Happy Friday everyone!
Some of Charlotte’s earliest Jewish families may have come from the North, but many traveled here from Charleston, one of America’s oldest Jewish communities, or from settlements in coastal Georgia. Author Harry Golden wrote that in 1850 Mecklenburg County was the home of eight Jewish families – Sieber, Drucker, Rintels, Rosenheim, Springer, Adler, Witcoff and Baruch. Jewish women in Charlotte put on a Purim Ball to raise money for the Confederacy. Jewish men served in the First North Carolina Regiment. They were merchants, said Golden, because that was the only enterprise open to them at that time. From 1850, numerous businesses operated by Jewish owners advertised their shops on Trade and Tryon Streets.
Many immigrants streaming in from Eastern Europe at the turn of the century found their way to Charlotte, among them Harris H. Miller and Benjamin Silverstein, wrote Morris Speizman in The Jews of Charlotte. Max Kahn and his brother Aaron from Dresden, Germany, settled in Charlotte because their savings for travel to Birmingham ran out and they could go no farther. They rented a room from a Mrs. Ostrowski and stored their merchandise until they could hire a horse and wagon to peddle their wares. Not long afterward, they opened a store on North Tryon, but Aaron was brutally beaten on a Charlotte street car and died. Max mourned and left town but subsequently returned to serve on the city council and county welfare board. Charlotte teacher and actress Gladys Kahn Lavitan was his daughter.
Like other immigrant groups in town, they took solace in their religion. The first Orthodox congregation met in 1895 on East Trade and several subsequent locations near the square. Soon, twenty-five member families began raising money for a new synagogue at 413 West Seventh. When M. B. Smith approached the superintendent of the new post office construction on West Trade in 1915, he asked for the wood paneling and other items discarded from the demolished post office building. The superintendent’s men moved the materials and worked on the balcony, the bimah (pulpit) and stairs at no charge to the congregation.
P.S. Check out the photos and write up from my walking tour of a Jewish cemetery here in Charlotte last year!
Until next week!
Email me at chris@704Shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!
Information taken from:
Charlotte, North Carolina: A Brief History, 2009, Mary Kratt
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass