Once Upon a Time…07.01.2016

Posted on March 28th, 2017 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 by email at jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

 

1995013062Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  July 1, 2016

 

PastPerfect Accession #:  1995.013.062

 

Status: Unidentified! Are you related to this unidentified family? They had their portrait taken at Shulman Studios, Baltimore, circa 1900.

 

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Processions, Debates and Curbstone Encounters: The Struggle over Kosher Meat in Baltimore, 1897 – 1918 Pt. 7

Posted on March 27th, 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 VII: A Continuing Struggle

Missed parts 1 – 6? Start here.

Brotman Meat Market and Poultry, 1119 E. Lombard Street, c. 1923. From left to right: unidentified, Sarah Schneiderman Brotman, and Hyman Brotman. Brotman Meat Market and Poultry was owned by Hyman, Isaac (Itzhak) and Milton Brotman. JMM 2011.47.1

Brotman Meat Market and Poultry, 1119 E. Lombard Street, c. 1923. From left to right: unidentified, Sarah Schneiderman Brotman, and Hyman Brotman. Brotman Meat Market and Poultry was owned by Hyman, Isaac (Itzhak) and Milton Brotman. JMM 2011.47.1

Despite extensive newspaper coverage of the issues involved, we have no record as to the outcome of the 1910 Kosher Meat War in Baltimore, What we do know is that contention among consumers, retailers, wholesalers, and the rabbinate continued to fester in subsequent years, both in Baltimore and in other Jewish communities.[1]

In May 1918, the retail butchers announced a four-cent a pound rise in prices, effective immediately. Their rationale: rises in the cost of wholesale meat, plus sharp increases in other operating expenses such as ice, wrapping paper, and knife-sharpening. To pressure their customers and to emphasize their determination raise prices, the retail butchers declared a week-long boycott on kosher meat.[2]

The response of Jewish housewives was swift and predictable. They expressed outrage at the “exorbitant price for meat. It is beyond reason, they argued, and we do not propose to make the butchers rich in a little time.” Ten days later, on June 9, the Baltimore Sun reported “Kosher Riots Again.” A thousand women and men demonstrating at the Consolidated Beef and Provision Company, a leading meat wholesaler owned by Wolf Salganik, rushed the plant, leading to the arrests of six women and two men.[3]

The butchers and their customers reached an agreement on a price list that was “said to have the sanction of the wartime U.S. Food Administrator.” But the housewives were indignant that the new prices were for meat with the bone still in, while their understanding was that the price would be for meat with bone cut out. A mass meeting was helo in June 13 and a new meat strike was called. Several labor organizations, including the Amalgamated Garment Workers, the International Ladies Garment Workers, and the Cap Makers, came out in support of the strikers.[4]

The Jewish Comment noted that behind the wholesalers’ decision to raise their prices was a demand from the shochets for increases in their salaries. The wholesale butchers then claimed that this demand forced a rise in price to retailers and, in turn, to consumers. Meanwhile, in a struggle with a struggle, representatives of the Independent Hebrew Butchers Association, representing 150 retail butchers, descended on the store of Asa Goldman, who they alleged was selling meat at prices below those established by the Association, and emptied his refrigerator.[5]

Because America was now a participant in the World War, a new player entered the scene – the Federal Government. The United States Food Administration (USFA) was made responsible for “production, manufacture, procurement, storage, distribution, sale marketing, pledging, financing, and consumption” of foods essential to the war effort. The USFA regulated the supply, distribution, and conservation of foods (for example, promoting “Meatless Mondays”), promising a “fair price” to farmers, while furthering the war effort and preventing food shortages at home.

A hearing was held by the local Federal Food Administrator at which wholesalers, retail butchers, and consumers were able to testify, and an agreement was quickly announced. The agreement established a price list, increased the cost of kosher meat to consumers, and limited the kosher butchers to a profit ceiling of 25 percent. But the resumption of multi-dimensioned hostilities speaks to the importance of the issues and the long complicated struggles that underlay twenty years of contention over a basic – and symbolic – necessity of life.[6]

Continue to Part VIII: Memory and Meaning

Notes:

[1] See, for example, “Kosher Meat Case in Court,” Baltimore Sun, 4 June 1911, p. 9 and “To Boykott Kosher Shops,” Baltimore Sun, 26 February 1917, p. 2.

[2] “Kosher Meat Higher,” Baltimore Sun, 29 May 1918, p. 14.

[3] “Kosher Riots Again,” Baltimore Sum, 9 June 1918, p. 16. “Fined for Kosher Meat Riot,” Baltimore Sun, 10 June 1918, p. 5.

[4] “Kosher Again in Limelight,” Baltimore Sun, 14 June 1918, p. 16.

[5] “Baltimore Jews Abstain From Meat,” Jewish Comment, 14 June 1918, p. 263. “Kosher Butcher Acquitted,” Baltimore Sun, 20 June 1918, p. 16.

[6] “Agreement on Kosher Meat,” Baltimore Sun, 13 June 1918 p. 16. “Baltimore Jews Abstain From Meat.”

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Great Lessons from Humble Places

Posted on March 24th, 2017 by

Have you noticed our obsession with top ten lists?  Our tendency to pay attention to something when it’s the first, or the newest, or the largest?

Museums have a long pedigree in displaying the rare and exceptional, but there is an inherent distortion of history in an exclusive focus on the “most important.”  In the 21st century, in an era of shared authority between visitor and curator, we need to re-learn the art of elevating the ordinary – of making the lives of everyday folks as compelling as the extraordinary.

On the recent trip to the Council of American Jewish Museums conference in Massachusetts, I found two institutions doing just that.  Neither would describe itself as a “museum” per se, but both are worthy of a visit.

Entering Vilna Shul

Entering Vilna Shul

The first was the Vilna Shul in Boston.  Built in 1919, the Vilna Shul (or as its original sign says in a Boston accent – the “Vilner Congregation”) is not the oldest, nor the largest, nor the most beautiful religious space by any stretch of the imagination.  It is rather the last remaining synagogue of the great wave of Eastern European migration to Boston’s West End (out of twenty or more than once were there).  Like our own Lloyd Street Synagogue the Vilna Shul was rescued from a city plan to tear it down and put in a parking lot.

Vilna's stained glass window

Vilna’s stained glass window

The architecture is a pastiche – a little Georgian, a little Romanesque, a little Eastern European folk.  It’s most notable feature is its huge stained glass Star of David, unambiguously facing the street.  The interior has some elements in common with LSS, including chandeliers purchased from a neighboring church.  But also some things I would never associate with a synagogue of this period – huge skylights, and in lieu of a balcony, a women’s section set up like a raked theater.  The Shul has literally pealed back the layers of paint to reveal its historic stenciling.

Skylight

Skylight

There is no golden age of the Vilna Shul.  As our guide pointed out, even by the time this was built, the Jewish community had begun to move elsewhere.  Yet this humble congregation offers a glimpse into Jewish immigrant life that is every bit as important and interesting as the most magnificent temple designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Yiddish Book Center

The Yiddish Book Center

The second non-museum on my “must visit” list is the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. Walking up to the building, the architecture already builds expectations – after all, how many American buildings are designed to resemble a shtetl?  The Yiddish Book Center takes “humble” to a whole new level… it’s logo is a goat, the same goat that we celebrate in Had Gadya each Passover, the gentle goat of the Yiddish lullaby Oyfn Pripetchik.  The exhibits do not exist in great galleries but rather mostly meander through the stacks of thousands of books.

Sharing one of the Yiddish newspapers in the collection.

Sharing one of the Yiddish newspapers in the collection.

 

The exhibits and tours don’t try to claim that Yiddish is the most influential language – noting that only 39,000 books were printed in Yiddish in the century in which Yiddish books were being printed.  Instead the focus is on the history embedded in the language.  A Yiddish linotype machine and cases of type are used to illustrate the intersection of technology and language.  A giant story book encasing a video screen connects themes in Yiddish literature to contemporary movies and plays.

Check out that address

Check out that address

Perhaps most intriguing they have a crate on display.  There is nothing terribly special about the crate except the shipped-from address.  The shipped-from address is Zimbabwe and suddenly the crate becomes a vehicle for telling the incredible story of books that escaped with their owner from Lithuania to Shanghai before the Holocaust and from Shanghai to Zimbabwe after WWII and from Zimbabwe to Amherst, MA in the 1990s (with duplicates returned to the Jewish community in Lithuania).  An otherwise ordinary crate turns into a ride through modern Jewish history.

What a fun "madlibs" style interactive!

What a fun “madlibs” style interactive!

It’s definitely worth the extra mile if you find yourself in New England.  If it provides an incentive, know that it is on my “top ten” list of Jewish sites to visit, and I say that in all humility.

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

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