Posted on September 9th, 2011 by Rachel
A blog post by Amy Smith, Administrative & Development Coordinator
With Yom Kippur coming up next month, I find myself discussing with colleagues and friends how everyone plans to break the fast. In a virtuous attempt to avoid the annual Baltimore Marathon, our Education & Program Coordinator planned a traditional Eastern North Carolina barbeque on Yom Kippur. Quite a few staff members agreed that this would be an exciting, albeit unusual, way to break the fast and not sacrilegious as long as someone brought kosher bagels. Another friend (from Long Island) added that her family traditionally breaks the fast with New York style pizza. It turns out that there are plenty of options in terms of how, where, and with whom you can break the fast. What I found most interesting was that the dialogue surrounding Yom Kippur presented an opportunity to discuss Jewish traditions.
As I pondered my own family traditions, I thought of a wedding gift my husband and I received this past May, a set of brass candlesticks brought to America by my great-great grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Velvel (William) Ruderman, when they immigrated to Middletown, Connecticut in the 1880s. In her note card, Elaine Ruderman, the wife of a distant relative, urged me to carry on the Ruderman traditions, which seemed an odd request because I had no idea what these traditions were. I grew up in a household where we identified as culturally Jewish, but were essentially non-practicing. Now that I was married and starting my own family, it was up to me to define my own traditions.
After receiving a modern set of Shabbat candlesticks as an engagement present, my husband and I started lighting candles on Friday nights. For us, Shabbat means unwinding after a long week and sharing a home cooked meal together. While we use the candlesticks that were brought to America by my great-great grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Velvel Ruderman, we are also forming new traditions, such as breaking bread with a Triscuit rather than the traditional Challah because neither of us likes to eat a lot of bread. In this way, our Shabbat is a blend of the traditional and the modern.
In exploring my roots, I wanted to know more about where the maternal side of my family came from. Specifically, I wanted to locate Radoshkovichi on a map and determine whether it was part of Poland or Russia. To that end, I enlisted the help of JMM Research Historian & Family History Coordinator, Deb Weiner. Dr. Weiner explained that because Eastern European towns often have multiple spellings, it could be hard to find the right town. Fortunately, I knew the town was just outside of Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Using the Encyclopaedia Judaica in our library, we found that Radoshkovichi is a town in Belarus, which was located within Poland until the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, and then again between the two world wars. To make the matter more complicated, using Jewish Gen, I found that from the 1790s to 1915, Radoshkovichi was part of the Russian Empire, and for part of that time, from 1842 to the First World War, it was governed from the Vilna Gubernia, part of Lithuania. In conclusion, when my great-great grandparents emigrated in the 1880s, Radoshkovichi was neither Russia nor Poland as we know it today.
What started with a discussion about how I was going to break the fast after Yom Kippur, turned into the start of a research project about the history of my family and their roots in Radoshkovichi, Belarus. After many hours researching this subject, I began to understand what was driving me to connect an object (brass candlesticks) to a name (Ruderman) to a place (Radoshkovichi). In order to continue the traditions I was never really taught growing up in a non-practicing Jewish household, I needed something solid to latch onto. And, Mr. and Mrs. Velvel Ruderman from Radoshkovichi, Belarus might just be enough.
Posted on April 8th, 2011 by Rachel
With Passover approaching, we’re seeing an increase in calls and emails from people wanting to find out more about their family history. This tends to happen every year before Passover as well as before the High Holidays. As people make plans to gather together with family members, many also make plans to visit the relatives who are no longer with us. Also, it seems to be a natural time for people to reflect on their family origins and act on their desire to know more about their grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, not to mention ancestors they never had the opportunity to meet. And if you are Jewish, from Maryland (especially Baltimore), and want to know more about your background, the best place to turn to for help is the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
That’s because, despite the wealth of genealogy material available on the internet, we have resources here that can be found nowhere else. Our Jack Lewis Funeral Home collection can tell you when your great-grandparents died, where they are buried, and even the cause of death. In our Baltimore Jewish Times collection (going back to the 1920s), we can find obituaries for your ancestors that, working forward in time, can help to reveal the existence of long-lost cousins who might live within a few miles of you. And our database of burial listings, collected painstakingly by staff and volunteers over the past twenty years in cooperation with Maryland Jewish cemetery administrators, is often the last resort for people who feel a compelling need to visit the graves of their grandparents or more distant ancestors, but have no idea where they’re buried.
America's first rabbi.
I start to hang out in cemeteries around this time of year, not only because the weather has gotten nicer and I find them peaceful and pleasant places to go (I’ll admit to being a bit morbid), but also because it’s a service the museum provides: using our database of Jewish burials, we locate graves and then go out and take digital images of the gravestones, which we email to people who cannot come to Baltimore to visit the graves for themselves. Mostly, we do this for people working on their family trees, people who live in places like California, Missouri, and Israel. Sometimes the only way for them to find out their great-great-grandparent’s name is to read the Hebrew or Yiddish writing engraved on their great-grandparent’s headstone, which often says something like, “Here lies Chaim, son of Yitzhak, who passed away on….” Yitzhak probably never set foot on American soil. This gravestone may be the only place where his name is recorded, at least on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Note the age of death.
You may have seen these names before.
Baltimore’s Jewish cemeteries are amazing places. Wandering around them can be a powerful way to connect with your heritage, even if you don’t know anyone buried in them. If your ancestors are indeed there, the experience is all the more powerful, I’m told (as a newcomer to Baltimore, having lived here a mere nine years, I don’t have any family buried here). But, as befits a place that is not part of our modern, efficient, convenient way of life, the average Baltimore Jewish cemetery can be a bit hidden away and difficult to find. Some of the older ones won’t show up on the GPS, and even those that are clearly marked on maps can be tricky to access. And once you manage to find the cemetery, locating the right gravesite can be even more of a challenge: unmarked, straggly, and crowded rows, fallen headstones, and faded lettering all add to the difficulty.
Sometimes gravestones are hidden by shrubbery.
We help people navigate through this journey, sometimes by guiding them via cell phone while they’re in their car searching for the right road, or even as they walk along the cemetery path. It gives me a sense of satisfaction when they find what they’re looking for—and they are often very appreciative. I feel sad on those occasions when we can’t seem to locate the person they’re seeking. Helping people through this rather intimate moment in their lives is something I never expected to do as an historian, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Another view of Rosedale Cemetery.
A blog post by Research Historian Deb Weiner.
Posted on February 1st, 2011 by Rachel
The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date(s) run in Baltimore Jewish Times: 11/5/10
PastPerfect Accession #: 1996.080.028
Status: Identified. Group of people looking at a photo album at a family gathering. L-R: Jesse Weintraub, Elsie Carliner, Florence Carliner Weintraub, unidentified, Herman Carliner, Theresa Carliner, unidentified, Reva Carliner
Special thanks to: Judy Carliner Rosenberg