Filson presents a new series on local Jewish history

Architectural drawing of Jewish Hospital by Joseph & Joseph, c. 1950. The history of Jewish Louisville will be the subject of a presentation at the upcoming In Focus lecture series sponsored by the Filson Historical Society and the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. (photo provided by the Jewish Community Archive at the Filson.)

Showcasing its new role as the curator of Jewish Louisville history, the Filson Historical Society will present a four-part lecture/discussion series that addresses different aspects of the community’s past.
The series, titled “In Focus: Louisville History through a Jewish Lens,” will run from May through June, looking at Jewish Hospital, Jews in the bourbon trade, Jewish and Christian soldiers in World War I and the impact of B’nai B’rith on Louisville social life.
Last November, the Filson announced the establishment of the Jewish Community Archive, a repository for much of Jewish Louisville history. The largest part of the new collection would be 75 years of records and documents from Jewish Hospital.
“We are celebrating getting this Jewish archive project off the ground,” said Abigail Glowgower, curator of the Filson’s Jewish archive. “We have received the Jewish Hospital papers, which are the cornerstone of the collection and we’re working on processing them, so we’re excited to debut the Filson as the place where local Jewish history is collected, preserved, explored and celebrated.”
(The Temple also maintains a significant archive, their’s dealing primarily with the history of the congregation and the American Reform movement.)
Programming related to Jewish history will take place year-round, Glogower said, but she wouldn’t say the “In Focus” series will become an annual event.
The series will be composed of three lectures and one panel discussion:
• “Kentucky Bourbon’s Jewish Spirit” – The Jewish influence on the whiskey business since Isaac Wolfe Bernheim. Reid Mitenbuler, who has written about whiskey and drinking culture for the Atlantic, Slate, Saveur and Whisky Advocate, will present. (6 p.m., Tuesday, May 22)
• “Breaking Down Barriers: The Importance of Jewish Hospital in Louisville’s History” – Founded in 1906 to provide medical care and training to underserved immigrants and aspiring doctors, Jewish became a national leader in research, practice and patient care in the 20th century. A panel of luminaries from Jewish Hospital will reflect on its business, culture, surgery and spirituality, while exploring what lies ahead for the institution. (6 p.m., Thursday, May 31)
• “Sons of the Covenant, Brothers of the Lodge: Fraternal Orders and immigrant Identity in 19th Century Louisville” – The Filson’s recent acquisition of early Louisville B’nai B’rith lodge materials offers new insights into the social and economic life of this city through the lens of German-Jewish immigrants. Glogower will present the story these materials hold. (noon, Friday, June 15)
• “Why in Heaven’s Name Expect Us to Mingle?: Jewish and Christian Soldiers in WWI” – During the Great War, Louisville’s Camp Zachary Taylor was more than a training site. Young people from different states, communities and traditions met and negotiated life together; they served as laboratory for testing both Progressive Era Americanization policies and new ideas about religious pluralism in the United States. This lecture explores the impact of soldiers’ welfare services provided through independent religious organizations such as the YMCA, the Catholic Knights of Columbus, and the Jewish Welfare Board. Jessica Cooperman, director of the Jewish Studies Program at Muhlenberg College, will present. (6 p.m. Tuesday, June 26)
All programs will held at the Filson Historical Society, 1310 S. 3rd St., Louisville. They are free for members and $10 for non-members. Reservations are requested to assure adequate seating. Call 502-635-5083 for details.

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