Over the fifty years that the Jewish Museum of Maryland has been in existence we have received a large number of materials related to Benjamin Szold and his descendents, which have been organized into three manuscript collections. Two of those collections (MS 37 and MS 38 the Henrietta Szold and Bertha Szold Levin Papers) are completely processed with finding aids and a third (MS 17 the Levin Family Papers) is having new materials added to it, and should be complete within a few weeks. The Szold family is pretty amazing – their activities had an impact, not only onBaltimoreJewish history, but on world Jewish history. My favorite part of these collections is the amazing number of letters. Each collection is full of letters written between siblings, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, and friends and acquaintances.
Rabbi Benjamin Szold (1829-1902)
Papers, n.d., 1846-1940
Jewish Museum of Maryland
ACCESS AND PROVENANCE
The Rabbi Benjamin Szold Papers were donated to the museum as accession 2004.076. The collection was reprocessed by Rebecca Levitan in the summer of 2007.
Access to the collection is partially restricted. Photocopied materials in the collection either do not belong to the Jewish Museum of Maryland, or have uncertain title. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual procedures.
Benjamin Szold was born in Nemiskert, Hungaryon November 15, 1829. He was the son of Chaile and Boruch Szold but was raised by his uncles after the deaths of his parents. He moved to Pressburg, Hungary to study at the Yeshiva. He later studied and worked in Vienna during the Revolution of 1848. He also tutored students while living and studying in Breslau (now Poland). On August 10, 1959 Benjamin married Sophia (Sophie) Schaar and the two moved to Baltimore, Maryland.
Szold came to the United States to take a job as Rabbi at Oheb Shalom Synagogue in Baltimore and rose to prominence in the coming years. He unsuccessfully lobbied President Abraham Lincoln to commute the execution order of a Jewish soldier during the American Civil War. He also served with the Baltimore Association for the Education and Moral Improvement of the Colored People at the war’s end.
Rabbi Szold modernized the practices of his congregation. He eventually delivered sermons in English rather than German, he eliminated the requirement for head coverings in the synagogue, and he introduced family pews. Szold’s writings also brought fame to his tenure. His interpretation of The Book of Job, published in 1886, was studied throughout the United States and Europe.
Benjamin and Sophie had five daughters. Henrietta was born on December 21, 1860 (died 1945), followed by Estella and Rebecca who died in infancy, Rachel born in November of 1865 (died 1926), Sara/Sadie on February 14, 1868 (died 1893), Johanna born in 1871 (died 1875), Bertha born in 1873 (died 1958), and Adele born in 1876 (died 1940). Henrietta Szold, his first daughter, later achieved fame as a prominent Zionist and founder of the Youth Aliyah & Hadassah movements. Rabbi Benjamin Szold died in Berkeley Springs,WV on July 31, 1902.
SCOPE AND CONTENT
The Rabbi Benjamin Szold Papers consists of five series: Series I. Correspondence, Series II. Sermons & Speeches, Series III. Newspaper Clippings, Series IV. Sophie Szold Papers, and Series V. Miscellaneous Articles. Some of the papers in the collection are photocopies of documents belonging to other institutions. Series I. Correspondence are between Rabbi Szold and other theologians, as well as his family. The letters are in various languages. He wrote in Hungarian, German, Yiddish and English. Series II. Sermons & Speeches are from throughout Rabbi Szold’s career in Europe and the United States. Series III. Newspaper Clippings are from both the United States and Europe. The Clippings are printed in a variety of languages. Series IV. Sophie Szold Papers include letters, the majority of which were written by her daughter Bertha Szold during her time at Bryn Mawr College to Sophie and the rest of the family. Other letters include siblings and in-laws writing to Sophie and Ben from Germany, and a few letters written by Sophie to various people. The folder titles reflect descriptions of the majority of the correspondence within although individual letters from other family and friends might be included. The collection includes other materials related to Sophie’s life and estate. Although the letters are separated by year they are not organized chronologically within the folders. Some of the letters written in German have been translated or synopsized. Series V: Miscellaneous Articles consists of articles related to Zionism, etc., but mostly from after the death of Benjamin Szold.