In the spring of 1977, I went with some acquaintances to visit an old Jewish cemetery tucked away on a hill beyond a side road in Marietta, Ohio, the town where I grew up and to which they had moved from Pittsburgh a few years earlier. There were only six gravestones, and the names on them ranged from the familiar—some family members in their eighties still lived in town— to the irretrievable, with stones so worn that we could not make out the Hebrew inscriptions. I took some of the names and dates to the local public library to see if I could find something about them from obituaries published in the local newspaper. There they were. From 1907: Morris Miller, the "aged Jew," who died when his junk-peddling wagon was hit by a train at a crossing just around the corner from my parents’ home. From 1934: Harold Ginsburg, killed in an oil well explosion only three weeks after his wedding.
These obituaries suggested the existence of a community now dissolved, its people dispersed. I was eventually able to re-create much of this community’s history and life, and the resulting article was published in 1979. Much later, when I was back in graduate school studying American history, my original story of a small river town’s Jewish past was still piquing interest, and I was asked to expand my local project to a regional one. Thus "Jewish Communities on the Ohio River" became my doctoral dissertation and, now, a book for the University Press of Kentucky’s Ohio River Valley Series.
Without a specific external motivation, I might not have chosen to undertake this particular study. But the start of the project coincided with my move from the East Coast to the West, and the questions I needed to address turned out to be extremely relevant to my immediate experience: How do Jews and Jewish communities differ in different parts of the country? Can we ascertain why? In addition to studying the Ohio River Valley, I turned my scholarly attention to the Jews of Oklahoma (the first phase of my cross-country journey) (p.x) and then to the Jews of Southern California. My intellectual journeys have been enhanced and invigorated by my physical journeys.
My research was supported in part by several sources: a Graduate Student Senate Research Grant and a Graduate College Student Research Presentation Award from the University of Oklahoma, the Loewenstein-Wiener Fellowship in American Jewish Studies from the American Jewish Archives at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and the Finkelstein Fellowship in Jewish Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.
Many, many individuals have been important resources for me on this project. I would like to thank the following for their help via personal correspondence: Robert Beren (Wichita, Kansas, formerly of Marietta, Ohio), Darrel Bigham (Evansville, Indiana), Dr. Jules Duga (Columbus, Ohio, formerly of Bellaire, Ohio), Nancy Ehrmann (Randolph, Massachusetts, formerly of Portsmouth, Ohio), Jerome Endich (Steubenville, Ohio), Howard Epstein (Atlanta, Georgia), Henny Evans (Gallipolis, Ohio), Mary Freedman (Steubenville, Ohio), Rita Goldhoff (Cincinnati, Ohio), Rabbi Shoshana Ka-minsky (Ambridge, Pennsylvania), Herman Landau (Louisville, Kentucky), Beverly Levine (Cincinnati, Ohio), Miriam Levite (Clearwater, Florida, formerly of Steubenville, Ohio), Ned Lewison (Baltimore), Rabbi Daniel Lowy (Wheeling, West Virginia), Michael Mearan (Portsmouth, Ohio), Anne Mintz (Forbes and Company, New York), Phil Thuma (Ironton, Ohio), Martin Weill (Ironton, Ohio), and Lee Shai Weissbach (Louisville, Kentucky).
The following granted me personal interviews, either face-to-face or by phone: Rabbi Arthur J. Abrams (Evansville, Indiana), Rabbi Shalom Bell (Se-wickley, Pennsylvania), Sharon Bogarad (Weirton, West Virginia), Barb Feige (Pittsburgh), Alvin Fineman (Chester, West Virginia), Leila Beren Jacoby (Encino, California, formerly of Marietta, Ohio), Louise Kline (Portsmouth, Ohio), Bernard Levi (Boca Raton, Florida, formerly of Portsmouth, Ohio), Ruth Baldauf Levi (Blowing Rock, North Carolina, formerly of Henderson, Kentucky), Rabbi Richard Levy (Los Angeles), Rachel Kleiman Lichterman (Parkersburg, West Virginia, formerly of Marietta, Ohio), Rabbi Shimon Pas-kow (Woodland Hills, California), Robin Riback (Union of American Hebrew Congregations [now Union for Reform Judaism], New York), Helen Josephy Robeson (White Plains, New York, formerly of Marietta, Ohio), Judith Ross (Pittsburgh), Herschel and Elsa Rubin (East Liverpool, Ohio), Joyce Rubin (Los Angeles, formerly of Cairo, Illinois), Leon Rubin (Boca Raton, Florida, formerly of East Liverpool, Ohio), Janey Solomon (Cairo, Illinois), Paul Tobin (East Liverpool, Ohio), Susan Warshaw (Portsmouth, Ohio), Elizabeth Weinberg (Louisville, Kentucky, formerly of Madison, Indiana), (p.xi) Marian Weinberg (Newton, Massachusetts, formerly of Martins Ferry, Ohio), Max and Florence Weinstein (Naples, Florida, formerly of Portsmouth, Ohio), Steve Weinstein (New York, formerly of Portsmouth, Ohio), Sylvia and Louis Zell (Sewickley, Pennsylvania), and Nancy Zymelman (Rockville, Maryland, formerly of Maysville, Kentucky).
Many archivists and librarians at public and private institutions were very helpful; I would like to give special mention to Kevin Proffitt and his staff at the American Jewish Archives. Elizabeth Stein Schneiderman helped with research at Harvard Business School. Cynthia Goldstein copyedited for me.
I need to give very special acknowledgment and thanks to several people who were particularly important to me while I was on this intellectual journey. First is my father, Dr. Robert S. Hill, emeritus professor of political science at Marietta College, who manned the scholarly home base in the Ohio River Valley. I had the outrageous good fortune to come to know Dr. David W. Levy during my sojourn in Oklahoma; he has been a remarkable teacher, an insightful and respectful advisor, and a constant friend (in spite of the birds). Finally, I must thank my husband, Rabbi Dan Shevitz, with whom I moved across the country from Boston to Oklahoma City to Los Angeles, and with whom I look forward to many new adventures. In the immortal words of Baron Hugo: this is a great relationship.