Processions, Debates and Curbstone Encounters: The Struggle over Kosher Meat in Baltimore, 1897 – 1918 Pt. 3

Posted on March 13th, 2017 by

Article by Avi Y. Decter. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

The boycott of 1910 was one dramatic episode in a twenty-year struggle over kosher meat that engaged meat wholesalers, retail butchers, shochets (ritual slaughterers), the Orthodox rabbinate, and thousands of ordinary Jews, especially in East Baltimore. In the first decades of the twentieth century, conflict over kosher meat was a familiar topic. Today, that contestation is little remembered and poorly documented. However, sufficient evidence survives to give us access to the trajectory and meaning of the protracted struggle over kosher meat. Here is that story.

Part III: The Butchers Go on Strike

Missed parts 1-2? Start here.

 Nathan London in the doorway of his kosher butcher shop on Lombard Street, early 20th century. JMM 2001.90.1

Nathan London in the doorway of his kosher butcher shop on Lombard Street, early 20th century. JMM 2001.90.1

For a decade, contestation over shechita appears to have abated in Baltimore. But in March 1907 the Baltimore Sun reported a conflict between the large meat wholesalers and the kosher meat retailers they supplied. The retailers claimed that the wholesalers were charging excessive prices for kosher meat and refused to purchase their locally slaughtered kosher beef. After a few days, the retail butchers went a step further, agreeing to buy all their kosher meat exclusively from two small slaughterers who offered more favorable prices. A week later, the Sun reported the dispute was still in progress.[1]

Among those affected, of course, were the consumers, who, the Sun reported, were “much wrought up over the situation.” In fact, the butchers’ strike bore most heavily on the poorer members of the community, who “are the most Orthodox [and who] have not been able to get their customary rations of this important article of food.” With Passover drawing near, the butchers relented, agreeing “to provide meat the old price until after the Passover. Then the strike will begin again.”[2]

Although the temporary cessation of the butchers’ strike was cited by the Sun as “an inspiring example of race co-operation,” the Orthodox congregations soon felt it necessary to again take decisive steps to regulate the making and sale of kosher meat in Baltimore. In July 1908, twenty-eight Orthodox congregations in East Baltimore organized the Federation of Orthodox Jewish Congregations to “advance every interest affecting Orthodox Jews.” One of the purposes cited was to protect consumers from unscrupulous dealers who falsified seals of kashrut, thus casting doubt on the ritual purity of all meat sold as kosher.[3]

The kosher butchers’ strike and its immediate aftermath point to a complex collision of interests. The wholesalers were trying to raise the price of kosher meat; shochets were seeking higher pay; consumers were balking at paying higher prices; the rabbinate was asserting its authority over shechita; and kosher butchers at the retail level were caught in the cross-currents.

Continue to Part IV: Another Controversy over Kosher Meat

Notes:

[1] “Kosher Butchers Accept,” Baltimore Sun, 23 March 1907, p. 11. “Ghetto Sees a Truce in Kosher Butcher’s Strike,” Baltimore Sun, 31 March 1907, p. 12.

[2] “Ghetto Sees a Truce in Kosher Butcher’s Strike.”

[3] “For Pure Kosher Meat,” Baltimore Sun, 25 July 1908, p.6.

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Winter Weather vs. Wedding, 1928

Posted on January 29th, 2016 by

This cute, spring-like little chiffon dress seems like an unlikely avenue for talking about a snowstorm, but a search of our collections for the word “blizzard” offered it up nonetheless.

Flower girl dress, donated by Bernice Weinstein. JMM 2003.63.1

Flower girl dress, donated by Bernice Weinstein. JMM 2003.63.1

The dress was made by Etta Cohen Adelberg for her young daughter, Eva, to wear in Etta’s brother Ben Cohen ’s wedding to Zelda Greenberg.  The ceremony was held at Shaarei Zion on Park Heights Avenue on January 29, 1928 … in the aftermath of a city-crippling blizzard that had hit the day before.

Though it does not appear in “Worst Storms” lists today, the January 28, 1928 blizzard was a major one for Baltimore.  The summary article in the Sun, published on the 29th, was dramatically headlined:

SNOW BLOCKS ALL ROADS BUT 2 OUT OF CITY

Only Annapolis and Frederick Arteries Open After Blizzard.

STORM HEAVIEST HERE IN SIX YEARS

15-Inch Fall Recorded, Autos Stranded, Cars Delayed, Ships Halted.

It was the first big storm of the season for the east coast, with the Washington-Baltimore area being the worst hit; the infamous Knickerbocker Storm of 1922, in which 98 Washingtonians died when the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater collapsed, was fresh in the minds of Maryland residents.  Thankfully, though the 1928 storm was “rather unexpected,” the Sun reported only one death in the area, an elderly woman in Frederick.

“A hundred snow plows sent out by the State Roads Commission were unable to cope with the drifts which in some paces rose to a height of ten feet,” the Sun reported on the 29th, and automobile traffic was essentially halted – but streetcars and buses were able to operate by the next day, and the city directed some post-storm efforts toward  “[blocking off] some roads through Baltimore’s parks … to allow children to sled in safety.”

And in the meantime, some events went on as planned – like a wedding in Park Heights.

Though Ben and Zelda Cohen were well-known in Baltimore society in the 20th century, in part because of their involvement with Pimlico Raceway (Ben was a co-owner of the track, and they both owned and raced thoroughbreds), I’ve not found any info about the wedding itself, other than the story about the blizzard that came with little Eva’s flower girl dress. I’m dying to know more – were most guests able to get in, thanks to cleared sidewalks and the still-running Park Heights streetcar?  How did Zelda and Ben feel on the 28th, watching the progress of nature’s wedding present?  And was Eva warm enough??

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

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Anatomy of a Family Circle Celebration

Posted on December 28th, 2012 by

A blog post by Barry S. Lever, Special Projects Consultant

http:///www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-hankin-family-100-20121216,0,1139305.story

The Baltimore Sun’s Maryland News section on Monday December 17, 2012, featured a half page article, “Hailing 100 years in America.” by Julie Scharper.

This story outlined how the original members of the Hankin Family arrived in Charm City in October 1912.  Personally, I delighted in the festivities so creatively and elegantly organized by my cousins as well as the Baltimore Sun feature article detailing the gathering.

Abram, and his new bride, Bessie Gorelick Hankin, along with Abe’s younger brother, Sam were the advance party of what is now a remarkable 6th generation family proudly tracing its lineage to those eight siblings and their parents,  Chaim and Surha Hankin.

Bessie, Abraham, and Sam

As Abe and Bessie’s eldest grandchild I had the good fortune to personally know all of the elder Hankin siblings, as well as their parents, Suhra and Chaim.  It is a personal delight to share those stories with my many cousins who were never privileged to know them. Behind the scenes the Jewish Museum of Maryland played a significant role for that Hankin Family 100th Anniversary Celebration.

As the largest regional Jewish Museum in the United States part of its mission is to collect and preserve the material and intellectual record of the Jewish experience in Maryland.

Sam Hankin’s grandson, Harvey Golomb, a Colorado cousin came to visit Baltimore and used the JMM‘s voluminous collection and expert staff to search the immigration records, photo images and oral histories.  From these and other sources he assembled a unique memoir, The Hankin Family: Journeys to America, making it available to the entire family.

Hankin Family Memoir

In gratitude for the Museum’s assistance, the Hankin Family Circle (HFC) donated a copy of this memoir to the JMM‘s collection accompanied by a copy of the minutes of the first meeting of the  Hankin Family Circle in April 1947.  In addition to the incredible archives and artifacts housed at the JMM’s Herbert Bearman Campus, the Museum is currently displaying a highly acclaimed exhibition, The Voices of Lombard Street.

This exhibition features many of the scenes that Abe, Bessie and Sam Hankin would have encountered when they stepped off the gangplank of the North German Lloyd Vessel, S.S. Main which docked that day at Locust point in the shadow of Fort McHenry.

JMM 1991.24.3

The JMM’s staff of docents looks forward to greeting you when you arrive to visit that exhibition and enjoy retracing what it was like to land on these shores as my immigrant family did on October 24, 1912.

On behalf of The Jewish Museum of Maryland I wish all of our members, website and on-site visitors, a Healthy, Happy and Peaceful 2013.

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