LUMBERTON — The Robeson County History Museum, Historic Robeson and the Carolina Civic Center will sponsor a showing of the documentary “Lasting Impressions” at the Carolina Civic Center on Thursday at 7 p.m.
“Lasting Impressions” is an hour-long documentary of the history of Jewish people in Robeson County. It was a joint project of Drew Levinson and Melinda Weinstein, both natives of the county. The event is free and open to the public.
Levinson is a longtime reporter for CBS News.
“It’s the human side of the story, with all the people, sights and sounds,” Levinson said. “It’s always better when the people tell the story.”
The first Jews on record in Robeson County were the Fine family, headed by Moses Fine. He and his wife Sarah immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1883. According to the 1900 United States Census, they lived in Maxton with five children who were all born in North Carolina. Moses Fine worked as a merchant and, in 1900, the family rented their home.
After the Fines, more Jewish families moved into the county. Most were first-generation immigrants from Russia, Lithuania, and Poland, and included the Weinstein, Shocket and Gordin families. A small number of American-born Jews moved to the area in the 1920s. Harry Levinson, originally from Manning, S.C., moved his family to Fairmont and opened Levinson’s Department store.
Aaron Weinstein became one of the most prominent Jews in the area. He immigrated to the United States from Lithuania in the mid-1880s, first settling in Baltimore. He arrived in Lumberton in the early 20th century with his wife, Rebecca, and two children, Hilda and Miriam. Four more children arrived after the move. Weinstein opened his own general store, Weinstein’s, on North Elm Street in Lumberton. In 1908, he donated land for the growing Jewish community to build the county’s first synagogue. He also donated a large amount of money to aid local blacks building a first Baptist church.
Weinstein’s store stayed in business until 1987. The same year, David Weinstein, Aaron Weinstein’s grandson, took office as Lumberton’s first Jewish mayor.
About one-third of the businesses in Robeson County were Jewish-owned in the middle of the 20th century. Today, the only Jewish-owned business remaining is Joe Sugar’s, a men’s clothing store in St. Pauls.
The showing is part of the Smithsonian exhibit “Journey Stories” now on display at the Robeson County History Museum. For information, call Blake Tyner at 910-827-5504 or by email at email@example.com.