The Dancing Schools of Baltimore’s Jewish Society Part 1

Posted on February 5th, 2018 by

generations 2004 copyArticle by Gil Sandler. Originally published in Generations – 2004: Recreation, Sports & Leisure. This particular issue of Generations proved wildly popular and is no longer available for purchase.

 Part I: Learning the Foxtrot

“Boys and girls, we will now learn the foxtrot. Put your left foot out … take your right foot and put it alongside your left …”

It is Saturday afternoon in 1942; we are on the second floor of 6 West Eager Street, north side, just west of Charles Street. The site is now a parking lot – directly across from what today is the Hippo Club. About 20 well-scrubbed and well-dressed young people are standing in a circle gathered around the speaker, and listening in rapt attention; a record is playing Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade.” The speaker, who is in fact the instructor, is Aileen Straus, and together with her partner Bea Goodhart, they are teaching social dancing to the children of the families who make up Baltimore’s Jewish patrician class and those that aspire to belong to it. In this pre-fifties era, some mastery of social dancing is thought to be a requirement for those young people who expect to take their place in the Jewish social circle prescribed for them by their parents.

Bennard Perlman, at age 13 in 1942, is one of the boys in the circle, and he is trying his very best to follow Ms. Straus’s instructions – without too much success. “I had to think a lot about what I was doing,” he recalls. “Here I was, an accelerated honor student in School #49, and I am having trouble learning how to put one foot in front of the other in time to ‘Moonlight Serenade.’ I attended dance class from the time I was 12 until I was 14 – when I was a freshman at City College. We first learned the fox trot, then the waltz, and so help me, jitterbugging. As we progressed, we moved from Saturday afternoon to Friday night, then, for those of us who had hung in, Saturday night – the big night!”

“In order to get all of the guys and all of the girls involved – so that nobody would be a wallflower – our teachers created the ‘shoe dance.” Each of the girls was asked to take off one shoe and place it in the center of the floor. The guys were then asked to pick up one of the shoes and then go find its mate – on one of the girls. When you found your shoe’s mate, you found your next dance!”

“In my class were, among others, Jill ROten Myers, Liz Kohn Moser, Ellen Levi Zamoiski, Jane White Markle, Dona Coplin, Midge Kaufman, David Blum and Margie Blum Jaffe, Eugene Schreiber, Bobby Rappaport, Disney Offit, Richard Millhaiser, and Babs Grinsfelder.”

Walter Sondheim’s may be the oldest memory of Baltimore’s Jewish dancing classes. “It was called ‘Mr. Tuttle’s,” he recalls. “And in the years I went there, from about 1918 to 1920, it was located on the south side of North Avenue, just east of Charles Street, on the second floor. All of the kids in the class were from Park School. What I remember most is that we were taught the proper way to bow to the girls, on being introduced. I seem to remember a rhythm – one, two, three, four, slide…something like that. I think we all were sent to dancing school because our parents in that social circle thought it was the right thing to do. Given their aspirations for us, I guess it was.”

“Dancing school” for the teen children of Jewish Baltimore’s patrician class, and those aspiring to becoming members of it, traces its origins to Baltimore’s German Jewish community of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, when that population unapologetically embraced the structure of the across-town Protestant society. Barred from joining it, they simply imitated.

Detail from an 1866 color lithograoh depicting “The Masquerade Ball of the Harmony Circle.” Gift of Mrs. Albert N. Bacharach, JMM 1990.44.1.

Detail from an 1866 color lithograoh depicting “The Masquerade Ball of the Harmony Circle.” Gift of Mrs. Albert N. Bacharach, JMM 1990.44.1.

The first dancing school for the children of Baltimore’s wealthy German Jews was founded in 1860. In October of that year, the school held its first dance for the children and their parents in Old Oak Hall on East Baltimore, and a tradition was born. Beginning with this first ball, the group adopted the name “Harmony Circle.” The ball, which became an annual event and the highlight of Jewish society’s social season, was an attempt to borrow from the cachet of the “Harmonie Club” in New York, which, beginning in the 1850s and at least for another century, was the most prestigious of the Herman Jewish New York social clubs.

Baltimore’s Harmony Circle would become not only a showcase for the dancing school students, but also for its debutante ball, where the daughters of the member families would “come out” and be introduced to the sons of the members. The founding officers of Baltimore’s Harmony Circle were Louis Hecht, Charles Brownold, Nathan Hirshberg, Charles G. Hutzler, and Bernard Behrens.

A grand dame of the patrician Jewish world, Mrs. Stanford (Marie) Rothschild, writing in a 1969 memoir, explained why she thought the German Jews of that time started their own dancing school and debutante balls: “When the old Baltimore German Jewish families had gained status, they thought it time to have formal status socially. Not being eligible for the Protestants’ Junior Assembly, they decided to have a similar set for what they thought were important Jewish families.” Although the Jewish debutante “coming out” parties were abandoned in the late 1930s as the German Jewish community refocused its attentions on the developing tragedy of German Jewry, the descendants of that founding generation stayed together, holding on to their inherited status as the “in crowd,” and perpetuating the customs and the ethos by which they wished to be defined.

These descendants of the founders became, loosely, a country within a country; its neighborhoods were Mr. Washington, Upper Park Heights, Eutaw Place, and Lake Drive; the doyennes ruled from the Esplanade and Emersonian apartments; its clubs, the Suburban and the Phoenix; its school, the Park School; its summer camps included Tapawingo and Trippe Lake for girls, Wigwam and Kennebec for boys; its fraternity, Pi Tau PI; its sorority, Sigma Omega Pi. The 13-year-old children, raised within the insular society and now being gently shepherded into the dancing schools, were well-choreographed to move gracefully along a velvet continuum – from cradle to a marriage to “one of us.”

Continue to Part II: Not Always Genteel

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Groundhog Predicts Seven More Weeks of Programs!

Posted on February 2nd, 2018 by

Museum Matters: February 2018

February 11 – March 25, 2018

Rumor has it that Punxsutawney Phil is expanding his repertoire beyond weather forecasting. Perhaps he’ll come out of the shadows to say something tomorrow about “edutainment” opportunities ahead. If he does, we feel certain that he’ll mention JMM Live! – a sure cure for your winter blues, no matter how long we are stuck in the cold.

Our programs of music, theater, film (with live director conversations) and author talks kicks off on Feb. 11th with Cantor Geller’s Yiddish Sing-A-Long and continues through March 25. It includes encounters with Jewish punk rock, Gertrude Stein and Henrietta Szold. Sorry Phil, no groundhogs, but we do have a “monkey,” a new documentary about the Jewish refugee couple who created Curious George.

We developed the concept for JMM Live! last summer when we “knew” that our Feldman Gallery would be dark in February and March as we transitioned between exhibits. But at the last minute, the Embassy of Israel offered us Beyond Duty, a panel exhibit on the diplomats from around the globe who struggled to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust. So if you’re looking for something new to do on a dreary day in February come see the light and the lively at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

~Marvin


Upcoming programs
All programs take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland unless otherwise noted. Please contact our Programs Manager at tattwood@jewishmuseummd.org / 443-873-5177 with any questions or for more information.

FEBRUARY & MARCH

Kicks Off February 11th!

Over the course of six weeks, our lobby will be transformed into a theatre as we host staged readings, living history dramatic shows, musical performances, movies and author talks that explore a variety of topics and genres – from Yiddish Theatre to punk – and are designed to appeal to visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

You can view all the programs in the JMM Live! series HERE.

FEBRUARY

02.11.2018

“Lomer Alle Zingen” Let’s Sing:
An Afternoon of Yiddish Song
Sunday, February 11th, 3:00pm
Presenter: Hazzan Sara Geller, B’nai Shalom of Olney
Get Tickets Now

02.15.2018

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
Thursday, February 15th, 7:00pm
Get Tickets Now

02.18.2018

Phoebe and Eubie: The Odd Couple
Sunday, February 18th, 1:00pm
Speaker: Hugh Wyatt, author
Get Tickets Now

02.25.2018

Ida Rehr
February 25 at 1 pm
Performer: Katherine Lyons
Get Tickets Now

02.25.2018

Maryland Premiere
Monkey Business:
The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators!

February 25 at 5 pm
Get Tickets Now


MARCH

03.04.2018

Hava Nashira: Songs and Stories
March 4 at 10 am – perfect for ages 5 and under!
March 4 at 11am – perfect for ages 8 and under!
Performer: Daveed Korup, musician and storyteller
Get Tickets Now

03.04.2018

Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! Jews and Punk
March 4 at 3 pm
Speaker: Michael Croland, author
Performer: Na Nach Oi! (featuring Yishai Romanoff)
Get Tickets Now

04.11.2018

A Night of Musical Theatre:
How Jewish composers impacted Broadway
March 11 at 5 pm
Performer: Sarah Baumgarten
Get Tickets Now

04.15.2018

Gertrude Stein and a Companion at the JMM
March 15 at 7 pm
In partnership with Fells Point Corner Theatre
Get Tickets Now

>>View the full JMM calendar of events here.<<

Also of Interest
The JMM is pleased to share our campus with B’nai Israel Congregation. For additional information about B’nai Israel events and services for Shabbat, please visit bnaiisraelcongregation.org.  For more of this month’s events from BIYA, please visit biyabaltimore.org or check out BIYA on Facebook.

Esther’s Place

It’s Super “Bowl” weekend and we’ve got the perfect bowl for every home! From kitschy to elegant to avant-garde, stop in to Esther’s Place and find your favorite.

Ongoing at the JMM

Exhibits

Exhibits on display include Beyond Duty: Diplomats Recognized as Righteous Among the Nations (opening Sunday, Feb. 4th), Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore, and The Synagogue Speaks.

Hours and Tour Times

Combination tours of the 1845 Lloyd Street Synagogue and the 1876 Synagogue Building now home to B’nai Israel are offered: Sunday through Thursday at 11:00am, 1:00pm and 2:00pm.

Click Here for complete hours and tour times

Membership

Make it official! Become a Member of the JMM.
Learn More about membership.
Already ready? Join Here.

Get Involved

The JMM is always looking for volunteers!
Click Here to learn more.

 

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Maryland Philanthropy and Israel: An Image Gallery Part 2

Posted on January 31st, 2018 by

generations 2007Written by Rachel Kassman. Originally published in Generations 2007-2008: Maryland and Israel. To order a print copy of the magazine, see details here.

Miss Part I? Start here.

State of Israel Bonds

State of Israel Bonds combine individual contributions into a communal effort with a single focus: Israel. Born of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s need to offset the heavy costs of the war in 1948, State of Israel Bonds were introduced at a meeting held in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel in September 1950. The bonds were meant to help fund immigrant absorption, to help construct a new national infrastructure, and to engage diaspora Jewry as active partners in building the new Jewish State. Maryland took up the task with enthusiasm, with groups like the Mercantile Club and numerous synagogues running campaigns and hosting dinners to support the State of Israel.

This publicity photo from 1951 features members of the Women’s Division meeting Israel’s Minister of Health, Dr. Joseph Burg. Dr. Burg was visiting Baltimore to help promote Israel Bonds. Also pictured are Captain Smolensk, captain of the Meir Dizengoff and Harry Diamond, Maryland’s Israel Bond Director. JMM 1989.80.21

This publicity photo from 1951 features members of the Women’s Division meeting Israel’s Minister of Health, Dr. Joseph Burg. Dr. Burg was visiting Baltimore to help promote Israel Bonds. Also pictured are Captain Smolensk, captain of the Meir Dizengoff and Harry Diamond, Maryland’s Israel Bond Director. JMM 1989.80.21

The Women’s Division Effort of Israel Bonds makes their appeal to fellow Maryland Jews by recalling the sacrifice of those involved in the Yom Kippur War. JMM 1994.21.27

The Women’s Division Effort of Israel Bonds makes their appeal to fellow Maryland Jews by recalling the sacrifice of those involved in the Yom Kippur War. JMM 1994.21.27

Governor Theodore McKeldin and Harry Diamond, Baltimore City Manager for the State of Israel Bond Sale, 1951. JMM 1989.80.4

Governor Theodore McKeldin and Harry Diamond, Baltimore City Manager for the State of Israel Bond Sale, 1951. JMM 1989.80.4

Organizational Support

Beyond individual support, Jewish Marylanders have worked together in many ways to support Israel. Organizations such as the Jewish Welfare Fund, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Independent Order Brith Sholom have used their membership to accomplish larger acts of tzedakah than could be accomplished through personal, isolated efforts, often turning their efforts towards Israel.

Organized in 1941, the Jewish Welfare Fund (JWF), which became the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund, sought to manage Baltimore Jewish fundraising for overseas efforts, especially those related to Israel. This sign, created by the Kershman sign-making company, encouraged Maryland Jews to aid Israel in the wake of violent outbreaks, such as the attack on the 1972 Israeli Olympic team. JMM 1995.156.3

Organized in 1941, the Jewish Welfare Fund (JWF), which became the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund, sought to manage Baltimore Jewish fundraising for overseas efforts, especially those related to Israel. This sign, created by the Kershman sign-making company, encouraged Maryland Jews to aid Israel in the wake of violent outbreaks, such as the attack on the 1972 Israeli Olympic team. JMM 1995.156.3

The Independent Order Brith Sholom (IOBS), a fraternal organization formed in 1902 in East Baltimore, was the first fraternal order to buy ambulances for the new state of Israel. It also helped supply money and material for the ship Exodus, helped fund settlement for Yemenite Jewish immigrants, and raised money to build the Brith Sholom of Baltimore Medical Center in Rishon L’Zion. Here, Grand Matron Kay Snyder and three unnamed men stand in front of a truck presented to the new state of Israel during the 46th Annual Convention of IOBS in Atlantic City, June 1948. JMM 1995.209.84.2

The Independent Order Brith Sholom (IOBS), a fraternal organization formed in 1902 in East Baltimore, was the first fraternal order to buy ambulances for the new state of Israel. It also helped supply money and material for the ship Exodus, helped fund settlement for Yemenite Jewish immigrants, and raised money to build the Brith Sholom of Baltimore Medical Center in Rishon L’Zion. Here, Grand Matron Kay Snyder and three unnamed men stand in front of a truck presented to the new state of Israel during the 46th Annual Convention of IOBS in Atlantic City, June 1948. JMM 1995.209.84.2

The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), founded in 1893, focuses on women’s issues, philanthropy, and community. In 1953 the NCJW began the “Ship-A-Box” program, sending toys, books and games to children overseas, especially to Jewish children in the immigrant settlements of Israel. Here Maryland Jewish youth help NCJW Annapolis Section leaders with the “Ship-A-Box” project, displaying dolls to be sent to Israel, c. 1985. Pictured are (top L to R): Sue Merrill, Section President Robin Sussman, Donna Berusch, Janice Singerman, George Gordon, Jane Cohen, and Tanya Peskin, (bottom L to R): Wade Berusch, Julie Merrill, and Bessie Gordon. JMM 2001.113.82

The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), founded in 1893, focuses on women’s issues, philanthropy, and community. In 1953 the NCJW began the “Ship-A-Box” program, sending toys, books and games to children overseas, especially to Jewish children in the immigrant settlements of Israel. Here Maryland Jewish youth help NCJW Annapolis Section leaders with the “Ship-A-Box” project, displaying dolls to be sent to Israel, c. 1985. Pictured are (top L to R): Sue Merrill, Section President Robin Sussman, Donna Berusch, Janice Singerman, George Gordon, Jane Cohen, and Tanya Peskin, (bottom L to R): Wade Berusch, Julie Merrill, and Bessie Gordon. JMM 2001.113.82

~THE END~

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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