JMM Insights: Welcome to the Team

Posted on August 18th, 2017 by

This month’s JMM Insights is from our newest team member, Lorie Rombro.

Hi! My name is Lorie Rombro and I am the JMM’s brand new archivist.

Hi! My name is Lorie Rombro and I am the JMM’s brand new archivist.

I have always enjoyed museums and, after college where I studied Archaeology and Anthropology, I went for a Masters in Museum Studies from George Washington University. That was an incredible experience; many of our classes were at the Smithsonian. Getting a chance to explore behind the scenes in the museums after they closed to the public really sparked my love of collections and archives.

I have spent the majority of my career until now working in historic house museums as well as assisting a donor in starting a museum in San Antonio, Texas.  My free time is spent with my husband, my two boys and our dog, Bowzer, which keeps me very busy!

The JMM Archives Room, where I've been spending a lot of my time!

The JMM Archives Room, where I’ve been spending a lot of my time!

This is my third week as the Archivist at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and so far this has been an amazing experience. I didn’t have a chance to physically see the JMM archives before I accepted the job, and now that I’ve had a chance to dive in I’m overwhelmed by just how much information is housed here! Our archives cover the rich and vibrant history of the Jews in Maryland, and there is a lot of it.

So I am exploring, which has always been one of my favorite parts of working in a museum. I am from Baltimore and, although I think I know my own history, I have been learning so much about the Jewish history of Maryland and the institutions, organizations and people who built our community.

So many things to see in our online collections!

So many things to see in our online collections!

As an explorer, of course I had to look up my own last name in the Past Perfect Collection Database (which is available online).   I wasn’t expecting to find anything, so I was pretty excited when a Bluefeld Caterers receipt from my father’s Bar Mitzvah in 1958 came up!  It seems like such a small thing but that one piece of paper led to an amazing conversation with my father.

A humble receipt leads to so much more!

A humble receipt leads to so much more!

My father showed me his Bar Mitzvah photo album, which I had never seen before. It was the first time I had ever seen a photo of his great grandmother and some of my own great grandparents. I learned more about my history from a catering receipt then I thought possible. It’s why preserving the past is so important and shows how much one piece of paper may mean to future generations. (Also as a parent of a 12 year old boy and planning a Bar Mitzvah myself I was really impressed with the $4 dollar a person catering price.)

I can’t wait to see what else I will discover as the archivist at the Jewish Museum of Maryland!

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Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses Side Bar 1

Posted on May 29th, 2017 by

Article by Jennifer Vess. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

Side Bar: The Bluefeld Catering Story: “People came from all around”

Missed the beginning? Start here.

Bessie Bluefeld, February 23, 1941. JMM 2012.10.1

Bessie Bluefeld, February 23, 1941. JMM 2012.10.1

“The Progressive Lodge had a shore where, during the summer, the members were allowed to go…on the weekend – it was on the Magothy River…. So in 1936, my mother was awarded the concession.  She paid $1200.00 for the privilege of having the little stand at the shore….

We opened…on Sundays only during the summer months…. The concession was a soda concession with limited foods…. On Sunday morning, early, we would pick up hot dogs, European Kosher hot dogs…from Slaters…. We would pick up the rolls from Crystal Bakery next door, we would pick up the ice cream packed in dry ice from Hendler’s.  My mother would have been down the shore for a couple days prior, she would have gotten meats earlier…she used to buy meats from Posner.  On Wednesday, she would get kishke; Sam Posner made sure she had the best kishke…She would have konkletten – the hamburger of today was the konkletten of then, it was delicious.  Corn – she used to prepare a few days for these things.  She used to make, maybe, a hot dish.  It was all simple servings, but she embellished it.  Rather than just being hot dogs and hamburgers and grease, she already embellished it with a little bit of ‘tam.’ A little bit of taste….  People came from all around….

There were organizations in this Order that would then have outings…That summer, by the time we got to August, we were already catering, without knowing the word ‘catering….’ They would say, ‘We are going to have fifty women coming down on an outing;’ and rather than everybody taking their own baskets, which was the trend…she arranged with these organization for $1 a plate, a Wednesday lunch.

Receipt, Bluefeld Caterer for Mr. & Mrs. M. [Meyer] Cardin for the Bar Mitzvah of Howard Cardin, July 10, 1954 held at the Lord Baltimore Hotel. JMM 2007.3.4

Receipt, Bluefeld Caterer for Mr. & Mrs. M. [Meyer] Cardin for the Bar Mitzvah of Howard Cardin, July 10, 1954 held at the Lord Baltimore Hotel. JMM 2007.3.4

A Mrs. Spector, who lived on South Charles Street….said to Mrs. Bluefeld that her daughter was going to be married in October at Workmen’s Circle Hall on Baltimore Street, and she would like for her to cater her daughter’s wedding.  And my mother said, “Well, I don’t know how to cater any weddings.  This is what I do.”…. Mrs. Spector said, “You’ll do it; you’ll do it nice.” And my mother said, “Okay, fine” [Bessie Bluefeld] was our charm, she was our mentor, she was the one who had all the foresight.  What we did years after was only a matter of doing what she had planned.  She had set the guide rules of what our business was to be, the adding the dignity that catering was beautiful, that the responsibility was on us to do a good job for the people.”

~Excerpted from Oral History 75, Louis and Philip Bluefeld, August 6, 1979

Continue to Side Bar: Gustav Brunn: “I thought I could make a better seasoning”

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Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses Part 4

Posted on May 17th, 2017 by

Article by Jennifer Vess. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

Part IV: The Ma and Pa Shop: “My mother did all the cooking. We did all the rest.”[1]

Miss parts 1-3? Start here.

Family meant everything to the food businesses of the Jewish Baltimore community.  The typical pattern was similar to the story of the Rodbells – the father started a business based on the skills he already had, the mother took care of the children and home as well as helping out in the store, and the kids were put to work on the weekends and before and after school.  The store was often the family home with living quarters above or behind the business space.

Itzhak and Leah Brotman in front of their butcher shop on Lombard Street. Itzhak’s brother, Hyman, was also a kosher butcher. Courtesy of Saul H. Brotman. JMM 1991.170.6

Itzhak and Leah Brotman in front of their butcher shop on Lombard Street. Itzhak’s brother, Hyman, was also a kosher butcher. Courtesy of Saul H. Brotman. JMM 1991.170.6

Some stories varied of course.  Joe Mandell was a young man when he took over the deli on Lombard Street where he had worked for several years.  Rather than a wife and children helping out, Joe’s father and stepmother worked for him.  In fact his stepmother did all of the cooking at his first small operation on Lombard Street.  According to Mandell, “She was an excellent cook, her soups were like good wine.”[2]  At one point, Harry Attman, founder of Attman’s Delicatessen, owned and operated two stores several blocks apart – he ran one while his wife, Ida, ran the other.  While many people talk about husbands and fathers starting businesses, other stories have the wives and mothers using their skills to support the family.  Bluefeld’s Catering was established by Bessie Bluefeld, and Rena Kolman remembers the mother of a friend who “had a little grocery store that was made from a front room.  She came from the old country, no husband, and she raised three children there.”[3] However the store started, it all came back to family.

Hyman Brotman’s daughter Sylvia Brotman Spivak outside the poultry shop that she ran with her husband. Photograph by John McGrain. JMM 1995.187.13

Hyman Brotman’s daughter Sylvia Brotman Spivak outside the poultry shop that she ran with her husband. Photograph by John McGrain. JMM 1995.187.13

For some families opening up a little food shop was a means to another end.  Mothers and fathers may have needed the help of their children to make a living, but they had their eyes on different goals for the futures of their offspring.  Many wanted their children to get through school and move on to different professions.  Ida Attman urged her son Edward not to stay in the deli business (though her son Seymour did eventually take over).[4]   Rena Kolman’s parents made school the priority and hired a girl to help in their confectionary store rather than putting their children to work.  Without a second generation to carry on the business they eventually closed the store.[5]

Morris Hack worked at his father’s grocery store on George Street. Courtesy of Mamie Rosenfield Baker. JMM 1990.12.6c

Morris Hack worked at his father’s grocery store on George Street. Courtesy of Mamie Rosenfield Baker. JMM 1990.12.6c

Other businesses stayed in the family for generations.  Some of the most familiar and well-loved food businesses that came out of the Jewish community in Baltimore passed from parents to their adult children and sometimes even their grandchildren.  Many of those businesses, such as Hendlers Creamery, Saval Food Products, and Tulkoff’s Horseradish, became (or still are) large enterprises that reached beyond the local community to a regional or national level.  Other shops, like Attmans Deli remained local physically, but still draw in crowds from well beyond the neighborhood.

Continue to Part V: Mechanization and Innovation: “He had to get more machines to keep producing.”

Notes:

[1] Sid Mandell quoted in, Gil Sandler, “Taking Orders,” Baltimore Jewish Times, January 26, 2007.

[2] Joe Mandell interview, December 30, 1992, OH 319, JMM.

[3] Rena Kolman interview, May 18, 2006, OH 684, JMM.

[4] Edward Attman interview, November 28, 2005, OH 678, JMM.

[5] Rena Kolman interview, May 18, 2006, OH 684, JMM.

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