A “Just Married!” Extra – An Artistic (and Popular) Ketubah

Posted on September 7th, 2017 by

Curators have to make choices: not everything can make it into an exhibit, and there’s seldom enough space to share every interesting fact about the things that are on display. That’s where social media comes in! Here’s a closer look at another “Just Married” story from JMM collections manager and Just Married! curator Joanna Church. To read more “Just Married!” extras, click here. To read more posts from Joanna, click here.


 

One of the joys of exhibit research is discovering unexpectedly-related artifacts, documents, and photos across the full spectrum of the collection; it’s like finding new pieces to a puzzle you didn’t even realize was incomplete.  Such was the case with Samson Margolis’s “Artistic Ketubah,” designed in the mid 20th century.

Margolis (1897-1972), a Baltimore artist and calligrapher, shows up frequently in our archives: we have a nice collection of his business files, printing plates, and tools, donated by his son and daughter-in-law, and in addition his work can be found on many certificates, awards, and posters from a variety of sources. These include original, hand-inked pieces as well as printed documents available for purchase and customization. Popular items were his memorial book, a family history book, and – relevant to my exhibit research – an illuminated marriage certificate.  His ketubah is bright and colorful, with text in English and Aramaic, as became common for most movements in the mid 20th century. It is suitable for framing, but can also be folded into a booklet; some versions included a keepsake envelope for storage.

Margolis ketubah, front and back when folded into a booklet. From wedding of Rose and Morton Miller, 1952. Gift of Rosedale Cemetery Association. JMM 1996.25.2

Margolis ketubah, front and back when folded into a booklet. From wedding of Rose and Morton Miller, 1952. Gift of Rosedale Cemetery Association. JMM 1996.25.2

A blank copy of this ketubah was included in the Margolis files along with other examples of his work, but digging deeper I found another unused copy, from the collection of Dr. Louis L. Kaplan (who performed many marriages in 20th century Baltimore), and this one, from the wedding of Rose Siegel and Morton Miller, married by Rabbi Samuel Vitsick on February 21, 1952.

Margolis ketubah used by Rose and Morton Miller, 1952. Gift of Rosedale Cemetery Association. JMM 1996.25.2

Margolis ketubah used by Rose and Morton Miller, 1952. Gift of Rosedale Cemetery Association. JMM 1996.25.2

After taking a close look at these various copies, I started spotting it in photos.  A 1979 snapshot (showing Jesse Hellman signing his Margolis ketubah, watched by his bride Debby Salganik and their officiant Dr. Kaplan) is included in the “Just Married!” exhibit, along with the fresh copy donated by the Margolis family; but eagle-eyed visitors might have noticed that in the 1994 wedding video in the exhibit entrance, Shurron Ann Shapiro and Andrew Carpel sign a Margolis ketubah under the guidance of Rabbi Morris Kosman of Beth Sholom, Frederick.  So far, the earliest photographic evidence of this ketubah can be found in the wedding album of Barbara Sue Levy and Bernard Dackman, who were married April 4, 1951 at Beth Tfiloh.

Bernard Dackman signs his ketubah, 1951. Photo by Bradford Bachrach. Courtesy of Ilene Dackman-Alon.

Bernard Dackman signs his ketubah, 1951. Photo by Bradford Bachrach. Courtesy of Ilene Dackman-Alon.

The last piece of the puzzle (so far) is this marketing letter written by Margolis himself, hoping to get Maryland’s rabbis to invest in a supply of his work for use in any and all weddings they might perform.

Undated letter from Samson Margolis, touting his new “Artistic Ketubah” and offering local rabbis special introductory rates for bulk purchases. Gift of Aaron and Dorothy Margolis. JMM 1994.193.60

Undated letter from Samson Margolis, touting his new “Artistic Ketubah” and offering local rabbis special introductory rates for bulk purchases. Gift of Aaron and Dorothy Margolis. JMM 1994.193.60

Dear Rabbi:

I am taking this privilege of sending you two copies of the new Artistic Ketubah which I have designed and published in five colors, A Marriage Certificate to be kept and cherished for generations.

As you will note, particular attention has been paid to the space allowed for inscribing the names in Hebrew and English. The original texts which are hand-written, are both clear and legible.

Only through the new process in Lithography and the use of fine quality durable papers, could this artistic feat have been accomplished.

Considering the labor, ingenuity, and the skillful production of this Art Ketubah, it should sell for more than a dollar at wholesale, but in order to introduce it to the public and make it popular, I have decided to market it at the following prices:

100 copies for $35.00, 50 copies for $20.00

12 copies for $5.75, single copies at 1.00

As an introductory offer you may have the enclosed two copies for only one dollar.

In the event that you are not able to use these Art Ketubahs, please return them in the same envelope, using the enclosed label for the return address.

Remittance should accompany the order or, we may, upon your request, send C.O.D.

Thanking you for your kind cooperation, and hoping to be favored with your order, I am,

Respectfully yours,

Samson Margolis

I particularly like this letter because it helps explain how Margolis’s ketubah enjoyed such a long career – still in use in some congregations into the 1990s, as evidenced by the video from Beth Sholom.  If a rabbi or congregation took Margolis up on his special introductory rates and laid in a goodly stock of documents, one might well expect to still be using them some 45 years later. I’m sure Margolis would be glad to know his “artistic feat” had a lasting impact.

Detail of unused ketubah, showing Samson Margolis’s printed signature. Dr. Louis L. Kaplan Collection, gift of Efrem M. Potts. JMM 1995.192.124

Detail of unused ketubah, showing Samson Margolis’s printed signature. Dr. Louis L. Kaplan Collection, gift of Efrem M. Potts. JMM 1995.192.124

Help us track the Margolis ketubah! If you, or someone in your family, chose one, let us know the date and place!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




A “Just Married!” Extra – Matchmaking in the Time Before the Smartphone

Posted on August 31st, 2017 by

Curators have to make choices: not everything can make it into an exhibit, and there’s seldom enough space to share every interesting fact about the things that are on display. That’s where social media comes in! Here’s a closer look at another “Just Married” story from JMM collections manager and Just Married! curator Joanna Church. To read more “Just Married!” extras, click here. To read more posts from Joanna, click here.

Because the theme of “Just Married!” focuses closely on the wedding day itself, stories of courtship and matchmaking – in other words, how the happy couple becomes a couple  – were set aside. That doesn’t mean we don’t have some interesting material in the collections, however! In honor of National Matchmaker Day (August 31st), let’s take a look at an example from the early 1990s.

***

With the ubiquity of modern digital technology, it can be sometimes hard to remember that not so long ago, only early adopters were using  the internet; the rest of us had to share and gather information with paper, landlines, and (the bane of my interns’ existence) microfilm. Though I work with historic materials every day, even I find myself watching old TV mysteries and wondering why the characters don’t just look something up on their phone, for heaven’s sake? The internet, and my easy access to it, is just so deeply ingrained in my everyday life.

But of course, this was not always the case, and between the old-fashioned shadchen and JDate (established in 1997), there was a time when finding your ideal Jewish spouse was difficult in the modern world. Having struggled with the problem himself, Baltimore’s Dr. Bert Miller saw the possibilities, and used his statistical skills and marketing savvy to create two “Jewish ‘dater’ bases,” matching singles across the country using photocopies, microfiche, and the postal service – no internet required.

A flyer for Frum-Phile, circa 1990. Gift of Dr. Bert Miller. JMM 1992.50.1

A flyer for Frum-Phile, circa 1990. Gift of Dr. Bert Miller. JMM 1992.50.1

In 1990, Miller, an Orthodox Jew himself, started The National Orthodox Shidduch Project’s Frum-Phile, “The Rabbinically Approved Do-It-Yourself Continent-Wide Matchmaking Service for the ENTIRE Sabbath Observant Single Community.”  For a small fee, Frum-Phile allowed you to share your personal “resume” with singles across the country. Though it deliberately did not include photographs, the “U-Match” form allowed you to describe both yourself and your ideal spouse in some detail, with many different options and choices for Sabbath-observant folks  from a variety of backgrounds. As the flyer notes, “From Black Hat to Knit Kipa, From Long Sleeve to Short Sleeve, We’ve Got You Covered!”

An informational letter accompanying a later version of the U-Match form, circa 1992. It reads in part, “Dear Sabbath Observant Single, I developed FRUM-PHILE for you. My record of volunteerism within Baltimore's Orthodox community includes the conception, construction, and management of Baltimore's Eruv and many other projects. I trained as a statistician and mathematician and I have a background in social science data collection and analysis. After a 21-year marriage, I found myself single again and I found the traditional methods of introductions through friends and matchmakers to be very inefficient and imprecise. After my remarriage, I resolved to build a better spouse trap…. The U-MATCH form has gone through many revisions in response to the critical input sought and received from many Orthodox singles, rabbis, marrieds, and matchmakers from across the Orthodox Sabbath observant spectrum. Note that no item on the form is judgmental. Level of religious observance is an essential consideration in every Orthodox match. Therefore, the items relating to religious observance... are presented only to indicate religious compatibility - not to denigrate those less observant. Our goal is to serve the entire Sabbath Observant singles community.... We will photocopy your form and send these copies to every major Orthodox community on the continent."  Gift of Dr. Bert Miller. JMM 1992.50.3

An informational letter accompanying a later version of the U-Match form, circa 1992. Gift of Dr. Bert Miller. JMM 1992.50.3

The letter reads in part:

“Dear Sabbath Observant Single, I developed FRUM-PHILE for you. My record of volunteerism within Baltimore’s Orthodox community includes the conception, construction, and management of Baltimore’s Eruv and many other projects. I trained as a statistician and mathematician and I have a background in social science data collection and analysis. After a 21-year marriage, I found myself single again and I found the traditional methods of introductions through friends and matchmakers to be very inefficient and imprecise. After my remarriage, I resolved to build a better spouse trap…. The U-MATCH form has gone through many revisions in response to the critical input sought and received from many Orthodox singles, rabbis, marrieds, and matchmakers from across the Orthodox Sabbath observant spectrum. Note that no item on the form is judgmental. Level of religious observance is an essential consideration in every Orthodox match. Therefore, the items relating to religious observance… are presented only to indicate religious compatibility – not to denigrate those less observant. Our goal is to serve the entire Sabbath Observant singles community…. We will photocopy your form and send these copies to every major Orthodox community on the continent.”

With the success of Frum-Phile, Miller broadened his approach to encompass even more of the Jewish community with the introduction of cHupa Helper in late 1991.  In a marketing flyer, he described the venture as “potentially the most significant matchmaking program in Jewish history…. I started this project with a blank sheet of paper and a dream – the dream of your Jewish wedding! Many people were bemoaning inter-marriage, but no one with a broad view seemed to be doing anything about it. I recalled the saying ‘Better to light a single candle than to sit and curse the darkness.’ I resolved to be a candlelighter not a ‘darkness-curser.’ cHupah Helper is the result.” Unlike Frum-Phile, this second venture was aimed at “the ENTIRE Jewish singles community,” including secular and unaffiliated singles, as well as Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox.  Over 100 national Jewish organizations were ready to help share your “resume” across the country, for a nominal yearly fee; on the accompanying list, 37 states were included (with the Baltimore and Owings Mills JCCs doing their part for Maryland).

“The International Jewish ‘Dater’ Base / cHupa Helper.. Our logo puts ‘U’ under a chupah.” From the cHupa Helper introductory flyer, 1991. Gift of Dr. Bert Miller. JMM 1992.50.2

“The International Jewish ‘Dater’ Base / cHupa Helper.. Our logo puts ‘U’ under a chupah.” From the cHupa Helper introductory flyer, 1991. Gift of Dr. Bert Miller. JMM 1992.50.2

Dr. Miller explained his reasoning and methodology to the Baltimore Evening Sun in December, 1991. (The article was included in the introductory cHupa Helper mailing to potential clients.)  Under the headline “Matchmaker builds a ‘spouse trap,’” the reporter begins with a story about Miller meeting his current wife through a New Jersey matchmaker, though “this relationship nearly missed blast-off because of unreliable data.”  Hence, mathematician Miller developed the detailed and specific “U-Match” form, leaving nothing to chance.  According to the reporter, “Frum-Phile  injects a bit of modern technology” into the traditional matchmaking process.

…The problem, of course, is that modern technology keeps modernizing. Today, Frum-Phile is based online, along with many, many other local, national, and international Orthodox matchmaking and shidduch websites. (For a sample of mid-Atlantic options, including Frum-Phile, check out www.shidduchim.info.)  However, cHupa Helper appears to have closed up shop, likely made redundant by the many other internet dating sites available to what Miller called the “ENTIRE Jewish singles community.”

Have any of our readers used one or both of Miller’s services? Let us know! We’d love to hear your story.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Can’t Touch This: Voices from the Basement Part 3

Posted on August 31st, 2017 by

This summer we asked our summer interns to team up and create their very own podcast episodes. Over the course of ten weeks they needed to pitch a concept, draft a script, and record and edit their podcasts. We’re going to share those podcasts here with you on the blog over the course of the next few weeks! You can see all of their podcasts by clicking on the intern podcast tag.


Joelle and Amy with "The Master Binder" - it's heavy!

Joelle and Amy with “The Master Binder” – it’s heavy!

This is the third episode created by collections interns Joelle Paull and Amy Swartz to focus on the care and handling of museum collections. In this episode they discuss preparing collections for packing and shipping for traveling exhibits. Missed their first two episodes? You can listen to them here and here.


Beyond Chicken Soup

Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage


So. Many. Sections.

So. Many. Sections.


Curatorial Health and Safety from the National Park Service

Hazards in Museum Collections from National Museums Scotland

Archives Conservators Discussion Group 2005: Hazardous Holdings, report from a moderated panel by Linda Blazer and Susan Peckham


"Fritzche Brothers. Essences and Essential Oils. Fine Drugs and Chemcial Preparations. Volatile Oil of Mustard." JMM L2015.18.5

“Fritzche Brothers. Essences and Essential Oils. Fine Drugs and Chemcial Preparations. Volatile Oil of Mustard.” JMM L2015.18.5

The Pharmacy Cabinet in Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America.

The Pharmacy Cabinet in Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America.


Condition Reports: The Essentials from the Museums & Galleries of NSW

Planning the packing for a touring exhibition from the Victoria and Albert Museum


Meticulously scraping the glue off the back of exhibit labels before packing them for travel.

Meticulously scraping the glue off the back of exhibit labels before packing them for travel.

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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