Posted on February 17th, 2016 by Rachel
Cover of “The Hired Girl.”
I don’t normally walk around telling everyone about the last book I read, but this one seems appropriate for a mention here: The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz. It’s an historical fiction young adult novel about a servant who works in Baltimore, which means it might as well have “ATTN: JOANNA” on the cover. (Since it doesn’t, I’m glad Rachel, our dedicated social media content discoverer, posted about it on the JMM’s Facebook page for me.)
An unidentified couple on Eutaw Place, circa 1910. Donated by Stanford C. Reed. JMM 1987.19.32
Book reviews are a bit out of our purview, perhaps, but for what it’s worth I very much enjoyed this story of Joan, an exuberant, open-hearted farm girl who winds up working as a housemaid for the Rosenbachs, a well-to-do Jewish family. I would have enjoyed it anyway – as previously mentioned, this kind of thing is right up my alley – but it was even better since, like the heroine, I too have been learning about Jewish Baltimore in the early 20th century. Though her characters are fictional, Schlitz (who teaches at the Park School) was careful to place them in the physical and social context of 1911 Baltimore; for example, the Rosenbachs own a department store, attend Har Sinai, and live on Eutaw Place. The author has said “I tried to make it as accurate as possible, but I took full advantage of the magical powers with which all storytellers are endowed” – in other words, ‘stop trying to find an exact match for everything, local historian!’ Nonetheless, every reference to the Phoenix Club or the Harmony Circle or even “Mr. Rosenbach’s friend the ophthalmologist”* gave me a happy moment of “Oh! That’s the thing that I just learned about,” and sent me to our database for images to help illustrate the world in which Joan and the Rosenbachs spent their days.
Hannah Mann’s 65th birthday celebration at the home of Joe Wiesenfeld, Eutaw Place, 1911. Donated by Joseph Wiesenfeld. JMM 1990.2.49
William and Beatrice Levy with their children, 1911. Donated by Janet Fishbein, Ellen Patz, Ruth Gottesman & Vera Mendelsohn Mittnick. JMM 2002.79.338
A member of the Weinberg family, with the family dog, in Druid Hill Park, 1910. (The park’s flock of sheep play a role in the book.) Donated by Jan L. Weinberg. JMM 1996.50.27k.6
The Har Sinai confirmation class of 1911. (The book’s protagonist is glad to learn that the Rosenbach family’s laundry is sent out, so she won’t have to do more than iron; take a look at these nice white dresses and you’ll understand her relief!) Donated by Audrey Fox. JMM 1994.189.1
Interested in learning more about the book?
Here’s an interview with the author courtesy of the Jewish Book Council.
The Hired Girl recently won two awards for its portrayal of Jewish life: the Sydney Taylor Book Award, presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries, and the National Jewish Book Award (Young Adult), presented by the Jewish Book Council. On the other hand, it is also enjoying lively discussion online due to some negative descriptions of Native Americans; that debate is summarized (and presented with both links and opinions) by the editor of the Horn Book, and discussed more thoroughly at American Indians in Children’s Literature.
All in all, both the book itself and the response to its characters and themes are, I think, worth your time. And that’s your unofficial bookclub recommendation for February!
*I have convinced myself that this is a reference to Dr. Harry Friedenwald, though I suspect I’m too immersed in “Beyond Chicken Soup” preparations and am seeing Friedenwalds where none exist.
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.
Posted on December 7th, 2015 by Rachel
Judy Tapiero is volunteering to organize the Anne Adalman Goodwin Library of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. That’s what she did in her professional life – she was a library consultant. She organized and set up libraries for companies and associations.
She has lived in Baltimore for 10 years. Born in England, she arrived in the United States in 1956 when her family moved to Scarsdale, NY, to be near New York City, in a community with good schools. Her father, Oskar Rabinowicz was born in Aspern, Austria near Vienna. His family moved to a small town in Czechoslovakia, then moved to England when Hitler moved into Czechoslovakia. He had joined the Zionist movement while in college. He taught Byzantine history but then became a banker and scholar when he moved to England. He wrote the book Winston Churchill on Jewish Problems: A Half Century Survey. The book History of Jews in Czechoslovakia was dedicated to him. Judy labeled him quite the Renaissance man. Her father wanted her to have a profession so she attended Brandeis University. Her mother was an accomplished sculptor who exhibited her pieces and won juried competitions. She was also involved with Friends of the Hebrew University and their synagogue.
After college, Judy moved to Montreal with her husband but couldn’t work without a visa so she pursued the Library degree program at McGill University. When they moved to the New York area she completed the Library degree program at Rutgers. Along came their two children, so she volunteered at their synagogue and opened their library where she facilitated Library Hour at the synagogue school library. Once the children were older, she began in Princeton then commuted to New York City to work, setting up libraries for consulting firms.
Library Volunteer Judy hard at work!
Very few people do exactly what Judy does. She founded a consulting firm to organize and set up libraries that someone else then runs. Her goal is to make sure each library continues. She hones the collection to make it relevant to the mission of the organization. At the JMM, she realizes that we cannot discard any Institutional Archives and that there is more and more digital information. Library collections are changing and she wants to assure that everything is retained in its best form. Judy describes what she is doing at the JMM as a “labor of love.” It is taking a lot of time but she is glad to donate hers. First, she has to review what is in the data base and compare it with the card catalog. Next, she reviews all of the cards to determine which are copies (each book has 4 – 5 cards, depending upon the description). There is an author file, title file and subject file. Her hardest task is determining single subject cards. She endeavors to reduce the card file by half, to eliminate duplications. There are currently ~2500 volumes, plus Hebrew and Yiddish books that are now in English.
People are increasingly interested in library contents today because it has become so much easier to search. Judy adds that the The Robert L. Weinberg Family History Center for genealogy at the JMM is very good. She looks forward to developing that more too. She is attempting to make everything more user friendly so that more people will use it.
She suggests that the JMM library could use an infusion of new books. Before donating books elsewhere, she hopes that members and others will consider the JMM for books having to do with Judaism and Maryland – the books must have this connection to be of use to our collection.
Her greatest surprise in volunteering at the JMM has been her discovery of some unbelievable “treasures.” In particular, she mentioned the books with colorful fold-out maps. She is also impressed by the Museum’s collection of rare books and hopes that one day they can be put on display so that visitors will be able to appreciate them too.
If anyone reading this has a love for books like Judy, please contact Volunteer Coordinator, Ilene Cohen, as once this phase of the library project is completed, volunteers will be required to physically move things around.
A blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. The first Monday(ish) of every month she will be highlighting one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, drop her an email at email@example.com or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.
Posted on January 7th, 2013 by Rachel
The movers are packing up the Chosen Food exhibit for its journey down to the Breman Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. But it’s not too late to take some Jewish food culture & history home to your very own kitchen! We’ve decided to bid a fond farewell to Chosen Food with a special SALE! That’s right – all but one of our cookbooks are now 35% off! Don’t wait too long, because this deal won’t last! From Kosher by Design to The Kosher Carnivore to Recipes to be Remembered, we’ve got a slew of tasty tomes just waiting for you.