Performance Counts: January 2015

Posted on January 16th, 2015 by

JoannaSince starting as Collections Manager in August of last year, JMM has already accessioned more than 70 items from the daily life of Maryland’s Jewish communities. We’ve been pleased to receive offers of a wide variety of items – from single items to multiple boxes, from large paintings to small snapshots, from the 19th century to the 21st.  Nearly every week has brought a new opportunity to check out something interesting, which might be of use to the museum.

As a collections professional, I’m inclined by both duty and temperament to appreciate almost anything that’s ever been made, used and saved by someone. In other words, I love stuff.  But we simply can’t take everything that is offered to us. Fortunately, like many museums the JMM has a committee of Board members, staff, and other museum professionals who help ensure that only appropriate items are accepted as donations to our permanent collection: artifacts, photos, and archival material that relate to Jewish life in Maryland, in good condition, for which we can adequately care and which we envision using in exhibits, research, and interpretation.

But enough about the inner workings of the committee process – you want to see the stuff!  Here are a few highlights from recent offers.

-Joanna Church, Collections Manager

 

Pharmacy show globe, Hagerstown/Hancock, Md. JMM#K2014.003.035 Donated by Dr. Adolph “Ed” Baer, P.D.

Pharmacy show globe, Hagerstown/Hancock, Md. JMM#K2014.003.035
Donated by Dr. Adolph “Ed” Baer, P.D.

Though we don’t always have the opportunity to exhibit artifacts right away, the vintage pharmaceutical items donated by Dr. Baer will be of almost immediate use as we prepare the upcoming exhibit “Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America” (opening fall 2015). Dr. Baer graduated from the University of Maryland pharmacy school, and went on to own and operate two pharmacies in western Maryland. In addition to the modern tools and equipment he used over the years, Dr. Baer also donated several antique pieces, including this large glass “show globe.” Show globes, filled with colored liquid (ours was emptied for the purpose of donation and transport), were placed in shop windows as a symbol of the apothecary’s or pharmacist’s trade; modern pharmacists such as Dr. Baer often collect and display them, in a nod to their profession’s history.

 

The Colonial Chronicle, Annapolis, Md. JMM#2014.041 Donated by Tylar Hecht for the Allen J. Reiter Lodge of B'nai B'rith

The Colonial Chronicle, Annapolis, Md. JMM#2014.041
Donated by Tylar Hecht for the Allen J. Reiter Lodge of B’nai B’rith

Though registrars like myself do enjoy cataloging and processing donations, we also love it when the donor does some of that good work for us.  Tylar Hecht brought in 40 years of The Colonial Chronicle, the newsletter of B’nai B’rith Annapolis Lodge No. 1239, associated with Kneseth Israel (Annapolis’s oldest congregation). In addition to the papers themselves, the donation included many of the original photographs used in the paper – which Mr. Hecht, with the help of older members of the congregation, sorted and identified for us before delivery. Their efforts mean that this collection will be accessible to researchers more quickly than if the JMM staff and volunteers needed to start fresh.

A selection of items from the Community Garden Club archives, Baltimore, Md. JMM#2015.002 Donated by Ruth Taubman for the Community Garden Club.

A selection of items from the Community Garden Club archives, Baltimore, Md. JMM#2015.002
Donated by Ruth Taubman for the Community Garden Club.

Likewise, the members of the Community Garden Club of the JCC (Baltimore) took the time to gather and organize materials from their 50+ year history, including programs, awards, photos, newsletters, and directories.  The Club was founded in 1962 by a group of women taking flower-arranging classes at the newly-built Park Heights JCC; over the years the members have worked on landscaping projects at a number of landmarks around the city, and they were the first Jewish garden club to join the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland. Though not very active today, several original members were determined to collect as much of the club’s records as possible, to ensure that their history is preserved at the JMM archives.

 

Shomrei Mishmeres signs, Baltimore, Md. JMM#2014.045.001-002 Gift of Rabbi David E. Miller, Rabbi Michael S. Miller, Deborah L. Kram and Judith S. Kalish

Shomrei Mishmeres signs, Baltimore, Md. JMM#2014.045.001-002
Gift of Rabbi David E. Miller, Rabbi Michael S. Miller, Deborah L. Kram and Judith S. Kalish.

In a wonderful coincidence, one of the first things offered to the JMM after I started was a pair of early 20th century hand-lettered signs used by the Shomrei Mishmeres congregation in the Lloyd Street Synagogue.  Tobias Miller, then President of Shomrei Mishmeres, took these signs with him when the synagogue building was sold to the new Jewish Historical Society (now the JMM); his grandchildren recently decided that these two pieces should “come home” to Lloyd Street.   We’re always glad to find artifacts and records from the Lloyd Street Synagogue’s long history; such a meaningful and thoughtful donation was a fantastic way to start off my work here at the JMM!

Left:  “It is strictly forbidden to speak and to converse when the congregation prays or the Holy Bible is being read. He who will not obey the prohibition, in addition to his sinning this great sin, he is transgressing the accepted norm, and therefore will be fined towards the synagogue.”

Right: “By order of the members of this Shul: It is not permitted to remove the prayer shawls before reciting kaddish recited at ‘Anim Zemirot.’ He who will not obey, shall be severely punished.”

 

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Once Upon a Time…05.09.2014

Posted on January 13th, 2015 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church at 410.732.6400 x236 or email jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

 

2011078058Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  May 9, 2014

PastPerfect Accession #:  2011.078.058

Status: Partially Identified!  Do you recognize the others in this Beth Shalom Congregation (Carroll County) Hebrew School Class, 2007?

Front Row: 1. unidentified 2. unidentified 3. Mark Shimsak [Teacher] Back Row: 1. Unidentified 2. Felicia Leipold

Special Thanks To: Maxine Kontiff, Barbara Arbesman

 

 

 

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The Test

Posted on January 12th, 2015 by

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. – US Constitution, Article VI (1787)

Many wonderful things happened over the recent winter break.  Mitzvah Day was a huge success.  We all had fun making jigsaw puzzles for the kids at The Herman & Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai.  Gil Sandler gave a terrific talk on some of the colorful characters of early Baltimore.  Throughout the next week, we had a steady flow of last minute 2014 gifts to JMM – and we’re very grateful for your generous support.

But for me, the greatest surprise came from a single visitor, Yosef Kuperman.  Yosef had come to see The A-mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit.  I just happened to be in the lobby when Yosef walked through the door and we struck up a conversation.  What I discovered was that Yosef had a most unusual hobby.  Beginning with an independent study project he did at UMBC, Yosef had made himself an expert on the “Maryland Jew Bill” – the law that finally overturned Maryland’s required oath to the New Testament.  He had studied original speeches, voting data, and correspondence to get a much clearer picture of the forces that shaped this landmark legislation.

The Jew Bill

The Jew Bill

Yosef returned to JMM on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve and we were able to have a long talk about what he found and he pointed me to an online resource for speeches that I now happily pass on to you:  http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t7kp82p35;view=1up;seq=7 (you will want to skip to page 59, for the start of the relevant speeches).

The current film, Selma, visits the period in our history when “tests” were used to disenfranchise voters. My conversation with Yosef reminded me of the long history of so-called “tests” to deprive people of equal rights.  The American experience has its roots in the “test acts” of 1673 in England.  The acts which required office holders to disavow transubstantiation and the invocation of saints was designed to bar Catholics from public service (these tests remained English law until 1828).  In America several states in rewriting there constitutions in 1776 replaced these detailed tests with a single oath to either affirm Christianity or the New Testament.  The US Constitution of 1787, quoted above, would appear to have settled the question, but that was not the case.  Maryland maintained its oath requirement, at least on paper, decades after the US Constitution was ratified.

selma

Solomon Etting is generally credited with initiating the repeal effort in 1797, but all attempts at passage before the War of 1812 failed.  I was aware of the fact that in the immediate post-War period the oath became a political wedge issue – with Democrats generally supporting repeal and Federalists weighing in on trying to preserving Maryland’s agrarian interests against the “foreigners” of Baltimore.  What Yosef brought to my attention is that by 1823 when the Jew Bill again fails to pass, the Federalists are already in decline and that there are many Democrats who are ardent opponents of the legislation.  What becomes clear from reading the speeches of the period is that many office holders came to Annapolis having made a pledge to their constituents on this issue.  In some instances, it seems to have served as a proxy for proving their own Christian character to their districts.

I encourage you to visit the website I have provided and read for yourself the arguments made in favor of religious tolerance.  I think you will find some of the rhetoric surprising, particularly Delegate Worthington’s case for attracting a larger Jewish community to improve the state’s economy.  I think you will find some of the public debate about religious liberty has echoes in our own time as well.  Perhaps we are not through with the real “test.”

Marvin PinkertA blog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE. 

 

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