Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Nadia Siritsky, July 6, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Family background and childhood

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Partial Transcript: Hello, my name is Hannah Thompson. As a biology major from Louisville pursuing medicine, I became interested in the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, Jewish Hospital, and the way both have impacted Louisville and the global medical community...

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky describes her childhood and what is was like living in Canada, France, and Cuba. She explains that her father survived the Holocaust and the influence it had on her and her childhood. She elaborates on what it was like having an interfaith family and what she learned during her childhood.

Keywords: Auschwitz; Canada; Cuba; Elisa Siritsky; France; Holocaust; Holocaust survivors; Interfaith; Interfaith chaplains; Jewish Cuba; Jewish France; Jewish Montreal; Michel Siritsky; Montreal (Canada); Orthodox Judaism; Quebec (Canada); Rabbis; Reform synagogues; Shaar Hashomayim; Toronto (Canada)

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Family histories.; Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945); Jewish children; Jewish families.; Judaism.

00:12:44 - Early experience of Judaism and family traditions

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Partial Transcript: In what ways did your family participate in the synagogue?

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky describes her experience learning about different religions and how that helped her to "find herself" and her spiritual home. She describes her experiences teaching younger students at the synagogue and how that influenced her love of Judaism. She elaborates on her family's traditions from both Jewish and Catholic heritages.

Keywords: Catholicism; Chanukah; Classical reform Judaism; Hanukkah; Hillel; Interfaith family; Jewish mysticism; Jewish traditions; Rabbis; Reading; Religious traditions

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Family histories.; Fasts and feasts--Judaism.; Holidays.; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Religion; Worship (Judaism)

00:18:47 - Experience and influences of Reform Judaism

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Partial Transcript: That's great. I actually read about that on the Darshan, um, Yeshiva Web site about your biography.

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky describes why she chose Reform Judaism as her spiritual home in adult life and founded the Society of Classical Reform Judaism. She also describes religious experiences during her time at McGill University, Pardes in Israel, and Hebrew Union College. She describes why she began advocating for Reform Judaism and the importance of the role that Reform Judaism plays in both Jewish and non-Jewish worlds.

Keywords: Hebrew Union College; Israel; Jewish Studies; Jewish heritage; Jewish traditions; Kippah; Kosher; McGill University; Orthodox Judaism; Pardes (Israel); Rabbis; Shabbat; Society of Classical Reform Judaism; Tzitzit

Subjects: Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Religion; Worship (Judaism)

00:25:04 - Becoming a rabbi

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned your time at Hebrew Union College. When did you know you wanted to be a rabbi and what was it like attending Hebrew Union College?

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky describes why she became a rabbi and the process of becoming one. Though her family was skeptical of her desires, Siritsky describes the religious calling she felt to become a rabbi. She also elaborates on the influences in her early adult years that led her to rabbinical school.

Keywords: Classical Reform Judaism; Female rabbis; Hebrew Union College; Prayers; Rabbi Elyse Goldstein

Subjects: Jewish families.; Jewish leadership; Jewish women; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Rabbis; Religion; Women rabbis; Worship (Judaism)

00:29:34 - Experience as a chaplain

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Partial Transcript: I understand from the Indiana Center for Parish Nursing State Conference 2013 highlights, that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you worked as an interfaith chaplain at Beth Israel Medical Center and its Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery, along with the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services in New York City. What were some of your greatest challenges and most rewarding interactions of being a chaplain?

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky explains her job as an interfaith chaplain at Beth Israel Medical Center and the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services in New York City. She also describes her time working as an interfaith chaplain in New York City following the 9/11 terrorist attack. She explains the emotions she felt while doing this work.

Keywords: 9/11; Beth Israel Medical Center; Ground Zero; Indiana Center for Parish Nursing State Conference; Interfaith chaplains; Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services; New York City (N.Y.); Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); September 11, 2001; Social work; World Trade Center

Subjects: Jewish leadership; Jewish women; Judaism.; Rabbis; Religion; September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.; Women rabbis; Worship (Judaism)

00:32:29 - Pursuing a career in social work

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Partial Transcript: So once you came to Louisville, you pursued a master's in social work at U of L. What made you decide to pursue social work?

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky describes her decision to pursue a degree in social work at the University of Louisville. After completing her master's degree at U of L, she began to work with Jewish Family Career Services and describes her research there.

Keywords: Chavurat Shalom; Chronic illnesses; Counseling; Havurat Shalom; Jewish Family Career Services; Psychosocial interventions; Research; Social work

Subjects: College students.; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Social service.; Universities and colleges--Graduate work.; Universities and colleges.; University of Louisville

00:37:31 - Role as the vice president of Mission at Jewish Hospital

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Partial Transcript: For the record, can you state what your current title is, and when and how did you come into this role?

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky describes her role as the vice president of Mission at Jewish Hospital, what it entails, and her day-to-day duties. She also explains how she got the job and how she was simultaneously the vice president of Mission at University of Louisville Hospital. She describes the monthly writing she does for the archdiocese and how she finds it important for Catholics and Jews to understand each other.

Keywords: Catholic Health Association; Frazier Rehab; Jewish Hospital; Jewish culture; Jewish heritage; Kentucky One Medical Group; KentuckyOne Health; Our Lady of Peace; University of Louisville

Subjects: Hospitals--Administration.; Hospitals.; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care.; Medicine.

00:40:31 - Maintaining a Jewish identity at Jewish Hospital

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Partial Transcript: Um, can you please--you mentioned how Jewish Hospital maintains its Jewish identity.

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky describes the ways Jewish Hospital aims to maintain its Jewish identity despite its mergers with non-Jewish organizations by calling attention to the hospital's history and heritage. She also elaborates on the cultural impact of the merger. She explains that she was hired to help make the Jewish heritage more visible and describes the "outreach" newsletters she sends out. For example, she helped expand kosher food services and put up a mezuzah. These newsletters help to explain Jewish heritage, rituals, and traditions to a non-Jewish audience so that caretakers may be better equipped to interact with Jewish patients in a culturally sensitive way.

Keywords: Catholic Health Initiatives; Christmas; Dr. Carl Middleton; Jewish Hospital; Jewish culture; Jewish heritage; Jewish identity; Judaism; Kentucky Refugee Ministries; KentuckyOne Health; Southern Jewish experience; Tikkun Olam

Subjects: Hospitals--Administration.; Hospitals.; Jewish physicians; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care.; Medicine.; Physician and patient.; Physicians--Kentucky; Religion; University of Louisville

00:47:43 - Jewish Hospital's mission and impact on the community

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Partial Transcript: But, uh, you mentioned how Jewish Hospital, um--mission and how it's important to provide excellent care for all.

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky describes the centrality of social outreach to the mission of Jewish Hospital. She describes the work Jewish Hospital does with different community organizations, such as the Urban League, Harambee Clinic, and Kentucky Refugee Ministries. She describes Jewish Hospital's important role in social justice work by reaching out to underserved communities such as the LGBTQ+ and refugee communities.

Keywords: Congregation Adath Jeshurun; Equality; Harambee Clinic; Human trafficking; Interfaith Passover Seder; Jewish Family Career Services; Jewish Hospital; Jewish doctors; Kentucky Refugee Ministries; Kristy Love Foundation; Lost Boy of Sudan; Louisville community; Madeline Abramson; Racial disparities; Racial justice; Smoketown; Social justice; Socioeconomic disparities; St. Matthews community; Urban League

Subjects: Hospitals--Administration.; Hospitals.; Jewish physicians; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care.; Medicine.; Physician and patient.; Physicians--Kentucky; Religion

00:54:20 - Tikkun Olam

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Partial Transcript: Um, as a rabbi, and with your position here at Jewish Hospital, it's clear that you've had a lot of experiences with the concept of Tikkun Olam.

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky defines the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam as a Kabbalistic idea where Jewish people are meant to reassemble and help heal the "brokenness" of the world. She explains how this vision shapes her role as a rabbi and vice president of Mission at Jewish Hospital by recounting a story about how she worked with the hospital to change the culture of smoking extrapolates. She explains how her approach to Tikkun Olam is unique and related to her family, life, and career experiences.

Keywords: Jewish Hospital; Kabbalah; Kabbalistic; Rabbis; Tikkun Olam; Vessels

Subjects: Hospitals--Administration.; Hospitals.; Jewish physicians; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care.; Medicine.; Physician and patient.; Physicians--Kentucky; Religion

00:57:56 - Advocating for the underserved at Jewish Hospital

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned earlier that Jewish Hospital advocates for the transgender community. How does Jewish Hospital advocate for this community?

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky describes how Jewish Hospital advocates for minority populations, including the LGBTQ+ community, those affected by the opioid epidemic, and victims of human trafficking. She explains how changes in society have prompted action by Jewish Hospital.

Keywords: Addiction; Catholic Health Association; Catholic Health Initiatives; Catholicism; Healing Place; Health Progress; Human trafficking; Jewish Hospital; Jewish community; KentuckyOne Health; Kristy Love Foundation; LGBTQ+ community; LGBTQ+ health; Opioid epidemic; Our Lady of Peace; Public health; University of Louisville

Subjects: Hospitals--Administration.; Hospitals.; Jewish physicians; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care.; Medicine.; Physician and patient.; Physicians--Kentucky; Religion

01:09:45 - Jewish Hospital's impact on the community

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Partial Transcript: Jewish Hospital has clearly raised awareness for several social issues.

Segment Synopsis: Siritsky describes the impact Jewish Hospital has had on the Louisville community, in Kentucky, and the global medical community through their specializations in medical innovation.

Keywords: Jewish Hospital; Jewish community; Kentucky; Medicine; Tikkun Olam

Subjects: Hospitals--Administration.; Hospitals.; Jewish physicians; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Louisville (Ky.); Medical care.; Medicine.; Physician and patient.; Physicians--Kentucky; Religion