Harris Abelkop

H. (Harris) Abelkop 9/1860-9/25/1952

Family- Wife: Jennie; Children: Ethyl, Aaron, Alexander, Isidore, Hymen and Benjamin.

Abelkop was born in Lithuania. He was a peddler in the old country where he married Jennie. Probably around the turn of the century he brought his family to the New World. Hymen and Benjamin were born in the U.S. Harris took synagogue ritual and custom very seriously. In 1913, dissatisfied with the direction the synagogue was taking, he helped lead a walkout to start a new synagogue in Durham. But later he came back and made a generous donation to the building of the 1921 synagogue. He attended Shabbat services regularly. When someone made a mistake reading the Torah, he was the one to shout the loudest. He was physically very strong but also was a jokester. He won a bet once that he could lift up a horse. He bent under the horse as if to lift him up, then proceeded to punch the belly of the horse. As the horse jumped, he pretended to hold the horse up for a second and then let go.

Harris had a store in the Hayti district, Durham’s black community. Jewish shopkeepers were some of the few whites who had stores and homes there. For the most part, relationships were strong betweens the Jews and the black community and mutually beneficial.

Apparently in testimony to his character, the bottom of his headstone states: “None knew thee but to love thee.”