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Transcript of interview with Beth Molasky by David Shwartz, June 2, 2014






In this interview, Molasky discusses her parents, Irwin and Susan Molasky, and growing up in Las Vegas as a member of Temple Beth Sholom. She attended Sunday school and Hebrew school, but is not particularly religious as an adult.

Beth Molasky-Cornell is a partner, shareholder, and an active member of the board of directors of the Molasky Group of Companies, which was founded by her father Irwin Molasky. She is a founding partner and a core member of the board of directors of Ocean Pacific Companies, a high-end real estate development firm founded by her husband Ken Cornell in San Diego, California. Molasky-Cornell contributed to numerous Molasky Group building projects, including the Bank of America Plazas, the Winterwood Corporation land development, and the Park Towers luxury condominiums. Molasky was born in Florida; however, her family moved to Las Vegas before her second birthday. She graduated from Valley High School in 1968, and started college at the University of Southern California at the age of seventeen. After spending a couple of years in Rhode Island, where she had her children, she moved back to Las Vegas in 1975. In this interview, Molasky discusses her childhood experiences in Las Vegas, especially as a member of the Jewish community, and reflects upon changes that influenced her children?s upbringing in the city.

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Beth Molasky oral history interview, 2014 June 02. OH-02123. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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AN INTERVIEW WITH BETH MOLASKY An Oral History Conducted by David Schwartz The Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries ii ?Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2014 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV ? University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Project Manager: Barbara Tabach Transcriber: Kristin Hicks Interviewers: Barbara Tabach, Claytee D. White, David Schwartz Editors and Project Assistants: Maggie Lopes, Stefani Evans iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grant. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader?s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews with permission of the narrator. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas iv PREFACE Beth Molasky-Cornell is a partner, shareholder, and an active member of the board of directors of the Molasky Group of Companies, which was founded by her father Irwin Molasky. She is a founding partner and a core member of the board of directors of Ocean Pacific Companies, a high-end real estate development firm founded by her husband Ken Cornell in San Diego, California. Molasky-Cornell contributed to numerous Molasky Group building projects, including the Bank of America Plazas, the Winterwood Corporation land development, and the Park Towers luxury condominiums. Molasky was born in Florida; however, her family moved to Las Vegas before her second birthday. She graduated from Valley High School in 1968, and started college at the University of Southern California at the age of seventeen. After spending a couple of years in Rhode Island, where she had her children, she moved back to Las Vegas in 1975. In this interview, Molasky discusses her childhood experiences in Las Vegas, especially as a member of the Jewish community, and reflects upon changes that influenced her children?s upbringing in the city. v TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Beth Molasky on June 2, 2014 by David Schwartz in Las Vegas, Nevada Preface?????????????????????????????????..?..iv Talks about her family background; grandparents? immigration to United States; parents eloping to Las Vegas, then finally moving to city in 1952. Reflects upon role of Temple Beth Sholom during childhood; small group of Jewish students at high school; Hebrew School. Recalls experiencing anti-Semitism for first time when went to college. Talks about getting married; moving to Rhode Island, then back to Las Vegas; growing up on Desert Inn Golf Course?....1-5 Discusses the differences in her Jewish upbringing in Las Vegas versus her children?s; joining Congregation Ner Tamid. Describes Seder, Sukkot traditions over the years, changes with generations. Recalls various aspects of childhood including entertainment options; the close-knit Jewish community and friendships formed, especially with Shelley Berkley and Marilyn (Tobman) Moran; traveling to Los Angeles to visit grandparents????????...?????...?6-10 Index.............................................................................................................................................11 1 1 Today is Monday, June 2, 2014. I'm with the Beth Molasky, and we are talking about her life in Las Vegas? Jewish community. Thank you for talking with us. Can you tell me a little bit about your family background? Where were your parents from? My mother was from Los Angeles and my father was born in St. Louis, but he lived in Dayton, Ohio. What do you know about her grandparents? My grandmother, Rose Molasky, came over on a ship from Austria?Hungary, as it was called at the time. Her father came to the United States first, and he sold his overcoat to bring the rest of his family. They came over in steerage. I actually have a picture of the ship and the log with their name on it. They changed their name when they came to Ellis Island, but I don't remember the name offhand. What religion were they raised, your parents and grandparents? In the Jewish religion. My grandfather Louis Molasky?my grandmother's maiden name was Forshaw, but that wasn't really it; they changed it when she came to Ellis Island. My grandfather?I'm not sure if his parents were Polish or Russian Jews. Yes, they kind of moved the borders around a lot. Yes, they kept moving the borders. Our last name was something like Molachevski, and it became Molasky when he came. On my mother's side, my grandfather Phillip Buchbinder, his parents were from Prussia and my Grandmother Sally's maiden name used to be Krowick before she became a Buchbinder. I think my grandmother Sally was born on a ship coming to America. They landed in New York. What language did your grandparents speak? By the time I was born they all spoke English. But my grandmother Rose spoke Yiddish all the time. Interesting. Were you named after anybody in the family? 2 I was named after my Grandmother Rose's mother, Bess. My grandmother?we called her Mommy Rose?had red hair like me. It skips generations. Then I was the only granddaughter that had red hair and blue eyes. My niece Lauren, who married a Hawaiian, has a red hair and blue?eyed baby like me. That's interesting. So I want to talk to you a little bit about growing up in Las Vegas. Your father talked to me about how he moved here. I think it was 1952, but I could be off by a year or two. They eloped in '50 to come here. They might have eloped a little before because I was born the end of 1950, October 29th. But I was born in Florida because my father was in the service and he was building GI homes. He was in the Reserves. They moved to Los Angeles where my brother Steven was born ten months after me. Then they settled in Las Vegas in 1952. How many other siblings do you have? I have three brothers: Steven, Andrew and Alan; and I have three step?brothers, as well, Michael, Gary, and Robert Frey. What are your earliest memories of Las Vegas? You want to ask me about the temple I remember? Sure. I was thinking of this the other day. Our temple was Temple Beth Sholom, and it was the only temple in Las Vegas when I was growing up. I'm pretty sure that my dad built the temple. I remember him building the temple. I remember spending all my childhood there. And because the temple was named Temple Beth Sholom, I used to tell everybody that my dad named it after me. But Beth means blessed, Bracha, which was my great?grandmother's name, whom I was named after; my Hebrew name is Bracha. In those days the temple was kind of a center of activity, everything. There weren't so many people in Las Vegas. In my high school I think there was five or six Jewish kids?me, Shelley Berkley, 3 Debbie Cohen, Marty Kravitz, Lanny Irwin whose father used to work here, Stan Irwin, and Charlie Mack. It was such a small Jewish community. Which high school was that? Valley High School. There were [also] the Tobmans, but they went to Rancho. It was very small. Everybody had Hebrew school and Sunday school together. Cantor [Joseph] Kohn, the cantor at our temple, his wife taught me Hebrew school and Sunday school. Tell me a little bit about Hebrew school and Sunday school. Were they at the temple? At the temple. It was kind of a social activity, too. About how many students were there in each class? Did you have it broken down by class level or was it just one big group? We had it by class level. I remember four years of Hebrew school. The cantor's wife's name was Wila Kohn. Her daughter, Loretta, [didn?t go to our school], but she liked my brother Steven. We had a different rabbi, Rabbi Gold. His two daughters, Sharon and Judy Gold, went to college with me at USC. I lived with both of them at one time, Judy in the dorm and Sharon in the sorority house. Interesting. I'll tell you something that was really interesting. I graduated [high school] at seventeen, in 1968, and so I started college at USC when was seventeen. USC had sororities and fraternities, and you went through an initiation or process of being interviewed to join. In those days you had to wear gloves. It was like going through a tea to join. I was always pretty popular and well-liked in school. I never had faced anti-Semitism. When I'm going through rush, one person asked me something about, well, you live in Las Vegas; where do you go to school? I said I went to school in Las Vegas. She said something about where?something of your horns. I didn't even know what she was talking about. I didn't have any idea. The next morning you get back your invitations. I thought I would be invited back to all twelve 4 sororities and then I can make my pick. I was invited back to four. I called my parents, sobbing. I didn't understand because everybody else...and then I ended up joining the Jewish sorority, which was the best thing for me. But it was very, very anti-Semitic in those days. People had said terrible things to me that I had never experienced growing up in Las Vegas, which was nice. Tell me a little bit about that growing up as a teenager in Las Vegas. What was it like? I guess it was more accepting, tolerant area? Yes, it was very accepting. Congregation Ner Tamid was built, around Pecos off of Desert Inn. Yes. My son was bar mitzvahed at Temple Beth Sholom, and my daughter at Ner Tamid. Sandy Akselrad was the rabbi there. Then there were more Jewish families and it wasn't such a strict temple, which was better for my daughter in those days. I never had any feelings of anti-Semitism. It was much more acceptable. What did you do after USC? I taught school for a while. Here in Las Vegas or in L.A.? I had a job in L.A., but I left it because I met somebody in my last year of college and I decided I wanted to go?I moved to Rhode Island. I got married. I was twenty?two years old. I started teaching at twenty?one. Of course, against my parents' wishes I got married at twenty?two. He was from a very strict Catholic family. But my mother?in?law was very nice. She brought me to this temple because she had a very close friend, a lovely temple in Rhode Island. I would come back and forth for all the high holidays. I remember that well. I had taught a couple of years in Rhode Island and I had had my children. Then I moved back to Las Vegas and I taught computer science at the Meadows School for one year. Then I was very involved 5 with Judy Steele in impact grants for teachers with the Clark County Education Foundation. What year did you move back to Las Vegas? Approximately. I think it was 1975, right after my son was born. Did it feel different, from '68 to '75? Did you see any big changes? Las Vegas was still small in those days. It was bigger than it was in '68, but not that much different. My kids went all through school here. The biggest change came within the last twenty years. It's not the same city it was when I was growing up. Were there a lot of other Jewish teachers around town then? The only Jewish teacher I met was my French teacher, Mrs. Chenin, in high school. She was a Holocaust survivor with a tattooed number on her arm. When I was teaching at the Meadows, I was the only Jewish teacher. Really? Yes. There were Jewish kids in some of my classes, but the majority were not. Interesting. What parts of town have you lived in here? I grew up on the Desert Inn Golf Course. You must have some stories about that. We used to play after people were done golfing. The fairway was our [playground]?we used to play baseball and things like that at nighttime. Across the fairway from us, on the third [hole], were Doctors Ted Jacobs and Parvin, and Leslie and Loring; they were a Jewish family. Debbie Cohen and her brother Gil lived on the same [street]?it was called Country Cove Lane that went all around. A lot of Jewish families [lived] there. The Adelsons lived there. We lived there. I used to go to the Desert Inn and we'd play tennis and golf, and swim in the pool and things, which was very nice. Did the casinos support Temple Beth Sholom? Did you get that sense that they were supportive, the 6 casino executives? We really didn't go to casinos. We would go eat at the Stardust Hotel when my housekeeper was off because my mother didn't cook on Sunday nights. But I never knew anything about that; I just never paid attention to it. When my kids were in Sunday school and Hebrew school, I don't think that was an issue, either. My son has just turned thirty?nine and my daughter is thirty?six. How do you think their experience growing up Jewish in Las Vegas was different from yours? Or was it? We were more immersed in Judaism when I was growing up. I sent my kids to temple, but after they got a little older, in their mid?teens, they went to certain things and then they kind of were not as involved. What were some entertainment things that were happening in Las Vegas? What did you do for fun when you weren't teaching or raising the kids? How long have you been here? Thirteen years. That's so funny because we didn't hang out in casinos. We used to go roller skating with my kids. I played tennis growing up and then we played golf. We'd go to movies. When my kids were little, we'd go to the drive?in movies. My kids played sports. So I shuffled them back and forth to sports. Was there a roller rink? I remember that being a big thing when I grew up. Yes, there was a roller rink. We don't seem to have a lot of them anymore. I don't know if they're here anymore. But the roller rink was a really big thing. When your kids are younger?today they make play dates. We didn't do play dates. You played with kids in your neighborhood. That's how I was growing up. That's how my kid were growing up. 7 Then they did school activities or they played soccer; things like that. Yes, play dates are definitely big now. I know. They're a very big thing. And it was not so much protection. We could ride our bikes up and down and around the golf course. The streets were not very big, so we could ride to 7?Eleven and get little treats, Popsicles in the summer. Yes, that's another thing that's changed a lot. Yes, Las Vegas is so huge. It's not the same Las Vegas. Let?s talk a little bit about the more religious and spiritual aspects. So Beth Sholom is conservative. Yes. What did you think of that affiliation? I was raised conservative? and I now believe in the traditions of the Jewish faith, but I'm not religious anymore. Ner Tamid was a better temple for my daughter and my son. I go when a niece or nephew is being bar mitzvahed. I hardly go to temple anymore. But I do family traditions. We come up for Passover, for Seder; things like that. I wanted to talk about that. What was that like? Can you describe the Molasky family Seder growing up? I used to have the Seder at my house a lot of times. Now there is a lot of old Jewish families that have grown up together, and now the Seder is at Piero's. That's a different one. The Seder was much more personal when I was younger, and very small. I remember when I was at my parents' house my dad used to hide the afikomen. My father's now eighty?seven years old. There's all these families with the patriarch, and then the next generation, which is mine, and then the next 8 generation. I have a grandchild. So there's so many generations. The whole area of Piero's is taken over with different family members on the Seder. It's definitely not the same. Interesting. Do they give you matzo and stuff there? Yes, they make a whole Seder dinner. That's pretty nice. How kosher did you keep? I didn't keep a kosher house. I never did. My mother didn't. But my stepmother, who's Israeli, used to keep a kosher house, but mostly for her mother because her mother is still kosher. My dad, I think, grew up in a kosher house, but he didn't have that with us. Did you change out the plates and all that for Passover? Susan, my stepmother, did but we never did. I never kept a kosher house. Interesting. What are some other traditions you remember? When I was younger, Temple Beth Sholom had a Sukkot, which was fun. I think [it was] when my kids were younger because it was smaller. But today I don't do that. Now, my daughter?in?law and son take my granddaughter to?she lives in New Hampshire now?a temple, but it's not a temple. It's at like somebody's house and they have a Seder and Sukkot, but it's all for the kids. It's completely different than when I was growing up. A conservative temple, I don't know if it would fit in today's world. It's definitely different. It's very different. I'm not married to somebody that is Jewish, but he participates everything. My first husband wasn't Jewish, but I had to make sure my kids were always raised Jewish. There were not a lot of Jewish people here when [they] were growing up. What are some of the other significant events you remember growing up in Las Vegas, not just within the Jewish community, just in general? When I was little UNLV was called Southern Nevada University. It was like one building and I remember 9 it growing. My father was very involved in that. He gave the land to the university. I remember going to UNLV basketball games and I taking my kids. That was something that we did for entertainment. I remember when Caesars Palace was built, which looking back was a long time ago. When we were maybe ten-years-old we got a pool. But before that we used to go to the hotels and go swimming in their pools because that was just what everybody did. I remember golf tournaments on the country club. My father started building La Costa when I was about fifteen years old. We would go back and forth all the time, so I grew to love San Diego from that. I used to travel with my kids and my friends, and that was a nice thing. I [now] have a home in San Diego. Very good. So who were some of the leaders in the Jewish community when you were growing up? You talked about the rabbi and the cantor. When I was a little girl, Shelley Berkley was head of B'nai B'rith girls. Of course, she was the president. That's how I met Shelley. She kidnapped me one night at a slumber party. She called my mom in advance. So I met Shelley and Marilyn Moran, who was Marilyn Tobman; she was a few years older. She and her brother Alan went to Hebrew school with me. The temple was always a meeting place. I always had to sit through the big services, but when my kids were little they had young services. But kids like to break away and not be in there. There were a lot of parties at the temple. For holidays or for more secular things? Mostly for holidays. My grandparents lived here then and they were religious. How do you think your grandparents felt about living in Las Vegas and seeing all the changes around them? My grandfather died very young. He was like seventy?six, which for my family is young. My grandmother lived to be a hundred and one, my dad's older sister was ninety?five, and my 10 great?grandparents lived to be like a hundred and eight. We have longevity in our family. My grandfather got cancer. After that my grandmother moved to L.A. So all our cousins, all the Jewish family on my mother's side and my father's side lived in L.A. Only we lived here. We used to have family picnics in L.A. at Roxbury Park every summer. I went to temple there because all my cousins would get married in Los Angeles. There it was much more acceptable. They had all the delis there. When we were growing up here there was Foxy's Deli near the Sahara Hotel. We used to go to Foxy's Deli all the time. I think that was the only deli. Do you think the size of the community growing has changed the dynamics? I do. Yes, if you personally know most of the Jewish kids in town, I don't think most kids could say that today. You can't say that [today] because it's too big. When I was going to school there was so few Jewish kids and we were spread out. Even though there was only one temple, we didn't all live together. The Greenspuns, but they were a little older, and the Tobmans. So you see everybody at the high holidays. You had to buy seats, which my parents did. I would sit right behind Al Benedict and his wife, Jane. You knew where everybody's seats were and it was nice. The temple at those days had dancing. They would teach you little dancing for holidays. Interesting. Is there anything else you'd like to talk about, about your time in Las Vegas and the way the community has changed? I don't really know how the community is today about that. I go back and forth between San Diego. I'm not involved. My kids are grown. I have a granddaughter, but she lives far away. So I don't participate in them like I used to. 11 This was good. I learned a lot. Thank you. I hope I was helpful. Oh, very helpful. Thank you. [End of recorded interview] 12 INDEX A Adelson family, 6 Akselrad, Rabbi Sanford, 4 Austria?Hungary, 1 B Benedict, Al, 11 Benedict, Jane, 11 Berkley, Shelley, 3, 10 Buchbinder, Phillip, 1 Buchbinder, Sally, 1 C Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino, 9 Clark County Education Foundation, 5 Cohen, Debbie, 3, 6 Congregation Ner Tamid, 4, 8 D Dayton, Ohio, 1 Desert Inn Golf Course, 6 E Ellis Island, 1 F Florida, 2 Foxy's Deli, 11 Frey, Gary, 2 Frey, Michael, 2 Frey, Robert, 2 G Gold, Judy, 3 Gold, Rabbi, 3 Gold, Sharon, 3 Greenspun family, 11 I Irwin, Stan, 3 J Jacobs, Ted, 6 K Kohn, Cantor Joseph, 3 Kohn, Wila, 3 Kravitz, Marty, 3 L La Costa, 10 Los Angeles, California, 1, 2, 5, 10, 11 M Mack, Charlie, 3 Molasky, Louis, 1 Molasky, Rose, 1, 2 Moran, Marilyn Tobman, 10 N New York, 1 P Piero's, 8 Prussia, 1 R Rhode Island, 5 S Sahara Hotel and Casino, 11 San Diego, California, 10, 11 Southern Nevada University, 9 St. Louis, Missouri, 1 13 Stardust Hotel and Casino, 6 Steele, Judy, 5 T Temple Beth Sholom, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9 Tobman family, 3, 11 U University of Nevada, Las Vegas, i, ii, 9 University of Southern California, 3, 4, 5 V Valley High School, 3