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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                   BESSIE ZABAN JONES

INTERVIEWER:                DORIS GOLDSTEIN

LOCATION:                      ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                              AUGUST 15, 1990

Transcript (PDF)

Biography:

Bessie Zaban Jones was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1898.   Her parents immigrated to the United States in 1895 from Drohobycz, a small village in what was then Austria.   Her mother’s name was Ann Springer.  Her father was David Zaban.  They had eight children. They belonged to Ahavath Achim, an Orthodox congregation, when it was located on Gilmer Street.  Bessie’s father was president of the synagogue.  Bessie later began attending The Temple, a Reform synagogue.

Bessie attended Ivy Street School and Crew Street School when they moved to Capitol Avenue.  She attended Girls High School.  She left Atlanta in 1920 to attend the University of Chicago, where she studied English and Sociology.  While at university, she met her husband, Howard Mumford Jones, a distinguished professor in English and American Literature at Harvard University.  They married in 1927.

Scope of Interview:

Bessie Zaban Jones talks about her parents’ immigration from Drohobycz, a part of Austria that had been taken from Poland.   She recounts the timeline of her parents’ journey to the United States and their move to the Atlanta, Georgia.  She talks about her brothers and sisters, detailing those who were born in Europe.  She mentions she was the first of her siblings to be born in the United States.  She speaks about her family being members of Ahavath Achim when it was an Orthodox synagogue.  She remembers when it was located on Gilmer Street.  She recalls integrated seating in the synagogue.  She talks about Rabbi Joseph Levin and his influence on her father.  She mentions that her father was president of the synagogue.  She recounts that she was taught Hebrew by a teacher at home.  She reflects on being raised in a kosher home and remembers her mother placing orders with the kosher butcher by phone.

Bessie talks about the elementary schools she attended.  She reflects on living on Capital Avenue in 1911 and the different neighborhoods where her family lived.   She spoke about her father’s furniture business on Decatur Street.  She also talks about her uncles businesses.  She spoke about missing school for Yom Kippur and Rosh Ha-Shanah.  She talks about her teachers and friends from school.

She remembers the Leo Frank case and the impact it had on the Jewish Atlanta community.  She recalls the race riots of 1906.  She discusses her family’s relationship with the black community and the maids who worked in their home.  She reminisces about her family visiting Atlanta parks by horse and buggy.

Bessie talks about attending The Temple, a Reform congregation, when she was in high school.  She speaks about Rabbi David Marx from The Temple.  She talks about leaving Atlanta in 1920 to pursue her education at the University of Chicago.  She discusses meeting her husband while at college, their marriage in 1927, and living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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