20 June 2010

Kentucky: From Daniel Boone to the Shapiras

Keeping with today's Southern theme, here's a glimpse of Jewish life in Louisville, Kentucky.

The story in the Jewish Exponent covers whiskey, the Kentucky Derby and MOTs.

The small community numbers about 8,500 and features the oldest and largest congregation in the state - Congregation Adath Israel Brith Sholom (AKA The Temple), chartered in 1843, as the sixth Reform congregation in the US.

Established in 1843 as K.K. Adas Israel, The Temple was a founding member of Reform Judaism's Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now Union for Reform Judaism) and an early proponent of Reform in American Jewish life. When Reform Judaism began in 1873, the congregation was the second largest congregation in the movement. Brith Sholom was founded by the next group of newcomers who did not want Orthodox rites but who wanted services in their native German (Adath Israel's services were in English). Eventually the two merged.

The Temple's archives are extensive and hold historic materials "chronicling the significant people, places and events of the past century and a half, since the establishment of our congregation by charter in January 1843." Items include Temple artifacts, books, records dating to the early days of both congregations and more than 80 oral histories. A personal video history project is currently underway.

Here are some additional tidbits:

-- Daniel Boone was hired by the Virginia company of Cohen and Isaacs to check out their lands in Kentucky. The Gratz family of Philadelphia set up Ohio River trading posts and joined the founders of Lexington.

-- Distiller and philanthropist Isaac Wolfe Bernheim modeled the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest after his German childhood home.

-- Louisville was the birthplace of late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.

The article also has information on the area's American Bourbon and Whiskey Trail, particularly Heaven Hill Distillery, reopened following Prohibition by Shapira family members.
1934 -- Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., originally known as "Old Heavenhill Springs" distillery, is founded by a group of Bardstown-area investors and the five Shapira brothers, David, Ed, Gary, George and Mose. ...
According to the distillery's communications director and Temple congregation member Larry Kass, its current status as a beverage industry leader is due to second-generation owners Max and Harry Shapira.

The congregation decided to dedicate the 2010 annual fundraiser to Max Shapira, but he wasn't interested in the spotlight, so the family and local rabbis expanded the theme into a week-long celebration of the role local Jewish immigrants played in the spirits industry and regional growth.

The event is titled "The Chosen Spirit Archival Exhibition and Tribute."

Kass worked with Rabbis Joe Rooks-Rapport and Gaylia R. Rooks to research archiva materials to demonstrate the family's legacy. from the archives to demonstrate the Shapira family legacy.

Learn about early American Jewish history by clicking the websites for Heaven Hill and for the congregation.

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