Freida Weiner

Duration: 54mins 46secs
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Interview with: Freida Weiner
Interview by: Martee Fuerst
Date: July 6, 1982
Archive number: OH412



MF:    00:08  This is an interview of Freida Weiner of Houston, Texas.  It was conducted at 11 am July 6, 1982, at the residence of Freida Weiner in Houston.  The interview is part of a three-year study conducted by the Houston Center for the Humanities and Public Policy under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities on Houston, the Development of an International City.  The interviewer is Martee Fuerst, acting as a volunteer from the National Council of Jewish Women, Houston.

    Okay.  Freida, would you tell me just your name, your age, and where and when born and a little bit about your background.

FW:    I was born in the area of Kiev in a little town.  It was about the end of 1890.

MF:    1890.  Okay.

FW:    In the little town of Kostichev.  This was a highway between the two capitals, the capital of Volhynia by the name of Zhitomir and the capital of Kiev.  We traveled one way 25 miles to Volhynia and 100 miles to Kiev.  My father was a teacher.  My mother was, let’s say, a nurse, one that takes up babies.  There’s a name—

MF:    Midwife?  A midwife.

FW:    Yeah.

MF:    Okay.

FW:    We had in our family ten children.  Three of them died before I was born and seven were raised.  In later years when I was 12, my father passed away and my mother took care of the others through a little grocery store.  When I was 13 years, our little town burned down—three parts of it—and there wasn’t room enough for the Jewish population that was in that little town, and the children were sent out to relatives in different towns.  When I was 14, I went into Kiev and I started to learn tailoring.  During that time I learned somewhat Russian.  I never had teachers because in our town there was no schools.  The only schools we had was Talmud Torahs for boys.  We didn’t have no schools for girls.  They didn’t find it a necessity or whatever it was.  It was a time that girls were not as important to educate as boys.

cue point
[4:03]

MF: Things have changed since then, I guess.

FW:    Yeah.  And then the pogroms broke out in Kiev, pogroms on Jews.  That was in 1905 after the government gave sort of a duma, it was called, sort of a parliament.  And the government organized those pogroms.  So I was in pogroms for three, four days and it was a scary thing.

MF:    I’m sure.

FW:    I’d be hiding out in different places just for being scared but they didn’t come.  And one time they came on different days.  They were hollering, “Beat the Jews!  Beat the Jews!”  And some of them they would beat and some of them came out.  It was a pretty scary thing.  So after that, my mother came and she took me away from Kiev.  She didn’t want me to be in a big town anymore.  So I came back and I followed my apprenticeship with the tailor and the tailoring.  But the circumstances were not appropriate to me anymore because I was already used to the big town.  So I went back to the big town and started again the tailoring.  There was a lot of exploitation which was all over, of course.  In the year of 1911, my neighbor and friend that went already to America kept on corresponding with me, and he made me a proposition to come to America.  He was going to buy me a ticket to visit to come to America.

MF:    Wonderful.  Did you know him from before?

FW:    We were neighbors, yeah, and it was common.  People wanted to go to America.

MF:    Sure, to get out.

FW:    It was pretty common.  So I came to America to Detroit, Michigan, in the end of 1911.  It was different between the Russian calendar and the English, so it was already in America the first days in January.  In Russia it was the end of 1911, and in America it was 1912.

MF:    Did any of your other family come with you?

FW:    There was many families.  There was always a lot of people coming from each town.

MF:    Did any of your family come at the time that you came?

FW:    06:50  No.  I didn’t even have no family in Detroit, but they knew that I’m going to a boy.  It was difficult to tell all this.  It’s a little too much to tell.  But in order that I’m not coming a stranger in a town to a boy, then my uncle had a sister-in-law.  He wrote the sister-in-law that she should take care of me.  She figured as my aunt and she came.  And also, my boyfriend came to pick me up on the train that I came on from Philadelphia.  I landed in Philadelphia.  And then later on we got married and had two children who were born in Detroit.  My husband was a tinner and was working in different automobile places for a couple times until he came out sick.  So my aunt that was in Galveston wrote to me and said my brother was already with her.  He came afterwards.  She wrote to me and she sent me a ticket that I should come to Galveston.  And by the way, the Council of Jewish Women had some people that were taking care of those people that came to immigration, and they are the ones that guided me and led me when I came to Chicago with two children and from Chicago to New Orleans and New Orleans over to wherever I was.  Then I came to my aunt in Galveston, Texas, but my husband got a job in Houston so I didn’t stay there.  I stayed just a week or so.

MF:    So what year was that that you came to Galveston and to Houston?

FW:    I came in the year 1915, right after the big 1915 storm.  My husband came about—it was just one month before.  My cousin Max was friends with one of the superintendents of the Ford model plant here in Houston, so he saw that my husband gets a job and he got into that plant.

MF:    Very good.

FW:    Later on he took sick.  There were all kinds of stories.  We decided we’d open some kind of a little plant in Galveston, so some of our friends helped us in that, and we moved to Galveston and opened up a little bit of a tin shop.  We started out in Galveston.

MF:    What year did you move to Galveston?

FW:    1921.

MF:    Okay.

FW:    Two of my children were born in Galveston.  My daughter Trudy and my son Abram both were born in Galveston.  So I had two boys in Detroit, one girl.  My oldest daughter Sadie was born in Detroit.  My son Sam Weiner was born in Detroit.  My daughter Trudy was born in Houston, and my—

cue point
[10:12]

MF:  That’s all right.  So they were born all over.  Did you mainly go to Galveston for business opportunities?  Was that mainly the reason to open a business?

FW:    We opened a little shop so that he could get a job—he was without a job—for the purpose of making a living.

MF:    I see, I see.  

FW:    And he kept on his business for a long time in Galveston.  It turned out that it turned into the roofing business later on.  We lived in Galveston.  We had three boys in the Armed Forces.  My oldest son Sam was in Panama, and he is a journalist.  He was editing the Army magazine, and he was stationed in Panama.  My second son William was in the infantry, and he was on the Bulge in Germany.  And my third son Abie came in after the end of the war, a year or so, and he was on the ships in Japan.  He was in the medics.  My daughter Trudy was working in Galveston.

MF:    What was the Jewish community like in Galveston when you moved there?  Was there much of a Jewish community at that time?

FW:    It was a very small community, but the immigration was also going to Galveston at that time.  Between the times of ’08 and ’15, it was Jewish immigration to Galveston which was sponsored by Dr. Cohen.  It was the contribution of Jacob Schiff that gave $50,000 to the immigration.  There was all kind of illusions about the community in Galveston, Texas, but those illusions faded out.  But the immigration was there, and the people in Galveston were from Eastern Europe, from Galicia, from Poland, from Russia and so on, and they led a very religious, old style life.  The people were very poor.  In order to settle themselves here, it was a problem because they were not in the labor movement.  They were little businesspeople, mostly little businesspeople, and some of them didn’t have no industry.  My uncle Nathan was a letterer.  He didn’t find anything like that, so he had to become a peddler of food.  He couldn’t work on Saturdays, and Saturday was the best business.  He couldn’t do that because he was too religious.

MF:    So it was very hard.

FW:    13:52  It wasn’t enough to make a living for themselves and their six children, so my aunt had to help out.  There were immigrants that wouldn’t eat kosher and they were not used to the restaurant food, so my aunt would cook for them dinners.  When I came in, there were long tables at exactly 12:00.  At that time they had lunchtime between 12:00 and 1:00, so at 12:00 the tables had to be fed and the food had to be on the table.  And that’s the way she helped out my uncle and the family to make a living.  Other people in the same case, some of them washed clothes, some of them took in in their skimpy apartments boarders, washed clothes and patched clothes, all kinds of things like that.  Some of them that wanted to work and had to work and had to make a living, some of them worked on the wharf unloading bananas and other things and made a living that way.  That was the situation in Galveston.  They had two synagogues.  The first one was the Temple Beth Israel that Rabbi Cohen was leader and the leader of it.  The second one I think was the Galician.  Why they had two was because when there are three Jews—

cue point
[15:23]

MF:    That’s right.  The leagues were different, and they probably couldn’t get together.

FW:    Yeah.  So it was two synagogues, those orthodox.  One was called the Galician and one was the Russian.  When Rabbi Louis Feigon came to Galveston, a rivalry was going on between those two organizations.  So when Rabbi Feigon came in, he decided they needed to work and get united.  They united the two synagogues into one which is called Beth Jacob, and it’s still out there on 24th and K.  It’s still in existence there.  They united in the summer and came into a peace between the two groups of Jews.

MF:    Very good.  That’s a hard thing to do.

FW:    I think I went through 40 years.

MF:    It’s all right.  There’s no order in this.  It’s just your ideas about things.  That’s fine.

FW:    Yeah.  What else can I tell you about Galveston?  At that time the Workmen’s Circle organized in New York in 1908, I think, and the branches were swelling in each town because the more radical people—  There was going on a radical life in Russia on account of the atrocities that the government had on the Jewish people, and there was going on revolutionary groups that organized.  Some of those organizations, some of those people objected to religion altogether.  They said the religion gets you off of your ways to get freedom and into the public.  So these people didn’t—there was no connection with these groups of people.  They wanted to have more freedom of speech and more freedom of understanding and more education because the people in Russia were not educated much for civil and for political reasons too.  There was only three percent Jews could go in the universities.  And the only education Jewish people had was in their Talmud Torahs.  So they were longing for education.  That was the wants of the Jewish for wherever it was, New York, Chicago, or wherever they came to.   That was the first thing, and that’s why many people started giving away just everything of themselves, as long as their children were educated.  Later on it worked out that those educated children thought that their parents are ignoramuses.

MF:    18:20  I know.

FW:    Yeah.  That was one of the problems.  In Galveston those people organized a branch of Workmen’s Circle in 1912.  So we became members.  I became a member of that.  And of this organization I’ve gotten into all my life, I worked for this organization until I became district executor.  We didn’t name a president.  The title of executor was like a president.

MF:    In charge of everything.

FW:    And I became the executor of the whole district, of seven branches around our circle.  Of course, there were conflicts between our religions, but we had culture.  We had lectures, we had concerts.  That was the first of our (indistinct)  19:27 Yiddish.  We are not as much Hebrew as we are Yiddish.  The people that were raised in the Yiddish atmosphere would come to our affairs.  They didn’t have nowhere else, so they came to our affairs.  There was lectures.  As I was executor, then if there was anything at all that had to do with Yiddish culture, it came to us.  When ORT was organized, the ORT representative came to us.  There was a representative of YIVO and he was happy at that time if I would give him permission to come to a convention that we had because we were working for them.  It was the same thing with other organizations.  Also the revolutionary group, the Bund, were very nationalistic.  They were socialistic, but they were very nationalistic.  They wanted everything in Yiddish, and we were the one that had this.  So all this was going on in our little town, and as much as I could in my district, which was we had branches in Galveston, Houston, Waco, Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and later on my husband organized a branch in New Orleans and Shreveport—those were the ones—

MF:    So it covered a large area then.

cue point
[21:11]

FW:   Yeah.  In New Orleans, that was the last one.  They faded out later on.  Some of them faded out and some are still here.  The only one that is still here is in Houston but very weak and very small.  But we are still keeping up with radical liberal affairs and organizations.  The ORT that go out, they came the first thing to our branches in San Antonio and became big in Dallas and Houston.  They’ve got now 15 chapters, as far as I know.  That was going out from our people, and (indistinct) 21:51.  Lena Bell(??) was one.  Lena Bell didn’t get into it at that time because Workmen’s Circle was so strong, and she was afraid that they would flow over the Workmen’s Circle.

MF:    So Workmen’s Circle really was the beginning of many of the organizations that we have today then.

FW:    Yeah.  It came over so that we made—and Jewish Labor Committee—we made them a big part of the situation because Jewish Labor Committee was originally planning a breakout against Germany.  That was the first part.  It was organized by the name of B. Vladeck all over America, in New York.  Vladeck was not his name.  There were three or four brothers that became very big..  Everything took from the name of Schwartz.  Schwartz was his name, and he was a big critic in the Yiddish literature.  Vladeck was the youngest one, and there was one more—I can’t remember it.  There was three brothers and one sister.  So that came out from then.  Vladeck organized the Jewish Labor Committee.  He died at a very young age, but the Jewish Labor Committee that he organized was a tremendous organization under the help of the Workmen’s Circle but later on they amalgamated, and all the other Jewish organizations helped with it.  What the Jewish Labor Committee done is one of the greatest things that you can think of.  First of all, the Jewish Labor Committee consisted mostly of Bundists, and they know the situation in Poland.  They send out a man connected with the Polish temple and government, and they send around—some people came from London to work together with the Jewish Labor Committee when that ship was on the borders of America to work for the government to see that they release those people.  You probably heard about it.

MF:    Sure, yes.

FW:    They made that mistake not to (inaudible).  That was one of the things.  There was another thing where one of the leaders committed suicide in London, Artur Zygielbaum.  They came to the English government.  We came out in our little town of Galveston and organized.  It was about not only Jewish Polish people because they went to the shul.  And that all was overflow and Jewish people and Polish people that came to hear something.  Although they didn’t understand, we had a translator who could translate.  And it was in other towns like that.  He was an especially sent representative from the underground in the Holocaust.  He didn’t get the result he expected.  I’ve got his pictures, I’ve got his letters.  I myself think that he got very nervous and he committed suicide.  Then the Jewish Labor Committee got from President Roosevelt 500 visas for Canada for workers.  Canada needed workers at that time.  This way they could get up to 500 people to Canada.

cue point
[26:26]

MF:  Right.  Get the people out.

FW:    Get up to 500 people.  And then what else did they do?  They’ve done some other things.  After the Holocaust they organized a children’s home on the outskirts of France.  They had a representative from France, one that is still there.  She was the representative.  She’s still living.  She was the representative that got the children that she knew of France and then they traveled and got them in the Underground to Christian homes around France and the countries around France.  They were the ones to help out later on and get them out of the churches.  They were not the only organization, but they had done that too.  We of our district gave $50,000 for a place for those children that already came to Israel, so it gave them a little summer place for them to rehabilitate.  The Jewish Labor Committee in communication with the American Federation of Labor worked on labor laws in America, which was very important.

MF:    Yes.

FW:    And they are still doing it.  They have their office in New York.  They are still doing it.  We also at that time, the Workmen’s Circle had a sanitarium in Liberty, New York.  We sold it later.  We also—I told you I’ll give you all about Workmen’s Circle mostly.  You can probably get from somebody—

MF:    That’s fine.  The history is wonderful.  That’s fine.

FW:    The Workmen’s Circle was kind of instigating the work of the Los Angeles sanitarium because in Liberty TB was very, very spread out in those days.  And the Liberty sanitarium was crowded, and when our people needed rehabilitation after their sickness, they cleared out places in the sanitarium and gave them rehabilitation.  They were sending them to Los Angeles and to Denver.  In Denver it was organized the Denver sanitarium, and some of our people were there.  I couldn’t say that they organized it, but they helped them.  But in Los Angeles there were a couple of members that thought it was a very good thing to organize a rehabilitation center, and they were the ones that started the Los Angeles sanitarium.  There was a little house there—I was visiting there.  It was the first little house with a big sign, Workmen’s Circle.  But it grew up and spread out, but a few members in Los Angeles were the ones that organized the Los Angeles sanitarium.

MF:    That’s really something.

cue point
[30:05]

FW:  So the Workmen’s Circle has done wonderful things.  Later on the organization started to fade out little by little, and we felt that if we get together with more branches, with more of us, it will do as good.  So we reorganized with the whole district of Florida, Memphis, Tennessee—there were seven states, let me see—Savannah, Georgia, there were several branches in Florida but mainly in Miami.  There were a few more states when we reorganized, before they called it the Southern District of the Workmen’s Circle.  We elected our executors for the district, and they elected me as assistant executor.  There is the executor there.  Here are the three of them.  This is myself, and this is (recorder malfunction – no audio)  31:40 to 31:52

MF:    In the Galveston community, what was the relationship between Jews and Gentiles?

FW:    It was a fairly good relationship on account of Dr. Cohen.  It was a fairly good relationship.  Of course, the Jewish people had so much trouble in their life from Christians that no matter (indistinct) 32:21 in those years, not Christian.  But it started out with neighbors that lived more in the Christian atmosphere, and they found out that people are normal, so it straightened out.  There were cases of anti-Semitism but not in Galveston.  Galveston wasn’t at that time.  Right now I’m sure they’ve got the KKK there.  They didn’t have it in my time.

MF:    That’s good.  Your children went to school in Galveston and grew up in Galveston?

FW:    Which school?

MF:    Your children?

FW:    My children went to school in Galveston.  They all graduated public school.  Some of them graduated high school.  All of my boys graduated to Texas.  My middle boy William went to Texas, and after, he was teaching in the school a short while before they took him in the Army.  So they gave him an extension in the Army, but he was teaching school and then he went into the service.  And after he came from the service he went to a military school—I don’t know where—and when he came from the Army he was wounded in the leg.  After, he worked on government grants and he went to Columbia and he graduated Columbia University.  And several years later he and his wife picked up—they were managing a house for foster children for a good while.  That was something they decided together. She graduated from Hartford, Connecticut, so they went in both to study, and they graduated here to get into teaching, to get two more years to get a license.  So he went to school and she went to school.  She became a social worker, and he became a teacher in one of the universities in economics.

cue point
[34:57]

MF:  Was there much interaction between the Jews of Houston and Galveston back then?

FW:    Yeah.  It was quite good, but it wasn’t as much as it is now because we had to go by trains and everything.  We didn’t have no cars.

MF:    It wasn’t as easy to get places.

FW:    Yeah.  But they had a train that charged a dollar on Sundays and they would come to the beach, a bunch of Jewish people.  There was not enough hotels, so they stayed in private houses.  Some of them got married to one another, so it was really a good relationship then.  

MF:    What brought you back to Houston from Galveston?

FW:    The children settled in different towns.  They didn’t want to stay in the little town.  My son Sam was working in Galveston first, and he worked for the Jewish—for the Galveston News.  And then after the Army he came in and he got into the Post.  He got married.  His wife graduated as a nurse.  She comes from West Texas—his first wife.  He divorced her.  So they came in to live in Houston because he worked for the Post.  My daughter Sadie married a Houston boy.  He was an engineer at the Houston Gas Company for about 40 years.  He comes originally from New Jersey.  So she was living here and had children already.  I already had one or two grandchildren.  My daughter Trudy came in later years.  Anyhow, she was here in Houston.  She lived in Israel.  They lost their job at Westinghouse on account of a depression, and they went to Israel and they stayed in Israel three, four years.  The children didn’t adjust, so they had to come back to America, and my daughter settled in Houston, my youngest daughter.  My children and their families were in Houston, and I wanted to come to Houston too, but my husband didn’t want to go, so as long as he was alive, I couldn’t leave him.

MF:    You stayed in Galveston then.

FW:    37:47  But he died five years ago, and after he died I stayed about a year in Galveston, then I moved to Houston.  That was the reason I moved to Houston, but there was another reason.  Galveston still remained a little town with a little bay.  I wanted a more cultured life, mostly my Jewish atmosphere, and I thought I would find it at the Jewish Community Center, which I did.  I thought the Jewish Community Center was very appropriate for me.  First of all, I see all different people from different nations, of different lands, and the second, I organized a Jewish group that I’m conducting.  It’s already four years.  I’m conducting a Jewish group every Monday.

MF:    Very good.  What is the group?

FW:    The group is called the Yiddish Culture Group, and it is meeting every Monday from 1:00 to 2:00.

MF:    Wonderful.

FW:    It is people that still want to remain or still want to remember their Yiddish heritage that come to my group, and we talk, and we have some people that perform, sometimes musically and sometimes in Yiddish and sometimes in English with translations.  But I had to get some singing groups and all that.  After that, I got ambitious and I wanted—it was through an incident that I got the ambition to organize a little group of dramatic work, a Yiddish little drama group.  I got together with a few young people, and I tried to encourage them to have a meeting and it didn’t work out, so I called a meeting at my apartment.  I had 12 people that came to that meeting and we organized it and it’s still in existence.  We are meeting once a month.  But it didn’t work out our way.  I had some in from Russia, very famous, very nice actors.  We had another actress and she is more of a vaudeville actress.  She is still with us.  She is the youngest.  I called Mr. [recorder malfunction – inaudible] 40:16 to present.  He backed out later.  He was at the initial meeting, and he helped us to send out invitations to the meetings and all that.  We have Dr. Yehuda Patt.  He is still with us.  He is a doctor at the hospital here—what do you call it?—the cancer hospital.  What do you call it?

MF:    MD Anderson?

FW:    MD Anderson.  He’s a doctor.  He is with us.  He is a very busy fellow, but he loves singing, so he comes to our meetings still.

MF:    That’s wonderful.

cue point
[41:00]

FW:   And my main help in that is one girl by the name of Susan Ganz.  Susan Ganz is very much for Yiddish.  She married a Mexican husband.  She’s originally from New York.  She went to a Seder and she learned a little Yiddish, but her husband was talking Yiddish and his family was talking Yiddish, and she was for Yiddish.  She asked me would I teach her Yiddish.  I was never a teacher.  I never learned myself; I had never been to a school myself, so how would I teach her?  I said, “Whatever I can, I’ll let you learn.”  She’s very capable.  She’s a very capable girl, and she sings and plays the guitar.  She’s not a high singer but she sings and plays guitar.  I put up a few little plays for them, one-act plays for one of the Russians.  By the time I find out that they are capable, I got them into the group and I put up a few acts for them.  

MF:    That’s great.

FW:    They’ve done that.  I’m still trying.  The last meeting was last Wednesday.  We had about 20 people.  More younger people are coming in that want to learn Yiddish.  And they talk Yiddish but they can’t write it.  They learn Yiddish at their homes, but they cannot write Yiddish.  If they could write Yiddish, I could work it up for them to read the scripts.  But since they can’t write it, then we’d have to have the translations.  There are people that could help, and it could be Saul Bronstein because he has the facilities here.  But he’s a busy man, and he just—

MF:    Sure.

FW:    Dr. Patt is the same.  Dr. Patt could not help out because he’s not capable of so much.  Once he went to a Yiddish shul.  It was a Communist shul because at that time they had shuls.  So I’m working with them still now.  When I came to this house I kind of was thinking, “What will I do there?”  And I figured out that there were so many Yiddish people I could do something here.  So I organized it and the second week I organized the group here, and we call it the Shabbat Group, and we are coming every Saturday from 3:00 to 4:00 into the library, and we read and we sing.  This is a little more complicated for me because we are all elderly, older than I’ve got at the center.  They are elderly, so they don’t—what do I say?

MF:    Comprehend?  Is that what you were—?

FW:    44:03  They can’t digest so much, so I have to give them more songs.  Between the Russians we don’t have a pianist so we sing it with other pianists, so it hasn’t got that same taste.  But as long as people are singing—

MF:    That’s the important thing.  When they’re singing, you know that everybody is happy.

FW:    But we are doing the best we can.

MF:    Is there anything you’d like to say as far as your feelings about Israel today or Israel in the past?

FW:    At the time when Israel organized, the group where I belonged was against Israel.  Why were they against it?  They said that the nationalistic ideas will draw out the people of internationalism.  Internationalism—they figured that was the idea.  As long as there was no freedom, wherever there was no freedom, Jews wouldn’t be free and Jews wouldn’t be at peace.  And they fought it for the reason that they said they were surrounded with so many Arabians and they will get drowned out and they wouldn’t do anything.  It wouldn’t do anything.  It would just be the fight for freedom.  So at that time they were against it.  In the later years I became a representative and I became a Zionist.  I am helping to organize this year the Pioneer Women, Pioneer Women of the Workers of Zion.  

cue point
[45:50]

MF:    When was this organized, the Pioneer Women?

FW:    We lost our records, but it was around the year of 1942 or something like that when they came to me.  We also had a reading circle on Friday nights and from our reading circle and the Workmen’s Circle a representative came to me and told me, “The Jews cannot come to America.  The Jews cannot come to Israel.  They cannot come there.  They are persecuted in Poland.  They are persecuted all over.  There must be some way that we should see that our Jews organize for their own.”  At that time I organized this, and I didn’t get any Workmen’s Circle members in it for the reason that—I did get Workmen’s Circle, but I didn’t get them in the front lines for the reason that it would draw away from the Workmen’s Circle.  If these organizations connected together, they are both socialist organizations—

MF:    Yes, yes.

FW:    But if it will draw away that group in a small town, then our branch will go under.  As it turned out, our branch did get stronger.  But at that time I didn’t think of it and we organized.  And by the time we organized, for a long time I didn’t want to become president.  I didn’t want anybody to do anything.  But in the later years it was already quiet and in the Workman’s I couldn’t do much, and I became president.

MF:    47:14  Yes.

FW:    So I became president and it was a lot of years because we couldn’t get another one.  The main worker on it, the main pusher on it was not me.  Her name is Sarah Gelman.  Read this.

MF:    Okay.  I’ll read this in a few minutes when we finish this.  So that was very pro Israel, the Pioneer Women was.

FW:    Oh, yeah.  I’m still working.  I dropped out of Hadassah because Hadassah is also a good organization; I just couldn’t afford the two.  But I dropped out of the Hadassah and I still remain in the group of Pioneer.  I attend every meeting of Pioneers.  And all this here has to do with the visitors.  This is Mrs. Gelman.  This is her brother-in-law.

MF:    Very nice.  Okay.

FW:    This is old.  That’s me.  

MF:    Times do change everything.  Would you say you belong to any branch of Judaism these days as far as reform, conservative, or orthodox?  Where do your beliefs—

FW:    I belong to Judaism because I wasn’t too religious when there wasn’t Temple Emanu El.  At other times I was not too religious, so a little religion you have to have—not because I’m such a big believer—I’ll be honest with you—but because you have to belong.  I think about 75 percent—maybe I’m wrong—of the people are not religious.  You have to belong where the group is, so I joined in Galveston, the B’nai Israel.  And when I came here, my daughter Sadie is a librarian at Emanu El, and all my nieces all belong to Emanu El—

MF:    So that’s where your family is.

cue point
[49:43]

FW:   I feel that this is my place because where I lived before it was right close to Beth Israel.

MF:    Yes.

FW:    It was five blocks.  But there was my family, so I joined there.  I don’t go to the facilities.  I don’t have my ways.  But while I could I went to their meeting.  I had a way to go.  I had a ride, but here I don’t have no rides.

MF:    That makes a difference.  Are there any comments that you would like to add that we haven’t covered or anything that you’d like to say about—

FW:    If I say about Houston, if you want to know about history in Houston, when I lived in Houston they still were riding with little wagons.  If you are aware of the Ketchmans, he was a metals maker.  So the Ketchman, his father was going on a little wagon and he was delivering cream and things like that.  There were people who delivered meat to you because we didn’t have any cows.  There was a Kaplan, and he had a butcher shop later on, and there was old man Horowitz.  He was right on the corner in the Third Ward.  Around my corner was Mr. Horowitz.  He had a chicken business, so they killed chickens and sold chickens.  My brother was living with me and he was kosher and we had kosher meals.  So that was the life.  We belonged to the Workmen’s Circle.  At first when we came to Houston there was no Workmen’s Circle yet.  That must have been—

MF:    A little later.

FW:    Right.  Houston branch organized in 1915, the Workmen’s Circle.  We had a big Yiddish school, about 20 children, a lot of children that go there still and learn Yiddish.  And those children know Yiddish, but they have gotten away from it.  Just about a couple weeks ago the Jewish Daily Forward is in bad shape because the papers are going under, Yiddish, we assimilated, Yiddish is not growing as much.  They still have 50,000 population, but they couldn’t keep themselves up anymore.  They have campaigns every couple of years.  This time they had a campaign for money of $600,000, and I feel that I have to help, so I call some of the children of the Workmen’s Circle.  I didn’t get much.  I got just donations.  One gave $50, some of them I called didn’t call back.  So I got a small amount.  But they are still here and they are still a citizens party with liberal ideas, but they have gotten away—   They have gotten into big business so they have gotten away from it.  But they have liberal ideas (indistinct) 53:16 and I am part of it.  They still have liberal ideas.

MF:    Right.  That’s right.  That’s still the same ideas.  Are there any messages you’d like to leave to the Jewish community of Houston or Galveston?

FW:    The main thing I would like to do is to get publicity for my three clubs that I have now.  This is my main program now.  If I could get that publicity, I would be happy.  If this organization would help me, I’d be in seventh heaven.

MF:    Every little bit helps.  Well, thank you very much.

FW:    I would try to get some more of the younger people, and they could work better if I could get the help of the Humanities for our Jewish language.  I would love to.  Is that a message?  (chuckles)

MF:    That’s wonderful.

FW:    That’s a too big message?

MF:    No.  That’s fine.  We will see what we can do.  Thank you very much.

FW:    Maybe you can work on it.

MF:    Thank you very much.  

[tape ends]  54:46