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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                    MARGARET STRAUSS WEILLER

INTERVIEWER:                 SHARON GREENBLATT

INTERVIEW DATES:          SEPTEMBER 20, 1995

                                        DECEMBER 13, 1995

LOCATION:                        ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Transcript (PDF)

Biography

Margaret Weiller was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Oscar Richard Strauss Jr. and Margaret “Peggy” Hirsch Strauss on November 10, 1933 at Emory University Hospital.  She was a part of the fourth generation of her family to live in Atlanta.  Her grandparents helped found the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, now known as the Temple and are buried at Oakland Cemetery. 

Margaret is related to the Rich family of Rich’s department store fame.  Her family life was closely associated with the store for a number of years.  Her father worked there and the family took part in company events.  Her father later started his own furniture manufacturing business before moving to Florida to represent another furniture company.  Her family was dedicated to the Atlanta community as a whole and the Jewish community, volunteering or donating to Grady and other hospitals, the Red Cross, as well as schools.

In 1952 Margaret married William (Bill) Weiller.  After spending a year in Baltimore, Maryland while he was in the Air Force during the Korean War they returned to Atlanta, where Bill worked with her father at his company.  Margaret and Bill had three daughters: Deborah (Bock), Margo (Edlin) and Beth (Arogeti).  During this time, Margaret, in conjunction with her sister-in-law who was a member of Ahavath Achim, became more observant than she had been growing up in a secular family.  After her children were grown, Margaret returned to work.  She eventually became the Women’s Division Director at the Atlanta Jewish Federation, where she worked for 17 years before retiring.  After that she continued to volunteer in many Jewish and civic organizations while spending time with her husband, children, and nine grandchildren.

Scope of Interview

Margaret begins by discussing her family and her childhood in Atlanta.  Her family was Reform and belonged to the Temple, but was not religiously observant.  The Strausses were prominent in not only the German-Jewish community, but in Atlanta society as a whole as they were related to the Rich’s of the famed department store.  Her great-grandfather was Emanuel Rich, who was one of three brothers who founded the store.  She mentions the various prominent families with which her family was friends, including the Elsases, Ashers, Frohsins, and various members of the Rich family.  She reminisces about how Rich’s played a large role in her life as her father worked there for a number of years.  The family was involved with its operation and went to a number of its ceremonies and public functions, including the lighting of the Great Tree, riding the Pink Pig, and other events.

Margaret also recollects her young adult life in Atlanta, including spending time on a farm in what is now Dunwoody, the dating scene while in high school, meeting her future husband (Bill), attending University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, race relations, Jewish clubs,  antisemitism, and Alfred Uhry, who was a friend of her brother’s.

Margaret talks about her professional career, including starting a business with Lois Blonder called Culture Links that introduced women to a cultural event or place once a month. She also recounts her time working at the Federation as Women’s Division Director (17 years) which entailed community outreach and mission trips, and her relationships with co-workers.  She details her volunteer work and her immediate family and their involvement in the community.


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