Iron Will in Hoopskirts: Jewish Women in the Civil War

Posted on November 11th, 2013 by

November’s theme here at the JMM is Jewish women in the Civil War. We’ve kicked off the month with a wonderful talk yesterday by historian Dr. Lauren Strauss. Her talk has the distinction of having the Best Title Ever (IMHO): “Kosher Southern Belles and Yankee Bubbies Face America’s Greatest Crisis”.

Lauren Strauss presents

Lauren Strauss presents

Folks, it just doesn’t get any better than that!

The Levy Sisters, Eugenia (left) and Phoebe (right)

The Levy Sisters, Eugenia (left) and Phoebe (right)

Lauren told us about a handful of distinctive Jewish women who did remarkable things during the war. The most dramatic of them were the two Levy sisters: Eugenia Levy Phillips was a Confederate spy and was incarcerated twice for it, and her sister Phoebe Yates Pember was a stalwart nurse at the Chimborazo Hospital, where she made her mark by feeding the wounded with her chicken soup.

A few ladies of the Civil War

A few ladies of the Civil War

Next week, we continue celebrating the remarkable women of the Civil War, this time with a visit from a very familiar name: Clara Barton will be gracing us with her presence and her memories of the battlefields at 1pm next Sunday. Don’t miss it  - for more info, check out our programs page!

Britt Olsen-Ecker as Clara Barton

Britt Olsen-Ecker as Clara Barton

abby krolik copyA blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts by Abby, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

From Flat to Fluffy: The Conservation of Rabbi Szold’s hat

Posted on November 7th, 2013 by

If you are too young to know about Breck shampoo—or if you just want to reminisce about 1970s hair products—check out this Youtube video. 

Incorporating original objects from the JMM permanent collection in exhibitions—especially traveling exhibitions—is an important way to bring the focus to Jewish life in Maryland. This was particularly true with Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. Maryland was truly a boarder state during the Civil War and Jews were as divided as other groups when choosing sides. While I knew about his role on the pulpit in Baltimore, I was surprised to learn that Rabbi Benjamin Szold was asked to intercede on behalf of Private George Kuhn, a young Jewish Union deserter. Although Szold was unsuccessful, he remained with the young man until he was executed.

You can see an original copy of this Harper’s Weekly depicting the aforementioned execution in the Passages through Fire exhibition.

You can see an original copy of this Harper’s Weekly depicting the aforementioned execution in the Passages through Fire exhibition.

In addition to the trunk that Szold used when he emigrated from Breslau, the Museum also owns the black velvet hat he wore at about the time he was recruited by Temple Oheb Shalom in 1859. This artifact was perfect for the The Minhag America section of the exhibition, explaining the diverse practices in each Jewish community at the start of the Civil War.

1998.115.2  A portrait of Rabbi Benjamin Szold

1998.115.2 A portrait of Rabbi Benjamin Szold

Unfortunately, the hat was in poor condition and could not be exhibited without conservation. As evidenced in the photo below, the velvet was completely split, and falling off the hat to expose a yellow/brown padding structure beneath, which too had tears, soiling, and damage. In addition to holes, the shape of the hat was distorted and crushed, and there was a considerable amount of dust accumulated across the surface!

Demonstrating that the black velvet is literally being held on by a thread.

Demonstrating that the black velvet is literally being held on by a thread.

 It looks like a toupee!

It looks like a toupee!

Conservation work can be time consuming and expensive—which is why the JMM only conserves select items, usually in conjunction with an exhibition. The American Institution of Conservation website was helpful in identifying specialized conservators by location. After we approved her treatment proposal, textile conservator Julia Brennan worked on Rabbi Szold’s hat. In her treatment report Julia explained the process of her work:

·         The hat was humidified over several days in an enclosed chamber to slowly introduce moisture into the fabric. This made the hat more malleable, and throughout the humidification process it was gradually manipulated from its collapsed shape to its original shape. As the hat softened, it was gently filled out with tissue to hold the shape.

·         The hat really took its original shape and the velvet is much more relaxed and supple.

·         Large, split areas of the hat were lined with black cotton for stability. The split edges were then re-aligned and hand sewn to the black cotton with hand stitching, using a color-matched Skala thread. It was necessary to have the supports, as the velvet edges are too brittle to attach to each other.

Left, a split, broken area lined with black cotton. Right, the area stitched back into place. A small seam of the cotton is visible.

Left, a split, broken area lined with black cotton. Right, the area stitched back into place. A small seam of the cotton is visible.

·         In a large area where the velvet was missing entirely, a new piece of carefully matched black velvet was inserted and stitched into place with hand stitching. This fills the hole, and makes the hat more complete and attractive.

Left, a large hole in the hat. Right, the hole with new black velvet inserted to mask the hole.

Left, a large hole in the hat. Right, the hole with new black velvet inserted to mask the hole.

Our biggest concern with the Szold hat was whether it would be stable enough for exhibition after treatment. In addition to conserving the hat, Julia built a custom support to keep it in its original, stable shape. The support consists of four parts:

1. A “donut” made of cotton stockinette and batting, exactly fitting the main body of the hat. This will prevent the velvet from the stress of collapsing, which contributed to the original splits.

2. A small, dome shaped piece made of ethafoam and batting, covered in a non-abrasive black stretch fabric. This supports the center of the body of the hat, which the donut does not support.

3. A flat disc made of ethafoam, batting, and black stretch fabric fit to the exact dimensions of the hat brim. This keeps the brim straight, preventing further wrinkling and making current wrinkling less obvious.

4. A second, taller disc for the entire supported hat to sit on, also made of ethafoam, batting, and covered in a cream colored stretch fabric. This elevates the hat when its other support pieces are in place so the brim does not touch the resting surface. It can also be used for display purposes. Or not.

Interior Support

Interior Support

Right Side Up

Right Side Up

The hat has undergone a complete transformation! It is no longer limp and torn. It’s gone from Flat to Fluffy.

In the “Results and Recommendations” section of her report Julia cautions that the velvet is still extremely brittle, an irreversible problem. Some small splits remain in the velvet because the repair process is so stressful to the fabric that repairing them would cause more harm than good. The hat must be handled with extreme delicacy and caution, or more splits will occur, and current splits may get larger. The hat should be kept in a carefully monitored environment with low light. Cleaning should only be done by a conservation professional due to the delicacy of the fabric.

I got this travel sized Breck shampoo when I stayed at the Channel Inn in DC for the MAAM conference in October. It really makes your hair fluffy! Just don’t use it on historic artifacts.

I got this travel sized Breck shampoo when I stayed at the Channel Inn in DC for the MAAM conference in October. It really makes your hair fluffy! Just don’t use it on historic artifacts.

Rabbi Szold’s hat is on view in the Passages through the Fire exhibition on view now at the JMM. Funding for this important project was made possible by the Associated.

JobiA blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts by Jobi click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Museum Matters – November 2013

Posted on November 1st, 2013 by

Iron Will in Hoop Skirts

They ran shops and hospitals.  They established charitable organizations, raised funds and supported those who could not support themselves.  They included authors and agitators, organizers and spies.  Some were imprisoned in the war and a few dozen put on military uniforms (and in the guise of men) went off to fight.  These are the women of the Civil War, and they are the stars of this month’s programs.

The exhibit, Passages Through the Fire:  Jews and the Civil War tells the story of many of these women, from abolitionist and feminist, Ernestine Rose to died-in-the-wool Confederate partisan Eugenia Levy Phillips.  It also deals with the struggles of woman caught in-between, like Annie Jonas Wells, whose father was a friend of Lincoln but had two brothers join the Confederate army.

Our special Sunday programs this month, with Dr. Lauren Strauss on November 10 and Clara Barton on November 17 (see details below), amplify the content of the exhibit and offer new perspectives on both the work and lives of women during the conflict. We are also installing a small lobby display on Monday, expanding on some of these stories and introducing a few new ones. We are grateful to the Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation for its generous support of highlighting these stories in our exhibits and programs.

Come join us as we celebrate the talents, the bravery and the determination of the Civil War women.


Upcoming Programs

Please note that unless otherwise noted, all programs take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland (15 Lloyd Street, Baltimore, MD 21202). For more information and to RSVP for specific programs, contact Trillion Attwood: (410) 732-6400 x215 / For more information on JMM events please visit


Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht

Saturday, November 9, 7:00pm

Beth El Congregation, 8101 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21208

Free Admission

Co-sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council, the Men’s Club of Beth El, the Rabbi Mark G. Loeb Center for Lifelong Learning at Beth El Congregation, and the JMM.


Kosher Southern Belles and Yankee Bubbies Confront America’s Greatest Crisis: Jewish Women and the Civil War with speaker, Lauren Strauss

Sunday, November 10, 1:00pm

Program is Free with Museum Admission

At the end of the Civil War, Jewish community leaders and historians rushed to document the bloody sacrifices made by “men of the Hebrew faith” to the nation’s greatest struggle. However, the contributions of American Jewish women – both Northerners and Southerners – have only recently begun to be appreciated. As nurses, teachers, homemakers, merchants, and even convicts and spies, these Jewish daughters of the Union and the Confederacy were deeply involved in their country’s fate at a crucial moment in its history. Despite deep fissures between Jewish women in the North and South, the very strength of their passions highlights the extent to which they embraced their identity as Americans -not only for its wartime relevance, but also for a longer-term understanding of Jewish integration into American society.


Special Living History Performance: Clara Barton: Angel of the Battlefield

Sunday, November 17, 1:00pm

Program is Free with Museum Admission

Join us at for a special performance by Living History Character Clara Barton. Hold your breath as the “Angel of the Battlefield” trods amidst the most dangerous and violent conflicts of the war to provide solace and hope to boys wounded in the fight.  See how one woman’s courage and generosity commanded the respect of every soldier.

Clara Barton is performed by actor, Britt Olsen-Ecker who has performed with The Strand Theatre, Glass Mind Theatre, and Single Carrot Theatre.  She is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University and an accomplished photographer.


Gobbles, Gelt and Gratitude

Monday, November 18, 10:30am

$5 per family (includes Museum admission)

Please register at

Join your PJ Pals for Gobbles, Gelt and Gratitude at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, co-sponsored by the Downtown Baltimore JCC and PJ library. Enjoy storytime, crafts and snacks for Chanukah and Thanksgiving. Meet and make new friends. This program is for children aged 6 months to 5 years (siblings welcome).


Late Night on Lloyd Street: “The Crowd was Hushed to Silence”: Lincoln, Gettysburg and the Power of Presidential Address

Tuesday, November 19, 6:00pm


Don your best stove pipe hat and trim your beard! Come and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address. Participate in a live-action reading of the famous speech, take a special curator-led tour of our newly opened exhibit, Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War, and dive in to a discussion on presidential addresses.

Generously supported by the Grandchildren of Harvey M. and Lyn P. Meyerhoff Philanthropic Fund.


Civil War Photography Family Day

Sunday December 1, 11:00am to 2:00pm


Divided Loyalties: Jewish Photographers in Civil War Baltimore with Ross Kelbaugh

Sunday, December 1, 2:00 pm

Both Programs are Free with Museum Admission

The American Civil War brought photography into homes like never before. Join us for a day of engaging activities for the whole family to learn about photography before the age of cell phone cameras and digital prints. Process your own cyanotype, colorize your own Carte de Visite and build your own stereoscope!

At 2:00pm visitors are invited to join us for a talk by Ross Kelbaugh, who is a well-known local photography collector and expert on the subject of the early history of photography. Though Maryland never seceded, it remained a state of divided loyalties during the Civil War.  Some Jewish photographers in Baltimore were sympathetic to the Southern Cause and found themselves embroiled in the events of the period.  Several were even imprisoned for disloyalty. This illustrated program will briefly introduce the practice of photography during this period and discuss the events that brought these Jewish citizens into conflict with Union supporters.


Late Night on Lloyd Street: Estherfest

Wednesday December 4, 6:00 – 9:00pm


Back by popular demand, Esther Weiner returns for our annual Chanukah celebration. Join us as Esther demonstrates how she makes her famous delicious latkes and entertains the audience with her hilarious stand up routine!

Generously supported by the Grandchildren of Harvey M. and Lyn P. Meyerhoff Philanthropic Fund.


Faith and Freedom in the Civil War

Sunday December 8, 1pm

Program Free with Museum Admission

In conjunction with our December monthly program focus on the role of chaplains during the Civil War, Barbara Franco, Founding Executive Director of the newly-opened Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum, explores how the religious foment, innovation and change wrought by the Second Great Awakening influenced thinking about moral issues of war and slavery, and how Americans of all faiths who met at Gettysburg grappled not only with life and death, but with divergent ideas of faith and freedom that would shape the nation’s future.


BUS TOUR: Civil War Sites of Baltimore

Sunday, December 15

Bus departs at 9:00am from the Jewish Museum of Maryland (doors open 8:30am)

Led by Maryland Civil war expert Daniel Carroll Toomey

Cost: $48 / $40 for members

Learn Baltimore’s Civil War history first hand with this exclusive bus tour led by prominent Maryland historian and author Daniel Carroll Toomey. Seating is limited, so reserve yours today – email to register.


Mitzvahs and Monuments: Remembering Our Veterans at the Jewish Museum of Maryland!

Wednesday December 25, 10:00am to 2:00pm

Program Free with museum admission

Co-sponsored by the Jewish Volunteer Connection, B’nai Israel Congregation, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, the Baltimore VA Medical Center and Jewish Volunteer Connection.


Against the Odds: America, the Monuments Men, and Saving Jewish and European Cultural Heritage with speaker, Michael Kurtz

Wednesday, December 25, 1:00pm

Program Free with Museum Admission

For our Mitzvah Day project we will create gift packages for veterans in Baltimore’s VA Medical Center that we will deliver that afternoon.  And then at 1:00 Dr. Michael Kurtz of the University of Maryland will talk about his book that details the extraordinary story of a WWII platoon assigned the task of rescuing the world’s art treasures stolen by the Nazis (soon to be a major motion picture with George Clooney and Matt Damon).


More Programs

The JMM is pleased to share our campus with B’nai Israel Congregation. For additional information about B’nai Israel events and services for Shabbat, please visit  For more of this month’s events from BIYA, please visit or check out BIYA on facebook.


Women’s Yoga at B’nai starting Nov. 10

B’nai Israel is pleased to offer weekly yoga classes led by certified yoga instructor and B’nai Israel member Rena Needle (

Sundays from 5-6pm starting November 10th

B’nai Israel Congregation, 27 Lloyd Street



Women’s Farbrengen: Cooking for Thanksgivikuh

126 Lloyd Street Baltimore, MD

Sunday, Nov 3 4pm-7pm


4 Rabbis, 5 Opinions

Max’s Taphouse (737 S Broadway Street Baltimore, MD)

Wednesday, Nov 6 7pm-9pm


B-more Shabbat with Repair the World

B’nai Israel: 27 Lloyd Street, Baltimore, MD

Friday, Nov 15 6:30pm


Ice Skating and Hot Cocoa Social

Patterson Park Family Skating Center (200 South Linwood Avenue Baltimore, MD) & Van Gogh Café (300 S. Ann St., Baltimore, MD 21231)

Saturday, Nov 23 7:00pm–BIYA+style&utm_campaign=NovBIYA&utm_medium=email



Exhibits currently on display at the JMM include Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore and The Synagogue Speaks! and Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War on display through February, 28, 2014.


Hours and Tour Times

The JMM is open Sunday-Thursday, 10am – 5pm. We offer tours of our historic synagogues each day at 11:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00. We are delighted to announce the debut of a new themed “1861 Tour” of the Lloyd Street Synagogue that focuses on Baltimore’s Jewish community during the Civil War. This tour is offered Sunday-Thursday at 3:00pm (in place of the regular tour).

Please note that the JMM is closed on Thursday, November 28 for Thanksgiving. Our administrative offices are also closed on Friday, November 29.


Get Involved

The JMM is looking for volunteers to help staff our front desk, work in the gift shop, and lead tours as docents. No prior knowledge or training is required. All that is needed is an interest in learning about the JMM, our historic sites, exhibits, and programs and a desire to share this knowledge with the public. All volunteers are provided with thorough training. If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer program, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen at 410.732.6400 x217 or



Revamped and revitalized, membership at the JMM is now better than ever – with new categories, benefits, and discounts to enrich every visit to the Museum for you and your friends and families.

All members receive our monthly e-newsletter, along with a 10% discount at the Museum store, free general admission to the Museum, free admission to all regular programs, attendance at exclusive member opening events and discounted weekday parking at the City-owned garage at 1001 E. Fayette Street. Your membership provides much needed funding for the many programs that we offer and we hope we can count on you for your continued support. Memberships can be purchase online! For more information about our membership program, please contact Sue Foard at (410) 732-6400 x220 or


Gift Shop


Muscians Menorah by Karen Rossi



 All members of the JMM receive a 10% discount in the Museum Shop. Proceeds from the sale of merchandise in our shop support the mission of The Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Contact Esther Weiner, Museum Shop Manager at 410-732-6400, x211 /





Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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