Posted on December 4th, 2013 by Rachel
People sometimes ask me, “What is the use of Jewish history?” And “why do you study and write about that so much?” Author and historian, Lucy Davidowitz, wrote a book on this subject.
2007.054.027 Book cover, The Hoffburger Journey in America: 1882-2005, compiled primarily by Lois Hoffberger Blum Feinblatt.
Others take their concern and doubt to an annoying level, saying, “History is not important.” Perhaps not, for them, compared with the latest Hollywood gossip, the score of Sunday’s football game or newest technological toy. Their view is short sighted, to say the least.
For me, researching and writing about Jewish history is akin to raising a memorial to departed relatives, ancestors and – yes – to strangers. Some may be famous community or congregational leaders while others served their families quietly with love and dedication.
Only two of my relatives served the community in public ways – one was a Hershfield who served as secretary of a synagogue in New Jersey. The shul is now defunct, and I have no documentation about this except for Oral History tapes of my mother.
Another Hershfield in the same family in Jersey City served on the public School Board. But this branch of the family are notorious for not answering letters, and we have been out of touch with them since the 1960s, so no documentation has been found to verify the anecdote.
(As for yichus, that is, genealogical status, I sometimes imagine that I am descended from a 2nd Century Sage or a Levitical priest. But this may be ego on my part!)
Every time we quest for our family’s history, read an article in a Jewish History periodical or visit the JMM, we are raising a memorial to the whole Jewish people. It is like placing rocks on the top of tombstones when we visit cemeteries. The purpose is to make the marker-stone larger, thereby, increasing the honor of those who have passed away. Saying Kaddish for one’s father is another example. Sharing our genealogies with living relatives is a third example of zichron – remembering our ancestors. And from where we came.
1973.008.001 Collage of Galitzianer gravestones (1903) from Gruft family collection. Artist unknown.]
The value of learning, teaching and celebrating our many-faceted history becomes more apparent when we consider how often in history that the Jewish people have faced extreme adversity. Even if our immigrant-ancestors lived a life of obscurity, toiling in the moderate Garment Industry of Jonestown or peddling as an arabisher, there is eternal value to our interest, care and memory of them. We need the Eternal One’s eyes to perceive the value of Jewish history.
1997.149.003 Button sewing machine (1930s), made by Singer, from D. Schwartz and Sons Garment Machinery Co., of Baltimore Street and later, Gay Street.
A blog post by Collections Volunteer Robert Siegel. To read more posts by and about JMM volunteers, click here.
Posted on December 3rd, 2013 by Rachel
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 Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or email@example.com.
Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: July 5, 2013
PastPerfect Accession #: 1985.058.041
Status: Identified! Seated Left to Right: 1. Reuben Livov 2. Samuel Neistadt 3. 4. Doris Weikers Kahn Standing Left to Right: 1. Hyman Winnik 2. Carl Friedler 3. Jacob Jaffe 4. Isaac H. Taylor
Special Thanks To: Susan Weikers Balaban, Fay Adler, Dorothy Livov, Barbie (Livov) Weiss, Ronald Taylor. Richard Taylor, Deborah Taylor, Bruce Taylor, Ellen Friedler Eisenstadt, Norma Wollod
Posted on December 2nd, 2013 by Rachel
Dear Abby is at it again!
My dear friend, “S” has put himself into a bit of a pickle. He has a reputation for being a know-it-all, and now he’s made an ill-advised bet with his archenemy (let’s just call him “M”) that he knows everything about the Jewish Museum of Maryland. He even wagered his prized violin! There’s only one problem: “S” has never been to the JMM! Obviously, he needs to visit the museum as soon as possible. When is the soonest that he can go on a tour? Do your tours cover the whole museum? Another potential problem is that “S” has lived a long, full live, and his knees just aren’t what they used to be, so he is not comfortable using stairs—even with railings. Will this be a problem?
Dear Dr. W.,
A wager is very serious business, so I will try to do everything I can to help your friend learn what he needs to know in order to keep his violin! First of all, we offer five tours a day, Sunday through Thursday, so there are plenty of opportunities for “S” to go on a tour. These tours go out at 11:00am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm, and 4:00pm. I would recommend that he come for the tours earlier than 3:00pm because the 3:00pm tour talks more about the Civil War than about the history of the synagogues, and the 4:00pm tour is abbreviated because we have to close up the synagogues at 4:30pm. For future reference, you can always find our tour schedule on our website, here: http://jewishmuseummd.org/visiting/.
The tours do not cover the entire museum. They only cover the two synagogues—Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel Synagogue. The exhibits inside the museum, and in the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, are all self-guided.
Unfortunately, while the main museum building is handicap accessible, both synagogues require our visitors to climb a lot of stairs, and because they are historic buildings, it’s very difficult to install ramps or elevators that still comply with the historic trust’s rules. Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll have a solution to the problem of ensuring access while preserving the historic character of these buildings, but for the time being, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.
Generally, I assume that each visitor knows his or her own abilities best, but if “S” is uncomfortable with stairs, even when they have railings (as ours do), then he will not be able to see the sanctuaries of the synagogues…in person. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t go on a tour! Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we have a DVD version of the synagogues tour that we can set up in as little as five minutes! If “S” asks for it at the front desk, we will have him set up in no time at all.
Have a question of your own for Abby? Click HERE to email her! Make sure to put “Dear Abby” in the subject line!