This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society was recorded at 1175 College
Avenue with Jacob Molar from Lancaster, Ohio, Sunday, December 8, 1996. Mr. Molar and his
son, David, drove in from Lancaster today for this oral history project and Jacob was
interviewed by Naomi Schottenstein.
Interviewer: Good afternoon, Mr. Molar.
Molar: Good afternoon.
Interviewer: Let’s start with your name.
Molar: Ok. My name is Jacob Molar. My family calls me Jack. The people in Lancaster,
most of them call me Jake and I’ve been called a few other choice names which I
Interviewer: We’ll continue with calling you Jacob if that’s alright with
Molar: That is very . . . ok.
Interviewer: Terrific. Jacob where were you born?
Molar: I was born in Lancaster.
Interviewer: And when?
Molar: November 1908. That makes me kinda’ an old man.
Interviewer: We’re going to have to figure that out, aren’t we? Meanwhile,
tell me who your parents were.
Molar: My parents were Morris and Rachel Molar.
Interviewer: And where were they from?
Molar: They were from a town in the Ukraine which they called Kiever Gabernia. In other
words, it was the state of Kiev and the town’s name was Bogoslov. They called it
Baguslav but I think on the map it’s shown as Bogoslov.
Interviewer: When did they leave Europe?
Molar: My father came to the United States in December 1905.
Interviewer: And your mother?
Molar: My mother and oldest sister came along in 1907. I’m not too positive about
that because I never did hear anything about the exact date as to when she arrived in the
Interviewer: Did your mother or father talk about why they left Russia?
Molar: Well, my father left Russia for the simple reason that he had already served his
military time in the army and at that particular time, the Boxer Revolution was taking
place and he didn’t want to go back into the service. Now you can make out of that
whatever you wish but that’s the reason he left Russia.
Interviewer: He wasn’t alone, that’s for sure. There were many people having
the same thoughts he had at that time.
Interviewer: Did your grandparents come here at all?
Molar: No. I never saw my grandparents. I never knew anything about them.
Interviewer: Did your parents talk about your grandparents at all?
Molar: They did talk a little about them but not a lot.
Interviewer: Ok. Tell us what your father’s occupation was when he came here. How
did he make a living?
Molar: Well, when he first got here, he came and landed in Boston and according to what
he said, that was in December 1905, and he said that he never saw a snow storm in Russia
like he saw when he landed in Boston. He went to Philadelphia because there were some
relatives there. I don’t know how long he was in Philadelphia but that’s where
he went . . . to Philadelphia. Then he eventually migrated west . . . .
Interviewer: All the way to Ohio.
Interviewer: What made him come to Ohio?
Molar: Well, I think he was going to meet up with a brother-in-law from Pittsburgh and
I don’t know what happened there but anyway, he was in Columbus for a short
period of time and then he came down to Lancaster and from Lancaster, he was supposed
to meet this brother-in-law in Parkersburg, West Virginia, but when he got down to
Nelsonville, the weather got bad so he decided to turn around and come back to Lancaster.
Interviewer: And the rest is history.
Molar: That’s where he wound up for the rest of his years.
Interviewer: Jacob, I’d like you to tell us about your siblings – their names, who
they’re married to and where they live.
Molar: My oldest sister, Hilda, was born in Russia, I think it was 1904. I was second
in line and I have a sister, Clara, who at one time worked in Columbus during the 30’s and
she has been living in Philadelphia for almost 50 years. I think next year will be 50
years that she’s been in Philadelphia. I have a brother, Noah, who is not well.
He’s in Heritage House. And my youngest brother, George, unfortunately, it’s
almost a year since I lost him.
Interviewer: Ok. Let’s start with Hilda. Tell me what her married name is.
Molar: Her married name is Weinthraub. Her husband was from Cleveland. She met him
while he was attending Ohio State University.
Interviewer: Do they have children?
Molar: They have a son and a daughter.
Interviewer: Do you know the whereabouts of these two children?
Molar: The children live in Cleveland. They lived there all of their lives.
Interviewer: Your sister Clara . . . .
Molar: Clara does not have any children.
Interviewer: And her married name is . . . .
Molar: Nathan. She just lost her husband about three weeks ago.
Interviewer: Yes. Just recently. And your brother, Noah, is married to whom?
Interviewer: And their children?
Molar: They have two sons and a daughter. The sons’ names are Ronald and Barry and
the daughter’s name is Susan. She lives in Georgia.
Interviewer: And your brother, George, was married to whom?
Molar: Annette Mayerson.
Interviewer: George had how many children from his first marriage?
Molar: His first marriage was to a young woman from Seattle, Washington. When he was in
the service. He had a son and a daughter from the first marriage.
Interviewer: Jacob, tell us a little bit about your education. What elementary school
did you attend? What high school?
Molar: Well, I started out in a little two-room building on the north end of Lancaster.
I was there for about a year-and-a-half. At that time, there was no restriction that you
had to be six years old when you started school so I started when I was five years and
three months old and I started in the middle of the year.
A couple years after that, we moved to the south end of Lancaster where my dad’s
business was and I finished my elementary education in the south school in Lancaster. I
went to high school, finished up there and wound up going to Ohio State University but I
was only there for a year because I couldn’t determine what field I wanted to get
into so that was the extent of my formal education.
Interviewer: So the rest, I am sure, is self taught. I’m going to ask you a little
bit about the religious background in Lancaster. Tell us a little about how the Jewish
people performed services, where they started . .. .
Molar: Well, I don’t know too much about the services until I was probably six or
seven years old. We did have a Rabbi – combination, Rabbi, Shochet and teacher. The thing
that puzzled me greatly was the first time I went to holiday services and it was held in
the Knights of Columbus Hall with all the statues and crosses and I thought, “What
are we doing in a place like this? Why do we have to have a Jewish service in a place
where they have all these crosses and all the Christian symbols and so forth?” I
never did find out what the reason was, whether it was simply because the place was
available without a charge or the charge was minimal or what. But that was my first
recollection of services in Lancaster.
After a couple of years there, they relocated and moved to another location – Woodman
and Laurel Lodge and that was in the late teens until about 1920 when they finally rented
some rooms in a building downtown on the third floor. Services were conducted there and we
also had Sunday School classes and those rooms were used until the purchase of the church
Interviewer: Tell us about the church.
Molar: The church was known as a German Lutheran. The church itself was built in 1848
so it’ll be 150 years old before too many years go by. The only thing I could think
of is some of the members whose families were originally members there, told me that the
services were conducted in German. How many years they did that, I don’t know but
that was the reason it was called the German Lutheran Church.
Interviewer: Do you remember how many families were involved in the first synagogue?
Molar: I would say probably about twenty families around 1926.
Interviewer: Bring us up to date about what happened with the synagogue. When it closed
. . . .
Molar: Well, I do have one little thing I want to mention. After the church was
purchased and it was being converted, the painters who were doing the decorating, thought
they were doing us a big favor by painting crosses on the walls. But that was taken care
of very quickly when they were told they’d have to cover those up in a hurry.
Before services started, my sister, Hilda, was married there in July 1920 and that was
the first event that took place. The local paper came out with a big front page story
about the wedding and also about the synagogue. From then on, we continued with services
up until 1987.
Interviewer: Is that when the synagogue closed?
Molar: Well, you might say it was about the time it was closed. Yes.
Interviewer: How many Jewish families do you think are in Lancaster today?
Molar: We have the Shatz family. They’re probably in their 40’s. We have our
assistant prosecuting attorney although his wife isn’t Jewish. Also we have a man by
the name of Hillman who has a general store. He is a refugee from Germany. His wife
Interviewer: It sounds like you have less than 20 people.
Molar: Oh, yes. We sure have.
Interviewer: Where do these people go to synagogue?
Molar: Well, they come here to Columbus. Those that want to. I think Hillman goes to
Interviewer: Let’s go back to how special occasions were celebrated in Lancaster.
I have fond memories, myself. My husband and I used to go there. We were invited by Ruth
Shatz for Chanukah a few times. Maybe you can fill us in.
Molar: We had various social events. Every fall there would be a dance. The ladies
would go down to the smaller communities, Logan, Nelsonville and ask the people to come to
Lancaster for the dance. At Chanukah we usually had a get together. There was some
gathering almost every month. Men would play cards. Women played Bridge or Mah Jong . . .
or something. Then we’d have a little refreshments.
Interviewer: What about Yom Kippur?
Molar: Well, a couple times they tried to have “Break-the-Fast” but it
didn’t work out too well so they discontinued it. Most of the young people would get
together and go over to Zanesville because the Zanesville people would have a dance Yom
Interviewer: Going back to Chanukah, Jacob, I remember one of the highlights was when
one of the Molars would pass out silver dollars. My kids always remembered that.
Molar: That’s right. My father made it a routine deal to pass out silver dollars
to all the children when they had the Chanukah party there. He continued that until a year
before he passed away, during Chanukah 1960.
Interviewer: Jacob, maybe you can recall some of therabbis. You gave me quite a list
when we visited before.
Molar: The first rabbi we had, his name was Tallenberg. He was there from about 1914
until 1918. I’m not sure of the dates. Then he moved to Columbus. Of course, the
rabbis we had in those days, they were not only rabbis but served as the Shochet and also
Interviewer: Can you remember some more rabbis?
Molar: The next one we had was a man by the name of Friedman. He wasn’t there too
long. Maybe two to three years. Next one was a Rabbi Gray and he was there about four to five years
during the first part of the 1920s. By the time the Shul was established, we had a man by
the name of Samuel Shapiro. He was there several years.
Interviewer: I might add that Samuel Shapiro was an uncle of my husband’s.
Molar: Is that right?
Interviewer: He ended up in Dayton, Ohio.
Molar: Yes, he did. He ended up in Dayton. Along about 1932, another thing happened
while Shapiro was there. It might sound far-fetched . . . maybe it doesn’t mean
anything. For a short period during the time Shapiro was there, we had kosher meat in
Lancaster. Arrangements were made with one of the butchers there for Shapiro to do the
slaughtering and the butcher set aside one of the butcher blocks to carve and prepare the
meat according to the Jewish ritual. So for a short period, we had kosher meat in
Interviewer: Well, that was an accomplishment.
Molar: After Shapiro, Julius Baker was there for about 30years.
Interviewer: I might add that Julius Baker was Irving Baker’s father. You
mentioned, when we spoke a few weeks ago, Sam Yablok.
Molar: Yes, Sam Yablok conducted services for the holidays a few times after Baker
moved to Columbus.
Interviewer: Was he related to Baker?
Molar: Yes. His sister was married to Baker.
Interviewer: That brings us up-to-date with the Rabbis. It would be interesting to talk
about how the Sisterhood raised money years ago.
Molar: The Sisterhood raised money in the late 30’s and early 40’s when the State of
Ohio was redeeming sales stamps. The Sisterhood took on the job of collecting stamps,
sorting them according to denomination and sending them into the Treasurer or wherever
they had to go. I have no idea how much they raised but evidently, they did fairly well
until the state discontinued them.
Interviewer: I think we all remember hours of counting and rubber banding stamps
together. It was an interesting way to raise funds. Also, did the Sisterhood have rummage sales?
Molar: Yes they did. They had rummage sales. I don’t know whether they had them
more than a couple times a year.
Interviewer: We talked a little before about the Depression and you brought up a couple
of interesting thoughts about that period of time. Tell us what some of the main
industries are in Lancaster.
Molar: The bigger industries in the 30’s were the shoe factories. Goodman Shoe Factory
was one. They were actually bigger than Hocking Glass. Eventually they closed those
factories and Hocking Glass (Anchor Hocking) continued to grow. We had another glass
industry was called Lancaster Lens. They made lenses for automobiles – headlights and tail
lights but they also produced lenses for other types of lights. A little later on, they
had an industry come in from Michigan which was Diamond Power and one of the families that
came with it was a Jewish family named Fogel. Mrs. Fogel had written a letter to a lady in
Lancaster by the name of Goodman, thinking she was Jewish. It turned out that this Mrs.
Goodman didn’t happen to be Jewish and she brought the letter to my wife who wrote to
Mrs. Fogel and told her about the Jewish people in Lancaster and so forth.
The Fogels came to Lancaster about 1951. Mr. Fogel was an engineer and they lived there
until 1964 when he passed away. Mrs. Fogel moved away – she had a son and daughter who
were through with school and had moved away from the area.
Interviewer: Jacob, bring us into the time of your life when you were a teenager. How
did youngsters have a social life? Did they organize as a Jewish group?
Molar: Not too much. We’d get together at someone’s house for a little party
or something. After we got to the late teens or early 20’s, we’d come up here to
Columbus or to the Schonthal Center on Rich Street for Sunday night dances.
Interviewer: What were some of the organizations that were organized at that time?
Molar: Well, there actually wasn’t any organization in Lancaster. If we got
involved with any organizations, it was in Columbus. That was the extent of the
organizations. I did come up to Columbus quite often because I was involved with several
young people – one was Harry Goldstein, who is still living.
Interviewer: Jacob, were you in the military service at all?
Molar: No. I was not in the military but I have a little something to tell you about
the military. It’s a little involved but, now I’m going back to World War I. The
reason I’m going back to that is because it involves one of the Columbus presidents. We
had a tailoring firm in Lancaster. The firm wasn’t Jewish but on the other hand, they
must have advertised for tailors because there came a family, I don’t know if they
came from New York, or from someplace in the east, by the name of Wannemaker and also a
family by the name of Parrish. Along with Wannemaker, came Sol Riser. I’m sure most
of you people probably heard of Sol. He was a single man and I think another fellow came
along by the name of Feinstein. They enlisted in the National Guard. They were the first
ones to leave Lancaster when the United States entered World War I. Then when the war was
over, they came to Columbus. Wannemaker moved away and Parrish moved to Columbus. We also
had two Epstein brothers serve in World War I.
Interviewer: What about World War II?
Molar: Well, during World War II, there were several. I was rejected because of my
vision and some other problems. My brother, Noah, was also rejected but my brother,
George, was in the service. We had one young fellow by the name of Victor Epstein, the
brother of Morton, who was in the service and was killed. So were other boys from
Lancaster. Jack Bass was also in the service.
Interviewer: Jacob, how did you make a living?
Molar: I was in the auto parts business. New, used and rebuilt – for about 55 years.
Interviewer: And when did you retire?
Molar: Well, this month is 12 years.
Interviewer: Was this a family business?
Molar: To some degree, yes.
Interviewer: Your father was in the auto parts business?
Molar: He did some auto wrecking before I got into the business and he turned it over
to me. Of course, I added the new and rebuilt parts to the business.
Interviewer: So you pretty much went off and opened a different branch other than the
auto parts business?
Interviewer: And your brothers?
Molar: They stayed in the scrap business with my father.
Interviewer: Tell us about your wife.
Molar: My wife. Well, that’s a long story, too. My wife originally lived in Utica,
New York and was going to school in Cleveland (she couldn’t get into Syracuse
University at the time). She went to Cleveland because her sister was living and working
there so my wife went to Western Reserve and it so happened that a cousin was living in
Lancaster and this cousin invited her to come to Lancaster when we were having our annual
Fall dance. Her cousin must have decided we’d make a good match. I met her at the
dance, took a liking to her so I started going to Cleveland to see her and that was in
1937. In June of 1938, I asked her to marry me and she agreed. We were married in August
Interviewer: Tell us about your children.
Molar: My children. Well, David has had emotional problems most of his life.
Interviewer: When was David born?
Molar: David was born January 1941 so next month, he’s going to be fifty-six. My
daughter was born in October 1944.
Interviewer: What’s her name?
Molar: Sharon. She calls herself Sherry. That’s the name she goes by.
Interviewer: Who is she married to?
Molar: She is married to a fellow by the name of Stewart London who is from Warren,
Ohio. She married him in Cleveland. After she got out of college, she went to work in
Cleveland and she met him there.
Interviewer: Are they still married?
Molar: No. They’ve been divorced a little over a year.
Interviewer: Who are her children?
Molar: Sharon has two sons, Matthew and Mark. Matthew is 23 and Mark was
21 last month.
Interviewer: Where do they live?
Molar: Matthew lives and works in Oxford, Ohio. Mark lives and works in Cleveland.
Interviewer: We talked last time about your father and the country club. Would you like
to tell us about that?
Molar: The country club was back in the early 30’s. My father wasn’t a country
club person but on the other hand, the president of the bank, who was involved with the
country club asked my father if he would be interested in joining the country club. At
that time, it was practically unheard of – a Jew being asked to join a country club in
Lancaster. Anyway, my father said no, he wouldn’t be interested in joining.
The other thing we talked about was the Klan. Back in the 20’s, the Ku Klux Klan was a
very strong organization in Lancaster but for some reason, they didn’t seem to bother
black people or Jewish people. They were very strongly anti-Catholic. I don’t know
why but that’s the way they were. Anyhow, one of the business leaders in Lancaster
came to my father and asked him if he would be interested in joining the Klan. The only
reason I think he might have asked him was because he thought my dad might have had some
money. They didn’t bother anyone. They had their parades and they went on Mt. Pleasant
and burned crosses. They were just anti-Catholic.
Interviewer: You mentioned other communities that were attached to Lancaster.
Molar: Well, when we had services for the Holidays, we would get people from the small
surrounding communities – Logan, Nelsonville, Glouster, Chauncey – and we had a strong
supporter from Chillicothe – Sam Siegel and his family. They would attend all the
services. They were a very nice family and were strong supporters of our synagogue –
financially as well as their physical presence.
Audience: You mentioned people coming from small towns. When you said there were 20
families belonging to your synagogue, did that include the people from out-of-town?
Molar: No. We had 20-30 families, depending on the time of year. The peak was probably
during the 1940s.
Interviewer: Let’s end this interview by talking about what happened to the
Molar: The building? Yes, we were fortunate to find somebody to buy this property. We
didn’t want to see it go back to being a church as many years as we had it. We found
a family who came to Lancaster with the Ohio University branch. This man
is in the Art Department so they bought the synagogue and are converting it to a
residence and an art studio.
Interviewer: I might add at this point that I was there in October and it is a very
lovely art gallery and studio and there are some rooms for the residents as well. They
created a bathroom, kitchen and other living rooms. The stained glass windows are still
there, which allow a lot of light to come in.
Molar: I didn’t know if the windows were still there. I told them that if they
were going to remove the Memorial names, I wanted to get the one that had my father’s
and mother’s names.
Interviewer: We’re concluding this interview. One question that was just asked –
who has the Torah and books?
Molar: The Torah and books are in storage in Columbus. There is an incident I
didn’t mention which happened in January 1961. The group was going to have a social
on a Sunday and all of a sudden I got a phone call – there was a fire in the synagogue.
Naturally, I ran down there and sure enough, there was a fireman working there. Clarence
Epstein and I ran to the back of the shul to the social hall and the Ark was on the north
end. We got the Torahs out while the firemen were putting out the fire.
Interviewer: You were a hero.
Molar: Well . . . . Okay.
Interviewer: Thanks again. You did a fantastic job.
Molar: I appreciate the opportunity to provide some background and a little history
about the Jewish community in Lancaster.
Interviewer: You’ve done this beautifully. Have a safe trip back to Lancaster.
Molar: Thanks for asking me to come to talk about Lancaster and the Jewish community.
Audience: You mentioned the Rising family that was in Lancaster years ago. Are they not
a Jewish family?
Molar: To the best of my knowledge, they were not Jewish. One other thing I didn’t
mention. This friend of mine who was from Circleville (she lives in Cleveland now) told me
about her great grandfather living in Lancaster in the 1850s. That was written up in the
papers. And there was another family – a farm family – who brought Siddurs (prayer books)
to my father which came from Germany. Evidently, somewhere along the line, some of his
family must have been Jewish.
Audience: You mentioned that fact a few weeks ago. That was very interesting. I tried
to do a little research on the history at the Historical Society in the archives. There is
evidence of Jewish families in Lancaster as far back as 1856 which confirms what you
mentioned in your memories. Phyllis has a brochure showing buildings and the canal in
Lancaster during the time your father arrived in the city.
How many Jewish families are living there now? Did the children of the families that
lived there before, stay in Lancaster?
Molar: Well, Alan Zacks and his wife; Gregg Marks who is originally from Columbus –
he’s the assistant prosecuting attorney – his wife is not Jewish. We have Newman who
started with a surplus store and now has a department store. His wife isn’t Jewish.
And there’s a fellow from New York who drifted there 5-7 years ago.
Audience: Are there any Molar people there besides you and your son?
Molar: No. My brother, George, passed away a year ago. My daughter, Nora is in Heritage
Audience: Do you know Sol Laub? Is his son living in Lancaster?
Molar: I believe he is living in Circleville. There is another Jewish person living in
Lancaster – Norman Swartz. Norman Swartz came to Lancaster and worked for Anchor Hocking.
His daughter married a young man from Chicago whose family is quite Jewish.
Audience: What about the Palistrands?
Molar: The Palistrands still live in Lancaster. One is still there. He’s operating
Wendell’s Jewelry Store. This Wendell was an old time store. He was there when my dad
came to Lancaster. He was Jewish. His wife was not. That’s going back – I think he
started his store 90 years ago.
Audience: Yes, that Wendell name shows up in the historical documents. I didn’t
know whether they were Jewish or not.
Molar: He was. His wife was not. Of course, his son and grandson are still there but
did not marry Jewish and thus do not follow Jewish ways.
Audience: Thank you, again, Jacob.
This concludes the recording of the Jacob Molar interview.