Jewish Kentucky Student Scholarship

Grants and Contracts Details


Although Jewish-American history is most commonly associated with East Coast urban metropolises, in actuality Kentucky has a Jewish history as rich and deep as the Bluegrass itself. Some of the people, products, and areas most strongly associated with Kentucky have Jewish chapters in their histories. As examples, the Gratz Family of Lexington and the Simon Family of Louisville were related and both served instrumental roles in the development of Kentucky’s two largest cities. In business, the bourbon founder Jim Beam descended from Jacob Boehm (a German Jewish immigrant). The Jewish bourbon connection lives on today in Heaven Hill, one of the last remaining family-owned distilleries, revived after Prohibition by the five Shapira brothers. And, in humanities, the epic poem “Kentucky” written by Israel Jacob Schwartz told of Jewish acculturation within the state, and remains a seminal work within American Jewish history and literature. In an effort to preserve and promote Kentucky’s important Jewish heritage, the interdisciplinary Jewish Studies Program at the University of Kentucky will embark on a four-year project to collect, preserve, and make accessible oral histories from individuals within Lexington and Louisville’s Jewish communities. This project will not only make visible the rich traditions that have been created in Kentucky synagogues, each with more than 100 years of history, but will also help to promote the idea that Kentucky’s Jewish culture lives on today. As part of this project, the team leaders, Janice Fernheimer, Director of Jewish Studies, and Beth Goldstein, Chair of Educational Policy Studies, will work with a cohort of students and community volunteers to effectively recruit and train interviewers, interviewees, and indexers. We have the support of Doug Boyd, Director of the Louie B. Nunn Center at the University of Kentucky, and we will make use of their cutting edge platform for indexing oral history—the Oral History Metadata System (OHMS)—to make the oral histories collected accessible by the Kentucky community and anyone with an Internet collection. Interview subjects will be selected by a committee comprised of Jan Fernheimer and Beth Goldstein in consultation with area Jewish organizations. Review of archival material will also be used to identify individuals and themes (including, but not limited to, campus life, the Civil Rights movement, religious life, civic engagement, entrepreneurship) for the interviews. Finally, the interview pool will be further expanded using a snowball method through which each person interviewed will be asked to identify other prospective individuals. We will start with conducting interviews of senior members of the community to document the deeper past and use this as a foundation for moving into present day Jewish culture in Kentucky.
Effective start/end date6/10/146/30/19


  • Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence: $85,000.00


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