// William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum
Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                     M. WILLIAM (BILL) BREMAN (1908-2000)       


DATE:                                JANUARY 7, 1990

                                        JANUARY 28, 1990

LOCATION:                        ATLANTA, GEORGIA

ID#:                                   OHC10095

NUMBER OF PAGES:         58


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Bill’s father Joseph— born in Russia or Poland—lived in Victoria, Texas as a child.  Joseph moved to Chicago, Illinois where he met and married Sarah Barnard.   Bill was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Bill had two older sisters—Helen Breman (Zageir), the oldest, and Estelle Breman (Goldman). The family moved to Atlanta, Georgia when he was five years old.

In Atlanta, Bill’s father worked as an office manager at Stein Junk Company, a business started by Joseph’s brother-in-law Mose Stein.  Joseph’s brother, Max Breman, was also a partner at the company.  In the course of time, Bill took over the Stein Junk Company and it became the Breman Steel Company.

Bill lived on the south side of Atlanta as a child. Though many Jewish families lived in that area of Atlanta, the neighborhood was not homogenous and the family had both Jewish and non-Jewish neighbors.  The Breman family lived first on Washington Street but moved to Jackson Street after the Great Fire of 1917.  He attended public school at Pryor Street, Boulevard, and Forest Avenue Elementary Schools in Atlanta.  He also attended Tech High School in Atlanta for one year.

Bill’s family was members of the Temple, a Reform congregation. He attended holiday services and Sunday school there. He spent Sunday afternoons visiting and playing with his Jewish friends from Sunday school.  Since the Temple did not offer Hebrew lessons or perform bar mitzvahs, Bill was not bar mitzvahed.  However, Bill’s family observed Passover with a seder, his mother lit candles every Friday night, and Bill did not attend school during Jewish holidays as a child.

In 1922, Joseph retired and the family moved to Asheville, North Carolina.  Bill completed high school in Asheville. He graduated from the University of North Carolina with a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce in 1929.  After graduating, Bill moved to New York City to work in the insurance industry, which was his major in college. The Great Depression of 1929 led to his unemployment after working at an insurance company for more than two years. He took other jobs in retail and sales in New York City, Rochester, and Buffalo, New York.  Bill was then hired by his uncle, Max Breman, to work at Stein & Company in Atlanta.  Bill became president of the company and expanded it from a junk metal business into a steel fabricator.

When his uncle hired him, Bill relocated to Atlanta. He married Sylvia Goldstein, whom he had met during Rosh Ha-Shanah services in Rochester. They had two children, Carol Breman Nemo and James (Jim) Breman. The family first lived in a home on Oakdale Road in Druid Hills and then moved to a home on West Wesley Road.  Both of his children graduated from Westminster School, a private school. They attended Sunday school at the Temple just as Bill had when he was a child.

Bill joined the Standard Club, where many of his childhood friends were members. He never attended events at the Piedmont Driving Club since it would not admit Jewish or black members until the Atlanta City Council prohibited such restrictions at private clubs.

When a scene at the Temple was filmed for Driving Miss Daisy, Bill and his wife, Sylvia, appeared as extras.  Bill was acquainted with the playwright Alfred Uhry and his family, including Alfred’s mother Alene Fox Uhry, and Alfred’s grandmother Lena Guthman Fox, who was the original “Miss Daisy.”  Bill had driven Alfred Uhry to Sunday school at the Temple when the families both lived in Druid Hills.

In 1979, Bill sold Breman Steel Company and retired. After retiring, Bill volunteered as a driver for DART [Dial-A-Ride-Transportation] and Meals on Wheels.  In 1992 Sylvia Breman died after an extended illness and he later remarried Elinor Angel Rosenberg.

Bill served in leadership positions in organizations throughout his lifetime that reflected his support for the State of Israel and for the civil rights movement.  He served as vice-president and president of the Temple, as Atlanta Jewish Federation Drive chairman, and as president of the Atlanta Jewish Home. He was a life member of the Temple, the Atlanta Jewish Federation, B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee. For his leadership and community service he received the B’nai Brith Man of the Year Award.

Bill’s daughter Carol married and had two children. His son Jim married and had three children.


Bill discusses his childhood in the south side of Atlanta, Georgia.  He talks about the neighborhood where he lived, the public schools he attended, and the neighbors, who were not all Jewish.  He talks about the Stein Junk Company where his father worked, and which was founded by his uncles Mose Stein and Max Breman. He tells how Stein Junk Company eventually became Stein & Company and later the Breman Steel Company.

Bill relates how his father Joseph was affected by the trial and lynching of Leo Frank.  Because his father resembled Leo Frank—he wore glasses and was of the same build—he stayed home from work during that time in fear for his safety.

Bill talks about his attendance at Sunday school at the Temple and his family’s religious observances. He mentions he did not become bar mitzvahed but he attended services at the Temple. He says he stayed home from school during Jewish holidays.  He remembers his mother lit Shabbos candles on Fridays and his family had a traditional Passover seder.

Bill tells about moving to Jackson Street after the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917. He recalls the death of his uncle Mose Stein during the influenza epidemic in 1918. He discusses his father retiring and moving the family to Asheville, North Carolina.

Bill describes his jobs after graduating from the University of North Carolina. He tells about working in New York City, Rochester, and Buffalo, New York. He describes his difficulty in finding employment during the Depression. He tells how he met his wife Sylvia Goldstein in Rochester and returned to Atlanta to work at Stein & Company.

Bill talks about joining the Temple when he married. He tells about being recruited as president by the Temple’s rabbi, Jacob Rothschild. He talks about Rabbi Rothschild’s pro-Zionist, pro-Israel, and civil rights activities. He contrasts this with the Temple’s previous rabbi, David Marx, who was aligned with the American Council of Judaism, an anti-Zionist group.

Bill tells how in recent years he fasted on Yom Kippur, since he became more knowledgeable about the religious custom. He described how his daughter Carol was even more traditional in her religious observances.

Bill describes his experience as an extra in a scene at the Temple for the film Driving Miss Daisy. He tells how he was acquainted with the play’s author Alfred Uhry, Alfred’s mother Alene Fox Uhry, and Alfred’s grandmother Lena Guthman Fox. Bill explains how many of the scenes and content of the film reflected events that he recalled, especially the Bombing of the Temple in 1958.

Bill talks about how he expanded Stein & Company from a junk metal business into a steel fabricator and how World War II affected the business. He tells about his retirement from the Breman Steel Company. He describes his volunteer work with Dial-A-Ride (DART) and Meals on Wheels. He tells about his leadership positions and activities with the Temple, the Atlanta Jewish Federation, B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Home, and the American Jewish Committee.


American Council for Judaism

American Jewish Committee (AJC)

Anti-Defamation League (ADL)


Atlanta City Council

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlantan Hotel—Atlanta, Georgia

B'nai B'rith

Board of Jewish Education, Atlanta

Boulevard School—Atlanta, Georgia

Boulevard Street—Atlanta, Georgia

Breman Iron and Metal Company—Atlanta, Georgia

Breman, Estelle

Breman, Helen

Breman, James (Jimmy)

Breman, Joseph

Breman, M. William (Bill)

Breman, Sarah Barnard

Brookwood Station (MARTA)—Atlanta, Georgia

Chicago, Illinois

Civil Rights

Conlon, Peter

Council of Judaism

Cranston, Alan (Senator)

Decatur, Georgia


Dial-A-Ride Transportation (DART)

Driving Miss Daisy

Druid Hills

Dunlop Limited

Edwards, Nathan

Ein Keloheinu

Epidemics—Influenza—Spanish Flu—1919

Executive Park—Atlanta, Georgia


Feldman, Emanuel (Rabbi)

Five Points—Atlanta, Georgia

Fox, Lena Guthman

Frank, Leo

Friendship Hall

Garland, Reuben

Georgia State University Gerontology Society

Georgia Institute of Technology—Atlanta, Georgia

Gettinger, Mike

Great Atlanta Fire of 1917

Great Depression, 1929

Greenberg, Irving (Dr.)

Hartsfield, William B. (Mayor)

Hebrew Union College—Cincinnati, Ohio

Heyman, Joseph K.


Jackson Street—Atlanta, Georgia

Jackson, Maynard (Mayor)

Jewish Family Services

Jewish Federation of Atlanta

Judaism, Reform

Kahn, Bill

King, Martin Luther Jr. (Dr.)

Krantz, Philip N. (Rabbi)


Land of the Sky

Levin, Carl (Senator)

Louis Kahn Group Home—Atlanta, Georgia

Luckie Street—Atlanta, Georgia


Man of the Year

Marx, David (Rabbi)

Massell, Ben

Massell, Charles

Massell, Sam

Meals on Wheels

Medintz, Barney

Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)

Nemo, Carol Breman

Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Piedmont Driving Club

Piggly Wiggly Grocery Store


Political Action Committee (PAC)

Powell Goldstein

Pryor Street School

Rosh Ha-Shanah

Rothschild, Hava

Rothschild, Janice

Rothschild, Jacob (Rabbi)

Round Top Hotel



Saranac Lake, New York

Schwartz, William B.


Standard Club

Stein & Company—Atlanta, Georgia

Stein Junk Company

Stein, Albert

Stein, Jack

Stein, Mose

Sugarman, Alvin (Rabbi)

Temple Bombing—Atlanta, Georgia, 1958

Terminal Station—Atlanta, Georgia

Trans-Lux—New York City, New York

Uhry, Alene Fox

Uhry, Alfred

Underground Atlanta

Union of American Hebrew Congregations

Union Station—Atlanta, Georgia

Victoria, Texas

Washington Street—Atlanta, Georgia

Westminster School—Atlanta, Georgia

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Young, Andrew (Mayor)

Zaban Jewish Community Center—Atlanta, Georgia


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