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Jewish Community Contributions to the CSRA

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The CSRA (Central Savannah River Area) is the region located around and named after the Savannah River which forms the border between Augusta Georgia and Aiken South Carolina and includes such towns as Williston, Edgefield, North Augusta, Waynesboro, Thomson, and more. The CSRA Jews have contributed much and continue to do so in our area in many fields. While many families have lived here for four and five generations, others have enriched the community by settling in the area. Although some have had to overcome obstacles to education via discrimination and quotas, many have become attorneys and judges; politicians; medical professionals; educators at all levels; business professionals such as merchants, mill owners, and accountants; and literary, visual, and performing artists; and so much more. Some are featured in the Virtual Museum; many more stories are available in the physical building at The Augusta Jewish Museum opening in early 2024.

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Do You Know?

Click on a question to see the answer.

Do You Know?
  • 1. Do you know when the Holocaust took place?
    The Holocaust is an historic event which began in 1933 and ended in 1945, during which Nazi Germany persecuted and tried to eliminate the Jewish people, based on its antisemitic and racist ideology. It took place in the areas occupied by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.
  • 2. Do you know who are the Romani people are, and why they were persecuted?"
    The same racist ideology and belief in the racial superiority of the German people that was used to justify the murder of Jews was applied also to the Romani tribes, or “gypsies” of Europe. It is estimated that about 500,000 and possibly more Roma and Sinti were murdered in extermination camps and died of hunger and disease in forced labor and concentration camps. The “Romani Holocaust” has been largely unknown and it was not until 1982 that Germany recognized that it committed genocide against the Romani tribes. https://www.romasintigenocide.eu/en
  • 3. Do you know about Jewish resistance to the Nazis?
    Resistance to the Nazis took many forms from individual acts of courage to organized resistance. To die with dignity was a form of resistance. To survive hunger and demoralizing brutality, were acts of resistance and victory of the human spirit. The military strength of Nazi Germany and its allies, the concentration of Jews into ghettos, the thorough administrative system put in place, and the hostility of the civilian populations made it impossible for Jews to resist effectively, but it did not prevent them from trying. There were over a hundred uprisings, of which the best known is in the Warsaw ghetto. The Warsaw uprising in 1943 was the largest armed resistance against deportations to death camps. The revolt was defeated, but the courageous act of resistance helped raise Jewish morale and fueled resistance across Nazi occupied areas. The Warsaw uprising has been documented, including a detailed report with photographs prepared by an SS officer, known as the “Stroop Report”, used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials for war crimes held after WWII.
  • 4. Do you know about the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews?
    The planned deportation of the Jews from within Bulgaria's pre-war borders (but not the areas annexed during the war) was never carried out. Bulgarian public figures protested against the deportation - among them Bulgarian Orthodox Church bishops, and persuaded the Tsar to postpone their deportation indefinitely. Their property was confiscated, they were forcibly relocated and all Jewish males between the ages of 20 and 40 were sent to forced labor, but the majority were not deported to the death camps. A monument is located in Charles Clore park in Tel Aviv. Its twin is in Bulgaria near the National Assembly in Sofia. Both monuments were initiated in 2013, when Bulgaria marked the 70th anniversary of the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews.
Livelihoods

The Augusta Jewish Museum has many more stories to tell.

Please come see us when the AJM opens in Summer 2023.

Jews Came from All Over the World

to Serve the CSRA Community

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Some Livelihoods of the

CSRA Jewish Community

The first generation of immigrants understood that it would take time and effort to learn a new language and establish themselves in their new country. Meanwhile, they sought ways to earn their daily bread.

The World of Business

Business

In the early 1800's Jewish immigrants found that even with limited English skills, they could earn their livings as itinerant peddlers. As they became successful,  they learned English and understood the American culture, they established retail stores in small towns and cities — and became part of a community.

From the 1840's until today, Jewish merchants have served customers on Broad Street and elsewhere around town.  Ruben's Department Store at 914 Broad Street in Augusta, founded in 1898, is one of the oldest continuous operating stores in the United States. The Bee Hive at 972 Broad St., owned by the Abe Cohen family, clothed many a child.  Sidney's Uniforms in the 400 block is in an original Jewish Community Center building. Sometimes children followed their parents into family businesses and continue to this day, contributing to the economy of the CSRA. Other businesses have come and gone. A few enterprises, such as Friedman's Jewelers, Weinberger Furniture, and Augusta Sportswear, began as family businesses. Customers came from all over to Julia's Dress Shop in Aiken. Dolin's Store served Waynesboro and the late owner Martin Dolin was Mayor of Waynesboro.

Click on a photo to view the slideshow.

Professions

Professions

Some sons and daughters of the early Augusta and CSRA families pursued other professions besides merchants. New Jewish families continue to come to Augusta, attracted by the various enterprises in the community. Some stationed at Fort Gordon chose to make Augusta their home after completing their tours of duty. Physicians and other health professionals were recruited by both the Augusta University Health/Medical College of Georgia and the growing private care sector. Jewish physicians have been well represented in both private practice and academic medicine -- the "town" and the "gown" sectors of medicine -- as well as in such organizations as the Richmond-County Medical Society.

 

Scientists brought to the area by the Savannah River Site in South Carolina often chose to live in the CSRA because of its vibrant Jewish community. Attorneys set up offices and some entered public service such as Irene Krugman Rudnick (died in 2019 at age 89) of Aiken who was the first Jewish woman elected to the SC State Legislature. Educators are in elementary and secondary schools and universities. Many Jews participate in the CSRA Arts Community as performing, literary, and visual artists or as spectators. The Harry Jacobs Chamber Music Society honors the late Harry Jacobs (died 2001) past conductor of the Augusta Symphony. Beth Bolgla's work hangs in the Morris Museum of Art. 

Click on a photo to view the slideshow.

To learn more about Jewish contributions,

visit the Augusta Jewish Museum at 525 Telfair Street, opening in Summer 2024.

CSRA Jewish CommUNITY 

YMHA History

Over a Century of Providing Friendship, Affiliation, and Good Fun

Although the Young Men's Hebrew Association (YMHA) in Augusta was incorporated in  1927, the communal organization traces its history back to 1854. Now known as the  Augusta Jewish Community Center (AJCC) since the mid 1950’s, it is recognized by the  National Association of Jewish Community Centers of America as the second oldest such organization in the US, second only to Baltimore.

The first mention of a Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) in a publication was in January of 1857 in the “American  Israelite” newspaper. The various Jewish community organizations in Augusta have had several names including the Hebrew Social Club, the Hebrew Benevolent Society, and the  Standard Club (many Jewish social organizations at that time adopted neutral names including Standard and Progressive, for example)

The story is continued after the slideshow

Click on a photo to view the slideshow.

In 1891 the Hebrew Social Club met at 558 Broad Street. Today this address includes Sidney’s Department Store, and Steven  Fishman is the third generation to operate the business at this location. There were several other properties rented on Broad Street including part of the Montgomery building which is now the Miller Theater. In 1927 the organization was officially incorporated as the  YMHA and by 1935 a building was proudly dedicated at 1234-36-38 Greene Street  (current location of the UA Local 150 Plumbers and Steamfitters Union). During WWII this site was used by the USO for Jewish Soldiers stationed at Camp Gordon. In 1953, the  Sibley Road facility known as the Augusta Jewish Community Center (AJCC) was opened. The community enjoyed a large swimming pool and swim team, recreational facilities, versatile programs for all ages, and day camps.

In 1998, the Augusta Jewish Community Center (YMHA) opened a facility on Weinberger Way at Marks Park in the Evans Columbia County area. In 2022, the AJCC merged with the Augusta Jewish Federation and is now known as JCCFA - Jewish Community Center and Federation of Augusta which serves the CSRA from offices at 209 Pitcarin Way, Augusta, GA 30909. 

Jewish Settlement in the CSRA

Happyville

Happyville Jewish Community (near Aiken SC) (1905-1908)

Jewish Settlement in the CSRA began with Isaac Henricks in 1802 but settlers scattered around the area in towns such as Aiken, Edgefield, Langley, North Augusta, Williston, Waynesboro, Augusta, and Thomson. One of these short-lived settlements was named Happyville near Aiken SC:

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Charles Weintraub and Morris Letterman purchased Sheffield Plantation in Montmorenci near Aiken and ten Jewish families moved there in December 1905, determined to establish a successful farming colony. The charter for their “Incorporative Farming Association,” sponsored by the US Dept of Agriculture and Immigration, was popularly known as “Happyville,” and the settlers declared their intention to raise stock, grow cotton, fruits, and vegetables, gin cotton, cut timber, saw lumber, and grind grain. Fifteen more Jews joined the original group in early 1906. The colony faced insurmountable challenges including bad weather, insufficient funds, and land unsuitable for farming. By July 1908, they had sold the land to the Surasky family and dispersed. Members of the Surasky family still reside in Aiken County.

Click this link to hear the Happyville Jewish Community story at

https://www.southcarolinapublicradio.org/post/h-happyville-0

http://americanjewisharchives.org/publications/journal/PDF/1978_30_01_00_shankman.pdf

The Augusta Jewish Museum has many more stories to tell.

Please come see us when the AJM opens in Summer 2024.

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