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Featured Oral History

Ellen Burnett

Interviewing Ellen Berliner Burnett in her home at 152 South Merkle Road in Bexley, Ohio and representing the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is Bill Cohen.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok, we are at 152 South Merkle Road in Bexley, Ohio.  It is April 8, 2015.  We are in the home of Ellen Berliner Burnett.

BURNETT:  Correct.

INTERVIEWER:  Maiden name Ellen Berliner.  Is that how you pronounce it or do I have it wrong?

BURNETT:  It’s pronounced two ways. It can either be Berliner  [short i]which is the proper pronunciation, however my father wrote a column for the Columbus Dispatch Sports Department actually for 44 years and his by-line for several years was Ber…liners [long i] ‘Ber dot dot dot liners’ and they were one sentence quips about individuals who had excelled in their sport and he liked to bring recognition to as many people as he could and through that column, he became Berliner and there’s a park in Columbus named after him, the Lou Berliner [long i] Softball Fields on Greenlawn Avenue, which is the largest amateur sports facility in the country.  It has, I think, 34 baseball fields, I think, but several and an indoor basketball rink and it brings in a lot of tourism, a lot of leagues are there and a lot of championship games are there so it brings in a lot of money for the city and his name is prominent and it is called Berliner [long i] at ..that kind of transitioned into Berliner but either one is fine.  He wouldn’t be opposed to either.

INTERVIEWER:  Would it be fair to say the Jewish community would probably have known him as Lou Berliner [short i] whereas the non-Jewish community, the community at large would know him as Berliner [long i]?

BURNETT:  As Berliner…absolutely.  There is a division there.

INTERVIEWER:  There’s a Jewish angle even to that.

BURNETT:  Although my father was a very prominent, well-known Jew, in the Columbus area in a time when there were very few other Jews that had a high profile, which he did, and I think he did a lot for the non-Jewish community getting to know the Jews and that they were good people and that they were funny and that he had his value of sports is commendable to me.  He liked sports for the true value of sports learning good sportsmanship, getting along with others, following rules and having fun and he liked to recognize those people who did that so I’m very proud of my father and proud of the legacy that he left behind.

INTERVIEWER:  So how did you father and your mother, how did they wind up in Columbus, Ohio?  Were they born here of they came from elsewhere?

BURNETT:  My father was born here just about 6 years after his family emigrated from Russia and they came to Columbus because they knew another family in Columbus, the Nutis family, Frank Nutis’s parents, and they settled here. My father settled her and his large family.  He had five sisters and then my mother was from Pennsylvania and being in her twenties and not being married was not acceptable in those days and her parents sent her from the town, she grew up in Washington, Pennsylvania to Youngstown, Ohio to meet a Jewish husband and she did. She met my father and they got married in 1941 and they lived happily ever after and I had a wonderful, wonderful loving childhood and I couldn’t have been loved more by either of my parents and it was just a great childhood growing up Jewish in Columbus.

INTERVIEWER:  So, they were in Youngstown. That’s where they met.

BURNETT:   My father came to Youngstown to meet her.  A mutual friend introduced, knew my father and said there’s a nice Jewish girl here, come meet her and he did and they fell in love and they got married.

INTERVIEWER:  So your father was living in Columbus.

BURNETT:  My father lived in Columbus his whole entire life.

INTERVIEWER:  But somebody said come all the way up to Youngstown and meet this…

BURNETT:  …nice Jewish girl and he did and I guess there were not  a lot of eligible Jewish women in Columbus so I don’t really know that story but he went up there and met her and the rest is history.  They were married for 43 years and he was very well known and my mother was a stay-at-home mom who just did everything she could do to make her children’s lives wonderful and she did that.

INTERVIEWER:  And your mother’s maiden name was..

BURNETT:  Pinsker.

INTERVIEWER:  Spell that for us.

BURNETT:  P like Paul, i n s k e r, and she also had four sisters and one brother and they remained close. My father’s family, we visited them a lot and they came to Columbus, my father’s family, at that point almost all of his sisters and then his two half-brothers and two step-brothers settled in Columbus,, never left Columbus and they, growing up, I remember the tradition of going to my grandfather’s house every single Sunday afternoon.   We never missed.  We went to visit him.  The house was teeny.  It was not large enough for all these children, his grandchildren but we had wonderful times and if we got lucky one of our uncles would take us or my father would take us to Norwoods Amusement Park which was a highlight of my life on Sunday afternoons and if we didn’t do that, if it was winter and it was closed, we would go frequently to the esquire Theater on the corner of Broad and Chesterfield and enjoy many, many movies there as well as a lot of popcorn and it was just fun, just fun and then after we would leave my grandfather’s house I have vivid memories of often going to visit other elderly, sick people in the community.  My father just believed in helping people all the time.  Every single day of his life he did something for somebody else and I was involved in that and we went to see all these nice elderly, sick people and it’s a wonderful tradition that I remember well from growing up and I realize I’m doing that now with my life.   I am through Jewish family Services involved with a Holocaust survivor and I see her more than just on Sunday afternoons and I help her in any way I can and I’m getting so much from doing that and I feel good about myself and I realize that I am perpetuating values that were important to my father and in the kaddish, that the prayer states that we should continue to do things that were important to the loved one that we’re saying the kaddish for and I think I’ve realized now I’ve fulfilled that and I do that.  I’m carrying on a lot of traditions that were important to both of them and my mother made such a nice Jewish home and I’ve done that for my children and now I’m reaping the benefits of that as they each have married Jewish spouses and are raising their children Jewish, very Jewish.  My grandchildren in Texas attended a Jewish day school for several years and my grandson, my grandson, my oldest in Indianapolis was just bar mitzvahed two weeks ago and he did an outstanding job and I’m very proud of that. I’m very proud that I’m carrying on, perpetuating these traditions that were important to my father and I make great brisket and matzah ball soup just like my mother.

INTERVIEWER:  Let’s get some geography here.  Your father and mother when they got married and they met in Youngstown, then they came to Columbus, what year did they come to Columbus?

BURNETT:  1941 when they got married.

INTERVIEWER:  right when they got married.

BURNETT:  You didn’t live together before marriage in the 1940’s so

INTERVIEWER:  And where did they live in Columbus?

INTERVIEWER:  They lived on Fulton Avenue I believe.  No, that’s where my father’s house was. Somewhere around Miller and Kelton, around that area and then they were very progressive. When they moved out of an apartment they moved to this area east, a little east of there and bought a house in the early maybe mid-forties in Bexley, on Chelsea Avenue and they were like real pioneers of coming to south Bexley so I grew up there and then when I was starting middle school, junior high as it was called then, we moved to Remington Road which is just a couple blocks over from Chelsea in central Bexley and then after I got married, about five years after we were married, I was married in 1971, we moved to Bexley.

INTERVIEWER:  You and your husband.

BURNETT:  My husband and I moved to Bexley, and we’ve lived on South Merkle for about thirty seven years so I virtually have moved from Chelsea to Remington to Merkle all within a one mile radius, just really a couple streets away from each other and it’s a wonderful feeling of knowing where I came from and this is where I’ve stayed and loving the values that it represents of being in the same place where you went to school.  My children graduated from Bexley High school as well so we’re all alumni of Bexley and I’m still at Merkle and have no intention of leaving any time in the near future.

INTERVIEWER:  So just to be real accurate, do you remember your address on Chelsea?

BURNETT:  Absolutely, it was 712 Chelsea.

INTERVIEWER:  So that was between Main and Livingston.

BURNETT:  Main and Mound to be more precise.  Right at the corner of our street was a Dairy Queen which I frequented and then one of the highlights of my life, of my early childhood, is when I was old enough to cross the street by myself, Main Street,  to get to Johnson’s Ice Cream and that was a staple in my diet, Johnson’s Ice Cream, and the one of the other highlights of my childhood geographically speaking was when this fabulous new food I had never eaten before, opened on Roosevelt and Main called Rubino’s Pizza.  My father was very good friends with the owner, Mr. Rubin, and I remember when it opened and I had never tasted pizza and that’s changed my life, profoundly.  I still love Rubino’s Pizza.

INTERVIEWER:  So, that was Chelsea and then you moved to Remington.  What was the address on Remington?

BURNETT:  102.

INTERVIEWER:  102 South Remington.

BURNETT:  South Remington and that was between Broad and Powell, near the school, walked to school every day, four times a day and then after I got married I did live at Ohio State dorms and apartments for four years of college and then my husband and I lived out of the state for a short time. He’s from Oklahoma and he was getting his, we met at Oho State.  He got his master’s degree though at Oklahoma University and we lived there for short time, less than a year and then after that we moved back to Columbus and we’ve been here ever since and he loves it, too. He loves Columbus so…

INTERVIEWER:  Now the fact that your parents once lived in the 1940’s in the Miller-Kelton area I assume between Main and Livingston…

BURNETT:  Absolutely.

INTERVIEWER:  …where a lot of the Jews lived and near Parsons and Bryden, Franklin and so forth but then it seems like your family represents that wave of immigration to Bexley…

BURNETT:  …early immigration to Bexley and farther east.

INTERVIEWER:  So, that was, they moved to Bexley post-War? Would it have been in the late forties?

BURNETT:  I was born in ’48 and they already lived on Chelsea at that point and I think they had lived there, I know they had lived there for a few years before that.  I’m not sure of the exact date but I’d say more in the, maybe forty, by ’45 I think they were there.

INTERVIEWER:  They made the move to Bexley like many others.

BURNETT:  They made the move to Bexley.

INTERVIEWER:  So, what are your memories as a child?   Elementary school you went to Montrose Elementary.  What are your memories there in terms of being Jewish and of course, even though Jews might have been twenty-five percent or more of the kids you were still a minority.  What was that like being Jewish and yet being in Bexley?

INTERVIEWER:  Interesting question.  In elementary school I don’t think I had a clue that I was any different than anybody else.  There were other Jews that were at Montrose then but I don’t remember any, anything but having a fun childhood at Montrose.  Now when I got to middle school I think I knew that the Jews kind of stuck together and my friends were almost all Jewish. They were almost all Jewish in junior high and high school but I still at that point felt no discrimination or I didn’t feel any differently. We just kind of self-segregated ourselves in a fun way.  Now some of the things that happened in high school, I’m jumping ahead to high school, there were some things I’m not proud of. There was a sorority in Bexley High School called STP, Sigma Tau Pi or Phi whatever it was called.


BURNETT:  No, not STD, no, no, no, STP and it was a group of girls who, I don’t know how it was started, but decided that they could be very exclusive and they were snobby and they alienated people that they didn’t invite in and I feel badly I was a part of that.  I didn’t at that time because I was asked to be in it but now I’m sorry about that, that I didn’t try to change that because it was wrong, but it existed then and that’s when, as I said, we self-segregated ourselves by having Jewish clubs and I think there were some also ones for the boys, too, that were just Jewish guys so there was definitely a difference by middle school and high school, more pronounced, but not in a way, any negative ways. I still felt very accepted and had a great, it wasn’t perfect at Bexley High School, but the imperfections did not have to do with me being Jewish.  They had to do with me being insecure like every other kid was but it’s still when I look back on it, it’s with good memories.

INTERVIEWER:  Now the Jewish sorority you are talking about in high school, that was different than the B’nai Brith Jewish boys and girls groups, BBYO or, I forget what they were called, Pops Dworkin and so forth?  That was a different set up? What was different about the Jewish sorority?

BURNETT:  Well, I’m not proud of this to say the differences but I will. We thought we were cooler.  I’m not saying we were.  It was perceived then to be cooler to be part of these more exclusive organizations…

INTERVIEWER:  …where you had to be asked to join.

BURNETT:  …where you had be invited to join and where, in contrast to BBYO, anybody could join.  They encouraged membership and so we felt because of that being exclusive we were better than them and we weren’t and I’m embarrassed about that, that I was part of it but it existed back in the late fifties and the early sixties and I know that it is no longer.  I don’t know what year it finally shut down ‘cause it should have, but it was not affiliated at all with the JCC and it just was a group of snobby girls.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, what did you do, hold dances or…

BURNETT:  Actually, that’s funny you asked because in my back yard, the girl who used to live in this house, it was the Furman house then, as Bexley houses are known by their previous owners…

INTERVIEWER:  F u r m a n?

BURNETT:  Yes, Judy Furman used to have the high school floats on this big double driveway in the back so, I remember coming to this house as a pledge to STP and as, to build floats for the school and parties for the STPs that were here, so that’s the kind of thing we did and I had very little, in high school, unfortunately, affiliation with the JCC.  I had had much more.  I went to preschool.   I’d like to say proudly that I’m a graduate of the JCC Preschool with Rose Schwartz being the director, a well-known historical name in Columbus and it’s there at the Jewish Center Preschool that I met somebody who no one else has heard of but she was called the Hanuka Fairy.  That was to compete with Santa Claus and she was very beautiful even though no one else saw her but graduates of Columbus Hebrew School [Preschool].  So, I saw her and met her.  That was a highlight.

INTERVIEWER:  Now she was an imaginary character?

BURNETT:  No, she was not an imaginary character. She was a real lady dressed in a princess outfit with high heels and just, she was the Hanuka Fairy.  She looked like a fairy.  It was a real person and  I know she came,  I don’t know how many years I went to that preschool, but yes, I knew the Hanuka Fairy and then my other, speaking about the JCC, I went to the Columbus Hebrew School there and I was one of the few, there weren’t a lot of girls who went but my father wanted me to go there and I did and I just read recently about myself in the Fifty Years Ago Today of the Chronicle that I was on the Honor Roll and I have no, I don’t think I should have been ‘cause I have to say I still don’t read Hebrew well, but I was on the Honor Roll, another one of my proud accomplishments and I remember going to the JCC after elementary school on a bus with everybody else and the bus driver’s name was Mr. Ingram and I have fond memories of having fun on the bus going to Hebrew school but I don’t think I really liked it and didn’t really, it wasn’t so great.

INTERVIEWER:  Now why, did your parents say why they were sending you to Hebrew school?  Did it have to do with them wanting you to be bat mitzvahed or, I know bat mitzvahs were pretty rare.

BURNETT:  Rare, very rare. That was not even an option to be bat mitzvahed at Agudas Achim.  Women could not do that and I don’t remember me feeling badly that I couldn’t because as I said I did not have a good command of reading Hebrew even so that wasn’t an issue, but they wanted me to be confirmed and I went through all the classes, became confirmed there and I don’t have many memories of learning much at Agudas Achim Sunday School, very few memories of that. Talking about discrimination very chauvinistic behavior shown in the late fifties and the sixties, it would have been, there was a program at the Agudas Achim called the Minyanares and I believe it still exists today and that was when all the men would go on Sunday morning and they would pray.  Then when they were done praying they would come out into the social hall where these little junior high or high school girls would serve them their juice and there were some men in the kitchen who prepared breakfast so we were in the, we were serving the men pineapple juice.  I remember it well and we weren’t even allowed to go in there to pray just as we weren’t counted in a minyan and I do remember that bothering me.  That’s probably one, I don’t have the best memories of going to Sunday School there.  I remember having fun with my Confirmation Class and those kinds of things.  It was more of a social thing than an educational, unfortunately, but a lot of things happened at Agudas Achim in my life, life cycle events ‘cause my husband and I were married there and I have wonderful memories of that and my father was very, very involved at Agudas Achim.  His father was one of the original founders of the shul back in the early 1900’s and I remember going to shul.  It was more of a family thing to go to shul with my father and my mother on the High Holidays.  She was more of a High Holidays type Jew, but not great memories of the Sunday School program there.

INTERVIEWER:  When you say not great, you mean…

BURNETT:  Educationally.

INTERVIEWER:  …you don’t have positive memories or you just don’t have memories?

BURNETT:  Both, probably both. Those that I do are more social.  I can remember not wanting to go.  I think that was common, still is but I went because my parents said, “You’re gonna’ go,” and I did and I was confirmed.  I recently saw through the Jewish Historical Society a picture of me with Ricky Weiss who was a good friend of mine and went to the Confirmation dance together.

INTERVIEWER:  Ricky Weiss, that’s W-e-i-s…

BURNETT:  S. Two esses.  He just recently, unfortunately, just passed away but he was a great guy and we had fun.  My memories of the Sunday school and high school or the Confirmation are all social memories, not anything educational.  I don’t think I got a good religious background at their Sunday school.  ‘Could have been my fault, too, that I didn’t pay attention more. I always went but I don’t think I enjoyed it.

INTERVIEWER:  Let me ask you something that I’ve, always intrigues me.  In the late 1950’s when you were going to Sunday school at Agudas Achim and many of the rest of us were going to our own Sunday schools, the Holocaust had only ended 15 years before that.  Do you recall much talk and much education about what had just happened?

BURNETT:  Absolutely not. It wasn’t talked about.  In my family it just was not talked about and I’ve heard it just was too painful and I feel that my parents, even as I became more aware of the Holocaust when I was a young adult, and it bothered me that my parents didn’t do anything about it and they said there wasn’t anything they could do about it so they just ignored it and they didn’t want to talk about it and I think they wanted it to just be a forgotten time in history.  I don’t think their generation wanted to deal with it, when it wasn’t going on, obviously, and what could they have done, but, even in further years I have been very, I don’t want to say involved, intrigued by the Holocaust.   I read so many books about it and my daughter even worked at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  It was a fabulous job out of college and she had to leave it to get married and moved to New York City, but anyway, I became, through things about the Holocaust, became very involved in the Jewish Federation as a young adult,  young married woman and I was the chairman of the Young Women’s Division and tried to raise money and what motivated me more than the funds that were being raised and being used locally were that a lot of the money went to Israel and how important it was to keep Israel a Democratic state and still is a problem, but, and now I’m finally doing something with my, through volunteer service at Jewish Family Service.  They have a program for Holocaust survivors and I’ve been working with a Holocaust survivor for a few years now and I’ve become very, very close to her and she likes to talk about what happened and she just wants somebody to listen and her stories are horrific, but, I can’t believe she survived, and an incredible human being and I’ve gotten, I feel like I’m doing something involved with the Holocaust but it’s grown to be much more than that.  That was possibly my motivation for getting into it but I just love this woman and will continue to see her hopefully for a few, she’s going to be ninety.

INTERVIEWER:  As an adult, would it be fair to say that you feel proud to be Jewish?

BURNETT:  Absolutely! I feel really proud to be Jewish.

INTERVIEWER:   Now, let me ask you when you were ten and twelve and fifteen would you have been able to say that at that point?

BURNETT:  Yes.  Well, I don’t think as a child I don’t think I was that, like I had mentioned earlier,  I don’t think that I was that aware that it was even so different to be Jewish.   They went, other people went to church, we went, my father was also, had a lot of friends who were not Jewish and he always respected their holidays and I can remember us going to church on Christmas Eve with our next door neighbors.  They did that and he wanted to expose us I guess to all kinds of different people and that was another great thing that he did and I didn’t, I never felt that and then in high school, as I said, I was, I did have just Jewish friends and in college as well.  I have to say that.  I definitely gravitated to Jewish people and I still do.  Most of my friends are Jewish.  As a middle age-in-my-sixties adult, they still are Jewish but that doesn’t mean, I do have friends that aren’t Jewish as well, but they’re not my closer friends.

INTERVIEWER:  Is it fair to say you have a stronger Jewish identity now than you had when you were younger?

BURNETT:  Absolutely.

INTERVIEWER:  And is there something you can pinpoint that, is that just a result of natural maturity or is there some reason why you didn’t have that strong of a positive Jewish identity when you were growing up but now you do have it?

BURNETT:  Well, as a young child in elementary school I don’t think it was an issue. As I got into high school I was aware of it and I was aware that the Jews did things differently, that, you know, their organizations and things were different, but my father was always such a part of the non-Jewish community that I think I felt that as well.  I just, it wasn’t a big deal to be Jewish but I was proud of it in high school and did what, you know, belong to the Jewish snotty organization but I was proud to be Jewish and I didn’t ever feel any discrimination.  I don’t really think I have in my whole life, felt discriminated against because I was Jewish, thankful for that, but I think it’s my parent’s choice to raise, there were other Jews in Bexley when they moved here, so I give them a lot of credit for moving.  They must have known the schools, assumed the schools were decent and good and they wanted me to be around other Jews so I think that could be a great part of why I feel, always felt so comfortable being Jewish.

INTERVIEWER:  Now we talked about some Jewish institutions and how you related or didn’t relate, the Hebrew school, Sunday school, the Jewish Center, Rubino’s if you want to call that Jewish institution…

BURNETT:  Well, a Jew opened it.

INTERVIEWER:  Yes. Yes. Are there any other institutions, agencies, groups, that especially when you were younger or growing up here in the Jewish community that you think had an influence on you whether it be Martin’s Kosher Foods or anything else?

BURNETT:  Well, I remember Martin’s with memories of food obviously.  I lost my train of thought, I don’t know, but I guess as a teenager I was proud to be Jewish and felt great about it but there weren’t any other, oh, I was going to mention about Dorothy Potts Dancing School at the JCC!  That was another thing that was a self-segregated thing.  We had dancing school.  I believe, I don’t think there were very many non-Jewish people that went but I could be wrong about that.  My memories are, I can remember who I was dancing with and they happen to be Jewish guys, but that was a big thing for us.  As socially awkward as we all were we still went to Dorothy Potts at the Jewish Center on Sunday afternoons to learn to dance.

INTERVIEWER:  What kinds of dances are we talking about?

BURNETT:  Well, I guess ballroom dancing, sort of.

INTERVIEWER:  The waltz?

BURNETT:  The waltz, cha-cha…

INTERVIEWER:  …the box step…

BURNETT:  …yes, the box step, those, can’t say much for her dancing instruction,

INTERVIEWER:  …Did they teach you rock & roll dances?

BURNETT:  Yes, I think. I think but I’m not sure.

INTERVIEWER:  The jitterbug?

BURNETT:  Yes, probably the jitterbug then.  That was when that was real popular in the late fifties, early sixties which would have been when we were doing that.  I think that was in sixth grade I believe, but I also remember going to another dancing school at the Y downtown that was for not Jewish people. This is a good memory you just spurred. Very few Jews were invited to go to that.  I don’t remember the name of that but it was something more exclusive that you had to be asked to be into, and I do remember that it was a big deal because there were very few Jews that were invited to that, but I, I went gladly with my little white gloves on and my party dress and still behaved socially awkward, I’m sure, as everyone else did but that was one memory where it was different to be Jewish and I had totally forgotten about that, and that was in junior high, maybe freshman year of high school?  Not sure.

INTERVIEWER:  There was a party house called Ilonka’s.  Any memories of that?

BURNETT:  Oh, sure, going to bar mitzvahs there and a lot of bar mitzvah parties.  Not a lot, some were at Ilonka’s.  A lot were at the Excelsior Club.  I don’t know where some of the other ones were but that was another thing about being Jewish that we just did. We went to everybody’s bar and bat mitzvahs, mainly bar mitzvahs at that point, very few bat mitzvahs but another fun memory of being Jewish, not that I had every dance card filled or anything, but there were some painful moments too, waiting for somebody to ask me to dance, but we went to the bar mitzvah parties just like you were supposed to do when you were thirteen, another thing about being Jewish though.

INTERVIEWER:  The Excelsior Club.

BURNETT:  We were not members. No, we were not and most people that weren’t members of Winding Hollow were members of the Excelsior Club but we weren’t. We weren’t. We went to the Aqua-Marine Cabana Club out on East Main Street and that’s where I swam in the summer.  Oh, growing up though I swam always at the JCC and let me tell you another defining moment. I was a synchronized swimmer under Peggy Pierce at the JCC and I was actually quite good and enjoyed that.  I was always into swimming and I could have gone on to be an Olympic, no, I wasn’t that good, but I had fun doing that.  A lot of memories of the JCC:   I got my first kiss was with a guy named Andy Gingold who later moved out of Columbus and he kissed me by the diving board at the Jewish Center.

INTERVIEWER:  How old about…?

BURNETT:  I was probably maybe in eighth, I bet ninth grade.  I think that was in high school but it was still the first kiss and I remember that very well and also at the Jewish Center there was a bowling alley on the north side of the building and something very important in my life happened there. I was in the, we’d go there after school, maybe.  I don’t know what I was doing there after school but one of my friends, Mary Harnett, from my high school class told me the facts of life at the Jewish Center bowling alley.  So, that’s where I became very, very savvy that day and that and then my first kiss and then, oh, I did go on as a young married adult, I was very involved at the JCC.  I was on the board there for ten years, at least ten years and one of the things that I did there that I’m really proud of is that I was in charge of a conference about the Holocaust, you know always kind of was a part…and I led this conference and I think there were about four to five hundred people attended and we had speakers from all over that came in to speak about it and it was a good, it was a great event. That was probably in 1982 and I was very proud of myself for doing that and that also links in with my thing about the Holocaust and those are some of my JCC memories.  Then my husband played softball, the AK softball, the old men’s division until he was injured but he did play for twenty five years until his injury prevented him from continuing his baseball career at the JCC and it’s always…

INTERVIEWER:  Tell us more about your husband. Your husband’s name is…

BURNETT:  …Howard Burnett and we met at Ohio State University.  He came from Oklahoma City where there were very few Jews and it was very difficult to be Jewish in Oklahoma City.  He was not bar mitzvahed because bar mitzvahs were not done at that point in his life.  He was born in 1946 and it was not even an option to be bar mitzvah but he, and he had very few Jewish friends but somehow, he doesn’t really know why, he came to Ohio State.  A lot of his friends were going east. They went to Yale, a couple of his good friends and he didn’t get in there so he came to Ohio State instead and we met my sophomore year and fell in love and we’ve been happily married for almost forty-four years and he became very involved in the Jewish community here as well and he was the president of the Jewish Family Service for a few years and continues continued his involvement there for a while so he got into being Jewish and Jewish education so he learned a lot of things that he didn’t have the opportunity to learn in Oklahoma so I’m proud of that and then our children went to Tifereth Israel and they were bar and bar mitzvahed and as I had mentioned earlier that tradition is being perpetuated because their children are being raised as Jews as well.  Proud of that.

INTERVIEWER:  So when you were a child you went to Agudas Achim and more in your adult era you’ve been members of Tifereth Israel.

BURNETT:  Yes, well, yes.  We started out at Temple Israel because my husband thought being from Reformed [Reform] it would be too much for him to go to Agudas Achim so we decided to try it and we did for about five years and then their educational system was not what we had hoped it would be so, I think, after first grade for our oldest we moved to Tifereth because it had such a fabulous reputation for its educational system.

INTERVIEWER:   After your children were getting in to be first grade, that’s when you moved.

BURNETT:  That’s when we transferred to Tifereth, moved to Tifereth and been thrilled with that, loved, loved, we still do, Rabbi Berman and that’s only great memories from Tifereth and still belong there even though sadly Rabbi Berman is not the  rabbi anymore but he retired so that’s kind of my religious… I’m proud to say also that my husband has become more observant because of, you know, going to Tifereth and our children’s education and supporting them and what they did.  He’s not willing to be bar mitzvah though.  He still doesn’t want to go back.  Maybe when he’s eighty-three which is getting closer he’ll do it then but anyway so that’s our Jewish, my Jewish background.

INTERVIEWER:  Now, how ‘bout some of the businesses that were, of course, to the general community but were prominently owned by Jews.  What memories might you have of we’ll say Lazarus or the Union?

BURNETT:  I have memories of going to Lazarus all the time with my mother ‘cause that was the only place to shop and then with my best friend Becky Fisher we went there every Saturday afternoon probably from junior high through high school.  We never missed a Saturday and we’d have lunch there and take the bus and great memories of Lazarus.  [Intentionally Omitted]

INTERVIEWER:  Were you aware of that back when you were growing up that there were the German Jews different from the Hungarian Jews?

BURNETT:  I think my parents made me aware of that.  I’m not sure I was as a young child, certainly not in elementary school.  I think by the time I was in high school I knew.  [Intentionally Omitted]

INTERVIEWER:  Now let me ask you this.  Do you remember?  You said you would go with Becky Fisher, your best friend.  You would get on the bus on Saturdays and go down to Lazarus. Do you recall having to get dressed up to go downtown back then?

BURNETT:  I don’t know. I bet we did.

INTERVIEWER:  It was a big deal.

BURNETT:  Probably was. Shopping for more clothes to wear the following Saturday to go to… but we did that frequently, frequently.  We did.  Fond memories, great memories of that, of shopping with her.

INTERVIEWER:  Okay.  Let’s see. I’m just trying to think if there might be any other Jewish institutions although I think we probably… we talked about synagogues, we talked about schools, we talked about some of the businesses that were linked with Jews and we’ve talked about the Jewish social groups…

BURNETT:  Yes, good and bad, good and bad, but I also find that it’s interesting with these, the Jewish groups and non-Jewish groups, is that as we’ve aged, I think it’s nice that so many of us that went to Bexley High School stayed in this part of town and are still involved and have gotten reacquainted with each other as we approach our fifty year high school reunion in another year.  It’s a great place to be from and your roots are clearly there and it’s a very good feeling about being Jewish, and being part of the group of being Jewish and part of the community, of the east side community that has served me well through the years and it’s obviously my identity as a Jew growing up in Columbus with a prominent Jewish family.  My father was well-known. It’s just a great, it’s a great legacy that he left me to be proud, both my parents, to be proud of being Jewish and never be ashamed about it and he told everybody he was proud of being Jewish and that came back to me as well.  Good lesson that he taught me.

INTERVIEWER:  This sounds like a good note on which to end this interview.  My name is Bill Cohen and I’ve been talking with Ellen Berliner Burnett here at her home at 152 South Merkle in Bexley and it’s April 8th, 2015, this interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.