The Dancing Schools of Baltimore’s Jewish Society Part 2

Posted on February 12th, 2018 by

generations 2004 copyArticle by Gil Sandler. 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: Not Always Genteel
Missed the beginning? Start here.

But the dancing school experience was not always a genteel one: Francois Roos (“Frenchy”) Snyder remembers her dancing school classes at Mrs. Finley Burns’s school at the Stafford Hotel, Charles at Madison Streets, later at the Phoenix Club on Eutaw Place, in the 1930s. “It could be nerve wracking,” she says. “The class worked on the ‘dance card’ system. Each girl had a dance card, with room on it for ten partners to sign up to dance with you. I was always so worried that my dance card would not be filled.” Albert Berney was one of those who wrote on “Frenchy” Snyder’s dance card. He recalls: “I danced with her, and I thought she was a pretty good dance.”

Teens pose for a photo at the Aleph Zadik Aleph fraternity Sweetheart Dance in 1948. Gift of Charlotte Stein, JMM 1998.79.1.

Teens pose for a photo at the Aleph Zadik Aleph fraternity Sweetheart Dance in 1948. Gift of Charlotte Stein, JMM 1998.79.1.

Mrs. Snyder recalls: “In my class were Moses Morris, Norman Cohen, Julian Katzenberg, Gene Blum, Herman Frank, Alice Rosenbush, Mary Louise Fleishman, Louis SInsheimer, Etta Scherlis, Dick Hutzler, Sarahh Westheimer, Ellen Berney, and Julian Stein.”

“It was all very formal. Boys were taught how to ask a girl for a dance and the girls, how to accept. The boy might approach the girl and say, ‘May I please have this dance? And then she might say, ‘I would love to.’ Manners were a part of what you were supposed to learn in dancing class.”

In 1938, 13-year-old Morton Marcus attended Bea Goodhart’s and Aileen Straus’s dancing school. In his class were Stanley Greenebaum, Richard Hess, Virginia Watner Gordon, Louise Gutman Goldberg, Dick Chessler, Malcolm Rudolph, Myra Levenson Askin, William Kahn, Alice Berney Hoffberger, Peggy Mayer, and Carol Neuberger Dupkin. Morton recalls, “If there was such a thing as flunking out of dancing school, they would have flunked me. I couldn’t learn to dance, and in all the classes I went to, only one girl asked me to dance – Nina Bernheimer. She always work a fleecy white sweater, and I always wore my dark blue Bar Mitzvah suit, and when we danced all of those long, white hairs off of her sweater would shed all over my dark suit. I didn’t like that at all.” His wife of 50 years, Marilyn, says, “For a guy who says he didn’t like dancing class, he still talks about dancing with Nina Bernheimer. It’s been fifty years.”

Margie Katzenstein Greenebaum went to the Straus-Goodhart’s in the late 1930s. “The dance usually started with the girls lined up on one side, and the boys on the other. And on the signal, the lines broke and the boys sought out partners. The arrangement made me nervous. Suppose no boy asked me to dance?”

“Of course, you learned ballroom dancing. And manners. How to be polite. But really, what the dancing school was all about was our parents’ desire to have us meet what they considered to be the ‘proper’ people.

“In my class were Joan Bette, Seff Offit, and Barbara Blaustein Hirschhorn. Looking back, it was a good experience. To this day I meet people and we recognize each other from dancing class. We all made social contacts that we kept the rest of our lives.”

Jerome (“Jerry”) Trout attended Mesdames Straus and Goodhart’s dancing classes in 1942. His memories of the experience square with some of the others who shared in it: dancing classes of that crowd were not so much about the students as they were about the parents. “Not all of us were in Park School and in the Suburban Club,” he recalls. “Some of us were on the fringe of all of that. I went to Poly, and somehow lived without being in the Suburban Club. But when I was sixteen my parents, who appreciated the way the world worked even if I didn’t, and not being able to afford membership in the Club themselves, bought a ‘junior’ membership for me. They didn’t know that most of the time I was attending dancing classes I was figuring a way to get out of them.”

Louis Newman went to Mesdames Straus and Goodhart’s school, but insists he can’t remember anything about it. He says, “That’s because I hated it so. All the guys hated it. The whole thing was our parents’ idea. They just wanted us to meet the right people, to stay in their crowd. So every Saturday afternoon I had to get into my Isaac Hamburger dark suit and my Hess black shoes, and drive from Temple Gardens where we lived around the corner to Brooks Lane to pick up Babs Feustman. I didn’t mind picking her up – but I had to bring her flowers!”

Ellen Levi Zamoiski confirms the parental mandate with regard to attending dancing school: “It didn’t matter whether we wanted to go or not. Our parents wanted us to go and that was that.” In retrospect, the students may not have taken the dancing classes very seriously. But the parents certainly did.

Following WWII the winds of change whipped through Baltimore Jewish Society with hurricane force, sweeping away the pillars that supported what was known as “Jewish Society.” That “in-crowd” was about “old money,” but in post-war Jewish Baltimore, there was, suddenly, all this new money around, and much of it in the hands of many who had never heard of a Baltimore “in-crowd.” The firewall around Baltimore’s old-money, in-crowd came tumbling down. By the 1990s there were few traces of Jewish society’s creaky continuum. You didn’t need dancing school to get into the “in-crowd” because there was no “in-crowd” left to get into.

The Jewish dancing schools that once seemed so terribly important to Baltimore’s socially-aspiring Jewish families, for a hundred years up through the 1950s, are no more. The twelve, thirteen, and fourteen-year-old boys and girls who were so dutifully and seriously shepherded through this rite of passage are now grandparents in their seventies. What’s left are the stories: about this coming of age in a sugarplum world where manners and dance were thought to be the currency that bought into a lifestyle. That world, long ago and gossamer, has quietly faded with time, like a leftover dance card from Aileen Straus and Bea Goodhart’s dancing school, circa 1942.

Continue to Sidebar: Learning to Dance

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Color Our Collections 2018: A Visit to Sinai Hospital

Posted on February 9th, 2018 by

This week is #ColorOurCollections – a week-long coloring fest on social media organized by libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world. Using materials from their collections, these institutions are sharing free coloring content with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections and inviting their followers to color and get creative with their collections. #ColorOurCollections was launched by The New York Academy of Medicine Library in 2016.

Over on our social media channels, we’ve been using Fridays to highlight new additions to the JMM collections – and this week’s is a perfect cross over between a #FridayFeature and #ColorOurCollections: The Sinai Hospital Coloring Book!

Coloring book created by Nancy Schloss for pediatric patients at Sinai Hospital, Baltimore, circa 1960. Gift of Heidi Schloss, JMM 2017.36.1.

Selections from Part 1

Download the Sinai Hospital Coloring Book Part 1

Selections from Part 2

Download the Sinai Hospital Coloring Book Part 2

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Timing Is Everything

Posted on February 9th, 2018 by

Performance Counts: February 2018

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes to us from Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

The surprising path to a wonderful evening.

Seven weeks ago, we were planning to have a darkened gallery right now. Six weeks ago, Marvin got a call from the Assistant Director of International Affairs in Maryland’s Office of the Secretary of State that changed that plan.

Ordinarily, it takes between 8 months and 3 years to plan an exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. When the Secretary of State’s office called Marvin, they had a show they wanted us to exhibit a month and a half later. In most years, a call like that would yield a response of “thanks, but how about in a year and a half?” (Which is the response they had been receiving from all over the state.) This year, as fate would have it, we were able to answer “we’ve got about 1800 square feet available. Let’s talk.”

It was, as they say, beshert—meant to be.

The Secretary of State’s office was working with the Embassy of Israel. The Embassy had worked with Yad Vashem to develop an exhibit, Beyond Duty: Diplomats Recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, about diplomats who, during WWII, risked their careers (and in some cases their lives) to help save Jews from the Nazis. After the war, the fledgling state of Israel declared 34 diplomats from 21 countries around the world to be “Righteous Among the Nations.” These ambassadors, consuls, attaches and other diplomats–none of them Jewish–showed great bravery in the face of evil.

With 28 panels, Beyond Duty focusses the stories of 9 of those diplomats. We received the panels on January 30. Under Joanna’s direction, JMM staff installed the panels in our empty Feldman Gallery.

 


On February 1, we co-hosted an invitation-only preview of the exhibit with the Israeli embassy, featuring remarks from Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford, Secretary of State John Wobensmith and Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Israel to the United States, Reuven Azar.

About 75 people attended the exhibit preview, including members of the Baltimore City Council, the Maryland State House of Delegates as well as members of the JMM Board of Trustees, and additional invited guests from the JMM community, the network of the Embassy of Israel, and the Friends of the Governor’s office of Community Initiatives and its eight Ethnic Commissions. By the numbers, it took nine JMM staff members (that’s 75% of us!), one former JMM staff member (we miss you Deborah!), and at least five staff members of the Embassy of Israel to make the evening a success.

The exhibit opened to the public on Sunday, February 4, and will be open through March 25, which means you have about 5 weeks to check it out. In that time, we’ll be hosting 14 programs as part of our JMM Live! Performance Series, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you check it out more than once!

Read more about the event and the exhibit at:

The Baltimore Jewish Times – New Exhibit at JMM Honors Holocaust’s Unsung Heroes

JMore: Baltimore Jewish Living – Exhibition at JMM Honors Righteous Gentile Diplomats during the Holocaust

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