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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                      JANICE OETTINGER ROTHSCHILD BLUMBERG (1924-  )

INTERVIEWER:                 ANN SCHOENBERG

DATES:                             AUGUST 7, 1989

         OCTOBER 14, 1989

         FEBRUARY 25, 1995

         APRIL 2, 1994

LOCATION:                       ATLANTA, GEORGIA

NUMBER OF PAGES:        136

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Janice Oettinger Rothschild Blumberg was born in Atlanta on February 13, 1924.  She was an only child. Her mother, Carolyn Goldberg Oettinger, was born in Columbus, Georgia.  Her father, Waldo Edouard Oettinger, was born in Boston, Massachusetts.  Janice attended public schools and attended Sunday school at the Temple.  She started college at the age of 15 and graduated from the University of Georgia during World War II when she was 18.

During World War II, Janice worked for the Army Corps of Engineers in the Panama Canal Zone, where they were combating malaria, and in Washington, D.C. for the Signal Corps among other jobs.  During that time she also spent some time in Mexico attending the Experiment in International Living.  When she returned to Atlanta in 1946 she met and married Jacob Rothschild, the new rabbi at the Temple.  They had two children, Marcia and William.

On October 12, 1958 the Temple was bombed by white supremacists.  Janice testified in court against George Bright, the primary suspect in the bombing.  During the civil rights era, she worked on behalf of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and served as a panelist with Coretta Scott King and others speaking to groups about “Raising Children of Good Will.”

After the leading the congregation through a time of transition, growth and controversy, Rabbi Rothschild died suddenly of a heart attack on New Year’s Eve in 1973.  In 1975, Janice married insurance executive David Blumberg who served as president of B’nai B’rith International.  They lived in Washington, D.C.  After her second husband passed away, Janice remained in Washington, D.C. until she returned to Atlanta in 2009.

Janice is active in Jewish community and civic activities and has held leadership positions in numerous organizations including the B’nai B’rith Klutznick Museum, American Jewish Historical Society, and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.  She served as President of the Southern Jewish Historical Society.

Janice is the author of several books including Prophet in a Time of Priests: Rabbi Alphabet Browne 1845-1929; One Voice: Rabbi Jacob M. Rothschild and the Troubled South and two histories of the Temple: As But a Day: The First Hundred Years (1867-1967) and As But a Day: To a Hundred and Twenty (1867-1987).   She has contributed to publications including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Southern Israelite, Encyclopedia Judaica, Education for One World, and the Jewish Georgian.

SCOPE OF INTERVIEW

Janice begins the interview with a detailed account of the events of the day the Temple in Atlanta was bombed in 1958.  She provides historical context, discusses the investigation and subsequent trials and offers her insights into how the bombing affected the congregation, her family and the city—both Jewish and non-Jewish community.  She reflects on her life as the wife of a rabbi, for which she admits she was unprepared and required much learning.  She also discusses the history, nature, and relationships of the Atlanta Jewish community, and Atlanta’s history in general: its challenges, growth, Southern identity and other factors.

Janice shares information about her parents, Waldo and Carolyn Goldberg Oettinger, and her maternal and paternal family and their origins and background, in Boston, Massachusetts and Columbus, Georgia, going back several generations, including her ancestor “Alphabet” Browne, who was the first rabbi of the Temple in Atlanta.  She reflects on growing up in Atlanta and the impact her mother’s ‘bohemian’ musical and artistic milieu and how her mother’s association with Hugh Hodgson and other musicians, writers, and prominent Atlanta people, impacted her early life.   She also remembers her mother’s civic, cultural, and Jewish activities as well as her memories of Dr. David Marx, the rabbi of the Temple.  Janice discusses her youth, her friends and social life, her musical education with Hugh Hodgson, early religious education, and her early attraction to becoming an actress and being involved in the theater world in Atlanta.

Janice talks about starting college when she was 15.  She discusses graduating from the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia) during World War II, working in the war effort at Fort Benning, in the Panama Canal Zone and in Washington, D.C. (among other jobs) and recalls her time with the Experiment in International Living in Mexico and later Vermont, including helping Dr. Donald Watt write two books.

Janice recalls how she and Rabbi Jacob Rothschild met when she returned to Atlanta in 1946 and spoke of Rabbi Rothschild’s upbringing, his service as a Jewish chaplain in the Pacific during World War II, his education and previous rabbinates, especially at Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that she believes contributed to his social activism in regards to both Judaism and civil rights.  She is candid about the challenges she faced as the wife of a prominent rabbi and the challenges they faced as a family, and the concerns the Temple faced as it moved through a time of great transition regarding Zionism, Jewish identity and observation, and the civil rights movement.  She discusses her own involvement in the civil rights movement and she also shares insights into several influential members of the Temple.

Janice describes her marriage to David Blumberg after Rabbi Rothschild’s death in 1973 and her subsequent activities with her husband, who was president of B’nai B’rith International.  She remembers her life in Washington D.C. and her involvement with many Jewish community activities there.

Janice talks about some of the opportunities she had to write earlier in her life.  She discusses becoming an author and several of her books.

The conversation with Janice is rich with stories about Atlanta, southern Jewish history, the Civil Rights Movement, and her family's wisdom and humor.

KEYWORDS

Aaron, Billye Williams

Acting

Actors

Adler, Rudolph (Rudy)

Ahavath Achim—Atlanta, Georgia

Alpha Epsilon Phi

Alsace-Lorraine

Ansley Park (Atlanta, Georgia)

Antisemitism

Anti-Defamation League

Apartheid

Architects

Allen, Ivan Sr.

America-Israel Cultural Foundation

American Council for Judaism (ACJ)

American Jewish Committee

Antisemitism

Anti-Zionism

Asher, Eugene

Atlanta, Georgia—Growth

Bockmann, Eleanor Troutman

Bar mitzvah

Bennett, Hildegarde

Bermont, Hill

Bernhardt, Max

Beth Jacob—Atlanta, Georgia

Biltmore Hotel—Atlanta, Georgia

Blockade runners

Blumberg, David

Blumberg, Janice Rothschild Oettinger

B'nai B'rith International

B'nai B'rith Gate City Lodge No. 144—Atlanta, Georgia

B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum—Washington, D.C.

Bohemians

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston University—Boston, Massachusetts

Brail, Nina

Breman, Elinor Rosenberg

Breman, M. William

Briarcliff Hotel—Atlanta, Georgia

Bright, George

Briscoe family

Brockey, Harold

Brown v. Board of Education

Browne, Alphabet (Rabbi)

Browne, Edward Benjamin Morris (Rabbi)

Brumby, Thomas Micajah Jr.

Camp Blue Star—North Carolina

Camp Coleman—Cleveland, Georgia

Candler, Asa Griggs

Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)

Central State Hospital—Milledgeville, Georgia

Century Club—Columbus, Georgia

Chagall, Marc

Chang, Dorothy

Chaplains, Jewish

Choirs

Civil Rights Movement

Civil War, 1861-1865

Coca-Cola

Cohen, Joseph (Rabbi)

Cohen, Louisa Palatchi

Columbia University—New York City, New York

Columbus, Georgia

Davison, Hal

Davis, Stuart (Rabbi)

Davison, Natasha

Delta Phi Epsilon

Driving Miss Daisy (film/play/fictional character)

Druid Hills (Atlanta, Georgia)

Druid Hills High School—Atlanta, Georgia

Eisendrath, Maurice (Rabbi)

Eisenhower, Dwight David (President)

Emory University—Atlanta, Georgia

Epstein, Harry (Rabbi)

Epstein, Reva Shashesman

Evansville, Indiana

Experiment in International Living

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Feldman, Emanuel (Rabbi)

Feldman, Estelle

Feminism

Ferst, Doris Marks

Fiji (island)

Fisher, Carlyn Feldman

Five O’Clock Shadow

Five Points (Atlanta, Georga)

Fort Benning—Columbus, Georgia

Frank, Leo—Trial and lynching

Freehof, Solomon Bennett (Rabbi)

French embassy—Washington, D.C.

Friedan, Betty

Garland, Reuben

Garson, Frank

Geffen, Sara

Geffen, Tobias (Rabbi)

Georgia Bureau of Investigation

Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs

Germany

Gershon, Rebecca (Reb) Mathis


Gestenfeld, Norman (Rabbi)

Gin rummy (card game)

Gittelsohn, Roland (Rabbi)

Goldberg, David

Goldberg, Lylah

Goldberg, Simon

Goldenson, Samuel S. (Rabbi)

Great Depression, 1929

Guadalcanal (island)

Haas, Aaron

Haas, Helen Weil

Haas, Herman

Hadassah

Hartsfield, William (Mayor)

Harvard Law School—Cambridge, Massachusetts

Hebrew Benevolent Congregation—Atlanta, Georgia 

Heyman, Josephine [Jo] Joel

High Holy Days

Hirsch, Harold

Hirshberg, Isaac A.

Hodgson, Hugh

Hodgson, Jessie McKee Nunnally

Holocaust denial

Horseback riding

Immigration

Insurance industry

Israel

Israel Bonds

Jacobs, Joseph (Dr.)

Jacobs, Muriel

Jacobs, Sinclair Sartorius Jr.

Jepson, Helen

Jews, German

Jewish-Christian relations

Jewish-Jewish relations

Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta—Atlanta, Georgia

Jewish War Veterans of the United States

Journalism

Journalists

Judaism—Customs and practices

Judaism, Conservative

Judaism, Reform

Judaism, Classical Reform

Judaism, Ethical

Judaism, Orthodox

Judaism, Prophetic

Kaddish

Kashrut

Kaufman, Gus

Kaufman, Marian Waxelbaum

King, Coretta Scott

King, Martin Luther Jr.

Kosher

Ku Klux Klan

League of Women Voters

Lehrman, Richard (Rabbi)

Levy, Barbara Fox

Loeb, Marcus

Loeb, Morris

Lowenstein family (Max and Betty)

Lowenstein, Frank

Lowenstein, William

Luck, Tom

Lucky Thirteen Club

McClain, Roy (Reverend)

McDowell, Michael Angelo Jr.

McGill, Ralph Emerson

Macon, Georgia

Mahjong

Mantinband, Charles (Rabbi)

Mantler, Marshall (Bud)

Marienthal, Stanley

Marienthal, Evelyn

Marx, David (Rabbi)

Maskit

Matchmaking

Mayer, David

Mayerberg, Samuel (Rabbi)

Menorah

Mexico

Milledgeville, Georgia

Minister’s Manifesto

Mitchell, Francis

Modigliana, Amedea

Music Club—Atlanta, Georgia

Music, teaching

Musician's Supply Business—Boston, Massachusetts

National Association of Women's and Children's Apparel Salesman (NAWCAS)

National Conference for Community and Justice

National Conference of Christians and Jews

National Council of Jewish Women

National Services Industries—Atlanta, Georgia

New Caledonia (island)

Newnan, Georgia

Oettinger, Carolyn Goldberg

Oettinger, Rose Hamburger

Oettinger, Waldo

Olympics, 1996 (Atlanta, Georgia)

One Voice: Rabbi Jacob M Rothschild and the Troubled South

Orchestras

Or VeShalom—Atlanta, Georgia

Oswego, New York

Panama Canal Zone

Pariticutin (volcano, Mexico)

Pascin, Jules

Paschall, Walter Goode

Paschall, Eliza King

Passover

Pendergast machine—Kansas City, Kansas, Missouri

Pesach

Pissarro, Camille

Posner, Philip (Rabbi)

Phillips, Nettie Elsas

Pianists

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Private schools

Race riots, 1906 (Atlanta, Georgia)

Racism

Rationing

Rebbetzin

Rearing Children of Good Will

Religious education, Jewish

Rich’s—Atlanta, Georgia

Rodef Shalom—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Roosevelt, Eleanor

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano (President

Rosenberg, Leman

Rosenberg, Herbert J. (Sr.)

Rosenberg, Herbert Jerome (Jerry) III

Rothschild family (Columbus, Georgia)

Rothschild, Marcia

Rothschild, William (Rabbi)

Rothschild, Jacob (Rabbi)

Sabbath

Salons

Samuels, Clara

Samuels, Sigfried

Sandmel, Samuel (Rabbi)

Schatten, William (Dr.)

School of Malariology—Panama Canal Zone

Schwartz, Sonia Weinberg

Schwartz, William B.

Schwob, Simon

Seders

Sephardim

Sexias, Moses

Shabbat

Shearith Israel—Atlanta, Georgia

Shidduch

Shulhafer, Hannah Grossman

Shurgin, Eloise

Shutze, Philip Trammell

Sisterhoods

Six O'Clock Shadow

Slann, David

Smith College—Northampton, Massachusetts

Sommerfield, Clara (Cissy) Rosenfeld

Sororities

Soutine, Chaim

South Africa

Southeastern Traveler Exhibitors

Southern Israelite (Jewish newspaper)—Atlanta, Georgia

Standard Club—Atlanta, Georgia

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church—Atlanta, Georgia

Stern, Isaac

Suffragettes

Sugarman, Alvin (Rabbi)

Sunday school

Symphonies

Taylor, Esther

Temple Sinai—Atlanta, Georgia

Temple—Atlanta, Georgia

Temple Bombing, 1958—Atlanta, Georgia

Travel services

Twelfth Night (Festival)

Uhry, Alene Fox

Uhry, Alfred Fox

Uhry, Marguerite Taylor

Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC)

Union for Reform Judaism

United Jewish Appeal

United Service Organization (USO)

United States Corps of Engineers

Universalism

University of Georgia—Athens, Georgia

University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Venable, James

Violinists

Volcanos (Mexico)

Voting, women

Washington, George (President) Washington, D.C.

Washington Hebrew Congregation—Washington, D.C.

Watt, Donald (Dr.)

Waxelbaum Family—Columbus, Georgia

Weinberg, A.J.

Weinstein, I.M.

Weinstein, Milton

Weiss, David

Weiss, Morton L. (Bud)

Westminster School—Atlanta, Georgia

Wice, David (Rabbi)

Wice, Sophie

Williams, Samuel W. (Dr.)

Willkie, Wendel

Wittenstein, Charles

Wise, Isaac Mayer (Rabbi)

Wittow, Frank

Women's Liberation

World War, 1914-1918

World War, 1939-1945

Writing

Writers and authors

Yancey, Carolyn Dunbar

Yiddishkei

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur War, 1973

Zionism

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