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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:               LOIS SEMEL BLONDER

INTERVIEWER:            SANDRA BERMAN

LOCATION:                   ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                            APRIL 10, 2008

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Lois Semel Blonder was born in New York City in 1933. Her parents were Mildred Fink Semel and Paul Semel. She relocated to Georgia at the age of 18 when her parents moved to Atlanta. She attended the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia and graduated from Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven, Georgia. After marrying Gerald “Jerry” Alvin Blonder, she lived in Port Chester, New York and Miami Beach, Florida before settling in Atlanta, Georgia where her husband became a prominent apartment complex developer. She and her husband were philanthropists in the Atlanta Jewish community, endowing the Blonder Family Heritage Gallery at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum as well as the adult enrichment program, the Blonder Center for Developmental Disabilities, and Jerry’s Habima Theatre at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. She was a member of Ahavath Achim Synagogue. She and her husband were the parents of four children: Michael Jay Blonder, Scott Howard Blonder, Leslie Isenberg, and Dale Dyer.

Scope of Interview:

Lois discusses her childhood in New York City, where she was born. She recalls graduating from George Washington High School in Washington Heights where she lived. She talks about her parents Mildred Fink Semel and Paul Semel, who was in the jewelry business. She recalls moving to Atlanta, Georgia after her father accepted a job in Atlanta. She discusses meeting her husband Jerry, their engagement, and their marriage ceremony conducted by Rabbi Harry Epstein.

Lois talks about segregation in Atlanta. She recalls how she was not allowed to sit next to a black person on a public bus. She discusses enrolling her children in private schools when public schools that her children attended were integrated. She recalls incidents from the Civil Rights Era at Leb’s Restaurant and at the Atlanta Cabana Hotel.

She talks about her many friends in the Jewish community, including Shirley and Arthur Diamond, Rhalda and Ralph Kahn, Kitty, Harris Jacobs, Margaret Weiller, and Marilyn Shubin. She mentions her sister-in-law Phyllis Freedman and their friendship. She remembers her volunteer activities in the Jewish community with Hadassah, Jewish Family Services of Atlanta, the Meals on Wheels program, and the Atlanta Jewish Federation. She discusses controversy about the Federation’s Lion of Judah campaign and pin and the pin’s popularity.

Lois describes her support for institutions and programs for children with developmental disabilities, including the Adaptive Learning Center, the Zimmerman-Horowitz Independent Learning Center of Jewish Family and Career Service of Atlanta, the Blonder Family Department for Developmental Disabilities at the Marcus Jewish Community Center, and Jerry’s Habima Theatre

She mentions her four children and their families: Michael Jay Blonder, Scott Howard Blonder, Leslie Isenberg, and Dale Dyer.

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