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Filson Jewish Collections

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History

Founded in 1884, The Filson Historical Society in Louisville is a privately supported not-for profit library, museum, and research institution, and the oldest collecting repository in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  Specializing in the history and culture of Kentucky and the Ohio Valley, the Filson’s deep and expansive holdings include manuscripts, letters, diaries, photographs, architectural records, rare imprints, books, maps, newspapers, textiles, paintings, decorative arts, and other products of material culture.  Along with programs and exhibits, these collections form a regional educational resource serving local, national, and international research and discovery. 

In 2017 the Filson Historical Society began a new initiative to document, preserve, and study the history of Jewish life and experience in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Ohio Valley region. Our growing Jewish collections span businesses, individuals, families, and  organizations, illuminating varied expressions of identity, belief, and community. These collections are a resource for anyone interested in American Jewish history or in the ways that minority communities adapt, participate, and negotiate amongst themselves and with others.  

Collection Highlights

Our library holdings contain published materials such as books, journals, pamphlets, and newspapers, as well as one-of-a kind manuscript and record collections. We are able to selectively digitize materials from our collections as funding permits. A complete listing of Jewish archival collections at the the Filson, as well as links for searching our catalogs, can be found here.

B’nai B’rith. Louisville Lodge No. 14

This collection of minute books and lodge registers form some of the richest and oldest resources on Jewish organizational life in Kentucky in the 19th century. The ledgers document the charitable work and communal structure of two Jewish fraternal lodges in Louisville (Har Moriah Lodge and Mendelssohn Lodge) between the years 1860 and 1890 with some record of membership into the 20th century, when they formally merged into one group, B’nai B’rith Louisville Lodge No. 14.  Details

Louisville Hadassah Chapter

Spanning the years 1919 – 2004, the Louisville Chapter of Hadassah (The Women’s Zionist Organization of America) collection covers a century of activities through clippings, meeting minutes, bulletins, invitations, and event photographs. Topics include healthcare and education, women’s philanthropic work, and US-Israel relations.
Details

Jewish Hospital

From its founding as a modest thirty-two-bed hospital in 1905 through the decades of specialization after its move to downtown Louisville in 1955, Jewish Hospital grew from a charitable institution for Jewish immigrants into a major regional medical center specializing in heart and lung care and transplant surgeries. The records and photographs in this collection document the effort to build and manage a hospital that met the medical needs of both the Jewish community in Louisville and a general patient population.

Loevenhart’s Men’s Store Records, 1867-2012

Brothers Lee and Henry Loevenhart immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1851 and worked as peddlers in the upper south before opening a mens’ clothing store in Lexington, KY in 1867. In 1898 they expanded with a second location in Louisville, at the heart of downtown’s growing mercantile district. The Loevenhart’s records and photographs are part of a growing number of collections at the Filson documenting Jewish businesses in Kentucky and the Ohio Valley. Details

Abramson Family Papers, 1938-2016

Between 1985 and 2010, Jerry Abramson served five terms as Mayor of Louisville, earning his the nickname “Mayor for Life.” Following his mayoral career, Abramson served as Lt. Governor of Kentucky and then Deputy Assistant to the president and White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs under Barack Obama. This collection documents the political, civic, and Jewish communal work of Jerry and his wife Madeline Abramson, as well as history of the Abramson family of Louisville. Details

Community Jewish Newspaper

In 2021 The Filson Historical Society completed its first major newspaper digitization project: a digital archive of Community, Louisville’s Jewish newspaper since 1973. Fully searchable and browsable, this resource is free and accessible to all. We are currently fundraising to undertake digitizing historical Kentucky Jewish publications including the YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) Chronicler and the Kentucky Jewish Post and Opinion. Details

Programming

The Filson hosts upwards of 75 public lecture programs per year on topics in Kentucky, Ohio Valley, and American history.  Recordings of past programs can be found on our YouTube channel.  Upcoming programs are listed on our website. The Filson hosts several programs a year related to Jewish history.

A Better Life for Their Children – Andrew Feiler

Archiving Your Personal and Family History Part One

Archiving Your Personal and Family History Part Two

Our Partnership with AJL

The Filson and AJL connected in the summer of 2020 with a presentation entitled Collecting Kentucky Jewish History for the “Archives Old and New” archives panel at the AJL annual conference.  Themes and questions from that panel continue to guide our partnership: what makes a twenty-first century library Jewish? How can Jews and non-Jews partner together strategically in advancing preservation and study of Jewish history and culture?   

Serving Our Community

Building Jewish collections at the Filson is a community partnership, and we work with volunteers and donors to document and preserve history both inside the Filson and beyond.  We provide research access and support in our collections as well as education and consultation to Jewish organizations and individuals seeking to better organize and maintain their own historical materials.    

Plans for the Future

We are currently processing and cataloging an extensive collection (approximately 50 cubic feet) of records and photographs documenting The Jewish Community of Louisville and its composite entities, the Jewish Community Center and Louisville Jewish Community Federation. Included are series on teen clubs, summer camp, sports, theater and music, the Federation Community Relations Council, and more. The collection will be ready for access in 2023!

Curator Abigail Glogower, PhD

Abigail Glogower, PhD
Curator of Jewish Collections
And Jewish Community Archives

Abigail (Abby) Glogower is the founding curator of Jewish Collections at the Filson Historical Society. She studied art history at Oberlin College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before earning a doctorate in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester. Abby has conducted collections curation and education at institutions including the Brooklyn Museum, The Spertus Museum, and the National Women’s Hall of Fame. In her spare time, she can be found bicycling, gardening, playing with dogs, reading American realist fiction, and restoring her house in Louisville’s lovely South End.

Contact Us

Tours & Appointments

Support Our Work

The Filson Historical Society
1310 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40208
www.filsonhistorical.org

Abigail Glogower, PhD
Curator of Jewish Collections
And Jewish Community Archives
502.635.5083 x 214
abbyglogower@filsonhistorical.org

Exhibits are free and open to the public during operating hours. Monday – Friday, 9-4:30 Research visits are free for Filson members, $10/day for non-members.  Visitor information can be found here.  Specific research queries can be addressed to Research@FilsonHistorical.org or Abby Glogower, Curator of Jewish Collections AbbyGlogower@FilsonHistorical.Org This Filson also offers short-term research fellowships to support extended research into our collections. More information fellowships can be found here

The Filson Historical Society is a privately supported not-for-profit that operates without state or federal funding. Everything we do is only possible thanks to our members, donors, and grant funders.

Visit us here for more information on membership and giving. 

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