Thanks to a unique partnership between University of Kentucky’s Interdisciplinary Program in Jewish Studies, the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence (JHFE), and the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky students contribute to an innovative initiative that documents and preserves Kentucky’s Jewish heritage: The JHFE Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project.
Originally conceived to collect a minimum of 55 oral histories from Jewish Kentuckians across the Commonwealth, the collection currently includes 74 interviews and continues to grow. Students make these interviews accessible to anyone with an Internet connection by creating searchable, digital indexes using the Nunn Center’s cutting-edge platform, OHMS (the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer). JHFE Scholars, who receive a multi-year scholarship to complete a minor in Jewish Studies at UK, along with students enrolled in WRD 112: Writing Jewish Kentucky and WRD 401: Composing Oral History, have piloted a model for sustainable growth by conducting additional original oral history interviews for the collection. Undergraduate and graduate students have worked together to further develop this model for student research by contextualizing select oral histories within American and Southern Jewish history.
Two JHFE scholars, Jacob Ward and Jeremiah Brown, presented their original research to a national audience at the 2016 meeting of the Rhetoric Society of America. In November 2017, a a team of undergraduate, graduate, and faculty scholars presented work emerging from the project at the Southern Jewish Historical Society. UK undergraduate Hannah Newberry, and JHFE scholars Breanna Shoemaker and Katie Segal presented poster sessions based on oral histories they indexed, and English graduate student Leslie Davis presented an original research paper based on oral histories and archival research.
The project’s goal is to establish the largest, sustainable collection of Kentucky Jewish oral histories in the state. Many of the digital oral histories are already publicly accessible online through the Louie B. Nunn Center’s digital repository, the JHFE Jewish Kentucky Oral History Collection