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Scholarship Enables Students to Preserve Jewish Heritage

by: Gail Hairston

(Feb. 3, 2015) — University of Kentucky students have a rare opportunity now to get in on the ground floor of a historical and innovative three-year project to record and preserve Kentucky’s Jewish heritage and history for generations to come.

The Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence Scholars program for undergraduates is made possible by a unique partnership between UK’s interdisciplinary program in Jewish Studies and the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence (JHFE).  The JHFE Scholars receive a multi-year scholarship to complete a minor in Jewish Studies at UK. They also have a unique opportunity for research with UK faculty. Of the five scholarships originally created, two scholarships are still available.

Deadline to submit an application is Feb. 16. To complete the online submission, visit

Meet UK’s first three JHFE scholars who began their awards this year: 

The Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence is a Louisville-based 501(c) 3 grant making organization with a mission to invest in the local health care market, foster innovative medical research and support the Louisville Jewish community.

Beginning in 2015, the JHFE Scholars will help to create the Jewish Kentucky Oral History Collection, in cooperation with the UK Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, UK Library and Information Sciences, digital humanities and oral histories. The project’s goal is to establish the largest collection of Kentucky Jewish oral histories in the state. Eventually, all the digital oral histories will be publicly accessible online.

“Over the course of three years, we plan to collect a minimum of 55 oral histories from across the Commonwealth," said Janice Fernheimer, director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Jewish Studies and associate professor of writing, rhetoric, and digital studies. "These narratives will highlight Kentucky’s historic and contemporary Jewish heritage. Although most people tend to associate Jewish American history and culture with urban locales on the East or West Coast, Kentucky’s Jewish history is just as important and interesting. The project will also allow UK to develop a new undergraduate course on Kentucky Jewish history and identity.”

According to project co-director Beth Goldstein, “JHFE scholars who work on the oral histories collection can gain extraordinary first-hand experience with community outreach, original research, and digital humanities technology.  Under faculty supervision, the students will help conduct, process, and prepare interviews for public access. They’ll also have the opportunity for summer employment on the project.”

The interdisciplinary faculty of Jewish Studies at UK came together from multiple colleges at UK ‒ Arts and Sciences, Fine Arts, Education, Medicine, Communication and Information Sciences, and Engineering. All are leaders in their respective fields of philosophy, history, rhetoric, computer science and musicology, and they work on a variety of cross-disciplinary projects as varied as, but not limited to the following:

  • Jewish diversity
  • Black Jewish identity
  • contemporary Yiddish language and culture
  • history of Jewish music
  • representations of Israel in Jewish and other graphic novels
  • minority relations in Modern Europe
  • Jewish-Christian relations in the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly through the experiences of judeoconversos, or converts from Judaism to Christianity and their descendants
  • comparative memory of trauma in the Haitian revolution and the Holocaust
  • Jewish presence in North Africa
  • Ladino and Sephardic Jewish history and culture