MS 100 Abramovitz Medical Papers

Posted on August 4th, 2011 by

Dr. Morris Abramovitz's office sign. 2001.26.8

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MS 13 Dr. Herman Seidel Papers

Posted on May 19th, 2011 by

The following finding aid describes one of our early collections.  It is an important record of the work of a single person, but also contains extensive records related to several organizations of the early twentieth century.  Some of our dedicated readers might recognize the name of one of them — the Labor Zionist Organization of America.  Several weeks ago we post the finding aid for MS 21 League Chaper of Labor Zionist Organization of America.  The Jewish Museum of Maryland has collections from individuals as well as organizations, and sometimes the inviduals appear in the archives of the organizations, or the organizations appear in the papers of the individuals.  By looking at multiple manuscript collections researchers can find the details they need to create a full and rich story.

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Herman Seidel in his University of Maryland medical school graduation photo, 1910. 1993.043.070

Dr. Herman Seidel Papers


 MS 13


 The Dr. Herman Seidel Papers were donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland by Dr. Arthur Leslie as accession 1989.82.  Myrna Siegel processed the collection in December 2009.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.  Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual procedures.


 Dr. Herman Seidel was born on April 12, 1884 in Lithuania on the Latvian border.  His education had prepared him to become a teacher of Hebrew, a profession he pursued after arriving in Baltimore in 1903.  He brought his interest in Zionism with him, and in 1905 was chairman of the committee to convene the first Labor Zionist convention in Baltimore.

In 1906 Dr. Seidel entered medical school at the former College of Physicians and Surgeons (affiliated with the University of Maryland), and graduated in 1910. In 1914 Dr. Seidel entered into active medical practice.  While in practice he maintained his interest in community activities.   He was active in Zionist activities on the local and national levels and Jewish education on the local level.

Among his Zionist activities were organizing and recruiting for the Jewish Legion for Palestine in 1917 and 1918; acting as a participant in the organization of the American Jewish congress and as a delegate to its preliminary conference in 1916 and subsequent years; organizing the first National committee for Investments in Israel in 1932; acting as a delegate to the 19th World Zionist Conference in Lucerne, Switzerland in 1935; acting as a participant in the organization of the American Palestine Trading Corporation (AMPAL) in 1940; and acting as President of the League for Labor Palestine of  America from 1940-1947.

Dr. Seidel’s interest in Geriatrics began in the early 1930’s when he read a paper on the problems facing the aged.  In 1948 at Dr. Seidel’s suggestion, the Baltimore City Medical Society organized its first Committee on Geriatrics.  Dr. Seidel was appointed Chairman and remained so until 1961.  He was a fellow of the American Geriatric Society from its inception in 1954 and a member of the American Gerontological Society from 1948.

In 1950, Dr. Seidel organized the first full-day citywide conference on Geriatrics in Baltimore.  Subsequently, Mayor Thomas D’Alessandro of Baltimore appointed a Commission to study the problems of aging in the City of Baltimore to which Dr. Seidel was appointed. Dr. Seidel later served on the Commission appointed by Mayor D’Alessandro to study the problems of aging in Baltimore, on the Maryland Commission for the Aging, and on the Committee on Geriatrics appointed by the Maryland State Medical Association.

Dr. Seidel died in 1969.

Dr. Herman Seidel outside a hotel in Israel, 1957. 1989.82.6


The Labor Zionist Organization of America-Poale Zion was founded in 1905 and held its first convention in Baltimore.  The national mission of the organization was to support the establishment of Israel.  Once Israel became a county in 1948, the LZOA became active in continuing to support the growth of Israel.  One of the main campaigns that came out of Labor Zionism in America was the Histadrut campaign which sent money to border settlements in Israel as well as helping new immigrants and financing the development of Israel.

In the early 1970s the Labor Zionist Organization of America-Poale Zion merged with two other labor Zionist organizations, Farband, a labor Zionist fraternal order, and the American Habonim Association, a labor Zionist youth organization.  These three groups newly merged together became known as the Labor Zionist Alliance.  The newly formed Alliance continued to work for progress in Israel and in 2004 changed its name to Ameinu which continues to work for the same goals.

The League Chapter, the Baltimore chapter, of the Labor Zionist Organization of America began in 1945.  When it was formed it was called the Zionist Guild but by the end of 1946 it was being called the League Chapter of the LZOA.  While the chapter itself did not begin until then, labor Zionist activities had begun much earlier.  The founder of the national organization, Dr. Herman Seidel, was from Baltimore and did much work in Baltimore and in America to spread the Labor Zionist viewpoint.  In 1934 Jacob Janofsky allowed labor Zionists to use his land as a training farm so that young people could learn agricultural skills to take with them to Israel.  Camp Gordonia, which was also a labor Zionist camp was formed in 1935 but soon merged with Habonim in 1938.  However, an official chapter did not exist until 1945.

In the mid 1950s, the League Chapter changed its name to League for Israel but the change was in name only.  When the organization became Labor Zionist Alliance it seems that a Baltimore chapter still existed however it is unclear if Ameinu still has different chapters.

Dr. Herman Seidel with a Zionist group believed to be Poalei Zion, c. 1905. 1963.9.1

Scope And Content

The Dr. Herman Seidel Papers are comprised primarily of papers relating to Dr. Seidel’s wide ranging Zionist activities as well as his professional activities as a physician.  The papers are divided into three series: Series I. Personal and Professional Life, n.d., 1910-1969; Series II. Major Zionist Activities, n.d., 1932-1962; and Series III. Subject Matter and Correspondence Files, n.d.,

Series I.  Personal and Professional Life, n.d., 1910-1969 includes material relating to Dr. Seidel’s personal life relating to financial activities, celebrations and personal correspondence.  There is also material relating to his medical practice and subsequent interest and actions in the field of gerontology.

Series II. Major Zionist Activities, n.d., 1932-1962 includes material relating to the four Zionist organizations with which Dr. Seidel was primarily involved.  Those four are the Labor Zionist Organization of America – Poale Zion, AMPAL, the American Palestine Trading Co., Heirut Beth and Histadrut.

Series III. Subject Matter and Correspondence Files, n.d. includes correspondence with individuals and organizations as well clippings of interest to Dr. Seidel.


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Two Birth Control Pioneers

Posted on December 10th, 2010 by

Dr. Deb WeinerA post by historian Dr. Deb Weiner.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on the upcoming edition of Generations magazine, which will soon go to press. The theme of the issue is “Social Justice,” and without doubt it’s going to be one of our best ever. There will be orphans running away from the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and feminists clashing with male charity leaders in the 1890s, Communists sponsoring illegal “mixed race dancing” in the 1930s, rabbis and ordinary citizens taking a stand for civil rights in the 1960s. And (as always) much more.

For this blog post, I thought I’d highlight the career of Dr. Bessie Moses (1893-1965), who is featured in an article about ten Baltimoreans who stood up for social justice in the 20th century. Committed to women’s health care from an early age, she became the first female obstetrical intern at Johns Hopkins. In 1927, she and a few other doctors from Hopkins founded Maryland’s first birth control clinic, the Bureau for Contraceptive Advice (in the 1940s it became  Planned Parenthood of Maryland). She was the clinic’s medical director, a post she held until 1956.

Dr. Bessie MosesDr.

Bessie Moses

When the clinic opened, many of its activities were actually illegal according to the Comstock Law, which restricted the dissemination of contraceptives and birth control information. The clinic stayed on the right side of the law by positioning itself as a research institute—and it took its research mandate seriously, conducting important studies on birth control methods such as diaphragms and condoms. It also provided desperately-needed care to women who had nowhere else to turn. As a rigorous scientist and compassionate physician, Moses guided both the research and patient care components.

To avoid controversy that might lead to the clinic’s demise, it served only married women, mostly poor and working-class mothers who already had large families and couldn’t afford another mouth to feed. But Moses didn’t shy away from controversy on a personal level—she became a strong advocate for legalizing birth control, speaking out publicly and testifying at Congressional hearings for repeal of the Comstock Law. (In 1936, a federal court ruled that the Comstock Law did not apply to doctors providing contraception to patients.) Her clinic served blacks as well as whites, although on segregated days, as local custom demanded. In 1938 Moses founded the Northwest Maternal Health Center to serve black patients, the first women’s health clinic in the nation staffed by African American physicians.

Moses mentored another Baltimorean who became a nationally-known birth control pioneer, and since he didn’t make it into Generations, I’m glad to have an opportunity to mention him. Dr. Alan F. Guttmacher (1898-1974) was the son of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Rabbi Adolph Guttmacher and his wife Laura, a feminist, social worker, and leader of local Jewish women’s groups in the early 20th century. He joined the birth control movement as an intern at Hopkins in the 1920s, “after witnessing a woman die from a botched abortion,” according to a profile on the Alan Guttmacher Institute website (more on that later). He became involved in Moses’s clinic, while also teaching at Hopkins and becoming chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Sinai Hospital. In 1952 he moved to New York and held a similar position at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Dr. Alan Guttmacher

Dr. Alan Guttmacher

At age 64, Guttmacher retired from medical practice to become president of the national Planned Parenthood organization. The 1960s were a time of great change in the arena of reproductive rights, and Guttmacher was in the middle of it all, as perhaps the most visible advocate for expanding the availability of birth control and legalizing abortion. “No woman is completely free unless she is wholly capable of controlling her fertility, and … no baby receives its full birthright unless it is born gleefully wanted by its parents,” he stated.

Planned Parenthood

In 1968, Planned Parenthood created the Center for Family Planning Program Development, which became the nation’s leading institute for research, education, and policy analysis related to reproductive health. After Guttmacher’s death, the institute was renamed in his honor.

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