Interview with Julius Gutter in his home. Julius is a long-time member of
Tifereth Israel and we’re just going to find out some of his early memories of
the Temple. Okay, Julius.
Gutter: Well I can go back as far back as 1937.
Gutter: And not such a long time, but 50 years anyway. At that time when I
joined the Temple, I. H. Schlezinger was President and A. J. Gutter, an uncle of
mine, he was the Treasurer.
Interviewer: He was treasurer for many years, wasn’t he?
Gutter: Yeah, he was Treasurer for about, well all of, as long as he lived. I
think he passed away in 1951 and at that time, Rabbi Zelizer was Rabbi. We had a
Halpern. And, well I don’t know, what else do you want to know about it?
Interviewer: Well you were on the Board during some of those years, weren’t
Gutter: No, not of the Congregation, but I was on the Board of the Men’s
Interviewer: Men’s Club?
Gutter: Men’s Club. I was Vice President of the Men’s Club and we had
lots of activities over there. Although it wasn’t as big as the Temple is
today and the membership was about half. I don’t think we had more than 350 or
400 members at that time, which was a pretty good part of the Congregation. And
the Congregation had been remodeled already. I think this was about the third
Interviewer: . . . .
Gutter: Since. And the Hebrew School wasn’t so well known ’till Sam
Melton came in with his institutes of the Hebrew School.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Gutter: And that’s when he brought in Wachs . . . .
Interviewer: Saul Wachs?
Gutter: Saul Wachs.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Gutter: Saul Wachs. And he grew. And that was the time when the Hebrew School
started to flourish and the name of Tifereth Israel became the institute of
Columbus in the Jewish community. It was quite a progress from the early days
after the 50s and the 60s and the 70s.
Interviewer: What are your memories of the Hebrew School back in the 30s and
Gutter: Well first of all they didn’t have no qualified teachers. They had
teachers which . . . . of teaching at that time was mostly only for boys, the
ones that had to come to Bar Mitzvah. And the Cantor, he was the main person to
help the child prepare for his Bar Mitzvah. Maybe six months or a year before
his Bar Mitzvah, they would hand the kid over to the Cantor and then you
adjusted . . . . Most of the time, the kid was not happy. The child, he couldn’t
understand the function of the Bar Mitzvah and he didn’t know, he wasn’t
experienced what Bar Mitzvah is all about. So he had to know that he was
talking, he was drilled to say the blessings and to tell the Haftorah and some
kids would rather go out and play ball than go to the Temple or to the Cantor’s
house or whatever it was. Or the Cantor would come to the kid’s house. But
anyway, that was the best they could do at that time with what they had, and
after Sam Melton . . . . with the Theological Seminary and he brought in the
teachers, the qualified teachers from the Seminary. So things have changed. At
that time the children were on the road to go to Hebrew School. They had people
to teach them in their own language in their own speed and they became
enthusiastic about it. And in the long run, those kids went to school for about
four or five years. They had some knowledge of it. It was different even where I
come from. When I was a youngster, I had to go to cheder. When I got
through with the cheder, I went to the Yeshiva. But that was a different
way of learning. We started out at 8:30 in the morning and we didn’t get
through ’till around six or seven o’clock in the evening. And no kids in
America would do that.
Interviewer: Right. So they definitely had had an improvement in the group?
Gutter: Yeah. It was a big change. It was a big improvement. We have the
proof of it. Today the kids, the ones who are bearing the fruits of the, and
taking advantage of the educational system that we have now and the kids with
their parents or grandparents missed all that education. But some of the
parents, some of the grandparents, are taking lessons or they want to compete,
or they want to have the same knowledge as the kids. They enroll, maybe not
enroll, but I mean they are taking an interest in . . . . and they are studying
with the children.
Interviewer: Yes, and it’s all an improvement. Julius, what do you remember
during the different regimes, the different characters – you say that Rabbi
Zelizer was the first rabbi that you remember?
Interviewer: But . . . .
Gutter: Now the first Cantor I remember, we had a young man, he was a
Hungarian by the name of Gottesman.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Eugene.
Gutter: You remember him?
Gutter: He was a handsome young man.
Gutter: I don’t know what happened but anyway, he was gone. . . . So right
after him, Cantor Halpern came in and he was there until they retired him. After
him, we had quite a few of them. But, Rabbi Zelizer I think he was there about
40, 45 years . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Gutter: And after him, we had about three or four different rabbis.
Interviewer: That’s right. Do you remember anything about the different
presidential regimes or any of the realizations, or . . . .
Gutter: Well every regime, you know, came in, like in 19–, I don’t know, I
think it was 1946 or 1947 when Joe Gutter, my uncle, he gave the lot next to the
Congregation when they built the Educational Building and, in fact that building
was dedicated on my birthday, August 6. I don’t know, I think it was 1946 or
1947, and at that time, I think Bill Wasserstrom was President. Bill Wasserstrom
or David Goldsmith. No I think it was David. No, Bill Wasserstrom I think. No,
Lou Schlezinger. Yeah, Lou Schlezinger I think he was President. And they built
that new building, they called it the Educational Building. That was a big
improvement from having regular classes in offices for the Temple to function
and to do their daily work. And before that they had a little corner in the
basement over here and a little corner in the basement someplace else. They made
enough room, they would have maybe eight or ten children used to go to school
and . . . . from 15 or 20 kids going to school they ran into 150 or 200 kids
going to school. That was a big improvement and . . . . Now every president that
I know or, and there were quite a few of them. It would be hard for me to
remember every one of them but, like President Dick Lieberman. He was . . . .
President. And the one before him, I think it was Blank, Al Blank . . . . They
all played a big part in the Congregation. It proved how big the Congregation
got since the 30s. At that time they had to besides making the payments on the
mortgage, they had trouble to pay the rabbi. They had trouble to pay, they were
having games, from the Men’s Club, and whatever money was making the games
night, they turned it over to the Congregation to buy coal, to keep the place
warm. To heat it. And all that – big trouble.
Interviewer: Big trouble?
Gutter: Big trouble. But they came through. Good many groups and good people
which people have an interest and each generation brought something new in
there. The older generation, they were, they have some system of their own. It
wasn’t business-like, but every 15-20 years, there was a new generation took
over. And they had some different ideas how to run an institution like this.
Interviewer: Have you seen a change in the religious aspect or . . . .
services or . . . .
Gutter: Yes, yes. I would say in those days, when Rabbi Zelizer was the
rabbi, the main services were held mostly, the people would come to shul would
be on a Friday night. I know some . . . . but I wouldn’t say that was the
final reason why they would come on Friday night. But Saturday morning wasn’t
much, I would say in the last 15-20 years, our services has improved. The
attendance has, not in the numbers of 40 or 50 but . . . . Bar Mitzvah or Bat
Mitzvah, you’ll see anywhere between 250 to 400 people or maybe sometimes even
it looks more like Rosh Hashonah or Yom Kippur. And kids are more active, like I
would say a good part of the young kids going to the Hebrew School, are capable
to conduct the services of any Shabbos or holiday. In fact, we have more
youngsters are capable to read the Torah in any congregation in the city or even
in the country. I don’t think, and I’ve been around in quite a few
congregations in different cities. You very seldom will see any youngster who
would be called to read the Torah. But in our congregation we have young boys,
young girls. And the biggest change I think, of the experience in our
congregation in the last 10 years, is the women are equal to the men and we have
some of, especially the young girls coming up today, which they’re going to be
the future leaders, they’ll be able to do as good of a job than any young boy
of today and maybe when the young boys grow up, maybe grow up to be full-fledged
men and the girls will be able to do as good, if not any better.
Interviewer: That’s right. How about daily minyans?
Gutter: Now daily minyans, we’ve been having, I would say, in the
last six-seven years; now I retired about six years ago and I’ve . . . I’m a
member of the group. I haven’t missed a day going to minyan since I
retired with the exception when I’m not in town. But we’ve been having very,
very nice attendance. You know, I would say most of the time, we’ve been
having almost two . . . . if not more. But we have, and which is important, we
have a lot of people who have a Yahrzeit or people have lost one of the,
somebody in their family and they want to say Kaddish and they know they
have a place to go to observe and to say Kaddish . . . . And the
attendance from the congregation is pretty good. There’s always room for
Interviewer: There’s room for more?
Gutter: Yeah, room for more.
Interviewer: Julius, do you remember any of the, other than the financial
problems, any of the big problems of the congregation through the years?
Financial problems I think were always, but . . . .
Gutter: Well there’s political. I think they were selecting men to run the
congregation with good character and there were . . . . there’s enough men
belong to the congregation which are able bodied and good character and . . . .
the ones selected to become president or vice-president or to be on the Board
turned out to be pretty good . . . . they just . . . . I think they are pretty
sound, pretty sound. Now the rabbi we have now, he’s a wonderful man. He’s,
I don’t know if he’s a good politician, but he’s a, I would say that 99%
of the people belong to the congregation, they come to the services and they
hear his sermons, are pretty well pleased. Not only from our congregation but
you talk to people from the city, Jewish people from the city, they hear about
Rabbi Berman and he’s a dedicated man.
Interviewer: Anything else that you can think of through the years and been
particularly involved with the synagogue, with your family, with . . . .
Gutter: Well they’ve been hav—, they’ve been having, now the rabbi
today, now you take like 20 years ago, a rabbi would not be allowed to give a get.
I don’t know, do you know what it means . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Gutter: a Jewish divorce. Now I’ve been witness to a few of them in the
last five years, which you don’t have to go Cincinnati any more, and you don’t
have to go to New York any more. A rabbi is qualified . . . . I mean . . . . the
halachas, you must . . . . activities. He’s allowed to do it. Now there’s
lots of changes . . . . changing around some of the services. A little bit
different and the encouragement of the people to come to the services which, it’s
more, they have the Temple is sending out bulletins . . . . you know, for the
people to know what’s going on in the congregation and the response is pretty
good. The response is pretty good.
Interviewer: Do you notice a difference in the Hebrew that is used . . . .
Gutter: Yeah. Now . . . .
Interviewer: In the form of it?
Gutter: Yes. They have a lot, the Hebrew which is important. Kids going to
school and learning Hebrew, they should practice it. Not only the kids but even
the adults, the parents, but . . . . sometimes you take the generation of, even
before the war years, it was more like a lost generation. They didn’t have a
chance to learn, the only thing there was a Bar Mitzvah. Nothing else was for
them to learn because there was nobody to teach them. Now that was a lost
generation as far as the Hebrew was concerned. Now the survival of Jewish people
is not only to learn or to be prepared for a Bar Mitzvah which now, we have a
Bat Mitzvah which, you take twenty or thirty years ago, a girl was not allowed
to go in to have any part in the services. Like my daughter, she went to Hebrew
School and she graduated from Hebrew High and she was prepared for her Bat
Mitzvah. In fact, she was the first one to have Bat Mitzvah on the pulpit. She
was the first girl. But they wouldn’t let her say the Haftorah on Saturday but
she had to do that on Friday night. But they wouldn’t let her do the Friday
Evening Services or say the Kiddush for Friday night. And she questioned me, she
said, “Dad, I went to Hebrew School and I learned everything and I’m just
as good as my brothers, if not better than some of the boys. And yet they have
all the rights and I don’t have anything.” So I told her the best I could
have told her at that time, that maybe some day maybe there’s going to be some
changes but right now that’s the way the congregation is working. You have a
certain place to be accounted for in the congregation but that’s not in the
pulpit . . . . But it took a few years and after a few years they changed it. It
came out, there are girls or a woman could have an aliyah. There are
girls who have, who they will, if she’s capable to perform the services and .
. . . but I think that’s good, it’s healthy, to keep the Jewish . . . . the
Jewish people will be able to survive if . . . . to practicing and studying it
and learning and if they are learning it and practicing, that’s how the Jewish
people survived all through the generations. It’s not through the language or
the knowledge they learned from the countries they lived in. They survived
because they learned the Torah and the Torah was with them wherever they went.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Gutter: Now I also belong to the Chevra Kadisha from our shul.
Now even this is a non-paid organization. This is a tradition been going on
since the days of our old forefathers and performing of the traditional
preparing of the burial is, that is a big mitzvah. Nobody wants any
compliments on it. No it’s done because it’s commanded by the Jewish law to
have the body prepared for burial. And there’s some, about six or eight
dedicated men are doing this work. Now I’ve belonged to the Chevra Kadisha
since 1939. It’s almost, almost 50 years, about 48 years. Now, not that some
of them are gone, there’s always new people taking over their places but we
always look for an extra one which is not publicized and it’s not awarded, it’s
only the kindness of the person, and the kindness of his heart to perform
something which is not so common, to some people. And we hope that nobody should
never need anyone but whenever there’s a death in the family, they always call
on the Chevra Kadisha first. That is one of the functions which is
important. And that’s about it. What else? Now you want to . . . .
Interviewer: Whatever else you would like to talk about.
Gutter: Now when Saul Wachs came in and took over the administration as
Principal of the school, he brought in qualified teachers, Adelman . . . .
Interviewer: . . . .
Gutter: Adelman and Anne, I don’t know . . . .
Gutter: Anne Bonowitz today but I don’t know, I forgot . . . .
Gutter: Schiffman, yeah Anne Schiffman. And there was a, he always brought in
some different people. And then there were different professors coming in or
different rabbis coming in to give lectures and the place was always jumping; he
was on the goal. There was always some kind of activity, one kind or the other.
And he was here for about, I think about ten years. And after he left, there was
qualified people to take over and do the same thing what he started.
Break in tape
Gutter: We got married in 1943 and she came as a young bride to Columbus and
in fact, before we were married, Myrtle Katz, who was my first cousin, and she
invited my bride to come to Columbus and to meet the family. So she stayed with
Myrtle for about a week or ten days. And they had a board meeting in the house
and Muriel . . . . house. And Evelyn was there and she was introduced to the
people who came to the board meeting and I happened to be there myself. And she
had to serve and after she got married and she moved to Columbus, she joined up
the Sisterhood and she attended the meetings quite often. In fact, she was
pretty active there. Now what her function was there, I don’t know. You’d
have to ask her.
Interviewer: (Laughs) Okay. Since the suggestion was to ask Gutter herself,
that’s just what we’re doing.
Evelyn G.: What I did is, I was put on the Hosp—, I think it was called
Hospitality Committee or something. Anyways, it was up to me and my committee to
see that food was prepared for the Sisterhood luncheons, Sisterhood meetings.
And I remember working very . . . . with Ann Pollock. And Ann Schilling was
there. And we used to have a ball. We turned out pretty nice lunches. And this
went on for a couple years, I guess and then I noticed that I was neglecting my
family a little bit so I said, well I’ll give that up and I’ll go on the
Telephone Committee which I could do from home. Which I did for a number of
years. And then after a while, the kids got older and they needed more of my
attention than the Sisterhood did really. So I sort of became a little lax in
that. And I thought my children and my home needed me a little bit more. I know
one person who remarked to me, “So you give up your husband and children
for a day and give it to Sisterhood.” But I’m not that type of person. My
home and children meant a little bit more than that. We had a good time. But
then, I guess the last ten years or so, I just hadn’t really attended the
Sisterhood meetings. I mean I’m a staunch member but I just hadn’t had the
desire, let’s put it that way, to go there. I’ve cut myself down now to
belong just to two organizations and . . . . I just don’t go to any of them. I
just don’t find the time for it. I find that I have a lot of other interests.
Shame on me. (Laughs) And I do love our shul. I think there’s not a
better shul in the city than the Temple, really. And I think that there’s
no one like Rabbi Berman and the more you get to know him, the better you love
him. And, well I guess I’m just familiar with the people in our Temple; not
familiar with the other shuls. Although on occasion, I’ve had to go to
them, but it wasn’t because I liked it. It was because I had to. (Laughs) So.
And that’s about all I can say for my life here.
Interviewer: All right.
Evelyn G.: I think it’s a pretty good life. I’ve been happy with it.
Interviewer: Well we thank you.