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Interview with Morris Weiss, August 1, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Family background from Alten-Schoenbach, Germany to Louisville, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Well, I think I’m supposed to say for the tape that, uh, we’re here with Morris Weiss, and, uh, it’s August 1st, 2016. I’m Carol Ely, and we’re talking in Videobred Studios.

Segment Synopsis: Morris Weiss begins the interview by discussing his family background dating back to Alten-Schoenbach, Germany and how his uncle, Josef Solomon, emigrated to Louisville, Kentucky in 1863. He tells us how his family became one of the founding families of Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky when Weiss’s great-uncle Dr. Leon Solomon and a number of other prominent Louisvillian physicians decided to form Jewish Hospital in the winter of 1903.

Keywords: 1847; 1863; 1894; 1904; 1921; 1933; 1954; Abraham Flexner Way; Alten-Schoenbach (Germany); Alten-Schoenbach, Germany; Baldwin Wallace College; Cardiology; Chaplin (Ky.); Chaplin, Kentucky; Chestnut Street; Civil War era; Dr. Leon Solomon; Edna Solomon; Emmet Horine; Eva Bach; Floyd and Kentucky Street; Germany; Hardin County (Ky.); Hardin County, Kentucky; Heppenheim; Jewish Hospital; Josef Solomon; Louisville, Kentucky; Male High School; Mobile (Ala.); Mobile, Alabama; Napoleon Bonaparte; Reform Jews; Reform Judaism; Samuel Brown; University of Alabama; Vine Grove

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Family histories.; Genealogy; Hospitals; Immigrants; Jewish families.; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care--Kentucky

00:10:03 - Early childhood in 1940s Louisville, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Well, where--where did you grow up? Where did you live--

Segment Synopsis: Weiss discusses his early childhood upbringing in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1940s. He details how he was raised in a Reform Jewish household and that the community was largely made up of Jews of all denominations from Eastern Europe.

Keywords: 1840; 1860; 1888; 1910; 1937; Ashkenazi; Ashkenazi Jews; Bach's Stores; Bardstown Road; Bonnycastle; Cherokee Road; Eastern European; Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews; Flood of 1937; Haberdashery shops; Highlands; Jewish; Judaism; Kentucky; Louisville, Kentucky; Reform Judaism; Russian Jews; Tyler Park; Village Drive

Subjects: Childhood; Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Family histories.; Genealogy; Immigrants; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Louisville (Ky.); Religion; Worship (Judaism)

00:14:13 - University of Michigan in the 1950s / Medical internships

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Partial Transcript: Um, just go--going back to your childhood, where'd you go to school?

Segment Synopsis: Weiss completed his undergraduate education at the University of Michigan in the 1950s, and then went on to complete his medical internship at the University of Pennsylvania, and finished his internal medicine at Washington University at Barnes Hospital and Washington University in St. Louis. He talks about playing basketball with a few fellow medical school colleagues at the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania and how when they came home to Louisville they continued to play basketball at the JCC (Jewish Community Center).

Keywords: 1962; Alan Bernstein; Arnold Belker; Barnes Hospital; Basketball; Belknap School; Cardiology; Evalyn Brown; Goucher College; Jewish Community Center (JCC); Louisville Male High School; Mobile (Ala.); Mobile, Alabama; Navajo; Pennsylvania Hospital; Reform Jews; Robert Keisler; St. Louis (Mo.); St. Louis, Missouri; University of Michigan; University of Pennsylvania; Washington University in St. Louis; YMCA

Subjects: Education, Higher; Hospitals; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care; Medical education

GPS: Louisville Male High School
Map Coordinates: 38.184700, -85.721027
00:19:24 - Differences in Jewish observance between Mobile, Alabama and Louisville, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Was that different from Louisville in your experience? Did you--

Segment Synopsis: Weiss talks about his mother's Jewish upbringing in Mobile, Alabama and how that differed in terms of practice and observance of traditions from his father's Jewish upbringing in Louisville, Kentucky. He mentions how in Alabama, the Jews were financially a lot better off in comparison to the Jews in Louisville, and in Alabama the Jews were a lot more Americanized than the Jews in Louisville (noting how they all only spoke English.) He concludes by mentioning that both of his parents did come from Reform Jewish backgrounds, so that was something that united them.

Keywords: Alabama; Cherokee Road; German Jewish; Kentucky; Leon Solomon; Louisiana; Louisville, Kentucky; Mobile, Alabama; Reform Jews; Shreveport, Louisiana

Subjects: Families.; Family histories.; Genealogy; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Louisville (Ky.); Mobile (Ala.); Religion; Worship (Judaism)

00:22:01 - Parents' involvement in philanthropy

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Partial Transcript: So was your mother active in women’s groups? Was she--

Segment Synopsis: Weiss discusses how his mother was on the National Council of Jewish Women, and how she took a particular interest in helping other minority groups and civil rights groups. Weiss then talks about how he is now involved in philanthropy himself, citing how he finished a five-part history of African American medicine in 2014.

Keywords: African American community; Anti-communist; Council of Jewish Women; Liberal; Louisville National Medical College; Red Cross Hospital; Senator Joseph McCarthy

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Social conditions.; Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; Discrimination.; Jewish families.; Jewish leadership; Jewish women; Jews--Identity.; Social reformers

00:24:45 - Family's involvement at Temple Adath Israel and in the Louisville Jewish community

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Partial Transcript: I do want to talk about that but I just want to circle back a little bit and finish talking about your family background.

Segment Synopsis: Weiss discusses how his family has continuously (for many generations) belonged to Adath Israel, which is a Reform Jewish temple in Louisville, Kentucky. He talks about how when he was a young boy attending Sunday school, he found that most of the teachers were just members of the community, who weren't really versed in theology, so he began seeking out information on his own under the direction of Rabbi Ralk and later Rabbi Waller. He talks about how the Louisville Jewish community at first was quite divided between the Orthodox and Reform communities but toward the 1960s more and more intermarriages took place.

Keywords: 1947; 1950s; 1960s; Brith Shalom; Confirmation; Eastern European Jews; Intermarriage; Jewish Community Center (JCC); Louisville Male High School; Orthodox Jews; Rabbi Ralk; Rabbi Waller; Reform Jews; Temple Adath Israel; Vietnam Era; World War II; World War Two

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Family histories.; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Louisville (Ky.); Religion; Worship (Judaism)

00:31:27 - Experiences with anti-Semitism as a student and medical professional

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Partial Transcript: Did you, at, at this time, and now we’re talking as, as you were growing up and in medical school, did you experience anti-Semitism in the community?

Segment Synopsis: Weiss discusses his experiences with anti-Semitism in medical school and as a medical professional. He talks about how, during his time as an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania while attending a party, another student made a joke about Jews having horns. Weiss then recalls how while he was a board member of the Kentucky Heart Association, he couldn't attend an event held at the Pendennis Club because they didn't allow entrance to Jews.

Keywords: African Americans; American Heart Association; Catholic Health Initiative; Jewish; Jewish Hospital; Kentucky Heart Association; Medical schools; Pendennis Club; University of Michigan

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions.; Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; Discrimination.; Jews--Identity.; Louisville (Ky.)

00:35:20 - Jewish Hospital's involvement in civil rights in the 1950s

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Partial Transcript: Well, let’s talk some more about Jewish Hospital.

Segment Synopsis: Weiss talks about how Jewish Hospital hired Dr. Jesse Bell (the first African American doctor practicing at a non-African American hospital in that region) in 1951 and Dr. Maurice Rabb, another prominent African American physician.

Keywords: 1951; 1962; African Americans; Civil rights; Dr. Jesse Bell; Jefferson County Medical Society; Jewish Hospital; Maurice Rabb; Red Cross Hospital

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Hospitals; Integration; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky

00:39:49 - Jewish Hospital's evolution

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Partial Transcript: And the Jewish community seems to have always been very proud of Jewish Hospital.

Segment Synopsis: Weiss discusses the evolution of Jewish Hospital, noting how Jewish Hospital began as a smaller place for Jewish physicians to practice and had remained primarily Jewish up until modern times, but it has now grown to be loved by the community and is known for its specialization in cardiology.

Keywords: Allan Lansing; Cardiology; David Jones; Dr. Laman Gray; Flexner; Humana; Ian Bloom; Jewish Hospital; Jewish community; Leon Solomon; Leonard Lang

Subjects: Hospitals; Jewish physicians.; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care

00:46:00 - His family story (1967-onward)

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Partial Transcript: Well, let’s switch gears for a minute and talk about your family. You mentioned a wife and children.

Segment Synopsis: Weiss discusses both of his marriages (first to Gladys Lillian August, and then to Terry noting that he does not give her maiden name.) He talks about how after his first divorce, but before his second marriage, he spent thirteen years practicing archeology around the world in places like Egypt and Greece. He discusses how his first wife, Gladys, was raised in an Orthodox Jewish background while his second wife, Terry, was raised Episcopalian. He notes that he doesn't believe that religious differences or variances in observance have divided or made either of his marriages difficult, and that his marriages and family life have simply been based on morals and principles.

Keywords: 1771; 1967; Alten-Schoenbach; Archeology; Baptist; Conservative Judaism; Eastern European Jews; Episcopalian; German Archives; Germany; Gladys Lillian August; Heppenheim; Interfaith marriages; Intermarriage; Jewish; Jewish education; Military draft; Orthodox; Orthodox Judaism; Peter Hasselbacher; Protestant; Reform Judaism; Secular Judaism; Temple Adath Israel; Temple Adath Israel Brith-Shalom; Vietnam; Vietnam War

Subjects: Families.; Family histories.; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Religion

00:55:08 - Legacy of Jewish Hospital / Future of the Jewish community

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Partial Transcript: Legacy, yes, which is a question here.

Segment Synopsis: Weiss discusses the legacy of Jewish Hospital and where it is going today. He discusses how Jewish Hospital is very well known to many Louisvillians in Kentucky because it has been a part of their history since the early 1900s. He also discusses how the Jewish community in Louisville is shrinking, like many other small southern Jewish communities.

Keywords: Catholic Heath Initiative; Evolution of Jewish Louisville; Jewish Hospital; Jewish Hospital evolution; Jewish community; Louisville Jewish community

Subjects: Hospitals; Jewish families.; Jewish physicians.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care

01:04:50 - Final thoughts

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Partial Transcript: Well, is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to talk about or say?

Segment Synopsis: Weiss concludes by discussing how the shrinking population of Jews in Louisville, Kentucky (which he notes has been seen in many other small southern Jewish communities that have virtually disappeared) could begin to threaten the dynamic of the Louisville Jewish community.

Keywords: Financial issues; Jewish; Jewish community; Judaism; KentuckyOne Health; Louisville Jewish Community

Subjects: Hospitals; Jewish families.; Jewish physicians.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care