It is the 21st of July, 2003. It is about 20 minutes after 2. We’re in the office of Mr. Frank Nutis who is in the printing business in Columbus, Ohio, Franklin County. He is a third-generation person and professional in the printing business. His family started it inEurope and it’s up to Frank to tell me about these things, not me. I am Richard Golden. I am the interviewer. Frank Nutis will be the narrator, the one who is being interviewed, the interviewee. And we’ll get started right now.
Interviewer: Good afternoon Frank on a rainy day.
Nutis: . . . .
Interviewer: Frank, what you and I have been talking about just previously
for a few minutes was the history of the Nutis Family and the printing industry.
Could you go into some detail on that, go back as far as you can?
Nutis: Well I go back as far as my grandfather in the 1880s in Russia. He was
a writer. He knew many languages and therefore they got into the printing
business. The printing business essentially, up to a few years ago in New York,
was pretty much a Jewish trade and that came from the fact that in those days
the only ones who could really read and write were the Jews and some Catholic
bishops. You find that even when you see “Fiddler on the Roof.” He had
no education but he knew how to read Hebrew; he knew the Siddur. And that
was always the Jewish way of life. They had to learn how to read and write and
so they got in the printing business and it’s continued down now. Now my son
Ira is the fourth generation in the business.
Interviewer: What about this piece of equipment I’m looking at here, a big,
black hand press I think. I can’t read the . . . .
Nutis: That was a press that my father, alav hashalom, started with in
Burlington, Vermont, when he came over in 1906, and that was when everything
was done, even before electricity. It was always done by hand power and we kept
that and I keep that in my office and somehow never forget how we all started.
Interviewer: Is it still in operation?
Nutis: Yeah, you can still operate it. Yeah, still operate it.
Interviewer: Well I’m looking at a beautifully, well-kept piece of
equipment here that seems to be the family trademark. Now where in Europe was
the family from originally, Frank?
Nutis: My father’s side was from Alexandros which is real close to Odessa
and that’s where they went to school besides going to the regular Jewish
school and part of the family came over. They were graduate engineers and they
didn’t like it here in this country and they went back because as an engineer
and a graduate, they did better. Some of them at that time, it was before the
revolution, they came over because after the Pogroms in 1904, 5, and 6, they
came over. Some of them came over as traditionalists and some of them came over
communists because that was the thing that they thought would help the Jews at
Interviewer: Do you feel that the family that went back, did you hear
anything from them? Did your parents hear anything from them?
Nutis: Oh yeah they heard from them but then that was before they went back .
. . . 1900. So when communism came they were part of the regime and that was
pretty much about it.
Interviewer: What about Frank Nutis and the family in the United States in
the early 1900s, the 1910s? Can you give us some background in Columbus? You
Nutis: My folks came, my father came originally to Vermont. I don’t know
exactly Burlington, how he got there. My mother’s father came from Lithuania
and they came in 1893. My mother went to school in Burlington and that’s where
she met my father. He started a printing business there. What was very
interesting was it was a small town and he came from a much bigger city. He didn’t
like it but a schoolmate of his that he went to school with in Russia lived here
in Columbus and . . . .
Interviewer: Can you mention that name?
Nutis: Well the name was Luper…know Fred Luper the attorney? Otis is
his grand- father, his great grandfather. But they all came from the city and
Luper wrote to my father and told him to come to Columbus because they had a big
immigration at that time of Jews from Russia and Poland and they needed a
printer who could set Hebrew type because it was the only language that they
could read. So they persuaded him to pick up his shop and move and come to
Columbus in 1913.
Interviewer: Was he married at that time?
Nutis: Yeah, married and had a child. And they came to Columbus. Lupers at
that time had a grocery store and they gave him credit and helped him get going
and that’s how it all came about. And he would set type and put out the post
cards and news that was available at that time in Yiddish and people could
Interviewer: Well I hear from you and others that there was a need for
Yiddish, and tremen- dously for Yiddish print because people were not that
knowledgeable in English but they were literate in Yiddish.
Nutis: Well that’s right. They all knew how to read and write in the
language that they came from, which was still Yiddish and of course the young
kids that came, they went to school where they learned English right away. The
older people, naturally, were on their own and they lived in their own ghetto
and they spoke the one language and it was difficult for them to learn another
language. So the language was always in Yiddish. And that was…themselves
…my father would have kept on until about the time of 1940 when Yiddish
was predominant. He’d go into the synagogue; the Rabbi spoke in Yiddish.
Interviewer: Did the printing industry in Columbus have any tie-in with the
New York newspapers? Was there any direct line for receiving news or . . . .
Nutis: Well I don’t know. We got into the commercial business and the
Yiddish became a sideline and I remember when I was a young fellow and I came
back from the army, they still needed some Yiddish and although I had big jobs
to do, relatively big jobs, I would still go back at night and set Yiddish for
Interviewer: So you could set type?
Nutis: Yeah, I could set type in Yiddish, yeah.
Interviewer: That’s a skill.
Nutis: Yeah, yeah it’s a skill. Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: This is an interesting thing and I’m glad that we were able to
start with this but we have to have a starting point here for the family. Well
let me go up a step further. Your mother’s side of the family, can you help us
out with that?
Nutis: Well my mother’s side is, came in the middle 1890s, they came to
Burlington, Vermont. My grandfather had to run from Lithuania; I don’t know, I’m
not sure why, but he had to run in the middle of the night and he left a wife
with four children and pregnant and he came here and he got a job. Now he sent
for the wife with five children and things were cold in Vermont so he ended up
with about 14. But then they all eventually moved to Columbus after my dad did
and they all came here.
Interviewer: So the struggle from raising a family from Europe and
transporting them seems to me the thread that you hear with a lot of our
Nutis: Well it is. It was probably the same as the New Americans that have
come over here in the last 20 years. It’s the same thing. They ran away from
Russia; they came here, didn’t know the language and when they came over, we
looked at them. But there’s generally three generations of people. They’re
the youngsters that go to school and they learn the language real quick. There’s
the middle age that gets jobs and then there’s the older age that yet above,
that are just stuck in – can’t learn the language, they’re past that age of
being able to really be efficient in learning it and they sort of stick together
’cause they can’t get jobs.
Interviewer: Well this is where we are with some of our own immigrants, the
Russian folks coming over in the last 20 years.
Nutis: Oh, that’s right. It’s very true.
Interviewer:…wants to make them. The older ones are more or less
static, they’re held in…
Nutis: Yes, that’s right. The middle generation, it probably didn’t take
them too long. I guess the best example is when the Russians started coming to
Israel. They said a lot of them were sleeping in the streets. But these were
engineers and it didn’t take them very long and they went to work and Israel
became second to the United States in high tech because of these people that
Interviewer: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Nutis: Well it’s part of our culture that educates and supports.
Interviewer: What about your education here in Columbus? What can you fill us
in on, we’ll take you back to kindergarten, heder, and so forth. Tell
us about those things.
Nutis: Well I had a private teacher. When I grew up, there was no all-day
school, no Columbus Torah Academy in the city. But my father secured a teacher
for me and I spent a lot of time studying and learning and I think if it wasn’t
for the time that was in the Depression and I wasn’t the only, I was the baby
of the family and they were somewhat hesitant of sending me away. But if it wasn’t
for that, I probably would have been in the rabbinate and I was always involved
and always interested in Jewish learning. ‘Course then I went on to college
and after I graduated just when the war broke out, I enlisted in the Army Air
Corps and I spent better than three years in the army. Then the war was over and
I came home.
Interviewer: Well this is typical of our generation, even though you’re a
few years older than I. I’m going to ask you, what year were you born, Frank?
Nutis: Born in 1921. I look forward, God willing, next year I celebrate my
second Bar Mitzvah.
Interviewer: Kanahora, as we say in…Mazel Tov.
Nutis: That’s right.
Interviewer: Well we’re talking about education here. What about Jewish
education in general in Columbus, Ohio? What can you contribute your feelings to
that, if you feel like talking about that?
Nutis: Well I knew. I was in that all my life. There were four of us that
started Torah Academy. It was Rabbi Rubenstein, Dr. Marvin Fox, Harry Gilbert
and myself. And we struggled to start it. I remember at that time we had to go
from door to door and knock on the doors and persuade people to send their
children because it was about 50 years ago. They believed in the separation of
church and state and this was something new and we finally got together and we
asked the Center for one classroom and two weeks before, somebody raised a
rumpus and we were not allowed to go into the Center. We were not recognized as
being new Americans.
This happened in the Jewish Center. And our teacher then
whose husband was in business, his son later became a rabbi at Tifereth Israel,
Mr. Zisenwine, didn’t want to get involved and she couldn’t even teach and
we couldn’t start that year. And we had another year where we also went out
and most of the children, even though we were getting, that was still the time
when we had all the German refugees. And the German refugees would send their
children. They didn’t know too much about this church and state and they came
back and figured the kids needed education. So we were able to garner maybe 15
children, start a class, and I remember we had the Columbus Hebrew School at
that time. And the man’s name was Mr. Ruttenberg. I can’t forget him. His
wife was accomplished. His wife had a good education and she was supposed to
And three weeks before school started he received a job in Pittsburgh as
being principal of one of the schools. She left and we couldn’t start school
that year. So we struggled and struggled until we finally started and no help
from Federation. We didn’t receive any money from Frederation I think the
first 17 years. Took that long. We’d go on the street and knock doors and ask
for money and somehow we came through.
Interviewer: Do you feel that there’s an improvement now in Jewish
education in our . . . .
Nutis: Oh there is, there is, but it’s superficial. We got involved since
all this terrorism in Israel and the new Americans who had been very active,
came to me one day and said, “You know, we come from a terrorist country
and we want to help.” So we sat down and that’s how we got the idea of
raising money for an ambulance. And then we got the Christians involved and
everybody got involved and well we not only raised money for one ambulance. We
raised money for two ambulances and we’re still working on it. And we found
what we wanted to do though was to get the children involved. And we went to all
the Sunday Schools, Reformed, Conservative, Orthodox, we went to the all-day
schools and we found out that the children knew very little of Israel.
All they know is what they see on CNN and what they read in the newspaper. And sometimes
it’s pretty hard to break through with some of the rabbis because they have
their hands full and they have congrega- tions who in the same way don’t want
to do too much. And what we found out was that not only the children don’t
know too much, but even the parents. Those of us who are active are active, and
those who aren’t seeing, it’s a lack-a-dasical thing. We possibly had the
most successful program because we were able to build across the line whether
they were Orthodox, Reform, secular, whether they were right or left. Blood was
blood, an ambulance was an ambulance protecting people. So we were able to put
down, and what we wanted to do, our whole idea was to put the tsadakah
box, the pushka, the charity box, in every home.
So maybe it’s the
mother who lit candles on Friday night, the kid would know to put a couple coins
in the box. I mean we knew we were not going to raise too much money from that
but what we were going to raise was, an idea where the children began to
understand that really what they were doing, that they were saving lives and
saving Jewish lives was important. But I tell you, it’s been an awful job to
get them to do something like that. And we are still going to be at it again
next year. We hope we can get more of them involved but I think it’s the only
thing we have involved to get people, get children at least. And that’s part
of education because to teach them for Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah,
the real thing is the mother gets involved two years ahead of time to plan the
date, to get the date in the Temple or synagogue when they’re going to have
it, to plan the party. The kid starts about a year ahead of time but when it’s
all over, all they’ve got is all the thank you notes for the presents and
there’s nothing left for the child.
Interviewer: Well what I’m hearing is that your philosophy is continuing
education, whether it’s raising money for what . . . .
Nutis: If we don’t have continuing education, if we don’t have a shot in
the arm, we know what we’ve got. You know when…over the country spent
I don’t know how many millions of dollars in taking the census as to how many
Jews we had, it was senseless to take it because we know with 52% in a marriage,
we’re going to have less Jews than we had before. And that’s all they found
out. Our big problem is what do we do and it’s very difficult. I sort of pity
a rabbi who’s got a congregation…intermarriage, mixed marriages, and
they’re only there for the life cycle. They come for a Bar Mitzvah and
leave or they come because some- body’s in the hospital and leave, and there’s
no continuity. I don’t know how they do it and I don’t know how they can
sleep with themselves because they all try so hard and the effort and what they
get is so little.
Interviewer: Well this is probably what we’re hearing all over the country,
Nutis: Yeah, that’s right.
Interviewer: And as far as the . . . .
Nutis: We don’t live on an island. It’s…
Interviewer: You know what I’d like for you to do. I’m looking at a
beautiful picture here. Would you mind reading that and I’ll explain later on
when I turn this tape in. First of all, I’m looking at a picture of Mogen
David . . . . of the Jewish, I don’t even want to say “Red
Cross” but I had to say it. But the organization that saves lives in Israel
and not recognized like it should be throughout the world. What does that say,
Nutis: Well it says the people of Central Ohio are buying an ambulance for
Israel. We can’t stop the suicide bombings but we can help the victims of
Interviewer: And there is the picture of the actual ambulance?
Nutis: Ambulance, yeah.
Interviewer: Right. In Israel, in Jerusalem? I can see it…
Nutis: It went to our sister city…Kfar Saba, the first one. The
second one is going to Jerusalem.
Interviewer: How much do you have to raise to produce a product like that?
Nutis: They’re about $70,000 each. But we raised better than $140- and we’re
still raising money. Now if you notice the first line that says “The people
of Central Ohio are buying an ambulance.” It doesn’t say, “The Jews
are buying an ambulance” because there’s a lot of Christians involved.
We’ve been, our support from the ecclesiastic Christians has been tremendous.
Interviewer: Why do you feel that’s a plus, Frank?
Nutis: Well there were, first of all, we need help from anywhere we can get
it. We need peace between people wherever we can get it. And there are
Christians who believe in what it says in Berashes, in the Bible, that
those that bless Israel will be blessed and those that curse Israel will be
cursed. And they believe in the peace of Jerusalem and they’ve come out in
droves where the Jews…They’ve shown that those people that believe,
who are enthusiastic and believe in…They…and believe that once
we all get to Jerusalem, it will be the second coming of the Messiah. Well I
have no objection with that because I figure by the time we get to Jerusalem,
then we’ll argue. In the meantime, all the help that we can get and all the
comaraderie we can get is important. And they’ve been out, I’ve been on
Christian radio programs and Christian TV and their response has been great.
Interviewer: Well this is a must and I have to say that you’re not the only
one that I am involved with that is similarly thinking about, get the allies
where you can get them because our enemies are out there in droves. So this is
interesting to hear. I want to move a little bit to travel. Where have the Nutis,
where has the Nutis family traveled in the last 20 years? What’s been some of
your activities in travel?
Nutis: Well we traveled, we’ve been to Europe. But I think our main travel,
our…travel has been Israel. I’ve been there, I don’t know, 25 times
since the war. I was on the National Cabinet of Israel Bonds for a long time and
I would be called so I would go and be there two or three times a year, maybe
three-four days each time. But I remember…happened to be on the National
Cabinet at the time of the Yom Kippur War and in order to be a Chairman in
Columbus, it was no big mitzeah, no big deal. Not too many people wanted
it. But to be a Chairman in New York or Los Angeles or Montreal, you really had
to be a guy with big chips and a big shaker and a big mover. So when I was
called, I went with these people and I remember we came in the day after the war
was over, the Yom Kippur War, and they flew us by helicopter into the Sinai
where we met the soldiers. Then they sent us up to the…and then to the
Hadassah Hospital where we saw the boys in casts and we were supposed to be
there to cheer them up. But when we saw these fellows laying with body casts and
arm casts and leg casts, in 10 minutes we all ran out of there. It was so
devastating. And that night we had dinner with Golda Meir and we all wondered
what it was all about, the suffering that Israel went through and the world not
caring. But when we went back again, we found out that the nation kept growing
and like I said at the beginning of this, they became #2 in high tech and they
became so advanced in so many other things and I think it’s one of the
proudest things in my life to be part of that.
Interviewer: Well this, we feel that you have shared that feeling with others
in Columbus. You can’t get everybody with it, but those people, and I had
taught the people about you and others like you, that the feeling spreads. Once
you talk to some of these people, you can…interest the people in the
need for support of Israel and the people of Israel.
Nutis: Yeah. Well several of my friends and myself have taken groups over to
Israel. We…to be part of it. We’ve taken Jews and Gentiles over. In
fact, this November I hope to go over and quite a few Christians have signed up
for the trip and we take them through as if we don’t know what they are,
whether Jews or Christians. We tell them one thing, that we’re going to take
you all over and we take them to places that you don’t normally go. And we
tell them that we’re going to take you into certain areas and when we take you
to those areas, you have to dress accord- ing to how those people live. You can’t
say, “I’ll do as I please,” or “I’m American, I’m going
to do as I please.” If you go into their venue, you go in as their guest
and if you want to go, we’ll tell you the day before. If the woman is wearing
shorts, we’ll tell you, “Put on a skirt.” If the shoulders are bare,
we’ll tell you to put on a scarf. And once we tell them that, we have no
problem and we take them all over. And nobody knows whether they’re Christian,
whether they’re Jewish, whether they’re secular, whether they’re Orthodox.
But we take them to orphan- ages. We take them to see Chasiddim, we take
them to see people, or how Israel lives. And when they get through, there’s an
appreciation that they have because they’ve seen how people live and how
families operate and that’s one of the things I enjoy.
Interviewer: This is good to hear. What do you feel that Frank Nutis can
contribute, what do you think Frank Nutis has contributed in his lifetime for
Columbus, Ohio, and the Jewish faith and the growth, but not only of Judaism but
of the Jewish needs and the Jewish philosophy in Franklin County?
Nutis: I think what we’ve contributed is a family where we’ve taught our
children and we can see our children, and we can see our children teaching our
grandchildren, and that to me is probably the greatest thing that I can
contribute to. You know, when I was a kid sitting in the synagogue one Saturday
afternoon, years and years ago, I heard two men behind me. As one man walked in,
one guy says, “That’s the principal,” and the other guy says,
“No that’s the interest.” And I turned around and I said, “What
are you guys talking about?” I was a young fellow and they were older and
they started laughing and they said, “We’re not talking business. We don’t
know whether that’s the principal that’s the son or whether that’s the
interest that’s the grandchild of somebody else that they’re talking
about.” And that’s what I have contributed and what my wife has
contributed. If we can raise our children and see our grandchildren follow the
lines that the generations before me have followed, then we continue what’s
important in Jewish life.
Interviewer: I think that sums it up pretty well from what I heard from Frank
Nutis today and would you like to say anything about what you hope the future
will bring in Columbus, Ohio’s Jewry.
Nutis: Well what worries me is that we segregated ourselves. It used to be a
generation ago when people either came from Europe or their children came from
Europe, they knew something and if they didn’t follow Jewish law or Jewish
customs, they knew what they were. Today we’ve lost that. We either have the
people who are really educated into it or we have the people that know very
little. There’s not too much grey matter. It like those who have gone to the
North Pole and those to the South Pole and we don’t have the bulk of the
people …maybe a couple of hours on holidays and on life cycles. Now I
think that for most of the group, that they may be a reawakening of tradition,
however …of tradition they have and I think that the fact that we’ve
been in business for Jews for 3360 years through good times and bad times and we’ll
Nutis: That’s right.
Interviewer: From your mouth to the Lord’s ears. Frank, I have to thank you
for this interview. It sounds like a canned speech but I swear to the Lord above
that it’s not. I’m bouncing it off the top of my head. I think you did from
your heart, from your pupik, and all I can say is thanks and I hope that
the community of Columbus listens to these tapes that we’re putting out.
Certainly I hope that they listen to Frank Nutis and this, the printing
industry, particularly the Yiddish tam, the flavor of Judaism is still
alive here. May I make one statement to you? It’s nice walking into your
office and seeing this old piece of equipment that did some good. I’m going to
close it there. Okay?
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