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The Hirschman Family

The Hirschman and Rivkin Families are proud to give their gift to the Jewish Studies Center in the name of the parents and grandparents who paved the way for the success and happiness of subsequent generations. 

The site of the new Jewish Studies Center has great significance for the Hirschman family. Before it was sold to the College of Charleston, the lot was home to Peroclene Cleaners, the family’s dry cleaning business founded in 1955 by Jerold (Jerry) Hirschman. It is a source of great excitement and pride for the Hirschman family that their parent’s property is being used for such a noble cause. 

The Hirschman’s roots in the Charleston area date back to the late 1800s. Jerold’s father, Henry Hirschman entered the wholesale grocery business with his father, Solomon, in 1885, naming their store S. Hirschmann & Sons. They were to become one of the largest such businesses in the Southeast. The Hirschmann’s were active Charleston community leaders and supported development of both the Jewish Community and the broader community. As an established enterprise, S. Hirschmann and Sons also provided support and credit to newly arriving immigrants who went into business as traveling peddlers. 

Rosa Hirschmann, wife of Henry Hirschmann and mother of Jerold, graduated from Converse College. She was a strong-minded, individualistic person who was a natural leader and a firm believer that women should be well educated and proactive. She helped found The Daughters of Israel in 1906 and was the superintendent of its religious school for about 30 years during which time she taught Jewish history and religious observances to two generations. Over the years, she worked for and served as president of K.K.B.E. Sisterhood, South Carolina Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, Charleston Federation of Women’s Clubs, and was Grand Matron of the Eastern Star. 

Jerold Hirschman, founded Peroclene Cleaners with his wife Lilah Baumrind Hirschman, in 1955. Jerry was a man with tremendous energy, intelligence, and industriousness, a man with no self-imposed limits. Lilah was the consummate homemaker, mother, and supporter of all things in which her family was involved. She also had a gift for music. Possessing a lovely voice and considerable talent on the piano, Lilah would often entertain senior citizens and the handicapped during holiday times. 

The original site of their business was 82 Wentworth Street, a few doors closer to King Street, but five years later Jerry and Lilah would move the business to the corner of Glebe and Wentworth Streets where the Jewish Studies Center now stands. The business flourished because of the strong consumer orientation and focus on employees that Jerry insisted upon. Due to his integrity and compassion, Peroclene’s employees were loyal, turnover was minimal, and there was great concern for quality of work. It is also of note that Jerry was ahead of his time in using an environmentally friendly cleaning process. The process, which used perchloroethylene, lent itself to almost 100% recovery and produced a high quality of cleaning with no residual cleaning fluid odor in the clothes. When the site was sold and evaluated for residual chemicals and cleanup costs, absolutely no residue was found, much to the surprise of the analysts. It was the ultimate tribute to Jerry’s foresight. 

Jerry and Lilah had two children, Judith Frances (Judy) and Henry, and four grandchildren, Victor and Jan Rivkin and Mike and Cheryl Hirschman. 

Judy and her husband Maxcy Rivkin lived in Charleston for fifteen years before Mac’s work at Westvaco took them to Ellicot City, Maryland. In 1988, the Rivkin’s would move again with a Westvaco subsidiary to Sao Paolo, Brazil, where Judy became involved with Grupo Primavera, an organization addressing the problem of education for teen-age girls living in impoverished urban conditions. Now back in Maryland, Judy has founded and leads a non-profit agency called, ELA – Educating Latin American Adolescents and also tutors foreign-born individuals who are learning English. 

Henry and his wife Helen reside in Palatka, Florida. A graduate of Georgia Tech with a chemical engineering degree, Henry spent much of his professional career working for Georgia Pacific; in 1988 he retired as Vice President of Palatka Operations. The Hirschman’s are grandparents of two boys, Wade and Gabriel, who are 9 and 3 respectively. 

Both the Rivkins and the Hirschmans are strong supporters of the Center, its mission, and what it represents. It is their honor to memorialize Jerry, Lilah, the Hirschman lineage, and the accomplishments that they have achieved by contributing to the Jewish Studies Center. They feel that their parent’s would be overjoyed to know that the site, once home to their family business, is now an epicenter for Jewish and academic activity.