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IL:How many speeches have you given in your life?

RLD:Over 2000.

IL:Informal ones?

RLD:Oh yeah.

IL:That was nice. What's her name, Arlene Kaufman is it?


IL:She deserved every rabbi asking for a prayer.

RLD:Yeah. This was Rabbi Foster's prayer. Why she asked me, I don't know.

IL:Okay. This is IL [phonetic 00:00:33] I'm conducting an interview this morning for the JCC Family History Project. Today is January 24th 1991, and I'd like to present RLD H. Devine who has consented to share his recollection with us tonight. Rabbi Devine would you please give us your name, address, and if you wish, your telephone number.

RLD:My name is, Leonard H. Devine. I reside at 2013 Gladstone Avenue, 1:00Louisville, Kentucky. By the way, my zip code is 40205. My telephone number 451-8599.

IL:Rabbi where were you born? When and where, please.

RLD:I was born in city of Camden, New Jersey. Something I'm not too proud of with Camden's reputation today. And at a very early age, probably about the age of three or four, moved to Philadelphia. That I really claim as my native city. I had at that time, grandparents and mishpachah, aunts and uncles living in New Jersey and I would travel back and forth across the ferry with my parents from Philadelphia to Camden, which was a very delightful time.

IL:Would you care to give us the date birth, or would you prefer not to?

RLD:It really doesn't matter. I was born April 29th, 1919. Close to the Civil War.


IL:Ah, you're a young fella. Yeah, 1919, I'm a lot older than that. Listen, and you grew up in Philadelphia for the most part? What was your early school like?

RLD:Well, I attended several of the elementary schools. The Howard Beach Stowe, I remember. Rather decrepit building, even in those days. And then moved to another part of the city, known as, Almy [phonetic 00:02:43] and then went to one of the junior highs there. And then graduated the Almy High School. What else would you like to know about those early [crosstalk 00:02:54]

IL:Did you live primarily in a Jewish neighborhood? Was it an integrated neighborhood?

RLD:Primarily. We always lived in Jewish neighborhoods. And it was a delight when the Jewish festivals and holidays, you knew there was yontif in the air. And people would hurry and scurry for their Pesach packages and matzahs, you 3:00know shava [phonetic 00:03:13] certain stores were closed. There was a Jewish bakery, the butcher all within. I never could find the mikveh, I don't think in those days I was interested in.

IL:I assume you went to Hebrew school. Was your family traditional, orthodox, conservative, reformed?

RLD:Well, I would categorize them as orthodox, but a liberal type of orthodox. They later verged on conservative interpretation. But it was a pious Jewish home. All the festivals were observed and Kashrut. It was delight to walk with my father to Schewl [phonetic 00:03:51]. It was really many memories.

IL:What influenced you to go into the rabbinate?

RLD:Let me see. I guess it was shortly after my bar mitzvah. By the way, when I was bar mitzvahed at Congregation Emmanuel on Champlost Avenue in those days, 4:00which later moved to Stanton Avenue in Philadelphia near Ogontz. If you're a Philadelphian, you'd know what I was talking about. At that time there was no rabbi and so a man by the name of Dr. Dembitz who was connected with Gratz College later himself went to Israel, settled with his family, there known as Palestine. But he was related to Louis Dembitz of this city, the great scholar.

RLD:I was influence a bit by Dr. Dembitz. Then the one time we finally got a rabbi, full time rabbi, by the name of Philip Lipitz. Olav ha-sholom. Yes. Almost a coincidence in names. I grew very fond of him, and he grew very fond of me. He exerted really a great deal of influence. And I began to really pursue my Jewish and Hebrew studies with a great deal of enthusiasm. As a matter of fact-


IL:Where did you do your undergraduate work?

RLD:My undergraduate? I went to Yeshiva College, which later became known as Yeshiva University. Was in the Yeshiva and was in the Beth Medrash Govoha [phonetic 00:05:28] that is for its teacher's preparation. In addition, we study our secular subjects, which was under the board of regency of New York University. We had some very fine professors and educators. I went there for a specific purpose because of my dreams of already aspiring to be a rabbi, even at that age. I knew what I really wanted to do.

IL:So you went to Yeshiva University, which is predominantly an orthodox institution but at an early age you had already decided that you did want to become a rabbi. After you completed your undergraduate studies at Yeshiva, did you then enter the seminary?


RLD:Well, there were a few seminaries. Because of certain influences and certain I don't know environmental factors, I decided sending an application to the Hebrew Union College. With my background I was eagerly accepted and granted full scholarship. What else would you like to know about that?

IL:When were you ordained? And what was your first position as a rabbi?

RLD:Actually, as a student at our Yeshiva, the Hebrew Union College, we went after various congregations. So it was a matter of practice of inflicting ourselves on those poor congregates and learning how to become a rabbi. So I had several congregations in small cities before I was really ordained. would you 7:00care to hear about that?

IL:Yes, please.

RLD:My first student pulpit was in Welch, West Virginia.


RLD:West Virginia. There may have been maybe 40 Jewish people there, but they had bought a beautiful home and converted it into a congregation, a synagogue. Of course, it was always overflowing on the holidays. But people did come from the small hamlets and we'll say cities around Welch. Welch itself had about 5000 population, and there was a doctor and a lawyer and merchants and so forth.

RLD:And then my next position was in Portsmouth, Ohio. Which was short ride from Cincinnati. Then in my senior year, I had a plum of a congregation, just outside the city. Hamilton, which was only maybe about 45 minute ride by bus. It was a 8:00delight and it was a wonderful reward. Then after ordination, I went out as an assistant to Temple Israel in Minneapolis and I served there from 1948 to 50, I was ordained in 1948. Then I decided I wanted to be on my own and a congregation in Elmira, New York opened up. Beautiful place, in the Chemung Valley there. Beautiful.

RLD:At any rate, I was there for about seven years. And then I got a call from the Chicago Federation of the American Hebrew Congregation saying that there was a great possibility of a congregation developing in Chicago itself. I had already let it be known that I wanted move on. And so I went to Chicago, and this was an isolated Jewish area, it was still within the city of Chicago but almost like a suburb. There were not many Jews there. And I labored there for about 13 years and built a congregation and so forth and so on. And then at the 9:00end it disintegrate.

RLD:There had always been a black population surrounding the Beverly Hills area. Beverly Hills, Chicago, which was close to Beverly Woods. At any rate, this particular black community had been in this area for over 50 years, and they worked in the Pullman Works. And somehow, because of the social unrest as you remember in those days unfortunately the Jewish people there became very worried. And began to move out. And I thought one day the president's going to walk up and say, 'Rabbi, here's the key.' And so I let it be known that I was looking for another congregation. And I think my intuition proved true because shortly after I left, maybe 3 years later, the congregation came to naught. And it was a new building, a new congregation.

RLD:At any rate, through our placement committee of the Central Conference of 10:00American Rabbis, I heard that Brith Sholom was looking for a rabbi. And so I tossed my hat into the ring so to speak and low and behold after several interviews, I was rewarded by being offered the pulpit. And the rest of the story, I think you know very well.

IL:Well we're going to go into the rest of the story. So then you did leave Chicago, you did come to Louisville, and you did become the rabbi of congregation Brith Sholom. What year was that? And who were some of the leading members, if you remember, of Brith Sholom?


RLD:I came here in, let's see, December 69. And I know my family didn't like it because a lot of the kids were yanked out of school at a most inopportune time. But, let's see, some of the leadership I recall, let's see. Zach Oppenheimer, Olav ha-sholom had assumed the presidency. And let's see there was Sam Fishman, Milton Berman, Olav ha-sholom. Let's see, I believe, Irv Lipitz was on the board at that time. Let's see, my good friend Mr. Wolff, Joe Wolff. Oh yes, Ed, of course. Ed, of course, was very much involved in the congregation. Let's see...


IL:What was the Jewish community, Louisville Jewish community, like in 1969? That's about 22 years ago. Were the rabbis receptive, were the community receptive? How'd you find Louisville?

RLD:Well, I'll tell you, I had come from Chicago, which is quite a bustling metropolis. I was a member of the Chicago Federation of Reformed Rabbis. And of the general Chicago Board of Rabbis. You'd come to a meeting and there'd be almost 120 rabbis. So when I came here, there was quite a difference. And for a while, I really missed Chicago. But after a while, I began to see the many assets of Louisville.

RLD:One of course was its warmth, generally. Secondly, was the warmth of the Jewish community, especially, And third, it's deep interest in things Jewish. It's culturally as well as religiously and from the beginning there was a very 13:00close camaraderie among the rabbis regardless of one's theological orientation or point of view. We were able to work together, I think as always have been, more or less. So I found the community, the congregation, the people, very outgoing. It was just a nice, friendly city. Of course there were other aspects, there was social aspects. Where I don't think integration at time had become as fully receptive as it is now.

IL:Wasn't one of your friends, and continuing to be, Rabbi Ruderman?

RLD:Yes, I mean we were friends. Rabbi Ruderman and I had known each way back in the Yeshiva days. Only we went different ways. But, Rabbi Ruderman certainly has been a friend. I've enjoyed his friendship and his personal assets, that is as 14:00far as his personality and theological convictions and scholarship.

IL:Of course, we all know that congregation Brith Sholom and Adath Israel did consolidate. would you care to comment on that? That's up to you.

RLD:When the idea, Irv, was first broached, I was very perplexed about it. As a matter of fact, I was quite divided in my own feelings. And then after thinking about it for quite a while, I began to see advantages and disadvantages. Then after a great deal of meetings and debates and personal questions, I decided in the long run, that it'd be good for the community as well as for my own particular interests. A large majority of the Brith Sholom congregation voted, 15:00of course, to accept the idea of consolidation.

IL:What changes have you seen in the Louisville Jewish community in the last 22 years? You were a relatively newcomer, relative. But I'm sure you've seen a lot of changes, and you've seen a number of your colleagues who are no longer here or who have not been able to participate. Just from your point of view, what changes have you seen?

RLD:Well, I'll tell you, I think the French have a saying, you know. The more things change, the more they're the same. I think we still have our same problems. When I say same problems, I mean education, Jewish education. I think that our Jewish schools have really improved as far as curricula, I think our teachers are better trained. Certainly we have better textbooks and the 16:00paraphernalia, of educating our young people. I think we're still struggling with the idea of a high school, beyond the 10th grade. They have 11th and 12th grade, which may be purely imaginary. But I know that the rabbis have been very serious and every new director that has come in addition to trying to improve the whole idea and standards of the bureau, and progress has been made.

RLD:I find that we're still struggling with that basic idea. I'm glad to say that the day school has become really a community school. Under its present director, I think has made a great deal of progress. Regardless of one's religious beliefs or traditions, it really is receptive to all. And I think that's a great advance. And of course, the unity of the Jewish people has always been a primary part of this particular Louisville community. I think that we all went to different schewls or temples, what it came to, ahmnish rohelhi [phonetic 17:0000:17:05] the Jewish people to live, the Jewish people lives and being am echad, one people. That we have rallied and marvelously for the size of our community. When I meet people from time to time and tell them what we're doing as far as our Jewish family service, and the number of different institutions we have, the number of Russian families that we have accepted, why they're amazed. And it only gives me a sense of pride to enumerate what we've been doing. Now I have no idea if this is what you really wanted.

IL:That's exactly what I want. Well rabbi I want to thank you for your participation, your cooperation. I wonder, is there anything else you would like to add?

RLD:Well I just want to say that looking back upon my rabbinical career, I've now been a rabbi emeritus, and it's just something, it's so deep in one's blood 18:00that even though one is relieved of one's, we'll say formal duties, still one is a member of the Jewish faith. You still feel those things deeply. I really feel that in some way I was guided to be here. Because, it's been really one of the most beautiful periods of my life. As far as my relationship to the community and my congregation and to people. We have a lot of menschen here, even though they're women. You know what I mean, in the sense that we're all human beings, and it's been wonderful.

IL:Thank you very much, Rabbi Devine.