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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMORIST:              BARR, GERTRUDE SCHEER

INTERVIEWER:        C. ROBERT FRIEDMAN

DATE:                        MARCH 5, 1998

Transcript (PDF)

Biography:

Gertrude was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1922 to William Scheer and Dora Gaspin Scheer. Her father William, a poor immigrant himself from Russia, was one of the organizers of the Savannah Workman’s circle. Gertrude graduated as an honors student from the Savannah High School. She met her husband, Irving Barr, while Barr was in Savannah during World War II through the Jewish Educational Alliance. After marrying, they moved up to New York for Barr’s job. However, Gertrude returned to the south to take care of her ill mother, followed later by her husband and they relocated back to Savannah. After returning home, Gertrude became a major part of the Bnai Brith Jacob Synagogue, as a member of the Sisterhood, and the Bnai Brith Jacob women. Her continual passions were for the arts; music and painting in particular. She had three children, all of whom stayed in the Savannah area. Gertrude died in 2015 in Savannah at the age of 92.

Scope:

In this interview, Gertrude describes growing up in a segregated Savannah, and the differences of growing up in a Jewish household in the South. The neighbourhood in which she grew up was part of a segregated neighbourhood on either side, as Gertrude remembers the predominately black church, as well as her doctor. And although the Depression of the 1930’s meant limited food, Gertrude continues to describe her family giving food to those less fortunate, which did not happen in the whole Jewish community.

This interview covers the early Depression years in the Savannah Jewish neighbourhood, and how the Jewish community worked as a banking system. She recalls the education in the Jewish school organized through the Workman’s Circle, as in her time it was taught in Yiddish. She describes the true role of the Workman’s Circle in Savannah, which many thought was a communist group. She remarks on her family in particular being more culturally Jewish than religiously, speaking Yiddish and celebrating the high holidays. Gertrude remembers her father's artistic education of his daughters, as he encouraged his children to read more for a formal education.

Gertrude continues to describe her early 20’s in events thrown by the Jewish Educational Alliance, where she met her husband during Rosh Hashanah. She tells that this was common for women of her generation, who met their non-local husbands during World War II. She ends the interview in a short description of how the Jewish community has changed since she was a young adult, specifically how the community began to use Hebrew more so than Yiddish as it was seen as an immigrant language.

 

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