The Filson Historical Society is proud to host “In Focus: Louisville History Through a Jewish Lens,” a programming series sponsored by the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence (JHFE).  Join us for three lectures and a panel discussion highlighting Louisville’s rich and multi-faceted Jewish history.


Tuesday, May 22, 6:00 p.m., Kentucky Bourbon’s Jewish Spirit, Reid MitenbulerThe history of American whiskey isn’t always reflected in the names on the labels. For instance, Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, a Jewish immigrant and bourbon distiller, felt his surname would draw prejudice against his brand, so he named it I.W. Harper instead. This decision reflects the ways a distinctly American spirit can filter notions of history, identity, and national myth. Reid Mitenbuler, author of Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey, explores the fascinating and often overlooked Jewish heritage woven throughout the story of Kentucky bourbon. REGISTER NOW

Thursday, May 31, 6:00 p.m., Breaking Down Barriers: The Importance of Jewish Hospital in Louisville’s History — Louisville’s Jewish Hospital opened in 1905 as a modest means of providing quality medical care and training to underserved immigrants and aspiring doctors. Throughout the twentieth century, it became a national leader in research, practice, and patient care. This panel discussion assembles luminaries from Jewish Hospital to reflect on matters as diverse as business, culture, surgery, and spirituality, and to explore this beloved institution’s impact on Louisville and beyond.

The panel will feature the following members of the Jewish Hospital community:

Morris M. Weiss, MD, Cardiologist, Jewish Hospital Cardiovascular Institute Board
Laman A. Gray, Jr., MD, Executive and Medical Director of the University of Louisville and Jewish Hospital Cardiovascular Innovation Institute
Rabbi Dr. Nadia Siritsky, MSSW, BCC, Vice President of Mission for Jewish Hospital
Richard A. Schultz, Board Vice Chair, KentuckyOne Health

The panel discussion will be moderated by The Honorable Jerry E. Abramson, former mayor of Louisville, Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, and Director of Governmental Affairs in the Obama White House. REGISTER NOW

Friday, June 15, 12:00 p.m., Sons of the Covenant, Brothers of the Lodge: Fraternal Orders and Immigrant Identity in Nineteenth-Century Louisville, Dr. Abigail Glogower—In 1843, German Jewish immigrants in New York founded B’nai B’rith (Sons of the Covenant), a fraternal order that quickly made its way to the Ohio River Valley, establishing a regional center in Cincinnati and two active lodges in 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 by illuminating German-Jewish immigrants’ scramble for a foothold in their new home. This talk explores the ways a minority population used fraternal bonds to negotiate assimilation within broader American society while simultaneously cultivating religious and ethnic identity. REGISTER NOW

Tuesday, June 26, 5:00 p.m., ‘Why in Heaven’s Name Expect Us to Mingle?’: Jewish and Christian Soldiers in WWI American Military, Dr. Jessica Cooperman —World War I American military camps, such as Louisville’s Camp Zachary Taylor, were far more than training sites. As places where young people from different states, communities, and traditions met and negotiated life together, they served as vast laboratories 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 Protestant YMCA, the Catholic Knights of Columbus, and the Jewish Welfare Board. It considers the goals that these different agencies brought into American military camps, and focuses on the responses of soldiers, particularly Jewish soldiers, as they trained both to fight and to redefine ideas about American religion. REGISTER NOW

All events will be held at the Filson Historical Society, 1310 S. 3rd St., Louisville and are free for Filson members. Admission for the public is $10. Reservations are requested to ensure adequate seating. For more information and to make your reservations, please visit filsonhistorical.org/events or call (502) 635-5083.

The Filson Historical Society is proud to host these programs and announce the creation of the Jewish Community Archive at the Filson. This landmark collection, with generous support from the Jewish JHFE, will be built around the archives of Louisville’s Jewish Hospital. These archives, contributed by JHFE, will be preserved and maintained by the Filson as part of its permanent collection. The Filson will collect additional materials from the Jewish Community of Louisville, as well as from Louisville individuals, families and businesses. In time, the Jewish Community Archive is expected to become a major element of the Filson’s research collection.