Interview with Helen Levy, October 31, 1986

Project: Lexington Jewish Community Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Helen describes where she was born and her family background. Her parents had a retail clothing store and were both born in Europe. They came as young people and married, and then went into business in Hamilton, Ohio. They came from Lithuania. She thinks her mother came when she was twelve. Helen’s husband, Sam, is also interviewed, and he discusses his family background. Sam talks about why his family came to Tennessee and that his father was peddling in Georgia. Sam's parents went out into the community and put a pack on their back with small items, then sold those items to the people in the area. When they had more money, they got a horse and a buggy, and did it that way. They sold trinkets.

Helen and Sam discuss how they met at a party, and then detail their careers. Helen was a saleslady in Dan Cohen's. Sam discusses his jobs and how he worked with IBM in Cincinnati for about 5 years until 1936. He was in the international time recorder division. In 1936, they were the only Jewish people in Irvine, Kentucky. It had 3,200 people at the time and they were the only Jewish. Helen and Sam were both involved in several organizations, and as they recall, there was never any anti-Semitism in town.

They had children and knew everyone. Helen explains that most of her friends in Lexington were Jewish. Helen talks about how her children grew up in Hebrew school, and had no problem in public school. They lived a very private life and stayed out of politics. Helen and Sam then discuss their relationship with black families in the community, and how they kept kosher while living in Irvine. Sam goes on to detail his time in the military, and the couple explain why they believe Jewish culture has survived in Central Kentucky and what they believe the differences are between northern Jews and southern Jews. Helen discusses the tensions between the Temple and the Synagogue, as well as the movement of the Synagogue.

Finally, the couple explains what life was like during the Holocaust. They had several relatives that didn't come to America and that vanished during the war, but there wasn't much talk about the Holocaust. Helen explains that many people didn't realize what was happening. They had the weekly paper but there was nothing mentioned. It really didn't come out until after the war was over about what happened.

Interview Accession

1986oh289_kh386

Interviewee Name

Helen Levy

Interviewer Name

Bobbi Fried

Interview Date

1986-10-31

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.

Interview Usage

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

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

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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Levy, Helen Interview by Bobbi Fried. 31 Oct. 1986. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Levy, H. (1986, October 31). Interview by B. Fried. Lexington Jewish Community Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Levy, Helen, interview by Bobbi Fried. October 31, 1986, Lexington Jewish Community Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt73n58cjf9f