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The Struggle to Stay: Jewish Appalachians

courtesy Joni Deutsch

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. 

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins December 12, and continues through December 20th at sundown. In light of Hanukkah, this week's show features Jewish Appalachians, a group that’s not really talked about a whole lot. 

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

Back in 2015, Kennedy 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.” 

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.
  • 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.

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



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.