National Reading Month at Esther’s Place:

Posted on March 14th, 2018 by

Memoirs of a Jewish Baltimore childhood, courageous acts of rescue and escape, trailblazing women, and more!

A blog post by JMM Office Manager and Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg. For more posts from Jessica, click HERE.

March is National Reading Month—a  celebration of the joy and importance of reading—and a great opportunity to explore some of the many great titles that we carry at the JMM Gift Shop, Esther’s Place, titles exploring topics ranging from Baltimore local and Jewish history, to Women’s Studies, to Holocaust Studies, as well as reference and general interest. We also carry several beautiful and engaging fiction titles for children that feature themes we celebrate at Esther’s Place such as memory, imagination, and of course, friendship and family in its many forms.

If you haven’t visited in a few months, you’ll find many new and exciting books perfect for gift giving or your personal library. At Esther’s Place, we truly have something for everyone—whether your tastes are historical, poignant, challenging, educational—or whimsical and fun.

One of our newest Baltimore Jewish history title is My Shtetl Baltimore by Eli W. Schlossberg. After reading just the first few lyrical chapters of this book, I was completely immersed in Mr. Schlossberg’s childhood world.

The book reads like a personal love letter to Baltimore and the tight-knit Jewish Orthodox community that made Baltimore feel like home for the author. The book feels like a joyful and nostalgic celebration of Baltimore Jewish life and I look forward to continuing through Mr. Schlossberg’s compilation of fond reminiscences of his upbringing and family in 1950s and 1960s Baltimore.

After journeying through Mr. Schlossberg’s memoirs, celebrate Women’s History Month (also this month) with a copy of Phoebe’s Fantasy: The Story of a Mafia Insider Who Helped Rescue Jazz. Phoebe Jacobs was a prominent publicist and fixer for many of the country’s pre-eminent African-American jazz musicians, including Baltimore’s own Eubie Blake. Jacobs uplifted both the artists and the industry of jazz through her ingenuity, singlemindedness, and empathy; according to author Hugh Wyatt, “she lived and dreamed jazz; [the] musicians were her heroines and heroes.” Pick up your copy to learn more.

After your vivid visit into the world of Phoebe Jacobs and the jazz industry, go on an epic journey of escape and rescue with Margret and H.A. Rey, creators of the beloved children’s book character Curious George.

The Reys were German Jews who fled Paris in 1940 on bicycle, taking with them their children’s book manuscripts. Though technically a young reader publication, The Journey that Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden, illustrated by Allan Drummond (currently available at Esther’s Place) is a simple, beautiful, and captivating telling of the Reys’ story that effortlessly appeals to readers of all ages. Plus, it’s only $7.99 and filled with illustrations and reproductions of historic photos and documents. As I’m writing this post, we are down to our final copy of this popular title, but don’t worry, we’ll be ordering more soon!

As you continue your historical journey, consider spending time in the dangerous and heroic world of Jan Karski with paperback, Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust. We added this book to our Shop offerings as an accompaniment to the current (ending this month) temporary exhibit highlighting diplomats recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Though Karski’s story is not one of the nine featured in the exhibit by Yad Vashem, his story has a local significance because he spent his later years teaching at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and is well remembered for his teaching work. His earlier years (and the subject of the book) were spent working for the Polish underground movement and undertaking heroic missions to alert the world to the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Themes of survival and memory also abound in many of our other book offerings, such as Memories of Survival by Esther Nisenthal Krinitz and Bernice Steinhardt. This book is popular at Esther’s Place, likely due to its moving illustrations of embroidered panels and deeply personal story of author Esther’s Krinitz’s experiences during the Holocaust.

Also known for their beautiful illustrations are our many children’s titles by Baltimore-based author and illustrator Nancy Patz such as Babies Can’t Eat Kimchee (by Patz and Susan L. Roth)—a story about transition, anticipation, and imagination…when a baby sister comes along.

To create your own visual memories, pick up one or more of our new Story Lines books: Amazing Mom, Grandma is a Superhero, and Grandpa is Magical (we’ll soon have one that celebrates Dad too, but it’s currently on back order).

These books contain engaging stories with blank pages for the owner or gift giver to add accompanying illustrations (or even clippings and additional captions as one creative visitor suggested).

Another great option for recording your treasured memories is our new holiday find: No Seder Without You: Passover Past and Future by Joan Goldstein Parker (due into Esther’s Place very soon), which includes, in addition to the illustrations and author’s childhood memories, several blank pages for the owner to journal their own Passover Seder experiences.

If any of these books sound like your perfect National Reading Month project or gift, don’t delay in heading over to Esther’s Place to grab your copy. The books are available until sold—though of course—if you (our valued reading community) love the books we’ll absolutely order more. The books of Esther’s Place are vehicles of memory—both for remembering and elevating the many untold stories—and for finding, connecting, and recording your own.

And don’t forget to keep up to date on our upcoming book signings, including the release of new JMM book On Middle Ground in April, via our Events page.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

April 10, 2018: A Decade in the Making

Posted on March 9th, 2018 by

Performance Counts: March 2018

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes to us from Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

Ten Years in the Making

In 1971, Isaac M. Fein, the founder of the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland (predecessor to the JMM), published a comprehensive history of the Jewish community of Baltimore. The Making of An American Jewish Community: The History of Baltimore Jewry from 1773 to 1920, was originally published by the Jewish Publication Society of America and then re-released by the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland in 1985. It is an excellent book, and one that our Senior Vice President, Dr. Robert Keehn, recommends to friends and family alike.

In 2008, JMM’s then-director Avi Decter and JMM’s then-researcher Deb Weiner started talking about the successor to the Fein book. Deb suggested they bring in their colleague, Eric Goldstein to help research and write, and so began a journey that is scheduled to reach its finish on April 10 at 6:30pm with the official launch of On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore.

Samuel and Albertina Harrison at 1216 McElderry St., c. 1890. JMM 1991.36.1

We have notes in our institutional archives from a conversation the two colleagues had on August 28, 2008. Questions they were asking themselves included: How would they structure it? How could they update and complement the research Fein had done and tell the story into the twenty-first century? How could they include some of Gil Sandler’s important and compelling storytelling work? What distinguishes Baltimore’s story from other American communities?

The questions were intriguing to Museum staff and board, as well as some important patrons. At least seven donors made the book research, writing, and publishing happen, including: the Richard and Rosalee C. Davison Foundation, Willard and Lillian Hackerman, the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Charitable Foundation, and the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds. Additional financial support for the project was provided by the Southern Jewish Historical Society and the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University.

“The Masquerade Ball of the Harmony Circle, New Assemblr Rooms, March 1st 1866.” JMM 1990.44.1

Johns Hopkins University Press (JHUP) is the publisher of the work, per a contract signed between the two entities nearly five years ago. The questions from ten years ago are now answered in the JHUP/JMM publication of five chapters (plus an introduction and an epilogue) across 320 pages of historical storytelling. An additional 46 pages convey 907 footnotes. And because this is a work created by and with the Museum, more than 130 images–curated from our collections or borrowed from colleagues at more than 20 other institutions or private collections–punctuate the story.

Rosalie Silber Abrams (top left) and Governor Marvin Mandel (bottom left) at a signing ceremony for legislation Abrams sponsored. JMM 1983.88.17.1

And what a story it is! Ranging from the eighteenth century until the twenty-first, On Middle Ground presents compelling characters and absorbing dramas. The authors argue that Baltimore, with its multiple modes of in-the-middle-ness (as a port for both products and people, and as an in-between space—geographically and culturally—bordering both north and south), created an environment that made it a microcosm of the broader American (Jewish) story.

At the Museum on April 10, Deb Weiner will give a preview of the story with a book talk entitled Life on the Border: The Role of Place in Shaping the Baltimore Jewish Experience. Gill Sandler will also be there to entertain and enlighten as he is wont to do.

Temple Oheb Shalom groundbreaking, 1959. Pictured are Philip Kaufman, Scott Preterman, Arthur Feldman, Helene Sacherman, Shelby Silver, Marge Hecht, Sammy Fox, Steve Agetstein, Roy Gamse, Louis Salai, and John Katz,JMM 2002.117.11

If you can’t make April 10 (or you want to collect that second signature on your personalized copy!), co-author Eric Goldstein will join us at the Museum on May 9, sharing a different aspect of the book with a talk entitled Myth vs. Reality: The Maryland Jew Bill in Historical Context.

Whether or not you can make it to the official launch event, we hope you’ll come see us soon, and pick up your copy of the book at Esther’s Place!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Do You Have Your Library Card?

Posted on September 28th, 2017 by

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

September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month so, as a proud member of the (exceptionally nerdy) club of people who have memorized their library card number, I though I’d share the oldest example in our collection: a card permitting the borrowing of books from the library of the Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club of Baltimore, 1902.

Front (left) and back of a Yiddish library card issued by the Young Men's Progressive Labor Club, 1902. Gift of Barbara (Mrs. Howard) Merker. JMM 1978.16.1

Front (left) and back of a Yiddish library card issued by the Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club, 1902. Gift of Barbara (Mrs. Howard) Merker. JMM 1978.16.1

The front of the card includes space for the borrower’s name and address, along with the terms and privileges of being a card-holder; the back indicates the dates that books were borrowed and returned.  We have not yet fully translated the card (if anyone wants to have a go, please feel free to send us a translation!) but, as best we can tell, card No. 298 belonged to one Rosa Malka of 532 N. Central Avenue.

JMM 1978.16.1

JMM 1978.16.1

Unfortunately, I have not been able to pin Rosa down. According to the 1901 Baltimore City Directory, a Hyman Levy, plasterer, lived at 532 N. Central. In the 1900 census, the Levy family is listed at this address – but there’s no Rose or Rosa among them. In the 1903 City Directory, a man named Alex Hammond, laborer, is at the address; I can’t find him in the census, and he doesn’t seem quite as likely to have had a wife or daughter reading Yiddish books at the Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club. Without easy access to a 1902 City Directory* I have to guess that either another family lived at the address between the Levys and Mr. Hammond, or that one of the Levy family women – wife Annie, and daughters Rachel (age 10 in 1900) and Bessie (age 12) – had the Hebrew name Rosa Malka. (The third possibility is that we misread the street name; if anyone has another suggestion, I’d be happy to pursue it.) The donor of the card noted only that it was found “among old family books,” and so far I have not found any definite connections.

The date stamps on the back do not tell us the titles of the books Rosa checked out, and without an exact translation of the terms on the front, I’m only guessing that the rules allowed you to borrow one book at a time, getting a date stamp in the first column for check-out and a stamp in the second when it was returned. If that was the case, you can see that between May and October, Rosa read a book every one-two days: a girl after my own heart.

Coincidentally, our collections also include five books from the Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club library, “found in the basement of a Highlandtown rowhouse.”  Four of the library books are novels and plays written in Yiddish, but one – my favorite – is a copy of Camille translated into Yiddish.  All five of the books, published in New York City in the late 19th century, are stamped  in English with variations on “Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club, Baltimore, Md. Organized July 10 1896”, and all and show a great deal of wear – as library books frequently do.

An exceedingly well-read copy of Camille in Yiddish, published by Judah Katzenelenbogen, New York, in 1899. One of five books stamped with the name “Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club.” Gift of Orrin Yesko. JMM 1999.162.4

An exceedingly well-read copy of Camille in Yiddish, published by Judah Katzenelenbogen, New York, in 1899. One of five books stamped with the name “Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club.” Gift of Orrin Yesko. JMM 1999.162.4

The Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club is not well-documented, but happily several of these five books also include a stamp giving a slightly different version of the name: “Progressive Club Branch No. 9 of the Workmen’s Circle, Organized July 10, 1896, Baltimore, MD.” The Workmen’s Circle is more well-known, and in fact we have some later Workmen’s Circle library circulation materials in our collections as well … but those will have to wait for another blog post.


*I’d be happy to consult a 1902 directory, but we don’t have one here, and it’s not yet digitized through this extremely useful link at the University of Maryland Library.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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