The latest edition of our Generations magazine arrived from the printer yesterday. It looks great—I love the reddish-purple color. The theme of the issue is “The Search for Social Justice,” as seen through the lens of the Jewish experience in Maryland.
Our “annual” magazine has grown into somewhat of a monster in recent years, in fact it got so large that we’ve only managed to get it out every other year. So this is the 2009-2010 edition, a special double issue in honor of our 50th anniversary (which was in 2010). It’s our largest Generations yet, coming in at 175 pages. In other words, it’s more like a full-length book with lots of pictures. But the price remains $10, a real bargain.
Not only is this issue our largest, but it could be our best Generations to date. The articles cover a wide range of subjects, from slavery (19th-century Baltimore rabbis denouncing or defending it) to the modern Jewish environmental movement (with a look at Baltimore’s own Kayam Farm). There are articles that you’d expect to see in an issue about Jews and social justice (on Baltimore garment union leaders and local Jews involved in the civil rights movement), but we’re also featuring some unexpected stories.
For example, there’s the story of Dr. Jacob Morgenstern, who fled Nazi Europe with his wife and daughter, and ended up as the head of Crownsville State Hospital, Maryland’s institution for mentally-ill African Americans during the segregation era. Morgenstern tried hard to improve conditions at the severely underfunded hospital. He integrated the staff years before such places were forced to do so by law. He also worked with the NAACP and other African American groups to advocate for the hospital and increase volunteerism.
In addition to unearthing Morgenstern’s little-known tale, we shed light on a topic that used make headlines, but now is long forgotten. During the McCarthy era, newspapers reported in detail on the hearings and trials that resulted in the blacklisting or jailing of homegrown Communists, many of whom were Jewish. We revisit that controversial time with an article on the motivations of Baltimore Jewish Communists and the price they paid for their activism.
In both cases, we offer a very personal glimpse of the subject: Dr. Morgenstern’s daughter Doris graciously allowed us to excerpt her memoir of growing up at Crownsville, while author Len Helfgott’s mother was a member of the Baltimore Communist Party. This is one of my favorite things about Generations. While we strive to present accurate history, we also try to find approaches that resonate emotionally and offer more than “just the facts.”
A third unexpected story involves a conflict that emerged between male and female leaders of Baltimore Jewish charities in the 1890s. Author Caroline Young Friedman has dug into the JMM archives to uncover how gender issues shaped communal politics, all those years ago. And that’s another thing we like to do here: provide an opportunity for scholars to do real, cutting edge history using the rich materials of the past, contained right here in the museum’s basement.