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  1. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Cemetery, Hebrew Benevolent Society (Hebrew Burial Society) 720 Blanding Street
  2. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Columbia Holocaust Memorial Memorial Park — 700 Hampton Street
  3. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Columbia Israelite Sunday School 1400 Assembly Street
  4. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Stern’s Department Store 1424 Assembly Street
  5. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Early Jewish Enterprises 1300 Block of Assembly Street
  6. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Kligman’s Army Store 1316 Assembly Street
  7. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Original Sites of Rivkin’s Grocery & Delicatessen 1012-1014 Lady Street
  8. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Original Site of House of Peace Synagogue 1318 Gates (Park) Street
  9. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites A Rabbi in Residence 1300 Block of Gates (Park) Street
  10. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Sribnick’s Grocery 825 Washington Street
  11. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of M.B. Kahn Construction 714 Lady Street
  12. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Kline Iron and Steel 1225 Huger Street
  13. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Site of Baker’s Grocery Store 931 Gates (Park) Street
  14. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Trager Family Residence 155 S. Richardson (500 Block of Main) Street
  15. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites South Carolina College (University of South Carolina) Intersection of Sumter & Medium (College) Streets
  16. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Kohn Family Residence 1520 Senate Street
  17. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Reshaping the Capital City 1520 Senate Street
  18. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Residence of Josiah Morse 1626 Gervais Street
  19. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Lyons Family Residence 1226 Bull Street
  20. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Original Site of the Tree of Life Congregation 1320 Lady Street
  21. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites South Carolina State House 1100 Gervais Street
  22. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Lyons Grocery and Oyster Saloon Northwest Corner of Richardson (Main) & Gervais Streets
  23. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Brittons 1337 Main Street
  24. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Liberty Loan and Luggage 1414 Main Street
  25. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of City Hall and Market Northwest Corner of Richardson (Main) & Washington Streets
  26. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Wheeler House Southeast Corner of Richardson (Main) & Plain (Hampton) Streets
  27. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of D. Epstin’s Clothing Shop Southwest Corner of Richardson (Main) & Taylor Streets
  28. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Richland Lodge No. 39 Northeast Corner of Richardson (Main) & Taylor Streets
  29. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Lourie’s Department Store 1601 Main Street
  30. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Affording Luxury in Columbia 1600 Block of Main Street
  31. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Berry’s On Main 1608 Main Street
  32. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of Marks’ Porter and Relish House Richardson (Main) Street between Blanding & Laurel Streets
  33. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Former Site of House of Peace Synagogue 1719 Marion Street
  34. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites A Former Governor’s Mansion 1615 Blanding Street
  35. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Beth Shalom Cemetery 1300 Whaley Street
  36. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Site of the Parlor Restaurant 1336 Main Street
  37. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Site of H. Bamberg, Cigar Manufacturer 1412 Main Street
  38. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Site of Mordecai Family Residence Southwest Corner of Lady and Marion Streets
  39. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Site of Max Aberman’s Dry Goods Store 925 Gervais Street
  40. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Phoenix Building 1623-1625 Main Street
  41. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Second Site of the Tree of Life Congregation 2701 Heyward Street
  42. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Pendleton Building 1321 Pendleton Street
  43. Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites Groucho's Delicatessan 611 Harden Street

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Cemetery, Hebrew Benevolent Society (Hebrew Burial Society)

Detail of Birdseye View of the City of Columbia, SC by C. Drie, 1872. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Founded in 1822 as the Hebrew Burial Society, the Hebrew Benevolent Society established this cemetery in 1826 on land believed to have been donated by the DeLeon family. The brick structure, built about 1860, served as a meeting space and entrance to the original Hebrew cemetery. Phineas Solomon (1802 - 1850) served as the Society’s first president, and almost all of Columbia’s Jewish lawyers, politicians and businessmen, including Isaac, Henry and Jacob Lyons, Alexander Marks, Jacob and Lipman Levin, and Levy and Elias Pollock, were members during the antebellum period.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Cemetery, Hebrew Benevolent Society (Hebrew Burial Society)

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Columbia Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust survivors Jadzia and Ben Stern hold their daughter, Lilly, who would serve as memorial committee chair five decades later. Image courtesy of Dr. Lilly S. Filler

Unveiled on June 6, 2001, this simple, yet powerful, site promotes thoughtfulness, meditation and understanding of the Holocaust in which six million Jews and millions of others were murdered by the Nazi regime. The monument’s mission is to memorialize the dead, to honor the South Carolina Holocaust survivors and liberators, and to educate all visitors through a timeline and pictorial etchings about the Shoah, or catastrophe, of 1933 - 1946. The memorial sits atop a Star of David surrounded by four meditative benches that carry a quote from either a survivor or liberator.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Columbia Holocaust Memorial

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Columbia Israelite Sunday School

Image reprinted from The Occident and American Jewish Advocate, 1844

After her arrival in 1843, Boanna Wolff (1820 - 1860), sister-in-law of Columbia warden Henry Lyons (1805 - 1858), established the city’s first Jewish school. The inaugural term began October 15, 1843 with four classes, taught by Wolff, Cecelia Marks, Julia Mordecai and Eliza Marks, and included between 20 and 30 students, aged three to ten years. The building, erected by the Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1846, also housed Columbia’s first congregation, Shearith Israel (Remnant of Israel). The school and congregation, led by president Jacob Levin (1802 - 1879), were regularly mentioned in the nation’s only Jewish newspaper, The Occident and American Jewish Advocate, due in part to Wolff’s family’s relationship to its publisher, Rabbi Isaac Leeser (1806 - 1868). The structure was destroyed by fire in 1865.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Columbia Israelite Sunday School

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Stern’s Department Store

Gabriel Stern, 17, poses in a Kielce, Poland, photography studio, c. 1909. Image courtesy Marcie Stern Baker

Polish immigrant Gabriel Stern (1892 - 1981) moved to Columbia in 1915. In June 1940, he relocated his Lexington based Stern’s Department Store to this site, where he primarily sold suits, hats and dresses. Here Stern also taught the next generation of Jewish businessmen important sales and customer service skills. In the 1960s, Stern’s son, Henry, and son-in-law, Ted Solomon, began mainly selling shoes and renamed the store Stern’s Shoe City by 1975.

Image courtesy of Anne Stern Solomon

The building remained an Assembly Street landmark until its demolition in 1989. Here, Anne and Ted Solomon stand on Assembly Street during the demolition phase. Image courtesy of Anne Stern Solomon

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Stern’s Department Store

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Early Jewish Enterprises

Moe Levy outside his store on Assembly Street, 1968. Image courtesy of Special Collections, College of Charleston Libraries

By the late 19th century, this block featured a mix of African American and Jewish-owned businesses. Among the earliest Jews to establish themselves here were Austrian immigrants Henry Steele (1838 - 1908), a jeweler and the first president of the Tree of Life Congregation, and his wife, Ricca (b. 1851), who ran a general merchandise store at 1328 Assembly Street. By 1904, masonry buildings had replaced earlier wooden structures, and other Jews had opened businesses, including shoe salesman Joseph Levy (1864 - 1947) and cobblers Barnett (1876 - 1943) and Abram Berry (b. 1873). In the following decades the next generation of these families opened a variety of other ventures including dry goods, liquor, pawn and Army- Navy stores. Among them was Levy’s son, Moe (1899 - 1974), who in 1921 opened Moe Levy’s Dry Goods at 1302 Assembly Street. He consolidated his businesses, including a loan department, at this location by 1927, where it remained in operation until 2014.

Moe Levy and Morris Chaplin inside Moe Levy's Dry Goods, 1928. Levy's was the first business in Columbia to sell Levi's 501 jeans. Image courtesy of Special Collections, College of Charleston Libraries

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Early Jewish Enterprises

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Kligman’s Army Store

Originally at 1318 Barnwell Street, Kligman’s Army Store began carrying far more than just military-related items during the 1920s. In 1930, it joined other thriving Jewish-owned businesses at this location on Assembly Street. Here, proprietor Louis Kligman and wife, Ida, both immigrants from Russia, stand with son, Melton, among pile of merchandise at Columbia’s “Headquarters for military uniforms and equipment” in 1935. Image courtesy of Special Collections, College of Charleston Libraries

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Kligman’s Army Store

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Original Sites of Rivkin’s Grocery & Delicatessen

Members of the Rivkin family wedding party, posed for an unidentified photographer in 1920. Front row, L to R: Lewis Rivkin (1907 - 2002), his father, Jacob (1876 - 1962), and grandfather Avram (1853 - 1920); bride Rachel Winter (1902 - 1984). Back row, L to R: Tamara Rivkin (1874 - 1938) and daughter, Sarah (1910 - 1994); Caba Earle Rivkin, flanked by twins, Bessie (1893 - 1971) and Celia (1893 - 1978) ; groom, Raphael Rivkin (1899 - 1987). The entire family immigrated from Russia more than a decade earlier, with the exception of Lewis, who was born in the United States after the family's arrival in 1907. Image courtesy of Special Collections, College of Charleston

Russian immigrants Jacob and Tama Rivkin and their three children, Caba (1904 - 1995), Raphael and Sarah, arrived in Columbia by 1907. In 1912 at 1012 Lady Street, Jacob opened a grocery that served a diverse working-class clientele that included immigrants and African Americans. Caba’s daughter, Harriett, later recalled that her grandparents were devout members of the House of Peace Synagogue at 1318 Park Street and ran a farm outside of town that provided milk to fellow Jews.

Image courtesy of Special Collections, College of Charleston Libraries

In 1930 at 1014 Lady Street, Caba opened Columbia’s first Jewish-owned deli (shown here in February 1936). Nine years later he opened a second one in the city’s growing Five Points area and the family closed its Lady Street store and deli soon thereafter.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Original Sites of Rivkin’s Grocery & Delicatessen

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Original Site of House of Peace Synagogue

Image courtesy of Special Collections, College of Charleston

By 1907, a small group of Jews, led by first president Philip Epstin (1836 - 1921), began to gather at this location to conduct Orthodox services. Under the leadership of Rabbi David Karesh (1878 - 1964), the House of Peace Synagogue, today known as Beth Shalom Synagogue, received its state charter in 1912. Most recent Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe lived within walking distance of the shul, or synagogue, until the congregation outgrew this building and erected a new structure on Marion Street in 1935.

The sale of House of Peace stipulated that the building never be used as a house of worship again. Reprint from The State newspaper, October 13, 1935

The building subsequently became the Big Apple Club, a popular African American dance hall, which was physically relocated to its current location at 1000 Hampton Street in the early 1980s.

Big Apple Night Club in the late 1930s. Image from Historic Columbia collection

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Original Site of House of Peace Synagogue

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

A Rabbi in Residence

Rabbi David Karesh entertaining soldiers at a holiday dinner. Image courtesy of Special Collections, College of Charleston Libraries

Russian immigrant David Karesh (1878 - 1964) arrived in Columbia in 1908 to lead the newly-formed House of Peace congregation. He first lived at 1329 Gates (Park) Street, across the street from the shul, and later resided at several houses on this block in the 1920s. Widely admired by both the Jewish and lay communities, Karesh served as rabbi and later rabbi emeritus for 53 years. For decades he served as the community’s only shohet, a person capable of slaughtering kosher meat in accordance with Jewish law. Rabbis often served as shohatim in small communities, as a rabbi met the requirements of being a pious Jew and observer of the Sabbath, the traditional day of rest. Karesh received his kosher meat from Arthur Dent’s butcher shop at 1334 Assembly Street.

Here, Evelyn Lifchez Siegel remembers Rabbi David Karesh:

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

A Rabbi in Residence

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Sribnick’s Grocery

Russian immigrant Hyman Sribnick (1886 - 1978) and his Lithuanian wife, Rose, married in 1910 and began a family later that year with the birth of their son, Isidore (1910 - 2002). Hyman, who spoke only Russian and Yiddish, worked as both a cabinetmaker and grocer in Charleston before relocating to Columbia. The Sribnicks settled at 810 Washington Street and bought an existing grocery store at 825 Washington Street in 1915.

Detail of the 1910 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing Sribnick Grocery at 825 Washington Street . Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

Members of the House of Peace Synagogue, the Sribnicks ran their store in the predominantly African American neighborhood, where son Isidore learned the grocery trade before serving in World War II. He later ran the family store until the City of Columbia bought the property in 1953. During the 1950s and 1960s, Isidore Sribnick owned multiple businesses throughout Columbia, including liquor, clothing and drug stores. Through hard work, the entrepreneur sent several of his children to medical and graduate school.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Sribnick’s Grocery

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of M.B. Kahn Construction

Portrait of Myron B. Kahn. Image courtesy Alan Kahn

Russian immigrant Myron B. Kahn (1887 - 1966) arrived in Columbia in the 1920s and established the general contracting business of Sellers and Kahn in 1927. Following the firm’s dissolution in 1934, the House of Peace member founded M. B. Kahn Construction Company, which initially specialized in building private residences and mid-sized businesses and institutions, including the House of Peace Synagogue and Tree of Life Congregation. The company eventually shifted to large-scale projects, including shopping malls and banks. Under the leadership of M. B. Kahn’s son, Irwin (1912 - 1990), the firm also erected 27 buildings at the University of South Carolina from 1935 to 1985. The family-owned business continues to operate today under the leadership of Kahn’s grandson, Alan, who was instrumental in constructing the Jewish Community Center in Northeast Columbia, which carries the name of his mother and father, Katie (1914 - 1973) and Irwin (1912 - 1990). Further additions by M. B. Kahn Construction to the city’s skyline include the Columbia Convention Center and the Richland Library Main Branch.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of M.B. Kahn Construction

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Kline Iron and Steel

Aerial detail of Kline Iron and Steel, circa 1944. Image courtesy of Russell Maxey Collection, Richland Library

In the decades following World War II, Columbia produced more fabricated structural steel per capita than anywhere else in the country. The foundation for this impressive feat lay in modest scrap metal businesses established by first-generation Jewish immigrants during the 1910s through the 1940s. Entrepreneurs in the Tenenbaum, Seidenberg, Dickman, Addlestone and Katz families grew to become sophisticated manufacturers who passed ownership to later generations. Members of the Kline family embodied this progression of moving from salvaging second-hand metal to producing first-class building materials. Begun in 1923 as a partnership between Lithuanian immigrant brothers Philip (1888 - 1968) and Myer (1890 - 1965), the family-run business operated until 2000. During its nearly 80-year run, the company supplied steel for projects that helped win World War II and change skylines throughout Columbia and the Southeast.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Kline Iron and Steel

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Site of Baker’s Grocery Store

Image courtesy of Frank Baker

In 1926, Ukrainian immigrant Clara Kligerman Baker (1892 - 1969) opened a small grocery store in a section of the city’s Ward One neighborhood, which was densely populated with African American laborers living in shotgun-style houses. Her entrepreneurial husband, Frank (1884 - 1941), invented a speaker system of wires and metal plates that provided music and radio broadcasts within a four-block radius for residents who paid 25 cents per week for his unique invention. Daughter Toby recalled the store as a “marvelous hodgepodge—a meat market, pharmacy, grocery store, mercantile establishment and unofficial community center.” In 1967, Clara sold her store and contents to Oscar Shealy, an African American employee of 20 years, who then continued to operate the neighborhood landmark as Baker’s Grocery until it was demolished by 1970 due to urban renewal.

Here, John Baker remembers his grandmother, Clara Kligerman Baker and the family’s relationship with John Archie Bell, a resident of the Ward One community. To listen to the full interview, visit the College of Charleston's Jewish Heritage Collection Oral Histories by clicking here.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Site of Baker’s Grocery Store

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Trager Family Residence

Reprinted from The Tree of Life: Fifty Years of Congregational Life at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Columbia, S.C by Helen Kohn Hennig

Russian immigrant Abraham Isaac Trager (1809 - 1913) moved to Columbia around 1861, where he was a patriarch of the Jewish community for almost forty years. He established a farm at this location, where he grew plants used during religious holidays and provided hospitality to fellow Jews and travelers of all faiths. Trager regularly officiated Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs, the ceremony marking a 13-year-old Jewish boy’s acceptance of religious responsibility. A founder of the Tree of Life Congregation, he helped raise funds to erect the first synagogue built in Columbia since before the Civil War. Trager died in 1913 at age 104.

Announcement for the Jewish New Year celebrations, with services led by Abraham Trager and Philip Epstin (1836 - 1921), who would later become the first president of the Tree of Life Congregation. Reprinted from The State newspaper, September 23, 1892

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Trager Family Residence

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

South Carolina College (University of South Carolina)

1850 lithograph of South Carolina College by Eugene Dovilliers. Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

Born Israel Franklin Moses, Franklin J. Moses, Sr. (1804 - 1877) attended South Carolina College from 1819 until 1823. The institution’s first Jewish graduate, he later served as a state senator, judge and member of the college’s board of trustees. Moses also taught at the college’s first law school from 1875 until 1877. Three more Jewish graduates soon followed: Joseph Lyons (in 1832), who trained as a lawyer before traveling to Paris, where he died in 1839; David Camden DeLeon (in 1833), the first surgeon-general of the Confederate States of America, and his brother, Edwin DeLeon, (in 1837), a diplomat and consul general to Egypt who spent the Civil War attempting to secure France’s support for the Confederacy.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

South Carolina College (University of South Carolina)

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Kohn Family Residence

Bookplate depicting the Kohn residence, 1923. Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

Orangeburg native August Kohn (1868 - 1930) and wife, Irene Goldsmith Kohn (1868 - 1913), arrived in Columbia in 1894. They briefly boarded with Jewish widow Esther Pollock and rented homes on Plain (Taylor) and Gervais streets. Irene was instrumental in reestablishing a Jewish Sunday school, which she held on alternate months at her home until the Tree of Life Congregation’s completion in 1905. Irene became a devoted member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy as a charter member of the Wade Hampton chapter in 1896. She later served as the South Carolina division’s president from 1909 until 1911. Irene died in 1913, the same year the couple bought a sprawling residence at this location from William Elliott Gonzales (1866 - 1937) for $40,000. Upon his death in 1930, August Kohn, a newspaperman and avid book collector, willed his library to their daughter, Helen Kohn Hennig (1896 - 1961). An educator, historian and writer, Hennig expanded the family’s library, which her son, Julian (1922 - 2006), donated to the South Caroliniana Library, where it continues to provide invaluable insight into the state’s history.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Kohn Family Residence

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Reshaping the Capital City

Interior of Senate Plaza Apartments at 1520 Senate Street, designed by Pearlstine, 1965. Image courtesy of Russell Maxey Collection, Richland Library

Among the architects responsible for Columbia’s post-World War II growth and change was naval veteran Maynard Pearlstine. The St. Matthews native began his 40-year career in 1948 as an associate with the firm of Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle and Wolff. He later worked with Heyward Singley, another highly influential architect, before establishing an independent practice in 1953. Pearlstine championed high-quality, mid-century modern design that incorporated functional green spaces. His diverse portfolio included shopping centers, office buildings, high-rise apartments, residences in the suburbs of Heathwood and Lake Katherine and commissions for the University of South Carolina.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Reshaping the Capital City

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Residence of Josiah Morse

Josiah Morse's portrait in the University of South Carolina's Garnet & Black yearbook, 1912. Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

Josiah Morse (1879 - 1946), the University of South Carolina’s first Jewish professor, arrived in Columbia in 1911 and spent the next three decades tremendously impacting the lives of his students, including future Civil Rights advocate and state senator Hyman Rubin, Sr. (1913 - 2015). No stranger to prejudice (he changed his name from Moses to Morse after failed attempts to secure a university position), Morse improved race relations by organizing interracial activities with local black colleges and serving as a founding member of the University Commission on the Southern Race Question. He also proposed the reestablishment of the dormant B’nai B’rith lodge, a fraternal order of Jewish men, which was chartered on February 13, 1936. With Morse as its first president, the lodge assisted refugees fleeing the Nazi regime. It was later renamed in honor of the activist following his death in 1946.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Residence of Josiah Morse

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Lyons Family Residence

Henry Lyons, circa 1850. Artist Unknown. Historic Columbia collection, HCF 2015.1A

Henry Lyons (1805 - 1858), the eldest son of Isaac Lyons (1774 - 1843), was a prominent politician who arrived in Columbia in the 1820s. He served as Columbia’s warden from 1842 until 1850, when he was elected as the city’s intendent, or mayor, for one year, becoming the second Jewish man to hold this post. 

Lyons’ garden was renowned locally and beyond, originally having been owned and developed by Nicholas Herbemont, a well-known winemaker who cultivated hundreds of grape varieties. Lyons was an accomplished plantsman as well, growing prunes, oranges, peaches and walnuts and becoming the first person in North America to successfully seed the Chinese Peach, later renamed the Honey Peach in 1858. Reprinted from The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, Volume 13, 1858

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Lyons Family Residence

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Original Site of the Tree of Life Congregation

Tree of Life Congregation on Lady Street, 1920. Image courtesy of Russell Maxey Collection, Richland Library

In 1896, 18 members of Columbia’s Jewish community who embraced Judaism’s Reform branch, or liberal movement, organized as the Etz Chayim (Tree of Life). The congregation worshiped at the Independent Fire Company’s station overlooking Sidney Park until 1905, when its members moved into the first temple built in Columbia after the Civil War. The Lady Street synagogue was a downtown landmark for over four decades. In 1950, the burgeoning congregation began making plans for a new temple. Two years later its members moved into a modern facility designed by the firm of Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle and Wolff and built by M.B. Kahn Construction. This unique addition to the Shandon neighborhood served the Reform congregation until 1986, when its members relocated to a new synagogue at 6719 North Trenholm Road in Forest Acres.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Original Site of the Tree of Life Congregation

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

South Carolina State House

Isadore Lourie (second from right) with his family in Lourie's Department Store, 2000. Image courtesy of Special Collections, College of Charleston

Columbia Jews have been politically active for two centuries, shaping the capital city and the state. Modern contributors include Hyman Rubin, Sr. (1864 - 1911) and Isadore E. Lourie (1932 - 2003). Both sons of local merchants, they became leaders during the Civil Rights era. Rubin, active in city and state government from 1952 until 1986, started the first biracial commission with Mayor Lester L. Bates (1958) and co-founded with USC President Tom Jones the Columbia Luncheon Club, which first met at the Russell House (1963). During lunch counter sit-ins in 1960, Rubin acted as the intermediary between Jewish merchants and protestors. Lourie, active in the General Assembly from 1965 until 1992, was a lifelong advocate for the unrepresented who believed that government should “serve the needs of all the people—the young, the elderly, the strong and the weak, the bright and the ignorant, the black and the white.” In 1995, Governor David Beasley appointed Lourie to the South Carolina Commission on Racial Relations.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

South Carolina State House

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Lyons Grocery and Oyster Saloon

Isaac Lyons (1774 - 1843) and his two eldest sons, Henry (1805 - 1858) and Jacob Cohen Lyons (1807 - 1887), operated an oyster saloon at this site following their arrival from Charleston in the early 1820s. The saloon was popular with South Carolina College students, and alumnus J. Marion Sims recalled that Isaac “was one of the kindest and best of men, particularly to the students,” and would extend to them any amount of credit for any length of time. 

Advertisement from the Columbia Telescope, November 9, 1827 for the "New Grocery Store" operated by the Lyons family. Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina Libraries

Isaac and his wife, Rachel Cohen Lyons (1775 - 1838), had four other children. The eldest, Isabelle Rebecca Lyons (1804 - 1895), married Moses Cohen Mordecai (1804 - 1888), a wealthy Charlestonian and future state senator. Their three youngest sons, Theodore Hart (1817 - 1837), Isaac (1811 - 1837) and Joseph (1813 - 1837), all died of tuberculosis within an 18-month span and share a tombstone at Hebrew Benevolent Society Cemetery in Columbia (their father was a founding member of the society in 1826).

Following Isaac’s death in 1843, Jacob continued to operate a grocery at this site and leased out space to other merchants. The location for the saloon and grocery store is depicted here in 1850, in the parcel of land located across from the South Carolina State House. Detail from Arthur & Moore's Map of Columbia, S.C. and suburbs, c.a. 1850. Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

During the Burning of Columbia in February 1865, Jacob lost business properties and his home on Marion Street to the fire. Henry's property on Bull Street, which passed to his wife, Elizabeth Wolff Lyons (1818 - 1875), upon his death in 1858, remained intact. Jacob and his wife, Louisa Elizabeth Hart Lyons (1814 - 1819), soon left the state and were eventually buried in New Orleans.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Lyons Grocery and Oyster Saloon

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Brittons

Storefront display, circa 1935. Image courtesy of Stacy Levinson

The heyday of Columbia’s Jewish merchants came in the mid-20th century, with expansion into the suburbs and the development of shopping malls. Arnold Levinson (1927 - 2014), who learned the clothing business from working in his parents’ dry goods store in Barnwell, opened his own store, Britton’s, at 1337 Main Street in 1955. With a Tudor Revival façade of faux half-timbering and stucco, the building stood out from its neighbors. Part of Brittons’ success, remarked Arnold’s wife Faye, stemmed from Arnold’s “love of fabric.” Thanks to this passion for fashion and his willingness to take risks, Arnold successfully expanded his establishment to include four locations—Dutch Square, Richland Mall, Columbia Mall and Main Street. Today, Arnold’s children, Lucky and Stacy, operate Brittons at 2818 Devine Street, “where first impressions are lasting impressions.”

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Brittons

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Liberty Loan and Luggage

Budweiser Clydesdale horses seen outside Liberty Luggage and Loan on Main Street, 1949. Image courtesy of the John Hensel Collection, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

After operating a wholesale mercantile store at 927 Gervais Street from 1925 until 1932, Moses (1887 - 1959)  and Isaac Lifchez (1892 - 1978) relocated to Main Street. Here, the Russian immigrant brothers established the Liberty Loan & Luggage Shop which also sold jewelry, clothing and small housewares in addition to offering convenient short-term loans and baggage. This diversified business remained a downtown destination until 1950, when Friedman’s Jewelry & Loan succeeded it at this location.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Liberty Loan and Luggage

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of City Hall and Market

Drawing of the old City Hall and Market, which burned down on February 17, 1865. Reprinted from Old and New Columbia by J. F. Williams, 1929

Mordecai H. DeLeon (1781 - 1848) served as Columbia’s first Jewish mayor for three consecutive one-year terms from 1833 to 1836. He became a well-regarded physician in Columbia following his arrival from Camden in the early 1820s and treated such patients as South Carolina College president Thomas Cooper (namesake of DeLeon’s youngest son) and future Civil War diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut. DeLeon also served as a regent for the Columbia Lunatic Asylum from 1841 until his death in 1848. His three sons, David Camden (1813 - 1872), Edwin (1818 - 1891) and Thomas Cooper DeLeon (1839 - 1914), held nationally prominent positions in the fields of medicine, diplomacy and literature. The DeLeon family purportedly donated the land for the Hebrew Burial Society (site of the Hebrew Benevolent Society cemetery) and at one time a section of the cemetery was named after it.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of City Hall and Market

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Wheeler House

Advertisement for the Wheeler House in The Daily Phoenix newspaper (Columbia, S.C.), August 26, 1873. Image courtesy of Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress 

Proprietor Theodore Pollock (1836 - 1892) and his wife, Esther (1838 - 1902), opened this hotel and restaurant in 1873, which they advertised in the South Carolinian as serving “meals and oysters at all hours,” and having special accommodations for women. Pollock’s father, Elias (1806 - 1895), was the first vice-president of the Hebrew Benevolent Society and contributed to the South Carolinian’s food column “Palate.” Prior to running the Wheeler House, Theodore operated an oyster saloon on Richardson between Lady and Washington streets.

Wheeler House featured prominently in citizens’ memories of Wade Hampton’s 1876 election, as it was believed to be the meeting place of the Red Shirts before and after his election to the governorship.

Procession of recently elected Wade Hampton III down Main Street to the Wheeler House, the red-roofed, white building seen beyond the American flag. Reprinted from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 21, 1877

"The Congressional Investigating Committee in Session in the Wheeler House," one of several drawings depicting Wade Hampton's controversial election. Reprinted from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, December 30, 1876

By 1879, R.N. Lowrance took over as proprietor, and Theodore returned to the saloon business, operating out of the ca.-1874 city hall building, while his wife ran Hendrix House, where they both resided and rented rooms to boarders.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Wheeler House

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of D. Epstin’s Clothing Shop

Columbia Hotel, 1908. D. Epstin's Clothing Shop was located here during the Reconstruction period. Image courtesy Russell Maxey Collection, Richland Library

Polish immigrant Philip Epstin (1836 - 1921), a founder and later president of the Tree of Life Congregation from 1899 to 1901, opened D. Epstin’s Clothing Store with his brother, David (b. 1824), in 1867 on the ground floor of the Columbia Hotel, located on the corner of Taylor and Richardson streets. The brothers arrived in the capital city during its post-Civil War rebuilding and were among several Jewish families who helped resurrect commerce on Main Street during the Reconstruction era. In 1893, following a brutal attack in which he was horsewhipped by assistant Fire Chief W. J. May and strong epithets were exchanged, Philip Epstin sued for $10,000 but the jury awarded him a scant one cent in damages.

Advertisement for D. Epstin's Clothing House, 1875. Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of D. Epstin’s Clothing Shop

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Richland Lodge No. 39

Chapman Levy, circa 1835. Artist unknown. Image courtesy of Special Collections, College of Charleston Libraries

Camden native Chapman Levy (1787 - 1849) was the first recorded Worshipful Master of Richland Lodge No. 39, a masonic order believed to have been originally housed in the Law Range erected in 1822. Admitted to the bar in 1806, Levy also served as a captain during the War of 1812 and as a state legislator for Kershaw County during multiple terms from 1812 until 1832. During the early 1820s he operated a brickyard near the Columbia Canal where 20 of his 31 enslaved laborers worked. He enjoyed a statewide reputation as an authority in dueling protocol and once unsuccessfully prosecuted Governor John Taylor’s brother for murder. He left South Carolina in 1838 to form a law partnership in Mississippi with William McWillie, a future governor.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Richland Lodge No. 39

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Lourie’s Department Store

Lourie's Department Store at the corner of Main and Taylor Street. Image courtesy of Russell Maxey Collection, Richland Library

What became one of Columbia’s most successful high-end clothing retailers started in St. Matthews when immigrants Louis Lourie and wife, Annie Gitul Lourie, founded a junior department store in 1912. After attending college in Columbia, their sons, Sol and Mick, established Lourie’s Department Store at 1431 Main in 1948. The brothers endeared themselves to Columbia’s African American community soon thereafter. In 1949, Lourie’s was the only store willing to rent tuxedos to 50 male Allen University students serving as ushers during a performance of famed black soprano Marian Anderson at the Township Auditorium.

Portrait of Marian Anderson by Carl Van Vechten, 1940. Image courtesy Library of Congress

One year later, the store moved to 1437 Main Street. Lourie’s modernized in 1960, adding a women’s department, alteration shop and fur salon following the purchase and renovation of the three-story Efird building at 1601 Main Street.

Lourie's Department Store, 1978. Image courtesy of Russell Maxey Collection, Richland Library

Additional stores in Dutch Square, Columbia Mall, Trenholm Plaza and Columbiana Mall opened between 1970 and 1990 and were managed by the third generation of the Lourie family. The flagship store at 1601 Main Street closed in 2009.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Lourie’s Department Store

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Affording Luxury in Columbia

Barrett Visanska's jewelry businesses occupied various locations on Main Street for more than twenty years before relocating to the rear portion of the Sylvan Building (1215 Hampton Street), around 1904. Reprinted from The Tree of Life: Fifty Years of Congregational Life at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Columbia, S.C by Helen Kohn Hennig

Polish immigrant Barrett Visanska (c. 1848 - 1932) and Austrian immigrant Henry Steele (1840 - 1908), who ran watchmaking businesses on the 1400 blocks of Richardson (Main) and Assembly streets, respectively, appear to hold the distinction of being Columbia’s first Jewish jewelers. Others followed, including Philadelphia born Charles Reyner, Sr. (1898 - 1956), who moved to Columbia in 1916 and three years later opened Reyner’s Jewelry Store at 1610 Main Street. Reyner’s stayed in operation until the mid-1960s, and at its peak had additional locations in Trenholm Plaza and Five Points.

Charles Reyner, Sr.. Reprinted from The Tree of Life: Fifty Years of Congregational Life at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Columbia, S.C by Helen Kohn Hennig

In 1946, Nathan Picow (b. 1924) opened King’s Jewelers at 1625 Main Street. There, he also sold furniture, refrigerators, small appliances, stoves and television sets. From 1962 until 1982, Picow operated two stores on Main Street. Today, Picow’s sons, Ian and Jeffery, run the current location at 1611 Main Street, which opened in 1964.

King's Jewelry at 1611 Main Street. Image courtesy Russell Maxey Collection, Richland Library

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Affording Luxury in Columbia

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Berry’s On Main

Berry's on Main in 1949, before the expansion to the neighboring Manson building. Image courtesy John Hensel Collection, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

In 1941, after years of working at his father’s Assembly Street department store (B. Berry’s), Joe Berry (1910 - 1979) opened Berry’s on Main, which sold trendy women’s fashions. By 1962, the business grew to occupy the neighboring three-story Manson building. Its top stories enclosed and adorned with an enormous sign, the vastly remodeled, ca.-1911 structure symbolized Main Street merchants’ attempts to retain shoppers drawn to new suburban malls. Like other downtown Jewish clothing stores, such as Lourie’s and Britton’s, Berry’s followed its clientele by opening additional stores in Richland Mall in 1960, a separate men’s shop in 1968, and a branch at Dutch Square Mall by 1970. In 1982, Berry’s on Main closed its Main Street location.

Exterior of renovated Manson building, 1980. Image courtesy of Russell Maxey Collection, Richland Library

Interior of renovated Berry's on Main. Image courtesy of Barnett Berry

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Berry’s On Main

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Marks’ Porter and Relish House

Alexander Marks, unknown date and artist. Image courtesy of Paula Stein

In 1828, shortly after moving to Columbia, wealthy Charleston native Alexander Marks (1788 - 1861) established a boarding house across from the original Masonic lodge. Advertisements in the South Carolina Gazette and Columbia Advertiser claimed it served the “best Wines and Liquors.” The establishment also boasted a reading room “containing papers from different parts of the Union,” for patrons who paid a two-dollar annual fee. In 1833, Marks was arrested for violating a religious statute that banned the sale of goods on the Christian Sabbath. A founder of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, Marks argued the ordinance violated his constitutional religious liberties, as practicing Jews observed Saturdays as their Sabbath. Marks relocated his family to New Orleans shortly after the South Carolina Supreme Court dismissed his challenge and upheld the law.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of Marks’ Porter and Relish House

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of House of Peace Synagogue

House of Peace Synagogue, 1972. Image courtesy of the Russell Maxey Collection, Richland Library

By 1934, the House of Peace congregation had outgrown the capacity of its 1915 synagogue located at the corner of Park and Lady streets. This prompted members to vote for the construction of a new building. M. B. Kahn Construction Company served as the general contractor for the synagogue, which was erected at 1719 Marion Street. Roughly 500 people, including Governor Olin D. Johnson (1896 - 1965), attended the September 8, 1935 dedication. The congregation, now called by its Hebrew name Beth Shalom, used this building until 1973, when it relocated to its current location at 5827 North Trenholm Road.

Booklet cover from the dedication ceremony on September 8, 1935. Image courtesy Anne Stern Solomon

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Former Site of House of Peace Synagogue

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

A Former Governor’s Mansion

Hampton-Preston Mansion, 1865. Historic Columbia collection HCF 2007.4.5 

In 1873, Reconstruction Governor Franklin Moses (1838 - 1906) and his wife, Emma (1841 - 1920), purchased the Hampton-Preston estate for $42,000. According to popular accounts, the $15,000 down payment on the former Confederate family’s property came from a bribe Moses received for a government printing contract. For a short time, the mansion became the setting for reportedly lavish parties in which the “robber governor” entertained both black and white Republican politicians. Ultimately, failure to meet his mortgage payments caused Moses to forfeit the prized property not long after its purchase.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

A Former Governor’s Mansion

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Beth Shalom Cemetery

Chartered on April 26, 1883 by the Hebrew Cemetery Society of Columbia, the “free cemetery or burial ground for Hebrews” was one of the earliest of its kind in America. Its founding officers were Philip Epstein (president), Barrett Visanska (vice-president) and William Robinson (treasurer). The cemetery’s original property, purchased on March 12, 1883 from Eliza S. Bailey, occupied an entire city block, bounded by Indigo (Whaley), Lower (Heyward), Marion and Sumter streets. The cemetery’s oldest extant marker designates the burial of Arthur Benedict of Abbeville. 

 

 

Philip Epstein and Barrett Visanska. Reprinted from The Tree of Life: Fifty Years of Congregational Life at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Columbia, S.C by Helen Kohn Hennig

In 1896, the society sold 3 1/2 acres of the original track to W. B. S. Whaley for $900, keeping only 1/2 acre for use as a cemetery. Whaley used his newly acquired land to build housing for employees of Richland Cotton Mills.

Sanborn Fire Insurance map, 1919, showing the “Hebrew Cemetery” surrounded by mill housing. Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

In 1911, the House of Peace (Beth Shalom) Synagogue assumed management of the cemetery, and over time, it became recognized as a burial ground primarily for the synagogue’s members. House of Peace member Gus Oppenheimer was the cemetery’s first caretaker, a position he held from 1934 until 1976.  Due to a lack of space, land was purchased in Arcadia Lakes for the establishment of a new cemetery in 1995.

The University of South Carolina acquired the land surrounding the cemetery in 1969, and the Eugene E. Stone III Memorial Stadium was built in 1996. This soccer stadium is known as “The Graveyard” due to its proximity to the cemetery.

On January 15, 2017, the Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative unveiled a South Carolina Historical Marker at the cemetery. Following the dedication, Aaron Small and Dr. Jonathan Leader led a tour of the cemetery. To view the dedication and the tour, click here.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Beth Shalom Cemetery

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Site of the Parlor Restaurant

Advertisement for Ben David’s Parlor Restaurant at 1336 Main Street. Reprinted from Garnet and Black (University of South Carolina), 1902.

Benjamin “Ben” David (1852 - 1920) was born in Poland and immigrated to the United States with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph David (dates unknown), and his siblings, Rosa (1850 – 1893), Wolff (dates unknown) and Jacob (1854 - 1914) in 1855. He arrived in Columbia by 1875, where he is listed as selling wine and liquors on Assembly Street. By 1880, he was living in Chester, South Carolina, while his older sister, Rosa, was living with her husband, Barnett Berman, and children in Columbia. David returned to Columbia by 1891 and for several years worked as a merchant and saloon proprietor. In 1896, he opened the Parlor Restaurant in the Kendall Building on the 1200 block of Washington Street. The Parlor Restaurant would operate for 18 years at several locations in downtown Columbia, including the site of the Arcade Mall on Main Street.  Upon David’s death in 1920, he and his restaurant were eulogized in The State newspaper:

Mr. David conducted a restaurant, where the Arcade building now stands, for many years and became widely known as the best caterer in the state. At his restaurant legislators, business men, travelers and bankers as well as others found a rendezvous. They gathered there for their meals and were always sure of polite attention and plenty to eat. “Uncle Ben” made Columbia known as the “square meal town.”

                                                        The State, May 27, 1920

David’s first known advertisement for the Parlor Restaurant ran in the 1899 Columbia City Directory. The restaurant operated at 1342 Main Street from 1897 until 1899. The Barringer Building was constructed at this location in 1903.  Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

In 1900, the Parlor Restaurant moved to 1336 Main Street. He remained at this location until 1910, when plans for the Arcade Mall forced him to relocate once again. Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

David continued to run advertisements in several publications, including the University of South Carolina’s yearbook Garnet and Black, The State newspaper, and the Columbia City Directory. Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

David hosted a Thanksgiving meal in his final year at 1336 Main Street. The following year he relocated the restaurant to 1320 Main Street, where he remained until he retired in 1913. Reprinted from The State, November 22, 1910.

Upon his death in 1920, “Uncle Ben” was buried in Columbia’s Hebrew Benevolent Society cemetery alongside his brother, Jacob David.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Site of the Parlor Restaurant

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Site of H. Bamberg, Cigar Manufacturer


Advertisement found in the 1901 Columbia City Directory. Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

Henry Bamberg (1857 - 1919), a German immigrant who lived in Columbia for more than 35 years, operated a cigar manufacturing and wholesale business at this location from 1897 until 1901. Prior to this, Bamberg operated a store at 1325 Main Street. There, he produced a “deservedly popular and widely known line of Havana and domestic cigars,” which he distributed throughout the state as well as New York.

 

Bamberg’s cigar factory can be seen to the rear of his tobacco shop in the 1898 Sanborn Fire Insurance map. Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

 

Bamberg was active in Columbia’s Jewish community and served as the first treasurer of the Tree of Life Congregation. Reprinted from The Tree of Life: Fifty Years of Congregational Life at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Columbia, S.C by Helen Kohn Hennig

 


Bamberg also served as a mentor to Isidor Cassel (1872 – 1954), who arrived in Columbia in 1892. Cassel married Bamberg’s sister-in-law in 1896 and later opened his own successful cigar manufacturing business. Bamberg’s only son, Jacob Solomon Bamberg (1889 - 1953), served in World War I and later worked for his uncle’s business for 28 years. Reprinted from The Tree of Life: Fifty Years of Congregational Life at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Columbia, S.C by Helen Kohn Hennig

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Site of H. Bamberg, Cigar Manufacturer

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Site of Mordecai Family Residence

Isaac D. Mordecai (1805 – 1864) was born in Charleston, SC, to David Cohen Mordecai (1784 - 1818) and Reinah Abrahams Mordecai (1784 - 1853). His older brother, Moses Cohen Mordecai (1804 – 1888), ran a successful import business in Charleston and eventually became the port city’s most well regarded Jewish merchant.

 


According to advertisements in the Southern Patriot and Charleston Courrier, Isaac Mordecai was operating a grocery on Market Street in Charleston by 1829. Reprinted from The Southern Patriot, May 16, 1829. Image courtesy of Richland Library

 


Mordecai arrived in Columbia with several family members sometime before 1840. He lived at this residence, originally owned by his mother, from at least 1850 until his death in 1864. Mordecai likely acquired the deed upon his mother’s death in 1853, as by the 1860 US Census his total real estate value had risen to $12,000. In 1855, he was assaulted a few feet from his Lady Street home by “an individual, supposed to be a white man with his face blacked,” who was never apprehended (Charleston Courier, November 20, 1855). Arthur & Moore’s Map of Columbia, 1850. Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

 


Isaac opened a dry goods store specializing in cigars, tobacco and liquor sometime in the 1850s, and by 1859 he had moved his storefront to No. 128 Richardson (Main) Street, located on the west side between Plain (Hampton) and Taylor streets. Columbia city directory, 1859. Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

Isaac was involved in several organizations in Columbia, including Richland Lodge No. 39, the Hebrew Benevolent Society and the Bank of South Carolina, for which he was director. He remained in Columbia through at least July 1863, but was buried in the family plot at Coming Street Cemetery in Charleston the following year. The family's Lady Street residence was one of many destroyed during the Burning of Columbia in February 1865.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Site of Mordecai Family Residence

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Site of Max Aberman’s Dry Goods Store

Max Aberman (1881 - 1919) operated a dry goods retail business in this building from 1915 until his death in 1919. His wife, Celia Aberman (1888 - 1944), continued to operate the business for another year with the help of his brother, Gustave Gergel (1898 - 1927).

According to Max’s niece, Shirley Gergel Ness (b. 1928), Max was the first of four brothers who immigrated to the United States from Alexandrovka, Russia:

“…the oldest brother, by the name of Max Aberman. He took the name of Aberman, which was his wife’s maiden name because he did not want to be drafted into the Russian army. They came over much earlier. They came sometime in the early 1900s.”

Max immigrated in 1904 and settled in Columbia in 1908. His wife, Celia, and daughter, Olga, arrived from Russia in 1909. In the 1910 United States Census, he is listed as a “traveling salesman – dry goods,” indicating that he was likely a peddler for another established merchant.

His brother, Isidore Gergel (1892 – 1963), immigrated in 1913, and two more brothers, Joseph Gergel (1890 – 1976) and Gustave Gergel (1898 – 1927), arrived the following year. All three brothers worked as clerks or peddlers at Max’s store off and on until he died of influenza in early 1919.

 

Shirley Gergel Ness describes her father’s work as a peddler. Joseph Gergel worked for his brother Max’s store for several years after his arrival in 1914. To listen to the full interview, visit the College of Charleston's Jewish Heritage Collection Oral Histories by clicking here.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Site of Max Aberman’s Dry Goods Store

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Phoenix Building

Built by Julian Selby in 1866 to house the offices of the triweekly newspaper The Phoenix, this three-story structure is perhaps the oldest remaining Main Street building constructed after the Civil War. Jewish merchants have continually operated businesses out of the Phoenix since 1912.

 

Advertisement from the 1875 Columbia City Directory for The Phoenix, depicting the structure at 1623-1625 Main Street. Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

I. Cassel Cigar Factory (1623 Main Street, 1912 – 1952)

Isidor Cassel (1872 – 1954) operated his cigar manufacturing business at 1623 Main Street for more than 40 years. Cassel immigrated from Ritschenwalde, Germany, to the United States in 1884. He joined the United States Marine Corps when he was 15 and served more than three years. He arrived in Columbia in 1892 to work for Henry Bamberg (1857 – 1919), a highly regarded cigar manufacturer and who served as the first treasurer of the Tree of Life Congregation. In 1896, Cassel married Bamberg’s sister-in-law, Estelle “Essie” Epstin Cassel (1877 – 1948).

In 1901, Cassel opened his own cigar manufacturing business in the 1400 block of Main Street. In 1912, he relocated I. Cassel Cigar Factory to the Phoenix Building, where it remained until 1952. His nephew, Jacob Solomon Bamberg (1889 - 1953), was a World War I veteran who worked for him for 28 years beginning in 1916. 

 

Advertisement for I. Cassel Cigar Factory. Reprinted from The State, May 5, 1925.

Cassel was a member of the House of Peace Synagogue and joined the Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1899. He served as its secretary-treasurer from 1915 until 1954. At the time of his death he was the oldest member of the Freemasons organization Richland Lodge No. 39, having joined in 1896. Reprinted from The Tree of Life: Fifty Years of Congregational Life at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Columbia, S.C by Helen Kohn Hennig.

King’s Jewelers (1946 – 1964)

In 1946, Nathan Picow (b. 1924) opened King’s Jewelers at 1625 Main Street. In addition to jewelry, he sold appliances, furniture and television sets. In 1962, Picow opened a second location down the block at 1611 Main Street, which his sons, Ian and Jeffrey, continue to operate.

Mark’s Mens Wear (1981 – 2016)

Arnold Rivkin (1922 – 2008), the son of Raphael (1899 – 1987) and Rachel Winter Rivkin (1902 – 1984), purchased the building in 1977. In 1981, Rivkin moved his business, Mark’s Mens Wear, from 1338 Assembly Street to the first floor, where it remained in operation until the building was sold in 2016.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Phoenix Building

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Second Site of the Tree of Life Congregation

Tree of Life Congregation on Heyward Street, 1979. Image courtesy Russell Maxey Collection, Richland Library

This one-story structure, designed by architects Lyles, Bissett Carlisle and Wolff and built by M. B. Kahn Construction Company, was dedicated on April 4, 1952. The temple’s first service, led by Rabbi David Gruber, was held the same day. Referred to as a “departure from traditional church architecture,” this “modern, reverent, functional edifice” located in Shandon purportedly cost more than $100,000.

In addition to the sanctuary, the 7,000-square foot building included an assembly room with stage, seven classrooms, a kitchen, library, choir room and rabbi’s study. The exterior originally featured solid wooden doors with handles styled as ram horns.

The congregation grew from 60 families in 1952 to 250 families in 1986, necessitating the construction of a larger building. That year, the Tree of Life Congregation’s current temple opened at 6719 North Trenholm Road in Forest Acres. Seventy-five members of the congregation participated in the seven-mile procession that escorted the Torahs from the Shandon temple to the one in Forest Acres.

Today, the Heyward Street building is in use by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia. A South Carolina Historic Marker commemorating the Tree of Life Congregration was dedicated at the site on December 11, 2016.

Historic Columbia Executive Director Robin Waites and Tree of Life Congregation Rabbi Eric Mollo at the South Carolina Historic Marker unveiling. For more images of the dedication, click here.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Second Site of the Tree of Life Congregation

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Pendleton Building

Situated across the street from the University of South Carolina’s historic Horseshoe, this structure currently houses the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Office of the State Archaeologist. It was constructed in 1953 by Baker and Baker, a real estate development company owned by cousins David Baker (1918 - 2002) and Lee Jacob Baker (1919 - 2004).

David Baker, the son of Ukrainian immigrant Clara Kligerman Baker (1892 - 1969) and Frank Baker (1884 - 1941), was born in Estill, SC and moved to Columbia in 1926. His mother operated Baker's Grocery at 931 Park Street, and the family lived two rooms at the rear of the store.

David Baker and his wife, JoAnn Schreiber Baker (1932 - 2001), at their wedding in Augusta on June 25, 1950. Image courtesy Larraine Moses

 Lee Jacob Baker, the son of Ukrainian immigrant Esther Kligerman Baker (1890 - 1985)  and Jake Baker (1887 - 1951), was born at Columbia Hospital but lived in Estill until 1931, when his parents moved the family to Columbia. They lived in an apartment on the 1500 block of Park Street, and Jake and Esther ran a store on Assembly Street.

Lee Jacob Baker, his mother, Esther Kligerman Baker, his brother-in-law, Jack Alion (1909 - 1994), and his father, Jake Baker, at the wedding of Jack Alion and Evelyn Baker (1917 - 2000) on April 13, 1940. Lee entered the United States Navy a few months later. Image courtesy Larraine Moses

The cousins joined the United States Navy in 1940 and served throughout World War II. Both also attended the University of South Carolina, where they received bachelor and law degrees. Together they opened a law practice in Five Points in 1947. 

Here, David’s son, John Baker, discusses the early years of their partnership as well as the construction of the Pendleton Building, which was their first commercial real estate development deal. To listen to the full interview, visit the College of Charleston's Jewish Heritage Collection Oral Histories by clicking here.

The cousins continued to develop properties, including the Baker Building (below, top image) at 1600 Hampton Street, which is now owned by the University of South Carolina, and Baker Apartments (bottom image) at 724 Maple Street. Images courtesy Russell Maxey Collection, Richland Library

Other developments included the Midlands Shopping Center and the area’s first K-Mart. The prosperity of the partnership led to the creation of the Baker and Baker Foundation in 1983. The foundation has supported major cultural institutions in Columbia, including Richland Library, the Columbia Museum of Art and the United Way, as well as the Columbia Jewish Federation and the Jewish Day School. Both David and Lee were staunch supporters of many organizations. David served as the president of the Richland Kiwanis Club, the Tree of Life Congregation and the Columbia Jewish Community Center. He also chaired the local United Way and raised funds for the Columbia Museum of Art and Richland Library. Lee served as president of the Columbia Museum of Art and Columbia Music Festival Association and on the board of Beth Shalom Synagogue and the Salvation Army.

Today, Baker and Baker is run by David’s son, John Baker, and Lee’s son-in-law, Steven Anastasion.

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Pendleton Building

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Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Groucho's Delicatessan

Groucho's Delicatessan was founded in 1940 by Harold C. "Groucho" Miller (1899 - 1974). Miller was born in Connecticut to Issac and Rose Miller, who immigrated from Russia. Miller, his wife, Ethel Luberoff Miller (1903 - 1994), and three children, Donald, Ivan and Arlene, moved to Columbia around 1939. He then purchased Rivkin's Delicatessen, located at 1014 Lady Street, and named it "Miller's Delicatessen and Sandwich Shop." By the following year, the deli was known as "Groucho's," due to Miller's likeness to the famed comedian Groucho Marx.

The Miller's and Gottlieb's, along with an unidentified man, posed for this photograph during the opening of Miller's Delicatessen on Lady Street in 1940. John Gottlieb was Harold's brother-in-law and helped him establish the business. Miller's Russian Blintzes, which appeared on the menu for a short time, can be seen in the case. Left to right: John Gottlieb (1892 - 1956), and wife, Minnie Gottlieb (1894 - 1964); Groucho Miller, his wife, Ethel Miller, and an unnamed employee. Image courtesy of Bruce Miller

Groucho Miller and his son, Ivan Miller (1930 - 2001), on a stroll down the eastern side of the 1400 block of Main Street in 1943. Pictured in the background are signs for Jewish merchants Stein's Men's Shop and Friedman's Jewelers. Image courtesy of Bruce Miller

In 1942, Miller moved the deli to 1705 Main Street. In The State newspaper, Miller advertised his sandwich shop as being completely kosher, making it the first of its kind in Columbia. Image reprinted from The State March 1, 1942

 In 1947, Miller and his nephew, George Stein, purchased the Rivkin family’s other delicatessen at 618 Harden Street. They remained at this location for twenty years. 

Groucho Miller posing for an unknown photographer inside his deli at 618 Harden Street in 1948. Image courtesy of Bruce Miller

Ivan, age 17, poses with his mother, Ethel, outside their home at 2578 Gervais Street in 1947. Image courtesy of Faye Goldberg Miller

"Colonel" Groucho Miller was also regularly recognized for his charitable work with the South Carolina Society for Crippled Children and Adults and the Easter Seal Society. He served as a leading "B.A.C." (Buck-A-Cup) button salesman for more than a decade. Here, he deposits his 1956 fundraising contribution. Image courtesy of Bruce Miller

Ivan and his wife, Faye Goldberg Miller, in 1957. They married that same year. Image courtesy of Faye Goldberg Miller

Faye was a young bride who quickly became close with her mother-in-law. Here, she remembers her in-laws fondly:

Advertisements for Groucho's began appearing regularly in The State newspaper beginning in the 1960's. Image reprinted form The State June 19, 1966.

In 1967, Groucho's moved across the street to 611 Harden Street. The following year, Ivan joined the business full time, and he and Faye worked there together for 28 years.  

Today, Ivan's wife, Fay, and son, Bruce Miller, runs the business, which is now a franchise with 32 locations in North and South Carolina. Here, Faye Miller recalls Bruce's early days working in the deli.

The Groucho's sign that currently hangs outside the Five Points location on Harden Street dates to 1947, when the business was officially renamed during the move from the Main Street location. Image courtesy of Bruce Miller

In 2016, the family celebrated the 75th anniversary of the business at the South Carolina State House.

Left to right: Faye Miller, Bruce Miller, his daughter, Emma Miller, and wife, LA Miller. Image courtesy of Bruce Miller

Left to right: Donald "Donnie" Miller, Emma Miller and her father, Bruce, and his two cousins, Jack and Ina Gottlieb. Image courtesy of Bruce Miller

Columbia's Jewish Heritage Sites

Groucho's Delicatessan

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