When most people think of Arabs and Jews, they usually don't think of the American South as the traditional settling place for these very two ethnic groups. Yet it may come as a surprise that several Arabs and Jews call Kentucky home. Even more interesting is the fact that as these immigrant groups have settled in Kentucky communities, they have more in common than one might imagine. This is especially true of the Jewish and Arab women.
Growing up in Kentucky as the granddaughter of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Nora Rose Moosnick observed this traditionally mismatched pairing of Jews and Arabs firsthand. Over the years, she found Arab and Jewish immigrants have been brought together by their shared fears and feelings of being different in a sea of sameness.
This experience and reflection led Moosnick to write Arab and Jewish Women in Kentucky: Stories of Audacity and Accommodation, in which she reveals how Arab and Jewish women have navigated the intersection of tradition, assimilation, and Kentucky's cultural landscape.
Her book recounts the stories of ten women's experiences as immigrants, or the children of immigrants, and all join around common themes of public service to their communities, intergenerational relationships, running small businesses, and the difficulties of juggling family and work. Together, their narratives challenge misconceptions and overcome the invisibility of Arabs and Jews in out of the way places in America.
Moosnick uses the personal stories of these women to build empathy and insight among and between Arabs and Jews. Through the stories she hears, Moosnick notices that fear is a consistent theme between both Arab and Jewish women.
"I think fear is something that Jews and Arabs share," Moosnick said. "Fear can unite Arabs and Jews. An awareness of vulnerability makes people intensely observant, and potentially, enormously empathetic."
Moosnick explains that Arab and Jewish Women in Kentucky is truly a labor of love as she explored her own childhood stories and family background while researching the stories that made up the book.
Yet it's not just her own family history she hopes to tell with this book - it's the stories of the Arab and Jewish women in Kentucky that have been overlooked. She remains committed to telling the untold stories about Arabs and Jews in the South in hopes of boosting understand and absolving misunderstanding. She hopes to continue giving Arab and Jewish women voice. Overall she hopes her book will break the stereotype that Kentucky is a Christian state. Because clearly, Jewish and Arab women are present in the state and their voices are strong.