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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:           IDA GOLDSTEIN LEVITAS

INTERVIEWER:      ROBERT LIPSHUTZ

                                 SUSAN LEVITAS

LOCATION:             ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                      MARCH 18, 1976

                                1983

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Ida Goldstein Levitas was born in the town of Zabludow (near Bialystok), Poland and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. She was the daughter of Shmuel Yankel (Samuel Jacob) Goldstein and Elke Reisel Goldstein. She had four brothers: Avram (Abraham) Meyer, Morris “Pinky”, Irving “Ike”, and Joseph “Joe” H. Goldstein; and two sisters: Mary Dinah Goldstein Liss and Rose Goldstein Anderson. She attended Fair Street School and Crew Street School. During the First World War and before marrying her husband Louis J. Levitas, she was a social worker for the Jewish Educational Alliance in Atlanta. She and her husband had two sons: Elliott Harris Levitas, a former United States Congressman, and Theodore “Ted” Clinton Levitas, a prominent pediatric dentist.

Scope of Interview:

Ida tells about immigrating in 1904 to the United States as a child from the town of Zabludow, near Bialystok, Poland. She explains how her family’s surname changed from Kavalierisky to Goldstein.

Ida talks about her paternal aunts and uncles: Rose Tesler, Pearl Marenberg, Julius Goldstein, and Charlie Goldstein. She says her Uncle Charlie was the first in her family to immigrate. She discusses her father Shmuel Yankel Goldstein who earned his living mainly as a peddler. She talks about the literacy of her mother Elke Reisel Goldstein who was known for writing letters in Yiddish for other immigrants.

Ida remembers her childhood home in Atlanta on Connally Street, which is near Grant Park, and living on Washington Street. She recalls attending Fair Street School and Crew Street School. She remembers attending Ahavath Achim Synagogue (AA) and graduating from its Sunday school. She mentions Rabbi Hyman M. Yood and Rabbi Abraham P. Hirmes, who were rabbis at AA during her childhood and youth. She remembers Shabbos meals and observance in her childhood home. She talks about Rabbi Harry Epstein, her friendship with his wife Reva, and changes at Ahavath Achim Synagogue from Orthodoxy to Conservatism.

Ida says she met her husband Louis J. Levitas at the Jewish Educational Alliance (JEA) where he was superintendent of the Sunday school and she was employed as a teacher and social worker. She recalls the three rabbis who officiated at their wedding in 1922: Rabbi Hirmes; Rabbi Tobias Geffen, and Rabbi David Marx. She discusses the importance of the JEA as a meeting place and activity center for the Jewish community. Ida talks about her volunteer activities with Hadassah, including her terms as president, and receiving the B’nai B’rith “Man of the Year” award.

Ida recalls her husband Louis J. Levitas, who was an insurance salesman and an English-speaking immigrant from Dublin, Ireland. She talks about his activities as president of B’nai B’rith.

Ida discusses the religious, cultural, and economic divisions in the Jewish Community, between German-Jewish Reform Jews, Eastern-European Ashkenazic Jews, and Sephardic Jews. She describes how the Atlanta Jewish community remained divided even after the Leo Frank lynching, and united only as a result of the Holocaust.

Ida talks about antisemitism. While she mentions visiting Leo Frank during his incarceration, she asserts she did not have any personal experiences with antisemitism. She touches on Jewish-black relations. She recalls black residents living nearby during her childhood and providing household help. She depicts their relationship as friendly.

Ida recalls her siblings and their families: Avrum Meyer, Morris, Joseph, and Irving Goldstein; Mary Dinah Goldstein Liss, and Rose Goldstein Anderson.

Ida talks about her two sons: Elliott Harris Levitas, a former United States Congressman, and Theodore “Ted” Clinton Levitas, a prominent pediatric dentist. She mentions her six grandchildren: Steven, Leslie, Patty, Tony, Karen, Susan and Kevin.

She is critical of the increased intermarriage among Jews that was not common during her youth.

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