Tag Archives: Georgia Jewish History

Isaac Clarence Levy House, 1893, Augusta

This Queen Anne House was built for Isaac Clarence Levy (12 January 1850-23 September 1897), a prominent Jewish merchant in turn-of-the-century Augusta. Levy was also active in statewide military circles, reaching the rank of Colonel. It has been restored and is now an apartment house.

Greene Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Temple Beth El, 1947, Dalton

The Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities notes: Antebellum Dalton had few if any Jews to speak of. Though more commercially open and successful than towns like it, Dalton was still emblematic of what historian Douglas Flamming called “hilly upcountry,” marked by “its self-sufficient yeoman farmers and its economic isolation.”It was only with the advent of the industrial New South that a Jewish presence developed in Dalton.

By 1938, Dalton’s small Jewish community formed the “Friendly Alliance”, for the purpose of hosting minyans and coming together for High Holiday services in the Loveman Library. By 1941, plans to build a synagogue were made, but World War II delayed progress. The new temple was formally dedicated on 9 March 1947 and has served the community since then, albeit a smaller one today.

Rosenberg Brothers Department Store, 1924, Albany

This Second Renaissance Revival landmark was designed for Jacob Rosenberg by local architect J. T. Murphy. It was modeled after the Neel Reid-designed Michael Brothers Department Store in Athens. Rosenberg originally opened a store in Troy, Alabama, with his brother, and then expanded to Albany in 1896. He married a local girl, Annie Cohn, and was soon the busiest merchant in town. Rosenberg’s was Albany’s finest department store for much of the 20th century, closing the downtown location in 1978 and focusing their business on the local mall.

It is presently home to the Albany Herald and is alternately known as the Herald Building.

National Register of Historic Places

Dedication of Morris Abram Mural, Fitzgerald

I was honored to be at the ceremony dedicating a mural to one of Fitzgerald’s most accomplished native sons, Morris Berthold Abram (19 June 1918-16 March 2000). Mr. Abram was an attorney and tireless civil rights advocate who notably argued the case before the Supreme Court that ended the county unit system in Georgia that gave rural votes equal value with urban votes. The system was a juggernaut which allowed discrimination at the voting booth and gave undue power to local political bosses. The decision essentially ended voter segregation by upholding the principle of “one man, one vote”. I remember very well that many people in my hometown didn’t have a great opinion of Abram for his “meddling” in local affairs, but as a teenager I read his autobiography, The Day is Short, and developed a great respect for the man. Among Abram’s numerous accomplishments: He was appointed first general counsel to the Peace Corps by President Kennedy and served on various commissions under four more presidents; president of the American Jewish Committee; president of Brandeis University; chairman of the United Negro College Fund. My friend Richard Owens fondly recalled: Morris was George H. W. Bush’s ambassador in Geneva when I started my UN job there in 1991. It was phenomenal to have a Ben Hill-Irwin connection to a man of such stature and courage. His dinner table was famous for encouraging often-spirited debates among people from very different backgrounds and perspectives.

Penson Kaminsky, a lifelong friend of my family and scion of  one of Fitzgerald’s oldest Jewish family’s, gave the invocation.

The dedication was done in conjunction with Georgia Cities Week and I must say that I was very proud of my hometown for the great job they did honoring Mr. Abram.

Fitzgerald mayor Jim Puckett presented a proclamation to Ruth Abram, daughter of Morris Abram, who was in Fitzgerald with her son, Noah Abram Teitelbaum. Ruth has been an advocate for numerous good causes and is quite accomplished in her own right. She conceived and directed the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, one of New York City’s most visited museums, and has been a tireless advocate for women’s history and scholarship. She’s also the author of Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America 1835-1920. She recalled  her father’s time in Fitzgerald, and the challenges of a poor immigrant Jewish family in early-20th-century South Georgia. It was quite moving, with Noah giving voice to his grandfather’s words.

Noah Abram Teitelbaum and Ruth Abram unveiling the plaque detailing Morris Abram’s work and accomplishments.

I had a great time talking to mural artist Dylan Ross, whose work you may already know. Dylan has quickly become one of Georgia’s most sought after muralists.

Clark Stancil, of the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, designed the mural using archival images.


Bluestein House, Circa 1870, Darien

This landmark was the family home of the owners of Bluestein’s Department Store; it now houses the Burning of Darien Museum. According to the Breman Museum, which houses the Bluestein family papers: David Bluestein…was the owner of Bluestein’s Supermarket. His family had settled in Darien in the late 1800s when his grandfather, Meyer Bluestein, started a grocery business.

West Darien Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Bashinski-Claxton House, Circa 1907, Dubliln

Isadore “Izzie” Bashinski (1875-1934), who was a college roommate of Carl Vinson, moved to Dublin in 1906 and formed the Yellow Pine Lumber Company and the Oconee Navigation Company. By the end of the year he married Helen McCall, a native of Buena Vista and cousin of future Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge. Soon thereafter, they hired architect Charles Choate to build this home, one of the most unique in Dublin. It was the scene of many important social functions, including a gala with Governor Joseph M. Brown in 1908. Bashinski served on the staff of Governor Brown. Cotton was king in the South during this time, of course, and Bashinski and his brother Sam made a fortune as cotton factors, or brokers. Their Dixie Cotton Company was the largest in the south, with 25 branches throughout Georgia. Bashinski was an early proponent of business diversity and over the years formed the Consolidated Phosphate Company, Dublin Peanut Company, Citizens Loan & Guaranty Company, and the Oconee Guano Company. He was also a partner in the 12th District Fair Association, was a member of the first board of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, the school board, and the city council. He also served as mayor during World War I. The Great Depression hit Bashinski’s multitude of businesses hard and in 1932 the family lost the home. It was purchased by Dr. E. B. Claxton, whose family remained in it for many years. Scott Thompson covers much more ground at his excellent local history page, Pieces of Our Past.

Stubbs Park-Stonewall Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

The Rabbi, 1889, Guyton

guyton ga the rabbi house photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

This intriguing landmark has been owned by the Mendes, Gnann, and Helmuth families during its history. Charles L. Helmuth writes: ...My family purchased the house from the Neil Ratchford way back in the 60s. I understand that the rabbi I. P. Mendes had the house built. Rabbi Mendes was head of the Jewish community in Savannah. About the time we took possession, Guyton was coming into prominence for its historical relevance. “The Rabbi” was suggested by Dr. Willie Todd, and so it became known as “The Rabbi”. I understand that it once housed some school teachers and at one time an RFD mail carrier. I also head that it once caught fire, which did a litle damage to the interior.

Guyton Historic District, National Register of Historic Places


Samuel Farkas House, 1889, Albany


This Second Empire home is one of the most interesting in downtown Albany. Samuel Farkas came to Albany from Hungary at the age of 18. He couldn’t speak a word of English and only had fifty cents in his pocket. He came to Albany to work with his uncle who had set up a successful mercantile business after the Civil War. In 1872, Farkas opened a stable which focused on the sale of mules. In twenty years, he had amassed a fortune.

National Register of Historic Places