Rosh Hashanah Greetings 2018/5779

Posted on September 6th, 2018 by

A blog post by Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

This coming Sunday evening, September 9th, Jewish people from all over the world will be celebrating the Jewish New Year! Rosh Hashanah (literally meaning the “head” of the year) is celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It’s customary to extend greetings and sentiments to loved ones and friends on the holiday. The tradition of sending Jewish New Year greeting cards dates back to the Middle Ages, predating the Christian New Year card tradition, which only became popular in Europe and the United States during the 19th century!

Holiday greetings often include wishes for good health and a sweet new year. Shana Tova means “a good year” and is often extended to L ’Shana Tova umetuka, which means “To a good and sweet year.”  I wondered about the different New Year’s greetings that were in the JMM’s extensive collection – it turns out we have quite a few cards, and I wanted to share a few that I really liked.

In this 1908 card, a man with a white beard (probably symbolizing a rabbi) is blowing a shofar (ram’s horn) which is an important part of the Rosh Hashanah service.  The man is wearing white which is traditionally worn during the High Holidays to reflect the search for inner purity. I thought that this image really captured the essence of the holiday. JMM 1983.019.016b

I loved this card.  There is so much symbolism in the card – from the Statute of Liberty to the inclusion of both the American flag and the flag of Israel.  Interestingly, this card is from the 1940s – possibly before the State of Israel was officially established. One can infer that the sender of the card identified as both an American patriot and a supporter of Zionism. JMM 1990.014.001

Moses in Basket, ca.1911, addressed to the Hecht Family and Baby Hannah, JMM 1997.45.9

Children with Flowers ca 1912, addressed to Baby Hannah Hecht, JMM 1997.045.010

I thought that the two New Year’s greetings above were so sweet – especially since they were sent in sequential years (1911, 1912) to the Hecht Family and Baby Hannah of Havre de Grace, Maryland. The first postcard shows the traditional bible scene of Baby Moses and Miriam on the River Nile and is printed with Hebrew and German.  The second postcard, which is addressed only to Baby Hannah, features adorable children and flowers along with wishes for a New Year written in both Hebrew and English.

This greeting card looked very familiar to me with its mosaic pattern containing a menorah, torah scroll and shofar.  The thing that most caught my eye was that the familiar greeting of Shana Tova was not used.  Instead, the Hebrew phrase Hayom Harat Olam was used, which means “Today is the (birth) day of the world,” a prayer that traces back to Babylonian times and was included in the prayer book of Maimonides! JMM 2008.056.006

Let’s fast forward to 2018.  It is still customary to send greeting cards, however the way in which they are sent are very different than 100 years ago.  The Internet and social media outlets allow us to send our own personal messages to those we love and care about, like this Paperless Post e-card.

When I first got married my husband and I sent out our own greetings to friends and family through snail mail.  Today, we create our own cards to reflect our hopes and dreams for the New Year! I hope you enjoy Floyd modeling with our 2017 Alon Family Rosh Hashanah Card.

Happy New Year!  Chag Sameach!  Gut Yontiff and L’Shanah Tova…….  May we all be inscribed and sealed for a for a good year!

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You Should Update Your Headshot – 1910s Edition

Posted on August 30th, 2018 by

A blog post by Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

A large part of my research for “Fashion Statement,” from both primary and secondary sources, focuses on the issue of successful recognition of appropriate clothing: What is the ‘correct’ thing to wear for one’s gender, age, class, status, religion, and occupation? (Granted, how the ‘correct’ thing is decided, and by whom, is an important question… but we’ll set that aside for now.)  Wearing the right outfit at the right time helps to ensure we are treated with respect by those around us.

This is particularly true in the professional setting. “Imagine how unlikely you would be to engage the services of a professional who did not seem to embody the norms of his or her profession – for example a doctor who wore a chef’s hat and apron to the operating room?” writes Carrie Yang Costello, Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee[1]. Presenting yourself appropriately can have an enormous, even if sometimes unconscious, impact on those with the power to hire and fire you.

Take, for example, a mohel: charged with the performance of a key ritual, one with both spiritual and physical implications for the baby under his care. A mohel who shows up for the ceremony in inappropriate clothing might well be turned away as a bad deal, no matter the reputation, expertise, and equipment he brings with him.

Here are two bris certificates, from 1915 and 1918.  Each features a photograph of the mohel – and though they look quite different, it is the same man.

Bris certificate for Charles Hamburger, June 14, 1915. Gift of Charles Hamburger. JMM 1991.91.6

Bris certificate for Lester Posner, October 27, 1918. Gift of Rona Posner. JMM 2008.94.425

Abraham N. Abramowitz, “Practical Mohel,” was born in Mogilev (now in Belarus) in 1882; he came to the US in the early 1900s, settled in Baltimore by 1905, and became a US citizen in 1913.  According to family history, “he performed his first bris [in] 1906, on his son S. Morris Abramowitz, and his 7451st bris on his grandson, Irvin J. Abramowitz on November 1, 1925.”

The 1915 certificate shows a traditional-looking bearded fellow in a bowler hat and a good suit; not much distinguishes him – at least professionally – from any of the other bearded, bowler-hatted gentlemen of the early 20th century whose photos can be found in our collection.  The 1918 photo, just a few years later, tells a different story: the beard has been trimmed down to a mustache and goatee, he sports a natty bow tie along with his formal suit, and his tall kippah is a sign of his training and skill as well as his faith.

The change in Rev. Abramowitz’s appearance sometime around 1916, demonstrating his acculturation, was not only a personal matter – it was also a professional one. Like many men in this line of work, he included his likeness in advertisements and on his official bris certificates; thus, his Americanized, modernized look had implications for his career.  Both the early and late images were intended to convey competence and trustworthiness (not unlike any professional headshot today) as well as his religious training, encouraging people to choose his services. While we don’t know how his clientele reacted to the updated photo, since Abramowitz performed 7,968 circumcisions over the course of his life (he died in 1926), it would appear that the change was a success.


[1] “Changing Clothes: Gender Inequality and Professional Socialization,” NWSA Journal, Vol. 16 No. 2 (Summer 2004)

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Once Upon a Time…12.22.2017

Posted on August 28th, 2018 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church by email at

JMM A 85

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: December 22, 2017

PastPerfect Accession #: A 85

Status: Unidentified! Do you recognized this local businessman, c. 1920?

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