Mailing Address:
Special Collections
College of Charleston Library
66 George Street
Charleston, SC 29424

(843) 953-8016

Title: David Karesh letters

Collection #: Mss 1034-014

Dates: 1949-1957

Size: 33 items

Biographical Note: David Karesh was born in Trestina, Poland, in 1878. At age eleven, he entered the Yeshiva at Byalystok, Poland, and devoted his life to the study of Judaism. Karesh immigrated to America in 1899 and spent several years in New York. He married his wife Lena (d. 1954) in 1902 and served as Rabbi for various New York synagogues. Karesh moved to Columbia, South Carolina, in 1908 and took over as Rabbi at House of Peace Synagogue. He also served many of the smaller communities around South Carolina, conducting weddings, bar mitzvahs, and funerals.

Scope and Content Note:

Collection includes seven letters from David Karesh to Frank and Nettie Levenson of Bishopville, South Carolina. The letters were written in Yiddish, and English translations are included. Karesh often traveled from Columbia to Bishopville to provide the family (and friends and relatives) with kosher meat. Letters contain Karesh's expressions of thanks for the Levenson's hospitality, mentions of his work at the slaughterhouse, comments on assimilation of American Jews, reform among Jews, and loss of Jewish traditions with related personal thoughts and philosophy.

Several letters were written on stationery from House of Peace Synagogue and a Columbia butcher, A.G. Dent. Letters have been photocopied. Unrelated material includes an invoice (1947) for Nettie Levenson's doctor's visit and letter (1949) from a couple in White Plains, NY, thanking the Levensons for their hospitality on a visit to Bishopville.


  A. Letter and envelope: Dec. 23, 1949: pertains to birth of the Levenson’s granddaughter, Leah Elizabeth Lin; mentions Hanukah and Karesh’s fondness for Hanukah traditions.  
  B. Letter and envelope: Feb. 9, 1953: Karesh thanks the Levenson’s for their hospitality (on a recent visit) and mentions "wise men in olden days" emphasizing that one not eat with stingy people (which the Levenson’s were not); he also advises the Levenson’s to let him know if they needed kosher meat for a holiday.  
  C. Letter and envelope: Nov. 24, 1957: Philosophical letter contains Karesh’s views on Jewish traditions and his belief that younger Jews do not adhere to religious laws as strictly as the older generation and are more like "the gentiles" in terms of eating habits and religious practices; at end of letter Karesh mentions he and his wife would like to move to Jerusalem the following year.   
  D. Letter: No Date: Karesh speaks of recovering from an illness but still managing to perform his duties as a shochet so he could deliver kosher meat; speaks of wedding ceremonies he performed and how a family (?) was ashamed of the way in which he wore a yarmulke and performed Orthodox weddings; speaks of his shame for such people, the "younger generation" that want to assimilate.  
  E. Letter: No Date: Karesh writes of change in slaughter schedule and inquires whether it will inconvenience those in Bishopville waiting for kosher meat.  
  F. Letter: No Date: written on "A.G. Dent/Dealer in Beef, Pork, Mutton, Etc." letterhead; Karesh’s writes of his support of Orthodox yeshivas as opposed to Reform Schools.  
  G. Letter: No Date: Karesh anticipates an upcoming visit to Bishopville (to deliver meat) and wonders how the town has changed in terms of its "Jewishness"; he philosophizes on the changing nature of Judaism and acknowledges that it is not so much about tradition anymore; he writes of turmoil in "our spiritual Jewish life" and how it is difficult for the older generation to witness.  
  H. Misc.: Invoice (July 7, 1947) from Dr. Emil Novak of Baltimore, MD to Nettie Levenson for $10 exam; letter (July 27, 1949) from "Harry and Muriel" of White Plains, NY thanking the Levenson’s for their hospitality during a visit to Bishopville.