Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Susan Ezrine, November 9, 2017

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Introduction and family background

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Partial Transcript: Hello, our names are Emma Logsdon--

Segment Synopsis: Susan Ezrine was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York in 1953. She lived in a primarily Jewish neighborhood, and though not devoutly Jewish, she attended synagogue and Sunday school. Her parents had a more cultural relationship to Judaism, but Ezrine's Judaism became stronger and more faith-based as she aged.

Keywords: Hebrew schools; JHS217; Jamaica High School; New York; PS137; Queens; Sunday school; University of Maryland; Washington, D.C.; World War II

Subjects: Families.; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Washington (D.C.); World War, 1939-1945; Worship (Judaism)

GPS: Jamaica High School
Map Coordinates: 40.714, -73.798
00:07:47 - Early married life with her husband, Barry

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Partial Transcript: So you mentioned earlier that you went to Maryland University?

Segment Synopsis: Ezrine attended the University of Maryland in the early 1970s, where she met her husband Barry in physics class. She talks about growing in her faith with him and raising their children to be Jewish. She also discusses her main concern that her children be good people and choose their own path within Judaism.

Keywords: Baltimore (Md.); Conservative; Husbands; Raising Jewish children; University of Maryland; Weddings

Subjects: Families.; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Worship (Judaism)

GPS: University of Maryland
Map Coordinates: 38.987, -76.943
00:10:49 - Differentiation of children's religious beliefs

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Partial Transcript: So, we understand that you have two children: Benjamin and Rachel.

Segment Synopsis: Ezrine talks about her own children's beliefs. She explains that her daughter is more Orthodox and her son tends to only go to synagogue on the Sabbath. Ezrine describes how her daughter Rachel joined a Jewish program called Avodah in college, but that her daughter's husband led Rachel to a stricter sect of Judaism. They practice a more orthodox form of Judaism and keep kosher, while Ezrine and her husband do not.

Keywords: Benjamin Ezrine; Conservative; Orthodox Judaism; Rachel Ezrine; Sabbath

Subjects: Families.; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Worship (Judaism)

00:15:35 - Women in Ohavay Zion Synagogue

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, and I'd like to ask a few more questions about that, actually.

Segment Synopsis: Ezrine explains that there has been some conflict within Conservative Judaism about how women should participate in the services. Ezrine talks about this conflict and the strides she sees women taking to increase their involvement in synagogue. She says that in the years she has been active in the synagogue (from the 1980s to now) there has been less resistance from more conservative members to women's involvement in the synagogue. However, before the 1980s there was much more resistance by conservative Jews to women's involvement.

Keywords: Conservative Judaism; Feminism; Ohavay Zion Synagogue; Rabbi Bernard Schwab; Rabbi Sharon Cohen; Rabbi Smith; Rabbi Smolkin

Subjects: Jewish leadership; Jewish women; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Worship (Judaism)

GPS: These are the coordinates to Ohavay Zion Synagogue.
Map Coordinates: 37.999, -84.472
00:23:06 - Leadership roles in Ohavay Zion Synagogue

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Partial Transcript: So I'm no longer officially on the board but I still--there are aspects that I'm still very involved with.

Segment Synopsis: Ezrine talks about how she participates in the synagogue. She reads Torah and is involved in performing Jewish burials in the chevra kadisha organization. She maintains that participating in the synagogue is a big part of who she is.

Keywords: Chevra kadisha; Torah

Subjects: Jewish leadership; Jewish women; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Worship (Judaism)

00:28:40 - Move to Lexington, Kentucky in the late 1970s

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Partial Transcript: Um, are there any other challenges and advantages that you've faced here in the Lexington community?

Segment Synopsis: Ezrine moved to Lexington with her husband in 1970 because of his job in the thoroughbred horse industry. They came from Atlanta, Georgia and she did not like it at first because she had never been to Lexington and she knew no one there. They had their kids there, and it was in Lexington that Ezrine became much more involved in the synagogue. She became involved because she wanted a Jewish community to surround herself and her children with as they grew older.

Keywords: Anti-Semitism; Atlanta (Ga.); Dr. Goldstein; Patchen Wilkes Farm; Thoroughbreds; Winchester Road

Subjects: Jewish leadership; Jewish women; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Worship (Judaism)

GPS: Atlanta (Ga.)
Map Coordinates: 33.749, -84.388
00:33:00 - Life on Patchen Wilkes Farm

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Partial Transcript: Um, so I am also an equestrian and I moved down here to, um, pursue equine studies.

Segment Synopsis: Ezrine and her husband are involved in the racing industry and breeding horses. Barry, her husband, manages Patchen Wilkes Farm, and they both live on the farm. Ezrine talks about some of the other people who work on the farm and who are involved in the horse racing industry.

Keywords: Agriculture; ESPN; Horse breeding; Horse racing; Jerrico Corporation; NPR; Patchen Wilkes Farm; Racing industry; Warren Rosenthal

Subjects: Horse farms; Horse industry--Kentucky; Horse racing--Kentucky; Horses

GPS: Patchen Wilkes Farm
Map Coordinates: 38.046, -84.435
00:40:21 - Personal Jewish beliefs

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Partial Transcript: Alright, so I'd love to talk a little bit about your beliefs and your ideas and your insights.

Segment Synopsis: Ezrine talks about her own beliefs within her religion, that people should be generous and open to new ideas. She defines Zionism as a love for Israel and says she does not feel a big pull to Israel. She describes that she has been to Israel three times, most recently with Rabbi Cohen. She also describes having two adult bat mitzvahs, because she did not have one as a young girl. She did the second one with Rabbi Cohen because she believed Rabbi Cohen's bat mitzvah class to be more in-depth.

Keywords: Bat mitzvahs; Feminism; Hebrew; Rabbi Cohen; Rabbi Slaton; Zionism

Subjects: Israel.; Jewish women; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Worship (Judaism)

GPS: Israel
Map Coordinates: 31.046, 34.852
00:46:51 - Feminism within Judaism

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Partial Transcript: Um, so you were talking a little bit about the process of becoming a feminist.

Segment Synopsis: There has been some push-back against female involvement in the synagogue from more traditional members of the synagogue, but Ezrine tries to get more women involved by reading Torah, leading the service, and participating in Jewish service organizations. She also describes her daughter Rachel's version of feminism. Since Rachel is Orthodox Jewish, her feminism can look different from Ezrine's version of feminism because Rachel still participates in many of the traditional female roles of Jewish women. However, Ezrine believes Rachel to be a very strong feminist.

Keywords: Atlanta (Ga.); Feminism; Kosher; Shabbos; Torah

Subjects: Jewish leadership; Jewish women; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Worship (Judaism)

00:53:17 - Relationship to Jewish community

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Partial Transcript: And I'm going to ask you some questions about maybe differences in beliefs between you and the larger community that you belong in, but before I do that, I want to clarify who you consider your community to be.

Segment Synopsis: Ezrine discusses the different Jewish communities and how she relates to them. She considers her primary community to be the Ohavay Zion Synagogue and the friends she has made there. She talks about how her beliefs tend to align with the other members of her synagogue. She discusses that she's noticed a trend toward people being more conservative and being less accepting of other people's beliefs. She talks about this more specifically in terms of the Jewish-Muslim dialogue and a group called the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom that focuses on this dialogue.

Keywords: Conservative Judaism; Dr. Goldstein; Jewish Muslim dialogue; Politics; Shalom Salaam; Synagogues

Subjects: Jewish leadership; Jewish women; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Worship (Judaism)

00:58:32 - Involvement in service organizations (NCCJ and Green Circle)

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Partial Transcript: And, lastly, if you can take a moment, kind of ponder, is there anything at all about your past, your experiences, your thoughts...

Segment Synopsis: Ezrine explains that in a smaller community like Lexington, if you want something done in the synagogue, you should do it yourself because there aren't other people to do it for you. She talks about the National Conference for Christians and Jews (NCCJ) and Green Circle, which are Jewish organizations involved with education, diversity, and acceptance.

Keywords: Baby Health Service; Green Circle; Jewish Philanthropy; National Conference for Christians and Jews (NCCJ)

Subjects: Jewish leadership; Jewish women; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Worship (Judaism)

01:05:34 - Challenges and changes within the Lexington Jewish community

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Partial Transcript: Um, so I know you've lived in a couple different places and I was wondering where you felt the most accepted as a Jewish person...

Segment Synopsis: Ezrine talks about an act of anti-Semitism she experienced when the man building a house for Ezrine and her husband told them that he would not have built the house had he known they were Jewish. Because of this experience, she now immediately tells people she meets that she's Jewish to avoid conflict. She also discusses how Judaism has changed in her lifetime, mostly in women's roles in the synagogue. Specifically, she discusses how women can now read Torah in the service.

Keywords: Anti-Semitism; Baltimore (Md.); Feminism; Hadassah; Jewish Conservative; New York

Subjects: Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; Discrimination.; Jewish leadership; Jewish women; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Worship (Judaism)

01:10:06 - Professional life in nursing and then banking

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Partial Transcript: Um, I wanted to talk a little bit about your professional life.

Segment Synopsis: Ezrine talks about her professional life and being in banking and nursing. She explains how being Jewish affected her career in finance and how the stereotype of the Jewish banker led to her being the go-to person when people had questions in the bank. She discusses how she was very independent in her work and did not allow herself to be stepped on by her male bosses and counterparts.

Keywords: Advertising; Banking; Consumer relations; Marketing; Nursing; Shareholder relations

Subjects: Employment--Kentucky; Jewish women; Jews--Identity.; Lexington (Ky.); Occupations.