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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives




DATE:                      FEBRUARY 16, 2018

                                 MARCH  13, 2018

Transcript (PDF)


Marvin Zachariah Botnick was born on May 10, 1934 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the son of Molly Eisenstat Botnick and Harry Botnick. He lived in Hattiesburg, Mississippi throughout his childhood, where his father operated a dry goods store, Emporium Department Store. He had one brother, Dr. Robert “Bob” Stanley Botnick. He attended public school until enrolling at Phillips Exeter Academy, a private boarding school in New Hampshire. He graduated from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and relocated to Atlanta to pursue a career in finance, first as a commercial loan officer at First National Bank of Atlanta and later, as president of Mercantile National Bank. He is editor and publisher of the Jewish Georgian, a bi-monthly newspaper in Atlanta, Georgia. He was treasurer and president at The Temple, treasurer for the Jewish Children’s Service, and a board member at the Atlanta Jewish Community Center and Whitehead Boys Club. He and his wife Miriam Pass Botnick are the parents of three children: Beth Ann Botnick Rosenberg, Karen Botnick Paz, and Harris Jeffrey Botnick.

Scope of Interview:

Marvin talks about being born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1934. He discusses his childhood in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He mentions his father’s dry goods store. He talks about the synagogue in Hattiesburg and two of its prominent rabbis: Rabbi Brodey and Rabbi Mantinband.

He recalls few incidents of antisemitism during his childhood in Hattiesburg, while he was enrolled at Phillip Exeter Academy, or while attending Duke University. He mentions that the windows of his dad’s store were smeared with antisemitic sayings on Halloween. He recounts being told by the Dean of Men at Duke University that he was not receiving job offers because of antisemitism. He tells of Jews being excluded from membership in high school fraternities and sororities, country clubs, and fraternal organizations in Hattiesburg.

He talks about attending and graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy. He explains how he and his brother were driven to a synagogue in Massachussetts by another local Jewish family for the High Holy Days. He talks extensively about playing varsity lacrosse in high school and college.

He discusses attending Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He mentions his activities in the Shoe ‘n’ Slipper Club, the Old Trinity Club, the Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) honor society, and the Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) Jewish fraternity.

He discusses meeting and marrying his wife Miriam Pass [Passamaneck] Botnick in Atlanta. He talks about his daughters Karen Botnick Paz and Beth Ann Botnick Rosenberg, and his son Harris Botnick. He mentions his son-in-law I. J. Rosenberg, a former sports writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He recalls how he started his career at First National Bank as a commercial loan officer, the first Jewish commercial officer at a bank in Atlanta. He explains his involvement in the history of Mercantile National Bank, Merchant’s Mutual, and Atlanta Co-operative Credit Association. He tells the history of the Jewish Georgian and how he became publisher and editor. He describes the newspaper as a ‘feel-good’ bimonthly paper that does not cover local scandals, politics, birth announcements, or obituaries. He explains the challenges of publishing the paper with a limited staff and budget.

He tells about serving as a president at The Temple in Atlanta while Rabbi Alvin Sugarman was senior rabbi. He tells about the gift of the Selig family that made it possible for The Temple to acquire the Selig Building, and discusses his role in obtaining financing for its renovation. He tells about the formation of the Zaban Paradies Center (originally called the Temple Zaban Night Shelter for the Homeless). He discusses his participation in other organizations and their history: Jewish Educational Loan Fund (JELF), Jewish Interest Free Loan Fund of Atlanta (JIFLA), Atlanta Jewish Community Center (now Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, MJCCA), Jewish Family Services, American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Region, Inner Harbour, and Whitehead Boys’ Club.

He looks back on the growth of the Jewish community in Atlanta, the challenges of funding its institutions, and ponders its future.

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