I am Abby Goldbaum and I am interviewing Barbara Mindel, a Past President of Congregation Beth Tikvah and this interview is for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and Congregation Beth Tikvah’s archives. It is being recorded on November 5, 2010, and it is part of the Columbus Jewish Society Historical Oral History Project and it’s for inclusion in the archive collection of Congregation Beth Tikvah. The interview is being recorded at Congregation Beth Tikvah, Olentangy River Road, Worthington, Ohio. My name is Abby Goldbaum and I am interviewing Barbara Mindel.
Interviewer: Barbara what is your full name?
Mindel: Barbara Ann Mindel.
Interviewer: Do you have a Jewish name? What is it?
Interviewer: Okay, and who were you named for?
Mindel: My great grandmother, Bessy.
Interviewer: And what was your mother’s full name?
Mindel: Harriet Flusser Mindel.
Interviewer: And where was she born?
Mindel: She was born in Chicago.
Interviewer: And what was your father’s full name?
Mindel: Albert Mindel.
Interviewer: And where was he born?
Interviewer: Where and when were your parents married?
Mindel: They were married March 10, 1940, in Chicago.
Interviewer: Where did your family live when you were growing up?
Mindel: In Chicago, in the city.
Interviewer: In what part of the city?
Mindel: As far north as you can go, West Rogers Park, right on the edge of Evanston. Across the street it was Evanston on one side, Chicago on the other.
Interviewer: How did your parents earn their living?
Mindel: My father was an insurance salesman and my mother was a homemaker. But when I was very, very small, my father owned a liquor store.
Interviewer: Do you have brothers and/or sisters?
Mindel: I have an older brother, Michael.
Interviewer: Your brother’s name is Michael, and how much older is he than you?
Mindel: He is seven years older.
Interviewer: Where does he live?
Mindel: Zionsville, Indiana.
Interviewer: How did he end up there?
Mindel: When he got married for the second time, his wife was living in Bloomington and he was living in Indianapolis and the work, they both actually needed to be close to Indianapolis, so they didn’t want to live in the city because my sister-in-law was used to living in a small town so they moved up to Zionsville, which is lovely. I was just there last week. I was driving my mother here. We stopped and spent the night over in Zionsville. It’s just a lovely little town.
Interviewer: Is it near Indianapolis?
Mindel: It is just north of Indianapolis, right outside the outer belt.
Interviewer: Oh, OK. Where did you attend elementary school?
Mindel: Rogers School in Chicago.
Interviewer: Where did you attend high school?
Mindel: Sullivan High School in Chicago.
Interviewer: Where did you go to college?
Mindel: Northwestern University.
Interviewer: What degree did you get?
Mindel: A Bachelor of Science in education, BSe, and as I said before, the first time I ever taught was in the Beth Tikvah Religious School. When I moved to Columbus there weren’t teaching jobs within 30 miles of the city. I had to get a job because my husband was in Graduate School so I started working at Ohio State and spent 35+ years there.
Interviewer: What type of work did you do there?
Mindel: I started off, I was in Admissions. I was in clerical work, then I became a manager. Then I became the Assistant Director of Admissions Operations. I did systems work there and went over to the College of Education as a Systems Analyst. They were doing cutbacks and I was only part-time there so I started working over at the Office of Continuing Education. I did network administration, became a Systems Manager. My title when I retired I was Manager of Operations and Communication. It’s been a while since I thought about that.
Interviewer: That’s great! That was an interesting path for you. When did you get married?
Mindel: 1971, was married twenty-two years.
Interviewer: How old were you when you got married?
Interviewer: What was the date of your wedding?
Mindel: August 29, 1971.
Interviewer: What was your husband’s name?
Mindel: Art Krumsee.
Interviewer: How did you meet?
Mindel: At Northwestern.
Interviewer: What was his occupation?
Mindel: Let’s see, well most of the time we were married he was a graduate student and then he worked for OSU in various capacities and by the time he left OSU he was Assistant Director of, what was it, what was it called, of the Computer Center.
Interviewer: Where did you live immediately following your marriage?
Mindel: Columbus, we moved to Columbus.
Interviewer: Did you have children and the names of the children?
Mindel: I have one daughter, her name is Kirsten and she is 26 and is looking for a full-time librarian job. She is a librarian.
Interviewer: Oh great! And was she born in Columbus?
Mindel: She was born in Columbus. She went to Ohio State and went through the Kent State Master of Library and Information Science Program.
Interviewer: Great, is she in town?
Mindel: So far, yes.
Interviewer: Why did you move to Columbus?
Mindel: My husband got a large university fellowship and we moved here for that.
Interviewer: Where did you live in the Columbus area?
Mindel: We started off in the University area up on 13th Ave and Indianola. Then we moved over to Iuka and 4th Street, and then moved over to the Northwest Boulevard/Northstar area. Then we moved up to the Bethel/Godown area and now I live off of Bethel Road.
Interviewer: Why did you choose to move to this area of Columbus?
Mindel: I honestly don’t remember other than the fact we had friends in this area and we liked the area.
Interviewer: Did you join a synagogue or any Jewish organizations when you came to Columbus?
Mindel: No, I didn’t. My husband wasn’t Jewish and he really had no interest in religion at all. I was raised completely secularly so it wasn’t really on my radar screen.
Interviewer: How did you happen to come to Beth Tikvah?
Mindel: I came in May of ’97. I joined in August of ’97 and it was a very strange long story of how I got here. If you believe in synchronicity I was supposed to be here and I have been here ever since.
Interviewer: Did you go through, did you know friends?
Mindel: No, I did not. In fact I was a member of the Unitarian Church. One of my Unitarian friends, who is not Jewish, called me one day and said, “Would you like to go to services up at Beth Tikvah?” I said “Sure,” and I’ve been here ever since.
Interviewer: How interesting!
Interviewer: How did you happen to get active at Beth Tikvah?
Mindel: Well, I figured I was here I might as well make a contribution. I remember shortly after I joined I came to a Membership Committee meeting and told them what a bad job they were doing recruiting new members and they wanted to hear what my thoughts were on that. I joined the Adult Study Group because I wanted to learn and met a lot of lovely people there and I did that, for many years I did that.
After I was here only a fairly short time Gary grabbed me and said, “You really should be teaching religious school.” I said, “I don’t know anything.” He said, “So go to Torah Study.” So I went to Torah Study and learned a lot. I was a member of Torah Study for many years and I taught in the religious school. I taught third grade for about four years and one year of seventh grade. I had a Bat Mitzvah here in 2001 after learning Hebrew from Valia (Bergelson).
Interviewer: And what was that like? Were you one of the first to have an adult Bat Mitzvah?
Mindel: There was a group before under David Lamden but I guess I was the first to have a B’not Mitzvah, Ina Mayer, Eileen Okel, Jane Lesley Tecklenburg. We were the first group that learned Hebrew here as far as I understand, so yes.
Interviewer: So Valia Bergelson was your teacher?
Mindel: Yes and that was in 2001. I enjoyed chanting so much that not too long afterwards I cornered Rabbi Huber and said, “If you ever need another Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutor would you consider me?” He said, “You know what, I do. You’re hired!” I said, “AHHHHH!” He made me tapes until I learned to chant on my own and all that. So I’ve been tutoring for probably seven, eight years.
Interviewer: So you tutor prospective Bar and Bat Mitzvah students?
Mindel: Yes, I work with Bar and Bat Mitzvah students, not all of them. I’m known as the “other” Bar and Bat Mitzvah tutor. Valia has most of the students.
Interviewer: That’s a wonderful story. Who were some of the key people you met when you came to Beth Tikvah who may have influenced you to become a leader?
Mindel: The person who influenced me the most to become a leader was Gary.
Interviewer: Gary Huber?
Mindel: Yes, Gary Huber, he saw things in me that I didn’t even know were there. He nominated me to serve on the Board as Adult Education Chair. I was terrified of following Manny (Luttinger) because Manny did such a fabulous job. He said, “You don’t have to do it like Manny does, you just have to do it like Barb does.” I loved doing it. You know I was very quiet on the Board for a couple years there.
After I was finished being Adult Education Chair, I became Ritual Chair. From that I became Second Vice-President, First Vice-President and President and now Past President which is a wonderful position to have. By the time I get off the Board end of next May, I will have been on the Board for 11straight years. What was I thinking? But no, I’ve loved it! I loved it. And also, I loved participating in activities. I’ve met wonderful people in the Sunday night study group. I loved Art and Frida Ksienski who led Torah Study at the time. I made friends with the people who came there. Dawn (Heyman) has been a wonderful friend to me and has encouraged me along the way. You know, I love the congregation. I love being here. I feel rooted here.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful. You said growing up you had a secular Jewish family.
Mindel: Right, the only time I went to synagogue with my family, I was six years old and my brother had his Bar Mitzvah. It was the only time I was ever there. When I was in high school, one of my high school friends encouraged me to join a temple youth group, which I could participate in without my family being a members and I did that for a while.
When I was at Northwestern I went to Hillel once or twice but I really didn’t like the people I met there so I wasn’t involved at all. As I said I married someone who wasn’t Jewish because it just didn’t make sense for me to only marry somebody who is Jewish because I didn’t have that exposure to Judaism. I mean, I lived in a Jewish neighborhood and we ate Jewish food. My family never had a Seder. I went to Seder at my best friend’s house for a couple of years but didn’t really have any Jewish roots per se.
Interviewer: Now as an adult when did you first go to a Seder or have a Seder?
Mindel: After joining Beth Tikvah Dawn and I, I was invited to Seders for a few years. Dawn and I decided to have Seders for people who had no family in town. We’d get the stragglers. We’d have a lovely Seder at her home. We did that for a few years. The last couple of years we’ve been accepting invitations, going elsewhere. This year I’m excited my mother will be at whatever Seder we have or go to. I’m really excited about that.
Interviewer: Now you say she just moved to town? Where is she living?
Mindel: She will be at the Forum, at Knightsbridge off Henderson Road so she is five minutes away from me, which is really nice.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful.
Mindel: Tonight we’re having dinner together over there. They are having some special thing going on and I’m bringing her to services tonight.
Interviewer: Oh great!
Mindel: So, it’s you know.
Interviewer: That’s terrific. I wanted to ask you about your leadership at Beth Tikvah. When did you become President?
Mindel: 2007. I was there in 2007 and I finished up in 2009.
Interviewer: What would you say was your greatest accomplishment as President?
Mindel: I think I helped to have an era of peace here after Bruce’s (Chapman) presidency, which was quite turbulent and just kind of, just really focus on what was good about Beth Tikvah.
Interviewer: What do you mean by turbulent? Do you want to just elaborate?
Mindel: Well I mean with the failure of our ability to sell the building and having congregants leave over that whole issue and our membership decreased significantly after that point, and just to try. And there was a lot of animosity between people here at Beth Tikvah and people who left. And try to have a relationship with people who chose to continue at Beth Tikvah as well as the Little Minyan, which is the group that split off. And try to just really focus on the good aspects of Beth Tikvah and help people see that we really care about them and the community and just kind of an era of peace.
Interviewer: What was your biggest challenge?
Mindel: Biggest challenge was to get the Board to realize that selling this building and moving to the new land we had purchased was no longer in our best interest in the short term. There was still too much dissension over that issue and it just wasn’t a good thing to do. And so just getting the people to agree as the Board that this was not the best move at the time, and in retrospect, considering the economy and how all that turned out, it was probably a good decision. Because right now I just can’t imagine sitting in a beautiful new building and figuring out how we were going to pay our bills.
Interviewer: Right, right, right. As President, what was your favorite event or duty and why?
Mindel: I loved my Board. I had the most awesome pair of Vice-Presidents, Greg Russell and Maury Levine. They were wonderful to work with. My whole Executive Board was very, very good. I mean Judy (Weisberg) and Andy (Shafran) and it was just fabulous still having Bruce (Chapman) there for continuity. We still have a group there for continuity, I had a very dedicated Board for two years, people very interested in serving the Congregation, passionate about the Congregation and it was a pleasure. I also had the happy honor of being President at Gary Huber’s 25th Anniversary celebration.
Interviewer: That was quite a celebration.
Mindel: Right, and I had the privilege of speaking about him at the Service that we had, telling the Congregation how much he meant to me and talked about what he did for the Congregation. It was a real pleasure to be able to do that.
Interviewer: Great. Did you want to describe just a few anecdotes related to when you were President?
Mindel: I don’t know of any particular things you have in mind. I don’t know.
Interviewer: If anything comes to mind.
Mindel: Hmmm. This isn’t a very amusing one. It is something that I won’t forget. At my first Annual Meeting a congregant decided to take me on and relate some situation that he saw as happening one way and I knew that never happened that way because I was President. To be able to stand up, you know, and just say, “That didn’t happen. I know that didn’t happen and that is not an adequate reflection of the situation and things like that.” What was most interesting about it was that there were several people on my Board who said, “Well we were going to stand up and protect you but you didn’t need it!” (Laughs)
It was good for me as a leader to realize that I could do that, that I mean for many, many years I was conflict-phobic and, you know, just really had a hard time when people disagreed with me. And that particular incident helped me, um, just find my own strength to stand up for myself and the Congregation and to realize that, you know, we all don’t have to see everything the same way but it was, you know, and just be okay with the disagreement. I could come to any meeting and I can say something and people could disagree with me or agree with me and it doesn’t matter. I am just able to share my issue.
Interviewer: Now what Jewish communal activity are you currently pursuing and after you finish your term on the Board as Past President what do you want to continue or start to do?
Mindel: Well, I am currently on the Rabbinic Search Committee and that takes up a lot of time. I’m also involved in the Ritual Committee and Stu Zweben and I are leading Services tomorrow morning. What else do I do? I’d like to get back involved with adult education. I just have so many other activities going on. I have also been asked by Patty Price to serve on the new Rabbi transition team, help the new Rabbi get acclimated. We had an Executive Committee meeting and I was sitting next to Patty and I said, “Oh, I only have a few more months left on the Board,” and she said, “We’ll find something for you to do.” (Laughs) So that’s nice. So I enjoy being here.
Another thing that we’ve talked about doing in the Ritual Committee, if I ever have time I would love to do it, is kind of pursue having some programming on, you know, exploring the heart of Judaism and kind of give people an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about Judaism, about God, about, you know, more spiritual things than we normally discuss here. I would like to get involved in that, I feel a need. I feel that there are people who just really want that to happen. I mean I may wind up waiting until the new Rabbi arrives and see what he or she wants to do in that regard also but it’s something I’m really interested in doing.
Interviewer: That’s very important. I was wondering what your thoughts are on involvement in the general Jewish community.
Mindel: Unfortunately I’m really not involved. I regret it but I just simply don’t have time. I mean I may be retired but, I mean, it just seems like every day is just filled with things. I was volunteering at another organization. I volunteered at the Wellness Community in Columbus for, what is it called now, Central Ohio, and did that for a couple of years. I was there for probably ten or twelve hours a week.
Interviewer: What led you there and I know you’ve been involved in blood drives too.
Mindel: I’m a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with leukemia in 1986 and I had a bone marrow transplant in 2000 and just had my 20th year (?). I had my bone marrow transplant in 1990, sorry about that, and it’s been twenty years since I had my transplant, so I’ve been involved in anything that I could do to help support cancer patients. So that’s what led me there. I’ve also been involved in bone marrow donor drives and things like that. If a donor drive needs a speaker, I’m glad to do that and encourage people to donate.
Interviewer: Oh great. I wanted to ask you one last thing. What is your vision for Beth Tikvah in this century?
Mindel: Wow! That is quite a question. I see Beth Tikvah as a very caring, loving, supportive, diverse community and I want us to continue to do that. I also would like to see us really come together and figure out as a community what we really want, who we want to become, what sort of programming we want. We tried to do that briefly but we seemed to not get very many people willing to participate because there was still too much concern about the old building issues. So I’m hoping that in time that will resolve itself. I also see we need to really look at what we can do to attract more members and what we can do to better serve the members we have, to make everybody realize the Congregation is there for them, that we care about them and we want them to be engaged with us. I am really excited that Sunday is Mitzvah Day, an opportunity to work together. This year we led an activity for the first time. I’m all excited about working with families and kids. I just want the congregation to know that we care about them. It’s very important to me. That’s why I greet a lot on Friday nights, why I love to just sit with guests and visitors and make people feel, I want people to feel the same love for Beth Tikvah that I have.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful, Barbara. This concludes our interview and I thank you very much for your taking the time to be interviewed. I know that on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Beth Tikvah which occurs in 2011 that your interview, along with others, will be highlighted and I thank you very much.
Mindel: My pleasure.
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Transcribed by Susan Pomerantz
Edited by Rose Luttinger