Saratoga Springs Public Library
Inclusive Date: 1865 - 2000
6 cu. ft.
Frustrated that the history of the Jewish citizens of Saratoga Springs was not well represented, and memories were failing, Sophie Goldstein and Florence Susman began the Saratoga County Jewry History Project. The two librarians designed and conducted oral history interviews of the Jewish community members. The collection also contains papers and ephemera collected by Sophie about the Jewish population of Saratoga.
Sophie Goldstein was born in Tula, Russia in November 6,1909. Sophie’s Mother was born and raised in Moscow which was very unusual as a Jew. It was unusual that the Russians would allow an entire Jewish family to live comfortably in Moscow. The reason being that her Mother’s Father was a career soldier for Czar Nicholas and saved his life in great battle. He was granted a favor for that, and Sophie’s Grandfather chose to live freely as a Jew in Moscow along with his children. It was living in Moscow and going to classical events all of her young life that Sophie developed her love of the classical arts. Just ahead of WW I on February 5, 1914 Sophie and her family sailed to Ellis Island. Sophie’s father had cousins in Syracuse, NY, so they went by train to Syracuse where the cousins had arranged for an apartment and job for her Father and all of their immediate needs.
Sophie was educated in the Syracuse School System and graduated from Syracuse University. At age 13, Sophie was playing the violin for silent movies. Sophie received a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and a Master’s Degree in Library Science from the State University at Albany. She worked and retired as a reference librarian from Queen’s Public Library. It was at SU that Sophie met her future husband, George Goldstein. George was studying liberal arts, but he really wanted to go to medical school. In those years it was virtually impossible for a Jewish young man to get into medical school in the US…there were quotas. Eventually George was accepted in Berne Switzerland, but his parents would not let him leave the country. They married on June 24, 1934. George graduated from Tufts Medical School and Sophie began her first job as a social worker in Warwick, NY. and George got a position as a dentist at a school for delinquent boys. ` In 1939, George and Sophie decided to move to Saratoga where they had often visited growing up and remember it being so beautiful, having a Jewish population and a good place for George to open a private practice, which he did , at 408 Broadway for $300. They were welcomed with open arms by about 65 Jewish families. George was the first Jewish professional of the medical profession who settled permanently year round. They formed friendships immediately and were drawn into organizations and a very lovely life. Sophie and George joined every organization, the Men’s Club, The Ladies Auxilliary, Hadassah, B’nai B’rith and then the Men’s Lodge of the B’nai B’rith, The Mason and Kiwanis and were extremely active in all. George became famous locally and especially in B’nai B’rith as a speaker all along the Eastern seaboard, the U.S. and Canada. He spoke about anti-defamation, anti –prejudice, against racism and prejudice of all kinds. George had a “quip”, he started all his speaking with, “I’m not going to speak about tolerance, I want acceptance. I want love for each other! That is how he spoke and that is how he lived his life. George was a community leader from the beginning. At that time,Sophie was happy being very active in the Jewish organizations and raising her 3 children, Barbara, Louise, and Geoffrey.
George died in 1956 after a long illness. Sophie chose Jewish History in Saratoga Springs for her final thesis in graduate school. When she went to the Saratoga Library, she met Florence Susman, a librarian at SSPL and they both discovered there was very little information about Jews living in Saratoga or about Jewish Community. There was nothing in the Saratoga history books to indicate that any Jew lived here. Knowing that such a community existed from the middle of the 19th Century, Goldstein and her friend Florence Susman decided to embark on the Saratoga County Jewry Project. The project took from 1973 until 2000 to complete. It consists of nearly 75 people who put their oral histories on tape discussing how they came to this country, their family histories and what it was like to grow up here in the 20th Century.
In April,2009, at 100 years old, Sophie was honored with the Hugh Hastings Award from the Association of Public Historians of New York State and the New York State Museum. Sophie died at 102 years old, but her legacy of Jewish history can be explored at the Saratoga Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
The collection is comprised of the tapes and remastered CD’s of the oral histories collected by Sophie Goldstein with the assistance of Florence Susman. In addition, each of the tapes has been transcribed. The CD’s and transcriptions are arranged alphabetically.
The collection also contains three boxes of Sophie’s collection of materials associated with the Jewish experience in Saratoga Springs. These boxes are arranged by series.
A notebook of articles regarding Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs was donated at a later date and has been added to the collection.
Items may only be used in the Saratoga Room.