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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                     DR. MARVIN GOLDSTEIN

INTERVIEWER:                  MERNA ALPERT

LOCATION                        ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                                  AUGUST 31, 1989

                                          SEPTEMBER 12, 1989


BIOGRAPHY

Marvin C. Goldstein was born in Atlanta, Georgia on March 25, 1917. His parents were Avrum Mayer Goldstein and Anne Kaufman Goldstein, immigrants from Poland, Russia. Marvin was married to Rita Atlas Goldstein. Marvin and Rita Goldstein were the parents of five children: Armand Goldstein, Aleta Ellin, Andrew Goldstein, Ann Strickland, and Adam Goldstein.

During his childhood, Marvin’s father supported his family first as a peddler, then as a grocery store owner, and eventually began a business that salvaged rags, steel, and wool. Marvin lived with his parents and siblings on Capitol Avenue in Atlanta.

Marvin attended elementary school, Hoke Smith Junior High School, and Boys’ High School in Atlanta. Marvin graduated from Emory University with a combined undergraduate and master’s degree in dentistry. He obtained training in orthodontic dentistry at Columbia University and the University of Michigan.

Marvin was a dentist in general practice with his brother Irving Goldstein until 1942. Marvin served as a dental surgeon for the United States Army Air Forces in Europe during World War II.  When he returned from his military service, Marvin opened his own practice as an orthodontist.

Marvin’s professional activities included terms as international president of the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity, editor of the American Journal of Orthodontics, president of the Georgia Society of Orthodontists, trustee for the American Fund for Dental Health, honorary fellow in the American College of Dentists and International College of Dentists, and chief of staff of the Ben Massell Dental Clinic.

Marvin was in the hotel business with his brother Irving, purchasing and building hotel properties in Atlanta, Georgia. They owned the Peachtree Manor, Georgian Terrace, Atlanta Cabana, and the American Hotel.

Marvin’s activities in the Jewish community included: president of Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Atlanta Jewish Federation, ORT Atlanta men’s chapter, Tichon Atlanta, B’nai Brith’s Atlanta chapter; and vice-president of the American Jewish Committee.

Marvin served as a vice-chairman of the board of trustees for the Martin Luther King Center for Non-violent Social Change.

Scope of Interview:
Marvin begins by discussing the immigration of his paternal grandparents and his parents from Poland, Russia to Atlanta, Georgia, in reaction to the 1900 pogroms and to avoid army conscription.

Marvin talks about his father’s salvage business and how it was affected by the Great Depression. He tells about the black worker who drove their truck to pick up cotton sheet clippings from the Ku Klux Klan headquarters. He discusses the business relationship of whites, blacks, and Jews and the limits of their personal relationships.

Marvin describes growing up in an Orthodox home, attending synagogue on Shabbat, and studying Talmud with Rabbi Tobias Geffen. Marvin remembers attending Shabbat services at Shearith Israel Synagogue on Hunter Street, which his father helped start and where he was bar-mitzvahed. He attended Hebrew and Sunday School at Ahavath Achim Synagogue, which his paternal grandfather helped found. Marvin talks about the Shearith Israel Juniors [SIJ] Club, of which he was a member growing up. He says that he and 20 of the SIJ members continue to meet together.

Marvin tells about his military service in World War II for the United States Army Air Forces from 1942 to 1946. He says he flew as a gunner in raids when he was stationed in England.  He recalls attending the re-opening the Rothschild Great Synagogue of Paris for Rosh Ha-Shanah in 1944. He describes releasing displaced persons from camps in Germany and placing them in temporary housing.

Marvin discusses enrolling at Emory University at the age of 16 and obtaining his joint undergraduate and graduate degree in dentistry. He discusses attending the University of Michigan and Columbia University to specialize in orthodontics for adults. He tells about first working as a dentist in partnership with his brother Irving Goldstein and then opening his own practice as an orthodontist. Marvin talks about his leadership positions and activities in Alpha Omega Dental fraternity including founding of the Hebrew University Hadassah School of Dental Medicine.
Marvin talks about black-white integration. He tells how his dental practice accepted black patients, including the family of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sr.  He discusses buying and building hotels, including the first integrated hotel in Atlanta. He talks about the Ben Massell Dental Clinic, its history, and its treatment of blacks.

Marvin discusses the anti-Semitism he and other students encountered at Emory University’s Dental School that resulted in a 60 percent failure rate of Jewish students in the Dental School during the 1960’s. He tells how he and Morris Abram collected and presented data evidencing discrimination toward Jewish students to the University’s president that resulted in the dean’s resignation.

Marvin tells about the growth Atlanta and the Atlanta Jewish community since his childhood. He talks about the separation between the German-Jewish Reform community, the Orthodox community, and the Spanish [Sephardic] community, and how the separations diminished in time. He discusses the change in Ahavath Achim from an Orthodox to Conservative congregation. 
Marvin briefly discusses his five grown children, their professions, and his satisfaction with their choices.


 

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