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´╗┐Interviewer:

I'm here to interview you for this project and anything you want to tell me, were going to have your record of it. And, I'll try to ask some questions that might put other things to your mind. Have they fixed here?

Joe Bronstein:

Okay, I'll be glad to tell you anything I know this is Joe Bronstein and this is July the 13th 1977. I'm going to try to tell you the things that I have my earliest memories of. I know that my grandfather came here right at the end of the civil war, which was approximately 1865 and-

Interviewer:

What was his name?

J.B.:

Jacob Brownstein.

Interviewer:

Came to Louisville?

J.B.:

Came to Louisville.

Interviewer:

From?

J.B.:

From Russia.

Interviewer:

Russia.

J.B.:

I don't remember exactly where he came from.

Interviewer:

Do you know why he picked out Louisville to come to?

1:00

J.B.:

Yes, because one of his relatives had come here, had proceeded him here. Bernard Schneider preceded him here. And he was my grandmother's brother.

Interviewer:

Bernard Schneider was your grandmother's brother?

J.B.:

Yeah. He was Allie Baeyer's grandfather also.

Interviewer:

I see.

J.B.:

I'm telling you this so you'll know who it is we're talking about.

Interviewer:

We want to know how long your family's been here. And also about the times, so you've told me that.

J.B.:

When he came here, he came alone leaving a wife and two children in Russia. After getting a job and earning a few dollars, he brought my grandmother and the children over here.

Interviewer:

Was one of the children your father?

J.B.:

The oldest child was Jenny. She later became Jenny Cohen and they were Dave 2:00Cohen's parents. You probably remember Dave Cohen, he used to be the Levy's brothers- the super-attendant of the Levy brothers-

Interviewer:

Yes.

J.B.:

- that was his parents. His mother was my father's sister.

Interviewer:

Your father's name was what?

J.B.:

My father's name was Aaron Harry Brownstein. I'm specifying the Aaron Harry because there was another Harry Brownstein. However, they later spelled their name, B-R-O-M instead of B-R-O-N. There's a few of the Bromsteins around too here, who are related. But they're from the same tribe, so to speak.

Interviewer:

What did your father do when he came over here?

J.B.:

My grandfather was a tailor-

Interviewer:

- or your grandfather?

J.B.:

-my grandfather was a tailor when he came here. He couldn't speak a word of English naturally. All they could do was speak Yiddish and some Hebrew and 3:00Russian. But he had somebody take him from one factory to another. And they made that rehearsed speech for him, telling the party that they were calling on, that he was an experienced tailor.

J.B.:

And finally he got to a fellow who said, "Can you make vests?". And my grandfather said, "Yes, I can make vests". So he handed him a bunch of pre-cut vests, which with all the trimmings, the buttons and the thread. And says "Here's take this bundle and make them up for me".

Interviewer:

Right there?

J.B.:

No, he took him home.

Interviewer:

At home.

J.B.:

And he had a little room somewhere. He got a coal oil lamp and borrowed a machine, and set the lamp on the machine. And then he started working. He made vests until he was through, and he took them back and the man like his work. So he gave him another bundle. Pretty soon he was giving him more bundles than he could turn out by himself. So he got up another man to help him. The other man 4:00was Joe [Satzski 00:04:05].

J.B.:

You may know or may have known Estelle, Estelle's father. And the two of them worked at machines and they... Pretty soon my grandfather had a little shop of his own. He he soon accumulated enough money to bring his wife and children over here. At the time that he came here, the German group in town had been here for some time. And they had already established Adath Israel Temple. But my grandfather was amongst the forerunners of the Orthodox. And in those days, if you know what a minyan is, there was not a minyan of Orthodox Jews here. And so they weren't able to hold real services. They did not have a [foreign language - sheyka? 00:04:58] or they didn't have a mohel, or any of the things that are 5:00normally relate to an Orthodox group.

J.B.:

But after a few years, they had enough to form a congregation and they brought in the other things that they need. But these are their earliest recollections I have. And these are things that were told to me not that I remember from actual-

Interviewer:

Right here. Did you- no, you weren't living with your grandfather?

J.B.:

No. No. My grandfather... my father was brought here at age three. So you know it was quite a few years before I was born. This was probably-

Interviewer:

Were you born in Louisville?

J.B.:

Yes I was born in Louisville and spent most of my life here. Except during the war years when firms that I worked for moved me around from one place to another.

Interviewer:

When you came back it honestly, that you had a clothing store.

J.B.:

The clothing ran in the family's blood.

Interviewer:

Quite a few immigrants that came over were tailors.

6:00

J.B.:

Yes. You know, in the old country, or rather Russia, specifically, Jews were limited as to what they could do to earn a living. They were shoemakers or they were tailors. They were not allowed to go to school. That was that.

Interviewer:

No Jewish-

J.B.:

No, they were prohibited from attending school. And the only education they had was religious education. And that was a reason why most of them were well-founded in their religious faith, but had very little other cultural knowledge. So that'll explain-

Interviewer:

That's your background, that I'm very much interested in in this interview. Now start with when you were born in what year.

J.B.:

Well, I was born in 1907 here in Louisville. I attended the Thomas Jefferson 7:00School on Walnut between Jackson and Hancock, and later went to the George Morris School.

Interviewer:

Now, were there a lot of Jewish people round you there?

J.B.:

In the George Maurice school, the attendance was predominantly Jewish. So much so that when they had a Jewish holiday was observed, they couldn't teach because they'd probably have maybe 10% of a class on hand. So they didn't do much teaching at Morris- the George Morris School..

Interviewer:

And they lived... the stores were around there were owned by Jewish people.

J.B.:

Yes, I lived at Preston and Walnut at that time. I lived in various other parts of that area during those years. But most of the people had small stores up and down Preston Street, Jefferson Street, Market Street. That was the area which 8:00the George Morris school drew its students. And had-

Interviewer:

I think that's where my mother-in-law went to school, Amy Miller.

J.B.:

Amy.

Interviewer:

Of course, she's 93 now.

J.B.:

She's a little ahead of me.

Interviewer:

She's a lot older than you are.

J.B.:

So I don't remember.

Interviewer:

But I know they were concentrated in that one place weren't they?

J.B.:

In that area yeah.

Interviewer:

From about what street to what?

J.B.:

I would say from about Chestnut Street to Market Street, and from Preston to Floyd. A few years later when they became a little more affluent, quite a few of them moved out on Second Street.

Interviewer:

Oh, yeah. The Southern part of town that was called.

J.B.:

Some of them moved out on First Street. Some of them moved out a little bit farther, but the first migration from Preston Street was towards the Second Street area. It was some kind of [inaudible 00:08:56] alley.

Interviewer:

Can you talk a little bit about your religious training? Where you went to-

9:00

J.B.:

My family were Orthodox and I didn't go to Sunday school. I went to the Talmud Torah, which was the Louisville Hebrew school.

Interviewer:

And that was on-

J.B.:

That was on Walnut Street, near Brook on the south side of Walnut near Brook. It also housed the [foreign language - migtvah? 00:09:28] at that time. And they had quite a large group of boys and girls attending the school there.

Interviewer:

Now, the YMHA, the Young Men's Hebrew Association, had not formed to?

J.B.:

Yes it had. It was in its first location, which was a- It had been a private home on First Street and was converted into the Young Men's Hebrew Association. 10:00I don't remember what year it was, but they were in existence before the building on Second Street was built. And they were in existence for some years and they had an active growing group.

Interviewer:

Now you were-

J.B.:

I was too young to be a member at the time.

Interviewer:

At that- but you were a member when it moved to Second Street?

J.B.:

Yeah I was. My sister was one of their early secretaries there to-

Interviewer:

Can you remember who the president was at that time?

J.B.:

I don't- At one time, Fred Levy Senior was the president. He was president during the period of that my sister worked there.

Interviewer:

That's the Levy brothers.

J.B.:

That's right. Colonel Fred Levy was the president during the period- during one of the periods that my sister worked there. And Charlie Nemzer was the executive director that my sister worked for. Later Edward [Chepinsky 00:10:58] came in and Laurence Cooke, and Mark Grossman.

11:00

Interviewer:

The Laurence Cooke that I know?

J.B.:

Yes, he was- I'm quite sure he was executive director there for awhile.

Interviewer:

They do- did have some schooling there, either Hebrew school or-

J.B.:

Not to my knowledge.

Interviewer:

Or Sunday school? They never-

J.B.:

They did have something some Sunday school classes. At the end of World War One, they did have classes to, I'm quite sure, to teach new immigrants, help them with their English. Taught them English.

Interviewer:

Oh, yes. Well now you told me before that you went to night school there.

J.B.:

No, not there. YMCA.

Interviewer:

Oh that's it. YMCA. That's right, you specified that. But then did you enter into the sports there too?

J.B.:

Yes.

Interviewer:

Because they had teams didn't they and-

J.B.:

I did not play on any of the basketball teams. I played a lot of handball there.

12:00

Interviewer:

Yeah, some of the men would go at noon- time and [crosstalk 00:12:04]-

J.B.:

I was an ardent handball player. Yes, they had men going there all hours of the day. I remember in those days Lawrence [inaudible 00:12:13] was an active handball player. There were a lot of... Julius [Leaps 00:12:21], who later became Judge Leaps, was an active handball player. Jack Goldstein was one of the city's best handball players who played there. And...

Interviewer:

That was their big athletic deal wasn't it?

J.B.:

Yes. Handball was... Of course they had good basketball teams in those days if you remember.

Interviewer:

Did they?

J.B.:

Uh-huh [affirmative]. They had local championship teams. They had quite a few basketball teams or various groups from out of time or-

Interviewer:

And they would play other religious organizations or..?

13:00

J.B.:

They weren't so much religious as they were club teams like [inaudible 00:13:03] council and...Oh, there were just quite a few teams in the area here that they would play with. And the YMHA had some real good basketball teams in those years, they've still got the championship trophy.

Interviewer:

They've always done a lot of good work too haven't they?

J.B.:

Yes, they did.

Interviewer:

That is the Center, that today.

J.B.:

Yeah, today it's called the Center, formerly was the YMHA.

Interviewer:

Now, you haven't said what congregation that your father belonged to.

J.B.:

My father and grandfather belonged to Anshei Sfard. Which is now located on Dutchmans Lane. In fact, Anshei Sfard was founded in my grandfather's home. As I told you when he came here, there was not a congregation of Orthodox Jews.

J.B.:

And he was sort of a group leader around here in those days and they formed the 14:00congregation in his home. The Anshei Sfard was formed there. I think he was its first president. And he was a president in subsequent years and his youngest son Lewis Brownstein was also president of that congregation.

Interviewer:

Was that the only Orthodox Jewish congregation at that time?

J.B.:

No there- now- that was the first one. In later years-

Interviewer:

There was one down on-

J.B.:

There was one located on Preston and Fair. There was one Jefferson Street, between Preston and Jackson and then there was another one on Jefferson Street-

Interviewer:

Jefferson-

J.B.:

-between the 11th and 12th.

Interviewer:

Yes. Now, I remember that one.

J.B.:

That one was called Agudath Achim.

Interviewer:

Yeah, I remember that one. I don't know who the rabbi was.

J.B.:

I don't think they actually employed a rabbi. They used have some sent into them 15:00from schools for the high holidays, but they didn't- they couldn't afford to have a rabbi.It was a very small congregation.

Interviewer:

Now, your grandfather you said started Anshei Sfard. Was Adath Jeshurun started then?

J.B.:

I don't think it was in existence in my grandfather's day, that is in his early days here. However, I can remember... what's the name of it that you just asked was over here?

J.B.:

Adath Jeshurun.

J.B.:

Adath Jeshurun. I remember when they were on the corner of Floyd and Chestnut across the street from the George Morris School.

Interviewer:

Just a block away from Brith Shalom, wasn't it?

J.B.:

No, it was a little more than a block. Brith Shalom was on Second Street and this was on Floyd.

Interviewer:

That's two blocks - Brook's up in there. [crosstalk 00:15:53]

J.B.:

That's Second, First, Brooke, Floyd.

Interviewer:

First. Yeah that's right.

J.B.:

Three blocks, about four blocks away actually. But it was a rather old, 16:00dilapidated building.

Interviewer:

And Adath Israel is about over 100 years old, isn't it?

J.B.:

Yeah, quite a few years over a hundred.

Interviewer:

I think Brith Shalom is up there too.

J.B.:

I don't know what their [crosstalk 00:16:16]-

Interviewer:

Brith Shalom had their services in German.

J.B.:

That what I understand.

Interviewer:

Uh-huh [affirmative]. Is there anything else that you'd like to tell us about your early childhood as far as a religious... Was there any kind of affairs or anything that you went to? Dances? Or anything? Did YMHA have those kind of things?

J.B.:

Yes they used to have dances. And the YMHA also used to have a camp out on the River Road, which we'd always enjoy during summer months.

Interviewer:

Which is now Ben [Morisher 00:16:50]?

J.B.:

I don't think, no. It's no longer in existence. They sold the ground off after 17:00the 37' floods.

Interviewer:

Was that for children?

J.B.:

Adults and children. They used to take children's group out there. And they had a number of quite a number of camps which were privately owned- cabins, which were privately owned. But they would take children's groups- they had dormitories out there for them. And the baseball diamond, and they had quite a bit of activity out there. Of course we all swam in the river in those days. We didn't know about pollution then.

Interviewer:

That's right.

J.B.:

It was muddy but we still all swam.

Interviewer:

But you had a good time too, even in those days. Well, I appreciate all the information you have given. I want your grandfather's name - I'll write this all down and some of the things...

J.B.:

He was in the Orthodox circles. He was one of the pioneers, they say when he came here there was less than 10 Orthodox Jews. He was one of their earliers.

18:00

Speaker 1:

[inaudible 00:18:01]

J.B.:

Oh, that has the nothing to do with-

Speaker 1:

[inaudible 00:18:06]

Interviewer:

What she wants you to tell?

J.B.:

[inaudible 00:18:12] it has nothing to do this with subject.

Interviewer:

Well, that's alright. Do you do anything with your radio? Any Jewish-

J.B.:

Yes.

Interviewer:

Have you?

J.B.:

I maintain contacts with a couple of different Jewish radio operators. There is a dentist on the west coast who lives not too far from my daughter, Nancy. And right now we're in a sort of doldrums in radio conditions. And conditions between here and the west coast are very poor. But when they are good, which they are the biggest part of the time, I would have a standing date with him every Saturday at promptly at twelve o'clock, I'd call him and he'd be there listening.

19:00

Interviewer:

Noon?

J.B.:

Yeah, twelve o'clock noon. I'd call him, and he'd be listening for me. When we would make an established contact, he would then call my daughter Nancy on the phone. He lived near enough to her that it wasn't a toll call. And they have what they call a patch, which ties the radio and the telephone together. They connect them together. And I would talk with my radio from here to California. In California, he would put my voice onto the telephone line, and Nancy and I would talk up and back together there.

Interviewer:

Oh, that's interesting. When did you start this hobby?

J.B.:

When I was 12 years old.

Interviewer:

Oh did you?

J.B.:

So you know it's-

Interviewer:

Could all the different kinds of things that you need for a [crosstalk 00:19:50].

J.B.:

When I started playing with radio, it was only for the receiving end. I built my first crystal set before WHAS came into being.

20:00

Interviewer:

Is that right-

J.B.:

Yeah it dates that far. And I was listening for WHAS when they opened up their station.

Interviewer:

WLW, I remember that, no that's Cincinnati.

J.B.:

Yeah, that's right.

Interviewer:

What's Pittsburgh?

J.B.:

KDKA.

Interviewer:

That's the one we used to listen to it seems to [crosstalk 00:20:18].

Speaker 1:

[inaudible 00:20:19]

J.B.:

Oh, this might be an interesting side note that I did teach radio classes at the Jewish Community Center for quite a few years. And taught boys on how to become radio operators and had how to study for the exam. And many of our students have taking the exam and passed- [crosstalk 00:20:43]

Interviewer:

They couldn't have gotten a better teacher.

J.B.:

Well, yes they could have but we did work with them and help them get licensed. Quite few of my boys are now licensed.

Interviewer:

I think when some of the boys were in service, didn't you try to get contact with them?

J.B.:

I used to take messages that were sent here by service boys who were in service 21:00across the ocean somewhere to their parents here. You can take the message and deliver it to them.

Interviewer:

Yes, I remember that. But, you've done a lot of good with your knowledge of the radio.

J.B.:

Well, we try to make it useful. I saw a man this morning- I work part-time. You know, I have a part-time job since my retirement. And a man came in and I was showing him some things at the store and he said "aren't you Joe Brownstein?". I said, "Yes". He said, "You don't remember me, but you had my son on a radio class at the Center some years ago. Wesley Hirsch". And I said, "Where is Wesley now?". He says, "Wesley is a lawyer and he's working in Washington, DC now". I had another one of my boys who is a doctor and I have one who I'm pretty sure as 22:00a minister. I haven't been able to verify this, but I understand he's a minister. His father was a minister before him.

Interviewer:

Well that's interesting [crosstalk 00:22:09]. They remember you of course.

J.B.:

Yes. I remember when I had Brent Blue in my class. He was just 14 years old and he absorbed this technical knowledge so readily that I was sure this boy was cut out to be an engineer. And I said to him one day, "Brent are you going to go to engineering school when you graduate from high school?". He said, "No, Mister Brownstein, I'm going to be a doctor". He told me at age 14 he was going to be a doctor and he is a doctor.

Interviewer:

He knew what he wanted to-

J.B.:

He knew what he wanted.

Interviewer:

Well, that's interesting. Can you think of anything else that might be of interest in an interview like this?

Speaker 1:

Well Joe had been from a large family.

Interviewer:

Oh, yeah.

J.B.:

[laughing 00:22:51] Which is very common in those days. This was before they 23:00knew about birth control.

Interviewer:

[laughing 00:22:59] How many brothers and sis-

J.B.:

I have five sisters and one brother.

Interviewer:

Well that's not so big, I've heard of 12, 14. Well, That's very interesting. Now have we - is this still going?

J.B.:

Yes, it's still going. Push the last button on the right and you'll turn it off.