Ahavath Sholom Synagogue



Jews settled in Bluefield in the early 1900s, and in 1902 the Bluefield synagogue, Ahavath Sholom, was formed. The founders were I. Aaron, Jacob and Simon Baker, Barney and Isaac Cohen, Saul and Solomon Greenspon, Louis Kaufman, Samuel Matz, Henry Rodgin, and Samuel and Saul Turk. Their first permanent synagogue was the former Scott Street Presbyterian Church dedicated in 1907. The congregation dedicated their new synagogue on Albemarle Street in 1949. Active community groups included the temple sisterhood and youth group, B’nai B’rith Lodge, United Jewish Charities of Bluefield-Princeton, and Hadassah. A large Jewish cemetery section exists at the Monte Vista Park Cemetery. Bluefield’s Jews were, for the most part, engaged in retailing. Some of the earliest Jewish businesses in town were those of Isadore Cohen, Nathan Platnick, Henry Rodgin, Morris Rosenberg, and Samuel Turk. One of the last Jewish businesses in the city is Kammer Furniture, established in 1932. Dr. Rodgin is an optometrist in town whose family was one of the earliest in Bluefield. Bluefield’s Jews also became  doctors and attorneys. Bluefield had a large Jewish community for many years, and it was involved in every aspect of city life as well as the r. The Jewish community today is much smaller, but is an active congregation. Nearby Princeton also had Jewish families and an informal Jewish congregation. Jewish businesses included those of the Barbakow, Baum, Deitz, Lisagore, Nelson, and Tomchin families. By the 1950s, the Princeton and Bluefield Jews merged into one united community. Today, the Bluefield Jewish community is small, but has an active core. Their main focus is the synagogue and congregation. The long-time Jewish residents of Bluefield are committed to the future and the preservation of the Community's past.



Bluefield Jewish-Owned Businesses & Stores

American Loan Company - owned and operated by Max Turk. Also a branch in Hinton in Summers County

Angrist Clothing Merchants - one of the oldest Jewish families in Bluefield. Abe, Ben & Harry Angrist

Attorney - Law Firm of Kwass, Stone & McGhee, est. in 1946 by Sidney J. Kwass

Attorney - Law Firm of Katz, Kantor & Perkins

Baker - Benjamin Bernhard Matz, the only Jewish baker in Bluefield up to his retirement in 1945

Cavalier Cut Rate Drug Store - Princeton Avenue, owned and operated by Israel fink 1946-1948

Clothing Store - owned and operated by Ezra Gilbert until 1924 when he moved to Beckley

Cohen Drugs - part of the once well-known chain of stores in West Virginia

Glamour Shop Ladies-Ready-to-Wear - owned and operated by Philip Platnick until 1950 when he went into the scrap

          iron and metal business

Isaac Greenspon Manufacturing Company - Bluefield Avenue - candy and soda

Jewelry Store - established in 1912 by Isadore Cohen

Kammer Furniture & Appliance - 400 Bland Street, est. by Harry Kanner, still in business in 2006

Kwass Bottling Works - Kwass Brothers Ice Factory

Kwass & Gross

L. Lazarus & Company - Liquors - Bluefield until Prohibition and then to Pocahontas, VA

Mullens Travel, Inc. - owned & operated by Edward Tomchin

Optometrist - William Greenspon, Joseph “Jay” Rodgin

People’s Loan Company - 906 Mercer Street, owned & operated by Fred Gilbert, Harold Finberg

Phil’s Fashions - 415 Federal Street, then later on at the Mercer Mall 1956-1988. Shapiro Family. Contact Sharon Shapiro

Platnick Brothers Firm - scrap iron & steel fabricator and metal dealer. Phillip, Benjamin, Nathan & David Platnick began

          the business in 1915. It was sold and re-named in 1969.

Platnick Steel & Engineering - est. in 1968, located in St. Clair’s Crossing

Public Accountant - Frank Klauber

The Henry Rodgin Company Jewelers - begun in 1902 by Henry Rodgin, a pioneer Jew of Bluefield

Shaman’s, Inc. - Men’s & Boy’s Wear

Shoe Store - Princeton Avenue, owned and operated by Harry Clark

Steckler’s Men’s Shop

Samuel Turk Department Store - Princeton Avenue

Union Loan Company - owned and operated by Sidney & Helen Rosenthal

Vogue Fur Store - Federal Street, owned and operated by William P. Gottlieb


Princeton Jewish-Owned Businesses & Stores

Army Navy Store

Barbakow’s Ladies Shop - 901 Mercer Street, owned by Yankee Barbakow. Also known as “Barbakow’s Store

Dietz Grocery Store

Drug Store - owned by Calvin Deitz & Emmanuel Borinsky

Maidenform Factory - the factory manager was Samuel Laufer

Nelson’s Ladies Shop - Princeton, 855 Mercer St., begun in 1934 by Frank Nelson

Santon’s - Main Street, son was George Santon

Tomchin Furniture Company - established ca. 1911 as a hardware store. Grew to a number of full service furniture stores.

          Closed after 1999. Located in Princeton, WV - 423 Mercer Street; Northfork, WV; Mullens, WV - 304 Moran

          Avenue; and Wytheville, VA - 230 W. Main Street “Tomchin Furniture-The Furniture Family


Other Sites & Places of Jewish Interest

+Fred Gilbert Activity Center - Princeton, West Virginia

+Tomchin Planetarium - West Virginia University - named in memory of Harold Tomchin of Princeton, WV



+Deborah Rosenthal Goldstein, '71, is vice president and manager of Union Loan Company, Inc. of Bluefield, West

          Virginia and chairperson of Bluefield's Human Rights and Community Relations Commission. (Bluefield State College


+Henry Rodgin Memorial Fund - (Bluefield College)

+Harry Finkelman Scholarship - (Concord College, Athens, WV)

+Yankee Barbakow Scholarship - (Concord College, Athens, WV

+Frank Nelson Scholarship - (Concord College, Athens, WV


Obituaries & Death Notices


Robert Effron, 95, of 150 East Reynolds Avenue, Sherwood Apartments, in Princeton died Saturday, July 14, 2001, at Westwood Health Care Center. Born October 11, 1905 in Winchester, KY, he was the son of the late Abraham Effron and Augusta Effron. He was the former owner and operator of the Army-Navy Store in Princeton and was a partner in the NEFF Corporation. He was a member of the Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Bluefield. He was also a member of the B'nai-B'rith and was formerly active in the Princeton Downtown Merchants Association and the Chamber of Commerce. He was a 1927 graduate of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA. He had been a resident of Princeton since 1927, moving here from Bluefield. Two brothers, Nathan Effron and Chiam Effron, and three sisters, Bea Nelson, Ida Weinburg and Anna Hall preceded him in death. Survivors include his wife, Charlotte Miller Effron, one son, Edward M. Effron, both of Princeton, and several nieces and nephews. Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday at 2 PM at the George W. Seaver Chapel of Seaver Funeral Home in Princeton with Rabbi I. B. Koller officiating. Burial will follow in Monte Vista Park Cemetery in Green Valley. There will be no visitation. Memorial contributions may be made to the Congregation Ahavath Sholom, 632 Albermarle Street, Bluefield, WV 24701.


Mrs. Gussie A. Kwass, 89, member of a pioneer Bluefield family, died Tue. morning at a Bluefield hospital. She had resided at Glenwood Park Nursing home, where she suffered various illnesses, for more then six years. Coming to Bluefield with her parents, Samuel and Ceclia Klush Aaron, in 1893, she attended all Bluefield School then in existence. She was long active in community, and religious service organizations, was a member of the Congregation Ahavath Sholom and a past president of its sisterhoods. During WWII she cited as a volunteer Red Cross worker. Her husband, Joseph I. Kwass, member of a pioneer Pocahontas family, died in 1952. Besides her husband and parents, she was preceded in death by two sisters, and a brother. Survivors include two sons, local attorney Sidney J. Kwass, Meyer Kwass of Charleston; two sisters, Mrs. A. N. (Sara) Schlossberg of Bluefield, Mrs. Louis (Jennie) Schwartz of Columbus, OH; three grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Funeral services were conducted at Mercer Funeral Home Thursday at 3:30 pm by Rabbi Jay B. Heyman of Temple Israel, Charleston. - Clinch Valley News - Tazewell County, VA 9-24-1975

Frances Penziner Laufer M.S. 68, Princeton, died June 14, 1997 at age 78. She was a retired teacher having taught in the Mercer County School System for 35 years. She was a member of the National, West Virginia and Mercer County Retired Teachers Associations; the Congregation Ahavath Sholom; the Bluefield-Princeton Chapter of Hadassah; and the Bluefield-Princeton Lodge 967 B'nai B'rith. She was preceded in death by her sister Rosalind Polinsky. Laufer is survived by her husband of 60 years Samuel Laufer; sons Edward Laufer and Jerry Laufer; daughter Judy Borrero; two grandchildren Barbara Laufer and Spc. Lewis Borrero; and brothers Leo Penziner and Frederick Penziner. - Radford University Class Notes - Winter 1997


Fred E. Gilbert of 201 Oakdell St., Bluefield, passed away Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2003 in a Bluefield hospital. Born Dec. 20, 1905, in Lithuania, he was a son of the late Morris and Eva Gilbert. Fred was the founder and president of Peoples Loan Company of Bluefield and Princeton for 73 years. He was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II where he served in Panama. Active in both civic and community affairs, Fred was a member of the Congregation Ahavath Sholom where he served as president for 13 years, and was a loyal member involved in all areas of Temple activities. He was a loyal member of the United Jewish Charities, serving as chairman for seven years and treasurer for 50 years, and also was a member of and served as treasurer of B'nai B'rith for 55 years. He was also a faithful life member of Hadassah, where he gave generously to the support of Hadassah's hospital in Jerusalem. Fred was a strong and loyal supporter of the Jewish National Fund. He created four different forests in honor, or in memory of close family members. He also created a park and playground outside of Jerusalem, Israel in honor of his grandchildren. He was presented the Distinguished West Virginian Award in 1993, signed by Governor Gaston Caperton. In 2000 he was presented the City of Peace Award in recognition of exemplary loyalty to the State of Israel. He was the 1990 recipient of the West Virginia Consumer Finance Award for his support to West Virginia consumer affairs. He donated funds for scholarships to Bluefield State College and Bluefield College for students in need, and was one of the original benefactors of the Bluefield Science Center in the Arts and Crafts Center in Bluefield, and was an active financial supporter of many local charities in the area. Through the city of Princeton, he created the Fred Gilbert Activity Center to be used and enjoyed by all citizens for various activities. He was a member of the American Legion Riley Vest Post No. 9, and through the American Legion, contributed to a college fund for a Bluefield High School student to attend college, and also for a Bluefield High Student to attend Boy's State Conference. In addition to his parents, Fred was preceded in death by his first wife, Rebe Dym Gilbert; two sisters, Ann Tovey and Edith Kline. He is survived by his wife, Bernice Steckler Gilbert; sons, Dr. Mark Groban and wife Lynn of Rockville, Md., Steve Groban and wife Judy of Potomac, Md., Dr. Ira Groban and wife Renee of Rockville, and Reed Groban of Scottsdale, Ariz.; a daughter, Ellen G. Fineberg and husband I. Harold of Bluefield, Va. Also surviving are grandchildren, Arlen Miller and husband Scott of Rockville, Aaron Groban and wife Jamie of Potomac, Meredith Groban of Bethesda, Md., Sam Groban of New York City, N.Y., Michael Groban of Gainesville, Fla., Ben Groban of Hoboken, N.J., David Groban of Cleveland, Ohio, Amanda Groban of Miami, Ohio, Hara Fineberg of Gastonia, N.C., Jennifer Fineberg Wortzel and husband Brian of Coralville, Iowa, and Joseph Fineberg of Tucson, Ariz.; great-grandchildren, Hayley and Sophie Miller of Rockville and Ryan Groban of Potomac; and several nieces and nephews. Funeral services will be conducted at 1 p.m. today at Congregation Ahavath Sholom Synagogue, with Rabbi Stanley Funston and Rabbi Beth Jacowitz officiating. Burial will follow at Monte Vista Park Cemetery in Green Valley where grandsons will serve as pallbearers. Friends may call from noon-1 p.m. today at the Synagogue. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to the Mercer County Health Right, P.O. Box 6280, Bluefield, WV 24701, or Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Rabbi's Endowment Fund, 632 Albemarle St., Bluefield, WV 24701. Mercer Funeral Home & Crematory of Bluefield is in charge of arrangements.


Sidney L. Rosenthal, 91, of 717 Spring Garden Dr., Bluefield, died Friday, Jan. 17, 2003, in a Bluefield hospital. Born Sept. 23, 1911, in Brooklyn, N.Y., he was the son of the late Abraham and Minnie Brodkin Rosenthal. Mr. Rosenthal was the owner of the Union Loan Company, and a member of the Congregation Ahavath Sholom, the B'nai B'rith Lodge, Fincastle Country Club, a veteran of World War II, having served in the U.S. Navy, and a life member of the V.F.W. In addition to his parents, Mr. Rosenthal was preceded in death by a brother, Harry Rosenthal. He is survived by his wife, Helen Baum Rosenthal; a daughter, Debbie Jackson of Bluefield; two sons, Hank Rosenthal and wife, Dorothy of Englewood, Colo., and Steve Rosenthal and wife, Miram of Norfolk, Va.; a brother, Robert Rosenthal of Bluefield; eight grandchildren, Aaron Rosenthal, Lisa Young, Mindy Beam, Abram Jackson, Rob Jackson, Cecilia Kosak, Jonathan Kosak, and Eve Rosenthal; and a great-granddaughter, Megan Young. Funeral services will be conducted 1 p.m. Monday from the Congregation Ahavath Sholom Synagogue with Rabbi Stanley Funston officiating. A private burial will follow from the Monte Vista Park Cemetery in Bluefield. Serving the family as pallbearers will be Calvin Deitz, Norris Kantor, Dr. David Grouse, Dr. Bhasker Pujari, Dr. Joel Schor, Abram Jackson, and Rob Jackson. Honorary Pallbearers will be Max Kammer, A.S. Thomchin, Fred Gilbert, Dr. M. Amin and Dr. S Vardan. Friends may call one hour prior to services at the synagogue. Memorial contributions if desired may be made to the Community Hospices of America, P.O. Box 6364 Bluefield, WV 24701 or your favorite charity. Mercer Funeral Home and Crematory are in charge of arrangements.

Samuel Laufer, 86, of 1411 Main Street, Brown Apts B-3, Princeton, died Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2001, at Princeton Community Hospital. Born May 14, 1915, in Newark, N.J., he was the son of the late Louis and Ida Sehuster Laufer. He was the retired plant manager of the Princeton Maidenform, Inc., with 50 years of service. He was a member of the Congregation Ahavath Shalom Synagogue in Bluefield. He was a former past president of the Princeton-Athens Kiwanis Club having received the prestigious Legion of Honor Award. Jay Rockefeller described Mr. Laufer as one of the great joys of his years in West Virginia. He was a former member of the Princeton Mercer County Chamber of Commerce. He was past president of the Mercer County Commission and the Bluestone Planning and Development Council. He served as chairman of the Center for Economic Action at Concord College, chairman Princeton Salvation Army and a member of the Princeton Community Hospital board. He was also past chairman of the board of Community Chest and president of the Mercer County Tuberculosis Association. He was a member of the Princeton Elks Lodge No. 1459 and the Elks Lodge at Annapolis, Md., and the Annapolis Md. Chamber of Commerce. He was a 32nd degree mason and a member of the Beni Kedem Shrine Temple in Charleston. He was a member of the President's Committee of the Employment of the Physically Handicapped and International Executive Service Corp. as a volunteer consultant in Brazil. He was the Princeton Junior Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year and served on various state and economic development committees. He was one of the co-founders of Winter Place resort. His first wife, Frances P. Laufer, preceded him in death. Survivors include his second wife, Jerry Clark Laufer of Princeton; two sons, Edward B. Laufer and his wife Sandra of New York, N.Y., and Jerry S. Laufer and his friend Marianne Brewster of Arlington, Va.; two daughters, Judith Borrero and Laurie C. Johnson and her fiancee Mike Reynolds, all of Princeton; one step daughter, Vicki Flanigan and her husband Larry of Winchester, Va.; two grandchildren, Barbara J. Laufer of Burbank, Calif. and Louis Borrero and his wife Laurel of Pinkerington, Ohio; one great grandson, Nelson Borrero of Pinkerington, Ohio, and one brother, Irving Laufer of Flordia. Memorial services will be conducted at 3 p.m. Friday art the George W. Seaver Chapel of Seaver Funeral Home in Princeton with Rabbi Stanley Funston officiating. Friends may call at the funeral home from 2 p.m. until the service hour on Friday. The family requests that memorial contributions be made to the American Cancer Society, 1808 Jefferson St., Bluefield, W.Va., 24701.


Helen Baum Rosenthal, 88, of Bluefield, died Sunday, Aug. 15, 2004 at her residence. Helen Baum Rosenthal was born April 27, 1916 in Brooklyn, N.Y. As a young child, she and her family moved to Princeton where her parents operated Baum's Department Store for many years. She was a graduate of Princeton High School, Concord College and graduated from West Virginia University in 1937 where she was a member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority. She married Sidney L. Rosenthal in March 1940 and eventually settled in Bluefield, where she and her husband of 62 years owned Union Loan Co., and raised their family. She was a longtime member of Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Bluefield, and for most of her life was dedicated to its support and growth through Sisterhood, religious school, B'nai B'rith and choir. She was an accomplished pianist all of her life and a champion of numerous humanitarian causes, all of which were significant parts of her life. Preceding her in death include her husband, Sidney; parents, Oscar and Eva Baum; her brother, Dr. Henry E. Baum; her mother and father-in-law, Minnie and Abraham Rosenthal; and a host of personal friends and other family members who brought her much joy and contentment all the days of her life in many ways. Mrs. Rosenthal is survived by her daughter: Debbie Jackson of Bluefield; two sons: Hank Rosenthal and wife Dorothy of Englewood, Colo., and Steve Rosenthal and wife Miram of Norfolk, Va.; eight grandchildren: Aaron Rosenthal, Lisa Young, Mindy Beam, Abram Jackson, Rob Jackson, Cecila Kosak, Jonathan Kosak, and Eve Rosenthal; two great-grandchildren: Meagan Young and Alexander Young; nieces and nephews: Ila Rosenthal, Janice Rosenthal, Dan Rosenthal, Jerry Rosenthal, Cathy Cinson, Ann Morton Caldwell and Mary Rich Malloy. Funeral services for Helen Rosenthal will be conducted at 11 a.m. Wednesday from the Congregation Ahavath Sholom Synagogue in Bluefield with the Rabbi Stanley Funston officiating. The family will receive friends one hour prior to services. Burial will follow from the Monte Vista Park Cemetery located in Green Valley. Pallbearers will be: Dan Rosenthal, Rob Jackson, Abram Jackson, Dr. Bhasker Pujari, Harry Kammer, Norris Kantor, and Rick Beam. Honorary pallbearers will be: Dr. Mayank Amin, A.S. Tomchin, Max Kammer, and Harry Finkelman. In lieu of flowers donations, if desired, may be made to B'nai B'rith Lodge No. 967, Harry Finkelman, 110 Garden Oaks, Princeton, WV 24740, Community Hospices of America, P.O. Box 6369, Bluefield, WV 24701, or Alzheimer's Association, 1200 Quarrier St., Suite 4, Charleston, WV 25301. Mercer Funeral Home & Crematory of Bluefield is in charge of arrangements.


Mrs. Virginia Milchin, of 304 Union Street, Bluefield, WV, died Tuesday October 18, 2005 at her residence. Born February 27, 1916 in Pocahontas, VA, she was the daughter of the late John A. Macom and Annie Brown Macom. Mrs. Milchin was a homemaker and a member of the Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Bluefield. She served as President of The Sisterhood, was a Sunday school teacher and a member of the Women’s Medical Auxiliary. Mrs. Milchin was also a PTA volunteer, actively involved in her children’s education. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Sam Milchin; one son, Jerry Milchin and one sister, Ruth Macom. Survivors include two daughters, Sharon Garrett of Richmond, VA and Susan Grossman of Hollywood, FL; one brother, John A. Macom, Jr. and his wife Ann of Williamsburg, VA; grandsons, Mike Milchin and his wife Amy and their children Garrett Sam, Colby Susan and Hutton Sam of Winter Park, FL and Tom Garrett, III of Richmond, VA; two nieces, Kathy Jones and Beth Macom; and caregivers, Kathy Wimmer, Norma Tester, Mary Lambert and Cindy Vaughn. Funeral services will be conducted Thursday October 20, 2005 at 2 PM from the Mercer Funeral Home Chapel with Rabbi Stanley Funston officiating. Burial will follow at Monte Vista Park Cemetery. The family will receive friends on Thursday from 1 PM until the time of services at the funeral home. Serving as pallbearers will be Harry Kammer, Tom Garrett, Mike Milchin and Frank Garrett. Honorary pallbearers will be Jimmy Hill, Max Kammer, Jay Rodgin, William Thompson, Harry Finkelman, Norris Kantor, Buddy Thomchin and John Parrett. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions, if desired, be made to the Congregation Ahavath Sholom, 632 Albemarle Street, Bluefield, WV 24701 or Community Foundation of the Virginias, 128 North Street, P.O. Box 4127, Bluefield, WV 24701.


Herman Diamond
Herman Diamond of Bluefield, West Virginia, died on February 23, 2008 at 91 years old. He was born on January 27, 1917 in Krakow, Poland. Mr. Diamond settled in Bluefield, West Virginia and ran the State Loan Company in Welch, West Virginia with his brother Isaac for over 30 years. He served in the Army in World War II and received the American Theatre Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, WWII Victory Medal and Bronze Service Star. Mr. Diamond was a life member of the Jewish War Veterans. He was a deeply religious man and a devoted brother, uncle, and friend. Mr. Diamond is survived by niece, Renee Hoelting, great-nieces, Rebecca Hoelting Short and Kim Hoelting Flame and great-great nieces, Gabriella Short and Charlotte Flame and great-great nephew, Matthew Flame. Funeral services were held at Arlington Memorial Park in Atlanta, Georgia on February 24, 2008. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Arrangements by Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care, Atlanta (770)451-4999.



New Data

The Henry Rodgin Company (Jewelers) est. 1902

Cohen Drug Company - 412 Federal Street

Steckler’s Men’s Shop 400 Federal Street (ca. 1929)

Weinberg’s Ladie’s Ready-to-Wear & Millinery, Princeton Ave. & Bland St.

United Woolen Mills Co., Federal & Princeton Ave.

Platnick Brothers 228-248 Roanoke St., Bluefield, WV & VA

Kann’s Fashion Shop for Women

Galperin’s Music Co., 625 Commerce St., ca. 1941

Schlossberg’s Jewelry & Luggage - 530 Princeton Ave., est. 1912 in business in 1954

Silver Brand Clothes 326 Princeton Ave.








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