A History Continued
If Sharis Israel became the home of Columbus’ Russian Jewish immigrants, B’nai Israel remained the center of the city’s native-born and German Jews. Of eleven members of the 1904 confirmation class, nine were born in Georgia. Of their parents, 36% were native born, while 55% were born in Germany. Most of these immigrant parents had been in the United States for a long time by 1904. The congregation grew as well, from 48 members in 1905 to 85 in 1925. A big reason for this growth was Rabbi Frank Rosenthal who came to Columbus from Baton Rouge in 1907. Rosenthal led the effort to rebuild the synagogue after it was damaged by a fire at the end of 1907. He became very involved with local civic organizations, becoming a charter member of the Kiwanis Club and an active member of the Masons and the Woodmen of the World. Rabbi Rosenthal was also a leader of the local B’nai B’rith and helped to push for the construction of the B’nai B’rith Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Rosenthal served as the spiritual leader of B’nai Israel for 33 years.
The Jewish population of Columbus grew from 300 Jews in the late 19th century to 735 in 1937. Most concentrated in retail trade, although a handful got involved with Columbus’ bustling industrial economy. In 1919, Jewish-owned stores dotted downtown Columbus, including the Emporium, Ed Cohn’ Store, Loewenherz Brothers, and the Leader. Abe Straus started with the John Archer Mitchell Hosiery Mill as secretary/treasurer in 1920. By 1923, Straus had become the president of one of the largest manufacturing concerns in Columbus.
Five years later, he bought the company and built a big new factory on Talbotton Road. Simon Schwob, a Jewish tailor from Alsace, moved to Columbus in 1912, opening a clothing store in downtown called the Standard Tailoring Company. Schwob soon started
to make the suits that he sold in his store. From this modest start, Schwob built a large clothing manufacturing business in Columbus. When Simon died in 1954, his widow Ruth took over the company. In 1976, the family sold the business. While no Schwobs remain in Columbus today, the legacy of the family’s philanthropy lives on with the Schwob Library and Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University.