A Family Pharmacy: AZO

Posted on July 17th, 2014 by

My role as an Exhibition Intern at the JMM has largely involved researching and reviewing subjects related to the upcoming Jews, Health, and Healing. My internship thus far has been incredibly rewarding, as I have investigated topics which I have never studied before, namely pharmaceutical history. I’ve read sixteenth century medicinal guide books, studied the changing corner drugstore, and cataloged countless prescriptions. Gradually, I began to gain a greater appreciation of the field, and saw the pharmacy as the true medical marketplace, where doctors, patients, and prescriptions come together.

However, as my supervisor, Curator Karen Falk, adeptly pointed out, I neglected one major detail in my research: how do we make this a Jewish Baltimore story? Individuals may recognize the immense Jewish presence in the field of medicine and pharmacy, but how will we portray this community in the exhibit? As I combed through the JMM’s impressive archives, I began to find the answer: the pharmaceutical fraternity.

An AZO window sticker dating from the 1940s. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2001.61.2

An AZO window sticker dating from the 1940s. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2001.61.2

The history of AZO parallels the Jewish experience of medical school. In the early twentieth century, American universities used race-based acceptance quotas to counter the tide of Jewish Americans eager to enter the medical professions. Jewish students in Philadelphia realized the challenges placed before them and decided to band together. In 1919, twelve Jewish students formed Alpha Zeta Omega with the goal of a 100% graduation rate. Just three short years later, AZO began to spread and the University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy founded the Kappa Chapter.

The original symbol of AZO. It was originally referred to as the “Dead Man’s Club” or simply, “The Dozen.”

The original symbol of AZO. It was originally referred to as the “Dead Man’s Club” or simply, “The Dozen.”

Though AZO was not an official Jewish fraternity and does not remain one today, Judaism and the Jewish experience was very much at the core of the organization. (One can easily identify Jewish imagery in the organization’s original symbol.) Therefore, AZO developed into more than a fraternity, but a community with similar professional goals and values. In fact, Baltimore’s AZO was so close-knit that the organization founded the first women’s auxiliary: the Azoans.

A group of Azoans after a very successful fundraiser, circa mid-1930s. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2002.2.31

A group of Azoans after a very successful fundraiser, circa mid-1930s. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2002.2.31

The Azoans was a philanthropic organization of pharmacists’ wives and sisters.  The idea for the Azoans was born after Sadie Karpa attended a meeting of the AZO Pharmaceutical Fraternity in Cincinnati and realized how well the women worked together, but without organization.  The first meeting was held on October 15, 1931 at the home of Lee Kramer, the first president of the group.

 Part of the Azoans ritual was to commemorate the many symbols of the organization. The Azoans were very much a Jewish organization. Courtesy of the Ernestine Stiffman Collection, accession #89.109.19

Part of the Azoans ritual was to commemorate the many symbols of the organization. The Azoans were very much a Jewish organization. Courtesy of the Ernestine Stiffman Collection, accession #89.109.19

The woman’s organization developed charity events which would profit medical institutions in Baltimore and Israel. With countless bake sales and auctions, the AZOANS were able to purchase an ambulance for the Red Cross, donate an iron lung to Sinai Hospital, and provide dental care to the Baltimore School for the Blind.

An image from a 1953 Azoan scrapbook. Courtesy of the Ernestine Stiffman Collection, accession #89.109.19

An image from a 1953 Azoan scrapbook. Courtesy of the Ernestine Stiffman Collection, accession #89.109.19

The organization also developed into a vibrant Jewish social organization. When Azoans members had finished their charitable drives and functions, members would often gather together, socialize, and discuss issues of the day. The Azoans were famous for their skits, poems, and songs.

The Azoans were notorious rhymers. Attached is a song dedicated to Esther Pelovitz. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2000.144.30

The Azoans were notorious rhymers. Attached is a song dedicated to Esther Pelovitz. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2000.144.30

The women of the AZOANS represent the strength of Baltimore’s Jewish pharmacy community. Each neighborhood drugstore had its own loyal customers and its own corner. But, on the weekends, the owners and their wives would come together and discuss how their city could profit from partnership, better health, and better facilities. I hope that Jews, Health, and Healing can accurately display that passion.

To close, a speech given by Ms. Lee Kramer. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2000.144.30

To close, a speech given by Ms. Lee Kramer. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2000.144.30

Mandy BenterA blog post by Exhibition Research intern Mandy Benter. To read more posts by interns, click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Researching a Family “Dynasty” of Jewish Doctors in Baltimore

Posted on July 2nd, 2014 by

As a summer 2014 Exhibitions Research intern at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I am helping develop the upcoming exhibition Jews, Health, and Healing.  The 2015 exhibition will explore how medicine shaped both the ways Jews are viewed by others and how they view themselves.  This intersection of culture and science has provided some fascinating ways of looking at the construction of identity and empowerment in the Jewish community.

A lot of my research has focused on the Friedenwald family “dynasty” of doctors.  Three generations of Friedenwalds practiced ophthalmology in Baltimore.   Using JMM’s archive collection I have looked at the Friedenwald manuscript collection, which includes correspondences, speeches, and diaries.

Some of the many boxes containing the Friedenwald collection.

Some of the many boxes containing the Friedenwald collection.

Our exhibit will pay special attention to Dr. Harry Friedenwald (1864—1950).  Harry was interested in the history of medicine, particularly Jewish contributions to the field.  This research led to the publication of his book Jews and Medicine: Essays in 1944.  The exhibition will feature a recreation of Harry’s study.

A photograph of Dr. Harry Friedenwald.

A photograph of Dr. Harry Friedenwald.

One of the most interesting things I have found in the Friedenwald manuscript collection is a letter from Harry to his son Jonas (another ophthalmologist) describing medical school quotas for Jewish students.  The July 21, 1922 letter describes a meeting that Harry organized with fellow doctors to review Jewish admissions to John Hopkins Medical school.  In the early twentieth century there were quotas to limit the number of Jewish medical students.  Harry wrote of the “inquisition” into the religious adherence of applicants.  This was conducted by asking for statements from each person’s mother.  Such policies were used to determine if an applicant was Jewish.  Harry hoped to end the quotas.

Harry’s July 21, 1922 letter to Jonas describing quotas at Hopkins.  One of the most difficult aspects of my research has been deciphering Harry’s handwriting!

Harry’s July 21, 1922 letter to Jonas describing quotas at Hopkins. One of the most difficult aspects of my research has been deciphering Harry’s handwriting!

Hopefully, this letter can be used in the Jews, Health, and Healing exhibition to illustrate the history of quotas on Jewish students in medical schools, as well as the broader story of discrimination in medicine.

Sarah MooreA blog post by Exhibition Research Intern Sarah Moore. To read more posts by and about interns, click Here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




An Intern Prepares for Electrified Pickle

Posted on June 30th, 2014 by

Hi! My name is Arielle and I’m working at the Jewish Museum of Maryland this summer as an Education and Programming intern.  After two weeks on the job, I can honestly say that I’ve learned way more than I can write.  From observing tours, to working with visitors, to learning how to use Past Perfect, to attending meetings, to planning exhibits, this job has been quite a ride.  In addition, its also been a lot of fun!  I love the work that I’m doing at the museum.  Plus, the people that I’m working with make it even more fun and rewarding.  The community of staff and volunteers at the museum has been incredibly welcoming.  They are so phenomenal at what they do and they are great teachers when it comes to learning how a museum works.

“Intern Wrangler” and Senior Collections Manager Jobi taught all the interns how to handle collections items. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with this artifact – an eye glass case used by Optometrists back in the day – and prepare it for display.

“Intern Wrangler” and Senior Collections Manager Jobi taught all the interns how to handle collections items. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with this artifact – an eye glass case used by Optometrists back in the day – and prepare it for display.

On the job I’ve gotten to play a part in so many awesome upcoming things that will be taking place at the museum both this summer and this fall.  After sitting in on several meetings regarding the Electrified Pickle exhibit and helping put together the set of collections items that will be on display, I can honestly say that the exhibit which will be opening on July 13 is going to be amazing!  Among other themes, the exhibit deals with the Jewish relationship with technology and how it’s progressed over the years.  The topic is very engaging and the collections items we’ve gathered to show on display are fascinating. The exhibit should be very educational and I know we have several exciting programs coming up that will be going along with the exhibit!

As an intern I never expected to have such an important say in the planning of an exhibit, but the JMM is unique because I think it really trusts its interns and treats us like members of the staff.  From this trust and responsibility, I have loved stepping up to the plate and learning by doing, instead of learning by watching.  I have gained so much by attending these exhibition planning meetings and researching artifacts. I can’t wait to help build the exhibit over the next two weeks and watch its success when it opens.

Looking at photographs on the computer program Past Perfect, trying to find the perfect photo to display in the “Electrified Pickle” exhibit.

Looking at photographs on the computer program Past Perfect, trying to find the perfect photo to display in the “Electrified Pickle” exhibit

In addition to helping plan the “Electrified Pickle”, I have also been given the opportunity to work on projects regarding the upcoming exhibit “The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen” which opens on September 14, and the chance to help organize the museum’s upcoming Holocaust Summer Teacher’s Institute. It has been a very fun and rewarding process doing both of these things and I can’t wait for the rest of the summer to see how much more I learn!

So, that all being said, I hope you stop by the museum this upcoming summer to check out the “Electrified Pickle” and come back again in the fall to see “The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen.”  I promise you won’t be disappointed! They should be both “Electrifying” and “Ahhh-mazing!” Hehe, get it?

So many Mendes, So little time! Be sure to come back in the fall to meet The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen yourself!

So many Mendes, So little time! Be sure to come back in the fall to meet The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen yourself!

You can even download your OWN Flat Mendes here or pick one up at the front desk next time you visit the Museum!

The Jewish Museum of Maryland is an amazing place and so far I couldn’t be happier spending my summer working as an intern here.

A blog post by Education and Programming Intern Arrielle Kaden. To read more posts by and about JMM interns, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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