Posted on February 23rd, 2018 by

Here’s a little Friday Flashback from the Archives that Lorie brought to my attention!

March 7, 1923

Devotees Of The Dance Who Have Passed 100 Mark

Invited To Event At Hebrew Home For Aged:

Youths 80 And Over To Make Debut.

Every active disciple of Terpsichore who is 100 years old or more is cordially invited to attend the centenarians’ Ball to be given at the Hebrew Home for Aged March 1, the beginning of Passover. The list of eligibles is limited strictly to devotees of the waltz, quadrille, polka, tango, turkey trot, pigeon-wing cutting or other popular expressions of the poetry of motion, who have reached their tenth decade.

Rush of Eager Applicants

Already Dr. and Mrs. Sigmund Friedler, joint superintendents of the Home, at 2102 East Baltimore street, have organized themselves into a floor committee and received the eager applications of the following eligible, who are inmates of the institution:

Mrs. Chaye Norowitz, 110 years old, born in Poland, “and,” smiled Dr. Friedler, “still going strong.” (“A lot of young people would like to have her appetite,” parenthetically interjected Mrs. Friedler, handing a cup of broth to Mrs. Norowitz.)

Mrs. Rosa Kessan, 100 years old, “who asked my husband on her birthday just a few days ago,” confided Mrs. Friedler,  “to write a letter to God, thanking Him for her continued good health.”

Abraham Cauff, 101 years old, a former Talmudist, who daily reads the Old Testament without glasses – never wore ‘em at all, in point of fact, as he so informs a questioner – and proudly lifts a head that would enrapture a painter of patriarchs.

Isaac Goldman, 101 years old, blind, but as merry as a youth, singing and dancing with the best and most agile of them, with a special preference for Indian dances.

Abraham Cohen, 101 years old; paralyzed to be sure, but insistent upon being present at the Centenarians’ Ball, calling off the figures and in other ways taking a far from passive part.

Mr. and Mrs. Chaye Ezersky, respectively 107 and 105 years old, of 800 North Carey street, have applied for admittance to the home; “and they surely will be here in time for…”

“…the ball,” assured Dr. Friedler, warmly.

“Youngsters” Not Neglected.

This, undoubtedly the most extraordinary ball ever held in Baltimore, will be given in the especially decorated main assembly room of the Home and will open with a “Centenarian Waltz” of such dreamy, yet inspiring measures that the waltzers are expected to perform some amazing feats in Terpsichorean grace and sustained agility.

Of course, there are some younger people in the Home who will not be neglected and for whim dancing will be provided at the conclusion of the ball proper. There are at least a dozen “youths” within their adolescent nineties, to say mothering of Joseph Levi, “a bright kid of 80,” according to the good-humored teasing of the older “boys;” and almost as [???] maidens and matrons who also have reached no further than the 80th milestone in the journey [???]. For these will be given a sort of “Debutante dance.”

You’d be surprised to know how mentally clear our centenarians are.” Proudly declared Dr. Friedler. “Take Mrs. Norowitz, our oldest inmate, for instance. She was married at the age of 14 years and has great-great-great-great grandchildren. Mrs. Norowitz says she has never taken medicine when ill, not even when she had double pneumonia, with a temperature of 104, several years ago. She has an amazing appetite; arises at 6 A.M. every day for tea and cakes, and has a full quart of coffee, two scrambled eggs and lots of bread.

One Of First Jews Here.

“Then, there is Abraham Cauff, the Talmudist, who says that when he came to Baltimore there were less than 15 Jews in the city. He thinks there will be found in the tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amen some books which belonged to Moses, abandoned when he fled from Pharaoh’s palace and which will readily disprove the assertions made by some scientists that Moses never led the Children of Israel from Egypt through the Red Sea in which the pursuing Egyptian forces were drowned. He has read much about the discoveries in Tut-Ankh-Amen’s tomb and pronounces the repudiation of Moses’ flight from Egypt all rot.

“Mrs. Rosa Kessan, 100 years old, things the girls of today will be short-lived, because of their general subscription to pills, paints, powder and sweets.”

The building and ground for the Hebrew Home for Aged Incurables, pictured here, were donated by Jacob Epstein in the memory of his parents, Isaac and Jenny Epstein in 1919. JMM Vertical Files.

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Esther’s Place Comes Alive with Celebration and Noisemaking this Purim

Posted on February 22nd, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM Office Manager and Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg. For more posts from Jessica, click HERE.

At the beginning of the month, Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker and I embarked on what I’ve learned will be our bi-annual adventure to the NY NOW gift show in New York City. The gift show serves as an opportunity to meet and reorder with existing vendors and to discover wonderful new vendors and products that could enliven our Gift Shop offerings. The gift show was an exhausting and productive experience where we ordered a range of beautiful and inspiring new Judaica, books, games, and gifts.

But more on these items in a future post—today’s post is all about the delightful (and noisy!) new products we picked up for the upcoming Jewish festival of Purim.

This year, Purim begins the evening of February 28 and ends the evening of Thursday, March 1. Purim encapsulates so much of what makes a holiday or tradition powerful and engaging—story, imagination, and liveliness—which is why I’m so excited to celebrate the holiday in the JMM Gift Shop, Esther’s Place.

Purim is celebrated each year on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month Adar and recalls the rescue of the Jewish people from Haman, a grand vizier to the Persian King Ahasuerus during the Persian Empire. Haman was incensed when Mordecai (guardian of the King’s new queen, a Jewish woman named Esther) refused to bow to him and ordered all Jews throughout the Persian Empire killed. Esther later courageously revealed her Jewish identity and successfully implored the King to save her people. The King ordered that all Jews be allowed to defend themselves against their enemies.

The story of Purim is told in the Book of Esther or Megillah, which is read in the synagogue for the holiday. Learn the story in more detail from The Little Book of Jewish Celebrations by Ronald Tauber, available at Esther’s Place (JMM Gift Shop). Or find a helpful overview of the holiday in The One Hour Purim Primer by Shimon Apisdorf, also available in the Gift Shop.

Rejoicing and celebration are key pillars of the Purim celebration so one of our missions at the gift show was to acquire a selection of noisemakers (or “groggers”) and hand puppets to complement our existing inventory of Purim-themed dress-up items and other whimsical gifts. The noisemakers are used to drown out Haman’s name during the reading of the Book of Esther, and make for a fun, seasonal gift for the spirited young (or young-at-heart) people in your life.

The Hebrew word for grogger is ra’ashan, from ra’ash, which means “noise” (thanks volunteer Rena for sharing this with me).

We were fortunate to find several varied options at the gift show, including Haman wood groggers, “Happy Purim” brightly-colored noisemakers, and wooden pop-out hand puppets (my personal favorite of our finds because of their vintage, nostalgic feel). Items now on display in the Gift Shop include a wide selection of groggers, some marionettes, Purim gift boxes, and masks and crowns (which cater to the Purim children’s tradition of dressing up).

We also have several great items left over from last year’s festivities, including, possibly, the noisiest of noisemakers, an elegant wood grogger.

A popular food at Purim is hamantaschen, a three-cornered pastry filled (typically) with fruit and rich with potential symbolism of the holiday. The word references “Haman,” the story’s villain; “mohn,” the original poppy seed filling; and “tash,” the pocket-shaped form of the cookie—and is often translated as “Haman’s pockets.” I enjoy hamantaschen (my husband once charmed me with homemade fig hamantaschen back when we were dating) so I’m delighted to better understand their origin and find a good occasion to make them.

Find hamantaschen and other recipes for the holiday in our beautiful Jewish cookbooks, and gather table-making ideas from our extensive collection of beautiful tabletop items. Stop by and share your own great traditions and recipes with us. Other traditions (in addition to the feasting and festivity) include giving to charity and giving special gifts to loved ones.

Purim is a time for whimsy, rejoicing, and celebrating the resilience of the Jewish people, and we hope you’ll find the perfect holiday gifts and inspiration at Esther’s Place. With just a few more days before the holiday, don’t delay in stopping by to pick up your Purim supplies!

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Two souvenirs from a European vacation, 1911

Posted on February 21st, 2018 by

A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

Isaac Hecht (1864-1913) was a prominent businessman in the small Maryland town of Havre de Grace. He owned a hotel and saloon; served as president of the several banks, the local taxi cab business, and the Havre de Grace chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles; and was active in city politics and local philanthropy. He and his wife, Elizabeth Weis of Baltimore, had two sons: Lee I. Hecht, born 1888 (later a well-known judge in Baltimore), and Lawrence, born 1899.

Isaac Hecht (at far right) and others in an automobile donated for a raffle held by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Havre de Grace, ca. 1910.  Gift of Isaac Hecht II. JMM 1991.198.3

All of that biographical background is to set my readers up for this delightful souvenir plate from our collections.  It is made of fine porcelain, hand-painted in gold, with holes on the reverse – this was definitely intended for display, not dinner – and features a photograph of a well-to-do family above the caption “Karlsbad 1911.”

Porcelain souvenir plate, hand-painted, 1911. Made by A. Hoffman. Gift of Eleanor Hecht Yuspa. JMM 2010.8.4

We know, thanks to the donor, that the photograph shows Isaac, Elizabeth, and Lawrence.  Conveniently – and this is why I love souvenirs since, after all, they’re supposed to remind you of a specific time and place – the plate itself gives us the time and the place.

Elizabeth, Lawrence, and Isaac Hecht, on vacation in Karlsbad, 1911 – as shown on their souvenir plate. Gift of Eleanor Hecht Yuspa. JMM 2010.8.4

A little further research tells more of the story. Karlsbad, also known as Karlovy Vary, was a spa in Bohemia; now in the Czech Republic, at the time of the Hechts’ visit it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  It was a fashionable resort for many decades, though its fortunes faded after WWI; in 1911, the year our Hechts visited, it saw over 71,000 visitors, and even hosted a fancy chess tournament.

Though his businesses were in Havre de Grace, not Baltimore, Isaac Hecht was important enough to rate notice in the Sun’s social news.  Articles from the summer of 1911 tout the maiden voyage of a new luxury steamship line from Baltimore to Europe:

“The date when Baltimoreans will have their first chance to secure first cabin accommodation on a trans-Atlantic liner from this port is now only a short time off – June 28. On that day the magnificent North German Lloyd liner Friedrich der Grosse will make its first trip from Baltimore. Besides being the largest passenger ship ever to sail from this port, it will be the first vessel to carry first cabin passengers from this city, and, if patronized well enough, will be the first of a regular series of sailings by the finest ocean liners in the service of the North German Lloyd.”  (“Rush for First Cabin,” Baltimore Sun, June 8, 1911)

“Greetings from the ship Friedrich the Great.” Image courtesy Passengers in History.

The article continues, “Prominent person from all parts of Maryland in nearby States will also be on the ship, and the list of passengers is increasing daily. Among the most recent entries are Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Hecht, together with their son and Mr. Hecht’s brother, all of Havre de Grace…. Mr. Hecht is president of the Havre de Grace Banking and Trust Company.”  (I. Lee Hecht, older than his younger brother Lawrence by 11 years, was already off on his own.) A few months later, social news from Havre de Grace includes the tidbit that “Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Hecht and son, who have been spending the summer in Europe, have sent home quite a collection of pictures, bric-a-brac, needlework and other things for the various booths at the coming hospital bazaar.” (Baltimore Sun, October 8, 1911).  The trip to Karlsbad was even referenced in Isaac’s 1913 obituary, when the author noted that Mr. Hecht had leased his hotel “a couple of years ago. . . in order to go to Carlsbad, Germany [sic], for the benefit of Mrs. Hecht’s health.” (Baltimore Sun, May 21, 1913)

Two close-up views: hand-painted flowers (left) and the makers’ marks (right). Gift of Eleanor Hecht Yuspa. JMM 2010.8.4

I particularly like the bit about the family acquiring “bric-a-brac,” as it ties in nicely with their fancy “Porzellan-Fotograf” plate.  This was a substantial souvenir, more costly than a spoon or a fan, and more personalized than a book of photos, or a mug with the town’s name printed on it; it was meant for display, a reminder to yourself and your visitors of that pleasant visit to a prestigious, high-society resort.

But I promised you two souvenirs of the Hechts’s visit to Karlsbad, so here’s the other one; this one is of a much more plebian, transient nature, but is no less informative, and a bit more poignant.  Amongst a small collection of postcards received by Emanuel and Fanny Weis Hecht of Havre de Grace is this one, sent from Karlsbad on September 18, 1911.  The two families were double-in-laws; Emanuel was Isaac’s brother, and Fanny was Elizabeth’s sister. Emanuel ran the Hecht’s Hotel during Isaac’s long absence; he and Fanny had just had a baby daughter, Hannah, the year before. This postcard carries Rosh Hashanah greetings in German and Hebrew on the front, with an illustration of “The discovery of Moses.”

Gift of Elizabeth Hecht Goodman. JMM 1997.45.9

Addressed to Mr. & Mrs. E. Hecht and “Miss Hannah,” the message on the back reads, “Dear Brother and Sister and Little Hannah. A Happy New Year and many of them. Hoping you [are] all in the best of health. I wish I was home to spend the Holiday. With love, Isaac Elizabeth and Lawrence Hecht.”  After all, vacations are well and good … but sometimes you’d rather be home with family during the holidays.

Gift of Elizabeth Hecht Goodman. JMM 1997.45.9

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