Performance Counts: The Book of Joseph

Posted on May 11th, 2018 by

Our monthly look at JMM “by the numbers” comes to you this week from Director of Collections and Exhibits, Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

Our lobby exhibit The Book of Joseph: Giving Voice to the Hollander Family may take up only a little over sixty square feet of space in the orientation space, but nonetheless it requires many hours to research, write, and install even small displays like this one.

I had the privilege of looking over the primary source material, reading the book based on the family story, watching the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s production of the play, and talking to Richard Hollander, whose family’s story is told through all these different media.

In 1939, Joseph Hollander and his wife left Poland just days before the Germans invaded, and after an arduous journey through Europe, they ended up – accidentally – in New York. While they were fighting to keep from being deported, Joseph’s family in Cracow wrote hundreds of letters to him about the worsening conditions under which they were suffering. Despite his work to secure them safe passage, and later attempts – after the letters stopped in 1942 – to find them, Joseph never learned the fate of his family. Nor did he tell the full story to his son Richard, instead carefully storing all the letters, photos, and other memories away in a briefcase.

Richard only discovered the case, and the stories it contained, after his father’s death.

Some years later, he delved into the material, had the letters translated, and with scholar Christopher Browning wrote the book Every Day Lasts a Year. Playwright Karen Hartman then turned the family’s story into the play “The Book of Joseph,” first produced by the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and enjoying its East Coast premiere at the Everyman Theatre in Baltimore.

In order to narrow this history – relating the lives of 14 people, over the course of six years – down into something that could be conveyed in a small exhibition, the full story had to be known.

To that end, I cataloged 157 letters and postcards written between 1940 and 1942 by the Hollanders in Poland to Joseph Hollander in the U.S.; matched those letters up to the translations in the book; and selected letters that could best illustrate important elements of the family’s story, even to those visitors unable to read German or Polish.

Even though each letter tells its own small piece of the story, only 23 of those letters ended up in the exhibit itself. (If you haven’t had the chance to read the English translations of the full collection in the book Every Day Lasts a Year, I strongly encourage you to do so.)

In addition to the exhibit itself, I and our Marketing Manager, Rachel Kassman, have been collecting and developing additional content to augment the story, including an interview with playwright Karen Hartman and Joseph Hollander, blog posts highlighting individual letters not included in the exhibit, and news coverage related to both the exhibit and the play. You can check out that bonus content here.

To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, three actors from Everyman Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Book of Joseph,” along with the play’s director, and Richard Hollander himself, joined us at the JMM on April 26th for a special reading of two scenes, and a question-and-answer session with the audience. 89 people attended this unique opportunity to compare two very different ways of experiencing this poignant story: through the original handwritten letters themselves, and through spoken, dramatic interpretation.

The Book of Joseph: Giving Voice to the Hollander Family is on view at the Museum through June 3, 2018. “The Book of Joseph” is now open at Everyman Theatre and runs through June 10th.

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The Blaustein–Ben-Gurion Agreement: A Milestone in Israel-Diaspora Relations Part 6

Posted on May 10th, 2018 by

Written by Mark K. Bauman. Originally published in Generations 2007-2008: Maryland and Israel. To order a print copy of the magazine, see details here.

Sidebar: The Remarkable Life and Career of Jacob Blaustein, Part II

Missed the beginning? Start here.

American Jewish Committee, Baltimore Chapter, poster advertising a Public Meeting featuring Jacob Blaustein, c. 1950. JMM 1994.45.5

Blaustein became deeply involved with the creation of the United Nations and virtually every endeavor to bring that organization to the forefront of human rights advocacy. In 1945 he and fellow AJComm leader Joseph Proskauer obtained White House authority to consult the American delegation to the 1945 San Francisco conference which established the U.N. In this capacity the two successfully pressed for the incorporation of a declaration of human rights in the U.N. charter.[1]

In 1955 President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Blaustein to the U.S. delegation to the U.N., where he successfully fought the Soviet Union’s attempt to force refugees who had fled Iron Curtain countries to return. As co-chair of the Consultative Council of Jewish Organizations (CCJO), which enjoyed consultative status to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, Blaustein became actively involved in projects concerning the U.N. Conventions on Genocide and the Declaration of Human Rights. Always the pragmatist, Blaustein expressed concern for the implementation of the Declaration. In the early 1960s he proposed the creation of the position of High Commissioner for Human Rights. Placed on the General Assembly’s agenda, it failed to be approved in the face of Soviet and Third World opposition until finally being created in 1993.[2]

In 1945 Blaustein toured displaced persons’ camps in Europe at the invitation of the commanding general of the European Theater, Joseph T. McNarney, and conferred with the general and his staff. He brought this direct knowledge to his position as senior vice president of the Conference on Jewish Material War Claims. Through his work with the conference, Blaustein helped obtain billions of dollars in restitution for victims of Nazin persecution, money earmarked toward rebuilding forty Jewish communities in Europe.[3]

Blaustein couched his numerous activities to oppose antisemitism and aid Holocaust survivors in human rights terms, an approach in line with the AJComm’s universalist modus operandi. He headed an AJComm delegation to the Paris Peace Conference of 1946 that lobbied to strengthen human rights clauses in treaties with Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, and Rumania. In cooperation with other Jewish organizations, the objective was to insure Jews in those countries equal rights.[4]

Five presidents – from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Lyndon B. Johnson – called on Blaustein for service related to his business expertise and humanitarian efforts. Although a Democrat (a party affiliation unusual for wealthy Jews of the era), his expertise, contacts, patience, and hard work (sixteen hours per day) made him an ideal diplomat, indispensable event for Republican presidents.[5] Although Blaustein gained influence as the representative of the AJComm, his personal stature enabled him to go far beyond this role – while also enhancing the influence of the organization. As he moved from the head of the executive board, to the presidency, and then to emeritus status, his zeal and the nature of his activities formed a seamless whole. His leadership positions with so many other organizations flowed naturally from his activities in behalf of the AJComm. Jacob Blaustein rightly belongs in the highest pantheon of Baltimore, American, and international Jewry.

~END~

[1] Both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Truman authorized Blaustein’s diplomatic efforts with the United Nations. For Blaustein’s and Proskauer’s activities at the San Francisco Conference with an emphasis on Proskauer’s role see Hacker and Hirsch, Proskauer, 134-140. This volume (138) cites Jerold S. Auerbach, “Human Rights in San Francisco,” American Jewish Archives (April 1964) for its summary of weaknesses in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.

[2] Blaustein presented his ideas for a U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights in his December 1963 Dag Hammerskjold Lecture at Columbia University. Blaustein was a strong supporter and close friend of the U. N. Secretary General. Morris D. Abram to Blaustein, 29 June 1965, AJA, SC1066. See also Cohen, Not Free to Desist, 269-275; Jacob Blaustein, “Testimony of the American Jewish Committee in favor of the Ratification of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide before the Subcommittee of the Genocide Convention of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” 23 January 1950, AJComm Archives.

Blaustein’s U.N. and human rights activities often brought him into conflict with Soviet officials and policies. He was also highly aware of anti-Semitic charges of Jewish support for communism during the Cold War. Thus, as president of the AJComm, Blaustein declined when the Rosenberg Committee asked him to support clemency for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He, along with the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, believed that the issue of antisemitism should not be raised in their defense. Yet Blaustein wondered whether Irving R. Kaufman, the trial judge, might have been particularly harsh in giving the death penalty in an effort to show that Jews like himself could be dispassionate and anticommunist. See Stuart Svonkin, Jews Against Prejudice: American Jews and the Fight for Civil Liberties (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 156-60, 282-83, n. 109. Svonkin (159, 285-86, n. 131) describes the position of mainstream Jewish defense organizations as part of their move toward “liberal anticommunism” that incorporated opposition to discrimination, advocacy in behalf of civil liberties, and support for the Korean War. He discusses the contradictions and problems of what became an anticommunist crusade by Jewish organizations dedicated to civil liberties (161-163), Blaustein’s and the AJComm’s position against American communists may have also been influenced by their protests against Soviet antisemitism. See Cohen, Not Free to Desist, 354-356, 493-494, 504-505.

For an example of Blaustein’s and the AJComm’s support for the U.N. and intervention in Korea, and opposition to the Soviet Union, see AJComm press release, “Jacob Blaustein urges American Jewish Committee members in 500 cities to encourage confidence in the United Nations,” 20 August 1950, AJComm Archives.

[3] Blaustein also served on the executive committee of the Committee for Jewish Claims for Austria which obtained $21 million in negotiation with the Austrian government to assist Austrian refugees. See Bio Sketch; Cohen, Not Free to Desist, 275-281, 285-292.

[4] Cohen, Not Free to Desist, 272. Cohen also points out Blaustein’s role in inducing the Shah of Iran to delay the expulsion of Jews from that country in 1949 (326). For the expansion of Blaustein’s efforts into South America see Cohen, Not Free to Desist, 364, 542.

[5] See Bio Sketch; Slawson, “Jacob Blaustein;” Frank Henry, “Life and Times of Jacob Blaustein;” Some Biographical Data: Jacob Blaustein,” nine-page typescript, 16 May 1987 (copy), “Jacob Blaustein” Vertical File, JMM.

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Equine Passion: The Cohen Family at Pimlico Race Course Pt. 2

Posted on May 9th, 2018 by

generations 2004 copyArticle by Robin Z. Waldman. Originally published in Generations – 2004: Recreation, Sports & Leisure. This particular issue of Generations proved wildly popular and is no longer available for purchase.

Part II: Pulling Ahead
Missed part 1? Start here.

Ben bought his first horses as gifts for Zelda on Valentine’s Day, 1951. He had previously tried to buy her gifts of perfume or jewelry, but Zelda always returned them. “I don’t need it; I don’t want it,” she would say. So in later years Ben was fond of recalling that the two horses, Aunt Jane and War Age, were gifts that Zelda could not return, the first of his gifts she ever kept. A tradition was begun that year – all the horses that Ben and Zelda ever owned were kept n Zelda’s name. In addition, all of Ben and Zelda’s horses, and their jockeys, wore purple-and-gold racing silks, chosen by Zelda because they were the colors of the United Order of the True Sisters, a philanthropic organization of which she had been president.

"Hail to All" crossing the finish line. Courtesy of Rosalee Davison.

“Hail to All” crossing the finish line. Courtesy of Rosalee Davison.

Ben and Zelda never owned a stable of their own, though they were at one point considered the best breeders in the state. When not training or racing, War Age and Aunt Jane boarded at Halycon Farm on Greenspring Avenue (owned by Fred Colwill), where the Cohens would later keep many of their horses. Hoses in training stayed in barns at the racetrack or wherever the trainer worked. They would return to the farm to be broken, to rest, or to breed. Aunt Jane was never very successful, but War Age won several allowance and stakes races for the Cohens. While they were both enthusiastic horse racers, Ben in particular was equally attentive to his horse breeding. At all times Ben kept a list with him of the horses he was breeding and would often pull it out for consultation. Ben and Zelda’s horse breeding eventually led to their greatest racing triumph: Hail to All, the Cohen’s most successful racehorse, was also one that they had bred.

In 1952 it seemed only natural that Ben and Herman Cohen purchase Pimlico as their next big business venture. Over the years the Cohen brothers ran many businesses, and in their usual fashion of alternating positions from one company they bought or created to the next, Herman became Pimlico’s president and Ben became the track’s secretary-treasurer.[1] Zelda, ever involved in her husband’s enterprises, set about refurbishing the run-down Old Clubhouse. The Victorian landmark, with its wide, sweeping staircase, became the focal point for a restoration that aimed to create a lively, appealing atmosphere for Pimlico patrons. Zelda acquired period flocked wallpaper for the walls, installed a red carpet up the stairs and adorned the side porch with white wicker furniture and red-and-white-striped wallpaper. Members would sit either on the porch to eat or at the inside dining rooms. In a time before televisions graced every dining table, club members would dine on an elegant lunch before the races and spend the entire afternoon in the clubhouse.

As racing gained popularity in the United States the Cohens added a number of events to the Preakness Stakes to create what would become known as Preakness Week. The Preakness Festival was started, and a press party was added, held the Thursday before the race and open to out-of-town press, owners, trainers, and jockeys. The Cohens hosted the party each year and Zelda was known for the attention she gave to the subtle details of the annual affair.

"Hail to All," with jockey John Sellers after winning the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga Springs, NY, August 21, 1965. Gift of Zelda Cohen, JMM 1995.100.2.

“Hail to All,” with jockey John Sellers after winning the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga Springs, NY, August 21, 1965. Gift of Zelda Cohen, JMM 1995.100.2.

While attending to the needs of Pimlico, Ben never neglected the breeding and racing of his own horses. On May 22, 1962 Hail to All was foaled at Ocala Stud in Florida. At first, Hail to All did not seem to have much promise in racing. At birth his left hind leg was so crooked that he was unable to put all four feet on the ground at once. Family legend tells that the farm manager Joe O’Farrell looked around for an implement he could use to brace the leg – and straightened it with a sweat scraper. With Ben’s close observation and encouragement, O’Farrell had Hail to All walking by the time he was three weeks old. Hail to All would become the Cohens’ winningest horse, bringing in $$494,150 in total earnings over the course of his career, though when he raced he always wore a patch to cover the unusual curvature of his leg.[2]

Hail to All’s most exciting season for the Cohens was in 1965, when, wearing the purple and gold silks Zelda had selected years earlier, he won both the Jersey Derby and the Belmont Stakes within a single week. It was a remarkable accomplishment for both the horse and his owners. A double-page spread in the next week’s issue of Sports Illustrated proclaimed “Hail to Zelda! Hail to Ben!,” while Blood Horse ran a headline on its front cover that said “Colt Born a Cripple has Stamina, Courage to Win Classic by Neck.”[3]

The season had been one of great anticipation for Hail to All’s owners. In February he started the campaign by winning the Hibiscus Stakes at Hialeah Racetrack in Florida. As spring progressed Hail to All did well in several events, but finished only fifth in the Kentucky Derby. The next event was the Preakness, and Ben worried about a conflict of interest. He was concerned about a close race where the stewards would need to decide the winner, and how fans might react if Ben’s horse was called the winner at his own racetrack. He debated withdrawing Hail to All from the race. “Certainly, I want to run in the Preakness, but under the circumstances, maybe we should settle for the Jersey Derby.”[4]  As it turned out, Hail to All did run in the Preakness, but placed third. When the day of the Jersey Derby arrived, Hail to All was ready. The Derby was run on May 31, 1965 at Garden State Park and Hail to All was the clear winner.

Five days later, on Saturday, June 5, 1965, Ben commented to Zelda before the beginning of the Belmont: “I would have liked to have won the [Kentucky] Derby or the Preakness, but everybody knows the Belmont Stakes is the prestige race to win from a breeder’s standpoint. It is the big one. I’d love to settle matters by winning the Belmont.”[5] Hail to All did win that day, and he became the first horse ever to win two races of $100,000-added or more in a six-day period.[6] The following season Hail to All retired from racing to stand at stud in Virginia. He sired three seasons of foals before dying in an accident in 1972.[7]

Continue to Part III: Into the Home Stretch

[1] Lucy Acton, “The Men who Run the Preakness,” Baltimore Magazine, May 1973, p. 22. See also Siegel, “Pimlico’s Cohen Brothers,” p. 36.

[2] For numerous accounts of Hail to All’s story and accomplishments, see Scrapbook of Ben and Zelda Cohen (JMM 2003.044).

[3] Whitney Tower, “Hail to Zelda! Hail to Ben!,” Sports Illustrated, June 14, 1965, pp. 28-29, and Kent Hollingsworth, “Colt Born a Cripple has Stamina, Courage to Win Classic by Neck,” The Blood Horse, June 12, 1965, front cover.

[4] “At the Races: Hail to All, His Owner on the Spot,” unattributed, from Cohen Scrapbook, p. 33.

[5] Tower, “Hail to Zelda!,” p. 29.

[6] Frank Talmadge Phelps, “Background of the Winner,” The Thoroughbred Record, June 12, 1965, p. 1519.

[7] “Hail to All Dead,” Cohen Scrapbook, p. 13.

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