Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Mark Switow, September 20, 2016

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

 

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00:00:00 - Family background and migration to Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Okay, I'm Carol Ely. I'm here with Mark Switow for the Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project, sponsored by the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.

Segment Synopsis: Switow, born in 1958 in Louisville to Maxine Rudman Switow and Irvine Bloom "Sonny" Switow. His siblings are Arlene and Michael. He discusses how his family came to Kentucky and how he learned more about his familial origins after reading his great-grandfather's autobiography about being a Russian immigrant who moved around the U.S. in the 19teens until settling in Paducah, Kentucky and then Louisville. Great-grandparents Michael and Annie Switow arrived in the U.S. in the 19teens. His mother's family is from northeast U.S.

Keywords: 1910s; Annie Switow; Arlene Switow; Autobiography; Great-grandfathers; Irvine Bloom "Sonny" Switow; Maxine Rudman Switow; Michael Switow; Russian; Siblings

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Genealogy; Immigrants--Kentucky; Paducah (Ky.)

GPS: Paducah (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.072222, -88.6275
00:03:53 - Family involvement in the entertainment and concession business

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Partial Transcript: Well, one of your ancestors was an important part of establishing an industry in Louisville.

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses his family's influence on the movie theater industry in Southern Indiana and Kentucky. His family founded and ran the Vogue Theater, The South Park, Rialto Theater, and The Kentucky Theatre, among others. He mentions the resulting theater food concessions business his father started which expanded to parks and sports settings. Mark Switow worked in his father's business as a youth but his father advised him against the business when Switow was 21. He explains why the Switow family is no longer involved with this industry. His father sold the business to Eddy Goldberg. Cousins, the Saag family, took over part of the movie theater business.

Keywords: Candy; Coca-Cola; Coke; Concessions; Dads; Downtown; Drive-in theaters; Eddy Goldberg; Fathers; Grandfathers; Great-uncles; Movies; Multiplexes; Paper goods; Popcorn; Rialto Theater; Saag family; Soda; Southern Indiana; The Kentucky Theatre; The South Park; Theaters; Vogue Theater

Subjects: Jewish businesspeople; Lexington (Ky.).; Louisville (Ky.); Small business--Kentucky; Small business--Ownership

00:10:11 - Family involvement at Adath Jeshurun and transition into the Temple

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Partial Transcript: Well, to, um, st, stay in the past a little bit, um, your great-gran, grandfather also was very involved in Adath Jeshurun synagogue.

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses how his grandfather was very involved at Adath Jeshurun, as well as his parents. His father was on the board of trustees and his mother was involved in the sisterhood while also participating with the National Council of Jewish Women. He mentions that his interfaith marriage resulted in he and his family moving membership to the Temple in 2010.

Keywords: Adath Israel Temple; Adath Jeshurun; Bar mitzvahs; Bat mitzvahs; Board of Trustees; Fathers; Grandfathers; Jewish Community Center (JCC); Mothers; National Council of Jewish Women; Religious conversion; Religious services; Sisterhood; Sunday school; Switow Chapel; Synagogues

Subjects: Families.; Jewish children--Kentucky--Louisville; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.); Marriage; Religion

GPS: Adath Jeshurun Synagogue in Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.228, -85.684
00:13:38 - Growing up in a Jewish family

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, in your family, growing up, um, what was your Jewish life like?

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses his routine as child. He mentions Friday dinners at his grandparents', lighting candles, and having kiddush downtown. Every Sunday his family met at Mario's Pizza. Saturday morning they went to synagogue for Shabbat services. He was also involved with the Jewish Community Center and youth clubs for sports especially.

Keywords: Brothers; Candles; Downtown; Grandparents; Jewish Community Center (JCC); Kiddush; Sisters; Sports; Synagogues; Youth clubs

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Jewish children--Kentucky--Louisville; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.); Religion

GPS: Jewish Community Center in Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.225404, -85.650386
00:15:23 - Involvement in the Jewish Community Center when growing up

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Partial Transcript: Right. The clubs were very important in that era--

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses his time spent at the Jewish Community Center and how it served as place for Jewish kids from all over the city to gather. He mentions his involvement in the sports clubs at the center including football, softball, and basketball.

Keywords: Atherton High School; Athletics; Ballard High School; Basketball; Clubs; Football; Jewish Community Center (JCC); Socials; Softball; Sunday school; Sundays; Wagner High School

Subjects: Childhood; Jewish children--Kentucky--Louisville; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.)

GPS: Jewish Community Center in Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.225404, -85.650386
00:17:08 - Friendships and division among Jewish kids

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Partial Transcript: Do you feel like your circle of friends was mostly, um, Jewish kids that you knew from, uh, from the clubs?

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses how there was a division between Jewish students from the East End that went to the Standard Country Club and Ballard High School, and those from the Highlands that went to the Jewish Community Center. Switow mentions how his involvement at these centers gained him many Jewish friends, but he still had non-Jewish friends from school and sports clubs.

Keywords: Ballard High School; Conflicts; East End; Friends; Highlands; Jewish Community Center (JCC); Standard Country Club

Subjects: Childhood; Jewish children--Kentucky--Louisville; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.)

GPS: Ballard High School in Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.283439, -85.625243
00:17:55 - Standard Country Club and club discrimination

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Partial Transcript: Uh, you mentioned the Standard Club. Can you talk a little bit more about what it was like to be a kid and have access to that--

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses how the Standard Country Club was started in 1875 in response to the antisemitism often occurring in other country clubs. He talks about how the club started with just golfing. He tells a story about his uncle's golf prowess. Sam, Harry, and Fred Switow helped move the Club to its present location and expanded it from a golf course to include more facilities. The Club existed because of discrimination against Jews in the past that limited professional and social access.

Keywords: Anti-Semitism; Country clubs; Fred Switow; Golf; Golf courses; Harry Switow; Sam Switow; Standard Club; Standard Country Club; Uncles

Subjects: Discrimination.; Families.; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.); Religion

GPS: Standard Country Club, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.293229, -85.597668
00:19:57 - Preservation and the future of Standard Country Club

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Partial Transcript: I'm going to jump ahead in time, and then we'll go back again.

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses his hopes for the Standard Country Club to serve as a center for the Jewish community. He mentions the facilities and activities available there including golf courses, swimming, and fishing

Keywords: Community centers; Debts; Fishing; Golf; Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence; Preservation; Standard Club; Standard Country Club; Swimming; Tennis

Subjects: Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.); Louisville (Ky.)--Buildings, structures, etc.

GPS: Standard Country Club, Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.293229, -85.597668
00:22:34 - College and Jewish life in South Carolina and at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So now we're going to talk about you again, and go back in time. So, uh, where did you go to college?

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses how he was a "C" college student who first attended school in South Carolina in 1976-77 and proceeded to transfer to the University of Kentucky. He discusses how UK and other colleges in Kentucky lacked a significant Jewish population which resulted in Kentucky Jewish students going to out of state schools such as Indiana University, which had strong Jewish student organizations. He acknowledges the increase in Jewish student activity at University of Kentucky now.

Keywords: Campus life; Hillel; Indiana University; South Carolina; University of Kentucky

Subjects: College environment; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Religious life; College students--Social conditions; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Lexington.; Universities and colleges.

GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.033333, -84.5
00:24:36 - Involvement with state colleges in Kentucky and introducing the Heritage Fund

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Partial Transcript: Have you stayed involved with UK, and, uh, you, you seem familiar with what's going on there now. Are you--

Segment Synopsis: Swtiow discusses being on the Advisory Council at University of Kentucky's College of Arts and Sciences, as well as being on a board at the University of Louisville. He mentions his role in introducing the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence to these colleges and his hope to introduce this fund to other colleges in the state because it's important to introduce Judaism to those who don't know about Jews.

Keywords: Board of trustees; Grants; Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence (JHFE); Kentucky; Morehead University; Proposals; Scholarships; University of Kentucky; University of Louisville; Western Kentucky University

Subjects: College environment; College students--Religious life; Jews--Identity.; Religion; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Universities and colleges.

GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.033333, -84.5
00:26:31 - Interfaith marriage and family life

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Partial Transcript: Um, okay, so when and how did you meet your wife?

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses meeting his wife, Tammy, having an interfaith marriage, and being a father and step-father to Tammy's children from her first marriage. He mentions how he and his wife chose to raise their children Ryan, Sam, and Katie as Jewish and continue to celebrate both Jewish and Christian holidays. Switow describes himself as a "C&E Christian" - Christmas and Easter but Jewish in practice.

Keywords: "C&E Christian"; "Convenient Jews"; Bar mitzvahs; Bat mitzvahs; Candles; Children; Christmas; Easter; Family; Fathers; Hanukkah; Husbands; Katie; Passover; Rosh Hashana; Ryan; Sam; Seder; Tammy; Wife

Subjects: Families.; Holidays--Kentucky; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Judaism; Louisville (Ky.); Religion

00:28:45 - Affiliation with Jewish Hospital, negotiations with Catholic Health Initiatives, and contribution to Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence

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Partial Transcript: Um, switching topics, now. Uh, your family's been affiliated with Jewish Hospital for a long time too, I believe.

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses his family's involvement with the Jewish Hospital (Sam, Harry, and Fred) and his position on the Board of Trustees from 1986. He discusses current responsibilities for fundraising and grants. He discusses the hospital's merger with Catholic Health Initiatives and the similarities in initiatives between the two medical centers. He mentions his role in establishing the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence through merger negotiations that allowed millions of dollars to go into the Heritage Fund. As a result, the Fund supports grants to medical research and Jewish initiatives. He explains ethical religious directives (ERDs) and agreement between the Jewish and Catholic foundation boards on 78 of 80 ERDs.

Keywords: Abortion; Catholic Health Initiatives; Ethical religious directives; Foundation boards; Fred Switow; Fund-raising; Grants; Harry Switow; Healthcare; Hospitals; Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence; Jewish Hospital; KentuckyOne Health; Medical research; Mergers; Negotiations; Saint Joseph Health System (SJHS); Sam Switow; Stem cell research

Subjects: Catholicism; Families.; Hospitals--Administration; Hospitals--Kentucky; Jewish businesspeople; Jewish leadership--Kentucky--Louisville; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.)

GPS: Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.225333, -85.741667
00:34:17 - Impact of the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence and its future

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, how do you see the fund having an impact on the community in the future, and what, what are your broad goals for it?

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses how the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence has allowed for many services to be offered in the Jewish community, such as senior busing and after school programs. He talks about how he hopes for the fund to contribute to a larger change, such as a merger between the Jewish Community Center and the Standard Country Club.

Keywords: Community; Jewish Community Center (JCC); Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence; Standard Country Club

Subjects: Jewish businesspeople; Jewish leadership--Kentucky--Louisville; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.)

GPS: Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.225333, -85.741667
00:35:37 - Change in the Jewish community in Louisville, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So, um, looking at the Jewish community in Louisville today, there's certainly challenges, and there are certainly issues. How do you see the community having changed or evolved over your lifetime?

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses changes he's seen in the Jewish community, including closure of the Jewish Day School. He mentions how there has been more Reform, how many are becoming more tolerant of interfaith relationships, and how there is decreased antisemitism in the general community. He also talks about how the Jewish population has decreased in Louisville due to the youth population moving to metropolitan areas, but now technology is able to counter this. He sees possibilities for the return of Jews to Louisville as the economy shifts. He sees the Jewish Community Center as a possible magnet for this.

Keywords: Anti-Semitism; Community; Discrimination; Interfaith marriages; Jewish Community Center (JCC); Jewish Day School; Millennials; Reform; Social divisions; Technology

Subjects: Jewish children--Kentucky--Louisville; Jewish leadership--Kentucky--Louisville; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.)

GPS: Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.225333, -85.741667
00:39:25 - Experiences with anti-Semitism

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Partial Transcript: Um, have you had experiences with antisemitism in Louisville in your personal or professional life?

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses how he experienced antisemitism growing up, and how he still faces it sometimes, but less overtly. He mentions how he's in financial management and how his clients are both Jewish and non-Jewish.

Keywords: Anti-Semitism; Financial management

Subjects: Childhood; Discrimination.; Jewish businesspeople; Jewish children--Kentucky--Louisville; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.)

GPS: Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.225333, -85.741667
00:40:20 - Involvement of Jewish members in the Louisville community

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Partial Transcript: Um, have, have you seen other, uh, changes in the community in the way Jews interact in the world?

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses how the Jewish community used to be involved just through the Jewish Community Center, Standard Club, the Synagogue, the Temples, the Jewish Hospital, and through other Jewish organizations. Now, he mentions, the Jewish population is involved in more than just the Jewish community and can be found in an array of organizations, clubs, and leadership roles offering many different services.

Keywords: Baptist Hospital; Community; Community service; Country clubs; Grandparents; Jewish Community Center (JCC); Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass; Jewish Hospital; Norton Hospital; Parents; Synagogues; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Families.; Jewish businesspeople; Jewish leadership--Kentucky--Louisville; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.); Volunteers

GPS: Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.225333, -85.741667
00:41:31 - Religion and spirituality of the Jewish community

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Partial Transcript: Well, I have run through my list of questions.

Segment Synopsis: Switow discusses the difference between religion and spirituality and describes himself as more spiritual. He also describes the Jewish community as becoming more spiritual. While there still are many Jews who are involved religiously, Switow believes that the Jewish community has a larger spiritual presence that isn't accurately represented by the level of attendance at the Synagogue or the Temple. He does turn to his rabbi on personal matters. He says that treating everyone better than you want to be treated yourself is a core value.

Keywords: Community; Membership; Rabbis; Religious services; Spirituality; Strength; Values

Subjects: Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Louisville.; Louisville (Ky.); Religion

GPS: Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.225333, -85.741667