The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

Bricks and Mortar, Soul and Heart: The Evolution of Louisville's Young Men's Hebrew Association and Jewish Community Center 1890-2022

On its 50th Anniversary, celebrated in 1940, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) of Louisville dedicated ceremonies to its former president, Benjamin S. Washer. During his tenure (1911-1920), Washer led a successful campaign to build an expanded new YMHA facility. Reflecting on this triumph, community leader Louis Cohen wrote “The community’s gift of money was translated into stone and steel, lumber and plaster, bricks and mortar…but something more than money, energy, and material things that go to equip and erect a building were needed, and that was soul and heart.” 

Indeed, community centers are physical spaces, but they are also social and emotional places. More than mere structures, they offer grounds for gathering, learning, growth, and connection. This exhibit provides glimpses into one of the oldest continuously operating community centers in the state of Kentucky, tracing its evolution from the late nineteenth century up through the present day.