Processions, Debates and Curbstone Encounters: The Struggle over Kosher Meat in Baltimore, 1897 – 1918 Pt. 3

Posted on March 13th, 2017 by

Article by Avi Y. Decter. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

The boycott of 1910 was one dramatic episode in a twenty-year struggle over kosher meat that engaged meat wholesalers, retail butchers, shochets (ritual slaughterers), the Orthodox rabbinate, and thousands of ordinary Jews, especially in East Baltimore. In the first decades of the twentieth century, conflict over kosher meat was a familiar topic. Today, that contestation is little remembered and poorly documented. However, sufficient evidence survives to give us access to the trajectory and meaning of the protracted struggle over kosher meat. Here is that story.

Part III: The Butchers Go on Strike

Missed parts 1-2? Start here.

 Nathan London in the doorway of his kosher butcher shop on Lombard Street, early 20th century. JMM 2001.90.1

Nathan London in the doorway of his kosher butcher shop on Lombard Street, early 20th century. JMM 2001.90.1

For a decade, contestation over shechita appears to have abated in Baltimore. But in March 1907 the Baltimore Sun reported a conflict between the large meat wholesalers and the kosher meat retailers they supplied. The retailers claimed that the wholesalers were charging excessive prices for kosher meat and refused to purchase their locally slaughtered kosher beef. After a few days, the retail butchers went a step further, agreeing to buy all their kosher meat exclusively from two small slaughterers who offered more favorable prices. A week later, the Sun reported the dispute was still in progress.[1]

Among those affected, of course, were the consumers, who, the Sun reported, were “much wrought up over the situation.” In fact, the butchers’ strike bore most heavily on the poorer members of the community, who “are the most Orthodox [and who] have not been able to get their customary rations of this important article of food.” With Passover drawing near, the butchers relented, agreeing “to provide meat the old price until after the Passover. Then the strike will begin again.”[2]

Although the temporary cessation of the butchers’ strike was cited by the Sun as “an inspiring example of race co-operation,” the Orthodox congregations soon felt it necessary to again take decisive steps to regulate the making and sale of kosher meat in Baltimore. In July 1908, twenty-eight Orthodox congregations in East Baltimore organized the Federation of Orthodox Jewish Congregations to “advance every interest affecting Orthodox Jews.” One of the purposes cited was to protect consumers from unscrupulous dealers who falsified seals of kashrut, thus casting doubt on the ritual purity of all meat sold as kosher.[3]

The kosher butchers’ strike and its immediate aftermath point to a complex collision of interests. The wholesalers were trying to raise the price of kosher meat; shochets were seeking higher pay; consumers were balking at paying higher prices; the rabbinate was asserting its authority over shechita; and kosher butchers at the retail level were caught in the cross-currents.

Continue to Part IV: Another Controversy over Kosher Meat


[1] “Kosher Butchers Accept,” Baltimore Sun, 23 March 1907, p. 11. “Ghetto Sees a Truce in Kosher Butcher’s Strike,” Baltimore Sun, 31 March 1907, p. 12.

[2] “Ghetto Sees a Truce in Kosher Butcher’s Strike.”

[3] “For Pure Kosher Meat,” Baltimore Sun, 25 July 1908, p.6.

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Remembering Auschwitz By the Numbers

Posted on March 10th, 2017 by

Performance Counts: March 2017

This past Sunday, we opened Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity, a unique and important exhibit that encourages visitors to explore Holocaust history and commemoration through the lens of Auschwitz. The following are some interesting facts and figures about the exhibit.

Photo by Will Kirk

Photo by Will Kirk

>Number of Exhibits on Display: 4 (A Town Know As Auschwitz: The Life and Death of a Community, Architecture of Murder, Loss And Beauty: Photographs by Keron Psillas and The Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project)

>Number of Years Exhibit Has Been in the Works: 2 ½ years

Deborah leads a docent tour through "Remembering Auschwitz"

Deborah leads a docent tour through “Remembering Auschwitz”

>Percentage of Jewish Population in Oswiecim (the name of the town prior to Nazi occupation in 1939) in the Years Prior to the Holocaust: As high as 50%

>Number of Synagogues in Oswiecim prior to 1939: 30

>Percentage of Jewish population of Oswiecim Murdered at Auschwitz: 90%

Detail of "Architecture of Death" panel

Detail of “Architecture of Death” panel

>Year in Which Construction of Auschwitz Commenced: 1940

>Number of Camps Constructed at Auschwitz: 3 main camps (Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II – also known as Birkenau and Auschwitz III – also known as Buna and Monowitz

> Estimated Number of Inmates Murdered at Auschwitz: 1.1 million including 1 million Jews

Photo by Will Kirk.

Photo by Will Kirk.

>Number of Photos on Display By Keron Psillas: 25

>Number of Miles Photos Traveled from their Last Installation in Hollywood, Florida: 1080 miles

Photo by Will Kirk.

Photo by Will Kirk.

>Number of Collages Created as Part of the Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project: 91

>Number of Countries of Origin of Individuals Honored Through Collages: 12

Photo by Will Kirk.

Photo by Will Kirk.

>Total attendance at Sunday’s opening: 242 people

>Number of Related Programs Planned Over the Next Three Months: 16

>Date Exhibit Ends: May 29, 2017

Of course, numbers alone do not tell the whole story, certainly not of the devastation of the Holocaust, nor the impact that we hope this exhibit will have on our visitors. It was an extraordinary experience watching families who participated in the collage making workshops gather around their plaques on display with tears in their eyes and pride in the knowledge that their family members’ stories now have permanent homes at the JMM. While it is too soon to report on the total number of visitors which will include many school group visitors, we look forward to keeping you posted.

~Deborah Cardin, Deputy Director

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My Family Story Sneak Peek!

Posted on March 9th, 2017 by

Last Sunday, over 200 people attended the JMM’s latest exhibition opening for Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust and Humanity.  We are so grateful to the Holocaust survivors and their families that joined us that morning and took part in the art installation, Holocaust Memory Reconstruction: A Sacred Culture Rebuilt.  This installation commissioned by Lori Shocket and the Human Element Project, featured collages that were created by the survivors and their families documenting their lives from the past to the present.  What touched me most about the morning was watching these families (many inter-generational) looking at the collages and watching having younger family members call out, “Wow, I did not know that,” or “You never told me that before.”  These younger family members were learning about their family narratives and creating a “strong inter-generational self”, as described by psychologist, Marshall Duke from Emory University.

Photo by Will Kirk.

Photo by Will Kirk.

Watching this interaction between family members got me thinking about next week’s My Family Story Exhibition in partnership with Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People in Israel.  Area students from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Bolton Street Synagogue have been on a journey, interviewing family members and researching their own family stories and learning about their family narratives.  These students have created art installations to reflect the research, interviews and stories that they have learned from their own families.   The journey connects students to their personal stories, to their family stories, and to the greater story of the Jewish People joining many from Israel and around the Jewish world who are also participating in Beit Hatfutsot’s My Family Story program

The student’s projects will be judged at the exhibition based on a rubric that includes four points, Jewish peoplehood, depth of research, aesthetics and creativity.  The projects will be scored and two winners from each school will be chosen and those projects will be sent on to Beit Hatfutsot and their museum staff has the responsibility of picking 40 international winners who will win a free trip to Israel.  The projects will be displayed at  the My Family Story exhibition later in June.  Over the past two years, area students and their projects have been selected to participate in the international exhibition.  Our staff at the JMM is hopeful to make it three in a row!

The My Family Story Exhibition will be on display at the Jewish Museum of Maryland from Tuesday, March 14th – Sunday, March 19th. Here is a sneak peak of some of the works in progress from the students at Bolton Street Synagogue…..

Can't wait to see the context for this figure!

Can’t wait to see the context for this figure!

Love this use of the stove for a thematic background!

Love this use of the stove for a thematic background!

Looking forward to the story that goes with this.

Looking forward to the story that goes with this.

Intriguing use of colors and photos!

Intriguing use of colors and photos!


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