Betty Schiff

Interview with Betty Schiff on Tuesday, January 5, 1999 by Peggy Kaplan. This interview is taking place at 510 Harbor Cay Lane, Long Boat Key, Florida as part of the Oral History program of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.

Interviewer:   Betty, would you please state your full name?

Betty:              Betty Topkis Schiff.

Interviewer:   The date of your birth?

Betty:              February 11, 1919.

Interviewer:   Where were you born?

Betty:              Wilmington, Delaware

Interviewer:   Tell me your parents’ names.

Betty:              My mother was Edna Rothchild Topkis and my father was Charles Topkis.

Interviewer:   Were they born in this country?

Betty:              Yes, both of them.

Interviewer:   Do you remember your grandparents?

Betty:              I didn’t have any grandparents. They were deceased before I was born.

Interviewer:   Did they come to this country or did they die in the old country?

Betty:              I think they came to this country.

Interviewer:   Do you remember any stories about your grandparents that your parents might have told you?

Betty:  Just a few. Not too many. My father said his parents came over and landed in Newark, Delaware and he was born shortly after they landed.

Interviewer:   Where did they come from?

Betty:  My father’s parents came from Odessa, Russia and my mother’s parents came from Frankfurt, Germany.

Interviewer:   So you did not get a chance to meet them. Do you remember seeing photographs of them when you  were young?

Betty:  Yes, I think so.

Interviewer:   Do you still have any of those photos?

Betty:  No, I don’t think so. My sisters had them and I don’t know where they are.

Interviewer:   Do you know how your parents met?

Betty:  My father met my mother in New York City because my mother lived there.

Interviewer:   So your father was living in Wilmington, Delaware and your mother was living in New York. How did they meet?

Betty:  I don’t know but I know he met her in New York.

Interviewer:   Do you think it was arranged?

Betty:  I have no idea. When I was young, I didn’t think to ask those silly questions.

Interviewer:   We don’t think about that until we get a little older. Tell me a little bit about your home life when you were a youngster.

Betty:  My parents were quite well-to-do and we lived in a big house on a boulevard in Wilmington, Delaware.  I was one of four children – the baby in the family.

Interviewer:   So you were the baby. You had brothers or sisters or both?

Betty:  I had two sisters and a brother. They were all much older except my brother who was only two years older . One sister was nine years older and the other sister was twelve years older. They were pretty much gone while I was growing up.

Interviewer:   So when you were growing up, it was really your brother and you. What was your brother’s name?

Betty:  Jack.

Interviewer:   And your two sisters’ names?

Betty:  One was Rosalie Sapp and the other was ____________ Frankel.

Interviewer:   Are they living today?

Betty:  No. My sisters aren’t but my brother is.

Interviewer:   Where does he live?

Betty:  In Boca Raton.

Interviewer:   He’s married?

Betty:  Yes, he’s married.

Interviewer:   Does he have children?

Betty:  Yes, he has two children.

Interviewer:   Grown?

Betty:  Grown and he has grandchildren.

Interviewer:   So living at home in a wealthy family, what did you do for fun as a family?

Betty:  I don’t really remember. I took piano lessons and I went to a private school.

Interviewer:   A girls’ school?

Betty:  No, it was a co-ed school. Friends’ School. I still support it to this day.

Interviewer:   Was that elementary and high school?

Betty:  Yes, I graduated from high school there.

Interviewer:   Would it be similar to Columbus School for Girls?

Betty:  Yes, very similar.

Interviewer:   What was your father’s occupation?

Betty:  My father was a merchant. He had a stored called The Wilmington Dry Goods which was a department store.

Interviewer:   Did your mother work?

Betty:  No.

Interviewer:   Did she do the cooking?

Betty:  No, we always had help.

Interviewer:   What type of religious training did you and your brother and sisters have?

Betty:  When my mother came to Wilmington, there was only an Orthodox shul there and when my father took her to the shul, she was very unhappy because he told her she had to sit upstairs. So shortly thereafter, they started the Reform movement in Wilmington. They started the Reform temple. So we were all brought up Reform.

Interviewer:   So your mother attended a Reform temple in New York. The movement just hadn’t reached Wilmington yet?

Betty:  That was like the late 1800s.

Interviewer:   Did you celebrate Jewish holidays?

Betty:  Yes, we did.

Interviewer:   What are some of your favorite childhood memories of them?

Betty:  My favorite memories are Rosh Hashana. My father came from a big family of, I think, six brothers and one sister. We used to go one day to one aunt’s house and another day to another aunt’s house. The whole family would always gather. I remember that most of all.

Interviewer:   Did you celebrate the Shabbat? Friday night dinner?

Betty:  Not too much.

Interviewer:   Not on a regular basis?

Betty:  I think my mother lit candles but that was about it.

Interviewer:   Did you go to Sunday School or religious school?

Betty:  Yes, I went to Sunday School at the Reform temple and I was confirmed. Herb and I got married in that temple, too.

Interviewer:   We’ll get to that in a little bit. So your parents, being born in this country spoke English and their parents, when they came to this country, spoke Yiddish? Russian?

Betty:  I don’t know. I didn’t know any of my grandparents.

Interviewer:   That’s right. So you have not had an occasion to learn Yiddish or any foreign language?

Betty:  No.

Interviewer:   So you went to a private girls’ school as a high school student . . .

Betty:  I went to a private school. It was a co-ed school.

Interviewer:   Do you recall any friends from your school years?

Betty:  Yes, I grew up with a very close girlfriend and we still talk to each other and write to each other. We’re still very friendly.

Interviewer:   Where does she live?

Betty:  She lives in Boca Raton and in Philadelphia.

Interviewer:   And her name is?

Betty:  Frieda Bronstein.

Interviewer:   What was her maiden name?

Betty:  That was her maiden name.

Interviewer:   And she’s now married?

Betty:  Yes, she married a man by the name of Al Kraftsol and when he died, she married a guy by the name of Schwartz, out of Philadelphia

Interviewer:   Do you see her on occasion?

Betty:  Yes, I do.

Interviewer:   Are there any other friends you remember?

Betty:  No, she’s the only one that I really remember because I think we were the only two Jewish girls in our class. We used to walk to school together and home together. It was a Quaker school so there weren’t too many kids . . .

Interviewer:   What was that like? Being two Jewish girls in a Quaker school?

Betty:  It was fine. I didn’t feel any anti-Semitism as I was growing up. Wilmington was a small town.

Interviewer:   Were there many Jewish people that lived in Wilmington?

Betty:  Yes, quite a few.

Interviewer:   Do you know why your parents might have chosen a Quaker school for you?

Betty:  My mother wanted me to go to private school and that was the only private school there was.

Interviewer:   That’s a good reason. How about dating? Did you date a lot when you were in high school?

Betty:  I guess I did. I started dating around fifteen or sixteen. I met Herb on my sixteenth birthday. Not that he was exclusive. I went with him for three years and we got married when I was nineteen.

Interviewer:   Being in Wilmington Delaware and going to a Quaker school, you probably had difficulty dating Jewish guys.

Betty:  Well, I knew some from Sunday School and my brother, of course, had a whole group of friends who were Jewish. I used to go out with his friends.

Interviewer:   It helps when you’ve got an older brother.

Betty:  And how!

Interviewer:   Did he take good care of you?

Betty:  Yes, he was two years older than I was and he was a wonderful brother. He always sort of looked out for me and it was great. I was a spoiled Jewish Princess.

Interviewer:   Tell me how you and Herb met.

Betty:  Through relatives.

Interviewer:   You said you were sixteen when you met?

Betty:  My brother-in-law, __________’s husband, came to Columbus, Ohio to Al Schiff’s son’s Bar Mitzvah. He met Robert Schiff who told him that his son was going to be at the University of Pennsylvania the next year. Herb was a freshman and he told Ef  to look him up. So Ef called Herb one day and said, “I’m going down to Wilmington for my sister-in-law’s sixteenth birthday (he was working in Philadelphia). Why don’t you come along?” So he picked Herb up at school and he brought him down to Wilmington and that’s when I met him. And it was on my sixteenth birthday. And I was thrilled to death to go out with a great, big college guy from the University of Pennsylvania. So I met him and when he went home, his father had gotten him a car. In those days, you had to put, I think, a thousand miles on a car before you could go fast. Herb didn’t know how to put the thousand miles on so he used to ride down to Wilmington and I’d come home from school and there would be Herb. He’d drive down for the day just to put miles on the car and then he’d drive back.

Interviewer:   And to see you.

Betty:  Well, I think he was putting mileage on the car.

Interviewer:   You referred to Ef. Is that a nickname for a person?

Betty:  My brother-in-law, Ef Frankel.

Interviewer:   What would be his first name?

Betty:  Ephraim Frankel. He was married to my sister, ____________.

Interviewer:   So it was through him that you met Herb on your sixteenth birthday. And you were a sophomore in high school?

Betty:  A junior.

Interviewer:   So you met Herb and he started driving to visit you. How long did you date? The rest of his college years?

Betty:  Yes, more or less. But I was dating other guys.

Interviewer:   So he wasn’t exclusive?

Betty:  Not until the last.

Interviewer:   Did you go to college when you graduated high school?

Betty:  Yes, I went to Philadelphia to a school called Miss Ellman’s School for Kindergarten Teachers. It was part of the University of Pennsylvania.

Interviewer:   So you were very close to Herb.

Betty:  I only went for one year because after that, I think the Depression came and my parents lost a lot of money. Things weren’t as good. I had just taken one year of college and I was going with Herb pretty much and I went to work. I worked at Bronstein’s which was a store like Jacobsons. It was ladies’ clothing wear. I worked in the jewelry department and I loved it. I worked there for about a year. We got married shortly after that.

Interviewer:   So you went to college for a year, then you went to work full-time. Did you help your family out with your income? or was it just for you?

Betty:  Oh, no. Just for me.

Interviewer:   So your family suffered reversal during the Depression? How did that affect you in your life?

Betty:  Not too much because by then, I’d gotten married and moved away.

Interviewer:   You got married when you were nineteen years old in 1938.

Betty:  In the heart of the Depression.

Interviewer:   Tell me about the wedding.

Betty:  The wedding was lovely. It was at the Hotel Dupont in Wilmington. Afterwards, Herb and I went on a Mediterranean Cruise. I really wanted to go through the Panama Canal and up to California but there was no boat going in those days so Herb came up with the Mediterranean Cruise so we went on it.

Interviewer:   That was pretty exciting, as a bride.

Betty:  Yes, except I got a little seasick. In those days, the boats weren’t as stable as they are today. We went to Israel which was Palestine in those days.

Interviewer:   Had you traveled before as a young girl?

Betty:  No. I had traveled to Florida with my parents.

Interviewer:   That’s a very involved trip for a honeymoon.

Betty:  We stopped in France, Italy, and went to Egypt and I know we got off and saw the Sphinx and everything. We went overseas through Egypt and into Palestine. I distinctly remember in 1938, we had Arab guides and Arab drivers because as you went through the hills into Jerusalem, if you had a Jewish driver, they would shoot at them from up in the hills. But an Arab driver would get out and wave his fist and they would let us go through.

Interviewer:   So you came to Israel by boat? and you landed in. . . ?

Betty:  We landed in Egypt and we went through Egypt into Palestine.

Interviewer:   You went by land.

Betty:  We went up into Lebanon, and if I remember correctly, we didn’t see too much of Lebanon because I got a heat stroke. When we saw the Sphinx in Egypt, I had only put a handerkerchief on my head and I got a bad heat stroke. I thought Herb was going to leave me there.

Interviewer:   On your honeymoon?

Betty:  On my honeymoon. I ran a very high fever and they took me back to the ship from Lebanon. So I didn’t see any of Lebanon. In those days you were allowed to go into Lebanon. I don’t think you are now.

Interviewer:   So in 1938, Palestine had to be very primitive.

Betty:  Yes, it was.

Interviewer:   The swamps hadn’t been cleaned and you got to Jerusalem?

Betty:  Yes. I don’t remember much about it. I think we stopped at the King David Hotel.

Interviewer:   It must have been fairly new then. How long was your honeymoon? How many weeks?

Betty:  I think it was eight weeks.

Interviewer:   What a nice honeymoon. So that was the beginning of your travels with your husband. What a nice way to start a marriage.

Betty:  Yes. Then we came back and moved to Cleveland. Herb started off in Cleveland. He went to work for $18.00 a week, I think. We found ourselves an apartment. We had one car and Herb used to take the Rapid Transit to work at Higbee’s where he worked in the shoe department.  We lived in Cleveland for about six months until we were transferred to Detroit.

Interviewer:   Betty, what was that like? You grew up in a wealthy family and as you referred to, as a rather spoiled child. You dated a very handsome college guy who drove a new car and who had lots of money to spend.  You went on an eight week wonderful, magnificent honeymoon and then you went to the “new world” with an new life.

Betty:  We came down with a bang!

Interviewer:   What was that like for you?

Betty:  Well, I got along fine. I was pretty well-adjusted.

Interviewer:   It was a major adjustment. A major change.

Betty:  Yes, I didn’t have much to do in those days so I worked for the Council of Jewish Women and for Hadassah.

Interviewer:   And then a couple of years went by and your first daughter was born?

Betty:  Yes. Not too long. We moved to Detroit and I seemed to have gotten pregnant right away.

Interviewer:   And your first daughter’s name is?

Betty:  Suzanne.

Interviewer:   And she was born what year?

Betty:  She was born in 1940. When Susie was born, we had a maid that lived with us and we paid her $5.00 a week.

Interviewer:   And Herb made $14.00?

Betty:  He might have made a little more. Maybe $20.00. He had an income from his father’s stocks, I guess.

Interviewer:   So there was other money coming in besides what Herb made on a weekly basis.

Betty:  Sure.

Interviewer:   Did it come directly from his father? Was it a trust?

Betty:  I think it was probably a trust from his mother.

Interviewer:   So you had a maid?

Betty:  Yes, right away.

Interviewer:   Then you had another daughter?

Betty:  Four years later.

Interviewer:   Her name?

Betty:  Patricia. Patty was born in 1943.

Interviewer:   And you were still in Detroit?

Betty:  Yes, we were

Interviewer:   Herb told me that he worked everyday, many, many hours. Like six days a week.

Betty:  That’s right. He worked Saturdays and Sundays.

Interviewer:   And you were home, in a strange city with two daughters. How did you handle that?

Betty:  We had a maid to help me.

Interviewer:   But your husband was away all the time.

Betty:  It was all right. I found a life. I worked a few days a week for the Council of Jewish Women. I kept busy. Two little kids can keep you busy. Even with a maid.

Interviewer:   Did you develop friends?

Betty:  Yes. We made a few friends. Not a lot. We mostly had friends in the business. In other words, Herb’s boss was Richard Kotzer. Mildred and I were very friendly. And there were other people that worked for the Schiff Company.

Interviewer:   Were you about the same age as Mildred?

Betty:  Mildred was a little older. She had children so our children played together and things like that. We also made other friends in the shoe division. One night a week, Herb would play poker with the men so the women would get together and do things. It was okay. But I liked it very much better when we moved to Columbus.

Interviewer:   You had never lived in Columbus?

Betty:  No, but I still liked Columbus much better than Detroit. I never liked Detroit.

Interviewer:   So you were not unhappy with your husband working all those hours and you being at home with the girls? Was it hard for Herb to develop a relationship with his daughters with him working so much?

Betty:  That’s true. He never really got very close to them.

Interviewer:   The raising of the children was basically your responsibility?

Betty:  Absolutely. Until we moved back to Columbus. In Columbus, when he was in town, he was home pretty much. He didn’t work that hard and he didn’t work nights.

Interviewer:   You moved to Columbus around 1945? Did Herb work as hard in Columbus? As many hours?

Betty:  No, less hours because he worked in the office and the office would close. It wasn’t as though he was working in the stores which were open at night and on Sundays. He was home every night for dinner at six or seven.

Interviewer:   So that was still a learning time for Herb in the business? His father was still training him?

Betty:  I guess.

Interviewer:   Did he start to travel then for the business?

Betty:  Yes, he did. He traveled a lot.

Interviewer:   He was away from home a lot?

Betty:  Yes.

Interviewer:   Then you had a third daughter born in Columbus? What was her name?

Betty:  Jane was born in 1948. She was born the day that Israel was declared a state.

Interviewer:   No kidding. That’s amazing. How did the event affect you and your family? The statehood?

Betty:  Well, I don’t know. We were all thrilled about it but that was about it. I think Herb was already getting involved in the Federation and into Jewish philanthropy because his father was. It came down through the family.

Interviewer:   So your social life increased considerably when you moved to Columbus?

Betty:  We joined the country club and I even went back to playing golf which I hadn’t played since I’d gotten married.

Interviewer:   You played golf as a young lady?

Betty:  Yes. I stopped when I got married and then I started again when we moved back to Columbus.

Interviewer:   Was it right away that you joined the country club?

Betty:  Yes, pretty much.

Interviewer:   You were not from Columbus and your husband was. Did Columbus accept you? Did you have a hard time?

Betty:  No, not at all. We made lots of friends and we got along fine.

Interviewer:   In the very beginning, who were your closest friends?

Betty:  I think the Mannikens, Rita and Lenny were very close to us.

Interviewer:   Were they in the shoe business?

Betty:  No.

Interviewer:   Would you say you were the one who developed social friends? Or did you as a couple develop them?

Betty:  Both ways.

Interviewer:   So you joined Winding Hollow Country Club.

Betty:  As soon as we came back to Columbus.

Interviewer:   Did Herb participate?

Betty:  Yes, he played golf.

Interviewer:   Did you play together?

Betty:  Yes, on Sundays.

Interviewer:   Then he stopped playing?

Betty:  He didn’t stop until our grandson was Bar Mitzvah.

Interviewer:   Did he play with the men or did he just play with you?

Betty:  He would play with the men or with me. He didn’t have as much time to play golf as I did. He only played on the weekends. We played Bridge, too.

Interviewer:   You did? Good. In 1945, when you moved to Columbus, where did you live?

Betty:  When we first moved to Columbus, we lived on Bryden Road. We were in a three bedroom house and we had a sleep-in maid.

Interviewer:   Bryden Road? Would that have been in Bexley?

Betty:  Yes, in Bexley, between Cassady and Cassingham. We had three bedrooms and one bathroom with two children and a maid that lived-in.

Interviewer:   How long did you live there?

Betty:  We lived there until Janey was born which was in 1948 so we must have lived there about three or four years. I remember when we first moved there, it was during the war so we couldn’t have a telephone for nine months. I remember we used to go down the street to Ethel Betty:  to use her phone.

Interviewer:   Ethel was a relative?

Betty:  Yes, Ethel and Al Schiff. They lived a block away. So that’s what we did and we got along fine.

Interviewer:   Then where did you live?

Betty:  We moved to Ashbourne. When Janey was coming along, we had to find a bigger house. Our maid, Zella, moved with us.

Interviewer:   Do you remember the address on Ashbourne?

Betty:  Yes, 200 Ashbourne. It was on the corner of Denver and Ashbourne and the back was onto Cassady.

Interviewer:   Who were your neighbors there?

Betty:  The McCoys lived across the street. The Joneses also lived across the street. There weren’t many Jewish people. There were no Jewish people living on Ashbourne Road.

Interviewer:   You were the first ones.

Betty:  I think everyone who lives there now is Jewish, aren’t they? The Isaacs lived next door to us – Sol Morton Isaacs but they were the only other Jewish couple otherwise it was all non Jewish families. The McCoys lived two doors from us. The kids used to play with Ginny and John McCoy, Jr.

Interviewer:   Did all three of your girls go to Columbus School for Girls?

Betty:  Well, all but Janey. Susie was particularly bright because in Detroit, when she was in school, the teacher had called us in and said that she was a very, very bright child and really needed challenges. So when we got to Columbus, that was when I decided that she needed Columbus School for Girls because she needed to be in a school where she would be challenged. The only problem was that when I put her in the first grade at Columbus School for Girls, she was only five years old. I couldn’t put her in Kindergarten because they already had two Jewish girls and there was a Jewish quota. My husband was very upset and didn’t want to send her there.

Interviewer:   Two was the quota?

Betty:  Yes. So they told me to put her in the first grade and they would make her take the first grade for two years. And then she would be in with the right class.

Interviewer:   But then she’d be the third Jewish girl.

Betty:  That’s right but it was all right after she had been there a year. At the end of the first grade, they said to me, “We can’t keep her in the first grade because she’s much too bright. She’s got to go into the second grade with this class because she would

be bored to death in the first grade.” So Susie went ahead and that’s why she graduated at a little over sixteen years old.

Interviewer:   What about her sisters? Did they go to Columbus School for Girls?

Betty:  Yes. I sent Patty to Columbus School for Girls. But when Janey came along, we were already living on Ashbourne and Maryland School was so close, she could walk there. We decided to try Maryland School for her so she went there until the sixth grade then we moved her over to Columbus School for Girls.

Interviewer:   So all three girls graduated from Columbus School for Girls.

Betty:  Yes, but Susie graduated too young.

Interviewer:   What kind of religious training did you give the girls?

Betty:  We belonged to Temple Israel and they all went to Sunday School and they were all confirmed.

Interviewer:   What did you do in your home? Did you have Friday night dinners? Did you light candles?

Betty:  I just lit candles. That was all.

Interviewer:   Very similar to your own upbringing.

Betty:  Yes, all of the girls are a little more religious than I am. They all do more in their homes than I did.

Interviewer:   When you were living on Ashbourne and Herb was a little freer because he wasn’t working quite as hard, what did you do with the family for fun?

Betty:  I don’t remember. We never took vacations together. Herb felt that he worked hard and when he went on vacation, it was to get away from the family so we never took the girls on a vacation. Not until the other two were married and we took Janey to Europe a couple times. By then, she was in her late teens.

Interviewer:   Did you take them on trips yourself?

Betty:  Not really. We stayed home most of the time. I was involved in Federation in those days. Not so much Council as Federation. Eventually, Mackey and I became head of the Federation.

Interviewer:   Mackey?

Betty:  Mackey Papurt. We did it together.

Interviewer:   So you liked living in Columbus?  You liked your life?

Betty:  Yes, very much. I still like it.

Interviewer:   There are some names I’d like to toss out and you either were friends with them or you weren’t or you know anything about them. Eleanor Resler.

Betty:  I played Bridge with Eleanor one night a week.

Interviewer:   On a regular basis?

Betty:  Yes, that’s how I knew Eleanor. Not that we were friends with them socially but I did see her a lot.

Interviewer:   Did you have a relationship with or did you know Betty Yassenoff?

Betty:  No, I didn’t know her at all.

Interviewer:   How about Esther Melton?

Betty:  Esther I knew casually.

Interviewer:   Amy Lazarus?

Betty:  I was very friendly with Amy. When we moved to the Park Towers, Amy lived on the floor below us and we got to be very friendly. We did a lot of things together. She used to come visit us in Florida.

Interviewer:  I remember you used to bowl together.

Betty:  Yes, we bowled together and the same thing with Elizabeth Goldberg.

Interviewer:   And Annette Levy?

Betty:  Yes, Annette was a good friend of mine, too.

Interviewer:   So were all these ladies doing the same thing you were doing with the Federation?

Betty:  Not so much Federation. I worked within the Federation with Cec Wasserstrom and Sarah Schwartz. They were really terrific women. Both of them were very brilliant women and they helped me.

Interviewer:   Would you say Sarah Schwartz was like a role model?

Betty:  Yes, I think so. She was a wonderful woman.

Interviewer:   Was your mother involved with charities? As you were growing up?

Betty:  I don’t remember.

Interviewer:   How did you learn? How did you know?

Betty:  I got involved because of the Schiff family. Herb’s father was a philanthropist and it just rubbed off, I guess. My father was a very charitable man, too.

Interviewer:   You learned it as a youngster, then you met another family doing something similar.

Betty:  And my uncles were very involved in Federation when I was growing up.

Interviewer:   So, today, what are your favorite charities? What do you support?

Betty:  I think Federation is mostly what I do and I do a lot for ORT because my daughter is so involved in ORT and she’s gotten me involved.

Interviewer:   What does she do for ORT?

Betty:  She’s on the national board.

Interviewer:   Which daughter?

Betty:  Patty. They gave a dinner in her honor last year. She’s done a lot of good work for ORT. She’s raised a lot of money for them

Interviewer:   And this is all on a volunteer basis.

Betty:  Yes, absolutely.

Interviewer:   That’s nice. We need people like that.

Betty:  My daughter, Susie, is head of the Women’s Division of Federation in New Haven. And, Janey, too, is very involved.

Interviewer:   So you and Herb set role models for your children and they are following in the charitable areas as well.

Betty:  I think so. They’re all very charitable. They all do very well.

Interviewer:   Excellent. And I’m sure they’re teaching their children.

Betty:  I think so.

Interviewer:   How many times have you been to Israel?

Betty:  I couldn’t count.

Interviewer:   A lot of times? What’s your feeling about Israel?

Betty:  I think it’s a wonderful country. And the park is beautiful.

Interviewer:   Tell me about the park. First of all, the name of the park.

Betty:  It is The Herbert and Betty Schiff Park located in Katamon, a suburb of Jerusalem. It’s located high on a hill and it’s absolutely beautiful. Herb decided, through the Jerusalem

Foundation, to start this park and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction when I go over and run into people that are walking through the park and are enjoying it. There is also a big children’s playground there. There are a lot of benches to sit on. It’s really very much used and it’s a very wonderful park.

Interviewer:   What year was it dedicated?

Betty:  I’m not sure.

Interviewer:   Ten? Twenty years ago?

Betty:  Ten or more.

Interviewer:   Tell me about your relationship with the people of Israel. Dignitaries that you’ve met. Who entertained you?

Betty:  They’re all wonderful. Everybody is.

Interviewer:   Anybody outstanding?

Betty:  Teddy Kolleck is a wonderful man. He calls Herb occasionally and talks to him.

Interviewer:   Were there any outstanding women?

Betty:  I don’t think so. Herb has a cousin who lives in Israel. He’s on the Knesset and he’s a big man and we usually see him when we go over there.

Interviewer:   When was your last trip?

Betty:  My last trip was about a year ago. I went on the Lion of Judah Mission and Herb didn’t go. I saw Israel and saw Jordan that trip.

Interviewer:   Where did you go in Jordan?

Betty:  We went to the main city.

Interviewer:   You went to Amman? Did you go to Gerish?

Betty:  Yes. And Petra. It was wonderful. I loved Eilat because many years ago, in 1957, Herb and I had gone on a mission with one of the first Federation missions with Rabbi Friedman. The day we went to Eilat, they flew us there in an army plane and it was absolutely, completely bare and we were able to look across the sea to Jordan. But there was not a hotel – there were a few little shacks and that was it. We couldn’t stay there, there was no place to even eat. They took us right back in the army plane. So when I went last year and saw it, I could not believe how that city has risen from nothing.

Interviewer:   This was the first time you had been back to Eilat?

Betty:  This was the first time I had been back to Eilat. What a shock! The hotels, the city, the restaurants – the whole place is absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t get over it. What a change.

Interviewer:   Did you go on a trip recently with Rabbi Stavsky last year?

Betty:  No.

Interviewer:   Do you think you’ll go back to Israel again?

Betty:  Herb’s talking about it. We might. He says we should go someplace this summer. That’s about the only place I’d like to go back to.

Interviewer:   You and Herb have traveled extensively.

Betty:  That’s right. One of our best trips to Israel was with the Hebrew University. That was a wonderful trip. They took us to Masada. We sat on the hill and they did the City of Lights in Masada. It was the only time they’d done it in English – it’s usually done in Hebrew. They did it in English for this group from the Hebrew University and there were people in that group from all around the world. It was one of the most fantastic trips we ever took.

Interviewer:   How about other trips around the world that you’ve been on?

Betty:  We’ve taken all kinds of trips. They’ve all been wonderful. Herb liked to travel so we used to travel a lot. We’ve been almost everyplace. There are not many countries we haven’t hit, except Australia. I wouldn’t go to Australia with him so he had to go there alone. It was too far away. I never wanted to leave the children to go that far.

Interviewer:   What would be your favorite trip of all trips? Favorite site? Highlight?

Betty:  I don’t know. I loved Hong Kong. I thought that was a great city.

Interviewer:   Is there anyplace you haven’t visited that you’d like to go?

Betty:  No. I’ve been to most places.

Interviewer:   Anyplace that you’d like to go back to?

Betty:  No, I don’t think so.

Interviewer:   Turkey?

Betty:  Yes. We took a private boat to Greece. We were on that trip ten days with another couple. It was a wonderful experience, going around the Greek Islands, We’ve done some wonderful trips.

Interviewer:   And I’m sure you have more plans.

Betty:  Herb used to go to Italy almost every summer because we had an office there in Florence. He’d work for awhile and we’d almost always take a vacation in a different place in Italy. So I think I’ve been to almost every place in Italy.

Interviewer:   Tell me a little about that. There was an office in Florence. This would have been a part of Shoe Corporation?

Betty:  That’s right.

Interviewer:   Would that have been an office because shoes were being made in Italy?

Betty:  That’s right. Buying Italian shoes in those days.

Interviewer:   Were there any other countries where they would have purchased shoes?

Betty:  Yes. Herb went to Taiwan. I might have gone with him once. Most of the time, he went alone. They got a  lot of shoes from Taiwan.

Interviewer:   So they would go to shoe manufacturers in these countries and buy from them?

Betty:  That’s right.

Interviewer:   Did Shoe Corporation employ anyone in those countries to manufacture shoes for them?

Betty:  I don’t know. You’d have to ask Herb that.

Interviewer:   When you and Herb married, did you have anything in your mind about a lifetime goal?

Betty:  No, I was too young to think about it. I was only nineteen. What would I care?

Interviewer:   As you have grown over the years, have you developed any particular goals for your life?

Betty:  Not really. Just go with the flow.

Interviewer:   As far as doing something special in the charity area or becoming the best golfer at the country club? Anything like that?

Betty:  No. I’ve been through that. I’ve had it. I’m just trying to rest on my laurels these days.

Interviewer:   When you were young, did you have any goals that you would have liked to achieve for yourself, your family, your daughters?

Betty:  Just to keep harmony in the family.

Interviewer:   As we sit here and reminisce about your life, Betty, tell me some of your most happy events and most pleasant memories.

Betty:  I think the children’s weddings and their having children. Those are all happy memories for me. I’m really very involved with the family. I like to be.

Interviewer:   I’m sure you’re very close with your daughters.

Betty:  I am. I try to be.

Interviewer:   Also, life is not perfect. When you look back, what mistakes do you recognize that you did?

Betty:  That’s a hard one. I really don’t know.

Interviewer:   Along the same lines, if there was something you could have changed, what would it have been?

Betty:  I don’t really know.

Interviewer:   Is there anything you would like to tell me that I haven’t asked about your life?

Betty:  I don’t think so.

Interviewer:   I need a little help with the Schiff family tree. I know that there was Robert. I know his first wife was Rebecca Lurie. I also know that his second wife was Ann Rose and I know the children, Herb and his sisters. But I’m having difficulty with Robert’s brothers. Can you tell me their names?

Betty:  There was Ephraim, Albert, and Morris, and sister Gertrude.

Interviewer:   And they were all born in the old country and came to this country?

Betty:  I think so.

Interviewer:   How are the Luries related?

Betty:  I guess that Rebecca had a brother who was Lou Lurie who was very influential in the family. He lived in Cincinnati.

Interviewer:   So there was Ephraim, Albert, Morris and Gertrude, the younger sister. Can you tell me who she married?

Betty:  Gertrude was Greenberg in Columbus. I don’t think she always lived in Columbus. Her son was Eddie Grayson. They changed their name from Greenberg to Grayson.

Interviewer:   So Eddie would have been the son of Gertrude.

Betty:  And Howard was a Grayson, too. And they had a sister. I can’t remember her name. Gertrude Greenberg was a wonderful lady. She took care of Herb’s father in his last ten years. She took him to California and they lived in a retirement village. Robert had nurses and Gertrude looked out for him.

Interviewer:   So did Robert die in California?

Betty:  Yes.

Interviewer:   He’s buried in Columbus?

Betty:  Yes. Herb’s stepmother, Ann, died in California. Actually, she died in an airplane coming back to Columbus but she’s buried in California.

Interviewer:   Gertrude would have been Herb’s aunt?

Betty:  Yes.

Interviewer:   Ephraim was an uncle?

Betty:  Yes. Ephraim was much older. His sons were Saul, Jack and Bill. Then there were some daughters – twins. They were Molly After and Frieda Schrieber. Also Ann, she married Oscar Fleckner.

Interviewer:   Ephraim had sons, Saul, Jack and Bill. Who are Saul’s offspring?

Betty:  They live in New York. He has three daughters, Barbara, Carole and Simone.

Interviewer:   Any sons?

Betty:  No.

Interviewer:   And who are Jack’s children?

Betty:  You know his kids. Leonard, Bob and Jerry. No daughters.

Interviewer:   Did Gertrude have any more kids?

Betty:  No. Eddy and Howard. And they have a sister. I can’t think of her name.

Interviewer:   Who was Gertrude married to?

Betty:  I never knew him. He committed suicide before I came into the family. She married again but I can’t think who her second husband was.

Interviewer:   And Morris?

Betty:  Morris had one daughter – Shirley. She lives in Detroit.

Interviewer:   Do you know her last name?

Betty:  Weiner.

Interviewer:   Did Shirley have any children?

Betty:  Yes, but I don’t know their names.

Interviewer:   Albert?

Betty:  Albert was married to Ethel Zox. They have one daughter – Elaine. They had a son, Herbert, but he died young. He was in an automobile accident.

Interviewer:   Was there a Frankel relative?

Betty:  The Frankels were related to the Zoxes.

Interviewer:   How did they become related to the Schiff’s?

Betty:  Through Ethel who was a Zox. Her mother and Ef Frankel’s mother were sisters.

Interviewer:   So those are the brothers and sisters of Robert that you know of. Greenberg was changed to Grayson. Rebecca Lurie had a brother, Lou. Would they be related to the Luries in Columbus that we know now?

Betty:  No.

Interviewer:   Is there anything else you would like to tell me about yourself? Your lifelong dreams? Your accomplishments? What you’d like to do?

Betty:  No.

Interviewer:   This will end this session of recording. Thank you very much, Betty, for sharing your personal life experiences with the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.