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Jewish Food and Music, and the Struggle to Keep a Synagogue in Appalachia Alive

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Scotty White/ Inside Appalachia
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Children eating brisket and matzo ball soup at The Taste of Jewish Cuisine, at the Temple Israel in Charleston, W.Va.

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah began December 6, and continues through December 14th at sundown. In light of Hanukkah, this week's show features Jewish Appalachians, a group that’s not really talked about a whole lot.

Jewish communities across West Virginia are struggling to keep their traditions alive.

 

“It is actually kind of scary. I worry because a lot of people my age are moving away for, like, school or jobs and because of that the communities are getting smaller,” said Kirston Kennedy, a young Jewish Appalachian who inspired our show. 

 

She recently sent a message to Inside Appalachia's host, Jessica Lilly, wondering if we had ever done an episode about Jewish Appalachians.  “I thought you may be able to let people know that we are here as well. We are small, but we are here.” 

Jews now only make up .1% of West Virginia’s population.

Subscribe to our Inside Appalachia podcast here or on iTunes here, or on Soundcloud here or on Stitcher here.

 

Thanks to Kirston Kennedy’s inspiration, this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia features stories from an award-winning series, “Story of the Jews”, produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2014.

  • We’ll hear from two West Virginians who survived the Holocaust.

  • We’ll stop by the Temple Israel in Charleston to break bread for a traditional meal. People in Charleston, West Virginia, recently got a chance to taste some foods that might not have been familiar to them - like noodle Kugel and Matzoh ball soup.
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    Credit courtesy Joni Deutsch
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    Joni Deutsch with her grandfather Stanley Deutsch, the first Jewish person to be elected in the W.Va. state legislature.

  • This week’s show also features Jewish music. For help with the episode’s soundtrack, Inside Appalachia’s Roxy Todd went to the Temple Israel to speak with Rabbi Jim Cohn. She found out that Rabbi Cohn’s collection of Jewish music is vast and varied.

    scotty_2.jpg
    Credit Scotty White/ Inside Appalachia
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    Volunteer serving Matzo ball soup at The Taste of Jewish Cuisine

    Music in today’s show was providedBen Townsend,, Rabbi Cohn, Josh Barrett, Mike Pushkin, Maccabeats, and Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn as heard on Mountain Stage.   Our Appetite Appalachia music is by the Carolina Sunshine Trio.

    Subscribe to our Inside Appalachia podcast here or on iTunes here, or on Soundcloud here or on Stitcher here.

Jessica can be heard on Inside Appalachia and West Virginia Morning the station’s daily radio news program. You can reach her at jlilly@wvpublic.org
Roxy Todd is a reporter and producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.