This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society was recorded August 31, 1996
as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project recorded by Janyce
Katz at the home of Charlotte and Ben Kahn, 2801 Brentwood Road. This will be their home
for only two more weeks because they are moving to Cleveland and it is our
community’s great loss.
Interviewer: Charlotte, where were you born, when were you born and what do you
remember from your childhood?
C. Kahn: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. I was the only daughter with four brothers. I
went to John Adams High School and won an Honor Key. I always worked – from the time I was
fourteen years old.
Interviewer: What part of Cleveland were you born in?
C. Kahn: Kinsman. It was called Kinsman then.
Interviewer: Was it a Jewish neighborhood?
C. Kahn: Yes, it was mixed. Our neighbors were not necessarily Jewish.
Interviewer: What was your father’s occupation?
C. Kahn: He was a manufacturer of ladies’ coats and suits. He was one of the early
graduates from the Fashion Institute of Design in New York.
Interviewer: Was he born in New York?
C. Kahn: No. He came from Austria-Hungary but he came from a section near Poland. And
my mother came from Austria-Hungary and came from the section near Czechoslavkia. They met
here and got married in something like 1908. My mother was sewing in one of the factories
– Cleveland had a great big garment industry at that time – her sister had preceded her
and brought her here and then the three brothers came afterwards.
Interviewer: Do you remember her maiden name?
C. Kahn: Yes. Schlesinger.
Interviewer: Do you know what year she came over?
C. Kahn: I’d say probably 1907. Something like that.
Interviewer: You said you have four brothers. Are you the youngest?
C. Kahn: No. I’m the oldest. And I now have two brothers left – the oldest and the
youngest. The other two are dead.
Interviewer: What are all their names?
C. Kahn: There was Harold, Norman, Eugene and Gary. My father’s name was Sam
Stoltz and he was a manufacturer of ladies’ coats and suits and he was very good at
Interviewer: What was the name of the company?
C. Kahn: Stoltz. Sam Stoltz. And he was in the area that is now the renovated area near
the lake front – West 6th Street which is near where they do a lot of evening stuff and
that sort of thing. Lake Erie was very busy at that time. Then the Depression came. I
started working at age fourteen.
Interviewer: What were you doing?
C. Kahn: I was selling men’s clothes, men’s haberdashery and stuff like that.
Interviewer: In your father’s store?
C. Kahn: No, no. He didn’t have a retail store. He was a manufacturer. I worked
for another place. I always had a job. Eventually I was a bus-girl, a waitress, a cashier,
and then I worked for a Dr. Brody who owned five theaters and I was the one in the office
who took care of the money. I used to work in the theaters as cashier – we worked seven
nights and two afternoons. We had loads of people waiting to get in, even in the winter
time. They used to give out dishes two nights a week. I used to walk from to 151st from
121st Street. I always had to walk far. When I was in junior high, I had to walk across
the park and we would be knee high in snow – in Cleveland, you know, the lake city, there
was always much more severe weather – Columbus has always been nicer weather. Then I
graduated from junior high and high school – they just closed John Adams this year – and I
went to college.
Interviewer: Were you active?
C. Kahn: Yes. Oh yes.
Interviewer: What were you involved in?
C. Kahn: I was involved in a lot of things but never in gymnastics or physical
exercise. You had to be eligible in four categories to get an Honor Key. I was very
Chemistry at that time. – I got one point for gym out of all the honor points. But it
was fun. I was on Student Council and all that stuff.
Interviewer: Did you hold an office while on Student Council?
C. Kahn: No. Well, I can’t really remember. But I always worked besides. I was
always excellent in chemistry and then I went to Western Reserve. You had to have at least
an 85 average to get in, which, of course, was no problem with me and, at that time, I
thought I’d be a chemistry teacher. I was always interested in science. Then the
Depression came along and I entered Mt. Sinai Hospital as a laboratory technician to study
there for a year on that subject because I had already had chemistry, and Dr. Klein was
the one who invented a lot of tests. He was the pathologist.
Interviewer: You were working with Dr. Klein?
C. Kahn: Yes. I spent a year there. Three months in every division. – Pathology,
Bacteriology, etc. Then I came to OSU and I got an A+ in Geography.
Interviewer: Was it a big transition to come to OSU?
C. Kahn: Yes. It was the first time I lived away from home. We never went to camp. I
always loved Geography and the professor wrote A+ – hope you do better next year. It was
always fun here and I enjoyed it very much.
Interviewer: Did you join a sorority?
C. Kahn: No. I didn’t have that kind of money. Who had that kind of money in those
years? Most of us didn’t. But I will say this, while I was a student at OSU, I was
invited to go to Temple Israel as a guest on one of the High Holidays. These people were
very nice who had us to dinner and then I saw the Temple right there on Bryden Road – and
they lived on Bryden – and I loved it immediately so we’ve always belonged to Temple
Israel. Then I went to work in the VA Hospital which was an easy job because you only
worked 5 ½ days.
Interviewer: What did the VA Hospital look like then?
C. Kahn: It was nice. It was always very clean. And then I went to the Poly Clinic and
did everything at that hospital. It was a little hospital.
Interviewer: Were you still in school?
C. Kahn: No. I was already graduated as a medical technician.
Interviewer: Let’s go back. Where did you live when you went to OSU?
C. Kahn: On 14th Avenue.
Interviewer: Was it an apartment? A dorm?
C. Kahn: No. It was a house and one of the girls went to high school with me. Several
of the girls and I were all friends. They didn’t have many sororities at that time.
It was a private home – I don’t remember that much about it. I was on the second
floor. Some of the girls were on the third floor and then I worked while I was here,
always on Saturdays. I went to Lazarus to apply but they wouldn’t let me off for
field trips so I went to work at the Red Robin Hosiery Shops where I had worked previously
on Saturdays in Cleveland – I could always get off for field trips for Geology. I have
always been interested in that kind of stuff.
Interviewer: Did OSU look a lot different then?
C. Kahn: It was much smaller than it is today. Then Sam Shepard killed his wife and
there was the Baby Schnooks trial and scandal, so my mother wouldn’t let me come back
to OSU. That’s when I went to Mt. Sinai Hospital after two years of college.
Interviewer: Did you finish college?
C. Kahn: No. I took this technical course in Medical Technology and then I got a job.
There was no problem with that. Then it was not mechanical. You had to make every solution
and everything. We were the first ones who did pregnancy tests on rabbits. The first ones!
We had a lot of fun. I always liked lab work. Then I was working in Florida . . .
Interviewer: When did you go down to Florida?
C. Kahn: I think it was about 1935. We had a sorority that met once a month on a Sunday
afternoon. And that Sunday afternoon, when we met, a friend of mine said she was going
down there to recuperate from an auto accident. So I said it was very nice. At that time,
people didn’t just go down to Florida like they do today. The next night, I went over
to Mt. Sinai to do a Wasserman Test which was a Syphliss test and Dr. Klein said to me,
“Miss Stoltz, are you happy where you are?” and when I asked why, he said,
“There’s an opening in Florida.” I said, “Where in Florida?” He
replied, “Miami Beach.” Then I said, “That sounds interesting.” So I
applied with the doctors. I worked for three outstanding doctors there. One was the
biggest heart specialist on the beach. The building I worked in at that time, was the
tallest building on Lincoln Road and we were on the fourth floor and we had a terrace and
air conditioning which was rare at that time. So Pearl and I roomed together and another friend of Pearl’s was Rose Gurevitz. I met Rose’s parents –
Slotzher – and the relatives and we had a lot of fun. One time, Ed Zuckerman came to the
door – Sam Gurevitz had fallen madly in love with Rose and he was considered an old
bachelor at that time.
Interviewer: How old was he?
C. Kahn: I don’t know. I really don’t know. And he was a partner with Stanley
Schwartz, Sr. in the law office. There were a lot of uncles. Everybody had big families in
those days. Then I met Rose and Sam and by that time, Pearl and I had moved to a hotel and
we had a third roommate. One day there was a knock on the door and there was Aaron and
Annette and they said, “Would you step out in the hall” and that’s when I
met Ben and he invited me to a very big affair at the Hollywood Beach. Sophie Tucker,
Milton Berle – it was a big time.
Interviewer: What was he doing down there?
C. Kahn: He took his mother there for a vacation. We had a lovely evening. Then about a
year later, I was out with someone else, some doctor from McGill’s University in
Cleveland and we stopped home to tell my mother where I was and she said,
“Somebody’s been calling you from Columbus, Ohio.” By that time, I’d
already been here to college and gone back to Cleveland. It was Ben calling and my mother
was very opposed to my coming here. I said, “Well, I’ve been down to
Florida.” She didn’t like the idea that I was coming to Columbus for a date.
Nowadays it would be different. But that’s how it happened.
Then we got married the following April and Ben’s brother, Bill, married Terri one
month later. And my sister-in-law, Mary, was supposed to get married in June. So she gave
up her date so these two marriages could take place. We lived in a furnished apartment and
at that time, I really wanted to go back to work but you didn’t do that in those
days. The apartment was on Town Street, 600 East Town Street. It was unfurnished. I even
made the curtains myself. So one day, we were out riding and Lou Reuben and Ben were good
friends and Lou told us that Abe and Fay Levison bought a house on Chesterfield. I said,
“You know, I’ve seen that name. Where is it?” He said, “I’ll take
you there.” They had just gotten a new Buick so we went over there and the next house
was for sale, so I said, “Let’s go in” and Ben said, “Oh, no!”
and I said, “I’m going in.” So I went in and the house was lovely. We
bought it the day war was declared, December 7, 1941. We lived there 11 ½ years.
We had gone from an unfurnished apartment on East Town Street to the Royal York, which
was quite empty at the time we went in – then we lived upstairs of a two-story house on
Bryden Road and there were no sidewalks. I used to tie my daughter to a tree just to be safe. I hung out the clothes and schlepped them upstairs.
Interviewer: Was that a Jewish area?
C. Kahn: Yes. Sort of. Temple Israel was still there. We lived upstairs of Rose Cohen
and it was a nice two-family house. Then we saw this house on Chesterfield and that was
how we ended up buying it. We couldn’t get the kids into Bexley school by missing it
one day. They cut off the enrollment on December 31 and we didn’t know anything about
it because we lived in Eastmoor and at that time, there were no groceries in the
neighborhood. I used to get the car two days a week and that’s when I did the
Interviewer: Where did you go?
C. Kahn: Well, there was an inter-urban that came from Newark, Ohio and when that went
down, we three sisters-in-law shared cars. We each got it two days. I don’t remember
if we had a personal car in those days. The brothers had a store car that picked them all
up and they went to work together in the morning. By that time, the store was at 24 North
High Street. The first November that Ben and I were married, I was at a B’nai
B’rith Women’s meeting at the Neil House. There was a lot of rigmarole and a lot
of fire trucks so I walked down. At that time, the store was on the second floor on Long
and High over a five and ten cent store. I came closer and the fire was right there. Next
door. What had happened, it came over from the roof. They were unloading jewelry which is
a very important time before Christmas and taking it over to City National Bank (they were
terribly nice to them). It was a very cold and icy winter and Ben had to help set up. From
then on, we always worked in the store around Christmas time and I always did some
decorating and made tablecloths to display silver.
Interviewer: Was Ben in the jewelry business when you met him?
C. Kahn: Yes, but they were on the second floor in a little store at Long and High.
Interviewer: Did he start the business?
C. Kahn: He and his two brothers but Ben was the inspiration for the start of the
business. He was working at Gilbert Shoes and he said, “I’m going into business
and if you want to join me, fine.” Two of his brothers joined him and one
didn’t. Ben and Bill and Ray were the founders of the business. Then Cy eventually
came back and worked for them but he didn’t stay. He had a print shop at the time.
And the youngest boy was in high school when Ben and I got married and then he went into
the service so he wasn’t around until later on. So we used to help out and I did this other kind of decorating and became involved with both B’nai B’rith
and with Jewish Women’s Council. Council’s always been my love.
Interviewer: Did Council exist when…
C. Kahn: Oh yes. I can never forget when I went to the first meeting. Rose Gurevitz
asked me to come to a meeting. She was a very beautiful girl. I went to the meeting and
Amy Lazarus wore gorgeous orchids every day. Simon L. would bring her a fresh orchid from
his greenhouse. I think he lived in the house Diane Cummins owns now. Council has always
been the Main organization that I’ve been involved in. I liked the kind of ladies
that volunteered there and we used to have a “Queen for a Day” program which was
a very exciting time.
Interviewer: What was “Queen for a Day”?
C. Kahn: An outstanding volunteer was honored and she didn’t know in advance.
There was a great big gold chair for her to sit on and a lot of things given to her and
then the Maramor used to knock itself out to make sure everything was nice.
Interviewer: What was the Maramor?
C. Kahn: A very fine restaurant. They used to have wonderful top notch entertainers.
Interviewer: Where was it?
C. Kahn: Between Third and Fourth, on Broad Street, there was a very fine dress shop
called Mrs. Eugene Gray’s and the Maramor had gift items that were always gorgeous
and they had very fine food. It was just a very different period of time.
Ben used to work seven days and seven nights a week. Eventually they cut off Saturday
evenings and then Friday evenings. When all the stores were open on Monday and Thursday
nights, I used to schlep the kids down and we’d have dinner at Mill’s Cafeteria
and do the shopping which was always a chore because there were never seats for the mother
to sit down. Now you can get gorgeous children’s clothes that are matched – I used to
knock myself out trying to get cute things for the kids.
Council did many things – we used to have a group that went out to what was
Children’s Restoration Cottage – called Nightingale Cottage and they read to the
children. We were always involved in raising money – we did it with tax stamps and
jellies. We did what was called a triple collection – it was the stamps, jellies, and . .
. I can’t remember what the third item was but we had to count those tax stamps. We
also had tax stamps for the pre-school. We easily worked until 1:00 in the morning – getting things together. We didn’t have secretaries, we didn’t
have any help like that. We started running rummage sales – twice a year – Fall and
Spring. Inez Feitlinger was president at that time. We collected clothes and kept them at
our houses, then Kahn’s truck would pick them up and take the clothes down. We rented
a storeroom next door to Don Erkis. We had no toilet facilities, no heat, and we had a pot
bellied stove which we stoked ourselves. Somebody would come by at the end of the week and
buy everything. If we had to go to the bathroom, we went into Don Erkis’, he had a
tile place. Everyone was very supportive and especially when we started the pre-school.
Interviewer: What year was it that you started the pre-school?
C. Kahn: I can’t remember dates and I never kept all the publicity. Rose Schwartz
was the inspiration for the Jewish pre-school and she had come from Connecticut or Maine
and she was gung-ho about a pre-school. Her husband, Al, was involved with the Columbus
Association for the Blind and he had a home where the blind would meet – called Monet
House. We used to have a Mother’s Day Program there and the blind would come there
because it was a sort of social center for them. A lot of them lived in that area. One
time, on a Mother’s Day, we walked in and Mayor Sensenbrenner was already there. He
didn’t miss a trick. He was marvelous.
Interviewer: Did somebody call him?
C. Kahn: No. He was just there – first thing in the morning. We used to put on a
birthday party every now and then and Dr. Cabakoff would come and sing. We did a whole
program for people who attended. Ben eventually became very involved and there were some
very lovely people. One family, the husband repaired and installed organs. Their name was
Brandt. I think they’re still in business today – Alesha Brandt – and Harry Ader who
worked for the county. There were a number of us. The women formed an auxiliary. We cooked
and served the dinner and cleaned up afterwards.
Ben was involved in getting work for the blind and, through his connections with some
of the factories where he used to collect money, they bought a building called the Vision
Center. I think it was located at McKinley and High. Ben was the one who saw to it that
they got work from the big factories, making pallets and things like that so the blind
could earn some money. Then it became a psychological center to help people so I
don’t know exactly what’s being done. I know that Mark Feinkonoff came into the
picture at one time and he stayed after we were sort of out of it. But Nationwide
Insurance came, made the drapes, put them up, taught the help how to clean the buildings,
how to clean the bathrooms, and they never charged one penny. They were very generous donors.
So we worked for the blind. We worked for the pre-school. Al Schwartz did the publicity
for the pre-school and he worked for the blind. And that’s how we became involved
with Monet House and the Vision Center. One thing sort of led to another. The pre-school ,
we had an opening to notify the community that there was going to be a fund raising for
the pre-school. Not a big fund raising, just an opening dart.
Interviewer: Did you have children that needed to go to pre-school?
C. Kahn: They were coming along. Most of us had young children, two or three years old
– something like that. We did this over Reuben’s Pawn Shop. There was a dance studio
– I cannot think of the man’s name but he let us use his studio for this opening
event. It was an old building. We had a two-unit burner. Herb Lennich and Al Shkolnik and
a lot of them lent a hand and we were cooking hotdogs galore on this two-unit burner in
these big pots. There was such a positive response.
Then we had a Mother’s Day Club for the pre-school and we used to meet and those
are some of the pictures there. By that time, we were living on Chesterfield. The husbands
were very interested and during my administration (one of the times I was president), we
changed it to the Mothers’ Club one afternoon (most of the mothers did not work at
that time) and the Fathers’ Evening (mothers & fathers) – Parents’ meeting.
The home was loaned to us by Yak Gilbert and it was over on Bryden Road. Rose’s
children cleaned and stoked the furnace during the winter, kept everything going and they
took care of the house. Al Schwartz was very cooperative, he did the publicity and things
like that, and he always lent a hand. Fanny Shkolnik had five children so she was a part
of this more years than the rest of us.
Interviewer: What kind of curriculum did you have?
C. Kahn: Oh, Rose Schwartz was in charge of everything. She wore two hearing aids with
big batteries, she was buxom and she was an inspiration. They moved the pre-school to
Agudas Achim and then to the Jewish Center but it was founded by Rose Schwartz. Several
years ago, Adair Schwartz was going to write a book about her mother, and I sent her about
a dozen pictures of the pre-school groups but the book was never written so finally I
called Adair about two years ago and I asked her if the book was being written. She said
the time had passed so I asked her to return the pictures which I gave to the Historical
Society. Rose and Al were terrific people. Al always did the background. Herschel was one
of the boy’s names. Herschel and Adair live in California now. Fanny Skolnick would
see them more frequently because she would go to California every year.
Interviewer: How did the war impact the Jewish community?
C. Kahn: Oh, some people had to go to service. Myer Mellman’s brother founded the
Jack Place and during the evening, Ben and his brothers went over there to work – after
store hours. Aaron and Cy went to service but the other three brothers didn’t. It
wasn’t easy because you worked all day and then went to the machine shop. Everybody
did something. Sugar and meat were rationed.
Interviewer: Were there any special programs to help the Jews overseas.?
C. Kahn: No. Not that I know of. We were not involved in that way. But in 1946, Ben and
I and my closest girlfriend and her husband were in Montreal. We heard a lot of shusking
while in one of the shops. Finally, we said, “What’s going on?” And they
said, “War has been declared and we have to raise money for Israel.” This was in
Montreal! And all these business people were getting together to raise money for Israel.
That’s when we heard about the Six Day War. We didn’t hear about it being six
days – just that there was war and they needed help.
Interviewer: What do you remember when you were Council president?
C. Kahn: I was president three times. When we moved into this house (we’ve lived
here 43 years), not long afterward, I became president of Council and president of the
women’s division of the Columbus Federation. We didn’t have secretaries. Ben
Mandelkorn had just come and he proved to be a wonderful guy for everybody but at that
time, we thought he was a bit brash. But he knew what he wanted to create and he’s
done a fabulous job. So he met here at the house the first time I was president – at the
Federation and Council of Jewish Women and we had no secretary so I was up hours every
night doing the work. Then we started the rummage sales.
Interviewer: That’s when the Nearly New Shops . . . .
C. Kahn: Yes, but we used to do them twice a year. One thing led to another and we
thought we needed more time so Beverly Skilken was a vice president at that time and she
offered to work full-time. Jean Stone was president and her husband was a lawyer and we
bought a building on Livingston and that’s how we got into it full-time. Then it
became a treacherous area – the girls didn’t want to go there – so Ann Friedman and
Gerta Zipser, whose uncle Max brought her here – would stay and see that everything was
alright. He was a very fine gentleman. The neighborhood became bad, and we sold the place
and Bev Skilken found a place on Maplewood and then we outgrew that place so she found the
place on Broad street. Now, of course, we’re in a beautiful location on East Broad at
Town & Country. Then in this location, Judy Maybrook and Ruth Langer have been
painting and they’ve done a fabulous job. We were fortunate to get this beautiful
After Rose Schwartz left the pre-school, Barbara something was the next person in
charge and she was there a good many years. She was there until two years ago. We’ve
been fortunate. There’s been very little change in the pre-school. The facility at
the Jewish Center is very nice. It was built for the pre-school when they built the old
Interviewer: Where was the old Center?
C. Kahn: Right in the similar location – a little bit over.
Interviewer: Where the Heritage House is now?
C. Kahn: Sort of – in there. But I was in charge of a great big meeting – we had 650
people coming to lunch because we used to have a lot of luncheon meetings. We used to
originally meet every month and we had to be ready for a meeting every month and the
bulletin went out every month. We were having this huge luncheon (650 ladies) and the
Jewish Center at that time was new – not THIS one but the former one. In order to keep the
kosher kitchen, we had to come in through the back and to set up the tables, we had to go
across the whole gymnasium. We went back and forth with every bit of food and it
wasn’t easy. Harold Eisenstein used to have these seats that went upward for his
plays. He was very creative. We were always extremely fortunate to get someone like him –
he worked very hard. He still works behind the scenes – he is the creative force of the
Mayer Rosenfeld was head of the Jewish Center at that time and Reva Gordon, who was
Mayer’s aunt, lived at Cambridge Arms. There used to be a social center called
Shanfarber House. When the German refugees came after World War II, they made beautiful
pastries, sandwiches and beautiful aprons that they sold so they could have some money and
that was done at the Shanfarber House. That was Betty Weston and Ann Friedman’s
father. He was one of the men who really created the Federation, too, because he used to
go to the little business people and collect money for charity. They used to come to our
store and they were proud to be asked by E.J. Shanfarber. Joe Summers’ father was
also involved. The spark was really Shanfarber. It’s unfortunate that both girls are
dead and Oscar is dead, too, but there are their heirs left. In the early years, Fran
Gundersheimer put on skits, Fern Levy and she were close friends. Three big department
store wives were members. Fern Levy, Frances Gundersheimer and Amy Lazarus. They were all
part of the group.
Interviewer: Did Council get a different kind of person than B’nai B’rith
C. Kahn: Oh yes. B’nai B’rith were more local women. I remember being in a
show and we had to go up to Lily Bloom’s Dance Studio to learn the steps. B’nai
always did something good. We had a fund raising for B’nai B’rith and on the
tables at Valley Dale were bowls of chips and pretzels and you had to buy your soft
drinks. We were such a sell-out! Mickey Katz, Joe Gray’s father, came. It seemed like
every Jew in town was there. I was involved with hospitality at that time. Everybody did
everything – it didn’t matter what you belonged to, you just always lent a hand to
any activity that was important.
Council used to meet at Temple Israel on the lower level. Most of the girls involved
were Temple Israel members. All the meetings were held there. Jean Madison from
Madison’s was in charge of the teas. She loved flowers. There was always something.
You’d always lend a hand and something else would develop.
Interviewer: The Mickey Katz affair – was this a B’nai B’rith event?
C. Kahn: A big B’nai B’rith affair.
Interviewer: Do you remember what year it was?
C. Kahn: No.
Interviewer: What did you do for B’nai B’rith?
C. Kahn: I was in some of the shows and was on the Hospitality Committee at that
particular affair. Everyone knew everyone – it was a smaller community then. And Ben had
grown up here so he knew a lot of people that I didn’t know until after we were
married. Dorothy Hepps was the delicatessen. Marty Gadofsky was the grocery
Interviewer: When did this all move into the Bexley area?
C. Kahn: Oh, I’m not good with years. I’d say Marty moved into the Bexley
area after World War II. When the A&P came to the corner of James & Broad, that
was a big thing. We had a grocery store in the neighborhood. So you have to realize that
things change and evolve. We had a game here every Wednesday night for fifteen years.
Interviewer: What game?
C. Kahn: I forget. Mahjong. Canasta. I brought Mahjong to Columbus when I came here. I
used to first play with Esther Melton – she had Sam change his name from Mendlawitz to
Melton. We used to play – Florence Melton, Helen Skilken, Helen Yenkin, Eleanore Yenkin,
and Myrtle Katz. We had a game – two tables. One night Myrtle made a remark. She had gone
to an aunt’s funeral and she said, “It’s hard to realize that we’re the next generation.” Herman was involved and I was involved in Hillel. My son and daughter were involved in their fraternity and
Interviewer: What did you do for Hillel?
C. Kahn: I can’t answer that. Dr. Beckman was in charge of the business department
at OSU. He was involved with Hillel and Milton Parker was involved. All the community
leaders – Herman Katz, Ben Yenkin – all of us – we just did things.
Interviewer: If you were to look back and say, “I’m most proud of.”
C. Kahn: I don’t know. I’m proud of my affiliations with so many different
things. I also belonged to another group – Japanese Flower Arranging which I’ve
loved. When Ben was involved with the Vision Center, I was involved. Ben was helpful with
the Council of Jewish Women. Don’t forget that the old Hillel was not what it is
today. It’s now a beautiful structure and Larry Schaffer is the money man there. A
lot has happened in the past several years. Rabbi Kaplan was a wonderful Rabbi – we all
loved him. He inaugurated a lot of programs. Today there seems to be a lot of money coming
in – through Federation and a lot of grants through Foundation and Federation enabling
young people to go to Israel. Years ago, we didn’t do that. We had to save up our own
money and go. I’ll never forget Reva Gordon used to set up the industry for the
German refugees – when she used to go, she went for a week or two. Now her health changed
and they started going down for most of the winter. The same thing happened, one time, we
were going to Mexico – Herman & Myrtle Katz had been there a couple weeks and they
said be sure to rest before going out the first night so your system adjusts, and
don’t touch the water. People didn’t go away for a whole season like they do
now. They just went for a couple weeks.
There’s a lot of young folks who moved here after going to college in Columbus
because they love it here. Well, I love Columbus. I used to go to the Hartman Theater on
Saturday afternoons and went almost way up to the upper balcony.
Interviewer: Were you on the board at Temple Israel?
C. Kahn: No. I couldn’t take on one more thing. But our family was very involved
and active at Temple Israel.
Interviewer: Did you grow up Reform Jewish?
C. Kahn: We weren’t terribly religious. Not unlike Jews in Israel. They’re
not terribly religious either. Ben’s folks were Orthodox. Then Ben Yenkin built a
little house for his parents and when they died, Mother and Dad Kahn bought the house and they lived
there until they both died. It was near the Shul so they could walk.
Interviewer: Is there anything else you’d like everyone to know about what
you’ve done for the community?
C. Kahn: No, not really. I’m not that kind. When something needed to be done, we
did it, and we were glad to do it. Some jobs were charitable, some were fun. I always
loved Columbus. I never regretted trips we took.
Interviewer: What was your favorite trip?
C. Kahn: I’d say Alaska. We traveled Europe for two months for our 25th
anniversary and saw a lot of things and they were lovely. It was a later trip and the kids
gave it to us a few years ago for our anniversary. We had made arrangements to go to
Australia, New Zealand and Fiji so we said we’d go there next year. The Alaska trip
was easier than some of the others – shorter, on a ship. We were on a cruise this past
spring – 1995 – the kids surprised us, met us and drove us around Florida. I hadn’t
been there for many, many years and we drove around and saw all the changes. I was unhappy
to see that because Lincoln Road used to be very elegant.
Interviewer: Did you see your old apartment?
C. Kahn: The hotel where we lived was torn down. It used to be safe there – it’s
so different now. They drove us around. We saw the Cuban area where there is music and
night life, and they took us to the very famous restaurant, Stone Crab. It is still very
popular. We drove around the university. Lynn went there for two years. Florida just
isn’t the same. I couldn’t go there and spend the winter.
Interviewer: What will you miss the most about Columbus?
C. Kahn: The activities. The Jewish Center is so close. The theater is close. When you
live in Bexley, nothing is too far. I couldn’t live in Gahanna or New Albany. We live
close to Broad Street and it’s easy to get around. There’s major plays in
Columbus, the symphony has improved tremendously. I don’t think I’ll drive
around too much in Cleveland, but we’ll adjust.
Interviewer: Columbus will miss you.
C. Kahn: I have felt part of Columbus for a long time. I feel where Ben worked for the
blind, we worked for the pre-school, for the Council – listen, when Beverly opened the Bag
Sale, they were lined up and couldn’t wait to get in. There’s so much creativity
but most of the people today who belong to Council are college graduates, some have professions. You can’t schedule afternoon meetings much
anymore and you try to schedule around whenever the girls can meet. It’s different.
Ben and I have helped in the community and it’s made a difference. Whether it’s
a pre-school, a Council, a B’nai B’rith event. That was a very important thing.
Now it’s harder for them to get meetings together and those are always in the
evening. But like everything else, television has changed a lot of lives.
Interviewer: There’s not as much community as there was?
C. Kahn: Not in the same way. They’ll support you financially but won’t get
as involved. In the earlier years, there was less money, no tv, and you were involved. You
did the job. It’s different today. People are different. I remember one couple from
Temple – they never missed their card game. Well, today it’s less important. I
don’t say there aren’t people who play cards, I’m just saying it isn’t
as important to keep the men interested and amused as it was in previous times. Now they
can sit and watch a game on tv and not move their tuchas. They can be comfortable – most
of the Jewish men are family oriented – not everyone – but in general. Couples are getting
married later and the world’s much different today. Cleveland Jewish News is a paper
which is better than this one (Columbus Jewish News). It’s one paper that I can
discontinue. There’s just nothing there, but it used to be a very interesting paper.
We knew who they were, what was going on and all that stuff. You should read the Cleveland
Jewish News. So there’s a lot of wonderful articles in each issue and it’s run
by women. There’s the social editors that tell you all that’s going on at all
the different affairs.
Interviewer: Did you ever go to Israel?
C. Kahn: Oh yes. We were there about three years ago.
Interviewer: Was that the first time?
C. Kahn: Oh no. We were there in the 70’s for the first time on a Summit thing for
Council. And then we went again and this time we took our children and grandchildren and
my youngest brother and his wife came, too. It was a family-oriented trip. And for the
first time, they had snow Christmas Eve. We were slushing around in the slush, but it was
great to be there. We had been there twice before for Summit – in the 70’s and 80’s. Each
time it’s different.
The first time we went, we went nightclubbing in a cellar as part of the tour. Now
I’d be reluctant to go into a cellar in Israel, but the talent is wonderful.
We’ve done a nice amount of traveling. We went to the Orient. We were also involved
in the development of the Bexley Activity Club. I guess I’m the only one left of the originals.
Interviewer: What is the Bexley Activity Club?
C. Kahn: The Bexley Activity Club is for seniors 55 years old and older. We had a
Council member, Sis Bloom, who was working for the department of something in Bexley. She
called me and said they were forming a group and would I go to the Jeffrey Mansion – they
were having a meeting there and I should go and see what they were planning. I went to the
meeting and didn’t know a soul and I didn’t know why I had been asked. Eleanor
Resler was supposed to be there, but she didn’t come. I did see Walter Tucker and
Burt Bernlor and some others and I wondered why I was there. They called the group – BOAC
– the Bexley Activity Club for those 55 years and older. Walter Tucker was head of City
Parks Department and Burt Bernlor was head of Athletics Dept. at Capital University and I
said to myself, “What do they want with me?” I thought I was representing
Council for Jewish Women. They were planning a potluck dinner and Ben and I went to this.
Only a handful of people showed up. As years went by, the group grew and pretty soon we
had over 100 people and we outgrew Jeffrey Mansion. After Jeffrey Mansion was remodeled,
and made like a meeting place, we hired someone. Our group also made a lot of day trips
around Ohio. Then we had an overnight in Marietta. Carleton Smith, head of Athletics in
Bexley, always picked out the least expensive places to eat and I think he made a dollar
on each trip for the organization. When Carleton left, we had about $2,500 in the bank and
then after Jenny Walsh, a trip was planned to Nova Scotia and we were on it. Mary Ellen
O’Kelly was hired to lead the group – she was just a kid – a petit little thing – and
Walter and Dana Whiting (who just died) sort of overlooked everything. Mary Ellen had two
little kids and was in the process of getting a divorce. She had to support herself.
We were the first of the senior citizen group. Mary Ellen has done a tremendous job.
Right now, they’re on the West Coast. A lot of things became available – theater,
etc. – and Mary Ellen knows what’s coming up, she gets the tickets, etc. Many years
ago, there was a fellow on the radio by the name of Earl Green. His mother was a pianist.
We opened up the Columbus Museum of Art (before it was enlarged) to the community and we
served punch and cookies for the senior citizens. Earl Green’s mother was there
playing the piano forth crowds that came. That was the first of the senior citizen stuff.
The Bexley Activity Group was the first. Now every church has a group of senior citizens
and it is in such demand.
C. Kahn: It’s wonderful because the bus takes you right there and you don’t
have to worry about anything. Everything is arranged for you and it is wonderful!
We did a lot of things over the years. I’m the only one left from the original
Council group but many organizations developed from this. Now we go to the
church over here once a month for dinner. I never saved clippings, but I wish I had.
Ben was chairman of Bonds with Alvin Schottenstein one year and we were scheduled in the
garden at the Governor’s Mansion because Ben was very friendly with Governor Rhodes.
We had terrible weather so at the last minute, we moved everything to Tifereth Israel and
they did a beautiful job. After that, whenever we used the mansion, there were flowers and
lace tablecloths on the tables. I understand Voinovich opened the mansion for the Jewish
National Fund. Ben and Sensenbrenner were very close friends, and now Sensenbrenner’s
grandson is taking a Council seat, replacing M. D. Portman.
I went to a Women of Achievement event a few weeks ago and a colored girl sat down next
to me. I introduced myself and she said, “Kahn. Are you Kahn Jewelers? You gave us
some land for our church for the parking lot.” The big church on Long Street – I
think it was Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
Ben gave credit to women before they could get it. Now it is easy. Things have changed,
life changes and you have to change with it.
Interviewer: This concludes the interview with Charlotte Kahn.