Early Jewish Pioneers of McAlester, Hartshorne & Wilburton, Oklahoma

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A combined Jewish community was formed from these three neighboring towns in Southeast Oklahoma.

Early Jewish Settlers

In 1895, Sam Wolf opened the New York Store in Hartshorne.

Later, his wife and brother-in-law, Jacob Epstein, ran it.

 

In 1895, Abbie Wolf of McAlester owned the Globe Department Store.

He lived with his three sisters in 1900.

 

In 1896, Al Meyer opened the Grand Leader in Hartshorne.

Ten years later, Sam Oppenheim owned it.

 

In 1898, John Joseph opened a store in Wilburton – which stayed in the family until 1978.

(There’s a plaque there.)

The store became Goldberg & Joseph when Sam Goldberg bought in.

 

In 1900, Harry Serwinsky and Mike Goldberg opened the Grand Leader (yes, some name) also opened in Hartshorne.

The business stayed in the family until closing in 1970.

 

In 1911, Benjamin Gladstein founded the Gladstein Company, a dry goods store and wholesale supply house in McAlester.

It closed in 1994.

 

Louis Berlowitz owned the Model Clothing Store.

 

Alex Grossman was a cotton and cotton ginning dealer in the 1910’s.

Cotton Ginning & Bailing, OK, Vintage Postcard

Cotton Ginning & Bailing, OK, Vintage Postcard

 

 

Civic 

Among the Charter Members of the McAlester Rotary Club, founded in 1914, were Alex Grossman, Louis Berlowitz, and Harris Gladstein.

Alex Grossman and Irvin Gladstein served on the Board of Directors of the National Bank of McAlester.

Leo Goldberg was President of the McAlester Retail Merchants Association and the member of the Oklahoma Retail Merchants Association.

Sylvia Goldberg was TB Seal chairman for 35 years.

She also led the first Mothers March for Infantile Paralysis.

 

In 2007, the  Goldberg & Joseph Heritage Park was dedicated in downtown Wilburton.

Goldberg & Jones Heritage Park, Wilburton, OK

Goldberg & Jones Heritage Park, Wilburton, OK, today.

Community

In 1901, the  Jewish community started to form between the three towns, along with Jews of neighboring towns of Alderson, Atoka and Krebs.

Services were held on second floor of one of the Great Leader stores, led by Harry Byers.

Some Jewish stores closed for High Holidays, such as the Golden Eagle.

 

Congregation B’nai Israel was formed in Hartshorne, in 1916.

Romanian-born merchant, Louis Rothbaum, led services in Hebrew and English for the congregation of 18.

He also taught Sunday School.

Hebrew Union College usually sent a student Rabbi for High Holy Days.

 

In 1923, a chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women was formed with Fannie Gladstein as President.

The Jewish Community House was established in McAlester in 1934, with funds raised by Benjamin Gladstein, Leo Goldberg, Alex Grossman, and John Joseph.

Elected officers were: John Joseph as President, Fannie Gladstein as Vice President, Joe Weingarten as Secretary, and Louise Grossman as Treasurer.

 

Alex Grossman served as President of the United Jewish Center.

 

Louis Berlowitz was the 1918 Chairman of the Jewish Relief Campaign.

 

Fraternal

In 1910,  the McAlester branch of B’nai B’rith was formed.

Sam Goldberg was a member of the Wilburton Lions Club for 40 years.

The area’s Jewish community was small but active into the 1950’s.

 

Sources

  • Tobias, Henry J. The Jews of Oklahoma.  University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
  • Jewish Virtual Library
  • Encyclopedia Judaica
  • Institute of Southern Jewish Life

Regina Merwin is the Curator for this McAlester, Hartshorne & Wilburton, Oklahoma Exhibit

Pictures and more information would be very helpful for this exhibit.

 

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