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Your Link to the Past

Your Link to the Past

Rabbi Hyman Rabinowitz

Interview with RABBI HYMAN RABINOWITZ

Date of Interview:  July 29, 1980      

Interviewer:            Leah Hartman

Transcriber:            Sally Neighbors

Begin Tape 1, Side 1

 

LH:  This is an interview with Rabbi Hyman Rabinowitz, 1101 – 36th St., Sioux City, Iowa, July 29, 1980.  I am Leah Hartman.

Rabinowitz:  I was born in Lithuania in 1893, which makes it 87 1/2 years.  My father was a rabbi and he immigrated to America in 1900.  After 4 1/2 years, my mother, with five children, came to join father, in Altoona, Pennsylvania.  I lived there for 3 1/2 years, attending public school, graduating public school.  Then my father sent me to New York when I was fourteen to study for the rabbinate.  I studied for the rabbinate on and off from 1908 to 1925 and was graduated magna cum laude from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. 

After graduation a letter came from Sioux City from a gentleman named Barney Baron who operated a grocery store for many, many years on 4th Street.  He wrote that about thirty gentlemen would be interested in securing the services of a modern, young, learned, English-speaking rabbi.  Up to that date, there was only one English-speaking rabbi and he was Rabbi Issacson of Mt. Sinai Temple,  which was situated at that time on Nebraska and 14th.  Today they occupy a place on 38th Street .   The chairman of the Placement Committee, who is responsible for placing graduates in various communities, persuaded me that I would find Sioux City very challenging, for they wrote him that there were thirty men interested in organizing a congregation but that there was a great potential.  Many, many would join if the rabbi would be the right person for the position. 

I came to Sioux City for the first time May 25, 1925, and I delivered two sermons on the holiday of Pentecost.  But the chairman, who was at that time Dr. Helfgott, thought that he would surprise me; so without letting me know, he asked me to go with him to the Jewish Community Center, which at that time was at 310 Pierce Street, and when I came in there were about 150 people sitting around tables sipping coffee and he walks to the podium and says, “I have the pleasure of presenting the future rabbi of Shaare Zion.”  I was taken by surprise.  I hadn’t thought of it.  I hadn’t prepared anything.  But God is always good to those who are in trouble.  I rose and spoke and outlined my thoughts what a young rabbi ought to do in a community like Sioux City.

His first task would be to be a spiritual engineer, to connect the old generation and the young generation.  Up to now, everything was conducted in Yiddish as the elderly generation was an immigrant generation.  Their children were already native Americans and they knew little of Yiddish, so the rabbi had to please both the old and the young.  After half an hour address the assembled people applauded vociferously and the chairman told me that I seemed to be the right man but he would like to test me again.  The next day he assembled the women of the congregation.  There were about 100 women, and again without preparation I had to speak.  God was good to me again and I did it.  Then came the holidays and the synagogue was packed to capacity.  There must have been between 300 and 400 people.  They were not members.  Some of them were members of other congregations, but they came out of curiosity to see a new rabbi who is, so to speak, conservative, and spoke English.  I made a good impression and June 2, 1925, I was elected as the first rabbi of Shaare Zion congregation. 

The first service was held on New Year’s Eve of the Jewish New Year, September 8, 1925.  After this service was over, eighty people expressed their wish to join the congregation.  After another service, which was held ten days later, which was known as Yom Kippur service, another twenty-five joined.  The chairman, Barney Baron, said to me, “We are out of the red.”  In New York, I had never heard that expression so I said, “I never thought the Shaare Zion belonged to the Communist area.”  He said no, “out of the red” was a business expression, meaning that we can operate without a deficit.  So I learned commercial language in addition to my knowledge of Hebrew, English, German and Yiddish.

As soon as we found that we had a solid base to work on, and that was very interesting.  I told Mr. Baron that, being a young man just married, I had to build a home, build a library, and if I take a one-year contract things might not turn out well and I wouldn’t like to have the stigma of failure.  He said, “We thought of it, and we agreed to write you a contract for three years and even to deposit our own personal funds for a period of three years so that you wouldn’t have financial worries.  And if the congregation does not succeed, we’ll part in good company.  And so, I never had to use their personal deposits, for the congregation was “out of the red” on September, 1925. 

We then met in an old discarded Swedish church on Court and 7th Street.  They paid only $50.00 a month rent.  But it had no facilities.  No social hall, no office building, no library, nothing.  Merely a hall with benches.  I began at once to educate for the erection of a modern building which would furnish us classrooms, social hall, library, offices.  Within two years the sum of $100,000 was raised and a modern Shaare Zion Synagogue on Douglas and 16th Street was dedicated on September 14, 1927.  It has a seating capacity of 750.  It has a large social hall with a seating capacity of about 400, classrooms, library and offices, and Shaare Zion went into business.  In the period from 1925 to 1959, when I retired after thirty-four years, the congregation rose from 110 to 310.  So I left a legacy to my successor – a well-organized congregation – active, full of hope and aspirations.  Since then, four rabbis have succeeded me for shorter periods of time.  

My late darling wife had an idea that a congregation should be the tool of attracting young people to the synagogue.  Her dream was that they should become conscious of the traditions, ideals, ideas, hope and aspirations of the Jewish people.  Her main concern was to have a program of interest presented at every meeting.  She had a program chairman appointed, but she did the work.  She was always behind the program chairman.  She didn’t want any credit; all she wanted was that the young women should become involved in the congregation.  She presented various programs; religious, national, and American programs.  Among the great American programs was the one “Statue of Liberty.”  It was fifty years since the French Republic presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States in appreciation of its being the forerunner of democracy.  While we had our Revolution and our Declaration of Independence and Constitution since 1776, France followed in 1789 with a great revolution which swept out the monarchy with all its old meaning and inefficiencies and introduced the Republic. The Republic of France felt that it should express a compliment to the United States by presenting it with the Statue of Liberty.  

My wife had a young lady draped in a French flag present a replica of the Statue of Liberty.  In one hand she carried the torch, the torch of freedom, and someone recited the lines engraved on the Statue of Liberty by Emma Lazarus, a Jewish poetess who lived in 1887, and she wrote, “Give me your huddled.  Give me your tired masses.  Here by the lamp of freedom they will find happiness and contentment.”  And then they sang the American National Anthem and someone gave a talk on the assistance that France gave to the United States in its War of Independence.  She spoke about Lafayette who came and helped to drill and organize the army together with General Washington and it was one of the most inspiring programs.   

The programs attracted the Jewish women to such an extent that the Women’s League of Shaare Zion became the foremost Jewish women’s organization.  Our program meetings were attended sometimes by 200 to 250 women, which all other organizations complained bitterly of a lack of attendance. 

Another great program was “My Country”.  It was a time when Ford was spreading anti-Semitism in the United States, and a wife of a rabbi in the East wrote a play called “My Country”, where she showed how America grew by the contributions made by all nationalities.  She had the Indian, the Pilgrim fathers, the French, Dutch, Anthem Italian, colored and Jews.  My wife found a representative of all these nationalities who came in their original garb, recited the National Anthem and performed some kind of a dramatic act portraying their culture.  It wasn’t an easy job to find original characters for this play.  She heard that in Winnebago there was an Indian Reservation, so she contacted Mr. Sam Rivin, who operated a store in Winnebago and who spoke Indian, to take her to the reservation.  There she found a young lady who was unfortunately blind, possessed of a very sweet voice, and she sang the “Indian Love Song” and she performed an Indian dance, and the Indian contribution to America was clearly and manifestly shown.  The next one was an English lady who came in with a bonnet with a dark dress with a big Bible in her hand and she recited Psalm 23, “The Lord is My Shepherd”, as she knelt in prayer.  The third one was a French young lady, whom the professor of French at Morningside College recommended, and she came in French style and she sang the French national anthem, “Les Marseilles”.  Then, my wife heard there was a Dutch church in Orange City and she traveled to Orange City, saw the minister and he recommended a certain lady by the name of Vandenbeck, who came in original Dutch clothes.  She carried Dutch Cleanser in one hand, (this was my wife’s idea) and wore wooden shoes, and she recited the Dutch national anthem.  The colored woman sang a spiritual, “All God’s Children Need Shoes”, and the Italian sang arias from “Santa Lucia”, and the Jewish representative sang “Eli, Eli” which was a tragic song representing the sufferings of the people of the Jewish community in Russia after the massacre of Kishinev in 1903. 

Now this was an American program which attracted the attention of Mrs. Emily Bruce Hoyt.  You remember her?  She was program chairman that year of the Woman’s Club.  Gittel invited her.  She was so enthused she asked that Gittel repeat the program for the Woman’s Club membership, also inviting the husbands.  It was presented in the auditorium of the Central High School with the substitution of Paul Snyder.  The English lady had a wedding to attend and Paul Snyder took over the Pilgrim and where she recited “The Lord is My Shepherd”, he sang it beautifully.  It was one of the great programs that my wife presented.  

Similarly she had programs specifically Jewish.  She had a program called “The Jewish Home Beautiful”.  The tables were set characterizing every Jewish holiday.  For instance, when she came to the New Year’s they had a shofar, which is a ram’s horn, which is sounded.  They had honey and apples, which is the traditional dish of the holiday, meaning may the year be sweet, symbolized by honey and apples.  She had Dr.Lande, a children’s doctor here, who possessed a very beautiful tenor voice, and he sang a selection from the prayer book which discusses the New Year’s Day as the fate of world is being decided by God on this day, whether it should be a happy year or, on the other hand, a sad year.  He sang it in a beautiful way. 

She had another great program which left an indelible impression and this was called “Burning the Books”.  Hitler, when he ascended to power in 1933, ordered all Hebrew books and all liberal books consigned to the flames.  Thousands and thousands of books were seized by the Nazis and a big bonfire was lit in Berlin and a few Nazis were put in charge for tending the fire and others read the name of the book and described the content of the book.  The first book to be consigned to the flames was the Bible and a young lady who represented the Nazi carrying baskets of books, read from the Bible, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”.  “One law for the native and stranger”.   “Righteousness thou shalt pursue”.  And to this the Nazi says, “To the flames, liberal ideas, they do not fit the times”.  Then Heinrich Heines’ Lorelei was assigned by one.  “To the flames”, the Nazi said.  The one who represented the Nazi was a German Jew by the name of Bernard Weicker, and he had a very rough voice.  Even Einstein’s Theory of Relativity,  “To the flames”, he yelled.  “Einstein is a liberal.  He preaches world peace, world friendship, unity.”  And so that was one of the great programs.  It just was moving, shaking. A bonfire was built on one side of the stage and another one was built on the other side of the stage and in that second urn a mortgage was burned, that cleared Shaare Zion Synogogue from its indebtedness.  The speaker for the evening was Dr. Kauvar from Denver, Colorado, and he compared the burning of books and the burning of the mortgage.  The burning of the books meant an era of oppression, persecution, and era of darkness, medieval gloom.  On the other hand, the burning of the mortgage ushers in an era for Shaare Zion to operate fully, efficiently, to enrich culture and to bring culture to hundreds and hundreds of citizens of Sioux City.  

My wife’s intention was to spread the Jewish message not only to members of Shaare Zion, but also to all the entire Jewish community.  She served on five boards.  She was on the board of the Women’s League, Hadassah, the Hebrew School Board, and also Brandeis University Board and Women’s Club.  Up to that time very few Jewish women were members of the Women’s Club, but Mrs. Hoyt, who fell in love with my wife, suggested that she would present her name for admission and she was very successful.  My wife was made membership chairman and she smuggled in another couple of Jewish women as members of the Women’s Club.    She held office for two years and begged not to be re-nominated for the office as she was over-taxed.  She worked very hard.  She was an excellent hostess.  She used to tell me very often “Love is kindled through the stomach, not only through the heart”.  She was an excellent cook and baker and she knew how to entertain beautifully.  She always had a program every time she entertained.  She didn’t care for cards.  She would always raise a question:  political, economic, cultural, religious, and the whole group that was invited, every table, participated.  We always had humor, stories told, each one told of an experience, and you learned something while you tasted the material delicacies.  You had also a spiritual flavor accompanying it. 

Now, this goes as far as organization is concerned.  Shaare Zion was the foremost active Jewish congregation in the community. Or course, it suffered in later years.  When I retired in 1959 the congregation was still very active, having Fathers and Sons Banquets, having Mothers and Daughters Banquets, having programs in celebration of Lincoln’s birthday, Washington’s birthday, observance of Jewish holidays.  But, unfortunately, the Second World War came in, and that changed the picture very definitely.  A great number of men who served in the United States Army settled in various communities where they served at a military base, and they met young ladies in the community and they made their homes there.  The membership started shrinking, and it shrank and shrank.  Now, also, the war conditions made many men and women go out to L.A., San Francisco, Houston, Texas, where there were military bases where their sons and daughters served in the Army, and they fell in love with the community.  While here in Iowa, we had blizzards and humid summers, there the temperature is ideal.  If they didn’t have any definite business which kept them here, they were employed as stenographers, clerks, salesmen—they moved over to L.A. 

As a matter of fact, there are today 400 Sioux Cityans living in L.A., San Francisco, Sacramento, and all that area.  Four years ago, a member of Shaare Zion who was also my secretary for many years, Mrs. Lucille Berkowitz, conceived an idea of assembling all the Sioux Cityans in California for a reunion. First, she scanned the telephone books, and she recognized many of the names.  She invited them, and the first attendance ranged about 200.  And every year she has an annual reunion and the number increases.  The second year was 250.  The third was 300, then 350, and this year they invited me at their expense to be the guest of honor.  We have a register of 350 people who attended this annual reunion and they also sent me a book with photographs of various people and me.  They were very happy and I was elated.  They made me a celebrity.  The TV invited me for a program and another program last Sunday night.  The Journal sent a reporter and wrote up a story, and so I became overnight a celebrity.  (Break in tape.)

 

Among the people who attended the reunion were Mr. and Mrs. Dave Hurwitz, who operated the Boulevard Food Store on Nebraska Street for many years. They came over and said, “Rabbi, don’t you remember, you married us forty-eight years ago on this and this date”, Out of politeness, I said “Sure, I remember.  How could I forget such a lovely looking bride and such a lovely looking groom”. Then others came over, “Rabbi, you married us forty-seven years ago”. …forty-five years ago….forty-six years ago…”  About 80% of those who attended I had the privilege of tying the knot. 

And then I met people.  Rabbi A. Maron, said he was the first cantor of the junior congregation which my wife organized.  He sang the service and read portions of the Bible.  Today he’s rabbi of a very large congregation in Los Angeles.  

There was another woman whom I met.  Her name is Mrs. Dorothy Wagman, (originally it was Dorothy Merlin), and she was the executive secretary of the Community Center here and now she is married to a very wealthy man and she is the chairman of a project called “Kosher Meals on Wheels” and they distribute 3500 meals a day.  She has organized a great number of women who assist her. The funds are provided by the U.S. Government, and one of our Sioux City people who is in the car business gave her a station wagon and also chauffeurs, drivers, and they visit hospitals.  They visit retirement homes and people who are at home but are invalids, tied down to wheelchairs. Some are blind, some are deaf, some are paralyzed, and every day a hot meal is served at their home by the great number of women who she involved in this great project.

 

LH:  Rabbi, would you tell about the Friedman twins?
 

RABINOWITZ:  Yes.  In my day, they were, when I came to Sioux City, about eight years old.  Both of them, Dear Abby and Ann Landers, were very precocious, very bright, very smart girls.  And they were inseparable.  They wore the same dress.  They walked together.  They played together in school and out of school.  They were never separated for a moment.  They were the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. A.B. Friedman and they attended Morningside College, took courses in English, and then, on July 2, 1940, they were married in a double ceremony.  Both marched with their grooms.  This was the largest attended wedding in Shaare Zion.  Not only were the 750 seats occupied, but people stood around the walls, around the courtyard, and it was one of the most impressive weddings Sioux City ever had. 

Mr. Arthur Sanford was very close to Mr. A.B. Friedman.  They were together in the Holiday Inn project, motels which today are one of the great organizations.  Mr. Arthur Sanford was the one who started it in Sioux City on a small scale, the Holiday Inn, and he invited Mr. A.B. Friedman to be a partner and so he was, with his wife.

                                                (End of Side 1, Tape 1.)

 

                                                (Begin Tape 1, Side 2.)

 

RABINOWITZ:  During the War, every able-bodied young man of the congregation who was within the draft age, of course, volunteered to serve in the American armies.  Many of them were on the battlefront in France.  Some were in England.  Some were in India.  Some were in Africa.  Some were in the Pacific Ocean.  When the war was over and America was victorious, Shaare Zion arranged a Welcome Veterans Service on a Friday evening.  It was one of the best attended services in the history of the congregation.  They had soldiers marching, some of them unfortunately injured in the service, and some of them who served the entire four yeas marched in with the American Flag and they sang the National Anthem, of course.  And then I delivered a talk how they gave their life for liberty and equality, democracy.  It was one of the most impressive services.  We had also a service dedicated to those, unfortunately, who did not come back and it was a great memorial service.  We had members from the base who played taps and they had a memorial service delineating each man’s devotion and sacrifice for the great cause. 

I was very active during those years addressing many, many groups when morale was low.  I tried to lift the morale and tell them that while I am opposed to war, that this was a Holy War, a war against the enemy of the Bible, of civilization, of humanity.  We also had a great memorial service for the six million Jews who were dessimated and burned at the crematorium and gassed by the Hitler regime. 

There was another great memorial service when President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away.  There was standing room only.  Everybody turned out for that service. 

Now what was the other one?  
 

LH:  We could talk about Sioux City over the years, and when you first came to Sioux City, did you arrive by train?

 

RABINOWITZ:  Yes, I came by the Illinois Central, and at that time airplane travel was very, very restricted.  Not very many would dare to risk their lives and travel by plane.  May I tell a story of a man who bought an airplane ticket and five minutes later he came and said he wanted his money  back.  “What’s the matter?”  “I’m afraid.”  The ticket agent said to him, “Look my dear sir, everyone has a number in heaven and when that number is called, everyone must respond.  Immaterial if he is in a doctor’s office even.”  “Yes,” he said, “this I understand, but I still want my money back.  Why should I go when then the pilot’s number is called?”

 

LH:  Could you tell about the economics of Sioux City at the time you came?

 

RABINOWITZ: Yes, when I came it was after the First World War and there were economic difficulties.  Of course, we are an agricultural community.  We don’t have much of industry here and therefore farm prices were very low at that time and there was hardship.  But eventually it came to 1929 when Wall Street Stock Exchange collapsed.  It didn’t reach Sioux City definitely until 1930.  On December 6, 1930, the First National Bank and the Security National Bank closed their doors which caused a great deal of economic hardship for the entire community, of course, and years of depression set in which affected a great deal of the services of all churches and synagogues.  We had to curtail programs.  Saving on electricity and fuel, which was very hard. 

But, finally, thank God, after 1945, conditions started improving.  1946, ’47, ’48, ’49 were good years.  People were happy in their various occupations and Sioux City was a lovely community.  It had lovely people.  It’s friendly, warm, hospitable.  And we had many, many programs of interest that were presented in Sioux City. 

There was a brotherhood organization.  I don’t know whether it still operates or not.  In my day, between Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, a great communal meeting was arranged.  We had three representatives, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish, and exchanges of ideas and principle of toleration that America is a country that is composed of all nationalities, races, cultures, and each one contributed to the enrichment of America.  I don’t know if it still exists or not, do you?

 

LH:  I have heard of this organization.  Were you a member?

 

RABINOWITZ:  There were a lot of them who were very active.  There was a lawyer by the name Shull.  He was very active in this.  Professor Campbell at Morningside College was very active in this movement.  Marvin Klass was active in this movement.  There was Reverend Dunn of the First Methodist Church, who was active in this.  A great number of us were active in this great memorial.  To the credit of Sioux City, be it said there was never any manifested anti-Semitism.  Never were there any ill feelings between the non-Jewish population and the Jewish population.  Of course, we only constituted four percent of the population and therefore we were not so visible as they are in the larger communities.  But, it’s a credit to the Sioux City community that it had always a sense of tolerance and understanding.  They always lived happily and amicably with Jewish neighbors as well as with other neighbors.  And I think this also goes a great deal to show that while there were colored uprisings in Omaha and Minneapolis, and Sioux City never had any uprising.
 

LH:  On the subject of Sioux City, could you tell about some of the earlier people?

 

RABINOWITZ:  Yes.  John W. Carey was a columnist and he had a column in the Sioux City Journal.  He was a very friendly sort of a man and he had a sense of humor.  He belonged to the Catholic church but he never in any way was intolerant.  We were very, very good friends.  I took her (Segulah) over when he passed away.  She was 12 years old and she was scared.  She never saw a dead person before.  They had a wake.  You are not Catholic?
 

LH:  No.

 

RABINOWITZ:  They had a wake, you know.  He was lying in the coffin with his hands folded.  She (Segulah) was so alarmed.  She never saw a dead person. 

He was a very fine gentleman, tolerant, understanding.  He had a very fine sense of humor.  

Another great friend of Shaare Zion was Mrs. Louise Freese.  She was also a columnist and she was also a very talented woman.  She was president of the “Women’s Club" and she became greatly attracted by the Zionist ideals.  A great deal of it was due to my wife.  She invited her to attend a Hadassah convention which was held in 1947, exactly after the proclamation of the United Nations vote that Palestine be divided between Jews and Arabs.  The Hadassah convention celebrated this event and Gittel was program chairman and she asked that Mrs. Louise Freese be invited representing the press.  This was the first time that Mrs. Freese came in contact with the Jewish organization, and Gittel told her of the aspirations and the hopes of the Jewish people to re-establish their national home after 1,970 years and she was very moved, very touched.  Gittel asked her if she would like to go as a delegate to the Christian Palestine Convention which was held in French Lick, Indiana.  We would be very happy to defray her expense.  She said she would consult her date book and see if she was open at that time and she called back that she was open and so she went as a delegate. 

When she came back we hired the Martin Ballroom and she gave one of the most enthusiastic, warm, sympathetic address on the situation of Palestine becoming the Republic of Israel.  She went at her own expense to Israel to see with her own eyes.  She came back and she wrote three beautiful columns on Israel.  Then she went back again and she returned and she told us that she had addressed 108 meetings on Israel.  At her own expense she traveled in her car to Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota, and she contacted the Chamber of Commerce and they arranged meetings and where the communities were very small they had a joint meeting, and 108 meetings she addressed.  She remained a staunch friend of Israel and the Jewish people.  That was one of the great achievements of my wife.  

After Germany capitulated on May 9, 1945, the Sioux City community had a joint Thanksgiving Service in Grandview Park and the Bishop of the Catholic church at that time was Heelan.  He spoke on behalf of the Catholic community.  Reverend Huff, I don’t know whether you remember him, he was the President of the Ministerial Association that year, and I represented the Jewish community.  There were over 20,000 people lying on the grass of Grandview Park and I told the following story:   

After the Nazis occupied Prague, one of the great Jewish communities, the General found a Jewish restaurant which pleased him very much.  He didn’t pay for his meals nor for his comrades and friends.  There was a parrot in the cage who kept on saying “a plague on Hitler, a plague on Hitler.”  So one day he came over to the proprietor of the restaurant and said, “If you don’t teach your parrot another formula in praise of Hitler I am going to confiscate the restaurant and put you into a concentration camp.”  The proprietor went to the rabbi for consultation and the rabbi said, “I have an idea.  I have a parrot.  You take my parrot and I’ll take your parrot.”  So then the next day the parrot was quiet, didn’t say anything.  Next day, quiet.  So the general walks over to the cage and says, “Now, come on, let me hear your song ‘a plague on Hitler.””  He said, “Amen.” 

That was the beginning of my talk.  I said I’m sure all of you, if I say a plague on Hitler, you’ll say “Amen.”  And there was a chorus of “Amen.”  

And while I am at it, there was a story that Reverend Dunn told.  He addressed a convention of WACS, women soldiers.  After he completed his address he said, “May the Lord grant what your heart wish.”  And all of them said, “Ah, men.”
  

LH:  So, Sioux City has had some good times and bad times from 1925….

 

RABINOWITZ:  Yes.  Very, very.  From 1925 conditions improved until 1930.  In 1930

Depression years set in and when Franklin D. Roosevelt began his administration he introduced many features which helped very much as the insurance of the banks, banks didn’t pay any more.  And also WPA and the Post Office was built as a result of his program.  The new Post Office.  

 

LH:  And, would you say people attended church more during the depression years?

 

RABINOWITZ:  Yes. Yes.  There were a lot of broken hearts that tried to find solace in religion.  Attendance was very good during the depression years. 
  

LH:  That’s church and synagogue and temple?

 

RABINOWITZ:  Yes.  In all our congregations.  Naturally, every preacher tried to raise the morale of the people and tell them this was a passing phase, just like birth is preceded by travail and pain, so a new economic system will come in which will be the result of all the sufferings and all the travails that we are passing through during this creative period.  All preachers, and I, did it.  Everybody tried to raise the morale of the people.

 

LH:  Now has Sioux City changed since your last visit?

 

RABINOWITZ:  Well, we didn’t have a mall.  That’s something new.  And I think Sioux City is, in a way, progressing.  I think there was no Indian Hills in my day, and there was no Cheyenne Boulevard in my day.  All these are new.  It seems there is a desire to spread, spread out, to become a big city at least geographically if not numerically.

 

LH:  From 1925 on, do you recall some personalities that stand out in Sioux City?

 

RABINOWITZ: Yes, yes.  Mrs. Freese was one of the great personalities that stood out in the city.  There was also a Campbell who was very much interested and came arranging travel groups.  He took them to Israel and took them to Europe.  He used to organize groups.  He was a professor of sociology and he left in a will $25,000 and he named in his will fifty people, and among them I was one, to supervise the execution of the will.  He wanted a world celebrity to come to Sioux City for three days and deliver lectures to Morningside College faculty, students and then the community, and have a workshop for the other three days, open.  Everybody would come on this day.  The trouble was that the interest on the $25,000 wasn’t enough to attract a world celebrity.  I remember that Miss Dorothy Thompson was contacted.  I was on the committee to find the celebrity.  There were five of us.  Mrs. Freese was one.  Roadman from Morningside College was one.  The Catholic Bishop was one.  The President of the Association, and myself.  And we contacted Miss Dorothy Thompson who was at that time a famous columnist and she wrote back that her fee was $25,000 and she doesn’t address any community that doesn’t have 100,000 population.  So we were left in the cold.  You couldn’t find any world celebrity that wanted to come on the basis of 4% of $25,000.  That is only $1,000.  Nobody wanted to come for that.  So Mr. Shull was the lawyer and he took it back to court and the court moved that this clause of the will is inoperable, cannot be done, and the money went to Morningside College.

 

LH:  I would like to know more about you and about your family and about Israel and writing.

 

RABINOWITZ: I am the father of daughter Segulah Givot.  I have two grand-daughters, Debbie Kronick and JoEllen Stroud.  Debbie Kronick has two children, who are my great grandchildren, Joe and Richard Charles.  They are very Jewishly inclined, which makes me very happy, and they are very patriotic Americans learning all the political situations.  Gittel and my daughter are experts.  Know the candidates, know the platforms.  They have very decided opinions as to candidates.  Very well versed in political life.  I live in Jerusalem for the last twenty years.  Twenty-one years since I retired.  One year we lived in Miami and Portland.  I live in Jerusalem twenty years now and I have delegated myself to writing.  I was particularly interested in preachers and I have published two articles, “Portraits of Preachers” beginning with the 19th century and going to the 20th century.  I present a personality, his biography, his method of preaching, his attitude to preaching.  His attitude towards life, whether he was disappointed or optimistic.  Each one has his own concerns reveal the attitude.  And then I published a book of Kosher humor, which contains 675 stories.  This “Amen” story is also found in the book.  And I am engaged in writing.  I am a member of a rabbinical center in Jerusalem.  I am a member of the Zionist organization in Jerusalem.  I am a member of a little writers club in Jerusalem.  I spend mornings in the university library taking a million copies and search, do research.  I’ve contributed about one hundred hours to various magazines in Palestine, and New York also.  And I am, of course, bereft of my better half.  I feel naturally very sad and try to find solace in cultural activity.

 

LH:  And you are in the process of writing another book?

 

RABINOWITZ:  Yes.  I am toying with the idea of writing international humor reflecting American humor, English humor, French, German, Russian.  It’s a big task and I am 87 and one-half and I am trying to gather material.  It’s not so easy. Here’s a sample of American humor.  In New York children up to six don’t have to pay bus fare.  The little girl went up on the bus and the conductor asked her, “How old are you?”  She said, “Five and one-half.”  But he knew that she was a little bit too big for that age.  He says, “When will you be six?”  She says, “The minute I get off the bus.”  This is typical American humor.  Mild.

 

LH:  I want to thank you so much.

 

RABINOWITZ:  Oh, you are more than welcome.  I enjoyed visiting with you and I hope it comes out well.

 

LH:  Would you tell about Mr. Shuman?

 

RABINOWITZ:  Mr. Ben Shuman, he called himself, he was associated with the Sioux City Journal and he wrote news.  He was assistant news editor and also assistant editorial writer.  When the editor was out of town or didn’t feel well, he used to substitute for him.  He worked for the Journal for about twenty years and then the Journal sold out of the possession of Mrs. Freese and her brother, Perkins, which was founded by Perkins 110 years ago.  Then she became elderly, she was 65, and it was a great responsibility.  The brother was a professor of the University of Oregon.  So the new owner brought in his own staff because he was a publisher of other newspapers.  It was a syndicated firm.  So he made migration to Israel, and is today working on the Jerusalem Post, also as news editor.  He’s married a very lovely young lady, Marian Shuman, and she’s very active in the Jerusalem community and they have two daughters and a son.  The son is married and his wife gave birth to a baby and they are grandparents.  And they were here in May in Sioux City on a visit.  They are very happy in Jerusalem.  I see them once a week.

 

LH:  Are there other additions that you could make about the narration?  There’s something about the program about the urn and the burning of the mortgage.

 

RABINOWITZ:  Oh yes.  Mr. Frank Margolin read the lines beautifully.  There were lines written about every book that was burned, giving the contents of the book and what a loss it was to the culture.  Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Wasselman’s novels, which were very cultural.  The president at that time was Morey Richards, Frank Margolin was the narrator.  He had a lovely voice and he narrated.  A feature of this burning of the mortgage was the oldest member of the congregation, who was at that time Mr. Barney Baron, and the youngest, who was Trudy Shulkin, who was ten years old, and both of them threw the mortgage, they tore portions of the mortgage and threw it in there and then they marched together down the hall, arm in arm, representing old and young.. two generations.  She was a very beautiful little girl and they were so impressive when they both marched down the hall, arm in arm.  He with his white hair; she with her blonde hair.  And it was symbolic of Shaare Zion.  Young and old meet together.

 

LH:  Then your congregation had only two homes.  This old Swedish church and then the present synagogue.

 

RABINOWITZ:  Yes, that’s right.

 

LH:  Thank you.

 

LH:  Here is another post script.

 

RABINOWITZ:  Mary Treglia, she was out of Sanford, built a community center for colored people on the East Bottoms it was called of Sioux City.  Now they are called industrialized but at that time it was inhabited by the poorer elements, particularly colored.  She was in charge of this community center.  Mary Treglia.  She was a very public-minded woman and she appeared on many programs where there was an inter-change of ideas.  She was very friendly with Emily Hoyt who was principal of West Junior High School.  The daughter of Bruce and Mabel Hoyt, she was the principal of West Junior High School in my day.  She was very active.  I think she’s still alive.  She was very active in the community.  Sanford also endowed another community center on the west side for the colored people.  He was very philanthropic, very interested particularly in helping underprivileged elements of the community.  He was a very kind citizen.  I think he is still alive.  He must be a very old man.  He came to see us in Jerusalem.  He visited us when he visited Israel.  That must be about eighteen years ago.

 

                                                            END OF INTERVIEW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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