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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:              JOSEPH CUBA

INTERVIEWER:           ANN HOFFMAN SCHOENBERG

DATES:                        FEBRUARY 19, 1990

                                   JULY 3, 1990

LOCATION:                  ATLANTA, GEORGIA

SPONSORED BY:        Taylor Family Fund

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Joseph Cuba was born in Atlanta, Georgia on September 21, 1909. His parents were Joseph Cuba and Etta Kauffman Cuba, immigrants from Lomza Poland. Joseph was given his name in memory of his father, who died of appendicitis two weeks before he was born. Joseph was the youngest of seven siblings: sisters Rae Lee, Minnie, Frances, Jean, Gussie; and one brother, Max. Joseph was married to Ida Pearle Miller Cuba, a native of Cordele, Georgia. Joseph and Ida Pearle were the parents of Lana Cuba Krebs, Philip Cuba, and Larry Cuba. He had two granddaughters, Michelle Krebs and Jennifer Krebs.

During his childhood, Joseph’s family owned a grocery store on Capitol Avenue in Atlanta. His maternal grandfather Faivel Kaufman helped his mother and siblings operate the store while his maternal grandmother Sara Rebecca helped raise him. Joseph lived with his mother and siblings in homes on Frazier Street, Woodward Avenue, and Washington Street.

Joseph attended Crew Street Elementary. He was a graduate of Commercial High School and Georgia Tech Evening School of Commerce (now Georgia State University). Joseph was a Certified Public Accountant and attorney with a law degree from Atlanta Law School. Joseph was a partner with his brother Max Cuba in an accounting firm that they co-founded. During World War II, Joseph enlisted and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Unites States Army. He was trained in cryptography, but worked in accounting and auditing in Florida at Homestead Army Air Force Base and in Washington, D.C.

Joseph’s family attended Ahavath Achim Synagogue (AA) where he was a lifelong member. Joseph was a secretary and president of AA and Chairman of the Construction Committee for its synagogue on Peachtree Battle Avenue. His son Philip was in the first graduating class at the Atlanta Hebrew Academy (now Atlanta Jewish Academy).

Scope of Interview:

Joseph begins by discussing his family and the origins of his parents—Joseph Cuba and Etta Kauffman Cuba—in Lomza, Poland. Joseph discusses his father’s death two weeks before he was born in 1909. He describes his boyhood years in Atlanta with his siblings Rae Lee, Minnie, Frances, Jean, Gussie; and Max. He tells how his mother supported her family by operating a grocery store and renting out rooms in their home. He talks about his relationship with his maternal grandfather Faivel Kaufman, who helped his mother run their grocery store, and his maternal grandmother Sara Rebecca Kaufman, who helped raise him. He describes living in a strictly Orthodox home and how his grandfather instilled him with Yiddishkeit, teaching him to say Kaddish at a young age.

Joseph talks about his social activities during his childhood years. He discusses being a Boy Scout in a troop with Aaron Lichtenstein as a scoutmaster, which met in front of the Hebrew Orphans Home. He remembers the highlight of his scouting experience, a visit by silent movie star Ben Lyon. He discusses his experience as president of Young Judaea. He talks at length about the contributions to the development of youth and growth in the Jewish community made by leaders like Edward Kahn, Barney Medintz, Morris Lichtenstein, Abe Goldstein, and Joel Dorfan.

Joseph describes the Jewish neighborhood in Atlanta near the Jewish Educational Alliance along Washington Street. He describes the migration of the Jewish community from Washington Street to Boulevard Street. He discusses the growth and history of such institutions as the Atlanta Jewish Community Center and the Atlanta Jewish Federation. He talks about synagogues relocating as the Jewish population migrated further northward in Atlanta—Shearith Israel Synagogue to University Drive and Ahavath Achim Synagogue to Peachtree Battle Drive. Joseph discusses the contributions of the religious leaders in the community. He mentions Rabbi Tobias Geffen of Congregation Shearith Israel. He talks about Rabbi Jacob M. Rothschild of The Temple and Rabbi Harry H. Epstein, Rabbi Arnold M. Goodman, and Cantor Isaac Goodfriend of Congregation Ahavath Achim [AA].

Joseph discusses the divisions in the religious and social life of the Atlanta Jewish community between Orthodox and Reform Jews. He talks about the Standard Club limiting its membership to Reform Jews. He recalls the Progressive Club being the social center for Orthodox Jews in Atlanta. He recalls the basketball games and dances at the Progressive Club where many Jewish young adults met their Jewish spouses. He discusses the evolution of the Ahavath Achim Synagogue from an Orthodox congregation to a Conservative congregation.

Joseph discusses his education in Atlanta. He tells about attending Crew Street Elementary, Commercial High School, Georgia Tech Evening School of Commerce (now Georgia State University), and Atlanta Law School.

Joseph discusses his professional life. Joseph remembers his experience enlisting in the United States Army during World War II and how the army put his accounting skills to use. He tells how he became a CPA [Certified Public Accountant] and attorney. He describes how he and his brother Max Cuba started their accounting firm together and the close relationship between the two brothers. He talks at length about Max’s accomplishments, including his years on the Atlanta-Fulton County Joint Planning Board.

Joseph mentions relations between blacks and Jews in Atlanta during his youth. He recalls black household help and their chores. He describes the poor living conditions of the blacks who lived in shacks in alleys adjacent to the Jewish homes.

Joseph and his daughter Lana Cuba Krebs discuss his wife Ida Pearle. They tell about Ida Pearle’s involvement with AA, the .the Bureau of Jewish Education, her children’s camps, and the Atlanta Jewish Community Center. He talks about his sons Philip Cuba and Larry Cuba, and their occupational choices. He talks affectionately about the activities of his granddaughters Michelle Krebs and Jennifer Krebs.

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