Our Miniature Chanukah Celebration – Part 1

Posted on December 15th, 2016 by

Nature abhors a vacuum, and collections managers abhor an empty exhibit case. Why not put such a thing to good use? So we moved a spare case to a corner of the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, and now we have to make sure it’s filled.  At the moment, we’re featuring a few items from Chanukah celebrations of the past.

Children preparing decorations for a Chanukah party, circa 1980.  Gift of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore. JMM 2006.13.274b

Children preparing decorations for a Chanukah party, circa 1980. Gift of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore. JMM 2006.13.274b

Compiling a small thematic exhibit like this one is fun, because it gives us a chance to pull together just a few related items that might not often get their day in the (metaphorical) sun.  Archives-based exhibits can also be frustrating, however; we get to see all the pages of the booklets and albums, but we know the visitor usually cannot. That’s where the magic of the internet comes in. (The mantra of the completist curator trying to narrow down the exhibit list: “Okay, that could go on the blog instead.”) I think the covers of our Chanukah entertainments are great, but here’s a chance to show you a bit of what’s inside.

Anonymous gift. JMM 1991.222.1

Anonymous gift. JMM 1991.222.1

First off, the smallest piece: A tiny “programme” from the “13th Annual Chanukah Banquet of the Baltimore Talmud Torah Society, Hebrew Free School, 21 N. High Street to be held at Hazazer’s Hall, 111 W. Franklin St. on Sunday, December 4, 1904.” (To see Hazazer’s, scroll down to the Hs on this site.)  Inside, we learn that the banquet featured music, speeches, prayer, and refreshments; several “pupils of the school,” namely Masters Tarshish, Shapiro, Cohen, and Freilichow, had the privilege of addressing the audience.  The Talmud Torah officers, Banquet committee, and “Committee of Appeal” are listed on the inside cover, including a few names familiar to us today such as Harry Friedenwald, M.S. Levy, and Jacob Epstein.

Anonymous gift. JMM 1991.222.1

Anonymous gift. JMM 1991.222.1

Next, an invitational handbill and the formal libretto from the “Grand Chanuka Celebration” held for the benefit of the Hebrew Young Men’s Association on Tuesday, December 9th, 1879 at Baltimore’s Concordia Opera House.

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.1, .2

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.1, .2

Although visitors can read the full invitation in the case, I must give a shout-out to the delightful introduction:

“Dear Sir: Amply as we are supplied with Jewish Festivals, there is one still, claiming a share for our rejoicing which of late we have not fully accorded to it. It is the festival of Chanuka, full of the most thrilling events described in the history of the Maccabees, and so beautifully set to music by Handel in the Oratorio of Judas Maccabaeus. Desirous of giving the festival the place due it in our midst, we are now actively engaged in completing arrangements for a  Grand Chanuka Celebration…”

(And only fifty cents admission for ladies! I’m sold.)

The cover of the libretto is informative, but there’s even more detail on the title page inside, namely the fact that the text was written by Miss Henrietta Szold (“all proprietary rights reserved”).  Further in the book, we learn the names of the musical soloists and speechgivers before we are treated to the full text of the address; song lyrics and poetry; and descriptions of each tableau vivant, because yes, like all good Grand Celebrations, there were tableaux.

Then we move on to the sponsoring advertisements, usually my favorite part of this type of document (I wish advertisers still noted “All Orders by Post will be promptly attended to,” as does A. Myers, Cabinet Maker), though the ad for Christmas presents is a tad awkward; I think in this case the tableaux are the winner. Altogether, this is a wonderful document, and I’m glad we can share it with you both in person and in virtual form.

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.2

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.2

1993116002-4

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.2

1993116002-5

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.2

1993116002-6

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.2

1993116002-7

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.2

1993116002-8

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.2

1993116002-9

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.2

1993116002-10

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.2

1993116002-11

Gift of Herbert J. Goldsmith. JMM 1993.116.2

Next week: two (at least) more documents from our mini Chanukah exhibit – tune in!

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

 

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It’s not too late to decorate!

Posted on December 9th, 2015 by

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.

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

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

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

“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

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.

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

 

 

 

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A Few Vintage Ideas for Chanukah

Posted on December 22nd, 2014 by

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

“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

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

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):

Channukah

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.”

table setting ideas

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.

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

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