Title: Rabbi Israel Kaplan
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Title: Rabbi Israel Kaplan
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Interviewee: Rabbi Israel Kaplan

Interviewer: Samuel Proctor

August 23, 1970


P: We are recording an oral history interview with Rabbi Israel

Kaplan at 4975 San Jose Boulevard, Apartment 216. This is

Sunday, August 23, 1970.

What made you decide to be a rabbi?

K: It was due to my contact, an informal one, with the rabbi in

the community in which I spent my early days as a boy. [He

was] a reform rabbi. I was reared in the Orthodox

tradition, but my parents were not strictly Orthodox. They

carried out the formal things that usually an Orthodox Jew

does, but were not particularly synagogue-minded. I went to

cheder as a boy, the Hebrew school, and I went to public

schools and high school. During my senior year in high

school, as I recall, I got to know Rabbi Nathan Stern, who

was a rabbi of the Reform congregation in Trenton, New

Jersey, where I spent my early years, although [I was] born

in New York City.

P: So it was . .

K: I was brought to Trenton as a child. I do not remember

anything of my early days in New York.

P: Was this rabbi . .

K: Dr. Stern evidently saw something in me that would make me a

rabbi. He saw perhaps that I went to cheder. I was a

normal boy who went to Hebrew school day after day, who was

bar mitzvahed. And he suggested that when I graduated from

high school that I go to the Hebrew Union College in

Cincinnati, Ohio.

P: He had this much of an impact on you, then?

K: Yes, and as a result of his influence on me, I left home for

the first time in my life, taking the train the long

distance to Cincinnati.

P: Rabbi, you say you were born in New York. What was your


K: May 2, 1889.

P: So this makes you now . .

K: Eighty-one years old.

P: You are even more to be congratulated on your youth. I had

not figured it being quite that. I placed you about

seventy-two or seventy-three.

What were your parents' names?

K: My father's name was David, and my mother's name was Rachel.

P: What was her maiden name?

K: Kremer.

P: Were they native New Yorkers or were they immigrants?

K: No, they were both born in Russia, came here as a young man

and woman, and married in New York City. I do not think

they knew each other in the old country.

P: What was your father's business?

K: My father's business was rather unusual. He made by hand

shoes, the tops of shoes, which was quite a common

occupation in those days. [He made] not the soles, but the

leathers, the uppers. They were called uppers.

P: So he was a leathermaker.

K: He made them by hand. He would get orders from shoemakers

to make these handmade shoes. Later on he went into the

leather-binding business; the things that go along that

shoemakers need--all the needs of a shoemaker. Rubber

heels, nails, and all the things that go in, and hides,

hides. Shoemakers would buy their leather by the hide,

instead of a small piece. And that was his business until

almost . his latter years, when business went down.

Even though my oldest brother went in with my father, the

business had changed. People were buying ready-made shoes,

and competition was too keen. So I prevailed upon my father

to make a settlement with the people to whom he owed some

money, and to get out of the business and retire, which he

did. My mother had passed away in her early fifties, I

would say. My father lived with my oldest sister for many

years, Rose Levine .

P: In New York?

K: . who lived in Trenton, and then moved to Atlantic City.

And there he spent his latter years. My father was ninety-

seven years old; [he was a] wonderful old man. [He was]

quiet and sincere; oh, I just loved him. He was never

strict with his children, but the children all loved him,

and he lived to a ripe old age with the care and concern and

love and affection of his children. There were six of us.

P: I was going to ask you about your brothers and sisters.

K: Yes. I had two brothers. One brother passed away a few

years ago; he was older than I. I still have a younger

brother who is living in Washington. My oldest sister,

Rose, of whom I spoke, . .

P: And what was your oldest brother's name?

K: Morris. My oldest sister, Rose, passed away a couple of

years ago. So today I have two sisters a few years younger

than I and a brother younger than I.

P: [What are] your sisters' names, [and] where do they live?

K: The two sisters that I have living, Jean and Essie, live in

Atlantic City.

P: And your brother . .

K: My brother lives in the Washington area.

P: And what is his name?

K: His name is Herbert.

P: Now what . .

K: He was with the government as an architect until he retired.

P: How old were you when the family moved to Trenton?

K: I must have been, probably, about three years. I do not


P: [You were] very young.

K: Very young. Honestly, I do not remember New York City at

all, as a child.

P: What brought the family to Trenton? Your father's business?

K: Yes.

P: And you grew up in Trenton then?

K: Yes.

P: And you went to the public schools there?

K: And high school.

P: And high school. You told me earlier that it was this rabbi

in high school, probably, who influenced you toward the

rabbinate. Had you had any other thoughts earlier than that

about what occupation or profession you would get into?

K: No. Strange, I do not remember that I was going to major in

any particular profession. [I] just fell into it.

P: You were the only one in your family that went into the


K: Yes.

P: Was there any family opposition to this?

K: No, no. My father never opposed it, even though he was

traditionally minded. We observed Kosher in our home, but,

like most people who observe Kosher, no so strict on the

outside. We observed the holidays. But I was, for some

strange reason, inclined to attend Orthodox services

faithfully. I hardly missed Shabbath. Whether it was habit

or not, I do not know.

P: I was getting ready to ask you what the pulling power of the

synagogue was.

K: I do not really know, but I went. I went to services

faithfully. I was bar mitzvahed in the Orthodox synagogue.

We had an old rabbi; I can still see him with the long,

white beard. I went to cheder there in the afternoons after

public school. I was bar mitzvahed in this synagogue, in

the Orthodox synagogue. I hardly missed a service, strange

to say.

P: And yet you left the Orthodox synagogue and went into the

Reform program.

K: In a mechanical way. I had no philosophic point of view one

way or the other.

P: If this rabbi had been Conservative or Orthodox, you may

have been persuaded to move into his area.

K: Probably so. I knew nothing abut Reform. I knew nothing.

I went to his services occasionally. It was a shock to me,

in contrast to the Orthodox service. The sermon was mostly

in English as was the decorum that prevailed, and it was all

lacking in the Orthodox. But I fell into it.

P: You had no difficulty in being accepted at the Cincinnati


K: No. Strange to say, I still remember the first day I

entered the seminary. In those days, the Hebrew Union

College was situated in a very modest building in downtown

Cincinnati, West Seventh Street. When I entered the school

building, at the steps I met two young men, Rabbi Elkin

Gorsanger and Rabbi Morris Lazrong. They are the ones who

took charge of me, that took me into the school building and

introduced me to some of the professors. And there was one

professor, Professor Munheimer, who interviewed me

personally. I could read a little Hebrew from the Bible,

knew a little bit about Rashi. I could read, and so he put

me in the third grade instead of the freshman grade. The

course of study in those days was nine years. So I only had

to spend seven years at the seminary, [having been] put into

the third grade.

P: What year was it that you entered the seminary?

K: I entered the seminary in 1907.

P: The Reform movement was still very new, was it not? Only

some fifty-odd years in the United States.

K: Probably so. Isaac M. Wise, the founder of Reform Judaism,

had already died when I went to college, so I never had the

joy of meeting him. Dr. Kaufman Kohler was the president of

the college when I came there; he was a great Jewish

theologian. Dr. Goddard Deutsch, professor of history, was

the temporary president before Kohler took over. All of the

professors were of the old country--Europeans--until Dr.

Julian Morgenstern became the professor of Bible at the

school in my latter years before graduating.

Toward the end of my school years downtown, the college had

erected its new building on the outskirts of the city on

Clifton Avenue, the site it presently has. It has added, I

guess, about a half a dozen buildings since then. It is a

marvelous campus today.

P: When were you graduated, Rabbi?

K: I graduated in June, 1914, and I accepted my first pulpit in

Natchez, Mississippi.

P: This was your first move to the South?

K: Yes. And the reason I went to Natchez was due to the fact

of my contact with one of my professors, another great

illuminary named Professor David Neumark, professor of

Jewish philosophy. He was well-known in his days. [He was]

also a foreigner. He had been in Natchez for the High Holy


P: As a guest rabbi.

K: As a guest rabbi. And when he came back and I was ready to

graduate, he suggested that I accept the pulpit. I went

there in September of 1914.

P: The war had just broken out in Europe.

K: The war had just broken out in Europe.

It was an unusual congregation. Natchez was thriving at

that particular moment, although it had its bad years of

Prohibition, of bank failures, of the young people starting

to move out [and] go to college.

P: Was it is still an agricultural community with cotton as its

major asset?

K: Yes, it was. They were composed of Alsatian Jews--German

background, but aristocratic type--and a number of American

Jews. I do not recall many Russian Jews there at all in

those days. But it was a flourishing congregation of a

hundred members at least. Today it has dwindled, although

it still has a permanent rabbi. I served that congregation

for two years.

P: What was your salary there?

K: My salary then was $2,000. After being in Natchez for a

couple of months, I married Cora Lowenstein, my sweetheart,

in November of that year.

P: Now, was she a Trenton girl?

K: No, [she was from] Cincinnati.

P: Cincinnati.

K: We graduated from the University of Cincinnati together. In

those days, before getting your rabbinical degree, you had

to have your B.A. from some university. Most of the

students came there right out of high school, and very few

had their B.A.s from college. Some of them did. And so we

had to go to two colleges every day.

When I look back upon it, [I realize] those were strenuous

days for the students for several reasons. Not only did we

have to go to the university and arrange our courses

beginning at 8:30 every morning to meet the required fifteen

hours a week, but the distance between the University of

Cincinnati and the Hebrew Union College was at least three

miles. And we were poor boys.

P: I was going to say, I suppose money was a problem, too.

K: We had to walk. We walked three miles from the university

to the college every day.

P: And back.

K: Coming home, we got on a streetcar which cost only five

cents with a transfer. We lived way out in Avondale, Walnut

Hills in Cincinnati. In those days, there were no

dormitories. I never lived in a dormitory.

P: So you lived with a private family?

K: We lived with a private family. One year I lived with a

private family; there were six of us. We had sort of an

attic arrangement--bunks. And we paid thirty dollars a

month for room and board.

P: What was the Lowenstein family background? How did they

happen to be in Cincinnati?

K: Well, her father and mother were both born in this country.

My father-in-law was born in Newark, New Jersey, and my

mother-in-law was born in Illinois. When they came to

Cincinnati, I do not know. But he manufactured cigars; that

was his business. [They were] lovely people. Blessed us.

We had our wedding in their home. Dr. Deutsch, my professor

of history, performed the ceremony, and the college boys put

on a stunt that we shall never forget. They came right

after the wedding ceremony and put on a mock wedding

ceremony. One of the boys--well, most of the boys--became

famous rabbis. I still remember one of them, Benny

Friedman, who today is rabbi emeritus in Syracuse, New York,

wore a high, stove, silk hat. And they performed their mock

ceremony. They teased us, and they threw wrappings of

cigars in our suitcases. When we opened them, our clothes

were in disarray. When we got to Nashville on our way to

our honeymoon in New Orleans, there was a telegram at the

Hermitage Hotel. [It said,] "Stop the eloping couple!"

When we got to New Orleans, unfortunately our honeymoon was

cut short. I got the news that the vice president of the

congregation had passed away. That was my first official

job--a funeral service.

P: So you were married in 1914?

K: That is right. November 17.

P: And you stayed in Natchez for two years? What brought you

to Jacksonville? How did the Jacksonville offer come about?

K: I loved Natchez. The people were marvelous to both of us.

I do not want to go into detail and tell you how wonderful

they were. But I could not adjust myself to a small town.

Natchez was a very small town. We would take a walk, my

wife and I, and before I knew it, we were outside the city

limits. In those days, the streets were not paved--dirt

streets. I could not adjust myself to a small town. I

said, "I must get into a larger community."

So that summer, in June of my second year, I went to the

rabbinical conference which met in a seaside town in [Cape

May,] New Jersey. There I met, among the rabbis, a rabbi by

the name of Samuel Schwartz. I must have expressed to him

my desire for another pulpit--a larger pulpit. He said, "By

the way, I'm leaving Jacksonville, Florida. Would you like

to go there?" I said, "Yes, I'd love to go there."

P: It was just quite accidental [that] you got into this

conversation with Rabbi Schwartz.

K: So he said to me, "I'll arrange for you to come down to

Jacksonville." It was a happy shidduch, if I may use the

word. Rabbi Samuel Schwartz later on during the summer came

down to say goodbye to the congregation, and I came to say

hello. We were on the same platform that same evening, in

the presence of the congregation.

P: How were you employed? With an interview?

K: Just an interview.

P: You came to Jacksonville then . .

K: I came to Jacksonville on an interview. I came down here on

the boat, the Clyde Line, from New York to Jacksonville.

P: Now you were at the conference, and you talked with Rabbi

Schwartz. On the basis of that, he arranged an interview,

and you came to Jacksonville without going back. You had

not gone back to Natchez?

K: No.

P: I hope you let Mrs. Kaplan know about all of this.

K: She was with me.

P: Oh! [laughter]

K: She did not come to Jacksonville that first time, as I


P: So you came by boat from New York to Jacksonville.

K: [I] came by boat, and the congregation, after my interview

with the board, asked me to stay as their rabbi. I accepted

the pulpit. And I came here officially with my wife on

September 1, 1916.

The old landmarks, many of them have changed. New landmarks

have arisen. We came to the then-called Burbridge Hotel,

which is now the Floridian. We stayed there until we

managed to get an apartment. The congregation was then

located, as you know, on Laura and Ashley Streets.

P: This was its second site.

K: Second site of the Temple.

P: Yes. It had an earlier synagogue, had it not?

K: Yes, nearby, which it sold to the Greek Orthodox Church.

P: And that building, I think, still stands.

K: That building still stands, to my knowledge.

P: Yes. How large was the congregation?

K: Well, to me, it seemed large. It must have had more than

one hundred members. I was exceedingly happy with the

congregation in those days.

P: How much did they pay you?

K: They paid me $2,400 (an increase over the one in Natchez),

out of which I had to pay my rent and everything else. [It

was] a little increase over the one in Natchez.

P: Was that considered a generous salary for rabbis in those


K: It was the going salary for congregations of that size.

P: Where was your first apartment?

K: My first apartment was in Riverside. The people in the

congregation said, "Don't move out there, Rabbi. Nobody

lives out there, and nobody will call on you. You're too

far away." Everybody lived within walking distance of the

Temple at Laura and Ashley Streets.

[The apartment] was at the end of the street car line at

King Street, which today is the property of St. Vincent's

Hospital. It was a duplex. We lived in the upper duplex

overlooking the St. Johns River. We stayed there for ten

years. The people who lived below us were a family that you

know. Their children have become famous in our community.

One is a dentist, and one is a heart specialist.

P: [Is the name] Baker?

K: That is the one I mean, yes. The father was in the

wholesale shoe business. He is still living. The two boys

were young. They lived in the lower apartment, and we lived

upstairs. We lived there for ten years.

Then we bought a home on Challew Avenue in Avondale. [It

was] a two-story brick home in which we lived for twenty-

five years until I became rabbi emeritus. I served the

congregation as an active rabbi, as you probably know, for

thirty years.

During World War I, I served on a voluntary basis without

pay as a chaplain at the then-called Johnston Camp, which is

now the naval air station. The Jewish Welfare Board, then

in charge of Jewish chaplaincy, fitted me out with putters,

the big brown hats they wore in those days, and whenever

convenient, I went out and conducted services among the

Jewish men in the hospitals. It was during an epidemic at

the hospital that I witnessed some real tragedies. There

was a flu epidemic.

P: In 1917 and 1918, was it not?

K: I had to wear a gauze over my mouth as I went around in the

different wards and saw patient after patient, boy after

boy, die. But I carried on conducting services until the

time came for the Jewish Welfare Board--since the number of

Jewish men had increased in numbers--to send a permanent

Jewish chaplain at the Naval Air Station. And so it was in

World War II. I served as a volunteer chaplain until a

permanent chaplain could come.

P: Rabbi, what was Jacksonville like in 1916?

K: To me, it was a big city even though the pace was slow, even

though going to the beaches, for instance, was a hardship.

It meant going by ferry across the river. To cross the

river by ferry, you had to stay single file in your car,

[cars] stretching for block after block, moving up slowly

until you got to the ferry. Everybody was happy. [There

was] no jostling or confusion. We moved foot by foot until

a dozen or more cars got on the ferry and crossed. Then we

went on that rough road, those brick roads, to the beach.

We came back the same way. We had a good time.

There were no large buildings, no skyscrapers in

Jacksonville. Where the Barnett Bank is today, there were

just ordinary stores with shopkeepers.

P: All the remnants of the Great Fire were gone by 1916?

K: Yes. I recognized nothing of that at all when I came here.

I heard a great deal about it. The members of the

congregation, for the most part, lived within walking

distance of the Temple. [They lived on] Monroe Street,

Adams Street, East Adams, West Adams, Boulevard, [and]

Market Street.

P: How large was the Jewish population in Jacksonville?

K: I would say, just guessing, about two thousand.

P: Which made it one of the larger Jewish communities in the


K: It was the largest Jewish community in Florida. Miami was

just a word in those days--just a word. They had one

congregation in Miami in those years, a Conservative

Orthodox congregation. To get to Miami was an exceedingly

difficult thing by automobile. They had no good roads.

There was no Reform congregation when I came to


P: There was no Reform congregation in Miami.

K: In Miami, yes. There was one in Pensacola. Pensacola, I

believe, is the oldest Reform congregation in Florida.

P: Yes.

K: We managed to grow slowly in our own community. There was a

very fine spirit between the rabbis of the two congregations

and the members. Rabbi Safir was the so-called rabbi in the

community of the Orthodox group. He was a shochet and a


P: But not an ordained rabbi.

K: No, he was never ordained, but everybody called him "Rabbi."

You probably remember him; [he was] a lovable old man.

Everybody loved him, and we got along famously.

P: What was the makeup of your own congregation? Business

people and professional people?

K: By and large, they were business people. Very few, if any,

were college graduates, but [they] were determined to give

their children every opportunity for a college education. I

recall just two students who graduated from college: Harry

Reinstein, Sr., and his partner, whose name I forget at this


P: That was not Mr. Sable, was it?

K: Yes. They became partners later on and opened law offices

here. The Sables and the Reinsteins were among the pioneers

in the community. The Sables lived across the street from

the Temple, where Krauss' house is.

P: That was their home, I believe, was it not?

K: That was their home. Next to it was the home of J. E.

Cohen, who had a beautiful home, as we consider today, on

the corner opposite our Temple, next to the Sables. The

Reinsteins were modest people. Mr. Reinstein was in the

liquor business, I recall, when he died. Harry, Sr., and

his partner enjoyed a very fine law practice.

P: Many of the substantial stores in Jacksonville at that time

were owned by members of your congregation.

K: Yes, the two largest, as you know, were Furchgotts and

Cohens. I still remember Furchgott, Sr., who had his

department store on Bay and Main Streets. J. E. Cohen had

his store where it is today; [it was] comparatively new

then. He had already put it up before I came here.

P: He had moved from Bay Street?

K: I do not remember where it was before, but that was there.

Everybody said, "Oh, they'll never make a go of it. It's

too far away from the center of business."

P: That was on the site of the old St. James Hotel.

K: That is right. And the Windsor Hotel was across the street.

Hemming Park was still there.

P: Was Mr. Cohen still living when you arrived in the


K: Yes. There were two brothers. There was Morris Cohen and

Jacob E. Cohen. Morris Cohen was not in business here too

long with his brother. He spent most of his time in New

York City. I do not know the business relationship or the

personal relationship of the two brothers. But J. E. Cohen,

in the course of time, took over. He was considered the

richest Jew in the community. His contribution in today's

terms would be considered insignificant.

I remember him telling me once that he realized he was not

paying enough dues to the Temple. The way he realized it

was that one day he walked among the men and women that

worked for him in different counters. He said to them,

"What do you pay to your church?" When he heard how much

they were paying in contrast, he became ashamed of the small

amount that he was paying. So I think he increased his dues

to $300 a year.

P: That was considered, I guess, a very generous offer.

K: The budget was small in those days. [We were] always in the

red, every year. I dreaded the annual meetings. [I did not

want] to listen to the chairman of the budget committee give

the report that we could not make ends meet at a salary of

$2,400 they were paying me.

P: The Levys were still in the . .

K: Ben Levy and his wife moved here from Savannah. And I

remember his first store, too, at Laura and Bay Streets

before he moved into his present quarters. Ben Levy was a

nice fellow, but not generous. [He] had no children. He

was a good Jew; [he was] loyal to the Temple.

P: And [he] paid his dues.

K: Oh, yes. We had no problem with delinquents that I recall.

P: Rabbi, I am thinking now of 1916 and 1917 when you first

came. What was your relationship to the community--not the

Jewish community--but the total Jacksonville community? I

am really asking, were there any "problems" at that time?

K: There were no problems, to my knowledge, between Jew and

non-Jew. I was asked to appear before all sorts of non-

Jewish groups to speak. I entered into the civic life of

the community as well as Mrs. Kaplan. In fact, I must

confess that she was even more active than I in the civic

life of the community, probably because she had more time.

I was president of the state association of the Florida

Tuberculosis Association for several years. I organized,

after a short time, the Union Thanksgiving Day services to

bring about something of the ecumenical spirit among the

downtown churches. [We would] meet together once a year and

have a common American holiday service, which I am happy to

say (in a humble way) I consider one of my greatest

contributions to the city because it is still being carried

on after fifty years. We meet each year, as we did in the

beginning, in a different church. Each year, a different

minister gives the Thanksgiving Day sermon. I am happy to

say, that after I became rabbi emeritus and began serving

other congregations outside the city on an interim basis,

each year some minister during the service would mention the

fact--and it would be printed in their bulletin--that Rabbi

Kaplan started the Union Thanksgiving services. I also

started the Jacksonville Open Forum that became very

popular. In those days, radio and television were more or

less non-existent.

P: When did the Open Forum programs begin?

K: I am guessing now. I cannot tell you definitely. But for a

many, many years, I imagine at least fifteen or twenty years

during the winter season . .

P: Was this during the 1920s? I remember them in the 1930s.

K: Probably both in the 1920s and 1930s.

P: I see.

K: . Every winter I would get in touch with the Open Forum

Bureau in Boston. It was an agency for sending speakers

throughout the country on a minimum charge, and these

lecturers would have an itinerary of seven or eight cities

in which to speak in order to cut down the expenses. They

would land in Jacksonville on a Sunday, for instance. On

Monday they would go to Daytona, on Tuesday probably to

Tallahassee . .

P: On the order of a traveling chatauqua.

K: Yes, something of a traveling chatauqua. Well, I started

that. To me, it was most exhilarating to meet these gifted

speakers and have the opportunity of entertaining them

socially. [We would] invite them to our home and get close

to them. I wish I had the programs available [with] the

list of speakers that I brought here. Winter after winter I

singlehandedly raised the funds necessary to pay the

expenses. We had a voluntary offering in which people put

in their dollars and quarters. Then I would go around among

the merchants and tell them, "This is a good thing for the

community, educationally and culturally. Won't you please

help us out and make a contribution?" I would get a few

dollars from some of the merchants in the community so that

we managed to carry on from year to year on that basis. We

had no foundation [and] no surplus--just enough to pay for

the speakers and their expenses.

P: Were you a member of the Jacksonville Ministerial Alliance?

K: No. And the reason for that is very simple. It was

strictly an evangelical organization. I would never be

happy in their midst as they had their meetings because they

talked about arranging services for Good Friday and Easter

Sunday, and those things occupied their thoughts.

Individually, I was pretty close to them, but I was never

asked to join them as a member. They probably realized that

I would not be happy in their midst since their main

business was strictly talking along Christian lines.

P: Were there problems of anti-Semitism in those days that you

were aware of?

K: No. Nothing striking. The only time that I seem to think

of now is when Mr. Sam Melson published an off-beat weekly

or monthly paper here. And he began the . .

P: Jacksonville Chronicle.

K: To attack some of the Jews in the community.

P: This was the Jacksonville Chronicle, I believe, and it was

published during the 1930s.

K: That is right, yes. That was the first overt sign of anti-

Semitism that I recall.

P: Was there any polite-type anti-Semitism? [Was there]

residential exclusion or club exclusion that you were aware

of in earlier years?

K: Well, the same type that exists then I believe exists today.

It does not seem to bother the Jewish people particularly.

I do not think the Jews today, even as of yesterday, could

buy a home in the Ortega, Timuquana area or in Ponte Vedra.

Jews cannot become a member of the Timuquana or San Jose

country clubs even today, as they could not years ago.

P: Or the Yacht Club.

K: Or the Yacht Club, which is the Timuquana. That was one

reason why we have our Beauclerc Club for Jewish people:

because we are not welcome [elsewhere].

P: A Jewish club was an answer to the exclusiveness of the

gentile clubs.

K: Yes, and the Jews had prospered meanwhile, and they wanted a

social outlet. This was their way of expressing their way

of living at that time.

P: As sort of the image of the Jewish community of

Jacksonville, you were probably the best-known Jew in

Jacksonville, certainly from 1916 on, well into the 1930s.

Were you ever personally the target of any anti-Semitism or

ill will?

K: No, I was not. I was attacked by a colleague of mine in the

Orthodox synagogue for a short time. [He was] a rabbi by

the name of Benjamin.

P: Rabbi Samuel Benjamin?

K: I think that was his name. [He was] a brilliant fellow and

quite an orator. He was a rabbi for a short time of the

B'nai Israel. Then it was during his term of office that

the center started, I believe. He found nothing else to

talk about but to attack Reform Judaism and me personally

because he hated Reform Judaism.

P: And so he used you, then, as a target for this ill feeling

toward a . .

K: Yes. I recall one time that the board of trustees of my

congregation met in a special meeting and drafted a

resolution denouncing his tactics and defending me of any

charge that he made.

P: Rabbi, it is my feeling that you, probably more than any

other person, helped to get the Hillel program going on the

University of Florida campus. Is that so?

K: I do not know. I cannot give a definite answer, but I will

tell you about my connection with the University of Florida.

I remember going down to Gainesville periodically . .

P: During the 1930s, was it not?

K: . to conduct services. I would say there were no more

than twenty Jewish students on the campus in those days. I

would bring religious services in pamphlet form--which I

secured from the Union of American Hebrew Congregations--and

I would go down there and meet with the boys and conduct a

service. We often met in one of the fraternity houses. The

one outstanding student I remember was Egerhard from

Pensacola who gave me a great deal of moral support.

P: Montrose.

K: Montrose Egerhard, that is right. [He is] related to Morton


P: [They are] cousins.

K: And he was . .

P: Miss Ruby Diamond of Tallahassee.

K: Miss Ruby Diamond. I knew her in the early days, and I knew

her brother, who was a lawyer there in Tallahassee.

Montrose helped me in getting the boys together, and I

conducted services. There was no Hillel then.

P: You met in a fraternity house.

K: The boys lived in fraternity houses or wherever they could

off and on the campus. The Hillel came to being as a result

of the B'Nai B'Rith getting stronger in this state. By the

way, when I came to Jacksonville, the Jacksonville B'Nai

B'Rith lodge had lost its charter. There was no B'Nai

B'Rith functioning when I came here. I became a B'Nai

B'Rith when I was in Natchez, and I was amazed to find no

lodge here. I was told that due to lack of interest they

could not carry on. They belonged then to Region Number

Seven, of which New Orleans was the headquarters. New

Orleans, Pensacola, and Jacksonville.

P: Actually, a B'Nai B'Rith charter had been issued for

Jacksonville in the 1870s.

K: Well, they lost the charter. So I was able to get them to

start anew, and we became members of District Number Five,

and we got a new charter. I was one of the early presidents

of the local lodge, and I have been a member ever since. A

few years ago, as you might recall, the local lodge honored

me with a dinner celebrating my fiftieth year as a member of

B'Nai B'Rith.

P: This would probably make you one of the oldest members in

the United States, would it not?

K: Oh, no.

P: In terms of service?

K: No. B'Nai B'Rith, I think, is over a hundred years.

P: Well, I was just thinking [that] in terms of service, there

probably are not many who could claim more than fifty years

of service.

K: Yes, and who are living today.

P: Yes. B'Nai B'Rith was organized in the 1840s, so it is a

very old organization.

K: Yes. I remember meeting some of the early presidents who

would come down to Jacksonville on the way to St. Augustine,

which was the last place they could go by train. I remember

some of them meeting in Jacksonville for special meetings of

the national board. They would meet at the Seminole Hotel.

One of them I remember: Cohen of Cincinnati. President

Cohen, whom I knew personally as a student in Cincinnati,

later became president of the international B'Nai B'Rith.

We entertained with a dinner. I remember the faux pas I

made when I introduced him. [It was a] faux pas to him, but

not to me. I said, "To think of it, Mr. Cohen, serving all

these lodges and doing the tremendous work he's doing. He's

giving his time without any compensation." And he got up

and said, "Don't say 'without any compensation.' I get a

great deal of satisfaction and joy, and I don't need any

monetary compensation."

P: That was his compensation.

K: Yes.

P: Rabbi, let's talk about the Reform movement [and] its

development in the state of Florida.

K: Yes.

P: You said that Jacksonville and Pensacola were the two oldest

Jewish Reform congregations.

K: Yes.

P: Now let's talk about the spread of Reformism throughout the

rest of the state.

K: It did not spread very rapidly except when Miami had its


P: This was the early 1920s.

K: Yes. After (and during) the boom period, many of our

people--from the North especially--flocked to Miami and have

been going there in large numbers ever since. The rabbi of

the first Reform congregation in Miami whose name I happen

to recall right now was Rabbi Joseph Jason. They put up a

tabernacle as a sanctuary--a frail structure--during those

boom days. Then the developers needed the land upon which

the sanctuary was built. They bought the sanctuary and the

land around it from the congregation at a big profit to the

congregation. They built their present site, Temple Israel,

in Miami. Rabbi Jason did not stay there very long. The

next rabbi, if I am not mistaken, was my namesake, Jacob


P: By the way, he gave his papers to the University. We have

his scrapbooks and papers.

K: You have the scrapbooks. Well, I loved Jacob Kaplan as a


P: I knew Rabbi Kaplan briefly. I met him just before his


K: Well, besides having the same name, we loved each other. I

knew him when he was rabbi of a Conservative congregation in

Cincinnati. Many of the boys, instead of going to a Reform

Temple in Cincinnati, loved to hear Jacob Kaplan preach, and

we went to his congregation. As a matter of fact, though,

there was not much difference between the Conservative and

the Reform congregations in Cincinnati in those days except

wearing of the hats.

So I knew Jacob Kaplan and his wife Adele very well. When

the new Temple was dedicated at its present site, I was

asked to come down and share in the service. The main

speakers I recall were Dr. Enello of Temple Emmanuel in New

York, who was then president of the Conference of American

Rabbis, and Dr. Julian Morgenstern, who was president of the

Hebrew Union College.

P: These were the two real leaders in American Reform Judaism,

were they not?

K: They were among the early rabbis.

P: And they were important on the American Jewish scene at that


K: Yes. And I participated. I think some Saturday morning I

spoke to the congregation (or to the children, I have

forgotten which) but I still remember that service. Of

course, during the years, Miami has grown from a handful of

Jews with one congregation . Today, I daresay the

population of Dade County [and] Broward . .


The first one that I knew was Rabbi [David L.] Zielonka.

P: He is on our list to be interviewed.

K: And if I recall rightly, I installed him as a rabbi.

P: David Zielonka?

K: I went down and installed him. He is just retiring.

P: I saw him in May. He looks fine.

K: David is a very fine fellow. That congregation has been

growing steadily side by side with Jacksonville. As far as

Orlando and Daytona are concerned--from the Reform angle, I

do not know anything about the Orthodox or Conservative--I

helped to organize the Reform congregations in both those

cities to the extent that every other week I drove down to

Daytona and Orlando to conduct services for a full year.

One Friday I conducted services in a hall or in the hotel

rooms [in Orlando], and in Daytona, we met in a church. We

met first of all in the radio studio in Daytona that was

owned by a Jew in name only, Davidson. He had rented a

studio, and we would have services inside the studio. I

went down there every other week for a whole year.

P: You were the traveling rabbi in those days.

K: Yes. And if you want me to continue my story . .

P: I do.

K: After serving the congregation [for] thirty years,

immediately following the end of World War II, the members

had prospered. I had been with them [for] twenty-eight or

thirty years. Speaking frankly, the young generation was

coming up, and they thought they would like to have a fresh

voice in the pulpit, which I can understand and appreciate.

Some of the women felt improvements and changes were in

order, especially in the religious school. And being semi-

prosperous, they thought the congregation could stand an

assistant rabbi, so they approached me on that subject.

Naturally, I did not welcome it too enthusiastically, but I

gradually reconciled myself to it. One or two men came down

here applying for that position, but they did not please me,

and I did not recommend them to the board.

But at the close of the war, the present rabbi of the

congregation had just come out of the chaplaincy. He was

still in uniform. Before being a chaplain, he was assistant

rabbi to Rabbi Collish in Richmond, Virginia, for ten years.

What I am saying is off the record. Naturally, he hoped to

succeed Rabbi Collish, who was up in years, as senior rabbi

of the congregation. But the congregation in Richmond

evidently had other ideas and did not elect him. They

elected instead a man named Rabbi Ariel Goldberg, who has

just announced his retirement as rabbi emeritus. So our

congregation got in touch with a placement committee--or the

organization that stood for the placement committee--to get

an assistant rabbi. And Rabbi Lefkowitz was one of the men

who came down here. He said he would come only on the

condition that he would not be an assistant rabbi but an

associate, since he had already served ten years as an

assistant. I did not want to quibble over words; assistant

or associate, his duties would be the same--take charge of

religious school and alternate with me in the preaching

schedule. Two years went by, and again, off the record, I

would say they were not very happy years for me. [There was

a] clash of personalities, as is with most rabbis.

P: You had become set in your ways.

K: We were in the same study. I was in one corner and he was

in the other. It was very unpleasant. The telephone would

ring, [and we would both think,] "Who's it for?" I was

miserable. So I came to the conclusion, "Well, I have

served the congregation thirty years. It's long enough to

be in one congregation. I'll ask the board to make me

emeritus." They had probably never heard the word emeritus.

[They] did not know what it meant. They said, "Now you are

asking for it." Joe Glickstein said, "You are asking for

it. We are not asking you. You can stay on at work so far

as we are concerned. You are asking us." I still remember

him pointing his finger at me. "Yes," I said, "I am asking

for it. I think it's in the best interests of the

congregation." They were starting on the new program of the

present sanctuary in Riverside.

So at formal services at Temple, I became rabbi emeritus. I

can still remember the minister who was present at that time

as one of the speakers. He was the minister of the

Presbyterian church downtown next to the library. He is

still living in Keystone Heights. I cannot think of his

name right now.

So I became rabbi emeritus. Well, what was I going to do as

rabbi emeritus? It means I am relieved of all

responsibilities. As far as the congregation is concerned,

I did not have to be in the community at all. [I] still

have the title. They paid me a little pension; it did not

amount to very much. It was not even a pension.

I forgot to mention [that] for twenty years I was a member

of the board of public libraries. So when I made the

decision that I had to be active and conduct services

somewhere, in the thirty-first year I put a box of prayer

books in the trunk of my car and made arrangements to be a

missionary rabbi, so to speak. I went to the beaches one

Friday a month in the home of a Mr. Roberts and I. M.

Lieberman. There were a number of people living at the

beaches then.

P: Now you went on your own?

K: I went on my own without a penny salary. I went to Palatka

once a month. We met in the Masonic Hall there. I went to

Lake City once a month and to Live Oak. For weeks I would

make the visit to these communities. I would conduct

services with the prayer books in the trunk of my car. If I

have the time, I would like to tell you about the

experiences in Lake City because they are historic. The

first service I held in Lake City was the first service ever

held in that small community by a rabbi for the

congregation. They arranged to meet in the Presbyterian


P: There could not have been more than just a handful of Jewish

families there.

K: There were probably about fifteen, no more. The people from

Live Oak joined. Just as when I met in Live Oak the people

in Lake City went over to Live Oak.

P: Of course there probably were a few veterans at the

hospital, too.

K: There were a few doctors. There were no patients, but a few

doctors came then. Well, to arrange for this first Jewish

service in Lake City, they arranged to have a service at

this Presbyterian church. It so happened that it was Purim

and also Good Friday. Purim and Good Friday coincided. It

was on a Friday when I went there. For refreshments they

served humintashen baked, I was told later, by a Catholic

baker. The service was broadcast over the radio for the

first time. At the close of the service, the minister who

had [presided over] Good Friday services joined us in the

social hour. Someone wrote up an article describing that

occasion as "brotherhood in action."

P: Which it certainly was.

K: It was a remarkable thing--meeting in a Christian church,

the refreshments prepared by a Catholic, the Jews having for

the first time their service, and it being broadcast.

P: How long did you follow this missionary trail?

K: I did it for a whole year. The second year I became a

flying rabbi.

P: Sort of like the flying nun.

K: I flew from here to Wilmington, North Carolina, for a whole

year, every other week. They had no rabbi; their rabbi had

died. I was anxious to get them a permanent rabbi. Toward

the end of that year they finally selected a rabbi who is

still there. The second year, I flew from Jacksonville to

Gadsden, Alabama, every other week. Sometimes I would take

my wife with me, and we would go in the car just for the joy

of it. The third year I flew from Jacksonville to Albany,

Georgia. Once in a while we would take our car. Those

three years I was a flying rabbi.

P: On alternate weekends.

K: Alternate weeks. They would like to have me come every

other week, but I did not want to accept that sort of

responsibility--being active every week.

P: In the meantime, of course . .

K: Then began my most exciting years as rabbi emeritus. I

accepted assignments for the High Holy Days in several

congregations. If you want to list them, I went to

Danville, Virginia, one year for the High Holy Days. I went

to one town in Alabama near Birmingham. The head of the Ku

Klux Klan lives there. I cannot think of it at this moment.

P: It might be Tuscaloosa.

K: Tuscaloosa, that is it. [I] went there for the holidays.

They had no rabbi. There was a combination of Hillel and

their rabbi serving. And he left Hillel. So they had no

rabbi. Then I went to east Texas--Longview. They met with

this neighboring Jewish community. For the first time I saw

oil wells right in the heart of the city. In the business

center, [there were] oil wells in the backyard. Those are

my holiday experiences.

P: Then I began receiving calls. One day, Dr. Nelson Glick,

president of the college, called me and said, "I have in my

office the representative of the Oklahoma City

congregation." Their rabbi, Rabbi Levenson, who was a

chaplain, was called back into the reserves. He had been a

reserve chaplain. And they were without a rabbi. [They

wanted to know] if I would come and stay with them until the

rabbi returned. So I went. My wife and I went there, and I

served the congregation for fourteen months. The rabbi had

just bought a home, and I rented the home from him. We

lived in this new home for fourteen months when he returned.

P: That must have been a pleasant assignment.

K: That was a most delightful experience. They were lovely

people. [They were] most hospitable [and] appreciative that

I had given my service to help them along, and they seemed

to enjoy my presence there. At this time, we met many

friends. My wife still carries on a correspondence with

them. I remember when I got back to Jacksonville a few

weeks later, I would get long distance telephone calls from

some of the members that just wanted to talk to me. [That]

made me feel good. Then I began accepting other pulpit


P: In the meantime, you had not returned to the Temple here at


K: I came back to Jacksonville.

P: But I mean you had returned to Jacksonville, but not in any

kind of a formal relationship with the Jewish Temple there?

K: [It was] the same sort of relationship that I had before. I

felt perfectly at home; [I] felt part of the Temple. I was

still receiving a stipend of some sort from them, you see.

I still kept my home. Let me see some of the congregations

where I went. I went to Vicksburg, Mississippi. I was

there for, I guess, a year. The people begged me to stay

on. I said, "No, I'm just going to stay for a year. You

get a rabbi." I went to Meridian, Mississippi, for a year.

P: You were coming back now to where you first got started,

from Natchez.

K: Yes. [I was] an active rabbi. I took over all the duties.

Vicksburg, Meridian. Then I went to Harrisonburg, Virginia.

You never heard of Harrisonburg? [It is] in the Shenandoah

Valley. [It is] a beautiful place. [It is] about ninety

miles from Washington. It just so happened our children

(our daughter and her children at the time) were living

right outside of Washington. My wife and I would get in our

car during the week on Sunday or Monday, and we would spend

three or four days with our children nearly every week. We

did not think anything of riding over the mountains to get

to them. And you know, I stayed there four years until one

day my children said that they were moving. They were going

to Chicago. I said, "If that's the case, I'm not going to

stay in Harrisonburg any longer." To the dismay of the

congregation when I whispered in the ear of the president

that I was going to leave them at the dinner they gave me,

it was quite a blow to them. It was probably the third year

that I had been with them that we expressed a desire, I

recall, my wife and I, that we have never been to Europe.

We would like to go. So they said, "Go with our blessing."

So I planned to go in June. They said, "No. Go in May.

Don't wait. Make your arrangements in May. We'll be

satisfied." So they gave us a movie camera and so many

other gifts to go to Europe. Take movies? I had never had

a camera in my hand. We were gone four months, and we

covered thirteen countries during that period. It was a

wonderful time. For me to tell them later on that I was

resigning and going back to Jacksonville was quite a blow.

Then I went to Lubbock, Texas, for five or six months.

P: All of this, Rabbi, is an indication of the rapidly growing

number of Jews and Jewish communities in the South.

K: They had Reform rabbis there before who had left.

P: But I mean this is really a development of the post-World

War I period for the most part, wouldn't you say?

K: Yes, Lubbock is a comparatively new community. It is a new

city, but they had a period of rabbis over a period of

years. Lubbock, Texas; can I think of any others? Oh, yes!

The most exciting of all was when I went to Curagao,

Netherlands, West Indies, and stayed there for seven or

eight months. That was the most exciting of all for many,

many reasons. It was a foreign country [and] a beautiful

island. The people were different from the people in the

United States, being Jews of Sephardic origin. The

congregation I was serving was a Reform congregation, an

offspring of the oldest congregation in the western


That building--not the original building, but the building

that is there today--is a gorgeous building to behold. It

was patterned after the synagogue in Amsterdam, Holland.

[There are] gorgeous chandeliers with candles in them, which

were only used on Yom Kippur and when they had a wedding.

[It was a] candle chandelier. They had an organ that was

pumped by hand. They had sand on the floor, which is a

tradition in many of the old Sephardic congregations,

symbolic of the old tabernacle in the wilderness of the

desert. As some rationalists like to explain, (taken from

the words of Abraham), "Thy seeds shall multiply as the

sands of the sea." The Virgin Islands was the next stepping

stop of the Jews who fled from Brazil (which was then under

Dutch control). When the Portuguese had captured Brazil

from the Dutch, the Jews living in Brazil, fearing the

Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition, began to leave. They

began island hopping, and the first island they reached was

Curagao. There you will find a cemetery containing

tombstones revealing the births and deaths of these early

Jews who fled from Brazil. The tombstones are really

monuments and contain inscriptions in Portuguese, Spanish,

Dutch, and Hebrew, as well as the image of an angel or a

Biblical figure.

P: Didn't Rabbi David DeSola Poole record some of these?

K: No, he did not. But a rabbi named Emmanuel . .

P: Oh, yes.

K: .. ._of the Jews of Curagao. He spent a whole

year there.

P: That is really what I was thinking about--that.

K: He spent a whole year there. Tombstones, see, Matsebas.

Moses Michael, 1740. What were some of the old ones? I

understand the sister of Baruch Spinoza is buried there.

There are five thousand people buried in the historic

cemetery there. Look, these are all the tombstones.

P: I have seen this book. We have this in the library, so I

have checked that. Rabbi, when you were on your European

trip, did you visit Israel?

K: No. I am ashamed to admit that I have never been to Israel.

My wife and I had planned to go to Israel. Indeed, the

congregation here gave me a substantial sum of money several

years ago on one of my anniversaries or birthdays (I have

forgotten which) to take a trip to Israel. But things were

brewing. War between the Jews and Arabs was getting closer

and closer. I dreaded to go. Life was just too hazardous.

I kept putting it off and putting it off. I thought, "Wait

until things quiet down and then we'll go." Alas, I doubt

we shall ever go, even if conditions quiet down--which I

hope they will--because I have trouble walking now.

P: Rabbi, what has been your attitude toward Israel? Toward

the Zionist movement?

K: Well, frankly, I echoed the same sentiment that the majority

of Reform rabbis echoed in the early days.

P: In the 1920s.

K: As a student of a college, we were non-Zionists. That was

part of the philosophy of Isaac M. Wise. Washington is our

capital, not Jerusalem. The mission of Israel is for the

Jews to be everywhere and preach peace and justice and

goodwill. They no longer need a particular land to spread

our mission. While I was never an anti-Zionist, I never

went out of my way to attack those Jews who wanted to settle

there. I was a non-Zionist.

P: You were never a member of the American Council for Jews?

K: No, never. I never actively attacked those Jews who wanted

to go there for a haven of refuge. I thought it was

wonderful. But I never could see it from the point of view

of nationalism. Hitler is what made practically every Jew

in the world--except the American Council of Jews--more and

more sympathetic toward establishment of a state in Israel.

So in the years gone by, why, I am just as much a lover of

Zion, of Palestine, of Israel as any fellow Jew.

P: Hitler changed many people's points of view.

K: Oh, yes. As a haven of refuge especially. What country

would take the Jews? We had a quota, that country had a

quota. Only a certain number of Jews could enter. Israel

said any Jew who says he is a Jew is welcome.

P: Rabbi, one of the things I have not asked you about is the

role that you played with the Jewish prisoners at Raiford.

K: That is right. Well, there are probably so many things I

cannot think of . .

P: That is why I want to prompt your memory.

K: Yes. The part I played was a most rewarding one. Of my own

free will--not backed by any organization or group--I used

to go at least once a month. When I would go, I would take

my wife and sometimes a member or two of the congregation

with me. In those days, things were rather free and easy at

Raiford. There were not the restrictions or the discipline

that exists now, particularly regarding visitors getting in

and going out. When I went down there, I conducted

services. I had personal interviews with the men. They

came into my study one by one. They poured out their hearts

to me. I would write letters for them to their dear ones

wherever they were. I would try to ease their burden by

appealing to the superintendent of the prison. When Pesach

time would come, I would bring a group of the women of the

Jewish Shelter and Aid Society (which later sponsored a home

for the aged here) who became interested in doing some masim

tovin, good deeds. Once a year at Pesach, they would

arrange the food, and I would put it in my car, and we would

have a spread. The superintendent of the prison gave us a

special room where we could go, and I went there at least

once a month for many, many years--until I left the

community. Without any material compensation, I would go

down there, interview the men, conduct services for them,

[and] write letters for them. If I were to save some of the

letters--I do not know whether I have any or not; I really

should--that I received from them and their relatives asking

me for favors, the letters would pile up very high. I would

bring prayer books with me in the trunk of my car. When I

got there, they would welcome me. One man would be at the

prison gates to carry the prayer books to the place where we

would have our service. Some of the men were lifers. One

man, a deaf and dumb man, who [had] lived in Gainesville,

was in the prison awaiting his death sentence.

P: I know who you are talking about.

K: You know who I am talking about? I had a great deal of

trouble with that fellow. But I did a lot for him. He is

still there. [He is] always asking favors. He has a

mishpach in Jacksonville, by the way. For awhile they would

come down with me. They would bring special food for him.

He was always asking for something. He was that type.

"Bring me this. Bring me that." The others we brought

kosher sandwiches and kosher pickles after services, and we

had a wonderful time. There was no trouble in doing that.

That is what they enjoyed probably more than the religious

service itself--the companionship and sociability.

I shall never forget one Seder service that I held. One of

the men had served many, many years there for committing

robbery in Miami. He robbed a famous actress, I believe, of

her jewels. He served his time, and I think he went back to

Miami. With Pesach coming, he sent me twenty dollars.

"Distribute this among the boys," he said. I changed it

into one-dollar bills, and as I left the Seder service, I

handed each of them a dollar bill. I shall never forget

that fellow. I had some very interesting experiences while

rendering this type of service for many, many years.

When I decided to leave the community and serve other

congregations, I asked the Jewish Welfare Board, Larry

Rackower, to take over this type of service and make it part

of the Jewish Welfare Service. And Larry Rackower carried

on from that time on. The restrictions are now of such a

nature [that] we cannot carry any food to the boys. The

other Christian boys were too envious. Seeing that we gave

them such fine food and they did not get any, they

complained, and the prison authorities did away with it. In

many ways they bore down on the services. I used to visit

the men who were put in separate cells for misdemeanors of

some sort and try to comfort them. I feel a sense of reward

in helping these men who could not turn to any other source

for help. Looking back, I feel that I did some good.

I had a whole lot of trouble with them. For the most part,

the men, with one exception, were not in there for crimes of

brutality. They were there for forgery, trying to make

money in an unethical way, bankruptcy proceedings in an

unethical manner, and things of that sort. These men served

their time. When they got out, they used to come up to

Jacksonville to see me. I have lovely letters from many of

them. I feel that I rendered a great service to the men on

my own accord. Nobody suggested I do it. Now it is part of

the service that Larry Rackower renders. Once in awhile I

have gone with him since I have been back.

P: Rabbi, you mentioned your daughter a little bit ago. Would

you give me some information about your children? Is she

your only child?

K: Yes, our daughter is named Louise.

P: She is married, of course?

K: I had the great joy of performing the marriage ceremony in

Jacksonville. She married a boy from New Britain,

Connecticut. She met him when they were students at

Louisiana State [University] in Baton Rouge. They were

married here at the Women's Club, and they have two

children, a boy and a girl.

P: What is his name?

K: Merwin Shurberg. He was with the government for many years,

and now he is with a private concern in Columbia, South

Carolina. But he has had different sorts of jobs in

government in Washington.

P: You have two grandchildren?

K: I am exceedingly proud of my granddaughter. Her husband is

an electrical engineer who received his Ph.D. a couple of

years ago from the University of Pennsylvania and has worked

for Comstat in Washington. For the second time, he has been

asked to deliver a series of lectures at the University of

California. [We are] going out next week for two weeks.

Our granddaughter received her Ph.D. in educational

psychology three or four months ago at Temple University in

Philadelphia. She is working for HEW now in Washington.

And I have a grandson who is studying medicine. He is now

entering his third year at the University of South Carolina

at Charleston. [They are] both wonderful grandchildren.

P: Rabbi, one of your civic functions here in Jacksonville was

with the public library. What was your responsibility?

K: Twenty years I was a trustee.

P: What were your responsibilities there?

K: Well, the library trustees are appointed by the council

every three years, I believe. I was appointed six or seven


P: Was this a policy-making responsibility?

K: It was to work with the library policy--about improving the

library [and] seeing that we got the necessary funds from

the city council. It had nothing to do with politics at

all. We just worked to improve the library. Wherever there

was a branch library needed, we would work on that facility.

At the Willow Branch Library in Jacksonville, there is a

placard stating the names of the directors; my name is among

them. We started a free branch library in the Negro

neighborhood, and my name is on the placard there. [It was]

the first Negro branch library.

P: Rabbi, do you have an honorary degree or doctorates?

K: I have an honorary D.E. degree from Hebrew Union College. I

do not know what that degree is there, but I received that

about seven or eight years ago.

P: What do you see as the future of American Judaism?

K: Well, of course, that is a big question.

P: That is a very large question.

K: It is a very large question. You can become optimistic and

pessimistic . .

P: At the same time.

K: At the same time. You can become optimistic in that the

foundations are here. If we build strongly on those

foundations, American Judaism will continue and persist and

perhaps flourish. We have our theological seminaries.

Unlike Christian seminaries, I do not think we are losing

students. The Christian seminaries are. In my pessimistic

moments, [I see that] despite the fact that we have more

congregations throughout the country, the pews are empty

like in churches. That gives me a feeling of sadness.

Religion does not mean as much today, in my estimation, to

the Jews of America as it did when I first came here. I can

only say that older generation were Europeans who built

Jacksonville Jewry. Very few were college graduates, [and]

very few were American-born. But they revered the position

and office of a rabbi. Rabbi meant something to them. I

was highly regarded and respected by Jew and non-Jew. I do

not think that feeling exists today. I am really concerned

about the young generation and their attachment to Judaism.

P: I was going to ask you about the younger generation's


K: I do not think they have the same attachment--the same

love--of Judaism as they did fifty years ago. [Today there

are] more mixed marriages, which were a rarity in my day.

That is the disheartening thing to me.

P: Oh, yes.

K: It was a rare thing for an Orthodox to marry a Reform in my

day. That was somewhat frowned upon.

P: And to marry outside the faith . .

K: To marry outside the faith! For heaven's sake! That person

was lost to Judaism completely. Today it is a common thing.

There is hardly a family in Jacksonville that cannot trace a

mixed marriage today. And I say, [it is] at the expense of

the preservation of Judaism.

P: You feel that this will perhaps doom American Judaism in

two, three, or four generations?

K: Unless it gets a shot in the arm from somewhere. Whether

Israel will provide it, I do not know. The picture is not a

glowing one. Of course, I never filled the pews even in my

days, but it is emptier now even though the congregation has

grown five-fold.

P: And we have bigger synagogues.

K: Bigger synagogues, more members.

P: More resplendence.

K: Larger budgets. They do not come. In recent weeks--if I

have time to tell you--

P: You have plenty of time.

K: Do we still have time?

P: You have plenty of time. Take whatever you need.

K: It is almost four o'clock.

P: I know. We have been talking a long time, but keep talking,

Rabbi. It is going just the way I want it.

K: During the summer, when Rabbi Lefkowitz is away, I take over

on a voluntary basis. The board does not ask me to. The

president does not say, "Will you substitute for the rabbi?"

I do it of my own free will. I do not get paid a penny

extra for it. But I do it. I bury and marry and bless

children. I preach every Friday night which Rabbi Lefkowitz

does not do during the summer. Last Friday happened to be

my last Friday night. I preached every Friday night, and I

think the people enjoy it. They like to hear a word instead

of merely the prayer service, a repetitious service week

after week which lasts fifteen minutes. People travel four

or five miles, and in fifteen minutes, the service is over.

So I feel conscious-stricken to give them a talk. This

coming Friday Rabbi Lefkowitz will take over, and he will

have a prayer service until the holidays.

During the past few weeks I have had these delightful

experiences where they call on the rabbi even though they

are not members of the congregation. If I were hidebound in

my feeling as a rabbi of the Temple, I would say, "No. Join

the Temple if you want my services." A father comes to you

and says, "I wish you would bless my baby; I am having a few

friends." He makes no apology that he does not belong to

the Temple, but he wants me to come out and bless the

children. [I say,] "I am sure I would be happy to."

And this is the story. The wife is a non-Jewess; [she]

never converted. She has six children of her own. The

husband had been married before and has two children of his

own. [There are] eight children between them. The mother

said, "I want another baby." They were living in Miami and

Lake Wales. In Lake Wales, the story is, a couple were

getting a divorce and the wife turned her baby over to this

woman. She kept that baby for six months and grew attached

to that baby. Then the real mother said, "I want my baby

back." So they recently moved to Jacksonville and she wants

a baby. So they go to Miami and adopt a baby there. [He

is] their ninth child, a boy. I go out there and bless that

baby. Interesting, is it not?

P: Very much so.

K: Yes.

P: [There is] one thing we have not touched on, Rabbi, and I

want to do that even though the time is late. We have said

nothing at all about what you have done (or not done for

that matter) over the years as far as the black population

of this city is concerned.

K: Well, briefly stated, it was never a problem until recent

years. We had a colored janitor in our Temple down on

Laurel and Ashley Street, and I loved him. When he died,

the family said, "Come to our church and deliver the

eulogy." I went to that church and delivered the eulogy for

this poor janitor whom I liked.

Eartha White. She had the mission. She loves me. I used

to visit her at her mission together with a Mr. Dick


P: Oh, yes, I knew him.

K: He was on the board of trustees of the library with me.

P: I knew Dick for many years.

K: He and I were on the board of trustees of the library. He

championed the cause of the Negroes. Once or twice we went

together at a Negro gathering--I remember Eartha White's--to

show that we cared for them. I think I have spoken once or

twice in a Negro church at their invitation. I remember [I

spoke] once on Laura Street, that Negro church on that

corner there near First Street.

P: You hear so much today about Negro anti-Semitism. I wonder

if you would comment on that.

K: Well, the only comment I can make is that I am conscious

that it exists, but I do not know whether it exists in

Jacksonville. I read about it, and I am fearful of it

because I am still a member of B'Nai B'Rith and still attend

many of their meetings. I requested the chairman of the

program committee to invite a Negro or Negroes to one of our

dinners to talk freely about the Negroes and Jews of

Jacksonville. Is there any friction? If so, let us hear

about it so we might correct it. One evening we had two

Negroes at our B'Nai B'Rith dinner. One of them is a

preacher at one of the churches here, and one of them is a

social worker. I do not recall any of them ever saying

anything about the Jews of Jacksonville in a derogatory

manner. We may have a few Jews who own Negro property which

could be the only source of friction because they fail to

keep it in good shape. The Jewish shopkeepers have all

moved out of Broad Street from the Negro neighborhood.

There are very few, if any, still there. So I think the

contact between the Negroes and Jews is . .

P: Negligible.

K: [It is] not noticeable at all. Being far from the scene of

activities today, I would say offhand that I do not think

there is any problem in Jacksonville. There might be a

problem in Gainesville [at] the university. I still keep

telling my B'Nai B'Rith brethren to be alert and to become

involved with the Negroes. They are looking for a thing to

do. This is what they should do.

P: Rabbi, in closing, are you very much alarmed about the youth

rebellion, the problems as you see them here in Gainesville

with drugs and this kind of thing?

K: I am scared about the drug problem more than anything else.

That scares me to death because it strikes me as something

new on the scene. I never heard or dreamt of it in years

gone by--when I used to go to the University of Florida

years ago. I never heard of that problem with drugs. All

of a sudden it has sprung up. Our Jewish boys and girls are

not immune. They imitate just as fast and quickly as anyone

else. They do what their neighbor does. I spoke on the

theme Friday night of Jews as hunters, foreign to our

spirit. Whoever knows of a Jew as a hunter?

P: Killing.

K: He is hunted, but not a hunter. He does not kill for sport.

But those things are happening. The moment we live in this

free society, we do as other people do. We intermarry, we

use drugs . .

P: We take on all the bad aspects of the society that surrounds


K: Yes, absolutely,.and that is my chief concern. My only

consolation is that I am eighty-one years of age. God

spares me a few more years, and my story will be over.

P: Have you done any writing?

K: No. I must admit that I am terribly lazy. I read but I do

not write. I prepare my sermons carefully, and I do not

read a single word from the pulpit. My congregation says I

have a photographic memory, and they are amazed that I talk

right to them without looking down at a single note. But I

have things right in my mind that I want to say. I am not

one of those who has written things, and it is regrettable,

I suppose.

P: Yes, because you have a wonderful story to tell.

K: Yes. I have given lectures on my experiences in Curagao,

which to me have meant so much because it was so


P: Of course, we are getting part of your story today.

K: Yes. But I never sat down to write. I have tried to do one

thing. I have had many funerals during these fifty-odd

years. The old generation has died out, people whom I knew

and loved and I buried here in Jacksonville. Usually I

conclude my eulogies with reading a poem appropriate to the

occasion if I possibly can get hold of one. I have

collected those poems.

Rabbi Kaplan's Speech

His heart is established. He shall not be afraid until he came

upon his adversaries. He hath scattered abroad; He hath given

the needy his righteousness and given for us. His home shall be

exalted in honor. The wicked shall see and be The

wicked shall gnash with his teeth and melt away. The desire of

the wicked shall perish.


Fellow Hadada, if this congregation were served by only one rabbi

and no other, it would be sufficient. [laughter] If

this congregation were served by one rabbi and one rabbi

emeritus, that would be sufficient. But this

congregation is served not by just one rabbi, not by just one

rabbi and one rabbi emeritus, but by one rabbi and two rabbis

emeritus. That is why no other congregation in the world can

match our [laughter]


. . And responded at once. "I will look after that," he said.

He immediately appointed my good friend, Bob Edwards, as chairman

for this auspicious occasion. Bob and his family--his brother

Norman, his mother and his late father--are among my oldest

friends to whom I feel so deeply for the many, many things they

have done for me. Just the other day, Albert's wife, going

through some of the papers of her beloved husband, came across

this tribute to my dear wife Cora. She mailed it to her. It was

but one instance of many of Albert Edwards' generosity, kindness,

and thoughtfulness. This was written October 4, 1966. "A

Tribute to Cora L. Kaplan," by Albert Edwards, on the occasion of

her fiftieth year of devoted service to our Temple and

sisterhood. "Our undying gratitude goes out to Cora Kaplan for

her fifty years of loyal and dedicated service to the Temple

Ahala Chesed and the Temple sisterhood. Her wisdom, judgment,

and counsel have ever been offered willingly and cheerfully. Her

warmth and charm continue to be an inspiration on this golden



. . On this fourth day of October, 1966. We will miss you,

Albert. You were one of my old and close friends. I wish God

had spared you to at least be with us on this happy occasion. I

want to thank my colleagues also. Rabbi Lefkowitz sent me a

beautiful letter from his retreat in Virginia. I appreciate it

deeply because of the cordial spirit expressed in our

relationship during these past years. I am sorry that he and

Dorothy were not here to share in this evening with me. But

above all, I want to express my warm thanks to our present

spiritual leader, Rabbi Greenstein, for those lovely remarks that

he just made on my behalf. I wish I were worthy of them. Like

Jacob of old after being away from home for twenty years and

being with his uncle Laven and Mary, his two daughters, Rachel

and Leah, and begat twelve sons and much cattle and a great deal

of material things, ready to meet his estranged brother after all

these years, he offered a prayer to God. He said, [in Hebrew].

I am unworthy of all the kindness and truth that Thou bestoweth

upon me.

Our Psalms like to say, "Three score years and ten is the average

life of a human being." Or even by reason, four score years.

What shall I say? Adding five more to those four score years.

Our rabbis say, [Hebrew]. Eighty years means strength. Of

course, they did not mean physical strength. What they had in

mind when they said "eighty years of strength" was spiritual

strength that comes to one who dedicates his life unto his fellow

man. Perhaps, perhaps. I may someday be an octogenarian.

Reaching the age of ninety with God's will, I trust that I shall

continue to serve my fellow man and to keep the ideals of what a

rabbi should be ever before me.

Just the other day, I read a wonderful tribute paid to Dr.

Stephen S. Wise by his colleague and successor, Rabbi Edward

Klein on Stephen Wise's memorial, born one hundred years ago.

What he had to say about the rabbinate I trust that I may in some

measure approach. What of the meaning of his ministry? Rabbi

Klein raises the question. Ministry it was, for Wise was first

and foremost a rabbi. "I have need," he wrote, "of a shrine

before which men bow their heads and lift their hearts in a sense

of consciousness of a holy presence.

He knew the power of prayer. None who heard him recite the

Twenty-third Psalm could ever doubt that God was his shepherd.

He was a rabbi in the great tradition of the teachers of our

faith, who by precept and example sought to bring God into the

lives of people--to light upon the dark places of the soul. As a

student of Jewish history, Stephen Wise knew that faith is no

mere escape. We Jews could not escape life's grim realities even

if we chose to. We have been the target of the swings and perils

for two thousand years. But we faced tragedy with courage and

fortitude by virtue of the faith that moved us. Would that I had

some of that spirit of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise.

Sometimes people come up to me and say, "What was the motive in

your becoming a rabbi? How did you happen to enter the ministry

and become the spiritual leader of a congregation?" Of course,

they add the quip, "You know, being a rabbi isn't a business for

a fine Jewish lad." Well, I led a normal, average life as a boy.

I was reared by Orthodox parents. Wonderful parents. Naturally,

as I grew of age, I went to cheder, I learned Hebrew, I prepared

and chanted my Torah for bar mitzvah, and said my speech as all

bar mitzvah boys do. When the time came for me to graduate from

high school, I happened to meet the rabbi of the Reform

congregation in my hometown. He was a bachelor. He was a

wonderful man. Quite frequently he would call me up, and we

would go walking in the woods. One day he said to me, "Why don't

you become a rabbi? Why don't you go to Cincinnati to the Hebrew

Union College? It is a wonderful place, and it is a marvelous

career--one that you will never forget." That is how I became a


I put in my application both at the college and at the University

of Cincinnati. Before one can graduate and be ordained as a

rabbi, one must have a B.A. degree. So here is my routine:

every morning at 8:30, as I arranged my schedule, I attended the

University of Cincinnati, about eight to ten miles away from

where the college was situated downtown amid the shabby district.

Here I went day after day, year after year, finding a boarding

house, finding students to spend my evenings preparing

my lessons. In the course of time, as I entered the college, I

found that I was able to meet some wonderful professors. One of

them came up to me, old Professor Honheimer. I cannot forget

him. He said to me, "Come in my classroom." I walked in. He

opened a prayer book and said, "Here. Read." I read very

closely since I knew Hebrew, going to cheder for many years,

being bar mitzvahed. Then he opened the Bible, and said, "Here.

Read and translate." After a short duration, he said to me, "I'm

going to recommend to the committee that you be put in the B

class, which means that instead of spending nine years (which was

the regular routine for a college student) you will only have to

spend seven." I had eight wonderful classmates, who, during the

course of years, had prestigious congregations. They were

brilliant young fellows. Alas, only one is living today and

occupying a pulpit. The other two I received wonderful letters

from the other day living in Palm Beach and in Miami who

regretted their inability to be here.

At the end of each year I received a request from the president

of the college, Dr. Kaufman Kohler, to come into his room. He

had something to say to me. In those days--this is sixty-two

years ago--there were few Reform congregations in America. There

were many springing up that wanted a rabbi but could not afford

one. But surely from the student body, they ought to get someone

for the holidays. So the president of the college said, "Will

you go to Mansfield, Ohio, for the holidays?" I had been in

college just one year. What did I know about a congregation and

conducting its services? I went to Mansfield the first year. I

went to Saginaw the second year. They liked me so well, they

said, "Come back next year." Bob Zeitler was here, and his

brother Alfred, and his sister Jean Lipman. They were all in

Saginaw I remember Bob I had dinner at

their home. There was one in high school then. I have always

reminded Bob for many, many years how gracious Bob was to me.

Then I went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, the following year, to

Zanesville, Ohio, to Statesville, North Carolina. Then the years

went by before I knew it. One summer I went to New York and took

a summer course at Columbia and got enough credits to graduate

from the University of Cincinnati in three and a half years.

I was very happy with that fact because the last year you have to

write a thesis before you are ordained. Dr. professor

of Talmud, came to me and said, "I have a subject for you. It is

called the laying on of your hands. There is plenty of

material on that subject taken from the Bible, particularly the

story of Jacob on his deathbed blessing his sons, Aaron the high

priest offering the priestly benediction, and being ordained by

any rabbi. The laying on of the hands." But that was only part

of my work, for the president then called me into his office and

said, "I have a call from Evansville, Indiana. Their rabbi has

been with us for many years," the president said. "Now he wants

a sabbatical. He wants to go to Europe and to Jerusalem for a

whole year. (There was no state of Israel in those days.) "We

can't let him go until we get a replacement." So the president

said to me, "Will you go?" That was quite a challenge--to go

every weekend for a whole year to a large congregation with a

large religion school. But I accepted the challenge. I went by

train, changed in Terre Haute and go to Evansville. There I was

met by two lovely old people who said, "You're going to stay with

us, Dr. and Mrs. Gravkin, during your stay in Evansville."

I went to Evansville with a heavy heart. The reason was, as you

might suspect, romance was beginning in my life. [laughter] I

left my sweetheart in Cincinnati. And, oh, how anxious I was on

Sunday evening to have her meet me at the station. If she was

not there, I immediately took a streetcar to her home in

As I was about to graduate, another professor came to me, Dr.

Normach, head of the philosophy department, who tried to teach me

something about and the strong man. He said,

"You know, last year, I went to Natchez, Mississippi, for the

High Holy Days. It is a wonderful congregation, and I wish you

would accept it as a permanent pulpit." If Dr. Normach

recommends it, who is going to challenge it? I said, "All

right." The salary was a very handsome one--$2,000. I went to

Natchez on third of September in the year 1914.

The two years that I was there were my paradise years. On

November 17 of that first year, I went back to Cincinnati, and

Dr. Gunhard Deutsch, professor of history, shalom,

performed the marriage ceremony in Cora's home. We had a small

wedding, and we spent our honeymoon in New Orleans. I was only

there a couple of days before I got a message from Natchez. The

vice president of the congregation had just died. "Please come

back and perform the funeral services." But those two paradise

years were so wonderful. I shall never, never forget them.

It was a large congregation in those days. Most of the merchants

were in the wholesale grocery business. They found a two-story

for me, furnished, thirty dollars a month. They found a servant

for me, Patsy, who would greet us at the door when we came in.

Every night practically, as I recall, we were invited out. They

seemed to take us into their hearts as their children. I loved

each and every one of them.

At the close of the second year, I went to the Conference of

American Rabbis, which was held at Cape May, New Jersey. There I

met one of my old friends of college days, Rabbi Samuel Schwartz,

whose name will be familiar to some of you older members of the

congregation here tonight. Samuel Schwartz was a rabbi here in

Jacksonville for four years. He had just accepted a pulpit in

Montreal, Canada, a much larger congregation. He said, "I would

like for you to accept this pulpit here in Jacksonville. I can

see it is a growing community, but I wanted to go to Montreal,

which is a much larger congregation. He said, "Could we meet in

the vestry of the Temple" on a certain day, and I will be there.

I arrived in Jacksonville and met the congregation in the vestry

of the Temple together with Rabbi Samuel Schwartz. He gave his

farewell talk, and I was called upon to say hello to the

congregation, pledging them all that I had, to serve them in the

spirit of Sam Schwartz and Dr. Stephen Wise, and all those great

spiritual leaders of the day. Then I remained in Jacksonville.

I did not have to preach any sermon after finding out. I did not

meet with the governing board who asked me all sorts of

questions. [laughter] They listened to Sam Schwartz, and they

said, "Fine. We believe in you." So began my ministry to the

congregation. It was a wonderful congregation in those days, as

it is today. They had a fine religious school, and my wife

taught for thirty years in that religious school, as all the

other teachers--men and women--who gave their services freely.

They were not paid in those days. The sisterhood at the end of

each year gave each one of the teachers an insignificant gift,

just as a reminder, just as a thank you for serving the

congregation and the children.

How they loved Cora. This is my tribute as a husband to my wife.

She taught public school for two years in Cincinnati. She had

the ability of telling stories to her children. As they would

tell me, Sunday after Sunday when we had our assembly period, you

could hear a pin drop when Mrs. Kaplan was telling a story.

Later on, she organized the sisterhood as I did in Natchez for

the National Federation Sisterhood. Mrs. Simon Bennington, the

wife of the president, served for ten years my father

was the president of a congregation. After being with the

congregation each year, I began not only to preach on Fridays and

Saturday, and look after the religious school, but to engage in

outside activities. First with my own two communities. There

was only the Orthodox synagogue in those days. The synagogue had

a women's organization and a men's organization taking care of

the needy. Our ladies had their charity organization, and they

were helping the same poor people who came from the North on

their way to Miami to get lodging and food--three times from the

three organizations. I said to myself, "That won't do. We have

to be united." So in the course of time I brought down a social

worker from the north, and we organized a United Jewish Chapter.

I am happy to see here this evening the president, executive

secretary of the Family and Children's Services, which is now the

name of the United Jewish Chapter, an organization that spends

close to $50,000 a year, mind you, for getting most of

its money from the community chest.

Then, a few years later, Rabbi Morris was here, serving the We

talked the situation

. . even today, although all you here who help United Jewish

Charity and Israel and UJ, in those days, thank

goodness, we did not have to contribute to those organizations.

Then we turn again to my for those organizations.

First of all, let me tell you about the radio program. I had two

radio programs in those days before the advent of television. At

twelve o'clock on Sundays I would go over to the television

office, and I would usually stress those items that could help

promote brotherhood between Jew and non-Jew. I would come

the radio program week after week. So it happened, and

this is the reason I am telling the story. I received a phone

message from a young lady. She said, "I and my sister just lost

our mother. She was an old woman, but she never missed listening

to your radio programs on Sunday. She made a request that when

she died to call on Rabbi Kaplan to conduct the funeral service."

I could not say no. She was a non-Jewess. I went into her home

to conduct the service. There was not a single Jew there except

a rabbi. Later on, the two girls moved to a small town in

Alabama. You know, years have gone by, but not a year goes by

unless we receive a telegram on Rosh Hashanah from these two

sisters wishing us a happy new year.

When Fuller Warren was governor of Florida, he asked me to serve

on the children's commission, which meant that I would have to go

to Tallahassee, visit all the schoolchildren home, and make

reports. I had to resign because, as you will hear in a few

moments, I became a wandering rabbi. I became a flying rabbi.

[laughter] For three years, I flew every other week from

Bloomington, North Carolina, Gadsden, Alabama, Albany, Georgia.

Wherever I went, I had a problem. They would want to keep me

there. I said, "My home is here in Jacksonville. You go ahead

and get a permanent rabbi." I went to Oklahoma City. I received

a call from Cincinnati from Nelson the president of the

college. He said, "I have with me the president of the Oklahoma

City congregation, and he tells me that their rabbi, whom they

have had for many years, just completed a chaplaincy, and

foolishly, he signed up for the extra year after your

chaplaincy--the reserve chaplaincy. They called him. Do you

know where they are sending him? To some little place out in

Wyoming. There are no Jews there, but he has to go to serve as a

chaplain. You must send us a rabbi. You must send us someone."

"I understand you are retired now," Dr. said.

fill that position. My wife and I drove to Oklahoma City, where

we stayed for fourteen months. There I had a wonderful

congregation, a very large congregation. Well-united. While I

was there, I introduced a Union Thanksgiving Service, the same as

our in Jacksonville. I think it is fifty-seven years

that we have had the interdemoninational Union Thanksgiving

Service of six or seven congregations without interruption. One

year I got a letter when I was in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the

longest stay of any community, where I stayed for four years. I

received a letter from Rabbi Lefkowitz saying that one of the

Christian ministers--I think it was Memorial Church--

would like to know whether I had a copy of the program of all of

the fifty-odd years. Fortunately, I had saved them, and I sent

them to Rabbi Lefkowitz. They are today somewhere among the six

or seven churches. They still meet--each year a different

church, each year a different minister preaching, each year with

a larger and larger attendance, which makes me feel good.

Then I organized the Jacksonville Open Forum. In those days,

people came from the North. Then they stopped in Jacksonville.

The only other place they could go was St. Augustine. Man, it

was barely a swamp! So in Jacksonville. of

bringing new lectures to Jacksonville on Sunday so the people--

the visitors especially--could hear that. I made a connection

with the Boston Bureau of Lectures. They set up seven cities in

Florida. Each day in a different community. They came to

Jacksonville on Sunday--some of the most outstanding speakers in

the world came here from China, India, from England. Great

speakers of the Chatauqua community. This company

rabbi. Would you believe it? Rabbi Maurice Eisengrad,

shalom, was one of our speakers. He was then rabbi at

Temple in Toronto, Canada. "Would you go hear him speak?" I

asked myself. He was doing propaganda for Canada. Canada,

realize, is eloquence at the They sent him all over

the state of Florida to talk for Canada.

We had Rabbi Israel and Dr. Voss. I do not know if he

is here in the audience or not. He is one of our open-forum

speakers. So, for a number of years, until I left the city and

the serving of the congregations, we met in the auditorium of the

George Washington Hotel. who ran the hotel, was a dear

friend of mine. When I asked him if he would let me use his

large auditorium (I had no money to pay him; it was a

offering proposition--no charge, no tickets), he said, "Sure."

We filled that auditorium. The city librarian, Joe _

would help me whenever I was out of the city. Even after I left,

I asked him to take over, but they gave up in a short time. They

did not have the staff of a rabbi. But they were wonderful days.

I can think of many more things.

The National Conference of Christians and Jews. You do not hear

much of them today, but many years ago, Reverend Edward Clinchy,

the Christian minister, and Rabbi Morris a classmate of

mine, and a Catholic priest toured the whole country. They would

speak before civic clubs--Rotary, Civitan, Kiwanis Club, and

sometimes in some of the high schools--on the theme of

brotherhood. They came here one day, and I arranged a luncheon

for them. I must confess that I never saw a larger crowd of men

gathered together in one of the hotels to listen to these three

speakers holding hands standing up as they spoke on brotherhood.

In the course of time, they appealed to me to form a chapter here

in Jacksonville, and I did. I became the president of the new

local Conference of Jews and Christians. I served in that

capacity until again I started to wander about and serve other

congregations. Going to Pittsburgh, Meridian, Mississippi.

Meridian, Mississippi. When I went there I found a widow who was

conducting the service for two years. Her husband was rabbi of

the congregation--William Ackerman. We hear about this

who is a woman rabbi today--the first ordained rabbi. She may be

the first ordained rabbi, but Mrs. Ackerman for two years--at the

request of the congregation--served as their rabbi. At the end

of two years they said she had enough, so they sent for me, and I

served them for a year. Then I went to Harrisonburg, Virginia.

There I was only ninety miles from Washington. Harrisonburg is

distinctive in many ways only because it gave me the opportunity

to see my children that were living outside of Washington from

time to time.

Harrisonburg was unique in many ways. I cannot forget its

uniqueness. Whenever I walked out on the pulpit for my study

the whole congregation rose out of respect for their

rabbi. The mayor of the city was the president of my

congregation. He told members of this council, "I will never

call a meeting on Friday night. My place will be on the pulpit

with the rabbi." Lawrence Rolin was a unique character. Not a

college graduate, but one who had a good heart, a sense of

honesty, integrity, and morality about him. He stayed there for

four years until my son-in-law informed me that, "I'm going to

accept a position outside of Washington. Now I'm leaving

Washington." I said, "Well, you really should stay in

Harrisonburg." [laughter] I tended my resignation and came back

to Jacksonville. But the most unique, and this will be my last

(I have forgotten ) [laughter]

I went to Curagao, Netherlands, West Indies. Those of you who

know Jewish history--and I have lectured you on the subject many

times--will recall that Curagao is the oldest Jewish congregation

in the western hemisphere. The congregation is the oldest.

Tourists who come to visit Curagao, the first thing they are

shown is the remarkable, magnificent Temple with sand on the

walls. with a magnificent effect that was

used only on marriages and funerals. That was not

That was an Orthodox congregation that had a and an

Orthodox rabbi. But the congregation I served were the children

and grandchildren of the founders of this unusual congregation.

They had grown large enough to have their own rabbi, their own

congregation and synagogue. That was the congregation I served

right on the doorsteps of the sea. Yom Kippur there in

the waters of the Caribbean It was so Reform it did

not have a in the synagogue. The other ceremonial

objects . they did not have a shofar. Here was Rosh

Hashanah coming along. I said, "Where is the shofar?" I cannot

blow the shofar. That is something the professors learned as

they worked. Never taught me. "We're going to blow the shofar."

They said, "We've never had it blown," and the Temple was one

hundred years old. But they never had a they never had

blown the shofar for Rosh Hashanah. I said, "In the United

States, we have the We blow the shofar and keep many

ceremonies that perhaps you do not keep today but we feel are

important. So they said, "Well, if you can get ahold of somebody

to blow the shofar . I brought mine with me. I called up

the Orthodox rabbi. I said, "Can you get me someone to blow the

shofar?" He said, "Yes. I think I can find a young boy." I was

happy with that fact. The next day, he called me to tell me,

"I'm sorry. The boy's mother, who still dislikes the Reform

Temple, wouldn't give permission to her son." There I was. We

had a colored man. Curagao was composed of colored people. They

do not speak English, they do not speak Dutch, they do not speak

any foreign language but their own native language, called

The Jewish children growing up speak the same

language. They do not know what it means. The organist was a

colored man. I said, "Look at the dates. Rosh

Hashanah. Yom Kippur. The year has gone by. We have holiday

music. We probably have some music about blowing the shofar. I

will say to the congregation, and you play the organ.

[laughter] That is how Talk about service. I stayed

there for a whole year, and my wife still corresponds with a

number of people there, as she does many other places.

As the sunset years of my life draw to a close, I pray to God

that before I pass on, all of us shall live in a world of peace.

Israel will have peace, and I shall continue to call you, my dear

friends, brothers and sisters who have been so wonderful to me

throughout the years. God bless you.

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