MS 37 Rabbi Benjamin Szold Papers

Posted on December 29th, 2011 by

Over the fifty years that the Jewish Museum of Maryland has been in existence we have received a large number of materials related to Benjamin Szold and his descendents, which have been organized into three manuscript collections.  Two of those collections (MS 37 and MS 38 the Henrietta Szold and Bertha Szold Levin Papers) are completely processed with finding aids and a third (MS 17 the Levin Family Papers) is having new materials added to it, and should be complete within a few weeks.  The Szold family is pretty amazing – their activities had an impact, not only onBaltimoreJewish history, but on world Jewish history.  My favorite part of these collections is the amazing number of letters.  Each collection is full of letters written between siblings, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, and friends and acquaintances.

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Cantor Alois Kaiser (left) and Rabbi Benjamin Szold (right), taken at the Oheb Shalom Synagogue in 1868. 1989.79.74

Rabbi Benjamin Szold (1829-1902)

Papers, n.d., 1846-1940

 MS 37

Jewish Museum of Maryland


The Rabbi Benjamin Szold Papers were donated to the museum as accession 2004.076. The collection was reprocessed by Rebecca Levitan in the summer of 2007.

Access to the collection is partially restricted.  Photocopied materials in the collection either do not belong to the Jewish Museum of Maryland, or have uncertain title.  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.

Parlor in the Szold house, c. 1899.


Benjamin Szold was born in Nemiskert, Hungaryon November 15, 1829.  He was the son of Chaile and Boruch Szold but was raised by his uncles after the deaths of his parents.  He moved to Pressburg, Hungary to study at the Yeshiva.  He later studied and worked in Vienna during the Revolution of 1848.  He also tutored students while living and studying in Breslau (now Poland).  On August 10, 1959 Benjamin married Sophia (Sophie) Schaar and the two moved to Baltimore, Maryland.

Sophie Szold. 1989.79.54

Szold came to the United States to take a job as Rabbi at Oheb Shalom Synagogue in Baltimore and rose to prominence in the coming years.  He unsuccessfully lobbied President Abraham Lincoln to commute the execution order of a Jewish soldier during the American Civil War.  He also served with the Baltimore Association for the Education and Moral Improvement of the Colored People at the war’s end.

Oheb Shalom on Hanover Street after the rebuilding, n.d. 1985.114.1

Rabbi Szold modernized the practices of his congregation.  He eventually delivered sermons in English rather than German, he eliminated the requirement for head coverings in the synagogue, and he introduced family pews.  Szold’s writings also brought fame to his tenure.  His interpretation of The Book of Job, published in 1886, was studied throughout the United States and Europe.

Temple Oheb Shalom on Eutaw Place, n.d. 1992.242.6.53

Benjamin and Sophie had five daughters.  Henrietta was born on December 21, 1860 (died 1945), followed by Estella and Rebecca who died in infancy, Rachel born in November of 1865 (died 1926), Sara/Sadie on February 14, 1868 (died 1893), Johanna born in 1871 (died 1875), Bertha born in 1873 (died 1958), and Adele born in 1876 (died 1940).  Henrietta Szold, his first daughter, later achieved fame as a prominent Zionist and founder of the Youth Aliyah & Hadassah movements.  Rabbi Benjamin Szold died in Berkeley Springs,WV on July 31, 1902.

Szold Family composite photograph. 1989.79.76


The Rabbi Benjamin Szold Papers consists of five series: Series I. Correspondence, Series II. Sermons & Speeches, Series III. Newspaper Clippings, Series IV. Sophie Szold Papers, and Series V. Miscellaneous Articles.  Some of the papers in the collection are photocopies of documents belonging to other institutions.  Series I. Correspondence are between Rabbi Szold and other theologians, as well as his family. The letters are in various languages. He wrote in Hungarian, German, Yiddish and English. Series II. Sermons & Speeches are from throughout Rabbi Szold’s career in Europe and the United States. Series III. Newspaper Clippings are from both the United States and Europe. The Clippings are printed in a variety of languages. Series IV. Sophie Szold Papers include letters, the majority of which were written by her daughter Bertha Szold during her time at Bryn Mawr College to Sophie and the rest of the family.  Other letters include siblings and in-laws writing to Sophie and Ben from Germany, and a few letters written by Sophie to various people. The folder titles reflect descriptions of the majority of the correspondence within although individual letters from other family and friends might be included.  The collection includes other materials related to Sophie’s life and estate.  Although the letters are separated by year they are not organized chronologically within the folders.  Some of the letters written in German have been translated or synopsized. Series V: Miscellaneous Articles consists of articles related to Zionism, etc., but mostly from after the death of Benjamin Szold.

Benjamin Szold, c.1899. 1992.242.6.54a


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Mah Jongg Madness!

Posted on December 22nd, 2011 by

A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink.

I’ve long been fascinated by the beautiful tiles of the MahJongg set, but I’ve never had the patience to sit down and learn the rules. Will 2012 be the year that I learn how to play?

A few months ago I was catching up with my hometown friend Vivian. With the last names Ng and Okin, we were together in alphabetical homeroom throughout high school, and there was plenty to catch up on at our reunion. I asked about her family and she mentioned that her mother was playing MahJongg. Excitedly I asked, “Is your mother Jewish?” Vivian looked at me like I had lost my mind—or hadn’t ever met her mom—and said “She’s Chinese.” Right! I knew that. Somehow I had forgotten that MahJongg is a traditional Chinese game and not a specifically Jewish game.  Since it’s about a 4 hour drive back to Ringwood, I decided NOT to ask Vivian if her mother would teach me how to play the game.

Jobi and her high school friends Tim, Vivian and Heather.

A few years ago former JMM Curator Melissa Martens curated “Project Mah Jongg” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Her exhibition text explained that May Jongg was “introduced to American audiences by Joseph P. Babcock who began importing sets en masse around 1922, the game delighted players with its beautifully adorned tiles, associations with other lands, and mysterious rules…. In the post-war years, the game was embraced enthusiastically throughout circles of Eastern European Jewish women and became a favorite activity of bungalow colonies of the Catskills. Mahjongg became an entertainment ritual in suburban Jewish homes—where it has been lovingly transfixed in the memories of the contemporary generation. Today, hundreds of thousands of people play mahjongg, and it continues to be a vital part of communal, personal, and cultural life.” [http:///]

The exhibition was beautiful and delightful, but I didn’t have enough time to sit down and learn the rules. Check out this slide show of others playing MahJongg.

Then last week at our Collections Committee meeting Board Member Irene Russel mentioned that she plays MahJongg with her girlfriends every Tuesday night. I practically invited myself over to play!

Barbara Marlin, Sheila Derman, Myra Gershon, Irene Russel play a regular game of Mah Jongg.

Instead, I think I will come to the JMM on Christmas Day for our event Chanukah, Christmas, and all things Chinese and learn the basics. I hope to see you there.

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Love, Israeli Breakfast Style

Posted on December 16th, 2011 by

A blog post by Education and Program Director Ilene Dackman-Alon.

I can honestly say that no two weeks are ever the same at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  Each week I am usually consumed with planning meetings and group visits, so I usually jump at the chance to do something different and last Sunday was one of those occasions to do something a little different.

A few days after Thanksgiving, the Executive Director of the JMM asked me if my family and I would be willing to participate in a photo-shoot for the Museum in connection with our current exhibition, Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture and American Jewish Identity.  My first instinct was to ask- why my family and exactly what would we be doing… The answer… . Having an Israeli breakfast at home with family and friends….  With an offer like this- how could I refuse?

There are many things that I love about Israel-(besides my husband, Shay who LOVES to cook) and one of them is the very extravagant Israeli breakfast.   In the United States, a traditional breakfast is, bagel, lox, cream cheese, a slice of tomato and some cucumbers, or eggs served with breakfast meat and hash browns.  This is NOT the traditional breakfast fare that we served at our house this past Sunday………

Photo by Elena Rosemond-Hoerr

There was not a bagel in sight- just a few loaves of earthy, crusty bread.  Lots of veggies, sliced tomatoes, onions, cukes, red peppers on a platter in addition to Israeli salad with tomatoes, cucumbers onions and lettuce slices in very small pieces drizzled with olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper.

We served homemade burekas (that my friend Ayela taught me how to make almost 20 years ago).  Burekas are small puffed pastries that can be filled with anything that you like, sweet or savory.  I made cheese burekas and added some garlic to the cheese and we also served potato burekas.

Eggs came in a lot of varieties at our breakfast.  First, Shay made haveeta (omelette) with lots and lots of parsley and feta cheese.  It was cooked to perfection with such a beautiful green color.

We served hard boiled eggs that are traditionally served with burekas. In addition, Shay made shakshooka –a Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, and lots of cumin.  It is believed to have Algerian and Tunisian origins.  It was yummy and pretty as a picture.

We served jachnun – a traditional Yemenite Jewish dish prepared from rolled dough  which is baked on very low heat for about ten hours. The dough is rolled out thinly, brushed with shortening  and rolled up, similar to puff pastry.  It turns a dark amber color and has a slightly sweet taste. It is traditionally served with a crushed/grated tomato dip, hard boiled eggs and schkrug, a hot sauce.

We celebrated the morning with mimosas.  We drank Turkish coffee and finished the meal with fruit salad, coffee cake and rugelach. A perfect way to start our Sunday with family and friends!  -Israeli Breakfast Style!

Above photos by Will Kirk.



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