Interview SummaryRabbi Sharon L. Cohen was born in 1969 in Miami, Florida. While her parents are both from the United States, her great-grandparents emigrated from Russia. Growing up, Cohen's parents raised her in a Jewish home with strong values that eventually influenced her decision to attend institutions of higher education with strong Jewish student life. The importance of Judaism in her life also shaped her career choices. Cohen was ordained as a rabbi and she later was employed as the first female rabbi at Ohavay Zion Synagogue in Lexington, Kentucky. Cohen describes the varying levels of acceptance she encountered: she felt welcomed by her congregants, while she also experienced some resistance to her authority from others. In her life, Cohen has taken on many different roles--as a Rabbi, Jewish educator, chaplain, mother, and more. Due to these sometimes-competing roles, she struggled with which version of herself to show to the world in various environments.
She has advocated for gender equality in the professional realm, and discusses the challenges that pursuing a career and higher education can present for women who also want to have a family. She reflects on the experiences of parenting small children while in her forties while also continuing to work. Consequently, she has dealt with the struggles and benefits of raising a Jewish family in Lexington, Kentucky. Now, her life focuses on her family as she has two young sons and a husband. Though she is no longer the rabbi at Ohavay Zion, she still continues to work as a chaplain. She describes how Lexington and its Jewish culture has evolved over the years.
Interview RightsAll 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 UsageInterviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, 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.
Add this interview to your cart in order to begin the process of requesting access to a copy of and/or permission to reproduce interview(s).
Cohen, Sharon L. Interview by Hannah Thompson. 31 Mar. 2017. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Cohen, S.L. (2017, March 31). Interview by H. Thompson. Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Cohen, Sharon L., interview by Hannah Thompson. March 31, 2017, Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.
If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at SCRC@uky.edu.
Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt780g3h147g