A Story from the Archives: Is This Goldie?

Posted on October 22nd, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

In 1948 the United Jewish Appeal, with the help of numerous international organizations assisting in moving over 240,000 displaced Jews from D.P. Camps, France, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, North Africa, Shanghai, and other places to new lives in Israel, America, Canada, Australia and all over the world.

One of the vessels moving refugees was the USAT General Stewart that was originally used in 1946 to transport the troops home from Europe and Asia. By 1950 the General Stewart was being used to transport refugees for the International Refugee Organization, traveling from Bremerhaven Germany to New York and Halifax, Novia Scotia. Many of these refugees fleeing to the United States and Canada were Jewish.

On December 1, 1950 Abraham, Sonja and their 4-year-old daughter Goldie Friedman would board the USAT General Stewart in Germany with almost 1300 other refugees and twelve days later arrived in New York. Aaron and Sonia were the sole survivors of their families, their lives had been torn apart by the Nazi regime and after ten years of living in ghettos, concentration camps and as a displaced person they would be able to start a new life in the United States.

The Friedman’s were met by workers of the United Service for New Americans, part of the United Jewish Appeal, an organization that was supported by the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund in Baltimore. From the harbor the Friedman family boarded a train to Baltimore and were met by Mrs. Julian Adler, a representative of the Council of Jewish Women in Baltimore.

Above images from the 1949 Associated Jewish Charities scrapbook.

Sonia, Aaron and Goldie Friedman and Mrs. Julian Adler from the Council of Jewish Women in Baltimore, JMM 1996.063.041.

I learned about the Freidman’s in the 1950-1951 Associated scrapbook in the museum’s collection. The Friedman family would have an entire article written about them in the New American magazine distributed by the United Service for New Americans. The first article, ­Baltimore Opens Its Doors to a Newcomer was printed on December 29, 1950. The article starts with “The recently liberalized immigration law has resulted in a new flow of refugees to this country…. Baltimore is receiving an average of ten such families a month…Approximately $300,000 is spent annually by Associated agencies for its refugee aid program, a quarter of a million dollars of which is expanded by the Jewish Family and Children’s Bureau. The Story of the arrival of and adjustment of one family under the auspices of the JFCB, the Friedman’s, will be told pictorially as a regular weekly feature of the Jewish press.”

As I moved on the next page of the scrapbook something about the picture on the cover made me turn back the page, the names were so familiar. On a whim I took a picture of the article and texted it to my mother, “Is this Goldie?” After a few hours, my mother texted back, “YES!”

I couldn’t believe it, the little girl in the article was one of my mother’s closest friends. I had grown up my whole life knowing Goldie and her family, we took family trips together, my first time at Disney was with them. I had met her father as well and remembered him as the kind and sweet grandfather of my friend. Because of this I was able to find information in our HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) records on Goldie’s arrival to this country and her parents’ history.

At the museum we often get to help families find information on their history, sometimes it’s hit or miss but it’s always very gratifying when we can use our collection to help someone understand their past. And in case you were wondering I always take a peak to look for my own history as well. United Hebrew Charities Donor Booklet, 1915, JMM 1997.134.067.

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Volunteer Spotlight on Fran Banks!

Posted on October 3rd, 2018 by

Post by Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. Periodically we highlight one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, send an email to Wendy at wdavis@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443-873-5168! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

Fran Banks’ face lights up when she explains what she does as a volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Her current project is entering information about engagements and weddings announcements from the Jewish Times into the museum database.  She started with issues from 1928 and has progressed to the Second World War years.  Being a Baltimore native, she is familiar with many of the families mentioned in the Jewish Times and most weeks she reads announcements about people she knows personally.  The first week Fran worked on this project, she read an engagement announcement about her aunt and it was written by Fran’s grandparents.  What an engaging way to begin a project!

Of course, as one reads these various announcements, you can’t help but also read the ads adjacent to them.  Fran recalled seeing an advertisement for a venue “the Community Hall” noting soup to nuts meals for $1.25 per person.

The first project Fran worked on at JMM, about two years ago, was entering data from birth announcements kept by area midwives.  She found it interesting that the announcements also included the father’s occupation.  Fran was able to track how the father’s occupation changed as each family grew.  For example, one father was listed as a buttonhole maker when his first son was born, but by the 5th child, he was listed as a master tailor!  First–born sons usually had a name noted, but later-born children within the same family were frequently listed as boy 4, girl 7, etc.

Fran looked specifically at JMM for volunteer opportunities because she wanted to do something totally different than what she did for work. She stated, “I love seeing where small pieces of history fit into a larger picture, so what I’m doing suits me just fine. And I know that I’m entering data that someone will eventually use to find family, friends or get a sense of the Baltimore community.”

Before her 2013 retirement, Fran was an emergency room nurse at Sinai Hospital for 20 years and then she worked for the Baltimore County Department of Aging.  The Department of Aging job entailed home visits, identifying services and / or specific modifications needed to maintain people safely in their homes or to determine if an assistive living facility would be more appropriate.  Fran was amazed by many people she met and how well they were able to deal with issues related to aging and illness.

In addition to volunteering one day a week at JMM, Fran is engaged in many other activities.  She has been taking courses at CCBC on art history and English, is involved in weekly Torah study and a book group.  She is active in her synagogue, Temple Oheb Shalom. She keeps her hands busy doing needle crafts and she is one of the on-line citizen typists for the U.S. Archives.  She transcribed some records on Lee Harvey Oswald and Alger Hiss.  Additionally, she travels to Philadelphia with her husband as often as possible to visit with her son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

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You Should Update Your Headshot – 1910s Edition

Posted on August 30th, 2018 by

A blog post by Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

A large part of my research for “Fashion Statement,” from both primary and secondary sources, focuses on the issue of successful recognition of appropriate clothing: What is the ‘correct’ thing to wear for one’s gender, age, class, status, religion, and occupation? (Granted, how the ‘correct’ thing is decided, and by whom, is an important question… but we’ll set that aside for now.)  Wearing the right outfit at the right time helps to ensure we are treated with respect by those around us.

This is particularly true in the professional setting. “Imagine how unlikely you would be to engage the services of a professional who did not seem to embody the norms of his or her profession – for example a doctor who wore a chef’s hat and apron to the operating room?” writes Carrie Yang Costello, Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee[1]. Presenting yourself appropriately can have an enormous, even if sometimes unconscious, impact on those with the power to hire and fire you.

Take, for example, a mohel: charged with the performance of a key ritual, one with both spiritual and physical implications for the baby under his care. A mohel who shows up for the ceremony in inappropriate clothing might well be turned away as a bad deal, no matter the reputation, expertise, and equipment he brings with him.

Here are two bris certificates, from 1915 and 1918.  Each features a photograph of the mohel – and though they look quite different, it is the same man.

Bris certificate for Charles Hamburger, June 14, 1915. Gift of Charles Hamburger. JMM 1991.91.6

Bris certificate for Lester Posner, October 27, 1918. Gift of Rona Posner. JMM 2008.94.425

Abraham N. Abramowitz, “Practical Mohel,” was born in Mogilev (now in Belarus) in 1882; he came to the US in the early 1900s, settled in Baltimore by 1905, and became a US citizen in 1913.  According to family history, “he performed his first bris [in] 1906, on his son S. Morris Abramowitz, and his 7451st bris on his grandson, Irvin J. Abramowitz on November 1, 1925.”

The 1915 certificate shows a traditional-looking bearded fellow in a bowler hat and a good suit; not much distinguishes him – at least professionally – from any of the other bearded, bowler-hatted gentlemen of the early 20th century whose photos can be found in our collection.  The 1918 photo, just a few years later, tells a different story: the beard has been trimmed down to a mustache and goatee, he sports a natty bow tie along with his formal suit, and his tall kippah is a sign of his training and skill as well as his faith.

The change in Rev. Abramowitz’s appearance sometime around 1916, demonstrating his acculturation, was not only a personal matter – it was also a professional one. Like many men in this line of work, he included his likeness in advertisements and on his official bris certificates; thus, his Americanized, modernized look had implications for his career.  Both the early and late images were intended to convey competence and trustworthiness (not unlike any professional headshot today) as well as his religious training, encouraging people to choose his services. While we don’t know how his clientele reacted to the updated photo, since Abramowitz performed 7,968 circumcisions over the course of his life (he died in 1926), it would appear that the change was a success.


[1] “Changing Clothes: Gender Inequality and Professional Socialization,” NWSA Journal, Vol. 16 No. 2 (Summer 2004)

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