Illustrations and The Women of The Associated

Posted on August 8th, 2018 by

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

While looking through material from the Associated Jewish Charities and Jewish Welfare Fund from the 1940s to the 1970s, I have found a treasure trove of fun illustrations. Everything from invitations, to informational booklets, to newsletters contain small drawings that are simple and expressive. My time researching the Associated was made even more fun with the addition of these little gems sprinkled throughout their fundraising material.

Promotional invitation for “Coke Tale” Hour, an event hosted by the Young People’s Division of the Associated Jewish Charities’ Women’s Division. Includes an illustration of a young man at a microphone and a bucket of cola bottles on ice. Via JMM 2017.068.014.008

What I really wanted to talk about were the artists who made these great illustrations. But as far as I can tell, there is no documentation on who drew them. What I do know is that many of these drawings are found mostly in the Women’s Division scrapbooks and within their campaign material (the Women’s Division was a formal organization of women within the Associated that volunteered and ran fundraising campaigns from 1957 to 1993). Since there is also no clear record of a position or job of “artist” or “illustrator” early on in the Women’s Division or the Associated, and since there is no clear record of someone being hired to create these illustrations, there is a possibility that these artists were simply volunteers, specifically women from the Women’s Division. The sketch below, most likely created by a volunteer, supports the feasibility that volunteers created their own illustrations and material for Women’s Division events. But, since this is just speculation, and I don’t have specific information about the artists who created these drawings, I will just focus on talking about the drawings themselves, and how they relate to the women of the Associated.

A sketch, hand drawn in pencil, that lays out an idea for an invitation for a Women’s Division event. From the 1949 Women’s Division Scrapbook, JMM 2017.068.011.031

Many of these Women’s Division illustrations from the late 1940s through the early 1960s are sketched, simple line drawings, usually added next to text on invitations and fundraising cards. Most look like quick sketches, as if they were hand-drawn and then reprinted, and they can be found in the Division’s newsletters and other advertising materials. A few of the drawings contain simple and clean lines with a single accent color, pulled together in a thoughtful layout. They mostly depict women at work—volunteering, fundraising, or deep in thought.

Three close-ups of illustrations from cards for the 1949 “G-Day,” a door-to-door campaign hosted by the Women’s Division of the Associated. From the 1949 Women’s Division Scrapbook, JMM 2017.068.011

Two close-ups of illustrations from the booklet “Why Women” from the Women’s Division, created for “G-Day” in 1951. From the 1951 Combined Campaign Scrapbook, JMM 2017.068.019

Two pages from 1955 “Keynoter” Newsletters, produced by the Women’s Division of the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund. Left image contains an illustration of a “G-Day” door-to-door solicitor, and right image describes the need to give during the Associated combined campaign. From the JMM’s 1955 Women’s Division Scrapbook

In the late 1960s and onwards, the illustrations start to become more fleshed out. These drawings have cleaner designs, and sometimes are either cartoonishly stylized or realistically rendered. This is the time period when the Associated’s illustrations become integrated into the overall graphic design of the campaign material as well, making the drawings feel more professional.

Cover of an invitation for the “Art of Living” luncheon and fashion show campaign event, hosted by the Women’s Division of the Associated. From the JMM’s 1969 Women’s Division Scrapbook

To me, these illustrations make the regular campaign material more inviting and approachable. They depict the role of women in the Associated, and how they viewed themselves at that point in time: heavily engaged and committed to social work, a part of the community, and lending a helping hand at every turn. The way the women are drawn in the illustrations—proud, emotive, active… It’s not a stretch to say that they are drawn more often than men in these illustrations, and it shows how big of a part they played in the Associated’s organization and their fundraising campaigns.

Women in the Associated were very engaged with both the arts and culture, especially during this time period from the 40s to the 70s. They were a part of the Baltimore art community, hosting art exhibits and teaching art at the Jewish Community Center. They held art and cultural festivals, such as the “Village Fair” hosted by the Ladies’ Auxiliary of Levindale. The Women’s Division wrote and performed their own plays for their campaigns and wrote original poems to include in their newsletters. Regardless of if they drew these illustrations for the Women’s Division, the women of the Associated took an artistic approach to connecting with their community, and I feel that their work in the arts is communicated through the illustrative touches added to their campaign material. They went above and beyond to engage and connect, combining art with fundraising to create these magical moments and drawings that livened up their campaigns.

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Seeing Differently: Ezra Jack Keats

Posted on April 19th, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM’s Director of Development, Tracey E. Dorfmann. To read more posts from Tracey, click here.

I am grateful to be the mother of a talented children’s illustrator.  Among the many things I have learned from my daughter is to consider children’s illustration as a high form of art. There were many wonderful picture books that my daughter Hannah and I shared together when she was little.  Now I look at these books and their illustrators in a different way and see how they fit into the pantheon of children’s publishing.

As the adage goes “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This is certainly true for the American writer-illustrator, Ezra Jack Keats.

The child of Jewish immigrants, Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz was born March 11, 1916. He grew up in the “East NY” which was the Jewish Quarter of Brooklyn. As an early 20th-century Jewish child Keats grew up in harsh and impoverished circumstances in an era of great anti-Semitism. In interviews, he recalls “feeling invisible” as a child. His gift of artistic expression became his coping mechanism in his rough and dreary neighborhood.

Always a prolific artist, he painted and drew on any surface, that he could. He was also known to have a modest and caring temperament.  The experience of making images on so many different kinds of surfaces may be how he came to back collage techniques later in his artistic life.

For many of us, we have come to know of him through his Caldecott Award-winning story The Snowy Day, the story of a small boy enjoying the magic and transformative power of snow on an urban landscape. This book broke the “color barrier in children’s mainstream publishing.”

It was the first picture book to depict a black child as the main character of a story. The tale focuses on the enchanting aspects of a snowy urban neighborhood rather the color of the child’s skin. Yet for so many children this was the first time they could see themselves depicted in a storybook.

As a mature artist-illustrator, he wanted to uplift all children because he knew from experience that they often recede from view in the unforgiving urban landscape.  “His art is bold and speaks the universal truths of children.” Author Anita Silvey observed that “Keats could think like a child but paint and make images as an artist with a social conscience.”

Though Keats never had children of his own, there are millions of children around the world who claim him as their own.

If you are interested in finding out more about this wonderful illustrator there are many books about his art and his life or enjoy this YouTube video from a 2012 exhibition of his work presented by the Jewish Museum in NY  and check out this Ezra Keats website.

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Judging My Family Story

Posted on March 21st, 2018 by

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

Make sure to stop in by March 25th, it’s your last chance to see these amazing projects!

This was my first experience working with the My Family Story project, an amazing program done with Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.

As the projects came in to the Museum it was amazing to see the creativity and thoughtfulness that each child put into their piece.

I was even more amazed by the work when the curator statements where added, revealing the carefully researched stories behind each piece of art.

It was a great honor to be asked to judge the event, along with members of the JMM Board of Trustees, and JMM volunteers.

Each judge was given a group of projects to look at and to view them in turns of aesthetics, creativity, depth of research and Jewish peoplehood. This helped allow me to focus on the projects – otherwise I might not have been able to decide! Every project told an incredible story of a family’s journey and I was impressed by all the work that was done.

Each judge then presented their top projects, which were discussed and reviewed by all the judges.

All the finalists were amazing and it was truly a difficult decision to get down to the final two for the Beth Tfiloh group. One of the projects I selected as a “top two” was chosen as a winner! Erela I.’s piece was beautifully done, and her curator’s statement truly showed the thoughtfulness and research that went into the work.

The Winning Projects from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School:

Erela I. ’22, A Light Surrounded by Persecution

Erela’s “Curator Statement:”

My Family Story display shows my family’s heritage of religious Jews who lived in Iran. In my project I have a black surface with a collage of images of Persian Jews, Arabic writing, and the persecution of Jews in Iran. The collage represents the environment that both of my parents grew up in. One filled with hate and bad opinions towards all Jews. My family was surrounded by this threat of danger all throughout their lives in Iran until they immigrated to the US in 1984 and 1992. In the center of my project is a figure shaped like an open house. This represents my family’s safe haven in a habitat of darkness. Set up inside of the house is a setting of a Shabbat night dinner table with lit candles a family saying Kiddush. These moments in Iran, in this event, represents the light that being Jewish brought to my family.

Maya T. ’22, 1801 West Mosher Street

Maya’s “Curator Statement:”

This representation of my family story depicts the grocery store that my great-grandparents owned when they moved to the U.S after surviving the Holocaust. My grocery store is made in a wooden box. Inside, there are four parts to the store. The fridge, resembling the frigid weather that my great-grandparents had to endure in the DP camps, and the shelves, with bread and crackers, resembling the only food that my great-grandparents were given. Then I made a fruit stand, with six different fruits with significance to six million Jews killed and the differences between each person and his story. Lastly, the tiles on the floor represent the silver dollars used to pay for the groceries at my great-grandparents’ grocery store. These silver dollars are very important to me because my great-grandmother saved those dollars and gives them to me and my brother when we lose teeth. Finally, on the outside of my box, I have created a collage of pictures with me and my great-grandmother because I am so fortunate to be able to know her and her amazing story. One of the lessons I can learn from my great-grandmother is independence. Even at 93, my great-grandmother makes the holiday meals for all of our family. I can also feel connected to her by the silver dollars that she gave me. I keep these silver dollars safe, and plan on giving them to my great-grandchildren, and telling them my great-grandparents’ story, in hopes of instilling their values in future generations, when the time will come.

I can’t wait to see what comes next year!

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