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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                                JOEL GOLDBERG

INTERVIEWER:                           PATTY MAZIAR

LOCATION:                                 ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                                           FEBRUARY 23, 1994

                                                      MARCH 14, 1994

                                                      MARCH 29, 1994

Transcript (PDF)

Biography:

Joel Goldberg was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1925 to Max and Rebecca Goldberg.  His father, born in London, England, came to United States when he was 18 months old.  His mother was from Lithuania.  His mother and father owned a bakery in Massachusetts and lived upstairs of the business.  Joel joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 and spent four years as a navy pilot during World War II.  After returning home, he earned his degree from Dartmouth College before starting his retail career with Filene's in Massachusetts.  He spent a year with a resident buying office in New York City, Associated Merchandising Corporation, before moving to Atlanta in 1954 to work in the women’s Fashion Store at Rich’s Department Store.  He held various positions at Rich’s as vice president and senior vice president, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer.  He was appointed president in 1971.   He was the sixth president of Rich’s.  He was the only non-Rich to hold that position.  He was also president of the Rich Foundation.  Joel’s career at Rich’s spanned 30 years.

Joel was also involved in the Atlanta business and civic community and served on numerous committees.  He was on the board of St. Joseph’s Hospital for twenty years and chairman of the board for six years.  He chaired the Georgia Heart Association and the Georgia Chapter of Red Cross.  He was on the board of Wesley Homes and numerous other organizations. 

Joel was a member of The Temple and Ahavath Achim.  Joel helped found Temple Sinai, a Reform congregation in Atlanta, in 1968.  He married Carole Brockey in 1956.  They have three children and several grandchildren. 

Scope: 

Joel Goldberg talks about his retail career which began with Filene’s in Massachusetts.  He discusses his 30-year career with Rich’s Department Store, arriving in Atlanta in 1954 to work in the women’s Fashion Store.  He reflects on his first impressions of Rich’s and their liberal customer policies, their community involvement, and the valuable lessons he learned from Dick Rich.  He discusses in great detail of the history of Rich’s and the Rich family.  He describes Rich’s as a leader in business as well as a major philanthropic contributor to the community. 

Joel talks about the creation of the Rich Foundation by Rich’s management in the mid-1940s and the foundation’s contribution to United Way and various other charities in the community.  Joel describes how the business gained tremendous recognition because of their civic contributions.  He describes Rich’s as also being a leader in generous policies, such as employee pensions, liberal return policies, and credit.  He talks about Rich’s issuing scrip during the Great Depression.  He describes how Rich's identified their store with the City of Atlanta, not only to advertise it as a Southern institution, but to make it just that.  He talks about the expansion of Rich’s outside of Atlanta and into other Southern cities.  He discusses the merger with Federated Department Stores in 1976 and the subsequent changes that resulted. 

Joel recounts how he was involved with the desegregation within Rich’s and remembers the arrest of Martin Luther King, Jr., when he tried to enter the famous Magnolia Room.   He talks about business leaders in the City of Atlanta who were involved during the civil rights era.  Joel reflects on the transformation of the City of Atlanta since he first arrived 1954 in terms of growth and the business community’s involvement.  He discusses, in particular, leaders in the Atlanta Jewish community and their influence and involvement with civic, philanthropic, and cultural contributions to Atlanta. 

Joel talks about being a member of both The Temple and Ahavath Achim.  He speaks of helping found Temple Sinai in 1968.   He mentions he put on tefillin every morning from his bar mitzvah until he went aboard ship in the Navy.  He reflects on his father’s influence on him and the great respect he has for him.  He tells how his father taught him to look for opportunity and not to be afraid to take chances.  He reflects on his father and Dick Rich who both greatly emphasized the importance of being involved.

Joel talks about his family and celebrating Passover.  He talks about meeting his wife at Rich’s and their marriage in 1956.  He speaks of his children and grandchildren.      

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