Joseph Goldberg

Name: Joseph Goldberg 3/13/1876-2/20/1964

Family: Wife Ida, children, Florence and Harry

Goldberg was a merchant in Durham’s African-American Hayti neighborhood. He also sold his dry goods in a manner reminiscent of the first Jewish peddlers in the South. But instead of a horse and buggy or walking, Mr. Goldberg would pack up his car (Howard Margolis remembers a ’47 Potiac) and travel to the surrounding towns like Henderson, Oxford and Creedmore. In the earlier years of his store he found other ways to make a profit. The prohibition years created many opportunities to be creative. Mr. Goldberg used the opportunity to sell a medicinal extract that had high alcohol content.

Though he studied in seminary when he was younger, he never went to synagogue and used to make fun of kosher rules. He and Michael Margolis (his daughter’s father-in-law), were known as the biggest “goyishe yids” in Durham, according to Howard Margolis. Despite that, he could still get involved in synagogue politics. Historian of southern Jewish history, Leonard Rogoff, reports that in 1913 Joseph was part of a group that broke away from the synagogue and for a time worshipped on its own. The reason for the split was unclear.

It may have been due to an increase in dues in the established synagogue which was a hardship for the small business owners that comprised the split off congregation. It might have been related in differences in ritual. Rogoff points out that the Durham Jewish at that time was a mixture of Litvaks, Poles, Galicians and Ukrainians and brought different traditions and rituals to the New World. There were some reports that the conflict that split the congregation was related to use of the mikva. Whatever the case, the fledgling congregation dissolved after several years.