Interview with Benjamin Baker, May 13, 2016

Project: Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Ben Baker describes his family's history, primarily focusing on his mother's side. His maternal grandfather, who was originally from New York, owned a clothing store in Lexington on the corner of N. Mill Street and E. Main Street, which remained open until sometime in the 1950s. Baker's paternal grandparents practiced Orthodox Judaism before immigrating from Poland. After arriving in the United States, however, Morris Baker helped found Ohavay Zion Synagogue in 1912. After his death in 1946, Baker's maternal grandmother attended Temple Adath Israel with her children, in part because it was difficult to maintain a more strict Jewish practice in a small Southern town.

Baker describes working in the family business, Baker Iron & Metal, from customer service and clerical work during the summer as a child in 1964 to helping run the business full-time after graduating college in 1972. Holidays were a highlight for Baker during his childhood because they always involved large family gatherings. In recent years, however, Baker has had to start inviting friends over for holidays because many members of his family are unable to attend due to location or disability. He also discusses his Jewish education and identity and how it affected his childhood experiences, from missing school during the High Holidays and being unable to attend events on Friday nights.

He became a member of Temple Adath Israel when he returned to Lexington in 1972 and quickly took on a leadership role. Although the role of Judaism in Baker's life was initially to meet other Jewish contemporaries, it has evolved into a spiritual force in his life. He describes the changes in Reform Judaism as a reaction to assimilation and intermarriage, trends in Temple attendance throughout the decades, and the relationship between Temple Adath Israel and Ohavay Zion Synagogue.

Interview Accession

2016oh062_jk022

Interviewee Name

Benjamin Baker

Interviewer Name

Arwen Donahue

Interview Date

2016-05-13

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Baker, Benjamin Interview by Arwen Donahue. 13 May. 2016. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Baker, B. (2016, May 13). Interview by A. Donahue. Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Baker, Benjamin, interview by Arwen Donahue. May 13, 2016, Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt702v2cbr29