Sign In Forgot Password

Cary Levy

Welcome      About    History   Themes      Complete Interviews

 

Interviewee: CARY LEVY
Interviewer: Dena Scher

Interview Date: January 7, 2019
DOB: 12/30/1948 Place of Birth: Ferndale
Location: Troy, MI
Interview No.: 001.07.19-CL (audio digital file)
(Approximate total length 1 hour)
Transcription: Yousaidit (DS), Fiverr

Themes: Jewish Identity, Doctrine, Jewish Gentile Relations, Observance, Upbringing

Summary: Cary Levy speaks of his strong attachment to Judaism, starting with his father as an ethical role model and his mother as a keeper of the rituals. He grew up in Detroit in a Jewish neighborhood going to public schools that were interreligious and interracial. His sense of Jewishness seems ingrained and not dependent on spiritual belief. He and his wife, JoAnne, were not affiliated with a synagogue until Congregation Shir Tikvah. He surprised himself by joining the Youth committee and attending many of the early events of the newly formed congregation.

Example of proper citation/ attribution:
Scher, D. (Interviewer) & Levy, C. (Interviewee). (2019) Cary Levy: Jewish Journeys [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from Jewish Journeys Oral History Collection of Congregation Shir Tikvah: https://shirtikvah.org/cstoralhistoryarchive

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

[00:00 silence]

Interviewer: The name of the interviewer is Dena Scher. The name of the interviewee is Cary Levy. The date is January 7, 2019. The place is Congregation Shir Tikvah, the library in Troy, Michigan. And Cary I have talked to you about the purpose of the this interview that it will become part of the Jewish Journey's oral history collection at Shir Tikvah, and you have signed the agreement for this public interview. Is that correct?
Interviewee: That’s Correct.
Interviewer:  Ok, great. Thank you Cary… So I thought I'd like to get started as far back as you know your family history, your parents, your mother’s to your father's side, where they come from, how they get here or were they born here.

Interviewee: Just some genealogy, my father's family came over like in the 1850’s, and there were several generations in Chicago.

Interviewer:  Came over from?
Interviewee: My father always said we were Bohemian, and that we were from Czechoslovakia at the time, the Czech Republic now. Told an interesting story is… just before my father died, he went to see The Sound of Music and as they're walking through the Austrian hills, he said to my sister “that's our homeland.” And my sister said, “what” and they never got the answer because he died like a week later.

Interviewer:  Oh my goodness.

Interviewee: And we never heard. We never heard because the borders always change, and it's hard to know.

Interviewer:  Yes.

Interviewee: But we always thought we were Bohemian from Czechoslovakia, that was always our… [crosstalk]

Interviewer:  But you might be Austrian

Interviewee: There maybe some Austrian there, I don't know but anyway… so the family came over, my father's… I think great grandfather came over, the other interesting thing… [crosstalk]

Interviewer:  Any information about the circumstances in which they live?

Interviewee: I tried to write into genealogy, I could. I could see when they came over, one of them went back to Europe which I was told was very unusual that the Italians tended to go back to Europe after they were settled here and pick up more family members. But the Jews typically didn't go back to Europe, but one of them did go back. And other thing that I noticed that was very interesting is that for generations, every 1st born son's middle name was his great grandfather's 1st name and we named our son Jason Daniel not knowing that was the tradition, that Daniel was his great grandfather.

Interviewer:  So Daniel was the name that came down over several generations?

Interviewee: He was my grandfather, and so that family lived in Chicago. My grandfather worked for a company called Winternitz, which was an auctioneering Company, and when it opened an office in Detroit and my grandfather moved to Detroit, before my father was born which was 1915. No, my father born in Chicago, so who was there for 1915, so sometime in the twenty's or thirty's…

Interviewer:  So he moved the auctioneering business?

Interviewee: They opened a new office in Detroit. That my uncle ended up working for and that was where he ended up being an auctioneer and having a fairly large successful company on his own after he left Winternitz

 

Interviewer:  Before we leave that is that where Jason your son also started at one point?

 

Interviewee: My uncle's name was Norman and he went by Levi instead of Levy, we think that's because in New York they seem to call people Levi's, in the old world maybe Levy, in the new world maybe Levi but I’m not sure exactly of that. Anyway, Norman Levi had a company called Norman Levi and associate, so when Norman died his 2 sons Robert and David took over the business. So when my son graduated from college and not knowing where he wanted to go, they gave him an offer and then. It's the business that my son ended up in.

Interviewer:  So the auctioneering business started back with your great grandfather in Chicago.

Interviewee: My grandfather.

Interviewer:  Your grandfather in Chicago, and some people stayed in Chicago and then they opened an office in Detroit, right?

 

Interviewee: Well you know it was a big company called Winternitz and they had offices I think all over the country.

 

Interviewer:  Can you just tell us just a little bit about what did they auction?

 

Interviewee: Mostly major machinery, mostly factories that were either retooling for newer machinery or going out of business. However, they did a bunch of all kind of things, you know my uncle's 1st auctioneering sale was a drugstore.

 

Interviewer:  Which is kind of interesting since you owned a drug store.

 

Interviewee: I worked for my uncle several summers when I was in high school and I know we did a huge paint factory, we did all kind of things but predominantly the bigger sales were in large mostly automotive and aerodynamics.

[00:05:00]

 

Interviewer:  Which still is today.

 

Interviewee: Which still today that's sort of where they you know… that's where the most machinery is.

 

Interviewer:  Do you know how your grandfather got started.

 

Interviewee: No idea.

 

Interviewer:  Ok. So that was your father side.

 

Interviewee: On my mother side, I know my grandfather on my mother’s side was born in Russia and he came over before my mother was born because she was born in Detroit in 1916. And when he came over, he had some difficult name that no one could pronounce and the immigration they called him Harry Louis because they couldn't understand what his name was and he went by Harry Louis his whole life.

 

Interviewer:  Really, this is your…?

 

Interviewee: This is my grandfather on my mother’s side.

 

Interviewer:  And you have no idea what that name was.

 

Interviewee: No. And I don't think anybody does.

 

Interviewer:  Really.

 

Interviewee: Yeah. There's nobody left that would know.

 

Interviewer:  It was Harry Louis that was your grandfather, he came from Russia to Detroit.

 

Interviewee: Like 1910 or something.

 

Interviewer:  Do you know why he came to Detroit?

 

Interviewee: No.

 

Interviewer:  Oh Ok, so he comes to Detroit.

 

Interviewee: And he ended up… maybe he may have come here. and this is my mother side, he ended up owning a bunch of real estate, some apartment buildings and some other things. So he may have had an in Detroit for that.

 

Interviewer:  Ok.

 

Interviewee: And the 2 families were quite different because my mother's side of the family was very religious, very orthodox, went to shul all the time. When they had the holidays, they did the long Seders. In my father's family, there was as little Jewish as possible, they were very doubting and didn’t believe in religion very much, they like some of the pomp and circumstance of the holidays and…

 

Interviewer:  What do mean the pomp and circumstance?

 

Interviewee: Looking for Afikomen, the funner parts of the holidays but I know my uncle was thrown out of U of D which is a Catholic school for writing a book that the only true religion is atheism.

 

Interviewer:  So he got kicked out?

 

Interviewee: Yeah, my father had a very…

 

Interviewer:  He wouldn't recant?

 

Interviewee: He wouldn’t recant, my father had a very tenuous relationship with the Synagogue because they told him... he opened a new shoe store, he was in the shoe store business, he sold shoes and they told…

 

Interviewer:  This is your father?

 

Interviewee: Yes, my father. And he opened a new store, he was struggling financially and they, the synagogue came to him and said you are a store owner you should have be able to pay a little bit more when in truth he could pay a little bit less and they were really quite... And he found that to be awful and so the little use that he had for religion went completely away after that.

 

Interviewer:  So he severed his ties with the Synagogue after that?

 

Interviewee: Yeah.

 

Interviewer:  So let me just recap because you go very fast. Your mother's side very orthodox, on your father's secular, right?

 

Interviewee: yes, but definitely associated himself as being Jewish. Definitely considers themselves that.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah, but they definitely were Jewish but not religious.

 

Interviewee: Right, but I don't remember my father, his brother or his father ever being in synagogue.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah, and then this incident or whatever he had with the synagogue further distanced himself from formal relation?

 

Interviewee: He was pretty convinced that organized religion was not in the best interest of everybody.

 

Interviewer:  On your mother's side, there was the grandfather was in real estate but your then your father open what kind of store?

 

Interviewee: A shoe store.

 

Interviewer:  Then how did he get into a shoe store?

 

Interviewee: I don't know. I mean I know that at a very young age he was working for shoe stores, and then actually my uncles’ on my mother's side bought a shoe store for my father to run and to be in charge of and they named it after my 1st cousin on that side of the family whose name was Milford. So there was Milford shoes, it was the 1st store that my father owned and…

 

Interviewer:  Not a particularly Jewish name. from Harry Louis.

 

 Interviewee:            But that was a Jewish side of the family, that’s my mother side of the family. Yeah, so…

 

Interviewer:  Ok, so we have this mother from the orthodox kind of tradition, father from a secular. So how did they get together?

 

Interviewee: How did they meet?

 

Interviewer:  Yeah.

 

Interviewee: I have no idea how they met? But they were always very in love, my sister talks about it you know.

 

Interviewer:  What was your father's name?

 

Interviewee: Leonard.

 

Interviewer:  And your mother?

 

Interviewee: It was Laura.

 

Interviewer:  Leonard and Laura.

 

Interviewee: Right.

 

Interviewer:  Ok, and they were always together. My sister used to go out on double dates with them.

 

[00:10:00] It was my sister's 8 years older than me and she says that they always sat in the backseat and held hands… held hands and they were always very in love.

 

Interviewer:  Were they… you don't know how they got to meet?

 

Interviewee: No, but I think they met through a common friend, I think there was a common friend they had, and I think there's a common friend that introduced them but I don't know that story.

 

Interviewer:  Ok, your mother was born in Detroit.

 

Interviewee: My father was born in Chicago.

 

Interviewer:  Ok, so your father comes here for some reason.

 

Interviewee: Because my grandfather changed businesses, changed offices my father came with him as a young man.

 

Interviewer:  And somehow they met within the Jewish community in some way.

 

Interviewee: Yeah, I mean I don’t know if they met in the Jewish community or not but you know.

 

Interviewer:  But he wasn't going to marry someone who wasn't Jewish?

 

Interviewee: I don't think it would have mattered to my father.

 

Interviewer:  Oh yeah.

 

Interviewee: Maybe mattered to my mother, my mother did give me the big speech before I went to college about how you're going to college, you might meet somebody and just make sure they are totally at a left field, because when I went to college I was not even thinking about getting married at that time.

 

Interviewer:  But she told you when you meet someone, to make sure she was Jewish.

 

Interviewee: She gave me the big speech.

 

Interviewer:  Ok, so what do you or are earliest memory in your family?

 

Interviewee: As far as Judaism, I remember doing Seders at my mother's father's house and it actually was an apartment in an apartment building and that was very formal. We always got there, I don't know… 7 or 8 o'clock and the men didn't come home from shul till 8 or 9 o'clock, when they start Seder, that was way past my bedtime. And I know we went a long long time and it was very boring and long, and tedious and…

 

Interviewer:  Was there any attempt to amuse the children?

 

Interviewee: I don't think so.

 

Interviewer:  What about the searching for the Afikomen.

 

Interviewee: I probably was too tired to do that. By the time we got there I was probably too late.

 

Interviewer:  So this is… you were how old?

 

Interviewee: 3 or 4 years old.

 

Interviewer:  So you have a brother and sisters?

 

Interviewee: 2 older sisters.

 

Interviewer:  Ok you are the youngest.

 

Interviewee: I do remember going there and I love the dumpling soup.

 

Interviewer:  Wait, this is your… the Orthodox?

 

Interviewee: Yeah, the Orthodox. I love the dumpling soup and I remember asking for the soup with the dumb things in it.

 

Interviewer:  The dumb things?

 

Interviewee: And everyone thought that was cute. Obviously.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah, did that continue as a tradition?

 

Interviewee: No, but I was reminded of it by my sister pretty often.

 

Interviewer:  Your sister's name?

 

Interviewee: Is Barbara and Phyllis.

 

Interviewer:  Ok, so that was… that's a memory you have specifically about going to the Passover.

 

Interviewee: And then in contrast, we’d go to my other grandfather's house for the 2nd night of Passover and we would do nothing but eat and look for the afikomen and there was no book, no nothing. But it was Passover and so we would share the 2 families for Passover and I recall as a kid we had the Seder at our house the very last night and it was just not with any other grandparents, just with the 5 of us.

 

Interviewer:  What was your house like in terms of was it orthodox kosher or did you keep kosher?

 

Interviewee: Not kosher, no attempt.

 

Interviewer:  How did your mother and father negotiate with ?

 

Interviewee: It seemed like my father made a lot of decisions in the house, not as a dictator because my mother really ruled the roost when, my mother took care of the checkbook, my mother took care of the finances and they work together in the shoe store, so my mother was a working mother but I think she acquiesced to my father's wishes and I think my father would never have survived in a Kosher home, he would have found it just silly to be in a Kosher home. And…

 

Interviewer:  So they were a loving couple and it seems like they worked it out?

 

Interviewee: They worked it out, they were… in our house there was… we did all the holidays but more from the traditions than it was from a religious aspect, it was way more fun in traditions.

 

Interviewer:  So you said that you didn't think your father could have survived being an orthodox. What was he like, was he very severe, was he really strong in his views?

 

Interviewee: No, my father was the... He was the perfect father, he was absolutely... in my life he's the person that I idolized more than anybody else.

 

Interviewer:  How old were you when he died?

 

Interviewee: I was 15 when you he died.

 

Interviewer:  What was it when you said you idolized him?

 

Interviewee: He was always, always having a good time, only interested in having fun and a good time, he was the most social person I've ever met. The week before he died they went on vacation and my parents were almost 50, my father's 50 and I think my mother was 49,

 

[00:15:00]       and they made friends with these 25 year old kids because he was just in there at the pool at some hotel and everybody was talking about how much fun it was to be there and everybody just love being… everyone loved to be around my father and he was very supportive, couldn't have been more supportive. Him and I had a fabulous relationship which I wanted to pass on to when I had a son and I think I did have real relationship with my son.

 

Interviewer:  And he was a businessman.

 

Interviewee: He was a businessman.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah. How do he feel about the store?

 

Interviewee: The funny thing is I don't think he was a very good businessman but he is such a terrific person and I think the business did really well because people… I just think somebody… every year… my father's been passed away 50 years ago and there's not been a year that hasn't gone by that I haven't heard a story from the shoe store some fabulous thing and I just met somebody and they said, “oh my god”. There's always one story or another about what happened.

 

Interviewer:  Is there any story that comes to mind in particular?

 

Interviewee: The most moving story that I got that I have is I went to a party one night and it was a huge party downtown at a big house on Chicago Boulevard an old revived House, a friend of ours has a 12th night of Christmas party every 2 years and it's as big as this house is, 3 stories and they probably have 4 or 500 people in the house at a time, it's so crowded that you can't move in this house, it's so much fun they give everybody a name tag, so you're always mingling with people, because you could get stuck in a room and literally you can't get out of the room.

 

                        So you are just stuck with people and they have a funny name tag. So you start talking about it and it's very very fun. Anyway, we went with another couple and I was with the 2 wives and i couldn't… we couldn't find him, the husband got separated from us and we couldn't find him. And so I said I'd go find him and I walked out and there was a back patio with an old carriage house and the whole bit and he was sitting out there with some guy talking, and the guy's name was Neil Simon and his name tag said Neil Simon, no that's really my name, not Neil Simon the playwright.

 

                        So we started talking and I said to him where did you grow up and everything, and he said it was pretty close to the shoe store and I said, “Where did you buy your shoes? I bought my shoes at Leonard’s Shoes of course and I said, “Oh, that was my father.” And he started crying, he said Leonard saved my life. I said, “What happened?” and he says “well, I was a cripple for the first 5 years of my life, I couldn't walk no one could figure out what to do with my feet or what to do. He says so he went into Leonard shoes and they put a bar that I slept with between my feet that fixed my hips or whatever it was and 6 months later I was walking normally.

 

                        And every doctor said I'd never walk and all the stuff, and so then I said to him that I probably made those because one of my jobs at the shoe store was putting together those bars and there was a different angle depending on where the hips were. My father was really convinced that life revolves around your foot of if you didn’t wear good solid shoes you weren’t going to have a good leg, your back would hurt and you'd be miserable. So then he called his mother and he was just sobbing. He said, Mum I’m talking to somebody from Leonard Shoes. He was just absolutely just balling, you know what I mean? You know and we have so many stories, not quite to that extent but just people with funny experiences there. And every time I meet somebody that came from the northwest Detroit area where the shoe shop was… [crosstalk]

 

Interviewer:  So a warm good hearted fun person.

 

Interviewee: Yeah.

 

Interviewer:  And he was not particularly… he was Jewish but not really religious?

 

Interviewee: I would say he was God fearing, God fearing but he had no use for organized religion.

 

Interviewer:  And it sounds like at times it was an annoyance?

 

Interviewee: I mean he was absolutely perturbed about the incident.

 

Interviewer:  But what about when you would go to your mother's side of the family and they did the long Passover seder?

 

Interviewee: I don't remember him at those things being particularly happy or very sad, I don't really remember.

 

Interviewer:  He was neutral?

 

Interviewee: Probably, I'm sure that he did it to appease my mother and he probably would be happier not having to be here.

 

Interviewer:  But he would not make trouble.

 

Interviewee: But that would not be his style.

 

Interviewer:  So you’ve told me a bit about your father and the feeling for your father. How about your mother?

 

Interviewee: Well, my mother was very interesting because my father for all of his good points also… He was not always careful, like he went to court 3 or 4 times because he never had his wallet.

[00:20:00]       with him, he'd go out and he'd be lost. You know my mother was…

 

Interviewer:  Are you saying he was absent minded?

 

Interviewee: Not absent minded, it doesn’t matter if he had his wallet or not, if he gets stopped for something or if he had a light out and then he won’t have his driver's license and you know there are some story about him saying something like this is the 4th time, you've been in court because you don't carry your license and you know you never did anything wrong but you know… I don't know but so my mother was always keeping track of my father and she’d have to carry the money in the house which is similar to what I do with my wife, she tends to have money and I tend not to and my mother warned JoAnne and I, my wife when I got married to, he would never do this, he would never do that and… [crosstalk]

 

Interviewer:  So he was absent minded?

 

Interviewee: Absent minded is not the right word. Things that were important to him, he was phenomenal at and the things that I mean if it meant having fun… there's a story when my sister was born he was playing racquetball with a friend and that guy kept saying it's time to go, you know she's at the hospital and you know he'd rather be playing racquetball rather than waste time with the hospital until the baby was born you know, but he was a wonderful father. My sister and I talk all the time about my father. On what would have been his 100th birthday, she's in Philadelphia, we called each other, we both open a bottle of wine and we talked about 3 or 4 hours about our father.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah. Well let's get back to your mother.

 

Interviewee: Ok.

 

Interviewer:  So your mother was the organizer?

 

Interviewee: She was organizer, she was the office manager, she was an office manager of the house.

 

Interviewer:  And also in the store. Also she worked in the store.

 

Interviewee: She did a lot of things in the store, my father's personality… people would come in and there'd be… as I remember there was something like 12 benches that you could sit on when you came to get shoes there and there'd be all the benches would be full and everyone would say I’m waiting for Leonard, everybody wanted him to wait on  them and you know...

 

Interviewer:  So what was your and your sister's early life like? Did you go to the store, did you go with…

 

Interviewee: We went to the store a lot.

 

Interviewer:  Just because they didn't want you home alone or because you were working?

 

Interviewee: I don’t know. We just…

 

Interviewer:  Did you live close to the store? Where was the store?

 

Interviewee: The store was on 6 mile and prairie, right near U of D which is right near Livernois and we lived at 7 mile.

 

Interviewer:  Is at the 1st house you could…?

 

Interviewee: That's the 2nd house.

 

Interviewer:  Where was the for the 1st?

 

Interviewee: The first house was on Glendale, more downtown, more of a Jewish… both areas were pretty solidly Jewish.

 

Interviewer:  Which house were you born?

 

Interviewee: I was born in Glendale.

 

Interviewer:  And your sisters?

 

Interviewee: I think the middle sister was born in Glendale, I think the other one was born in a different house but I don’t know.

 

Interviewer:  Ok. And so there was always… [crosstalk]

 

Interviewee: Well the original store, Milford’s was on 7th and Livernois. And the Lenoard’s I think was open up like 1945 or so, because I think that was when he move out of this store.

 

Interviewer:  And that's also when your house… you moved?

 

Interviewee: We move about 1951.

 

Interviewer:  Ok, and the move was to be closer to the store?

 

Interviewee: The move was because we lived in… we rented the upstairs of a duplex and one night I was in my bedroom because I was being punished…

 

Interviewer:  How old was you?

 

Interviewee: I was 3, and I was never punished in my life because I really was a good kid but actually my sisters were bad and getting punished and they were mad that I wasn't being punished and they were. And then one was sent to their room and one was sent to my parents room, and they convinced me that my best thing I could do was to wake up my father who was sleeping on the couch because he'd just come home from work and so I went in the living room and I started singing really loud and so my parents sent me to my room and I guess it wasn't a good night for anybody.

 

                        And while I was in my room I was playing with the bed and there was a chord on the bed and the bed caught on fire.

 

Interviewer:  There was a what on the bed?

 

Interviewee: An electrical cord on the bed.

 

Interviewer:  Ok.

 

Interviewee: And the bed caught on fire, and I ran out and we evacuated and the house was not livable after that for a while.

 

Interviewer:  So it was in the upstairs of the duplex, and there was somebody else downstairs.

 

Interviewee: The landlord was downstairs.

 

Interviewer:  So the whole house?

 

Interviewee: Just the upstairs.

 

Interviewer:  Ok. Do you remember that?

 

Interviewee: Oh vividly.

 

Interviewer:  You were 3?

 

Interviewee: Yeah. I was.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah.

 

Interviewee: I ran out and there's a fire in my room and I was so frantic that my parents thought I said there's a man in my room and so my father took my hand he said we’ll go back in the room, maybe he thought I was trying to get out of the room, that I was avoiding being punished, he says let’s go back in the room and I show you that there’s no man. Then I said no, I'm not going back in there. And then he ran in there and he yelled that it’s on fire and we all ran downstairs.

 

[00:25:00]       And my father left his wallet, and he said I got to go get it and he ran over he went kind of like 2 or 3 steps and so I can't go, he couldn't get upstairs because it was so smoky.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah.

 

Interviewee: And it turns out that a week before that something similar had happened and some kid hid in the closet and suffocated and died, and so my parents were very thrilled that I would you know…

 

Interviewer:  That you ran.

 

Interviewee: --That I didn't you know hide.

 

Interviewer:  All right, so that precipitated the idea of the move. And you moved to be closer in that direction?

 

Interviewee: No, I think they just found the house.

 

Interviewer:  And so at this point you’re in a house?

 

Interviewee: Our own house, a single dwelling house.

 

Interviewer:  You bought the house or rented?

 

Interviewee: We took a mortgage.

 

Interviewer:  Ok, and you live there?

 

Interviewee: From the time I was 3 till I was 16.

 

Interviewer:  Where?

 

Interviewee: It was on Stoepel, which is 7mile & Livernois area

 

Interviewer:  Ok. And then the store was?

 

Interviewee: 6 miles away. It was walkable from our house. Occasionally, we would surprise our parents and walk there and if we had called and said we're coming, they would have said don’t, so we would just walk there.

 

Interviewer:  So at this point you are celebrating Jewish holiday, you always had a sense of being Jewish.

 

Interviewee: Mm-hmm.

 

Interviewer:  Ok

 

Interviewee: I remember like the many Jewish holidays, we would not go to regular school, to the Detroit public schools and I sort of felt guilty because everybody else that I knew that was taking off those days was in the synagogue and we would never thought…

 

Interviewer:  What would you be doing?

 

Interviewee: Just having fun at home. Just doing nothing.

 

Interviewer:  Would there be a Menorah out, a Hanukiah?

 

Interviewee: We would lite candle, we did all the fun things.

 

Interviewer:  Did you light candle for Shabbat some times?

 

Interviewee: Never-never.

 

Interviewer:  Never.

 

Interviewee: I don't ever remember lighting Shabbat candles.

 

Interviewer:  But everyone was aware of those holidays.

 

Interviewee: Absolutely, and because we had the other side of the family and we had role models for being Jewish which we didn't follow.

 

Interviewer:  And in the neighborhood you live in was a Jewish one?

 

Interviewee: Yeah. And I lived between 7 and Pembroke which would be 7 and a half mile road was 98 percent Jewish, and then north of Pembroke was black because at one point that had been Army bases, that they had taken down the army base and built smaller homes and so I went to a school that was right on Pembroke and the population was 48 percent black, 50 percent Jewish and 2 percent white Anglo-Saxon that we don't know how they got there.

 

Interviewer:  But this is elementary.

 

Interviewee: It was a great school. I’m still a volunteer, there is a very active alumni that I'm part of, and it was a great school.

 

Interviewer:  How can you characterize the Jewish African-American. And was it just not nobody talked about religion?

 

Interviewee: It was totally not an issue. I mean it was we still would get together, this alumni association and it's 50 percent black and 50 percent Jewish and we just talked about good times  ... One absolutely fabulous story from that, that   came out from there was that one of the black girls said to the president of the organization, she said you know I wasn't allowed to play at your house and the white woman Marcy says why not, and she says well let me tell you the story.

 

                        The black girl says the 1st day of school you are the person that when I came and I moved to the neighborhood and you were the person they assigned somebody to be your buddy to take you out, you were so nice to me, I couldn’t believe it, you were just the best you couldn't wait to talk to me and do other stuff, and we had just the best, best, best time and when the day was over, you said to me why don’t you come to my house and play and they said great and you gave me the address and then you said to me but you have to come in the back door and the black girl said my mother said I couldn’t go to your house because you said I had to go to your back door. And then Marcy said, we had white carpeting in the front room and nobody walked in the front door of my house, everybody walked…

 

Interviewer:  This is 20 year later…

 

Interviewee: This is 40 to 50 years later, she says no my mother, nobody walked in the front door of my house, we had plastic on the furniture, it was all white, we had white carpeting, and nobody was allowed in the front room of our house and everybody and you know the black girl just had like an aha moment, like I wrote, oh my God.

 

Interviewer:  Did she believe?

 

Interviewee: 100 percent, because there's not a racist bone in Marcy’s body, you'd have a lot of trouble thinking that Marcy would say something racist.

 

[00:30:00]

 

Interviewer:  So she was shocked?

 

Interviewee: She was totally shocked, and there was a deafening silence for you know 5 minutes.

 

Interviewer:  That had impacted her experience.

 

Interviewee: Yeah.

 

Interviewer:  So did the people come to your house from African-Americans side or on the Jewish side, did you go to other people's homes?

 

Interviewee: Yeah.

 

Interviewer:  The story is saying yeah we were friends at school but not at home.

 

Interviewee: What I remember was, the coolest parties were at the black houses and I couldn't wait to be invited to go to a black, if I got invited to a black house to go to a party when I was 12 or 13, that was the coolest. There was nothing cooler than that… I had a basketball court in my backyard, and we had people over all the time, playing basketball, some of which were black some white. But I would say is the most part, we didn't have a lot of blacks. There wasn't a ton of socializing after school, during school there was no issues. It was almost like you know there was a dividing line.

 

                        And it wasn't bigotry or racism, there was just that was the way they were and that's the way we were but we had basketball games at our house, but I don't remember black that would be in the house of… [crosstalk]

 

Interviewer:  There was just the boys… [crosstalk]

 

Interviewee: Yeah. And I don't remember ever inviting anybody back over to the house to do anything but probably because the only thing we did was sports and maybe you know.

 

Interviewer:  When it came time to work… and I'm going to jump ahead right now and then we will come back, when it came time to dating, you knew you were going to date a Jewish girl or did you ever not date a Jew?

 

Interviewee: I never dated someone that wasn't Jewish but I always lived at very very Jewish neighborhoods. I don't think I even… there was so few non Jews that it would be hard for me to date a non-Jew. It were really really difficult, in high school I didn't think that much. But like when I was 13 we had all these parties and it was always the kids that were in Bar Mitzvah school, that they were in Hebrew school with you.

 

Interviewer:  So that's whose party you went to.

 

Interviewee: Yeah.

 

Interviewer:  But you also envy them being able to go to that?

 

Interviewee: But you went to the Motown music was fabulous and it was just better.

 

Interviewer:  So how did you get invited to those parties?

 

Interviewee: We had friends, we have friends, but you know friends had friends. It was like you feel really special when you got invited to one of those. You know it was…

 

Interviewer:  Ok, so let's continue with that elementary kind of school. So you know you were in a Jewish community but you weren't practicing. And then the store was an important part of the whole family and you said that you would always be around the store.

 

Interviewee: It was like my parent spent a lot of time in the store, I think it was opened like 9 to 6 most days or maybe 9 to 8 a couple days a week or something. So my parents spent a lot of time in the store.

 

Interviewer:  Yes.

 

Interviewee: So if they… you know I don't remember going home to a sitter and so I think they would just bring us to the store sometimes, and from a young age we worked in the store. I mean we did stuff in the stores, I was a delivery boy once I got my license for the store, I sold shoes.

 

Interviewer:  Your sisters the same?

 

Interviewee: Well I don't think they ever were that. I think of the delivery was always boys, were always men.

 

Interviewer:  But did they look after you, your sisters…?

 

Interviewee: When I was younger. At the store? No, at the store they was stuff to do at the store, we wrap presents when it was holiday seasons and we did a lot of stuff.

 

 Interviewer: And the weekends too, the store was opened.

 

 Interviewee:            And that’s not Sunday, but it was on Saturday.

 

Interviewer:  And on Sundays?

 

Interviewee: We played golf. I played golf with my father almost every Sunday when the weather was nice.

 

Interviewer:  How old were you then?

 

Interviewee: I was young, probably 8.

                        And we used to drive out very close to where our house is now in Troy and it was like a 45 minute drive because there was no expressways and the roads were really terrible. And all that was out there was a golf course and a bunch of flower stands where like farms that sold flowers, because it was a tradition we always played golf and then we bought gladiolas, we brought gladiolas home for the family.

 

Interviewer:  Ok, so let’s move on, shall we move on to around Bar Mitzvah age.

 

Interviewee: Sure.

 

Interviewer:  Ok. So you had a bar mitzvah?

 

Interviewee: I had a Bar Mitzvah, so the guy that I think thinks fixed my parents up was fairly religious was way more observant than we were, and he convinced me…

[00:35:00]

Interviewer:  You mean matchmaker?

 

Interviewee: No, just a friend that is the person that fixed them up, not a matchmaker... And I think he convinced my father that it would be really cool if I had a Bar Mitzvah, so I think that's where the idea, because I am sure my father could have cared less. But my Bar Mitzvah was fabulous, it was lots of fun, it was a really nice.

 

Interviewer:  And it in a synagogue?

 

Interviewee: The service was at Adat Shalom and the party was at Temple Israel. Somehow we were affiliated with both of them, one way or other.

 

Interviewer:  And your mother’s side of the family?

 

Interviewee: My mother side of the family was Shaarey Zedek but they came, they were thrilled that I was being Bar Mitzvah, it was really fun. I mean we had never been to Saturday’s… part of going to Hebrew school at Adat Shalom was that you had to go to services on Saturday morning and I always walked, my parents never took me there. My parents were never there, the only time I remember my father being there… even on high holidays my father didn’t go to services. My mother, I think, went on high holidays, but my father didn’t. And the only time I remember sitting with my father in the synagogue was for my Bar Mitzvah but it was a very cool day, it was… the party was great.

 

Interviewer:  By that time girls would not have had Bat Mitzvah.

 

Interviewee: My sisters were confirmed. They did not have Bat Mitzvah.

 

Interviewer:  Ok. So then I guess the next period is when your father died. 15 year did you say.You want to talk about that?

 

Interviewee: I was working at a Jewish camp but then because it was a Jewish camp just because I was Jewish, I worked for the summer, I worked in a camp and it was in August, and it was on a Sunday and it happened to be the day that the parents were all visiting their kids. And so they told me that something had happened at home and that I had to go home. And they didn't really tell me what happened, they said something had happened with my father and I just had to go home to your father and so I went home, one of the parents dropped me off at my sister's house.

 

                        My sister was married and had one child at this time, and I got there and I walked in and someone said to me your father passed away. The whole way home I was sure it was my grandfather because my grandfather was in his seventys and my grandfather had diabetes and he was a healthy guy but he always had diabetes, it was always an issue but my father smoked but was just bigger than life and always always playing sports and everything.

 

Interviewer:  And it just never crossed your mind?

 

Interviewee: It crossed my mind but I could only think they must have meant my grandfather and I got to my sister's house and everyone was crying and there… [crosstalk]

 

Interviewer:  Your mother was there?

 

Interviewee: My mother was there. So the first person I saw was my mother and I walked in the door.

 

Interviewer:  He died of a heart attack?

 

Interviewee: He had an embolism. He was playing golf. He was playing with another one of his friends and he said I have a terrible pain in my chest, and he sat down and then they called the EMS or whatever it was back then and they couldn’t revive him, and he had an embolism.

 

Interviewer:  So that was a very dramatic change for you and the family?

 

Interviewee: Yes.

 

Interviewer:  So it took you some time to recover, to adjust?

 

Interviewee: I don’t know if I ever adjusted.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah.

 

Interviewee: Yeah, shock, total shock

 

Interviewer:  Sure.

 

Interviewee: I know I've been to funerals of some of my contemporaries and they talk about what they did with their fathers as they grew up, and I always felt so sad that I missed that. My biggest regret in life is that my kids never met my parents.

 

Interviewer:  Sure.

 

Interviewee: That's my biggest regret but I really feel it when people talk about you know I did this and you know I'm proud of how my life turned out, what I accomplished in my life and I never got to share that with my parents. So that's sad, the really sad part.

 

Interviewer:  And it seems like on the other hand you feel very grateful for having had him.

 

Interviewee: Yeah absolutely.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah, so it was a Jewish funeral?

 

Interviewee: Yeah, we went to Ira Kaufman's as a 15 year old kid, it was the worst experience of my life. I think. I felt like they were selling me a piano with all these beautiful caskets out there with the price tags on them and I just thought it was handled so poorly.

 

Interviewer:  Was it your mother making the arrangements?

 

Interviewee: I went with my brother in law, I went with my sisters.

 

Interviewer:  I don't know how much time we're going to have, so I'd like to talk just a moment about your father's views, so it sounds like he really knew himself well, knew his life well, he decided he was Jewish but religion didn't matter, God didn't matter.

 

[00:40:00]

 

Interviewee: No, I think God mattered.

 

Interviewer:  That's what I wanted to ask you about.

 

Interviewee: I always wanted … whenever I thought about it, yeah because you know somewhere in my Hebrew school days, God fearing was important to and to be a good person you should be God fearing.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah.

 

Interviewee: And there was nobody better than my father. And I always thought that he had morals, he was driven by ethics and he was the most honest person I  ever met.

Interviewer:  Like in his business practice?

 

Interviewee: Everything, in his life everything. He was true to himself, he was confortable in his own skin and but he just didn’t like that.

 

Interviewer:  But he was directed by… but do you think he believed in God?

 

Interviewee: I do.

 

Interviewer:  You do. What makes you think that?

 

Interviewee: I don’t know, I always remember thinking that.

 

Interviewer:  I mean he could think I'm going to live a good Jewish life, not God but what I’m asking is do you think he was going to live a good Jewish life and God was going to.

 

Interviewee: I do think he wanted to live a good life.

 

Interviewer:  Ok.

 

Interviewee: He was Jewish but I don't think he wanted to live a good Jewish life, I don't think that was important to him. So like the wallet that wasn’t important to him. So like the wallet was important, it didn’t a lot of attention.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah. Ok.

 

Interviewee: So I think he wanted to live a good life.

 

Interviewer:  And he just did that.

 

Interviewee: Yeah.

 

Interviewer:  Ok, so but then you also believe that he believes.

 

Interviewee: I do believe but I don't know why I say that but I'm very convinced that he did believe and I have no reason to tell you why, I have no I thought of why, maybe because in my mind good people believe in God and you know he was a good person, so he ergo must have.

 

Interviewer:  And it also sounds like you saw no reason to question?

 

Interviewee: No, and I think he has morals and ethics above anybody else. I mean he was just yeah.

 

Interviewer:  Ok can we move on into the part where you were you go off to college and then you leave home to do that?

 

Interviewee: I went to Michigan for one year.

 

Interviewer:  Ok

 

Interviewee: And then I came back home and went to Wayne State.

 

Interviewer:  So you got your degrees

 

Interviewee: I got 2 degrees from Wayne State.

 

Interviewer:  Ok.

 

Interviewee: Bachelors of Arts and Economics and a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy.

 

Interviewer:  Ok, so then you went to Pharmacy School, how did you get into Pharmacy?

 

Interviewee: I think… so I worked for my parents and it was the world's best best  jobs working for my parents, I learned all my life skills working for my parents. However, I hated it when people used to tell me that oh you work for your parents, what a cushy job, you know they must pay you well, because that was anything but the truth. My parents actually didn't even pay me, my parents just gave me money whenever I needed it. I want to go out tonight and you want twenty dollars and they’d just give me money.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah.

 

Interviewee: But there was no paycheck for me right and I worked long and hard.

 

Interviewer:  What happened after your father died, did someone keep the store?

 

Interviewee: In a few years, we sold the store. But my mother ran the store, and then we sold the store.

 

Interviewer:  Ok.

 

Interviewee: But anyway, so I never… so I worked very hard for my parents, they would expect nothing less, and I would accept nothing less. But I didn't get paid. But they never… whatever money I wanted, I just say it, they would give me. It was a good arrangement. But I felt very bad because it looked to the world like I was loafing and my parents were supporting me.

 

Interviewer:  Right.

 

Interviewee: So I went and I asked a friend of mine about who was working at a drug store to get me a job, so I went to the drugstore and I started working for $0.75 an hour and I worked in the drug store and I worked all the way through the end of my high school and when I was at college whenever there was a break or something that worked at the drug store. And I was accepted at a law school, always I thought I wanted to be a lawyer and then I got number 3 in the draft lottery, when I got 3 in the draft lottery, it meant I was going to be drafted and so I got the National Guard and I hadn't gone to law school yet, and I asked the law school if I went for a year because I do get a year deferment.

 

                        If I went for one year to the National Guard and then come back and take  year 2 and 3 of law school and they said nobody could ever do that because it's just so one thing builds on the other, you got to keep using it and so they said Don't, you know that's a bad plan.

 

Interviewer:  Ok.

 

[00:45:00]

 

Interviewee: So I got in the National Guard. My uncle got me into the National Guard he was friends with an ex governor of Michigan and I got in the National Guard and when I got out of the National Guard a year later, I was no longer accepted at the law school because when I first applied you either needed a good boards or a good grades and I had really good boards and Ok grades, and then a year later because so many people were trying to get in you needed both, you need good grades and really good board and I didn't qualify. So my slot at law school was gone and I wasn't accepted and the guy that I was working for said so you’ll become a pharmacist and I’ll make you a deal. And so I did, I went to pharmacy school, that's how I got to pharmacy school.

 

Interviewer:  What was the deal?

 

Interviewee: The deal was when I got out, I could buy into a store and own a piece of a store.

 

Interviewer:  Is that what happened?

 

Interviewee: I bought into a piece of a store, I bought 25 percent of a store, eventually he rolled all the stores into one big pile and I sold my 25 percent of one store to be 5 or 10 percent of a bunch of stores.

 

Interviewer:  And it's the same guy?

 

Interviewee: The same guy I worked with. I was Partners with him for over 40 years.

 

Interviewer:  Where does JoAnne come in, your wife? At what point?

 

Interviewee: So I met JoAnne…Down at school, we had an apartment that we used for studying and for parties on the weekend.

 

Interviewer:  This is when you went to Wayne State.

 

Interviewee: Actually I went to Highland Park for a year, when I went to Michigan, I ended up playing Bridge a lot and I didn't do very well in the …

 

Interviewer:  Had you played Bridge before?

 

Interviewee: No, well I played my parents. Ok but when I got to there, I realized that what my parents were playing was a social game and not competitive bridge. I got into competitive bridge, and we played all the time. I missed a lot of classes, my roommate was brilliant and he got B’s which he never got his life but so I came back I went Highland Park for a year and during the year at Highland Park, it was like there was nothing to do at Highland Park other than go to school and you have an hour break between classes, and you couldn’t go home because it was a half hour to go home. So a bunch of us like 6 or 7 of us rented a one bedroom apartment and during the week we'd go there and have lunch between classes or study or whatever and then on the weekends we’d have parties there.

 

                        So I came there one day between classes and I had a friend who was going to Highland Park and later his wife but at that time his girlfriend was good friends with JoAnne and JoAnne came in to see her for a weekend and they were budding around. The 3 of them were at the apartment with her, so I met JoAnne and I asked her out, we played cards in the living room for a little bit. And then I asked her out, that’s the story. That’s how we met.

 

Interviewer:  So let me see, so if I can just recap for a moment. After your father died the store was sold. And then you started… you had always worked in the store but then you started working for a pharmacy which was where?

 

Interviewee: 7th mile in Wyoming.

 

Interviewer:  So not too far from home, in the old neighborhood and you continued working there throughout your high school year and college. First you went to you went to U of M and then you went to Highland Park, and then you went Wayne. So when you were at Wayne through some friends you met JoAnne and you were studying to be a pharmacist because…

 

Interviewee: This time I was studying for my Bachelor’s.

 

Interviewer:  And then it came along that you were high in the draft, you were going to be drafted, you got into the National Guard. But your occupational goals changed from being able to go to law school to continuing in pharmacy. So at that point, then you go to a pharmacy school and you and JoAnne were dating then?

 

Interviewee: So I got out of the National Guard, JoAnne and I got married and then I started at pharmacy school as well. So at the time I was in pharmacy school, I was...

 

Interviewer:  You were married then?

 

Interviewee: Yeah we were.

 

Interviewer:  And so how long was it that you knew JoAnne before you got married?

 

Interviewee: 3 or 4 years.

 

Interviewer:  Ok. So that was your years of finishing at Wayne?

 

Interviewee: That was during my undergrad.

 

Interviewer:  And what was JoAnne doing.

 

Interviewee: JoAnne was going to college.

 

Interviewer:  She lived in Windsor, right?

 

Interviewee: Yes she lived in Windsor when I first met her by this time she was living in Southfield, her family moved, her father changed jobs and was working in Detroit and in Royal Oak and they moved. I was in… the 1st year when we got married, JoAnne got her master's, the 1st year we were married and I went from a college graduate to a freshman in pharmacy school and JoAnne went from being a college graduate to a master's.

[00:50:00]

 

Interviewer:  Yeah.

 

Interviewee: I was thinking I was taking a step backwards when I got married as far as education wise.

 

Interviewer:  Tell me about when you brought JoAnne home to meet your mother and your sisters?

 

Interviewee: It was fine.

 

Interviewer:  And when you went to meet her parents?

 

Interviewee: Yeah, no problems. No issues. I was dating 2 girls when I met JoAnne, I was dating somebody else when I met JoAnne, and one of my sisters always confused the 2 girls. And another girl had done something that my sisters didn’t like, she stood me up on a date or something, and they always say I don’t like JoAnne because she stood you up, no that was the other girl and it took several times to get it sorted out.

 

Interviewer:  So what were your views on Judaism yourself at this point?

 

Interviewee: My mother gave me the big speech before I went away to Michigan, which I didn't understand because I wasn't really dating. And I wasn't very connected, I mean I think I lived by the rules that my parents live by in their house which was that we were Jewish.

 

Interviewer:  But weren’t part of Hillel?

 

Interviewee: I wasn’t part of Hillel, and that’s…

 

Interviewer:  And that group of guys you rented the apartment with, were they Jewish.

 

Interviewee: I think most of them are Jewish.

 

Interviewer:  Ok.

 

Interviewee: I was in the Army for 8 months and the only time that I went to synagogue was one Saturday morning when they were going to expose you to gas so you can see how terrible gas was, they put you into this room, they filled it up with gas, you had a gas mask on, and you took it off for one second and you know…

 

Interviewer:  I know where this is going.

 

Interviewee: And so it was a Saturday morning and they said in the Saturday morning, you had the right to go to the synagogue. So I said I'm going to synagogue today and they said well you know you have to make this up and I said well so be it but I can’t imagine them firing up this big whatever it is, so I went to the synagogue in the morning. [laughs] That was the only day I went to synagogue when I was in the Army.

 

Interviewer:  And that would be can be consistent with your father?

 

Interviewee: Oh absolutely. My father would have done the same thing.

 

Interviewer:  Yeah.

 

Interviewee: Convenient to be Jewish, it was very convenient to be Jewish.

 

Interviewer:  So was JoAnne family thinking about the Jewishness?

 

Interviewee: I think family was…. JoAnne’s parents… her father was orthodox growing up but he also was not very into religion and JoAnne’s mother was a founding member of the Reform synagogue of Windsor and she was much more connected I think. Although her family was less religious than…. JoAnne's mother's family was less religious than her father but I think her mother was more connected to the Judaism.

 

Interviewer:  So when you start it, when you got married, when you started your family how did Judaism fit in?

 

Interviewee: We always wanted to have Jewish kids, they were  definitely going to be Bar or Bat Mitzvah. And I don't know but all the sudden, JoAnne tells me but I don't really remember this, that we were looking for a synagogue because our kids… our oldest was like 5 or 6 years old and we had gone to several synagogues and not found anything that floated our boat or made us happy. And that's when the Shir Tikvah… The idea of a Jewish synagogue in Troy was being studied.

 

Interviewer:  How did you hear about it?

 

Interviewee: We read it. I think… I don't think my son was in their school yet but he was already signed up for the next year to start that school, to start at the store front school in Troy and I think we heard about it there, we may have read about it in the Jewish News, but I think we heard about it because he was signed up for the that.

 

Interviewer:  So you weren’t affiliated?

 

Interviewee: We were not affiliated.

 

Interviewer:  Why were you…? why did you move to Troy?

 

Interviewee: We moved to Troy because I am a pharmacy degree and at that time we owned 4 or 5 stores and Troy was centrally located, I was supposed to work originally at a Royal Oak store which was right up 75 from where I was at. And it was very convenient, but it was convenient to all the stores because I was being close to 75, turned out that I never really worked at the Royal Oak store.

 

Interviewer:  But there was a store in Pontiac?

 

Interviewee: At that time there wasn't. There was a store in Detroit, there was a store in Farmington, there was one in Mount Clemens and a bunch of them.

 

Interviewer:  So that's how you got to Troy?

 

Interviewee: We got to Troy because it was centrally located.

 

Interviewer:  And then you heard about the formation of the synagogue of Shir Tikvah or Troy Jewish congregation and then you were all in from the beginning?

 

Interviewee: JoAnne was all in, I was a skeptic at the beginning.

 

Interviewer:  Skeptic about?

 

[00:55:00]

 

Interviewee: We went to the 1st meeting, and saw how many families there were, we sat around and talked to them, we were actually the 1st couple to talk, we were in the corner and we're the 1st one to talk and we left there all fired up, they were going to synagogue and I thought they were dreamers and it won’t happen and JoAnne got on a budget committees and I was not on any committee and then she said you have to go on a committee, so I chose the youth committee which was a wonderful experience. The youth committee was lots of our very good friends were there.

 

Interviewer:  You became good friends, right?

 

Interviewee: Yes, we didn't know any of them but they all had kids that were within one or 2 years of our kids age and we planned all the activities for the 1st 10 years of the synagogue, and at the time when there was you know 15…20…35… families in the synagogue everybody felt that if they didn't go to an event the synagogue would fold. So that everyone’s charge was to go and it was like by seeing these people so often, we became very good friends and the youth community was very important to getting me to feel involved and part of the center.

 

Interviewer:  So was your mother living by this time. She died when you were…?

 

Interviewee: She died very young, right before we got married.

 

Interviewer:  Ok. And your sisters were not living here?

 

Interviewee: One Sister was a founding member also. I went to the 1st meeting I was shocked to see her, because of our upbringing I was shocked that my sister was there. Neither no one else would even have mentioned it to the other because neither one of us would have thought the other would even be interested. My sister just adopted a boy that was I think 8 or 9 years old at the time and so she was thinking that he should get some Jewish education. And so my sister was there, my sister and her husband was there and I…

 

Interviewer:  You didn’t know each other were going to be there?

 

Interviewee: Not a clue.

 

Interviewer:  Really.

 

Interviewee: If you told me she was coming, I would have laugh at you… yeah. And then she passed away, she passed away shortly after that. She passed away the 2nd service.

 

Interviewer:  And you other sister?

 

Interviewee: My other sister was… I think at the time was living in Columbus. She lived in Columbus Ohio and she lived in Hollywood Florida, now she's in Philadelphia. She’s been in Philadelphia for 20 years or so, but I think she was at that time in Columbus.

 

Interviewer:  So just imagine if there hadn't been this meeting, where Troy Jewish congregation got started, do you suppose that you would have affiliated?

 

Interviewee: I think JoAnne would have kept looking and found the best option then we would have affiliated with something but not how we affiliate like we did.

 

Interviewer:  So initially you were skeptical about Shir Tikvah and then you got on the youth committee which planned activities and then you are all in. Was that consistent with your views about your Jewish identity, the way things went at Shir Tikvah?

 

 Interviewee:            I think so, I think that you know for the most part Shir Tikvah has done a pretty good job of not having the evils of the formal religion, of organized religion, we don't make… People don't get better seats because they pay more, they don't make a big pledge on Yom Kippur where people stand up and announcing how much money they donated. I think… [crosstalk]

 

Interviewer:  It sort of right the wrongs of what happened with your father?

 

Interviewee: I think so. JoAnne was the administrator and I know that she would never have asked anybody what they made. And she was you know more than lenient for people that so that they had economic issues, they were more you know caring about economic issues as opposed to demanding what they thought you should be able to pay. So I think the evils that my father saw in organized religion didn't exist at Shir Tikvah.

 

Interviewer:  So those who were the righting of the wrongs, but did it give you something else?

 

Interviewee: It gave me a community, and I think because of it and coming to services more often, I got a lot of Jewish education you know just by accident.

 

Interviewer:  So community was important?

 

Interviewee: It was very important. I think I always felt Jewish, I probably feel a little more Jewish, a little more connected. For the most part before we joined Shir Tikvah I wasn't much of a joiner. I tended not to join groups and now I tend to join groups. So it maybe taught me that there's something good about group dynamics and stuff like that.

 

Interviewer:  And then in your family, you celebrated holidays?

 

[01:00:00]

Interviewee: We celebrate holidays, which we certainly did more than just the fun part and more than just. I mean we have Shabbat dinners at home all the time. We did a lot of Jewish things you know. We had Havdalah at our son's Bar Mitzvah, which was you know would have been unheard of.

Interviewer:  What of Seders?

Interviewee: Seder used to be really nice at our house, now it’s at our son and daughter in law’s house.

Interviewer:  When they were at your house where they more like your grandfather or your grandmother side?

 Interviewee:            Absolutely in the middle.

Interviewer:  Oh yeah.

Interviewee: Absolutely, I mean they we had a book and we went through the book and we seem to never finish the book, we seem to be the end of it, now that we got to my daughter in laws house.

Interviewer:  Your daughter in law is…

Interviewee: --more religious and more conservative. We tend to finish the Seder with half the people there, half the people come in sit around and finish the Seder. But certainly I’m more aware of the customs than I was before and more in tuned to them.

Interviewer:  I ask you before your father's beliefs. You characterized his beliefs as…. Yeah, he lived his life as he wanted to live it and you believe that he believed in the God he just did what he wanted, how would you contrast and compare your beliefs?

Interviewee: Always consider myself to be like believing with a little bit of agnosticism, I’m always being very scientific in my studies and my life and enjoying science, and math, and stuff like that. I always look for more proof and obviously there’s no proof of a God is out. So if tomorrow somebody came out and proved there was no God, I wouldn't say I wouldn't be shocked, I wouldn't be floored. When something good happens, I still think something bad could have happen, I say a little prayer.

Interviewer:  Yeah.

Interviewee: So I think I do believe. But I wouldn’t say I'm firmly a believer that you know… that I would…

Interviewer:  It doesn't occupy you time.

Interviewee: It doesn't.

Interviewer:  We didn't talk about this but did you experience anti-Semitism?

Interviewee: I remember one incident, it was so not. The answer is probably no, as I remember I was a child, I was a kid and somebody stole an ice scream cone from me and said something about Jewish but he wasn't talking to me and it was like. I never understood what it was and what he said had to be anti-Semitic but it was so out of context of what was happening.

Interviewer:  What about your sisters?

Interviewee: Well my sister is 8 years older than me. You know I was born the same year as Israel.

Interviewer:  48.

Interviewee: 48. And my sister is 8 year older, so my sister is so much more invested in Israel because of that she feels… you know she was there when the Yom Kippur War broke out, she was going to go over there and fight, so that’s how important Israel was to her and in my mind Israel is was very important but you know she thinks we can go back there when anti-Semitism is rampant in that’s it’s not growing and there's not a problem in especially in Europe. And I think it's either naive or just don't think it could happen in this country anymore. I think there's too many powerful people.

Interviewer:  And there weren’t experiences.

Interviewee: And I don't have a experiences, I don't think she does either, although I don't think she really did.

Interviewer:  Well Cary we’ve really spend a lot of good time on hearing about from when you were a little to now. Is there anything that you… that I haven't particularly asked you about that you think would be something you'd like to talk a little bit about or mention?

Interviewee: No, I think we hit a lot of stuff.

Interviewer:  Ok.

Interviewee: Ok.

 

Interviewer:  Well thank you very much.

Interviewee: Thank you.

Interviewer:  I really appreciate your spending time with me.

[01:04:00]

End of interview

 

Tue, January 26 2021 13 Sh'vat 5781