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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:           JOSEPHINE HEYMAN

INTERVIEWER:       LEONARD W. LEEDS

                                 MARK BAUMAN

LOCATION:              ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                       MARCH 5, 1981

                                  JUNE 21, 1989

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Josephine Joel Heyman was born on October 15, 1901 in Atlanta, Georgia. She was the daughter of Ella Menko Joel and Benjamin Franklin Joel, both born in Georgia. Her maternal grandparents, Martin Menko and Caroline Oberdorf Menko, and her paternal grandparents, Sophie Lederer Barnett Joel and Lyons Barnett, immigrated to Georgia in the mid-1800’s. Her grandfather Martin Menko was a charter member of The Temple. Her father and uncle Lyons Barnett Joel were the owners of Bass Dry Goods Company, a dry-goods and furniture store. She was a graduate of Tenth Street School and Girls’ High in Atlanta, and Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She was a civic and political leader in Atlanta. She was active with the National Council of Jewish Women and the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, founded the DeKalb County League of Women Voters with Eleonore Raoul Greene, and was one of five women who founded the United Nations Association of the City of Atlanta. Her husband, Herman Heyman, was a partner in the law firm Heyman and Sizemore. She and her husband were the parents of Eleanor Heyman Wittenstein and Arthur Heyman.

Scope of Interview:

Josephine discusses her childhood and living on 14h Street in Atlanta, Georgia from the age of six years old. She talks about living in a household with: her parents, Ella Menko Joel and Benjamin Franklin Joel; her brothers Benjamin “Ben” Franklin Joel Jr. and Lyons Barnett Joel; her maternal grandmother, Caroline Oberdorf Menko; and her aunt Fannie Menko. She remembers the store owned by her father and his brother Lyons Barnett Joel, Bass Dry Goods Company on Mitchell Street in Atlanta. She talks about attending Tenth Street School, Girls' High School in Atlanta, and Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

She describes her family’s generations-long association with The Temple in Atlanta, where she was confirmed after attending Sunday school. She recalls attending Saturday morning services at The Temple on Pryor Street and Richardson Street. She tells about her family’s observances of Rosh Ha-Shanah, Sukkot, and Passover. She talks about having a Christmas tree with presents from Santa Claus as a child, and continuing the custom with her own children. She recalls Rabbi David Marx and his prejudices against Zionism and Orthodox Judaism.

She talks about the impact of the Leo M. Frank case on her family and the Jewish community as well as the Temple bombing in 1958.

Josephine discusses her husband Herman Heyman, a prominent lawyer in Atlanta and a partner in the law firm Heyman and Sizemore. She recalls the firm’s history and other prominent members of the firm, including Morris Abram and Hugh Dorsey, the prosecutor in the trial of Leo Frank. She discusses her husband’s family.

She talks about her volunteer activities as a civic and political leader. She recalls her term as president of the Atlanta branch of the National Council of Jewish Women and its role during the Hitler era in helping Jewish refugees to Americanize. She recalls starting the DeKalb County League of Women Voters with Eleonore Raoul Greene. She remembers founding the United Nations Association of the City of Atlanta during the 1940’s with four other women. She mentions her activities with the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching.

Josephine recalls the growth of Metropolitan Atlanta and the development of Atlanta’s art and music institutions. She talks about the series of opera performances in the early 1900’s and the founding of the Atlanta Symphony. She discusses the establishment of the High Museum of Art and its connection to the1962 plane crash in Paris, France.

She talks about her relationship with her son and daughter and stresses her pride in her grandchildren. She amusingly relates that one grandchild married a Conservative Jew while another grandchild married an Episcopalian.

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