Bedlam with Corned Beef on the Side: The Jewish Delicatessen in Baltimore Pt. 5

Posted on April 17th, 2017 by

Written by Barry Kessler. Originally published in Generations 1993, reprinted in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways.

Part V: Heyshe Cohen and a Place to Sit

Miss parts 1 – 4? Start here.

Harry Cohen’s delicatessen in East Baltimore (1400 block of E. Baltimore Street), 1919. Gift of Sidney Cohen, JMM 1988.132.1

Harry Cohen’s delicatessen in East Baltimore (1400 block of E. Baltimore Street), 1919. Gift of Sidney Cohen, JMM 1988.132.1

The earliest Baltimore delicatessen for which a full history can be given is that of Harry E. Cohen, who purchased the shop at 1427 East Baltimore Street from Kalman Lapides in 1919. Harry, or Heyshe as his friends called him in Yiddish, came to Baltimore at age 16, around 1906, with his brother Sam. His parents were petty tradespeople who sold various wares and foodstuffs in a village square in the Russian provice of Chernigov. Harry first worked at Schloss Brothers as a buttonhole-maker and presser. In 1913 he married Sarah Kaplansky, just off the boat from Novozybkov, Russia, and they had three children.

By 1919 the Cohens had saved enough money to purchase the little delicatessen. They lived above the shop and Mrs. Cohen took in boarders and laundry to make ends meet. She also waited on customers and prepared noodle kugel, potato latkes, knishes, and challah for sale. According to his son, most of Cohen’s business was takeout – the bagging of a “few pennies’ worth” of bread and meat with a dollop of mustard in a paper cone for workingmen’s lunches.[1] The meats were corned beef, pickled for thiry days in barrels of brine, as well as rolled spiced beef, rollade (meat roll), and hard and soft salamis. Other specialties were sauerkraut and pickled onions, cucumbers and green tomatoes.

Cohen claimed in a 1963 reminiscence to have been the first delicatessen in Baltimore to provide a place for people to sit and eat inside the shop.[2] The little wooden bench was soon filled at all times of day with customers who congregated to exchange news over sandwiches and snacks. Many came to discuss, in Yiddish with bits of English, the politics of the Arbeiter Ring [Workmen’s Circle], with Cohen and his friend Henry Turk, the managing editor of the Baltimore office of the Yiddish newspaper Forverts. Indeed, a photograph of the shop, probably taken in the 1920s, shows the bench and a chair squeezed along one wall, across from a counter and rows of shelves stacks with provisions, mostly bottled or canned.

For a time, Harry Cohen lived in Washington, DC, but he had the misfortune to select a location on Park and Georgia Avenues where the first self-service Giant supermarket was to open. Competition from the discount grocery drove him back to Baltimore, where the Cohens became proprietors of the Sanitary Delicatessen on North Avenue near Linden. From the 1960s to 1982 the family operated the Suburban House Restaurant on Reisterstown Road.

Harry Cohen’s little bench was a transitional stage, presaging the arrival of the full-blown delicatessen restaurant. In Europe, village taverns and city restaurants owned by Jews served delicatessen foods, but there was no precedent for the bounteous counter, laden with specialty groceries, meats, and fish, at which one could buy sandwiches, soups, and whole meals to take out or eat on the premises. Yet this formula would be elaborated with great success as a uniquely American Jewish phenomenon and would take its place as a new type of ethnic restaurant.

Continue to Part VI: The Full-Scale Delicatessen Restaurant

Notes:

[1] Telephone interview with Sidney Cohen {December 1992).

[2] Harry E. Cohen, “I Remember….Specialties of an Early Delicatessen,” Baltimore Sun, April 21, 1963, magazine, p. 2.

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Living History and Beyond!

Posted on April 14th, 2017 by

Over the past 14 years, the Jewish Museum of Maryland has developed significant expertise in the creation of compelling living history characters, along with a national reputation for excellence in this medium.  In consultation with a team of professional historians, script writers, directors and actors, we have created historical performances based on extensive research.  These performances illuminate key themes about American Jewish history in an accessible and personal manner.  These interactive  performances incorporate reproductions of artifacts, photographs, and documents from the JMM collections.

Our first four living history characters

The JMM has created five living history characters, Ida Rehr, a Ukrainian immigrant who worked in the garment industry; Saul Bernstein, a Lithuanian peddler who became a professional artist;  Bessie Bluefeld, a Russian immigrant who started a renowned catering business;  and Mendes I. Cohen, veteran of the Battle of Baltimore, businessman, and Jewish adventurer.  Our latest character is Henrietta Szold, daughter of Rabbi Benjamin Szold and born in Baltimore in 1860, who premiered in September, 2016.  All five characters have performed around the region for students and adult audiences alike.

Natalie Pilcher with students from Western High School

A few weeks ago, the Henrietta Szold Living History character performed at Western High School in Baltimore City.  The education staff contacted the administration at the school about the possibility of having a performance at the school. Henrietta Szold graduated from Western Female High School in 1877 and in 1901 she became the first president of the Western High Alumni. There is a plaque in the school’s library that bears Szold’s name.

At the school-wide assembly over 960 students and teachers were in attendance. Following the performance, the students asked many questions to the actress that portrays Henrietta, Natalie Pilcher. The students were especially interested in learning about how she prepared for the Henrietta Szold role, and how she teaches acting and performance to area students throughout Baltimore City.

Following the successful Henrietta Szold living performance at Western High School, we started to think about the impact that all of our living history characters and performances have had on the community over the years. We examined our attendance statistics from FY14 to the present, and were quite pleased to see the reach that our living history characters have had on the community. I am certain you will also be quite impressed!

Ida Rehr
Over the past 12 years, the actress Katherine Lyons has engaged school groups with her wonderful portrayal of Ukrainian immigrant Ida Rehr.  Since July 1, 2013 she has given 42 performances –to over 1864 audience members. (1,769 students/teachers and 95 attendees from adult groups)

Katherine Lyons as Ida Rehr

Mendes I. Cohen
Over the past 3 years, actor Grant Cloyd has engaged school and adult groups with his portrayal of Colonel Mendes I. Cohen.  Since July 1, 2013 he has given 20 performances as Mendes to over 890 audience members. (371 students/teachers and 519 attendees from adult groups)

Grant Cloyd as Colonel Mendes I. Cohen

Bessie Bluefeld
Over the past 4 years, actress Terry Nicholetti has engaged adult groups with her wonderful portrayal of Bessie Bluefeld.  Since July 1, 2013 she has given 10 performances. (437 adult audience members)

Terry Nicholetti as Bessie Bluefeld

Henrietta Szold
Over the past 7 months, actor Natalie Pilcher has engaged school and adult groups with her portrayal of Henrietta Szold.  Since her debut she has given 13 performances to 1,737 audience members. (1,447 students/teachers and 290 attendees from adult groups)

Natalie Pilcher as Henrietta Szold standing next to her namesake.

The Henrietta Szold Living History Character was made possible through the generous support of the Kolker-Saxon-Hallock Family Foundation, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Educational opportunities were made possible by the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund of The Associated.

With all of the numbers combined our living history characters have performed a total number of 85 performances, seen by 4,928 audience members throughout the region since July 2013! By the end of this school year, it is highly likely that our living history program we will reach more than 5,000 audience members and beyond!

Our Living History Program performances are available for schools, public and private events and can take place at the Museum or outside venues.  To schedule a Living History performance or to learn more, please contact Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator, ghumphrey@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443.873.5167.

~Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education

ileneA blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

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Sinai Hospital: A Treasure Trove of Photos

Posted on April 13th, 2017 by

The trove of photos donated to the JMM by the Baltimore Jewish Times is enormous. For the past several months, archives volunteer extraordinaire Marvin Specter has been scanning the images and making them viewable in our collections database, giving access to the images to researchers everywhere -including the JMM staff.

Marvin recently brought me a large folder of photos of Sinai Hospital—images I had not known about while preparing our Beyond Chicken Soup exhibition. I hope you will enjoy this small selection from the folder as much as I did. And please let us know if you are able to name any of the identified people shown in these photos! Email kfalk@jewishmuseummd.org.

Doctors and nurses who covered heads and faces, gloved their hands, draped pristine linens on their patients, and tossed used instruments into sterilized enameled basins marked the up-to-date- surgical procedures at the Hebrew Hospital and Asylum, c. 1920. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.017.

Doctors and nurses who covered heads and faces, gloved their hands, draped pristine linens on their patients, and tossed used instruments into sterilized enameled basins marked the up-to-date- surgical procedures at the Hebrew Hospital and Asylum, c. 1920. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.017.

This photo by Craig Terkowitz for the Baltimore Jewish Times, identified in the collection only as “generic hospital shot,” was probably taken in the early 1990s. It makes a nice contrast with the one above. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.021.

This photo by Craig Terkowitz for the Baltimore Jewish Times, identified in the collection only as “generic hospital shot,” was probably taken in the early 1990s. It makes a nice contrast with the one above. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.021.

This long line of Cadillac ambulances ferried patients from Sinai Hospital on Monument Street to the newly built hospital on Belvedere Avenue in 1959. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.015.

This long line of Cadillac ambulances ferried patients from Sinai Hospital on Monument Street to the newly built hospital on Belvedere Avenue in 1959. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.015.

This photo describes the nurses’ station as the “headquarters” of the emergency room at Sinai Hospital in 1996. L-R, Dr. Fred Sunness and Dr. Tariq Khan. J. Hwang, photographer. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.024.

This photo describes the nurses’ station as the “headquarters” of the emergency room at Sinai Hospital in 1996. L-R, Dr. Fred Sunness and Dr. Tariq Khan. J. Hwang, photographer. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.024.

Community volunteers have long filled many important roles in the work of hospitals. Here, Joshua Reiter entertains a patient in Sinai’s pediatric ward on “Straight from the Heart Day,” 1997. Kyle Bergner, photographer. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.30.

Community volunteers have long filled many important roles in the work of hospitals. Here, Joshua Reiter entertains a patient in Sinai’s pediatric ward on “Straight from the Heart Day,” 1997. Kyle Bergner, photographer. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.30.

Rose Birenbaum and David Weinstock stand in line at Sinai’s kosher café, new when this photo was taken in 1994. Craig Terkowitz, photographer. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.056.

Rose Birenbaum and David Weinstock stand in line at Sinai’s kosher café, new when this photo was taken in 1994. Craig Terkowitz, photographer. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.056.

While on Monument Street, Sinai Hospital’s gift shop was tucked under the stairs and staffed by white uniformed volunteers. Photo c. 1940, Sussman-Ochs Studio. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, CP 14.2015.002.

While on Monument Street, Sinai Hospital’s gift shop was tucked under the stairs and staffed by white uniformed volunteers. Photo c. 1940, Sussman-Ochs Studio. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, CP 14.2015.002.

Much enlarged in its suburban location, the gift shop was still staffed by the women of the Sinai Ladies Auxiliary, shown here in 1998. L-R: Pamela Platt, Beverly Epstein, Linda Smith, Elaine Lowen, Ann Robinson, and Debbie Effron. Kyle Bergner, photographer. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.059.

Much enlarged in its suburban location, the gift shop was still staffed by the women of the Sinai Ladies Auxiliary, shown here in 1998. L-R: Pamela Platt, Beverly Epstein, Linda Smith, Elaine Lowen, Ann Robinson, and Debbie Effron. Kyle Bergner, photographer. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times, 2012.054.351.059.

karenA blog post by Curator Karen Falk. To read more posts from Karen click HERE. This post has also been published on the Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America website.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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