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SUSAN TAUBER

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Interviewee:  SUSAN TAUBER

Interviewer: Dena Scher
Interview Date: July 16, 2018
Location: Troy, MI
Interview No.: 07.16.18-ST (audio digital file)
(Approximate total length 59 minutes)
Transcription: Yousaidit (DS), Fiverr

Themes: Jewish Identity, Jewish Gentile Relations, Upbringing


Summary: Having moved from Detroit to Alabama to start fourth grade, Susan Tauber was struck by the lack of racial and religious diversity. Tauber’s family background was equally divided between Her Orthodox Jewish paternal grandparents, and her socialist atheist maternal grandparents. Though Alabama was different, Tauber always fit in easily and was always open about her Judaism. Her friends came to temple with her and she would visit churches with them. She remembers: I would go horseback riding with my girlfriends. We ride through town. We throw a saddle on and we go ride all over. The family then returned to Detroit. Having returned as an accomplished pianist, Susan was glad to reconnect with Jewish culture. Later in life, she starting a career in journalism, and moved to Rochester, MI.  Susan found herself again detached from a Jewish community, until she became part of the founding of Shir Tikvah synagogue.

Example of proper citation/ attribution:
Scher, D. (Interviewer) & Tauber, S. (Interviewee). (2018) Susan Tauber: Jewish Journeys [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from Jewish Journeys Oral History Collection of Congregation Shir Tikvah: https://shirtikvah.org/cstoralhistoryarchive

                     INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Interviewer:              The name of the interviewer is Dena Scher. The name of the interviewee is Susan Tauber. The date is July 16th, 2018. The place is the Library of Congregation Shir Tikvah in Troy, Michigan. Susan, I've explained the project and you've signed the consent for this public interview. Is that correct?

Interviewee:                         Correct.

Interviewer:              Thank you. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. So Susan, I wanted to start back where you were born, although you said Detroit, and I thought it was -- you were actually born in Alabama. So, let's just start there. And then I think soon we'll get to Alabama.

Interviewee:                         Okay. So, I was born in Detroit at Sinai Hospital, as many Jewish people were and grew up. In Detroit, I don't remember our first house. But green lawn, which is -- there were a lot of lot of Jewish people, black people, everybody. It was a wonder. We had Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics. It was a great neighborhood to grow up in Detroit. And I went to Fitzgerald Elementary School till the third grade and I'm through the third grade. And I was very immersed in Jewish life. My Tauber grandparents were Orthodox, and they were very early members of Congregation Beth Ahm, which is now Beth Ahm Hillel Moses.

Interviewer:              Where had they come from? Were they born in this country?

Interviewee:                         They were from Galitzianer Jews from Galicia, which has been part of Poland. It's around where Kiev, Ukraine is. My grandfather was a tailor when he -- which is where I think I got my sewing skills, and had seven children, one being my dad. And then my mom's parents, Blyfields, were socialist atheists, but observed all the Jewish holidays. And my brother, Fred, Dennis and I, in that order, were born and we went to Temple Israel. And I know we had to go for Sunday school. And my brothers, I can't really remember if Fred was Bar Mitzvahed, because I would have only been like six. Dennis, there was not Bar Mitzvah, but they had a 13-year-old birthday party for him, a big party. And then when I was seven, starting at seven -- no, I guess I was going to be nine, we moved to Alabama to start the fourth grade.

Interviewer:              Okay. So your parents -- your grandparents on your father's side were Orthodox Jews.

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              And your grandparents on your mother's side were socialist atheist.

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              And then your father and mother started their family in Detroit, and they belong to Temple Israel. Were they -- they were sort of socialist atheist or they were sort of Orthodox?

Interviewee:                         Well, I think, depending which temple we were going to.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         We’d go Beth Ahm, which is conservative now. So I would say now my grandparents started leaning towards more conservative, although they were Shomer Shobbos. But --

Interviewer:              So this was till the age of nine?

Interviewee:                         Yes. I think my dad went along more with my mom.

Interviewer:              And your mom was more the secular.

Interviewee:                         Atheist, oh yes. Oh, yes. She loved arguing with everybody that Judaism was not a religion but a culture. And oh, yeah. So, it was it was fun though. It was fun. And my other grandparents came from Russia and he had to leave my grandparents.

Interviewer:              What do you mean they had to leave?

Interviewee:                         Well, the pograms, they came over. And my grandfather was a specialized in plaster and painting houses and for a while had an egg factory where they would candle the eggs to make sure that there was only one yolk. And he’d bring us all the double triple yolks egg.

Interviewer:              Do you know the circumstances of their leaving?

Interviewee:                         No, I do not.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Because we left, you know. By the time I left Detroit, I wasn't of an age where I would ask questions, you know. You just take things for granted.

Interviewer:              Sure.

Interviewee:                         It’s not like, “Oh, why did you leave Russia?” I never thought to ask that.

Interviewer:              Right, right, right.

Interviewee:                         I really didn’t. Yeah.

Interviewer:              Okay. So, that egg story. Really interesting. So is there -- before we go on when you left, are there any things that you -- how you might describe your -- this is a Jewish identity thing --

 

[0:05:04.9]

Interviewee:                         Right.

Interviewer:              Runs the gamut, really.

Interviewee:                         Yes. Well, we -- just always knew I was Jewish. And like you said, we did not really have a Jewish home. I mean, other than observing holidays. And going on Friday nights to one set of the grandparents. And for the Tauber family, oh my gosh, we'd have 40 or 50 people down in my grandparents’ basement on Lejour Street in Detroit. And my grandma made her own wine and everything was -- had the kosher kitchen down there. And we would have wonderful holidays.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         I mean, just all of them, the Yom Kippur fast. The Passover was delightful, everything. So, we were just immersed in it. It was never a question.

Interviewer:              And your mom was okay.

Interviewee:                         Oh, yeah. She went along with everything.

Interviewer:              What about schooling? When you went to school up to the age of nine, you were in Detroit School.

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              Fitzgerald School.

Interviewee:                         Fitzgerald. My brother, Dennis, went to Post and my brother Fred went to Mumford.

Interviewer:              Okay. And were there lots of Jewish?

Interviewee:                         A lot of Jewish, a lot of -- of course, we were integrated. And my -- and I had all types of friends because of the street I grew up on. Like I said, we had Jehovah's Witness, the Catholics, we have Baptists, Jewish. We had a little bit of everything on the street.

Interviewer:              And that was fine.

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              And then, I guess, the school was so Jewish. Would it close for holidays?

Interviewee:                         I don’t remember.

Interviewer:              Okay. But there was no --

Interviewee:                         I don't remember.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         I don't know that it was so Jewish. I don’t remember that.

Interviewer:              But what happen at Christmas time?

Interviewee:                         I don’t remember.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         I truly don’t remember.

Interviewer:              Let’s move on.

Interviewee:                         Yes, yes.

Interviewer:              Okay. So at nine, what were the circumstances of you moving?

Interviewee:                         My dad was transferred to Florence to pistons plant for Ford Motor Company. My dad worked for Ford Motor. And I do remember in Detroit that a lot of times, particularly Alabama, he would not be able to take off for the holidays. And I’d say to him, “Dad, why aren't you going to Temple with us?” And he'd say, “I can't,” because Ford, Henry Ford himself was so antisemitic. And he couldn't take off - -

Interviewer:              What did he do for Ford?

Interviewee:                         He was an engineer, metallurgical engineer.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         And so, when we moved to -- so we moved to Alabama. For me before the fourth grade and I -- my dad bought a house on Norwood Boulevard. It was a little town. We were the tri-cities. There was Florence, Sheffield and Tuscumbia, and they were called the tri-cities. It’s very Northwestern Alabama, just south of Tennessee border.

Interviewer:              And you were in Florence?

Interviewee:                         Florence, Alabama. Yes.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         And I could walk to my little elementary school, Harlan. There was one junior high --

Interviewer:              You have an older brother and a young --

Interviewee:                         No, my brother is much older.

Interviewer:              Okay. Yeah.

Interviewee:                         Fred, Dennis, me.

Interviewer:              And you, okay. Yeah. Okay. So you could walk to school --

Interviewee:                         I could walk to elementary, right? I do remember the overall impression of starting fourth grade at Harlan Elementary School. Before, I'd only met a couple of my neighbor friends I mean, you know, when you're that young, you play with everybody and anybody. Let's play kickball. Let's do this. Let's play volleyball. So I had met some of the people. There wasn't a black kid to be seen anywhere.

Interviewer:              As far as you knew, there weren't any.

Interviewee:                         There weren’t any black people or kids. And I remember look -- because I -- my boyfriend in the third grade was Alex.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         And he was a black kid --

Interviewer:              That’s here in Detroit?

Interviewee:                         In Detroit, yes. And Alex is my boyfriend. And it was pretty amazing to look around and not a black face anywhere.

Interviewer:              You thought that -- when you were --

Interviewee:                         Absolutely. I remember walking to the classroom and just noticing it was all white. It’s like, “What’s going on here?” And then starting the morning with the Lord’s Prayer and then saying “In Jesus name, we pray.”

Interviewer:              Yes.

Interviewee:                         And looking around about that. What? What did everybody just say? It was a shock. It was a shock.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         So I learned somehow just not to say that.

Interviewer:              But before we go on to how you learn, did you come home and question or you were just --

Interviewee:                         I don’t remember if I did. I just think I knew I wasn’t supposed to say that and just didn’t say it during the prayer.

Interviewer:              Okay. Okay. And so then you realize, were there any Jewish kids in the class?

Interviewee:                         No. I was the only Jewish child in my school.

Interviewer:              Okay. The whole school?

Interviewee:                         The whole school.

Interviewer:              And for your brothers?

Interviewee:                         There were -- there were a couple of Jewish kids in the middle school and a couple of Jewish kids in the high school.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Plus, we did have Temple Bnai Israel.

[0:10:00.8]

Interviewer:              So, it was a synagogue in that area?

Interviewee:                         Yes. And which was founded in 1906. And we did Friday night services. I think we're every other Friday night. And --

Interviewer:              Was this reform?

Interviewee:                         Reform, oh, yes. Yes.

Interviewer:              Okay. And had a full time rabbi?

Interviewee:                         No, we did not. The rabbi came up from Birmingham, Alabama.

Interviewer:              Okay. Like once a month or something?

Interviewee:                         I think he might have come up every other week.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         A lot of lay-led, which was why when we start our congregation, I liked it so much. I was used to the lay-led. Our Sunday school teachers, of course, were just members. And --

Interviewer:              So you were Jewish at home and in synagogue and there was a synagogue. And at school, it was not an issue. I mean, it wasn't -- you were not anything or you weren't --

Interviewee:                         Correct.

Interviewer:              Did you say you were hidden Jew?

Interviewee:                         No. No. Oh, no. Absolutely not. No, no, no. And at 10, I became the piano accompanist for the --

Interviewer:              At 10.

Interviewee:                         At age 10.

Interviewer:              Yeah. Okay. Had you started taking --

Interviewee:                         Oh yeah, I already been taking piano lessons for a while.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         Yeah. So --

Interviewer:              So you the Lord's Prayer and you learn not to say the --

Interviewee:                         In Jesus name, we pray.

Interviewer:              You just quiet.

Interviewee:                         Mm-hmm.

Interviewer:              And then you can you tell me a little bit about making friends at the school and --

Interviewee:                         I was just another kid. I don't remember. I truly do not remember anyone saying -- because I always had a Jewish star. Anyone saying, “Oh, I can't be friends with you because you're Jewish.” And, you know, we would spend the night at people's houses on Friday nights. The big thing in the town as probably in many small towns was the high school football games on Friday night. So often, and my brothers played on the team. And often, we would go to football instead of Temple. But that was just -- that's what we did. We went to the football game.

Interviewer:              And for your parents, your mother, that was --

Interviewee:                         They were fun. Sure.

Interviewer:              And your father?

Interviewee:                         He never -- I don’t remember it being an issue. I don’t. Of course, they talk a lot in Yiddish.

Interviewer:              Really?

Interviewee:                         And I couldn't understand it.

Interviewer:              Yeah. Okay.

Interviewee:                         So, I don't know. But -- and of course, they were new -- for my brothers, there were no Jewish girls to date. I mean, they were. But the other Jewish kids became more like our brother/sister. I remember going to the Rosenthal's houses a lot and the Zeff’s. And the Rosenthal’s were the ones who owned the movie theaters in town. And so many of the Jewish people were merchants, probably came great, you know, in early centuries merchants and own many of the stores. And we do spend a lot of time with them socially.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Pointing out their houses. And then we did join a country club because my parents and brothers golf. And I just remember making friends there. Yeah, some of the Jewish families belong there.

Interviewer:              So for that country club, it wasn't an issue --

Interviewee:                         Well, there was the fancy country club and we belong to the non-fancy country club. So, my folks took up golfing and I would go to the swimming pool. So I don't have any feelings of anti-semitism in my overall memory. There were circumstances like, as I've mentioned to you before, my girlfriend sort of maybe give me a cross at Christmas time as a gift. And I would say, “I'm sorry, I can't accept this. I don't believe in Jesus Christ as the savior or whatever. I'm Jewish,” or I try to explain. And I do remember some of the parents asking me questions, but I don't remember ever being afraid or thinking, “Why are they asking me this?” in a mean or frightful way. I just don't have an overall memory of that.

Interviewer:              What about memory of trying to convert you or to have you --

Interviewee:                         No. No. And we had so much fun that my girlfriends, you know, they’d spend the night. They come with me to Temple maybe on Friday night. And on Saturday night I'd spend the night with them and go to church with them on -- I went to every church. You name it, I was there. I knew all the hymns. I sang all of them.

Interviewer:              But at the same time, you were Jewish.

Interviewee:                         But I was Jewish. Yeah. I just went along with my girlfriends, you know.

Interviewer:              And it just strikes me so many stories of being Jewish in the south aren't as open about, you know, your being Jewish and it being fine and so forth. So what do you attribute it?

Interviewee:                         My parents probably on what they -- maybe they were secure enough there. I don't know. I mean, for instance, we got a pug and her name was Meeskite (Yiddish)

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Meeskite had little puppies and my mom gave them all Yiddish names and here we are in the south.

Interviewer:              Okay. But similar to you, they had friends who weren't Christian or who were not Jewish?

Interviewee:                         Yes, of course. My dad working at Ford Motor and my mom got active in different committees. And the sisterhood had a -- the Temple had a nice sisterhood.

[0:15:09.03] 

                        However, many women there were. I mean, there were only maybe four or five kids in my Sunday school class. And it was a wide range of ages. So, maybe because we had an active temple and they did things in the community and so many --

Interviewer:              So they did that like you and that was a model for you.

Interviewee:                         Yes, and so many of the merchants being --

Interviewer:              Jewish.

Interviewee:                         Jewish. And so, there was that press that people knew.

Interviewer:              Yeah. And for your parents also, you didn't hear things about them being uncomfortable.

Interviewee:                         No, no. When my brothers meet, they probably had a much harder time maybe dating. I could say in dating ages.

Interviewer:              But did they -- do you remember about them? Do you remember them talking?

Interviewee:                         Well, I remember my brother, Fred, being in love with Edna.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         And my grandparents, I remember this, we must have been visiting Detroit or something, saying if he married Edna they would disown him. I do remember that conversation. That was the more conservative grandparents. I don't remember my more reformed cultural Jewish grandparents. But no, I don't remember. You know, if it came up, I don't have a recollection of there being fights or you can't date her because she's not Jewish. There wasn’t anyone else to date. They knew they weren't he wasn't going to marry her.

Interviewer:              You mentioned how in the first day you were shocked that there was not a single black face where you’re coming from Detroit. Did you become come to understand the discrimination?

Interviewee:                         Yes, and it was terrible. It was terrible.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         My mom, let’s say would have to hire someone to come clean the house. And then I would go with her to take the lady home. And literally lived in the -- on the dirt roads, in the shacks of the black people or in a segregate -- totally segregated area with their own schools. And I remember wanting to go to the State Fair the first year we moved there. The lady who came to clean the house, we didn't have a maid regularly or anything. And I think that word maid actually a cleaning person.

                        My mom asked this lady if she would take me to the State Fair. And I was very comfortable, of course, being with a black person. That didn't bother me at all. But I do remember the looks. It’s just like, “What’s this white little girl doing a black lady?” Things like that. But, you know, I was appalled. I think my -- we were all appalled.

Interviewer:              There were -- you were aware of different drinking fountains?

Interviewee:                         Oh, absolutely. No Negros, no Jews. No Jews. They were places the country club, you know, the fancy country club that we can’t belong to.

Interviewer:              So, that became just a fact of life.

Interviewee:                         Yes. But I always remembered my black friends in Detroit. And I was always, I think, the year I left Alabama to go to Memphis, I think, my high school did become segregated.

Interviewer:              You mean integrated?

Interviewee:                         Integrated. I’m sorry. Integrated. Yes.

Interviewer:              Yeah. So, what’s segregated?

Interviewee:                         It was totally --

Interviewer:              All the time you were there.

Interviewee:                         Totally segregated. Life was segregated.

Interviewer:              Right, right.

Interviewee:                         I don't remember ever seeing a black kid in the library. And I went to the library all the time. I'd walk 45 minutes.

Interviewer:              Yeah. What were some of your other interest? Do you go to the library, piano?

Interviewee:                         Oh, I love -- my piano was very serious. I was very serious piano student. My mother would drive me to Memphis, Tennessee from --

Interviewer:              How far away was that?

Interviewee:                         About three and a half hours just for a lesson. Yeah. Well, I majored in music my first two years of college and wanted to become a professional accompanist. So, my -- and I outgrew the piano teachers in Alabama.

Interviewer:              So, piano was a good thing.

Interviewee:                         Piano. Oh, I love sports. I go horseback riding with my girlfriends. We ride through town. It wasn't fancy horseback riding. You know, they had their horses in the barn. We throw a saddle on and we go ride all over. And it wasn't like you show or there was nobody showed horses.

Interviewer:              But it wasn't like someone who was leading your horse.

Interviewee:                         No, no, no. We were riding. And we go off from town, “Oh, hi mom. Look, I’m on a horse.”

Interviewer:              Yeah, yeah.

Interviewee:                         My brothers who take me to play some tennis. I got -- we just have neighborhood kickball games, hula hoop, jump rope. We were always outside doing fun. We never had a baseball team. Not like today where they will organize for us. I don't remember any organized sports at all.

Interviewer:              Just be pickup --

Interviewee:                         Just pickup games and we go take walks and we go into the field. There’s a half acre field behind my house and we play adventure games and it was just fun.

[0:20:04.6]

Interviewer:              This was kids in the neighborhood as well.

Interviewee:                         Yeah, kids in the neighborhood.

Interviewer:              So this was from age about nine until you're in -- almost end of high school.

Interviewee:                         Well, high school, of course, I got involved with theater. We did summer Music Theater. I always play the piano. I was always the accompanist.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         For every game in middle school, I’d leave middle school, walk to the high school, accompany the choir, and whatever, and then I go walk back to the middle school.

Interviewer:              But then you also took up at the synagogue, you said.

Interviewee:                         Yes, yes. I was accompanist at the synagogue. And so, and my brothers were in the band and played sports.

Interviewer:              So this was a very full productive childhood.

Interviewee:                         It was a wonderful -- actually, a fun wonderful place to grow up. I really, I really feel it was. I feel I was very fortunate. It was a happy childhood.

Interviewer:              And it also strengthened your sense of Jewish identity because of this people --

Interviewee:                         People and minority.

Interviewer:              You were with --

Interviewee:                         Yeah.

Interviewer:              The synagogue, you were doing things with the synagogue.

Interviewee:                         Right. And here, I wrote a letter in 2003, I think, to classmates why I have no idea. And said, “Thanks to all of you. I never felt different because I was a faith foreign to most of Florence, Alabama.”

Interviewer:              Right. Right.

Interviewee:                         Also, as a Detroiter, I was used to integration of schools in life, which we certainly didn't have in Alabama at that time. But you all accepted me as a friend and classmate.

Interviewer:              So you write this for a reunion or what was the occasion?

Interviewee:                         I don’t know what and how. It’s when and all first really started. This was 2002, January -- oh, no, 2003. And I must have gotten something from a classmate and then had all these letters, emails. And I remember just -- being home it was New Year's Eve and writing this letter. And then I got responses from them.

Interviewer:              Yeah. Nice. But let’s --

Interviewee:                         Sure.

Interviewer:              I’ve got lots of things covered here.

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              So let’s move on to -- then your next stop was Memphis.

Interviewee:                         Memphis.

Interviewer:              Okay. So tell me from the end of Florence to going to Memphis.

Interviewee:                         Okay. I had a boyfriend, Eddie. And one of these responses was from a gal who talked about getting married as a senior in high school. Many of my classmates were getting married. It was widely accepted at 16, 17 to get married. And --

Interviewer:              And that would be the end of their education?

Interviewee:                         Probably.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Probably. Yes. And so, all of a sudden, my mom, I'll never forget we were in my bedroom. My mom came and said, “You and I are moving to Memphis for your senior high school.” Well, today, I can't even imagine how a childhood respond. Back then you said, “Okay.” You know, you didn't question your parents.

Interviewer:              Did you say, “What about Eddie?”

Interviewee:                         No, I probably didn’t. I probably didn’t. But that’s my piano teacher was.

Interviewer:              Okay. And the reason for the move was the piano or --

Interviewee:                         My mother taught me piano. I also -- probably in my head thought maybe she thought she better get me out of here because I might run off and marry Eddie when I'm 17 years old.

Interviewer:              Do you think that was a possibility?

Interviewee:                         No.

Interviewer:              Okay. But she could have been --

Interviewee:                         There were many of my friends doing that.

Interviewer:              Yeah. Okay.

Interviewee:                         It was not uncommon.

Interviewer:              So the boys are going to stay with your --

Interviewee:                         No, they were in college already.

Interviewer:              Oh, they were in college. Where did they go to college?

Interviewee:                         University of Alabama. Roll Tide.

Interviewer:              Maybe someone understands that, but not me. But anyway, so, and your father stayed --

Interviewee:                         Stayed for a year.

Interviewer:              For his job.

Interviewee:                         Yes. And then put in for transfer to Detroit.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         So we are in Memphis one summer, one full school year.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         And we lived a block from the Reform temple there. And the high school I went to, Central High School, was us probably 60% Jewish.

Interviewer:              Really?

Interviewee:                         It was incredible. And I got active in a “sorority.” Everyone was Jewish.

Interviewer:              This is last year of high school?

Interviewee:                         My senior of high school. Yes.

Interviewer:              So it was in the neighborhood that was Jewish?

Interviewee:                         Yes, or mixed. I mean, right. There were a lot of Jewish people live there.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         I had a ball. I was --

Interviewer:              So you just fit right in?

Interviewee:                         I was the new kid on the block. So, I had a lot of dates. And I played the organ at the synagogue, you know. And I would fit in because I could play the piano. I fit in right in with the music group.

Interviewer:              Right. And sports?

Interviewee:                         Well, I didn't do sports there. I strictly did music. Music theater.

Interviewer:              And theater?

Interviewee:                         Well, music theater. Yes.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         I got to be Annie Oakley in Oklahoma in fact.

[0:25:00.4]

Interviewer:              Did you date just Jewish boys?

Interviewee:                         Not on purpose, but I did. I mean, my friends were all Jewish that I remember.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Yeah, because the way it turned out.

Interviewer:              Okay. So, there was not an issue of whether you -- like with your brother who was dating.

Interviewee:                         Right, right, right. And my cousin came, and Mississippi came to live with us. So I had a sister for the first time. So, that was -- well, it was sad. At that time, she was anorexic and her psychiatrist was there. People didn't know about anorexia and she did later die from it. And I know, you know, I’d be asked for a date. And I'd say, “Well, what about Madeleine?” So I often didn't go out because I wanted to be with Madeline.

Interviewer:              I see.

Interviewee:                         I didn't want her to feel excluded.

Interviewer:              So at the end of the year, you were just there for a year.

Interviewee:                         One year.

Interviewer:              And then Madeline went back.

Interviewee:                         Went home.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         And then we move back to Detroit.

Interviewer:              Okay. So it comes -- the transfer comes through for your father. Right.

Interviewee:                         You finished high school.

Interviewer:              High school.

Interviewee:                         And you're going to return to Detroit.

Interviewer:              Right.

Interviewee:                         And at the same weekend, I graduate high school -- well, the next weekend, my brother Dennis graduated college and got married. And my brother, Fred, graduated dental school. And that was --

Interviewer:              Can we just stop and ask you about your brother who got married? Did he marry someone who is Jewish?

Interviewee:                         He did not.

Interviewer:              And what did the grandparents say at this point?

Interviewee:                         I think enough of their grandchildren in Detroit were marrying outside of the faith that they opened their mind. They did become much more open minded. But I think Donna converted. Donna did convert.

Interviewer:              Okay. This is --

Interviewee:                         Dennis’s.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Yeah.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         And so -- [Crosstalk]

Interviewer:              So you move back. I guess, you’re going to college then.

Interviewee:                         I didn't apply. I only had applied to music schools. I wanted to go to Curtis Institute of Music. I was not accepted.

Interviewer:              Philadelphia, I think?

Interviewee:                         Yes, in Philadelphia. And so, I spent a year working at Hudson's and doing different jobs and then applying for schools up here.

Interviewer:              Okay, living at home.

Interviewee:                         Living at home.

Interviewer:              Where did your family --

Interviewee:                         At the Woods Apartments at 11 mile and Lahser.

Interviewer:              Okay. And what synagogue? Did they affiliate --

Interviewee:                         They did not. We just went with my grandparents to Beth Ahm if we went to Temple.

Interviewer:              Okay. And your dad was happy with his job?

Interviewee:                         Yes, he was in with the tractor division of Ford Motor Company.

Interviewer:              Okay, okay. And your mom? Does your mom work?

Interviewee:                         My mom always worked at something.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Whether it was creating trouble or whatever.

Interviewer:              What do you mean by that?

Interviewee:                         She was just fun. She was a lot of fun. You know, she would -- I don't know. But she was the first female saleswoman of cars in Memphis.

Interviewer:              Oh, interesting.

Interviewee:                         The very first woman to be hired as a car saleswoman. So she was already selling something. And in Detroit when we moved back, polyester clothes were coming out. And she sold a line of polyester clothes. I mean she always was selling. I remember in Detroit Encyclopedia Britannica, she sold those door to door.

Interviewer:              Okay. She could sell anything.

Interviewee:                         She could sell anything, yeah.

Interviewer:              So, this was that merchant kind of background.

Interviewee:                         Yes, yes.

Interviewer:              Okay. So would she be out of the home?

Interviewee:                         Yeah, she’d be out of the house. Yeah.

Interviewer:              Okay. Yeah.

Interviewee:                         Yeah. But she got very active with National Council of Jewish women. She did a lot with National Council.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         She knew the Mrs. Winklemann.

Interviewer:              So, this is more of a secular kind of organization?

Interviewee:                         Yes, very active by that one.

Interviewer:              Okay. So, you move back to the apartments that were at--

Interviewee:                         Southfield.

Interviewer:              In Southfield, okay. And you've worked at Hudson's and then you're applying to music school.

Interviewee:                         Right. Right.

Interviewer:              So, what happened?

Interviewee:                         Well, I went to Oakland University for a year and major in music. And then I wanted to go to Michigan State, major in music therapy because they just opened that program. But I didn’t. I ended up going to Wayne.

Interviewer:              Oh, okay.

Interviewee:                         Wayne State.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Yeah. Oh, one funny thing about living in the south. Of course, our family would drive down or fly down to visit from Detroit.

Interviewer:              Yes, yes.

Interviewee:                         And they'd always bring us Vernors, matzah, and salami.

Interviewer:              And you save the matzah to Passover or --

Interviewee:                         Or eat it, I don’t know. But I would always hide my Vernors from my brothers.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         Because they’d always want to steal it from me. So, I'd have to hide it. So, that was - [Crosstalk]

Interviewer:              That’s fun. And then you fly up. You drive?

Interviewee:                         Drive or fly.

Interviewer:              To see them.

Interviewee:                         I come up for whole summers.

Interviewer:              Oh, yeah?

Interviewee:                         Or probably major events.

Interviewer:              Which set of grandparents --

Interviewee:                         I'd say with my Blyfield, grandparents. My aunt had bought the lake cottage where I live now. And I'd say stay there for summer or I go off to music camp to Ole Miss University. They had, you know, I --

Interviewer:              Oh, you didn’t say you could either place in the summer.

Interviewee:                         Yeah, I would do different things in the summer.

[0:30:00.6] 

Interviewer:              Okay. So before we move on to your return to Detroit, is there anything else maybe we didn't cover about the Alabama days?

Interviewee:                         I do remember, my brothers joined a Jewish fraternity and lived at the fraternity house. And they did tell me stories of the Ku Klux Klan coming and burning crosses on the Jewish fraternity lawn. They did probably experience much more anti-semitism than I did.

Interviewer:              Were they fearful?

Interviewee:                         I don't remember that them they -- probably telling me as their little sister didn't try to make me fearful. But I do remember that happening. I do remember them being anti-semitism in that. And as I said, they're being older -- when they went through, they may have experienced it differently.

Interviewer:              True.

Interviewee:                         And, you know, unfortunately --

Interviewer:              But mainly we want from your experience.

Interviewee:                         Right, right, right. Okay. So, no. Just my memories are -- no, not as far as Jewish. The only problem I did have coming up to Detroit was I felt stupid because the classes, the children were able to take care of what was offered in schools. And what I had was like, “You took what in high school?” I mean, it took me a few years to get over feeling dumb. But that was just because of education.

Interviewer:              Isn’t it painful of what they’d say, “You had what in high school?”

Interviewee:                         Well, let’s say statistics or calculus or chemistry or things that were offered. I don't remember we were offered those things.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Girls who are allowed to play full court basketball in gym, we were only allowed to play half-court basketball. We weren't allowed to play this sport. We didn't have running team. The girls didn’t run.

Interviewer:              Okay. And you didn’t play the upper level mathematics?

Interviewee:                         Oh, no. No, they weren’t offered.

Interviewer:              Did you take history?

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              World?

Interviewee:                         We took world history.

Interviewer:              Okay. So when you came up, you felt stupid.

Interviewee:                         I did.

Interviewer:              But did you have trouble in the subjects where you weren't taking classes?

Interviewee:                         No, no.

Interviewer:              What made you feel stupid?

Interviewee:                         Well, you know, you meet kids. And they say, “Oh, and I took this class in high school.” And I say, “What?”

Interviewer:              Was it an accent? Would they notice your accent?

Interviewee:                         Oh, people love my accent. I had a thick, thick southern accent. Yeah.

Interviewer:              And they would mention that?

Interviewee:                         Yeah. People knew I just moved up from Alabama.

Interviewer:              Yeah. Okay. So when you first moved back, sometimes you felt stupid among the group when you were comparing where you'd come from.

Interviewee:                         Yeah. And -- yes. I with that.

Interviewer:              Okay. Okay, so tell me then, so you -- then you started at Wayne, you said?

Interviewee:                         I started at Wayne.

Interviewer:              And this is in the music program?

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         And then I switched. I decided I didn't want to practice piano anymore. I did get married to my first husband in 1970. We were -- he was Jewish.

Interviewer:              How did you meet him?

Interviewee:                         Selling typewriters at Hudson.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         I've worked with his girlfriend and then they stopped dating and then he started sort of pursuing me.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         So, you know, and he had a very --

Interviewer:              What was attractive to you?

Interviewee:                         He was everything I'd never met in a guy. He was Jewish, smart. He was -- he later became a psychiatrist. Had a Jewish family I mean, you know, all the things I didn't have down in Alabama. I think I was very -- I loved his mother. We were good -- we were always -- even after we were divorced I would stay in touch with her. How are you doing now? And I love his  siblings and the whole package. I think it was the whole package.

Interviewer:              So did you have a big wedding?

Interviewee:                         We did at the Raleigh House. A very Jewish wedding. Yes, yes. Married by Rabbi Syme from Temple Israel and --

Interviewer:              Oh, yeah?

Interviewee:                         Yeah. And his grandparents are there and whoever was left in my family. But, yeah, we had a nice Jewish family at our wedding.

Interviewer:              What do you mean whoever was left?

Interviewee:                         Well, I lost so many relatives. So, you know, my --

Interviewer:              Okay. Were your parents alive?

Interviewee:                         Yes, yes, they were alive.

Interviewer:              And your grandparents were?

Interviewee:                         My Tauber grandparents were, my Blyfield grandparents were not.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Yeah.

Interviewer:              Okay. All right. So let’s start then from there.

Interviewee:                         Okay.

Interviewer:              From your first marriage.

Interviewee:                         Okay.

Interviewer:              In 1970?

Interviewee:                         1970. I think we were divorced in ‘76 or ‘77.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         But we did all the Jewish things, you know, we'd go to Temple or go to synagogue. He was not observant as far as going and worshiping. But he would accompany me to my family or to Temple Beth Ahm if we went. So he was open to everything.

Interviewer:              And were you making a Jewish home?

Interviewee:                         As far as I knew, I didn't know really what that meant.

[Pause in interview]

Interviewer:              So you were telling me about being an accompanist, tell me a little with Detroit public schools.

[0:35:01.2]

Interviewee:                         Right, public schools I was hired and worked with Fanny Aronson, who was a little Irish Jewish woman. And smaller than us, very tiny little lady, and she taught modern dance classes for a year that I was there. And then there were two other teachers who took over after she retired. But it was really fun going down to Detroit every day to Cass Highs, the old Cass High School.

                        And again, that's where I think I recognized what kind of classes were being offered to these children that I never had the opportunity. But I got to meet wonderful people, lot of Jewish teachers. I get to meet in the teacher lounge. It was just a wonderful, wonderful job. But I did leave after two years to go to school full time.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         And my salary, just for fun, full time was $7,200 for nine months. And that’s pretty good. And I bought my first car. So, it was a grownup job. I felt very grown up doing that job.

Interviewer:              So where did you and your husband live?

Interviewee:                         We rented a house in Detroit. And then his parents bought a home in Southfield and moved into another home, and we took over the payments. So we lived right by Temple B'nai David, which many people around here would know.

Interviewer:              Okay. So, let's continue then whatever you want to say.

Interviewee:                         Okay. Well, I did start working. After college, I got my masters. I went through my masters at Wayne. And then I got a -- I majored in a major that isn’t even around anymore. It's called Consumer Affairs, Business Economics sort of like Ralph Nader, consumer affairs. And I tried to get some jobs. I didn't get them. So I wrote a newspaper to the Southfield Eccentric, “Could I write a consumer beware column?” And the guy said no they had someone doing it, but come in. So I started an internship there and loved it. I fell in love with journalism. Stayed with it for, what? 20 years. Yeah. But ended up working for them. I’ve worked in Southfield and then got my full -- I was as an intern. But then got a full time job in Rochester. That's where I did feel some anti-semitism.

                        Rochester at that time was a little hick town. This was 1976, ‘77.

Interviewer:              Okay. You were working for a newspaper?

Interviewee:                         Yes, the Rochester Eccentric Newspaper, part of the observer Eccentric chain. And I know I would go to interview certain people. And I would always make sure my Jewish star was out. I wanted people to know I was Jewish and watch what you say.

Interviewer:              So what gave you that feeling?

Interviewee:                         It was back then, there were a lot of -- well, actually, after my divorce, bought this little tiny adorable house out in Rochester. And I was getting all these mailings, you know, welcome new resident. And it was all the churches and it was all the businesses and it was all the Jesus stuff. And I knew from working there, I would always have to search and I could find a Jewish family because Bob Sklar, who went on to be managing editor, I think, at the Jewish news was my boss.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         So we would always make sure we did a Jewish holiday story. And the Collins from Pontiac, they were living there and Ruth Zendel. I don’t remember if they were living there.

Interviewer:              This was before the congregation.

Interviewee:                         Yes, yes. This is. Yes.

Interviewer:              Somehow.

Interviewee:                         Because I would find them and interview them for stories.

Interviewer:              I see.

Interviewee:                         I need a Jew.

Interviewer:              Before we go too quickly, your divorce, did that have anything to do with Judaism?

Interviewee:                         No, no. None whatsoever.

Interviewer:              There’s other issues.

Interviewee:                         It was being too young I should never got married.

Interviewer:              Okay. All right.

Interviewee:                         Yeah.

Interviewer:              So now, you setup yourself --

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              An adorable house --

Interviewee:                         Our adorable little house in Rochester.

Interviewer:              You're aware that more than you had ever been, it sounds like. You were aware of being Jewish. And that might be something that was people could be so hostile?

Interviewee:                         Correct.

Interviewer:              Is that too strong word?

Interviewee:                         No, I don’t think so. Although I don't remember blatant, but I did when things -- when my children were going to school, some things that didn't seem right. But, well, that’s another story.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         But, no, I just always -- let it be known that I was Jewish.

Interviewer:              And you sought out Jewish families.

Interviewee:                         Yes, for it. Yeah.

Interviewer:              Okay. And you loved your job.

Interviewee:                         I loved my job. I always loved journalism. Yeah.

Interviewer:              Did you continue the piano through this?

Interviewee:                         No, I did not. Oh, and one of the things when I moved here, Marcy Rose -- what's her name now? Because she's a cantor. She's been at our shul.

[0:40:08.3]

                        She and I put together a program. Someone introduced me to her. She sings, obviously. She's a cantor. So here we were fresh out of high school. We developed a music program of Yiddish songs. And we’d go to sisterhoods and different groups and we perform. So, I’d play the piano and Marcy would -- [sings: Bmer bis duchan]. You know, we do all these Jewish songs.

Interviewer:              Were your grandparents alive at this time?

Interviewee:                         Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer:              Yeah, they were enjoying.

Interviewee:                         Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we had fun doing that. So, that brought into my Judaism as well.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Yeah. And then the history of my Blyfield grandparents belonging to the Jewish chorus.

Interviewer:              Tell me about the Jewish chorus.

Interviewee:                         The Jewish chorus, what little I know because I was young. But they -- it was very serious. I have a picture. It was a large -- it was a large group where I live now many of the members were active in the Jewish chorus. And they performed all over. And it was all Jewish and Yiddish songs. And my grandparents, you know, were very active in that. And we would always go to their recitals or concerts.

Interviewer:              And there was no religious God part of that. It was --

Interviewee:                         I don't remember. I think it's more of a socialist group and they would just keep the Jewish songs live.

Interviewer:              Just live.

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              Maybe we could take a moment and talk about where your aunt live and where you currently live and what’s the structure of that.

Interviewee:                         Okay. When I was a little girl, we had friends who lived on Pleasant Lake. That was all cottages. From the time I was, my earliest memories, like two three, driving there on alternate roads to West Bloomfield to visit them. Our families were best friends. They had three boys and we had the three kids. My aunt was an attorney. She was one of the first female attorneys in Michigan. She was sent over to Japan by President Eisenhower. The only female attorney in the whole country sent to Japan to be an attorney representing the United States on the -- for the American War trials, US war trials for World War II.

                        So, she was a very strong woman. So in 1960, she bought this cottage that she lived in the summers only at the time. And there were 26 acres with 26 pieces of property all founded on the socialist --

Interviewer:              Beliefs.

Interviewee:                         Beliefs. Thank you. When the story is -- when they said who's going to have -- and she was not an original member.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         But the story goes that they decided who's going to be able to put their cottage where was by drawing straws. Be fair. We’re going to be fair about this. And they all got the exact same plot, size plot, and then co-owned the rest of the property. So, it was all equal and fair and just. And it's --

Interviewer:              I know they weren't religiously Jewish, but were they culturally Jewish?

Interviewee:                         Yes. Absolutely.

Interviewer:              Was that a necessity?

Interviewee:                         Yes, it was actually. And for many years until -- was this 2018? Maybe this happened in 2017, only Jewish people have lived on our part of the association.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         We now have a non-Jewish family living there who've been brought into the fold.

Interviewer:              Maybe I should’ve asked this earlier. But what were your beliefs about God, if you feel comfortable? I’m asking because of the background.

Interviewee:                         Yes. I would say -- I cannot say I firmly believe. I just cannot. I cannot. So --

Interviewer:              Can you say the opposite?

Interviewee:                         No, I can't say I'm a total atheist. So, I guess, I'm in the middle. But on -- what keeps me with Judaism is our beliefs in life and society and the land and the country and others and the goodness about it. And when I used to go talk to the classes in Rochester, because you probably did the same thing, we were the ones who talked about the Jewish holidays. And I'd say, “Oh, where do you go to church? Where do you go to church?” And one would be Catholic and one would be Baptist and one would be Lutheran. And I'd say, “Well, it's because of Judaism we have these freedoms that all this worship and this is what we worship.” And I always try to bring out the --

Interviewer:              We had a pride.

Interviewee:                         Yes. Absolutely.

[0:45:00.2]

                        And wanted to invoke that, and always to the children too.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         You know, you are to make them aware that we are minority in Rochester, but not a visual minority. So, we have to be very kind and be open to the people who are visual minorities because they're having a hard time, kind of thing, so.

Interviewer:              Yeah. Okay. So you had a real strength in your Judaism and it helped you to explain to children and others about being minority. But also, what it meant to not be a visual minority. That is actually the first time I’ve heard.

Interviewee:                         Right, right.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         In Rochester schools, you look like all the other kids.

Interviewer:              Yeah, yeah. And so, that strength, you came from your Jewish identity, your Jewish upbringing. When things would turn difficult whenever in your life, while you didn't believe or not believe, did you turn to anything spiritual or what someone would call godlike or any prayer or anything?

Interviewee:                         You’re going to ask me which prayers that I can't.

Interviewer:              No, I don’t [crosstalk]

Interviewee:                         Yeah, there were certain prayers I'm very partial to that I would read and give me strength.

Interviewer:              Give you strength and give you solace.

Interviewee:                         Mm-hmm.

Interviewer:              Okay. So you still -- your duties have still included some sense of spiritual guidance or help or support.

Interviewee:                         But that really didn't come until after we started the Temple because I -- although, you know, we went to Temple and stuff and I played the piano, I knew some songs. But I couldn't -- I didn't feel immersed as far as the religious part.

Interviewer:              I see. Okay.

Interviewee:                         I could read Hebrew because I learned that in Alabama. And then here at Temple when they started, they had a beginning Hebrew class that I took just to refresh. And he made fun of me because I said stuff Southern. He said, “No, no. That’s not how we say it.”

Interviewer:              He being Rabbi Arnie?

Interviewee:                         No.

Interviewer:              It was somebody else. It was --

Interviewee:                         Yeah. It was one of our --

Interviewer:              Okay. We don’t have too much time.

Interviewee:                         Okay.

Interviewer:              So, let’s skip ahead. So how did you meet your second husband?

Interviewee:                         Oh, you see, I interviewed him. He became managing director of Masterwork Music Festival and I was still working in Rochester and --

Interviewer:              So, you got married?

Interviewee:                         We got married. But not until he agreed that any children would be raised Jewish and we would have a Jewish household.

Interviewer:              So, he was not --

Interviewee:                         He was brought up -- his parents were very firm Catholics.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         Stout Catholic.

Interviewer:              So were there difficulties between the two families?

Interviewee:                         Not at all.

Interviewer:              Okay. They were accepting of you?

Interviewee:                         I took his mom out for lunch and I said, “I have to tell you two things. A, I'm not changing my name,” because I took my maiden name back. “And, B, we're raising any children in Jewish and having a Jewish household.” She said, “As long as you have a religion, I don't care.”

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         And I thought, “Wow, for somebody from Allen Park probably never met really a Jewish person before. Was she forward thinking?” I admired her tremendously for that. And she stuck to that. They love coming to Shir Tikvah, his Catholic parents. And Stewart would bring the kids. I mean, it worked out beautifully, really.

Interviewer:              And from your side of the family, who was a -- did you have a wedding, a big wedding?

Interviewee:                         We did not have a big wedding. But we had a nice wedding. And my uncle, who is a Detroit judge, Nate Kaufman, people would know his name. He married us and that -- yeah.

Interviewer:              Okay. And then you got involved. What was then the beginning?

Interviewee:                         The very beginning --

Interviewer:              Detroit Jewish Congregation.

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              So, tell us about the beginning and for you, which is our story.

Interviewee:                         Okay. Yes. Right. By the time I had Fred, he was born in 1980 December. And I was pregnant with Rebecca. And I saw an ad or noticed in the Rochester Eccentric, which I was not working for anymore. I take another job but still doing journalism. And I could not go to that very first meeting because someone became very ill and I had to take --

Interviewer:              So, that was in the Rochester.

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              I don’t know if there was anything in the Jewish news, but I know you read the Jewish news.

Interviewee:                         Well, I wouldn’t have gotten. I wouldn’t have gotten the Jewish news back then. Here in Rochester, I probably never got it.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         But then I saw a second meeting and I was able to go. And that was the start.

Interviewer:              Okay.  And at that meeting, there were like 14 families?

Interviewee:                         Probably. Yes. And the funny story is --

Interviewer:              And you were pregnant.

Interviewee:                         I was pregnant with Rebecca. Yes. Oh man. And Jo Turbow was pregnant with her daughter.

[0:50:01.2]

                        And people kept saying Bruce and I driving together to come to meetings, Bruce Turbow. And they thought we were married. Yes. So, we had funny looks when we actually brought our real spouses. And like, “Oh.”

Interviewer:              So, I guess, you were happy --

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              That there were something going --

Interviewee:                         Oh, I was thrilled. Thrilled, just thrilled. And I wasn't -- I don't remember. I don't think I was the first secretary because I think all of that. But I did become the secretary on the board.

Interviewer:              On the board.

Interviewee:                         As soon as I could --

Interviewer:              You’re involved in sisterhood.

Interviewee:                         When sisterhood started after Marcia Wengrow founded, got that started, I was involved in the Sisterhood.

Interviewer:              That was about the first --

Interviewee:                         First service, oh my goodness, Dena. So, I had had Rebecca.

Interviewer:              This was the first service.

Interviewee:                         Very first service, you hear that? Hear that everybody? Very first service.

Interviewer:              Yes.

Interviewee:                         And it was in that Lutheran Church on Crooks. No, the Unitarian.

Interviewer:              Unitarian. It looks like a barn.

Interviewee:                         Yes.

Interviewer:              They call it the barn.

Interviewee:                         Yes, the barn on Crooks in Troy.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         And the first service, my daughter, Rebecca Ann Tauber-Hyke, now Sandler, received her Jewish name by Dena Scher.

Interviewer:              The interviewer.

Interviewee:                         Right here, the interviewer. And we did that.

Interviewer:              Yes.

Interviewee:                         And then my family, my parents, were alive. And they had come up from where they moved back to Atlanta. And they came up and we sponsored the very first Oneg. Yeah. So, that’s how -- and throughout the years, how many people come up to me and say, “How old is Rebecca?” Because that's how we remember how long we’ve been having services. Yes. She’ll be 36. Right.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         So, yeah, that was our very first service.

Interviewer:              So, I think that we've been going quite a long time. And I think that we want to sort of summarize and finish up. So, it's a long wonderful history starting in Detroit and then going to Alabama. And the joy to which you had in your life. And it was -- and the comfortness with your religion, with Judaism. That seems to be a really strong trend wherever you were. And then the many different kinds of interests that you had, like, you know, back in the day was sports but then the piano and horseback riding and then your interest in consumerism and then journalism. Yeah.

                        And now, you live in actually the place that your aunt, this -- what was it called? The collective?  It doesn't have a name.

Interviewee:                         No, it doesn’t. It’s just like improvements association. Yeah.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         It's an association. It's a cooperative.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         Yes, still.

Interviewer:              And so, some of those socialist ideas also seem to be -- have been part of your values about minorities, visual minorities, you know, the changes. So currently, can you just talk a minute about what a congregation means to you or what do you attend synagogue? What is the part of Judaism that's most important for you now?

Interviewee:                         The same thing that it was way back when. But now I have a home. I have a home and I, you know, we've known each other for 30 plus years, 36 years. And even though I passed so many synagogues driving over here, this is still my home. These are my people here. Judaism to me is still very internal. And the prayers that I'll read at home and -- one of my nephews, his son, they're not being raised Jewish. But he was made chaplain for his Boy Scout group. And my niece asked me to send some prayers because they came to Temple ones here with me and loved it. And they light Hanukkah candles, and so forth.

                        But I did send them just some beautiful prayers. And it was all based on we owe know each other to take care of each other and be open to each other and love Mother Earth. And those are the things that I said to him that maybe he could use with his Boy Scout troop.

Interviewer:              Have you seen the congregation change since in the past five years?

Interviewee:                         Yes. Certainly.

Interviewer:              What would you say?

Interviewee:                         I'm not coming very often anymore. I just don't. I mean, I've still been working full time.

[0:55:00.6]

                        By Friday night I really don't want to drive over. It's far for me. And so, I don't go. I used to go faithfully all the time I lived in Rochester. And the kids were Bar Mitzvah here. And I had the first adult Bas Mitzvah, but mitzvah here, the very first one. And very dedicated. But when I moved and the kids were older and moved off, I didn't. However -- yeah.

Interviewer:              Yeah. I think one thing that you mentioned earlier is you were coming for Friday night for Yartzeit.

Interviewee:                         Yeah.

Interviewer:              So, that has been something that the congregation sort of --

Interviewee:                         Right, right, since both my sons have passed on. And I do still come here to seek that comfort because I know so many people will know me. They knew my boys.

Interviewer:              Right.

Interviewee:                         It's nice to be where people know them.

Interviewer:              One thing that I ask often is a -- that I hadn’t asked because there's so much is the influence of a rabbi. You didn't mention any rabbis. Was that your Judaism seemed to come from your family, your home?

Interviewee:                         Right. No, I don't think rabbi -- no, I wouldn’t say that, although I felt very close to Rabbi Arnie. When he retired, I made a promise to do my funeral. He did. He said he would. You know, he was there for the boys, my parents, my aunt.

Interviewer:              So a rabbi was important in terms of what we have rabbis for.

Interviewee:                         Right. Exactly.

Interviewer:              But your Jewish identity was --

Interviewee:                         I think already firm and solid. Although I love Reb Aura, I preach now to her, I've called her privately and I had talks with her and stuff and ask her opinion on things. If I have a moral question, I will reach out and say, “I'm really stuck. Help.”

Interviewer:              Okay. Okay. Okay. So Susan, I'd like to give you an opportunity. If there's anything that maybe we didn't cover that you thought you would like to have, or anything that you'd like to mention.

Interviewee:                         One thing I would about this congregation, and that is the openness. When we first started, there were many of us in a mixed marriage and we started a group called mixed doubles from my tennis days and the Littman's and I and others. And it was so good for us because we would say, “My mother-in-law did this. What do I do now? Or, you know, what do we do about the holidays? And it gave us such a wonderful chance. And then so many of us didn't have families living close by just that family connection how we would get together just at this -- so many of us. We could have 25 people and all the kids together. And then hiring a gay rabbi and my son being gay, and there was -- all the openness to everything on this earth.

Interviewer:              I think you were proud that you were part of the congregation.

Interviewee:                         Yes. Absolutely, and still, still very proud of that.

Interviewer:              Yeah.

Interviewee:                         And who we are. And yes, there have been waves of change. But I think basically, we're that same group that we were many years ago when we started.

Interviewer:              Great. I’m glad you add it.

Interviewee:                         Thank you.

Interviewer:              Thank you very, very much for sharing your story back from when you were a kid and I still have this image of you horseback riding through the town. And until the time that we got to know each other through the congregation and I really appreciate it.

Interviewee:                         Thank you. And I didn't mention but I do need to say names. Children, Frederick.

Interviewer:              Yes.

Interviewee:                         Jeffrey and Rebecca. My three children. Thank you. Thank you very much, Dena.

[0:58:58]

End of recording

 

 

Sat, February 22 2020 27 Sh'vat 5780