Today is Wednesday December 13, 1972, my name is Philip Finklestein and I am about to introduce and interview Mr.Samuel Hoffenberg who is really a true communal leader here in Hartford and has been for many years. Hes been active in every faze of Jewish community life and indeed it is a pleasure for us to have him with us this evening. Greetings Mr. 00:01:00Hoffenberg, nice to have you with us.
SH: Thank you.
PF: Now lets start at the very beginning so far as we people in Hartford areconcerned. You were not born in Hartford, were you?
SH: Came from Lithuania.
PF: And would you just tell us very briefly about when you came to Hartford, yourage, what your family consisted of, what brought you here and so forth? Just very briefly.
SH: We came to Hartford in the summer of 1900. My father was here in Hartford00:02:00already but the family came first to Ellis Island and from Ellis Island to New York and New York to Hartford. I really am at loss to understand exactly what you try to interview me. What you like to know from me what I know about the community. I would like to begin with the beginning and say that we came here to Hartford. The Jewish population was very small. The Jews lived, I would say from Governor Street up as far as Bloomfield Street or Bellevue Street. This was the extent of the Jews who have lived on those side streets, Temple Street, all the side streets. Very poor neighborhood.
PF: What period of time are you talking about?
SH: I am talking about 1900 when we came here. At that time we found in Hartfordthree synagogues. We found that the Adas Israel Synagogue had just been built 00:03:00two years before, 1898, I think. And there was Agudas Acham the Romanisha Shul, and there was the temple on Charter Oak Avenue. There was a small little shul on Front Street, I think it was called the Sharatere and then from there they moved up to Woodford Street Sharetere, and in the South End there a couple of years later they organized the South End Talmudtera. I think Joe Klaus family lived in that neighborhood and for a while it was a Talmudtera and a shul. Little by little the Jews began to spread out in Hartford, not too far though, as far as say Bellevue Street they opened up the Kaplan shul down there and then there was a little shul on Wooster Street. But the population was small, the Jews were poor but they were very friendly to each other. I mean it was a very nice 00:04:00feeling among the Jews and there was a division between the so called the Duchas Eden who were on Charter Oak Avenue and the Litvachas, the Polish the Achanu were on this side of the city. And at that time the city had three rabbis, Rabbi Elkin from the temple, Rabbi Herberts from Agudas Achim and the father from the Ados Israel. It was a very friendly relationship between the rabbis. They used to visit places together. And so the Jewish population began to grow, little by little.
PF: When you say Jewish population was small at that time --
SH: I would say a few thousand Jews, thats all there was.
PF: Few thousand, 1900.
SH: There was a few thousand Jews.
PF: What was your age at that time?
SH: When we came here I was 8 years old. I was started to go to the Brown School00:05:00which consisted mostly of Jewish boys and girls. Few Goyim...I think one schvatza was three at that time, it was a sample what going to be later and there were few Yankees that lived on Trumbull Street and the side street there. I can tell you that Mrs. -- Miss Clark, our teacher at that time, even years and years later, used to say give me my Jewish children. She was a pleasure to be with them. Now 1904, I like to move a little faster, in 1904 on a July Sunday we went to shul, we went to mincha in the afternoon, somebody said that they just heard that Dr. Hertzel had just died. Well we all of us who knew something about Dr. Hertzel, felt 00:06:00very bad. Some of us cried and afterwards the Jewish papers came out the next day talking about Dr. Hertzel, who he was, what he did for the Jews and a year later in 1905 there was a memorial meeting held in the Hartford Opera House, thats where Weiss-Smith used to be. It was amazing that people came from all around Hartford, all the towns. The place was filled, people were sitting on the stairs, standing up and Rabbi Moslowski, Reverend Moslowski, he was the greatest Jewish orator America had, he spoke and there was a big easel on the stage and he walked over to the easel, I will never forget it, and he started tear his hair and holler what did you do to us, what did you do to us? He start crying. Well he had the whole crowd crying. It was the greatest spectacle that Ive ever seen 00:07:00in my lifetime and the sadness of the people was great. From that time on I became involved in Zionism. As a result of that we were in the eighth grade at Brown School to organize the first Zionist Society of boys. And we met in David Traubs first name David. Mr. Traub was a teacher who had a Talmudtera across from the Agudas Achim and there we met. And after a while we went to high school, we organized the Maccabeens. I even had a picture of the Maccabeens. They consisted of the finest Jewish boys we had at one time in the community. The Maccabeens took upon themselves the responsibility of watching out for the Jewish problems. Now we have professionals do that. But at that time there werent any. One of the things, for instance, it was reported to us one day that the new Capital 00:08:00Theater had a Jewish comedian there. This Jewish comedian waved all kinds of flags and he pulled out a $5 bill from his pocket and he said this is the Jewish flag. Well any way, we fellas were high school boys, tough guys, we decided to appoint a committee to see Mr. Clancy. We went over to see Mr. Clancy, nice, beautiful Capital Theater and walked in there saw five, six fellows he says what I do for you, so we told him that it was reported to us there is a Jewish comedian here, who was insulting Jewish people. He said forget about it. So we said now wait Mr. Clancy just a minute. Would you like the Irish people to be maligned? Oh forget about it. So we said all right if thats the way you feel about it Mr. Clancy, we wont do anything. Tonight well be in the theater with rotten tomatoes and rotten apples and we will plaster them __________ 00:09:00
Well he looked at us and said I will have you arrested. We said to him in a veryfine way, go ahead. It will be the next day in the papers. Hartford Times cry Jewish boys arrested for defending their nationality. Would that be nice, Mr. Clancy? Goodbye. We walked out the door. He looked at us and looked at us he says I think you fellas are tough. I said we are not tough we are just loyal to our nationality. Well anyway, they took that Jewish comedian off. There was another time it was reported to us there was a missionary house on Villa Street and some of the old timers remember that. There was a big building. We were told a lot of Jewish boys and girls go there. So Mo Sloning, who is now in St. Louis, was a big lawyer and also a teacher in college, he was appointed and I was appointed to committee to go down and see what we can do. So Mr. Sloning walked in there and I asked him what do you want. So we all organized clubs, we would like to 00:10:00see how you have these clubs. Anyway he looks around and saw a lot of Jewish boys and girls in those days it was a warm place, and they gave refreshments. So we went down to Rosenbaums. Remember he was on Main Street, corner of he had a candy store. We bought a big pail of hard candy and Mo Sloning was about 6 feet 2, I guess he was, stood on this side of the door and I, 5 foot 2, on this side of the door, and we grabbed every boy and girl and filled up their pockets with candy and told them to go home. One Jewish girl got sassy and we said Mo lets go. Anyway, as a result of that we organized the Maccabeen bible classes. I brought you a book with names of children 6, 7, 8 and so forth. And for a long time we had a terrific bible class and I think Miss Jenny Silver, one of our teachers, and Mrs. Schatz was one of out teachers. We have quite a few teachers who came 2 or 3 times a week and for quite a whie we had a successful club. 00:11:00Then the girls got organized and they had the Roses of Sharon, the Buds of Sharon, all kinds of little clubs but this was an active organization. Zionism began to grow. And we had anti-Zionists to in those days. We shouldnt be ashamed of them. But they looked at us a bunch of fresh kids. We held meetings on Pleasant Street in the Zionist building. And Mrs. Gross, the _____ of Herman Gross lived across the street and every Thursday night shed call the policeman to tell us to go home because we make so much noise. There was a fellow by the name of Joe Friedman, son was the manager of Hartford, and Mo Sloning they always fought together. Point of order, point of order, point of order. And that went on every Thursday night until the policeman told us to go home. Anyway the Maccabeens used it for quite a while, 00:12:00little by little to boys went to college, graduated high school and sort of broke up. They I went to serve Uncle Sam and when they saw me they said better finish the war. So I was there, I dont know, about 6, 7 months I came home and we started talking about organizing a Zionist organized. And Abe Goldstein, that time, came to Hartford and he became the director and we have a powerful organization. I want to say that all the great Zionists that we had in this world came to Hartford. We had Weitzman, we had Bialik, we had Sokolov, we had everybody came to Hartford to speak and they liked Hartford very much. Because we were really a powerful community and Connecticut was the finest Zionist state in the Union. They had a lot of respect for us. Because we had a few _________ too 00:13:00they used to get up at meetings and holler. Remember Umansky from Meriden, Ed Rosen took his part and later years Joe Klau get up on the floor and said what he wanted. And so we really had a very powerful organization. This is the community grew little by little.
PF: When did the Zionist organization become sort of a formal organization?
SH: I would say 1919. We have the Zionist district. I brought the charter here.Because I had it all these years. And then there was the Bnai Zion and the Sons of Zion and there was a Hertzel Zion Club. A lot of small organizations. Dr. Kuhn was on the scene, he came to Hartford in 1945, became very active. And we had, we had a wonderful organization. Then began a problem with a time of terrorists. There was a time of terrorists out then. There was a time of terror on Barber Street. And they start talking about building the Pleasant Street 00:14:00Talmud Torah. Mr. Finklestein, your grandfather, Mr. ____ and a few others, they all began to, 1911, I think was that they began to collect money.
PF: Just to make one community Talmud Torah?
SH: A big Talmud Torah, yes it was a big Talmud Torah. They had I think 250, 300 children at one time. Mr.Luden was a teacher, was a principal, Dr. Simon was a principal, and it was a very active Talmud Torah.
PF: Why did they decide to change the _______? Werent they satisfied with theother --
SH: They were satisfied. People had to move on. They couldn't come down. In those days there werent taxicabs, there werent any cars on the part of many people. And so little by little it sort of broke up it was a small Talmud Torah. Then across the street was the Zionist Center which occupied a lot of the activities we had in Hartford. Then 00:15:00when I was talking about what the Maccabeens did I forgot one important thing, there used to missionaries coming here to Hartford every Sunday on the corner of Windsor Street and Pleasant Street theyd get a platform and get on the platform talk missionary work. Well the Maccabeens felt that like the old Maccabeens its our business. So we got together and we decided that we gonna divide our group in parts for instance if that missionary stands facing north the fellow in the back would throw the rotten tomatoes and if he turned around the fellow in back there. Well after a few weeks they decided that Hartford is no place for, so we got rid of them. Now these were activities that the Maccabeens did. Now at 00:16:00that time began the old ladies began to collect money for old people homes.
PF: When was this?
SH: This was, oh I would say 40 at least 40 years old, maybe 50 years ago. Therewas a group of ladies they went from house to house collecting, nickels, dimes, quarters, and a few professionals like Mrs. Katzman, Milt Richmans mother, there was Mrs. Lipman, there was about half a dozen of them that didnt care for the weather no weather it was raining, snowing they went out, collected. Little by little they collected. Not only did they collect money they also collected food and bring it down to the old people's home. Used to collect collect stockings, underwear, little by little they went to Washington Street and thats where it started the real old peoples home. Then the men began coming. And then at the same time I should say early 20s United Jewish Charities was organized on Pleasant Street. 00:17:00They were consisting of Silver, Haas, Hauptman these people who felt a responsibility to the community. They organized these nice Jewish charities to and they were there for quite a while. This the forerunner of the Jewish Family Circle. And little by little they had Mrs., I forget her name. She was the first director. _______ They did a lot of good work.
PF: What kind of work did they do?
SH: They went to see who are the poor people, the poor families. And theymanaged to leave, they used to leave stuff at the door say on Thursday night of early Friday morning they leave stuff for Shabbos. People didnt know who brought it but that went on for years until finally United Jewish Charities decided this 00:18:00was not a good way to do it. They got professional and they did a good job. Now during the war in 1918 and 17 they organized the Jewish Welfare Board in Hartford and met over the Strand Theater. My brother, Ed, may he rest in peace and Mo Silver, the only two non-Duchan were there at this meeting. They collected money, entertained the soldiers, for quite a while they did a good job and these began to make Hartford a lively city. Mrs. Title was one of the very first young members there at that meeting. There was the Hartmans, the Haases, Mrs. Oshefsky, that her sister, Weiss -- Anyway a very active organization, they took care of 00:19:00the soldiers, they did a lot of work for them. Little by little the organization began to do a job. In those days I want to point out the Jewish small merchants were on Front Street, State Street, part of Main Street, and Windsor Street. They had new stores and they did the business and to tell you how well off they were on Monday morning they would go front store to store change checks so they would have one fellow to deposit the next day and so forth.
PF: Would you say at that time the Jews were predominantly poor?
SH: Yes, the State Street merchants had larger stores but the Front Street andWindsor Street they were poor and they would always shut them up. They didnt do much business because they didnt have the proper stuff. But little by little 00:20:00these people and I want to point out now that while the merchants had in those days the big ones the only family that I know of what remains in business is the Suismans. The Wises are out, the Foxes are out, they had this big Jewish store the Bellastein all of these are out. All States are out. These is still one man on Main Street, the Zellingers. But all the stores in Hartford the Jews have lost they had the business in their hands small and big they are all out of business. And because the younger families, the younger children, the sons and daughters dont want to be any more storekeepers, they want to be professionals. And they got more doctors, more lawyers, more engineers, more Phds as they go 00:21:00along and their store had to close up because they had nobody to take it over. And its a whole change in the way of Jews life and Jewish people were merchants at one they are no more merchants. They are mostly professionals. And the point is that I dont blame the young people, why should they be tied up to 11 or 12 oclock at night. There was a tie when your grandfather in the old ____ used to sit outside in the summer, 12 oclock, 1 oclock til some fellow came by and needed some pair of socks or underwear and theyd make a sale while they were sitting out there. They had the day with the stores and it was very hot out there. And this is how the Jews lived at the time. Then they began to move out little by little, they moved away from there and things have changed a lot since then because they dont have these occupations that they had at that time. 00:22:00
PF: Was there anything Mr. Hoffenberg that was peculiar to Jews as such or wereall people ____ that way?
SH: No, no. The Jewish people as such were very charitable. No poor man everwalked into a shul or to a house who wasnt helped. They had administrative societies, the women conducted it, I think the last president died not long ago, but they had it on for years and anybody needed $100, $200 or $300 to do business with theyd always be able to do it. Meanwhile, I want to add on that on Wooster Street we had I think Mrs. Kellen told me, there was a time when there was no place to take care of dead people, dead Jews, so the women bought a building on Wooster Street called the Hebrew Sheltering Home. At that time made arrangements to keep people, poor people, where they could stay and also to take care of the dead. But Hartford was a very organized community. 00:23:00
PF: When you say it was a well organized community, now Federation began aboutwhen in Hartford?
SH: Federation began over 30 years ago. First it was a Community Council then itwas a Welfare organization and there was Federation.
PF: Before the Federation was Hartford an organist community.
SH: Yes, Hartford because it had everything that a community needed, it had aTalmud there, a sheltering home, they had the synagogue, they had the rabbis, they had the loan society. I mean there every Jew was taken care of. I want to remind you that your grandfather no matter how small his house was that the 1 or 2 Jews in the shul that nobody would take them home Friday night and Saturday he would take them. They Jews was never allowed, Jewish beggars, I dont think 00:24:00there was a Jewish beggar in all the time we were because Jews did take care of them.
PF: Were monies raised for out
SH: Yes, all the sholochoms. A lot of sholochoms would come every week and thenI think it was 20 years ago maybe. Thats one thing about it the years I dont remember. I think about 20 years ago the Federation started to give a little money to the Federated Council because the traditional collectors used to come to Hartford and the businessmen used to complain. Now for instance one furrier got very angry, he was trying out a fur coat on a very fine women and this and this mishulash and in those days they werent well dressed, some of them didnt have combs to comb their beards so he walked in and walked up to this man and 00:25:00said he hasnt got time, he got a receipt he want s a check/ Well this man got very angry and he reported it to the Federation and from then on we organized the traditional committee which is the only one in the United States I want you to know that takes care of so many organizations as we do in Hartford. And Joe was on a committee at a day when we gave another $500 they gave us extra.
PF: If Hartford was a well organized community before Federation why was there aneed for Federation?
SH: Because somebody had to raise the most money so that Hartford would berecognized. Now I was chairman of a campaign once we got $5 and $10, $100 was a lot of money. $12 was a great ____ money. They realized that they must put on a 00:26:00scientific basis and thats how they organized Federation. Federation has been organized in every community in the United States. Thats the only way to get the big money. The first time the fathers of the present workers were the workers in the Federation. Now we got the sons who are doing a much better job than their fathers did. Maybe there is more money around now than it used to be.
PF: Who are the organizers of the Federation?
SH: Well I had the good fortune of being one of the five incorporators of theFederation. First was the Council wasnt the Federation it was more of a community council where discussions were held about problems. The Federation was really a scientific organization to elect money and they do it in a different way. Altogether different. There was a time. I want to bring this out, I had 00:27:00this argument with many people, there was a time when the average man felt the urge of responsibility to the community and he used to go around trying to collect. After a while you couldnt get people to go out collecting. You had to do it in a scientific and organized way and this is how the Federation all over the country is organized.
PF: Mr. Hoffenberg, you were active not only in Jewish life but in politicallife as well. You were an alderman, I believe and you were of course, commander of the Jewish War Veterans which is Jewishly related
SH: My nephew to over my job he was commander.
PF: Were there many Jews in the 20s and prior to that that were active in politics?
SH: Yes, there were a lot of people in politics. You uncle Sam was very active.One of the big machas __________ __. He was a man who couldnt talk very good 00:28:00English but he was a buddy of the Goodwins and the Gilmans the Buckleys. Buckley once offered him all the money that he wants if he would vote for him in a political campaign. He said no. Yakov, say anything you want. He said no. You wouldnt vote. He was a hell of a man. At that time we had a Zion guards that were riding on horses. The campaigns they would ride around they were like a brigade of people. I remember there were quite a few. This town was well organized. The women especially. I want to say that the women in Hartford, there is a picture in the old peoples home in the office of Freeman, a picture of the old ladies who started the Old Talmud Torah and the old peoples home, and the 00:29:00sheltering home and the Unisesit. To watch these women sitting there with the long dresses and look old, its the greatest education anybody can have. It is the most remarkable bunch of women sitting there. They were really the workers. They all worked.
PF: What about the Mt. Sinai Hospital, were they in existence when you came?
SH: Well Mt. Sinai Hospital opened up on Capital Avenue. It was a very small hospital.
PF: When did that open, before you came to Hartford?
SH: No, much after. I think it was the 20s. When Silver was very active. Theyhad a small group. The rabbi wanted them to make a strictly kosher hospital and they did not. I remember my father telling Joseph Silver was the treasurer at 00:30:00the time, he said that if the people die it is not a question of eating kosher or not eating kosher. My father said so his Mr. Silver I know youre a good businessman I didnt know you were a doctor. How do you know when a man is dying, he is not dying? And the rabbi did not win out. For a while they tried it. But the rabbis, those old rabbis were very active in the community. They went out collecting for the Talmud Torah and o know that 1911 they start collecting for Talmud Torah and I was working for Mr. Nierenstein that time on Sheldon Street. They had a group of people, they never got much money. Small amount, but they collected money. And then they built the Talmud Torah which was a really beautiful building and a very active communal building in this town and the people were very proud of what was.
PF: Now this Pleasant Street Talmud Torah, about when was that built?00:31:00
SH: I would say they start about 1911-12.
PF: And after it was completed were all the Jewish children going there?
SH: No, they, I would say 250-300 children.
PF: And what about the other children?
SH: Well there was the Meltzer Tom___ afterwards. There was a private TalmudTorah. There was Sacher, he had children, Rabbi Cohen had his own children. There were teachers who went from house to house to teach the children.
PF: Did every child receive some sort of Jewish education?
SH: I would say that most of the children did go to Talmud Torh.
PF: So the individual synagogues did not have their own Talmud Torah.
SH: No afterwards when they moved to new places. They had a Talmud Torah. Butthe point is this as a city grew every synagogue had its own Talmud Torah. There 00:32:00are a few things that stand out in my life. I dont know Joe, were you in 1928? You werent in Pittsburgh. Youre too young. In Pittsburgh, 1921 Dr. Weitzman and Arnstein came to Hartford. It was a great, great event for the Jews of Hartford. At that time Mr. Rulnick had a Mcfarland. This was the highest class car any Jews had. Well Mr. Rulnick and a committee went over to Berlin and they stopped the train in Berlin and Dr. Weitzman and Bialek and Arnstein got off the 00:33:00train and we drove into Hartford. A lot of cars in back. That was a great day. That was 1921. And talking about 1921, meanwhile Abe Goldstein became the director of the Zionists. And he brought a lot of life into this town. He was a very aggressive hard working Zionist. When Weitzman came to America there rose a dispute between the Brandeis Weiss Group and Lipsky and Weitzman and a few of our people. And Hartford had the honor its in the records of the Zionist Organization of America that the fight began in Hartford and the vote wasnt made in Hartford. At that time across the street from the big clock on Main 00:34:00Street the Zionists had an office up stairs. It was such a wintry day the buses didnt run the trains got stuck. Trolley cars. They came from all over Connecticut for this meeting. I will never forget it. And my brother Joe went leaders of the opposition. We voted that time we just be with Weitzman against Brandier. And there was a terrible fight. 1921 convention was a terrible fight. But we stuck with Weitzman. The Brandeis group wanted to make
PF: What was the fight about?
SH: The fight was Brandeis wanted to have more charity kinds of Zionism andWeitzman wanted to continue collecting the money, the interest of people to be 00:35:00more of a public, people Zionist movement instead of so-called higher-ups. For years and years it was a terrible fight and it was a lot of animosity. People stopped talking to each other. The leaders stopped talking to each other. It was very bad. But thank G-d like all fights it ended abruptly. But talk about Zionism Ill go to something else. In 1928 there was a convention held in Pittsburgh. It was Glassman, I remember Abe and I we went with Joe we went to Pittsburgh. At that time the anti-Litsky group tried to say that Lipsky took Zionist money and loaned it to a woman in Greenwich, I forgot her name. A very popular Jewish woman. And they wanted to kick him out of the Zionist movement. 00:36:00They came to Pittsburgh and was over 1m,000 delegates. I think it was a Mosque where they had the meeting. It was terrible. It was really back. Weitzman wasnt there. Mr. Weiss got up there and he was against Lipsky and his son was sitting in back of him, I forgot his name now. He I think was connect with radio or television. He grabbed his coat, he said dad sit down, sit down. No he wouldnt. Finally he pulled him down. But the old man Heller, a little short fellow with a little white beard, he got up and I will never forget it, he said you know, Steven, I always considered you as my Talmud, my pupil. I feel like taking you on my knee and spanking you. What are you doing, breaking up the Zionist Organization. Shame on you. Shame on you. Anyway, we had, the delegates broke 00:37:00up. Connecticut delegates broke up in one place. And there was no air conditioning in those days. They wanted the delegates to sweat it out. So we were in a room with Mo Slonin, big room and we all had towels. We took wet towels all the time and put them on our necks. At 2 oclock in the morning we understood that Silver had left the convention. He was told the next day there was going to be a big fight so he stood there. But these are things you never can forget. These are things that stand out because Jews were so excited about movements and about ideas and ideas can get mad and they can also get angry and they can get personal. And Joe Shubert, he died a couple of years ago, he jumped up because he didnt want to give the floor up. He didnt care whether they gave him the floor or not. He jumped on the floor there and he started to shout and they wanted to put him down and he didnt want to go. He was talking against 00:38:00Weiss and against Silver and everybody else and the hutzba they had to take a man like Lipsky it screws Fine. But anyway Lipsky won out. We won out. Those for Lipsky. Those were the days those great days, the Zionist movement, and the great days in the Jewish world we were very happy in Hartford. We were able to get all the big Zionist at the world. They came to America they came to Hartford to speak. Sokoloff spoke at the Emanuel Synagogue on Main Street. At that time they took a picture on the outside some of the men I see now are kids there standing there and we had whats her name, Bialik was in Hartford, Sokoloff was in Hartford all these men came to Hartford. We were very proud of them because 00:39:00they thought Hartford was one of the finest cities in the country, the best in the country.
PF: Mr. Hoffenberg, we have a Zionist Organization in Hartford today, how wouldyou compare it with the Zionist of the past?
SH: Well, no you couldnt compare them. Enthusiasm is not there. See we, whenIsrael was founded a lot of people thought that was the end of Zionism. There is no more need for Zionism. They dont realize the Zionists have worked every day. I remember Joe remembers, we had meetings and we have to send delegates to Washington to talk to the congressman, to talk to the senators. We had a lot of work to do, propaganda work. It was voted that I should go and see Governor Baldwin. That we should pass a resolution in the local legislature at that time. I mean Zionism is a lot of work. At the present time the Zionists, most of the 00:40:00old timers have died. There was the Ney Zion, there was the Tikvoh Zion, most of the members are gone. And these men were hard Zionists, a fellow named Gilman. The old man Gilman. I dont know how many of you remember him. He was the hardest man you ever saw. He could insult you right and left. He even punched. He talked about Israel, Palestine at that time, nothing could stop him. I say the attitude of Zionism was the same thing like shul people. There was a time when men went to shul he knew today a man paid his dues and he comes three times a year and he is a member of a shul. We have Zionists who send in their check for dues. We dont see them all year. They dont feel theres responsibility, yes. They go to Israel its true. We never raise as much money in America in the world as we do now because these people believe in the world that Israel is doing for the downtrodden Jews, the homeless Jews. The Jews need a home. And 00:41:00they go all out and they give money. But most of these boys if you stop and say give me $20 for Zionism. But that doesnt make them a Zionist.
PF: Mr. Hoffenberg, besides your Zionist activities and your politicalactivities and general communal activities, youre also quite active in the field of Jewish education, you mentioned Maccabeens, and Pleasant Street Talmud Torah, now you were also very active in the Yeshiva.
SH: Well the Yeshiva was organized by your uncle Eisenberg and a Mrs. Ronor,blessed memory.
PF: 1940? Was it before that?
SH: Sure. And then there was a Mr. Zellinger. They organized the -- they started talk about a day00:42:00school. and we had opposition to the day school. There were a lit of people who thought we were going to make rabbis out of all these boys, and rebbitzans out of all these girls. And they were very much, we had a tough time and we didnt get much money. And finally I think your father was in charge of the Talmud Torah on Pleasant Street at that time. Mr. Cohen, Morris Cohens father. So they opened up the little place on Vine Street, I think it was a precinct or something down there. A little tiny place with three rooms. And then Mr. Eisenberg asked me to talk to Mr. Cohen about moving into Pleasant Street. And we moved into leasant Street and they were very nice to us. And from then on we got more children and more children and then later at that time we were Barney 00:43:00Rappaport got involved and Kolodny got involved and a few other of these people and they started talk about building. They we went to Cornwall Street, you remember and we built a building on Cornwall Street and then ten years later we built the addition to that. Some of our boys, I want to say that those who are afraid that the school is going to make rabbis and rebbitzens out of the boys and girls have admitted afterwards that a lot of boys and girls who graduated our Yeshiva went to New York Yeshiva, the Baltimore Yeshiva, to Cleveland. Some of them became big lawyers, doctors, scientists, professionals. Now they are what they call this new business, computers. They are in the computer business. But in Washington there is a shul consisting of scientists, Jewish scientists, 00:44:00religious scientists, they have their own shul and there is the head of a scientific institution in New Jersey that the head man on a Friday afternoon, the head man, takes of his clothes from his office and puts on his streimal and a big kaftan and he goes to New York., he has a shul of his own. He is the rabbi of the shul. There had been 100s of these men who have graduated and become big lawyers and big doctors, so forth. So the point is that you can imagine how important education is that the Federated Council of America and the American Jewish Committee and all these organizations have come to the conclusion that well have no Jewish people in 15-20 or 25 years unless we have more education. 00:45:00
PF: How would you compare family life, Jewish family life in Hartford in the1910s, 1920s to Jewish family life today?
SH: There is no comparison with it. In the old days the father and the motherand children were all one group. The father I wont say is the boss, but he said something it was listened to, the mother said something it was listened to. Nowadays the father can holler his head of his son puts on his coat and hat and walks out just the same. And the mother tries to teach the daughter so she decides the house is too small for her so she goes out and gets an apartment. I 00:46:00mean it is a big change in the life, especially the Jewish life. As a matter of fact, I see the results of a census taken lately, between 17 and 20% of Jewish boys and girls intermarry.
PF: Was there any intermarriage?
SH: Yea, once in a while. But there werent many. The house was like a temple itcame Friday night the family was there. In the holiday even if the father is working he came home and there was the house. There was the sabbath. There was the holiday. Today its all gone. Most of the time the father and mother sit down together and they wait and wait and they see that __________ so that nobody is coming. The daughter isnt coming, the son isnt coming so they eat by themselves. There is no comparison between the influence of the home and in the home in those days and the influence in the home now. No comparison whatever.
PF: What about the, which brings us into another subject the level of religiousobservance as compared to --
SH: No, theres no use talking the religious observance today is very limited.There was a time in those days when you had, you took _______ that hall I remember. And other halls and you filled them up with Jews who didnt belong to synagogues. There was more spirit. Today there isnt much spirit. There are a lot of members. There are a lot of members who belong to synagogues, to temples but as far as religion is concerned it is not a strong thing. I hate to mention 00:47:00this remark, that the orthodox community, the orthodox Jews will be diminishing slowly. They will all be orthodox Jews because, G-d forbid, if the day comes there will be no more conservative and no more reform. Where are they going to get the rabbis. Where are they going to get their teachers? So the result is that the religion itself is not strong. We have trouble a synagogue has 300 odd members, they have to call up in the morning to get someone to come to doven. At mincha time they do the same thing. Now they didnt have to do that in the old days.
PF: You mentioned, Mr. Hoffenberg, Im sorry did I interrupt you?
SH: No go ahead.
PF: You mentioned a couple of highlights like the death of Herztel in 1094 andcoming to Hartford in 1921 of Einstein and Weitzman, could you think of any other highlights in Jewish life here in Hartford?
SH: Well the highlights used to be when these speakers came. I dont know how00:48:00many of you heard Smile Levine. Smile Levine was a man over 6 feet tall. How he could stand up an hour or so with one leg against the other and talk and talk and talk and when he talked he was perspiring but he could talk. And Sokolov was a quiter person. He was -- he knew maybe 12, 14 languages. A man who knew the Pope and he knew everybody but he was a different kind of talker. Bialek was a very quiet talker. But we had Abala Goldberg who liked like Charlie Chaplin, he was terrific. Of the old timers there are very few left of the speakers, very few left. Today Neil Cohen spoke the other night he is one of very few Jewish talkers who can stand up and speak Yiddish like he does. There arent any Yiddish speakers. One by one. There are conventions of Jewish groups they dont get a Jewish speaker. They get on the phone and speak. Because they havent got any good speakers. The 00:49:00thing is this, there is no comparison between the community today as far and charity goes, as far as consciousness goes, now you take all the women involve in old peoples homes, such enthusiasm or the hospital or the center or any of those places. They are wonderful. But it isnt the enthusiasm of the mothers was deep they remember the old days in Europe when they helped the poor people when they went out collecting for poor people. When they helped to marry off a daughter that was poor. It is a different attitude. But as far as we are concerned there is a lot of work being done by young people today. I think if you take the women away on vacation so for a year to Israel you would have to close up the communities. Because all the activities goes on by the women. The men have no time there are other things to be done. There are golf scores to be kept up. It is very important and weekends is important. But I say when I look back these 00:50:00years there are a lot of highlights among the Jews and a lot of sad things among the Jews too. There were a lot of people a lot of Jews who needed help, they got it. But a lot of them were bashful. You had to give to them so no one would see. The Zionist Organization in Hartford with all their groups left a big impression on the community. A lot of boys and girls today I mean middle-aged men at one time would say I used to love the Zionists remember I was. They always remember that because the Zionists did something for them. When we heard the Balfour Declaration for instance the average man, Balfour Declaration, I passed by the _______ that day, they had on the bulletin board, and I start crying, I start 00:51:00shaking, to think that they came and we lived to see the Balfour Declaration. Its something. But at night, Joe, you were chairman that night at the Bond Hotel I think it was. When it was announced that the United Nations has agreed to the separation of Israel. We were wild about those days. People danced, there was enthusiasm. As the time goes on things begin to be more quiet. This is very routine now. The 67 War yes, the 67 War brought out Agnes Rice I think most of you know her. She said to me, Sam she said I want to tell you something, when I sit here at my desk and I see people that names never appeared on the list, never affiliated with Jews are standing in line waiting to give me the money for 00:52:00the fund, she said, wonderful people Jews are. I changed my mind, I used to be mad at this man, that man, she was a very sincere woman and she says I was always mad but when I see whats doing now and there are people, woman in the community in the morning to start counting the money. Early in the morning the come in like the sabbath and other people they came in to do. But this created a terrific impact on the Jewish people. The Jews, since 1967, walk straighter, they talk straighter, they got more respect for themselves and they even mention Israel they mention it with a lot of love and respect because they saw what these little fellows can do. Well our work isnt finished. Now I meet Jews today who voted for Nixon. Well, ehhhh, Im afraid hes going to change. And I said how do you know hes going to change. Well he was. I says, wait a minute he was 00:53:00that way one time. Let me ask you a question, if you ask a fellow for a favor several times and one day he gives you the favor are you going to remind his all the time he didnt give it to you? Be thankful for the day he gave you. Now well maybe youre right. But I say there is no question about it, Jews today are more conscious of Israel than they ever were. A lot of them go, a lot of them are disappointed because the American Jew lives too good. And go down there and not get the pledges. And everybody Socket, I see a picture of Socket working in the field there. Now everybody Socket. A lot of them come back and they dont get the attention they would like. We are trying to help the Jews out from Russia so the Moroccans and the Algerians and the people there say why do they get all these favors? We came here, they forgot a few things, they came some had 15 children some at 12 children, 10 children you had to get the best homes you 00:54:00could get for the time being and we had children today are demanding like the schvatza in America. Theyre demanding, they threaten, they want to come to America and create a situation that they were finally kicked out. I say that we have problems in Israel, a lot of problems. We have problems all over, but theyll settle the problems, theyll settle. And when I saw today, was it 4 Jews were arrested, spies, its a terrible thing. It is such a sad thing to think that these guys, brought up in Israel under the benefits of Israel, with all the good things in Israel they are spies for Syria yet. The finest country. I want to say --
PF: Mr. Hoffenberg, I want to go back to your father. Your father was a rabbiand a scholar and would you tell us something about the life of a rabbi in those days?
SH: Oh, yes, very sad. Anyway my father came in 1899 and became a rabbi inSpringfield in 1899... And then he left Springfield and went to Europe and he came back to America and he took the job here in Hartford. The life of the Orthodox rabbi in those days was very tragic. Not one of them made a living. But they were proud people. Didnt complain and the old Jews who loved the rabbi for his knowledge and for being a nice man forgot that the rabbi has to live, the rabbi has to -- 00:55:00My mother, the picture you saw from the Hartford Debating Club you notice that suit was a long coat and long pants, my mother said _______ see this was the idea they bought that I should outgrow it. Because they didnt want to but, they could afford to buy every year clothes. In those days but in general the one thing about the rabbi any man that came to town he had a problem he knew where to go he came to the rabbi. And the first thing the rabbi, my mother right away said to the ________, the essen, sit down and eat. But if they needed a few dollars my father would go and collect it. When they built the Talmud Torah my father went out with the bella botton to raise money and when they built the mikvah and by the way a lot 00:56:00of Hartford people that dont realize that Hartford is one of the finest mikvahs perhaps in the country. People who visit Hartford and go into the mikvah are amazed how nice the mikvah is. People in New Haven come to Hartford special. But these are the things the rabbis went out collecting for. Would to stand up Freedman, please. Theres the man who built the Hartford mikvah.
PF: Did the rabbis have to supplement their income by doing other things.
SH: No, well in those days they didnt write books but they had not time. Therewas a lot of questions asked of rabbis. Its amazing how many chickens there used to be, I think on a Thursday there would be women sitting around the house waiting for the chicken when the needle went through or a needle went on top and it was poisoned this or that. But the saddest part of all when the rabbi had to 00:57:00tell a butcher that the cow is traif. Because the lungs had tuberculosis. So they used to get, it was the most amazing thing I saw they used to get hot water, warm water and sprinkle it on the sore of the lung. Now if it bubbled so forth and they saw the butcher said rabbi its shabbos rabbi please what would the rabbi do if they could make it kosher they would. But the work they had a lot. The women had trouble with husbands, oh boy. Now they dont come to rabbis any more.
PF: Outside of the financial reimbursement how would you compare the status of arabbi then as compared to now?
SH: Well the respect for rabbis as men was greater. You see today the averagerabbi is very chummy with the bella button. I remember a certain man who is dead, may he rest in peace, at a meeting stood up hollered at his rabbi, called 00:58:00him by his first name at a meeting, a very important meeting. Those things didnt happen in those days. They werent worried about the rabbis earnings but they had respect for the rabbi. If the rabbi said ____ they liked it, but they did.
PF: Mr. Hoffenberg, a question was raised about the education given at thePleasant Street Talmud Torah, how many days a week were the children
SH: I think they were practically every day except Shabbos.
PF: You mean five days a week?
SH: I think its either 5 or 6 days. They had good teachers there. They had verygood teachers in those days.
PF: And would you say for Talmud Torah you enjoyed a high standard?
SH: Well they had good teachers... A boy came back from school like they did andwent to Talmud Torah afterwards the mind was not, they did learn, they learn to read a little Hebrew. A little houmash. Not too much of nothing. They had a few good boys there. That 00:59:00Liv__ Menore bragged about I think he bragged about Oscar Levine he said he was a good student of his. Mitch Kanades was a good student of his.
PF: How many years would they go to Talmud Torah?
SH: Most of them, this I would say started when 8, 9 years old something like that.
PF: Through bar mitzvah?
SH: A few would stay for special lessons, they would stay and thats how it was.
PF: Was there a feeling when a graduate came out of Talmud Torah would he have afeeling about Jewish pride?
SH: Well at that time the house he did have. But you see the homes were moreJewish. Thats where the child got his background. The house was Jewish. He knew that ____ reserve Passach, he knew was going to be Chanukah, he knew this. Now we have more observance of Chanukah now by eating latkes than we had in those days. Today it is a big thing, latkes. I see people tell my they're going home for 01:00:00latkes. Im sure they not ______. But this is it. These things like Pasach knadelah, I mean there are certain things that we Jews have adopted and it is good it is tradition. It helps a little and for that reason I think we do have a lot of Jews who remember there is a holidays coming and what the holiday is about.
PF: Mr. Hoffenberg, a question was raised about the early years of the Yeshivaand the struggle involved, now our Yeshiva here was one of the first in the country, wasnt it not?
SH: Outside of New York.
PF: And it predated Torah Messorah?
SH: No, it didnt. Torah Messorah was in New York
PF: No, but there was no Torah Messorah when Yeshiva
SH: Well there was
PF: Tell us something about the early years, the struggle I mean?
SH: We started off with I think three boys, there was Charlie Gershmans twoboys were the first students and we picked up a few. We didnt have too many to 01:01:00begin with. Hard work.
PF: So the first class was how large?
SH: I dont think there were five students. The people wouldnt send theirchildren. The woman said you send your children to that parochial school. Oy gavalt, dont do that.
PF: Did they think it was because it was old fashioned.
SH: Even now we got some people who have to argue about parochial school. Oy Gevalt, even today we got some people arguing about parchochial school. Lookat the dictionary what it says about parochial. But they dont want to argue about this. It is still a parochial school. But we were really strong enough. We used to go to people. Theres one thing about us, our credit is good. We used to borrow from this man a $1,000 and tell him in two weeks time he would get it back. So we got another man to use $1,000. We are still doing it, I want you to know.
PF: When do you feel that the school attained community status or community acceptability.
SH: Well, when our boys after bar mitzvah and when they came to the differentsynagogues and they were asked to daven and they stood up there davening Micha 01:02:00Friday night and Saturday, people began to have respect. They realized that most of the Talmud Torahs didnt teach their children to be as efficient in their davening that these were. And especially if a boy spoke a few words of Hebrew then he was already a Talmud _______. And in general but we after a while we did get respect from the community and this is something today we dont have any opposition we have people tell me Sam, I ___ a man, a very nice man a week ago. In a big department store. He says you dont and see me at all. Did I ever turn you down? I said no. so I waited two weeks and I went up there. And we schmoozed and schmoozed I didnt get no money. This time he turned me down.
PF: The question was asked also about your being sort of a political renegade inthat years ago most all of the Jews were -- 01:03:00
SH: Well I hate to argue Joe was no friend of mine but a fellow named Smith ranfor office once a lot of democrats I voted for. But I can tell you, but dont tell anybody, I can tell you one thing though, when I was elected alderman that was 1919, and I was elected by a big vote of two votes. And Congello was the mayor. The old man Congello. So Jake Leipska took me over to see Balf. Balf was a man who weighed 400, 500 pounds. A big, big man he was. He introduced me I want you to meet my friend Saul Hoffenberg, hes normal. Walking out I said Jake he is the asphalt man isnt he? Anytime he is priced lower Ill go for it. Good boy, good boy. But the best of all was there were 11 republicans and 9 democrats and 01:04:00there was an argument that Congello was right I thought in was Cegello. And we split because it was 10 to 10. So Joe goes you accusation being a dyed-in-the-wool democrat, ah republican I resent that Joe. I want to say
PF: Mr. Hoffenberg, we are coming to an end --
SH: I want to say something. My wife happens to be here and shes a very bashfulgirl. I want to say that I never would have been able to do the things I did all my life. From 1904 until today I am very modest when I say this, I am very humble, there wasnt a Jewish activity or any kind no matter what it was big or small that I wasnt involved. I was involved, I did my best. And I want to remind you all, myself in memory of my brother Abe, who was with me in business 01:05:00since 1914, he never said a word when I left the office. There were days I went away a whole day and didnt come back. And I got a call from New York here, was a man by the name Ben Avi came here I took him to the seminary I would spend days in the seminary and he was a proud man. His father was the founder of the Hebrew language and Abe everything I have done to my brother Abe who is not here now to hear it, I was told _______ didnt want to hear it either and my Mrs. who stayed home nights, many nights and I used to be accused by Joe is this the second meeting that you are out here tonight or is it the fourth meeting. There were nights there would be three or four meetings. But thank G-d for that alavei vata I still think I am the oldest active, I dont do anything Joe, but I am still an active Zionist there is in Hartford or Connecticut. And little by little I still do a little 01:06:00work here. There are a lot of things were have done Joe, I want to say that Joe is here Joe Klau, Judge Klau did a lot of work in Hartford. He was a disciple of Abe Goldstein and when Abe Goldstein wanted to do anything he told Joe to do it. And between the two they did a lot of work. And we really did a big job in Hartford.
PF: Mr. Hoffenberg, as I figure it you were involved in Jewish communal lifehere for --
SH: I was insulted many times too, dont forget that.
PF: Would you say for over 60 years?
SH: From 1904
PF: So for practically 70 years? It seems from the way you speak that years agoJudaism was a way of life and it was accepted and so forth and now of course as you well know there are great problems in keeping our youth and instilling them pride in many ways and so forth. Do you have any advise to the future generation 01:07:00on the basis of your experience?
SH: No, I am not so smart and I am not a philosopher. But I do say one thing, ifwe Jews dont get busy and take a bigger interest in education I dont say they all have to go to the day school, but if we dont do something more about education the future is very dark. Because the average Jewish young man who is wonderful man, gives away a lot of money to tzadakah, he is involved in other things, he knows nothing about Jewishness and knows nothing about the history of Jews and thats how a generation is growing up and if we dont do something about educating them I dont care how the education is going to be naturally I like to see the Yeshiva burst at the doors but the fact of the matter is that Yeshiva is the only place thats a good education. There is a certain rabbi in this town I cant forget that. They asked his why is it that he continues to 01:08:00send these children to the Yeshiva. He is one of the workers for the Schechter. He says I want my boys to know more. And I thought that was a very honest statement. The Yeshiva does give more education. Not all graduate scholars but they know we got girls are members, we got girls who go out of Yeshiva and years later they have kosher homes. They send their kids in. Education is something I said before in the beginning, is something that the whole country is interested in. People that are never interested in education, never. To them Jewish education is nothing. Like I have the picture over there Pershing. They great man of charity. But now that many in the Jewish community the only one that gives us the business is the American Jewish Congress. They dont want parochial 01:09:00schools subsidized by the government. Im not going to argue with them tonight or any other night. But this do us a lot of harm and I was president of the American Jewish Congress in Hartford. I remember Mrs. Roosevelt was here I was chairman at the time. I didnt make the speech, Barney Rapp did that night and he got a big applause. The point is that we got to have more and more children go to school, learn more and we can look forward otherwise we have tzoras. You want to ask me one more question before I finish?
PF: You want to ask me a question?
SH: No you want to ask me a question?
PF: Oh, well I think we ran out of questions.
SH: I want to say this that there is a lot to be said about what went on inHartford. Now I can sit here and discuss with you things that we did in the Zionist movement in Jewish movement, but enough is enough. Sometimes when you run out of speakers and you feel as though you have a few more these tapes what is takes to fill up you call me. Maybe I can did up a few more things.