Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Featured Manuscript Collection: July/August

Carolyn LeMaster Arkansas Jewish History Collection
MSS 08-07

Finding Aid

Arkansas has a uniquely comprehensive history of its Jewish population, researched and written by Carolyn Gray LeMaster. LeMaster's book, A Corner of the Tapestry: A History of the Jewish Experience in Arkansas, 1820s-1990s, was published in 1994, but her research, writing and public speaking on the topic has continued.

In 2008 LeMaster donated her research papers, accumulated over a period of nearly thirty years, to the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. The collection contains documents, photographs, correspondence and artifacts, including transcripts of more than 400 personal interviews

LeMaster, a graduate of the University of Akansas at Little Rock, began her research in 1977 as a student project. When she was assigned to research an ethnic group, her lifelong love of Biblical history made the Jews a natural choice. As a Christian, she calls her efforts a "mitzvah, a good deed," to in some small measure offset "the historically deplorable treatment of Jews by Christians-so-called." (LeMaster vii)

LeMaster worked closely with Dr. Jacob R. Marcus, founder of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, who became her mentor throughout the project. She also traveled across Arkansas, visiting graves of Jewish people and locations of Jewish businesses.

The core of the collection is a series of family and individual stories, divided by the city and town in which the people lived. The material ranges from one or two clippings for some families to multiple boxes of folders in other cases. LeMaster also chronicled the story of each Jewish congregation that has existed or still exists in the state.

Jewish organizations and families throughout the state and beyond supported LeMaster's work and often gave her unprecedented access to personal and business records. One unusual portion of the collection, the Narkinsky negatives, resulted from one of these gifts. This series of more than 800 images tells the story of one Little Rock Jewish family through more than 50 years of American history, including service in both world wars.

The collection also includes extensive material on the Ottenheimer and Pfeifer families, the work of Rabbi Ira Sanders, and the life and career of Judge Jacob Trieber, the first Jew appointed to a federal judgeship.


commoncents July 8, 2010 at 7:28 PM  

Interesting... I really like your blog!!

Common Cents

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