Gerald & Barbara Schapiro

In 1970 I moved from New York to Rock Hill, SC. This was a major adjustment going from an area with a strong Jewish identity to a small town with virtually no Jewish presence. It was not quite the Exodus story but like other Jews and previous family members I did initially feel like that “stranger in a strange land.” My grandfather brought his family from Russia to Scotland, and my mother later found herself in New York separated from her family. She was proud of her Jewish roots and engrained the significance of our Jewish faith and our role in the world in my brother and me.

Temple Israel became my link to the Jewish community. I regularly attended Shabbat services and kept a kosher home. The challenge was continuing to adhere to those same values and religious traditions that I learned in Jewish day school and from my own family in an environment that was not as conducive to a Jewish way of life. How does one retain a Jewish identity living in Rock Hill, SC?

It was a challenge for our family. Barbara made it a priority, transporting our children to religious school at Temple Israel while becoming very involved civically in our own Rock Hill community. We both felt it was important for us to present a positive Jewish image within our hometown. Our children took great pride in the fact that they were one of only a few Jewish students in the Rock Hill public school system. We incorporated our Jewish roots and teachings into our civic responsibilities.

I was raised with an extended family and parents who understood the responsibility to give to charity. It wasn’t an option. To the extent that you could give, you gave. Not just financially but of your time. Each of us has a personal responsibility to give of whatever resources we have. We have worked hard to pass on the lessons of our Jewish religion, giving and active volunteering, to our children. This included maintaining a kosher household. It is what my grandfather and mother taught me. It is my hope that each of our children takes those same values and continues to adapt them to their own lives.

Temple Israel has been an important part of our Jewish identity. I will continue to attend synagogue each Saturday and support Jewish charities.

Back to Index