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Arab and Jewish Women in Kentucky

Stories of Accommodation and Audacity

Nora Rose Moosnick

Publication Year: 2012

Outwardly it would appear that Arab and Jewish immigrants comprise two distinct groups with differing cultural backgrounds and an adversarial relationship. Yet, as immigrants who have settled in communities at a distance from metropolitan areas, both must negotiate complex identities. Growing up in Kentucky as the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants, Nora Rose Moosnick observed this traditionally mismatched pairing firsthand, finding that, Arab and Jewish immigrants have been brought together by their shared otherness and shared fears. Even more intriguing to Moosnick was the key role played by immigrant women of both cultures in family businesses -- a similarity which brings the two groups close together as they try to balance the demands of integration into American society.

In Arab and Jewish Women in Kentucky: Stories of Audacity and Accomodation, Moosnick reveals how Jewish and Arab women have navigated the intersection of tradition, assimilation, and Kentucky's cultural landscape. The stories of ten women's experiences as immigrants or the children of immigrants join around common themes of public service to their communities, intergenerational relationships, running small businesses, and the difficulties of juggling family and work. Together, their compelling narratives challenge misconceptions and overcome the invisibility of Arabs and Jews in out of the way places in America.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: Kentucky Remembered: An Oral History Series

Front Matter

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Series Foreword

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xvi

I came to this project to honor two men I loved: my father, Monroe Moosnick, and my adopted grandfather, Mousa Ackall. Both men knew fabrics....

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pp. xvii-xviii

Th is book did not develop in a vacuum. I had support and a good deal of it. To start, I must thank the men and women who took the time to chat with me, holding enough trust to believe that I would portray their lives with sensitivity....

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pp. 1-14

Strong images come to mind when thinking about Arabs and Jews and their religions, ethnicities, and lands. Arabs, in particular, are in the public eye and under scrutiny in contemporary America. Th ey are widely viewed as “foreign” and Muslim, an attitude that neglects the many Arabs who may be...

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1. Complexities

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pp. 15-33

This work is multilayered and polyphonic. Th e seemingly simple assertion that it is about Arab and Jewish women with businesses in Kentucky proves misleading. Th is chapter is therefore committed to multiplying the dimensions of the stories told and exposing the many tiers that exist. Characterizing...

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2. Publicly Exceptional

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pp. 35-73

Three extraordinary women are featured in this chapter. Howard Myers narrates the story of his aunts, Sarah and Frances Myers, from Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Who wouldn’t be impressed with these two Jewish women? They brought big-city sophistication to rural Kentucky from the 1930s to the...

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3. Maternal Echoes

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pp. 75-110

Expectations are h igh for mothers. Women are supposed to mother, and they are supposed to do it well. Th at’s a lot of pressure. Some almost mythic renderings assume that women come into their own in the company of children and that good mothers relinquish any sense of self with the advent of off spring....

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4. Into Focus

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pp. 111-148

In this chapter, the stories of Manar Shalash and Sawsan Salem, who are Muslim, are coupled with that of Renee Hymson, who is Jewish. Manar and Sawsan are in their forties, and each has four children. Renee is in her l ate seventies; she has...

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5. Archetypal and Distant Figures

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pp. 149-172

How does one write about women who have long since died— women who, if alive, would be well over a hundred years old and whose sons, who are relaying their stories, are themselves old men? In this chapter, ninety-one-year-old Mike Rowady...

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pp. 173-179

Family characters from the past can take on larger-than-life personas in the present when people look back. Th is tendency points toward something largely unaddressed in this work—namely, how people choose to narrate their own lives or those of loved ones. Over time, personal and ancestral tales evolve in line with cultural discourses that transform immigrants and their close family...

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pp. 181-187

Nearly two decades ago, when I embarked on my first qualitative work interviewing black activists, the practice of documenting ordinary lives was known outside of academia, but it was not widely done. Today, by contrast, lives are incessantly recorded in books, films, photographs, reality television shows, and social networking sites. Is there a point at which we document...


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pp. 189-194


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pp. 195-199


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pp. 201-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780813136226
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813136219

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Kentucky Remembered: An Oral History Series