I grew up in Lincolnton, NC, a small town about 30 miles north of Charlotte. In the 1930s, we were one of two Jewish families in the entire town. My parents were immigrants who taught my younger brother, Sam, and I to always be proud of our Jewish heritage. My father closed his retail store for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and we traveled to Charlotte to attend High Holiday services.
Anti-Semitism was deep rooted in the South during the 1930s and 1940s but my mother and father taught Sam and I to embrace our religion and strive to be honest, caring and generous. My father was proud to contribute to local Lincolnton charities and many Jewish causes. My brother, Sam, was a leader in civic endeavors in Lincolnton and in Charlotte’s Jewish community where he began his family in the 1960s.
Shortly after I married Gloria Katzen Lerner in November, 1967, I came to Charlotte from New York to join my brother in his real estate business. Gloria agreed to leave her job as a lecturer at Hunter College to start our family here. We were warmly welcomed by the Jewish community and felt Charlotte would be a good environment to raise children. I became involved in Jewish organizations and institutions initially to acquaint myself with the community.
Seeing the needs that existed, I decided to channel my energy and efforts in the Federation because it serves the entire Jewish community. I soon saw the need to create a more recognized Jewish presence in Charlotte. At the 1978 General Assembly of the Federation, I listened to a scholar discuss the possibility of a spiritual, educational and activity campus which would create a significant Jewish presence where one had not previously existed. I was encouraged to pursue my goal of bringing Jewish institutions together here in Charlotte. Hours of discussion and numerous compromises evolved into the success we know today as Shalom Park. The fulfillment of that vision was made possible by the founder’s dedication and generosity. This, in turn, inspired contributions from the entire community and the formation of the Foundation of Shalom Park.
I hope that all of you will join together in continuing this tradition of generosity. By contributing to your choice of endowments, we can realize even further development and a greater enhancement of our vibrant Jewish community for future generations.
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