Working with the Har Sinai Collection

Posted on July 15th, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM intern Mallory Connaughton. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

Within the past few weeks since my last blog post, I have started a new project. I’ve started working with the Har Sinai Collection. This collection houses many aspects of Har Sinai and it’s community. It includes artefacts and manuscripts from not just the Har Sinai congregation, but also the Har Sinai brotherhood and sisterhood, the board, clergy, and cemetery, as well as many others.

The Har Sinai Congregation, Bolton Street Temple. JMM 1985.90.1.

Processing a collection involves going through a series of related documents (which is the collection) and creating a list of everything involved by grouping together like topics and creating new folders/condensing folders. The goal is to make the collection more organized and easier to find and reference. As we work with collections regularly, having it be well organized is important as it not only helps those of us working directly within the archives, but it can also help us answer guest’s questions easier as we know where and what everything is.

I have done processing before this summer. At a previous internship, I fully processed a collection for the first time. And at JMM, I had processed a collection earlier in my internship. But with the Har Sinai collection, we are re-processing the collection. The Har Sinai congregation had already been processed once before, but the finding aid we use to navigate the collection was disjointed and didn’t properly list what was actually in the collection. The other collections intern, Elana, and I went through the various boxes of the collection and re-processed everything.

Banner from the Har Sinai Website. Credit:

Processing takes a while, having to go through every piece of paper and image one by one. Then having to organize each and every item into separate folders, label the folders, then group them into the organized boxes that make sense. Re-processing is similar, going through each file. Elana and I took time, going through each file and writing down a list of what we found in there, panning on updating the finding aid.

From there we went through and separated out everything by original folder, creating a spreadsheet with the folder and everything actually found within it. Then we are reorganizing each folder into groupings that make sense, then re-labeling boxes. The final thing we will do is updating the finding aid but the new boxes, the folders within them and what is in each folder.

While this may not be for everyone. I found it to be very interesting. I didn’t know anything about Har Sinai before this, and I’ve learned so much about the community and members connected to Har Sinai.

The collection houses folders upon folders of correspondence, ranging from personal letters, letters between congregation members, posters for events, financial records, and business correspondence. As someone who knew nothing about Har Sinai before this, being able to sort through all of the documents, seeing how they talked about events and planning, provided me with a perspective I hadn’t previously had, and allowed me to understand Har Sinai at a deeper level.

Yet the collection isn’t all correspondence. There are programs for events, transcripts of sermons given by several different Rabbis, music for the congregation (including parody songs sung at events), yearbooks from the religious school tied to Har Sinai and even a scrapbook from the Har Sinai sisterhood.

While reading through the various correspondence and events bulletins provided me with knowledge towards Har Sinai that I hadn’t known, I found the yearbooks, scrapbook and handwritten/hand drawn pieces to be incredibly interesting. Being able to see something that was created for others, carefully written or drawn out, carefully planned out, was incredibly heart-warming and amazing. To shows such a personal perspective towards the topic that is normally impossible to reach.

And it is amazing to be able to interact with and see such a perspective.


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Travels with Grace: On to Prague

Posted on July 9th, 2019 by

Welcome to this week’s segment of our 2019 #TravelTuesday series: Traveling with Grace. Today we follow along as Grace heads into Prague during the summer of 1929.

August 18, 1929

Gellert Hotel, vintage postcard. Via.

Spent some time in the pretty gardens of St. Gellerts baths and enjoyed watching the bathers in their very striking costumes and the waves in the pool are quite novel. A fine big hotel is operated here. On the hill opposite is a chapel in a natural grotto. Services broadcast tonight.

August 19, 1929

“What to see in Austria” travel poster, c. 1920s. Via.

We leave Budapest at 9 a.m. The city is in gala array, fan bedecked, and bunting hung, for St. Stephens day tomorrow. At the station we see peasants coming in droves all laden with heavy packs as if bringing all their provisions for a week. On the train they rent a radio earphone plugged in the compartment for about 25 cents and music is broadcast as far as the frontier. It was very warm in Budapest but gets much cooler as we near Vienna, arriving in the latter place at 2 p.m.

We go to Daniel’s for tea and them walk along the Kohlmarket where the shops are most attractive and view the interesting monument of the Trinity or Pestsaule erected by Leopold I as a thanks offering for deliverance from the plague about 1687. It was designed by Bermacini and is supposed to represent a cloud inhabited by an angel choir surmounted by a sunburst representing the Holy Ghost upheld by the Father and Son. I never saw so many beggars as are in Vienna. Tonight, I met a very interesting artist Mme. Schaetzel of Paris, at the hotel.

August 20, 1929

Reproduction, black cat vintage travel poster, Prague. Via.

Tuesday. Leave Vienna at 8 a.m. The train takes us through pretty farm country intersected frequently by lakes and rivers, arriving in Prague in a drenching rain at 2:30 p.m. Locate at Esplanade Hotel.

August 21, 1929

Bohemian National Museum, 1929. Via.

Wednesday. The weather is still disagreeable. We take a short walk, see the Bohemia National Museum (imposing exterior) and monument to Wenceslaus, 1st King of Bohemia. Then visit the clinic of the Prague general hospital. Very crude looking compared with ours. Dr. Merl very kind.

August 22, 1929

Thursday. We take a carriage this morning and ride through the Baumgarten, Prague’s beautiful park. It is quite natural, hilly and large in area. One section is devoted to flowers of which there are some beautiful varieties. Then we continue out through the new residential suburbs of Bubenec and Dejuice where the wealthy citizens have lovely garden villas. Prague is very large in extent, claims two million inhabitants. It is divided by the Moldau River, which flows into the Elbe, and joined by twelve fine bridges. This afternoon we take private auto and visit some of the venerable institutions of this very old and interesting city. We see the Powder Tower; Charles University; statue of Rabbi Lev, a renowned scholar of astronomy about which study he wrote many books and also helped fight against the Swedes. The statue, very unusual in treatment, occupies a prominent place on the cornice of the new Town Hall building. It is at the beginning of the old Jewish ghetto, where there dwelt six thousand Jews.

A view of the Velkodvorská (Grand Court) Synagogue, also called the Bassevi Synagogue. Via.

Here are two synagogues, one five hundred years old, the other fifteen hundred years old. The women were not allowed inside but had a separate building where they could open the windows and hear the services without seeing. There is a clock in this section bearing the Hebrew numerals and hands moving from right to left. The Jewish cemetery is the oldest in Europe, the tombstones black with age and many deep sunk in the ground. The oldest, that of Sara Katz, dates from year 606. Many of them bear crude images of animals whose names the Jews were forced to adopt by decree of King Joseph II, as a distinguishing mark.

Old Jewish cemetery, Prague, 1929. Via.

In front of the old Town Hall, where the Unknown Soldier is buried, we watch the astronomical clock, with its complicated devices for marking off the hours, days, months, seasons, etc., strike the hour of three. Three of the twelve apostles follow Christ before two windows which swing open as the clock begins to strike, then a skeleton pulls the string for the cock to crow three times. Nearby is the John Hus monument with striking group of large bronze figures on a granite base. We see the Parliament building and cross the oldest stone bridge, Charles IV, six hundred years old, on which are thirty statues, one of which represents Christ encircled with an inscription in Hebrew gilded letters, about which diverse legends cluster. Another remarkable group illustrates St. Wenceslaus freeing the slaves. At one end of the bridge is a beautiful Gothic memorial to King Charles IV. There are many picturesque old town gates and towers.

Hradcany castle district of Prague, 1929. Via.

We ride through a section occupied by the former private palaces of the nobility now converted for the most part into foreign legations and state ministries, and up on the hill where stands the beautiful old Castle of Prague and the Cathedral of St. Vitus, one of the finest I have seen anywhere, in pointed Gothic with flying buttresses and gargoyles. The afternoon sun pouring through the lovely stained-glass windows casts rainbow hues upon the pavement. I notice two pretty peasants entering here most attractively garbed, one in yellow, the other in a pink skirt of stiff brocaded satin with white brocaded silk kerchiefs on their heads. From the castle hill we enjoy a fine panorama of the city, the great number of steeples, said to be one hundred, impressing the observer. From the nearby bell tower of Loretto church we hear the sweet carillon toll the hour of five.

Left: Interior of St. Vitus, c. 1929. Via. Right: Golden Lane postcard, 1910. Via.

In the quaint little Zlata Ulicka, or Golden Lane, we have the pleasure of looking into several homes, the smallest I ever saw; from the rear they look out upon the castle gardens. In one room, 4×6 feet and about 6 feet high, four people live. They sleep on a high feather bed and a couch. It is immaculate and contains some colorful examples of needlecraft. There is only one other room, a kitchenette, smaller still, about 2×4 feet. Around the castle grounds is a crenelated wall because, so the story goes, they were dying of hunger for lack of employment and built this wall as a means to obtain food.

“A romanticizing vista of pre-Hussite Vyšehrad from a lithograph by A. Pokorný, made during the second half of the 19th century.” Via.

We ride through several new suburban sections, where building is proceeding at a brisk pace where three years ago there were only fields Some of the houses are of eccentric cubistic design and some have designs of birds, flowers, etc. appliqued on stucco which remind me of material all over embroidered. One street is named for Charlotte Masaryk, deceased wife of the president and her bust appears in marble in a niche on one of the houses. The Komensky memorial is another of the fine statuary groups with which the city abounds. There are several islands in the river. Some of the old houses along the banks are standing right in the water and as one looks down from the bridge one catches vistas strongly reminiscent of Venice. Male Namesti is the center of the most ancient part of Prague and the lower parts of some of the houses date from the 12th and 13th centuries. In Vysehrad we see the fortifications of the old Citadel of the 17th century with the Tabor and the French gates. The burying ground of some of the famous men and women of this country lies here. We return to the hotel via the new quarter, Karloske Vinohrady where are the National Theater and some fine museums and libraries.

August 23, 1929

Hrad Karlstejn – resting place of Charles IV. Via.

Friday. We go by automobile to Karlsteyn where a large, spruce-forested park and on a commanding height stands the old, fortified medieval stone castle of Charles IV of whom there are so many reminders in Prague. The cornerstone was laid in the XIII century. There are chapels lined with semiprecious stones and fine examples of old mural paintings. Kettner called today.

August 24, 1929

Monument to Woodrow Wilson, Prague. Via.

Saturday. Today we sit in the pretty little park named for Woodrow Wilson. Tonight Mr. and Mrs. Kettner and their two sons spend some time with us.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager

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Travels with Grace: Budapest

Posted on July 2nd, 2019 by

Welcome to this week’s segment of our 2019 #TravelTuesday series: Traveling with Grace. Today Grace heads to Budapest during the summer of 1929.

August 11, 1929

Germany Baden-Baden Das Kurhaus, Echte Photo, AK. Via.

Sunday, Vienna. We take the electric train for Baden this morning, a ride of a little over an hour. Our pleasure is rather marred by the rain. The Kurhaus gardens are very pretty interspersed with flowers, wooded glades, monuments, covering the mountain side. Perched on high is a round observatory overlooking the countryside. In the Kurhaus is a fine marble salon with a huge fountain whence the surplus water is dispensed. Tonight, colored lights play on a large fountain in the square near our hotel.

August 12, 1929

Left Vienna at 11:05 a.m. On way pass the beautiful town palace of the Rothschilds. Otto Kahn of New York also has a fine residence here which he occupies (according to Dame Gossip) when Jeritza is in town. The trip to Buda-Pest takes five hours and it is very hot. When nearing it we come in sight of the Danube where geese and horses are bathing with the people.

August 13, 1929

Hotel Dunapalota, 1918. Via.

We are located at the hotel Duna Palota one of the nicest thus far encountered. In the evenings there is a gypsy orchestra playing in the garden where we dine and the music is lovely. This morning we go out with a lady guide and ride around Buda, the newer and higher town on the west side of the river. We see the Petrofi monument, many beautiful museums, the fine Central Market Hall where the most abundant and varied produce is for sale. Hungary was formerly almost exclusively agricultural but now they are developing many industries. Here as in Vienna they are very bitter about Wilson’s 14 points and the Trianon treaty and feel that they have been raped. While Austria’s population has been reduced from 56 million to 6 million, Hungary’s has been reduced from 20 odd million to 7 odd.

Hungary Budapest Hotel St. Gellert Artificial Wave Thermal Bath Old RP Postcard. Via.

We next visit the Gellert’s mineral baths adjoining a fine hotel. In the huge swimming pool lined with blue tiles artificial waves are produced by an electric device. A beautiful bronze statue of St. Gelleret upholding a cross stands up on the hill where he suffered martyrdom 1000 years ago for introducing Christianity into the country. We enter the new section of the royal castle (27 years old) and visit a number of the rooms: the walls are mostly marble lined, each room different in color and pattern, the floors beautifully inlaid, the chandeliers of carved wood gilden and in the state ball room they are solid silver and crystal. In the smaller rooms the walls are covered with the same velvet brocade which upholsters the furniture and forms the window draperies. There are many interesting portraits of the royal family and the many ancestral castles, also some handsome tapestries and large pieces of Sevres and Meissen. But it is not overcrowded. The exterior is very imposing. On one side is a fine group of bronze statues with animals of the chase in most life-like attitudes, King Mathias dominating the group. On the other side is a broad staircase descending in terraces to a garden below in the center of which is a statue of Eugene of Savoy on horseback. From the top is a fine view across the Danube. Then we ride up to the Coronation Church surrounded by a group of very imposing structures including the Holy Trinity Monument and Fisher’s Ramparts through the openings of which is framed the lovely Gothic Parliament Building opposite in Pesth. Then we cross one of the large suspension bridges (there are four or five) which spans the river in a single span said to be copied from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Hungarian parliament building. Via.

This afternoon we see the beautiful monument to Vörösmarty who wrote the national hymn. He is surrounded by expressive figures representing all classes of the people. Also monuments to Frances Deale and Stephen Szechnyi. Then we go into the huge Parliament Buildings, handsome as a palace. The staircase is most magnificent. All colors of marble are used in its construction (it took 17 years to build) and there are lovely windows with coats-of-arms and national heroes done in panels of stained glass. Also, huge oil paintings of legendary subjects, battle and other historic scenes. We enter the chamber of the Lords and of commons, the reading and lunchrooms, the large round room where the Regent convenes the new Parliament when both houses meet together. The decorations are very fine. The place of the assassinated Count Tissa has remained empty since his death, the seat having been taken out as a memorial. Also, in the square monuments have been erected to the lost provinces and the flag remains always at half-mast as a sign of mourning.

We ride through the lovely park on St. Margaret’s island where there is a fine swimming pool with a capacity for 40,000 people. There is a natural hot sulphur spring in the park which has been known to flow for thousands of years and fine bathing establishments, restaurants, a hotel, tennis courts where one can play in bathing suits, a polo field, etc. I notice in the city the women of the lower classes wear no hats, but a kerchief tied around their heads. We see one fine synagogue.

August 14, 1929

Start out with guide this morning. See court of justice and beautiful memorial group of Kossut and his ministers. We ride along several fine residential avenues (see home of Vanderbilt, Czechnyis), and enter the beautiful city park, at the portal of which is a semicircular marble colonnade with colossal figures of all of the rulers of Hungary in bronze and below each a tablet in bas relief describing some events in their reigns. Before this is the grave of the unknown soldier and a cavalry officer always stands at salute on guard. On either side of the entrance to the park stands a fine museum, one of which houses the art collection. Just within the gates is an artificial lake used for boating in summer and in winter ice machines keep it always ready for ice skating. Beside the lake are erected a most picturesque group of buildings modeled after famous old Hungarian castles in different parts of the kingdom. One of these houses the agricultural museum. The park contains a number of other fine buildings used for exhibition purposes, some pretty statues, one of George Washington erected by Hungarian-Americans, botanical gardens and a zoo modeled after Hagenbecks in Hamburg. There is also a large medicinal bathing establishment.

This afternoon we visit a factory where lovely Hungarian jewelry is made, also silverware, all copied from antiques. Also see some of the very colorful Hungarian embroideries. Then take a lovely ride up to St. John’s Hill to enjoy the fine panoramas of Buda-Pesth and the Danube. Visit St. Stephen’s church, a large modern structure. On St. John’s Hill is a large observations tower, memorial to Queen Elizabeth beloved by the Hungarian people, who used to frequent this spot.

August 15, 1929

Waterfall on Margaret’s Island, 1928. Via.

Spend this afternoon on Margaret’s Island which is crowded, this being a holiday. It is quite a sight watching the bathers on the strand. We see a number of peasant women barefooted, kerchiefs on head, purple dresses with voluminous skirts under which show dozens of red petticoats like old fashioned ballet dancers. Tonight, we have dinner at a nice Jewish restaurant – Neiger’s – afterwards go to a large café where there is a good Gypsy band and then we go to a fine cabaret – Jardin de Paris – where there are a variety of excellent numbers until 1:30 a.m. The people are much in evidence on the streets and in the park at this hour of the morning. Mr. Weiss escorts us.

August 16, 1929

Spend part of the day in zoological gardens and tonight go up on the roof garden of the hotel, of which they are quite proud as they consider it so up-to-date and Americanized – they call this hotel the Waldorf-Astoria of Budapest – and from here we have a wonderful view of the city which is very brightly illuminated. In Buda, across the river, the old citadel at one end and Fischer’s ramparts at the other, stand out brilliantly lighted by a system of concealed lamps which have the same effect as a searchlight. A jazz orchestra plays and sings.

August 17, 1929

Saturday, Budapest. Sat in one of the parks with which the city is generously sprinkled. A band plays and it is interesting to watch the people, especially the peasants in their colorful and numerous skirts, who use it as a thoroughfare. A woman comes around with a basket of mammoth pretzels. Tonight Mr. Weiss takes dinner with us after which we take a ride on the island where the hundreds of lights from the many restaurants make it look like a veritable fairy-land. We go to another cabaret in another part of the city near the zoo. There is a good trained dog act in which one dog walks a tightrope. The natives eat plenty of bread and drink quantities of beer. Vendors of flowers and cheap souvenirs abound.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager


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