A History Continued
Other Columbus Jews played important roles on the southern home front during the Civil War. Louis and Herman Haiman were brothers from Prussia who owned a tinsmith shop and a small sword making business before the war. The demand for their swords peaked after hostilities began, and Louis bought the Muscogee Iron Works during the war. He sent his brother Elias to Europe to ensure that a ready supply of British steel got through the northern blockade. By 1863, Haiman had 400 workers, many of whom were young boys, turning out 250 swords a day, which made them the largest sword manufacturer in the Confederacy. By the end of the war, Haiman’s factory was also making pistols, though it was soon destroyed by Northern troops. After the war, Haiman turned his swords into plowshares, manufacturing plows that he sold to area farmers. Two other brothers, Simon and Frank Rothschild, who had previously owned a dry goods store, started a uniform manufacturing business in Columbus, making 5000 army uniforms during the first year of the war.
Other enterprising Columbus Jews found themselves on the wrong side of the law during the war. Simeon Stern co-owned a dry goods store in Columbus with his brother Bernhardt before the war. In 1862, Simeon was arrested along with another man named Rosenberg for passing counterfeit Confederate money in exchange for cotton. Authorities found $18,000 in worth of counterfeit bills at the Stern’s business. At the time, there was great concern within the South that the Union was
secretly using counterfeit money to undermine the economy of the Confederacy. Stern’s arrest led to suspicion being cast on L.G. Sternheimer, a mohel who also led services for the B’nai Israel congregation. A boarder who lived with the Sterns, Sternheimer also passed some counterfeit bills, though he claimed ignorance of their shady provenance. When Sternheimer was interviewing for a job with Macon’s Jewish congregation a few years later, he had to once again defend his innocence from this plot. Since he was never charged, Sternheimer was hired by the Macon congregation.
During the war, Columbus’ B’nai Israel sought to hire Rabbi James Gutheim, who had left his congregation in New Orleans after refusing to take a loyalty oath to the Union. Rabbi Gutheim, who had become a folk hero to southern Jews loyal to the Confederacy, accepted a pulpit in Montgomery instead. The members of B’nai Israel were able to convince the Montgomery congregation to share Rabbi Gutheim, who traveled to Columbus once every six weeks to lead Shabbat services. A few years later, Rabbi Gutheim left for a pulpit in New York City. B’nai Israel rarely had rabbinic leadership during its first few decades. In 1883, a member of the congregation lamented this fact in a letter to the American Israelite newspaper. The congregation of 36 members was desperate to hire someone who could speak German and English, lead services, and teach Hebrew to the congregation’s children. In 1886, they hired Rabbi Louis Weiss, who stayed in Columbus only two years. In 1893, they hired Rabbi E.B.M. Browne, who remained at B’nai Israel until 1901.