Arab and Jewish Women in Kentucky

Arab and Jewish Women in Kentucky: Stories of Accommodation and Audacity

Nora Rose Moosnick
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    Arab and Jewish Women in Kentucky
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3622-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Douglas A. Boyd, James C. Klotter and Terry L. Birdwhistell

    In the field of oral history, Kentucky is a national leader. Over the past several decades, thousands of its citizens have been interviewed. The Kentucky Remembered series brings into print the most important of those collections, with each volume focusing on a particular subject.

    Oral history is, of course, only one type of source material. Yet, by the very personal nature of recollection, hidden aspects of history are often disclosed. Oral sources provide a vital thread in the rich fabric that is Kentucky history.

    This volume, the eleventh in the series, weaves together multiple life stories and follows a captivating...

  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (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. They are widely viewed as “foreign” and Muslim, an attitude that neglects the many Arabs who may be Christian or secular and those who are not foreign at all but whose families have been American for generations. Treating all Arab Americans as the same deletes not just the larger historical framework of repeated waves of Arab immigrants to America but their individual stories as well.¹ A similar homogenization might...

  7. 1 Complexities
    (pp. 15-34)

    This work is multilayered and polyphonic. The seemingly simple assertion that it is about Arab and Jewish women with businesses in Kentucky proves misleading. This chapter is therefore committed to multiplying the dimensions of the stories told and exposing the many tiers that exist. Characterizing the interviewees as immigrants is inaccurate, because not all of them are; in addition, it neglects the complicated relationship Arabs and Jews have with the Middle East. Identities are also complicated. Identifying oneself as an Arab or a Jew may have to do with religious inclinations, Middle Eastern associations, or identification as such by non-Arabs...

  8. 2 Publicly Exceptional
    (pp. 35-74)

    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 1980s via their women’s clothing store, Arnold’s. They stood out among Jews and non-Jews alike in their community not just because of their success but also because of their remarkable personal lives: their longing for New York City, their failure to adhere to marital expectations, and Frances’s struggle with depression, among other things.

    Their story is...

  9. 3 Maternal Echoes
    (pp. 75-110)

    Expectations are high for mothers. Women are supposed to mother, and they are supposed to do it well. That’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 offspring. As unrealistic (or outdated) as these expectations may sound, idealized notions of mothers are remarkably resistant to change.

    Perceptions of ethnic mothers, particularly from the past, suppose that these child protectors cater to their children’s every need without question.¹ They are hypermothers who lavish excessive attention on...

  10. 4 Into Focus
    (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 late seventies; she has grown children and grandchildren and was widowed not long ago. Why tell their stories together? The reason is simple: their stories are largely invisible.

    Images of Muslims, particularly of Muslim women, abound. In the public eye, they are covered and relatively silent. Their choice of garb is a topic of discussion and even controversy, especially in...

  11. 5 Archetypal and Distant Figures
    (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 talks about his Lebanese mother, Rose Rowady, who passed away in the late 1970s. Ninety-three-year-old Franklin Moosnick describes his Jewish mother (my grandmother), Rose Moosnick, who died some forty-six years ago (my uncle Franklin has also passed away since our interviews). The two Roses are distant figures evoked by men reminiscing about their mothers late in their own lives....

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 173-180)

    Family characters from the past can take on larger-than-life personas in the present when people look back. This 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 members from foreign residents, who show signs of the old country, into heroic characters. Here, I consider how accounts are framed by a wider discourse that concerns creating and re-creating the “immigrant” or “outsider.” Other themes that cropped up in...

  13. Postscript: On Being a Documentarian
    (pp. 181-188)

    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 too much? Wonderful programs have been developed that help people chronicle family tales for the sake of future generations.¹ Story Corps, for example, travels the country and gives ordinary citizens the opportunity to speak as, among many other things, mother who have...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 189-194)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 195-200)
  16. Index
    (pp. 201-208)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-210)