn’t make any difference.

Interviewer: Well you’ve talked, you worked for the government?

Soomsky: Yeah. So and I, and I liked it, you know, and I had a responsible job.

Interviewer: Why don’t you just kind of review again what you did.

Soomsky: Well I started out as a 2, which is like a clerk-typist. And then I ended up at Fort Hayes. I worked at Fort Hayes and I was Chief of the Officer Branch of the Army Reserve. So I had a.

Interviewer: You had a great career then?

Soomsky: I had a good career, yeah.

Interviewer: Well we’re almost at the end of Side B of Tape 2.

Soomsky: I think that’s enough.

Interviewer: Well you know I thoroughly have enjoyed, I mean we’ve got two tapes of conversation and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Soomsky: Well thank you.

Interviewer: You’ve brought a lot of excitement to this afternoon. And we’re going to go through some of these pictures and see what we can retrieve. And on behalf of the Jewish Historical Society I want to thank you again for.

Soomsky: Well I want to thank you Naomi.

Interviewer: Well I’ve kind of stirred.

Soomsky: Well you really, you really have and I said to myself when I walked out of my apartment, “Now you, every day, you’ve got to start going through these pictures and putting it in some kind of order”.

Interviewer: Yeah so somebody can appreciate it.

Soomsky: Well that’s, but mine, I don’t think my nieces and my nieces or nephews or their children will want them, but.

Interviewer: Well we’ve enjoyed what you brought this afternoon.

Soomsky: And you too are going to make copies.

Interviewer: Thank you again.

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ADDENDUM by M.S.: I was very honored when I was advised that the Heritage Village Volunteer Awards Sub-Committee had selected me as the Volunteer of the Year for 1987. The award presentation was held at the Annual Luncheon at the Winding Hollow Country Cub on July 29, 1987. I received a beautiful etched clock/plaque and members of my family and friends were there as well as Heritage Village volunteers. It was a wonderful afternoon and one I’ll always remember and cherish.

Editor’s Note: Marion’s file in the office of the Historical Society contains a copy of an article outlining this presentation and Marion’s history of service at Heritage House.

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Transcribed by Honey Abramson

Edited by Peggy Kaplan
Corrected by Marion Soomsky