Can You Help Preserve Jewish Louisville’s History?

[by Phyllis Shaikun]

Jack “Sonny” Meyer, president of Herman Meyer & Son Funeral Directors, has become the Louisville Jewish community’s go-to person when it comes to questions about the way things were way back when. Much of his seemingly endless knowledge about local people, their relationships to one another and their business interests was gained by working with his father and grandfather, who began the family’s mortuary business many years ago.

“If someone died,” he said, “we were the ones that were called. We got to know the families that way and sort of became the genealogists of the city. Otherwise,” he notes, “our history would be lost completely.”

Meyer has developed a Power Point presentation packed with photos and information and is regularly called upon to speak and conduct tours of the local Jewish community – past and present – for schools and organizations.

But he is looking to expand and deepen this resource. Now, Meyer is working on archiving photographs of businesses that operated in the Jewish shtetl area between Main and Madison, up to 7th Street, from 1900 through 1950. He says virtually all businesses located on the west side of Preston Street at that time were owned by Jews. Unfortunately, during the 1997 flood, many old photographs were lost at the Jewish Community Center and at the Filson Club.

As Meyer explains it, Jewish businesses were established close to the river because that’s where the packet boats unloaded their wares. The early German Jewish distillers and wholesalers settled on Main Street, while the retailers ran stores on Market Street. He figures there were between 50 and 100 Jewish businesses operating there at any one time.

If you have photos of old Jewish family businesses you would be willing to share, please contact Meyer at He will scan the photos and return them to you – unharmed – in quick order.

Through your generosity, the spirit of old Jewish Louisville will be perpetuated for future generations.

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