Posted on December 9th, 2015 by Rachel
In a previous existence, I was in charge of decorating an historic house museum for “the holidays” every December. This usually meant Christmas decorations, since it was a house built in the early 19th century for a family of Episcopalians. However, the house is also the main museum of the Montgomery County Historical Society (Rockville, Md.) so we did our best to change things up, and incorporate the holiday traditions of 20th and 21st century County residents.
Thus, in 2013 we decorated the parlor as if it were ready for a 1960s Chanukah celebration. I borrowed era-appropriate menorahs and dreidels from a few County families, but other elements were harder to come by. Thank goodness for the internet and the public library, which provided me with some examples of vintage decorations (and the history behind them). I found several variations (like this one) on bright and colorful “Happy Hanukkah” banners, which would suit the parlor walls – so, being well-versed in having to invent ‘antique’ decorations, I made my own banner. Here it is, hanging on the wall of the circa 1815 Beall-Dawson House, above an 1840s pianoforte.
Photo courtesy of Montgomery History, Rockville, Maryland.
Why am I writing about this now, two years later? Well, for one thing, it’s a chance to show off my craft skills; for another, it’s an opportunity to encourage you to look for – and make noise if you do not find – Jewish history within ‘general’ history museums. But really, it’s because some of the sources I used in 2013 came from the JMM collections, via our online database, and last week I came across two of those fabulous images again:
Elayne Fedder, Bernice Friedman, Myrna Cardin, and Belle Legum at the JCC Volunteers’ Chanukah Party, circa 1970. Donated by the JCC. JMM# 2006.013.456
Chanukah crafts at the JCC, circa 1970. Donated by the JCC. JMM#2006.013.274b
These great photos prompted me to delve a little further into the collections, looking for even more holiday decorations. Alas, we do not have an original paper banner, but I did find some helpful hints for making your own décor. Many of the contemporary sources advise parents to make Chanukah – though not the most important of holidays – a bright and festive time for their children. Much has been written about the whys and hows of Chanukah celebrations in modern America, and I can hardly hope to cover it all in one blog post; but for now, it’s worth noting that as private and public Christmas decorations became more and more popular in the mid 20th century, so too did Chanukah decorations.
For example, in The Jewish Home Beautiful (The National Women’s League of the United Synagogue of America, 1941), the authors advise the liberal use of crepe paper flowers and streamers, or even “a large dreidel made out of parchment or crepe paper of many bright colors;” they continue, “the color scheme should be predominately orange, the usual color of the Hanukkah candles, with green or blue as a complementary color.”
In Happy Chanuko, a 1943 picture book written by Jane Bearman and published by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (our copy was collected by Baltimore educator Louis L. Kaplan), the young protagonists are posed in front of a variety of decorative pieces, like this crepe paper streamer and electric Star of David.
“Happy Chanuko”, 1943. Louis L. Kaplan collection, donated by Efrem Potts. JMM#1995.192.158
Holiday decorating is not for everyone, and yes, Chanukah has already begun; but if this post has inspired you, I say it’s never too late to decorate! I’ll leave you with some instructions, and encouraging words, from the 1947 Hanukkah syllabus of the Holiday Institute for Jewish Mothers:
Decoration ideas, including wall streamers and a large star, from “The Holiday Institute for Jewish Mothers: Hanukkah,” (Bureau of Jewish Education, Buffalo, New York, December 1947). Rabbi Uri Miller Collection, donated by Jerome Kadden. JMM#1995.173.032
“There are so few ready-made decorations for Hanukkah one can purchase, and what fun would that be anyway! So with family cooperation, a little creativity and materials such as crepe paper, paste etc., it is surprising how well we can express our ideas. . . . We hope you will enjoy creating Holiday fun. This is your Decoration Committee signing off and wishing you all a very Happy Hanukkah.”
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.
Posted on December 22nd, 2014 by Rachel
Many cookbooks, in the past and today, contain more than just recipes. These books can be considered part of the “conduct book” market, which developed in the US in the 1830s and has been going strong ever since. Etiquette guides, housekeeping instructions, party planning suggestions: all these works aim to help you succeed at home, at work, and in society.
A comprehensive cookbook, then, may contain measurement equivalents, technique hints, or canning instructions, as well as advice on cooking for invalids, planning a week of menus, or setting a table. Useful stuff! Conspicuously absent from mainstream cookbooks, however, is anything related to maintaining a Jewish kitchen. For example – while it is informative in many ways – Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book (1857) includes nothing on traditional foods for the High Holy Days, or the rules of Kosher cooking.
Thus was born the Jewish cookbook. Like most advice books, these guides wanted to help you improve your life, and be the best American you could be … and, in this case, to do both while maintaining, refining, and expressing your Jewish identity. The first American Jewish cookbook was published in 1871, and it was soon followed by many, many more. Here’s the title page from our copy of “Aunt Babette’s” Cook Book, first published in 1889:
“Aunt Babette’s” Cook Book JMM 1999.065.001
Today we may be just as likely to get our expert cooking, deportment, and decorating advice from a website as we are from a book or magazine, but we still seek expert guidance on questions as simple as how to make the perfect latke, and as complicated as how to celebrate the holidays in modern America. Check out “Celebrate the Authentic Way” and last week’s Jewish Times cover story!
…All of this is simply my attempt at a scholarly justification for looking through our cookbook collection in search of Chanukah menus and decorating advice. Many, if not most, of the early books focus only on Passover, but by the 1940s Chanukah has entered the mix. In his 1941 book The Jewish Woman and Her Home (available in our library), Hyman E. Goldin notes that “today, especially in America, [Hanukkah] is gradually becoming a community festival, “ reflecting the holiday’s growing popularity. Goldin also says “Hanukkah is marked by no special feasting.” However, in the same year, the popular Jewish Home Beautiful book (also available in our library) was more than happy to provide recipes and decorating ideas for the holiday, including “potato lotkes,” “snow balls or heizenblozen,” and three novelty salads designed to mimic the appearance of a menorah. (A sample table setting, including the menorah salad, can be seen at the end of this post.)
Since there are a few days left of the holiday, you may be hoping for some fresh ideas – enjoy these suggestions and recipes from our collections!
Pots, Pans, and Pie Plates, and How to Use Them: A Collection of Tried Receipts, compiled by the Hebrew Day Nursery, Baltimore (1905), only has a specific menu for Passover, but it does include a recipe for potato pancakes:
From Pots, Pans, and Pie Plates, and How to Use Them: A Collection of Tried Receipts, JMM 1999.105.1
Alas, the extremely thorough and otherwise marvelous Settlement Cook Book (ours is a circa 1920 edition), which was sold as a fundraiser for recent Jewish immigrants, includes menus for a Passover supper – as well as meals for Lent, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Washington’s Birthday – but nothing for Chanukah. Here’s the suggested “Christmas supper,” in case you want to try it out on the 25th.
From Settlement Cook Book JMM#1999.065.006
At last, here’s a full meal for you, from The New Jewish Cookbook of Favorite Recipes, Betty Dean (1947 – JMM K2011.5.2):
Tomato juice Mixed green salad
Liver with onions Pickles
Breaded lamb chops Potato pancakes with apple sauce
Cauliflower – string beans – beets Tea
And finally, a helpful hint from The Art of Jewish Cooking, Jennie Grossinger, 1958 (1969 edition – JMM K2011.5.1). Here, the author hedges her bets: Though the Chanukah section mentions latkes and kreplach, “we are not giving you any single menu but suggest experimenting with a variety of dishes suitable for festive occasions in the winter.”
Chanukah table setting ideas, from (top) Jewish Home Beautiful, 1941, in our library; and (bottom) The Complete American Jewish Cookbook, edited by Anne London and Bertha Kahn Bishov (1952), JMM K2011.5.3.
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.
Posted on November 24th, 2013 by Rachel
Last Thursday evening, people all over the United States gave thanks and celebrated Thanksgiving with family and friends. In addition to the Thanksgiving celebrationJews also lit a candle for the celebration of Hanukkah. Thanksgivukkah is a pop-culture name given to the convergence of the American holiday of Thanksgiving and the first day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah on Thursday, November 28, 2013.
This week Time Magazine mentions five (5) things that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have in common.
- 1. Both holidays are a great excuse to stuff yourself silly.
- 2. Both are rooted in religion.
- 3. Both were started by groups who found refuge in America.
- 4. Both are all about being thankful
- 5. Both are a reason to go home.
Read more: Thanksgivukkah: Five Things Thanksgiving and Hanukkah Have in Common | TIME.com http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/11/25/happy-thanksgivukkah-five-things-thanksgiving-and-hanukkah-have-in-common/#ixzz2lmcroWYh;
So, as you gather around your holiday dinner table with family and friends, reflect on all of our blessings and even get a little silly with this little ditty… (tune to My Little Dreidel)
Come light the menurkey
Let’s have a party
With latkes and turkey.
Maccabbees and Pilgrims
Americans and Jews
Thankfulness and freedom—
The lessons we choose.
So come spin the dreidel,
And lighting the candles we gloat.
Hearts skip a beat
For we know soon we’ll eat
Pumpkin pie and some sufganiot!
Hearts skip a beat
For we know soon we’ll eat
Pumpkin pie and some sufganiot!
A joyous occasion
Everyone join in
This rare celebration
Lift up high your voices
With songs and with cheers.
The next one won’t be coming
For 79 thousand years. (Chorus)
A marvelous yuntiff
The rebbe and pontiff.
Blending our traditions
Can give quite a shock:
Nays gadol hayah sham
At Plymouth Rock (Chorus)
Hag Sameach! Happy Holidays!
How did you celebrate Thanksgivukkah? Send us your stories and photos!