Morgantown Synagogue Releases Book of Oral Histories

Tree of Life, Jewish, Ed Gerson

The first Jewish residents moved to Morgantown in 1879. Since then, the community has made quite a mark on the city. A few years ago, the then-president of the Tree of Life Congregation and Synagogue in Morgantown asked now-President Ed Gerson to write a history of the congregation for a time capsule. Instead, Gerson interviewed about 20 members of the Jewish community and documented their stories in a book of oral histories. The book, called Morgantown Jewish Heritage, was released this month. 

Ed Gerson Interview Highlights

On Forming Friendships with Other Communities in Morgantown

In business, you have to recognize people, acknowledge somebody else besides you. They have needs and you have needs. There’s more to it than a transaction. It’s a social transaction. It’s a social contract. The essential factor being the humanity. At some point we have to cross paths. Those cross-points is what make human life meaningful and possible if you collaborate together. And sometimes it doesn’t have to be verbal. 

On the Loss of Jewish Identity 

With my own father, I certainly can say that he was – and all those who knew him would tell me – he’s a mystical-type man. There was a longing, a yearning, for something that had been lost in my father. He would sometimes talk about Russia. I would say, “Pop! You were born in the United States!” And he would tell me these stories about Russia. And of course, the reasons for leaving Russia were not pleasant. But the memory of Russia is.

On Anti-Semitism

I noticed that the responses to anti-semitism were longstanding in some people. They remembered it very well. But they basically went on with their lives. 

On Asking Readers to Complete the Mitzvah, or Good Deed 

You make the world a decent a place for God to reside in. 

The audio was updated to reflect that Shirley Levine, not Max Levine, provided the story about her father for the book.