Maryland Philanthropy and Israel: An Image Gallery Part 1

Posted on January 29th, 2018 by

generations 2007Written by Rachel Kassman. Originally published in Generations 2007-2008: Maryland and Israel. To order a print copy of the magazine, see details here.

Tzedakah is more than a good deed for Jews, it is an obligation. Often translated as “charity,” tzedakah is in fact much more: it is about acts of justice. In Judaism, performing charity and philanthropic acts is a way of creating justice in the world, a responsibility so great that its fulfillment is required whether one’s pockets are full or empty. For many Jews, supporting Israel is a way of meeting the obligations of tzedakah and the Jews of Maryland are no exception. This photo essay captures how, whether on a personal, private level such as dropping a few coins in a tin box, or through community events such as group fundraising to purchase an ambulance, Maryland Jews have seized myriad opportunities to aid Israel.

A street stand in Baltimore draws attention to the physical needs of Israel, c. 1948. JMM 1987.196.13

A street stand in Baltimore draws attention to the physical needs of Israel, c. 1948. JMM 1987.196.13

The Pushke

(left to right) For American Red Magen David for Israel, JMM 1993.52.27; Support for projects that benefit at-risk women, children and families in Israel. JMM 2002.107.4; For Israel’s Emergency Medical, Health and Disaster Service and “Jerusalem Institutions for the Blind, JMM 1993.52.28

(left to right) For American Red Magen David for Israel, JMM 1993.52.27; Support for projects that benefit at-risk women, children and families in Israel. JMM 2002.107.4; For Israel’s Emergency Medical, Health and Disaster Service and “Jerusalem Institutions for the Blind, JMM 1993.52.28

Small (although not always), personal contributions have been a mainstay of Maryland support for Israel. Charity boxes, commonly called by their Yiddish name, pushkes, represent the everyday nature of tzedakah in Jewish life. Pushke, from the Polish puszka, is literally a container, usually made of metal or cardboard, and used to collect small sums – pocket change, for a variety of causes. Small and unassuming, these ubiquitous boxes appear in homes, synagogues and stores throughout Maryland. The pushke is a symbol of anonymous yet highly personal efforts to aid those in need, allowing anyone to contribute, no matter how big or small the donation. The array of pushkes shown here represent support for the Jewish communities of Israel, each box representing a plea for aid for “the poor, old, sick rabbis, scholar, orphans and widows,” for schools, the Jewish National Fund, and the American Red Magen David.

"Pushkes" in the JMM collections.

“Pushkes” in the JMM collections.

Line 1: Charity for the Poor Orphans in Jerusalem, JMM 2000.54.3; Great Charity “Chaye Olam” Institutions and Orphans Kitchen of Jerusalem, JMM 2000.54.5; United Charity Institutions of Jerusalem, JMM 2000.54.6; Charity for Jerusalem for “the old, poor, sick…” JMM 2000.54.7

Line 2: United Inst. Or Torah, JMM 54.9; Aiding Americans in Israel, JMM 2000.54.10 General Israel Orphans Home for Girls, JMM 2000.54.13; Charity for the Poor Orphans in Jerusalem, JMM 1994.83.3

Line 3: Kollel America Tifereth, JMM 1994.83.4; United Charity Institutions of Jerusalem; JMM 1994.83.5; Hadassah, JMM 1993.92.2; For the Jewish National Fund, JMM 1991.160.1

Line 4: For Yeshiva Yetev-Lev D’Satmar, Jerusalem, JMM 1992.245.4; For the support of Religious Colonies and newly arrived Immigrants in Israel, JMM 2000.135.1; Jewish National Fund, JMM 1991.38.1; For General Israel Orphans Home for Girls, JMM 1992.245.2

The Buying of Trees

Certificate presented to Dr. Harry Friedenwald for his contributions to the "Olive Tree Fund" of the Jewish National Fund, 1908. JMM T1989.79

Certificate presented to Dr. Harry Friedenwald for his contributions to the “Olive Tree Fund” of the Jewish National Fund, 1908. JMM T1989.79

Another highly personal form of support for Israel embraced by Maryland Jews has been buying trees through the Jewish National Fund, an organization dedicated to reclaiming the deserts of Israel. The JNF was founded in 1901 for the purpose of purchasing land in Palestine. The introduction of the JNF’s “Olive Tree Fund” by 1908 marked a shift in focus, establishing Diaspora support of forestation efforts. Since its inception, the JNF has overseen the planting of over 240 million trees and the building of 180 dams and reservoirs, established more than 1,000 parks, and developed a quarter of a million acres.

U.S. Admiral L. Kintburger, Baltimore’s Harry Diamond and an unnamed Israeli officer plant a tree together in a JNF forest, 1961. JMM 1989.80.29

U.S. Admiral L. Kintburger, Baltimore’s Harry Diamond and an unnamed Israeli officer plant a tree together in a JNF forest, 1961. JMM 1989.80.29

Two young girls show off their contributions to both the forests of Israel and the parks of Baltimore, 1985. JMM 1995.189.757

Two young girls show off their contributions to both the forests of Israel and the parks of Baltimore, 1985. JMM 1995.189.757

Perhaps an even more individual way for Maryland supporters of Israel to perform tzedakah is through charitable missions, actually visiting and working on projects in the State of Israel. Many of these missions have been organized through The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the main Jewish community service organization in Baltimore. The earliest documented Associated mission to Israel was in 1954, only six years after the founding of the state.

Grace Heller hands out candy to a group of Yemenite Children on an Associated mission, 1954. Her chauffeur Jack Handeh assists. JMM 1995.142.6.5

Grace Heller hands out candy to a group of Yemenite Children on an Associated mission, 1954. Her chauffeur Jack Handeh assists. JMM 1995.142.6.5

Sidney Lansburgh, Jr., President of the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund, is greeted upon his arrival in Israel for the Prime Minister's mission, 1973. JMM 1992.278.7a

Sidney Lansburgh, Jr., President of the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund, is greeted upon his arrival in Israel for the Prime Minister’s mission, 1973. JMM 1992.278.7a

Members of the Women’s Division of the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund visit a project site funded by their efforts. JMM 1995.189.386

Members of the Women’s Division of the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund visit a project site funded by their efforts. JMM 1995.189.386

Young Marylanders participate in planting trees while on an Associated Jewish Charities sponsored Mission to Israel. JMM 1995.189.392a

Young Marylanders participate in planting trees while on an Associated Jewish Charities sponsored Mission to Israel. JMM 1995.189.392a

Continue to Part II

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Second Cousins, Card Parties, and Chickens in the Back Yard: Family Life and Jewish Community in Rural Maryland Part 5

Posted on January 22nd, 2018 by

generations-2002-385x500Article written by Deborah R. Weiner, former JMM research historian and family history coordinator. Originally published in Generations  – Winter 2002: Jewish Family History. Information on how to purchase your own copy here. Many thanks to JMM collections manager Joanna Church for re-typing this article.

Part V: Summers in Baltimore
Miss the beginning? Start here.

 The young woman from Easton cited another influence that helped her maintain a Jewish identify: spending summers with relative sin Baltimore. In fact, kinship ties to the big city have played a major role in the lives of Jews in Maryland’s rural areas and small towns. The summer visit to Baltimore relatives has been a constant in small-town Jewish family life through the years, though the trip has become considerably shorter over time. Bar and bat mitzvah preparation, kosher food buying, securing a rabbi for weddings or other events – all have been made easier by the family connections that most small-town Jews have to Baltimore (or, as sometimes has been the case in western Maryland, to Pittsburgh). Perhaps above all, Baltimore has been a crucial source of “new blood” for the communities, since marriages among local families were limited by the fact that so many were related to each other. As Alvin Grollman succinctly put it, “We all went to Baltimore to find our wives. The big city was good for that.”[1]

Of course, Baltimore also acted as a powerful magnet pulling people away from small towns. For every young person who found a mate and returned home, there were more who stayed to enjoy the opportunities and benefits of city life. Many families moved to the city when their children reached their late teens, fearing that the dearth of eligible Jewish mates would lead to intermarriage. But there can be no question that having extended family in Baltimore helped sustain Jewish life in rural Maryland.

The Hirsches of Havre de Grace continue the tradition of extended family life among small-town Jews. JMM 2002.5.8.

The Hirsches of Havre de Grace continue the tradition of extended family life among small-town Jews. JMM 2002.5.8.

Ultimately, despite help from their big-city relatives, small-town Jews mostly had their own determination and their local extended families to thank for their ability to maintain a Jewish way of life. And despite (or perhaps, because of) the distinctly non-Jewish atmosphere of their towns, family life in rural areas could be seen as impressively Jewish, since almost all religious and social activities were carried out within a family setting.

Since the 1950s, the exodus from small town to big city has accelerated. But occasionally the move is in the opposite direction, and the reason often has something to do with family. When Joan Gelrud left New York City for Bethesda in the 1970s, even that thriving suburb seemed “small townish” to her. When she got to St. Mary’s County, “I thought it was out of a novel. But we had family here and my husband had a thriving business, and I got pregnant and my children’s grandparents were here and aunts and uncles, and it seemed like it could be a good thing for a starting family situation.” In recent years, she’s been president of the local congregation, and again, family has been a key motivation: “I think I do more because we’re here. Because it’s not so easy, you make more of an effort. I like that my kids see that.”[2]

~The End~

[1] Tomchin, “Looking Back with Pride”; Jacobs, “There Really ARE Jews on the Eastern Shore.”

[2] Joan Gerlund, interview with Karen Falk, Lexington Park, Md., 19 October 2000 (JMM OH 0384).

 

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Second Cousins, Card Parties, and Chickens in the Back Yard: Family Life and Jewish Community in Rural Maryland Part 4

Posted on January 17th, 2018 by

generations-2002-385x500Article written by Deborah R. Weiner, former JMM research historian and family history coordinator. Originally published in Generations  – Winter 2002: Jewish Family History. Information on how to purchase your own copy here. Many thanks to JMM collections manager Joanna Church for re-typing this article.

Part IV: A Do-It-Yourself Attitude
Miss the beginning? Start here.

While life cycle events offer a good example of the porous boundary between family and community, day-to-day religious observance in rural areas tended, out of necessity, to be more family-based than in large cities. Of course, much of traditional Jewish practice takes place within the home, but families in more remote places had also to take upon themselves tasks that, in larger communities, are performed by religious functionaries. Often they did not have the services of a schochet,  but a surprising number manged to keep kosher using a “do-it-yourself” approach. Jews who grew up in rural Maryland in the first half of the century recall how their merchant-fathers made a special trip to Baltimore to become trained in the methods of ritual slaughtering so they could provide kosher meat for their own and neighboring families. In Salisbury, noted Bernice Dattelbaum, her father, prominent merchant I.L. Benjamin, “was one of a handful of men” who slaughtered chickens in the family back yard. In St. Mary’s county, Bea Shuman Sadowsky explained, “Max Weiner in Beechville was the first schochet. When he died, my father was selected … So he went to Baltimore and was trained.”[1]

The Kaplon family, Brunswick, c. 1895. JMM 2001.82.1.

The Kaplon family, Brunswick, c. 1895. JMM 2001.82.1.

The efforts of merchant-schochets were supplemented with imported goods. Families organized occasional trips to Baltimore to obtain kosher food, especially before holidays. Sometimes food was delivered via train, bus, or even steamboat. Sidney Schreter of Havre de Grace described a typical cobbling together of strategies: “We had meat sent in from Baltimore, we raised our own chickens in the yard, and of course the [family] business manager was the schochet. On the High Holidays he and I would always go to Baltimore.”[2]

A do-it-yourself attitude also prevailed when it came to religious instruction of the children. Before the advent of synagogues and Sunday schools, some families sent sons to Baltimore to be trained for their bar mitzvahs, but others were committed to educating their children at home. With fathers devoting most of their time to their businesses, this task often fell to the mothers. As Alvin Grollman explained, growing up on the upper Eastern Shore in the 1930s and 1940s, “I never had any trouble being a Jew. My mother was very learned and she taught us.” Lena Grollman must have devoted considerable time to this pursuit, since all four of her sons had bar mitzvahs. Families also enlisted their kin networks. Joseph Weiner of St. Inigoe’s received instruction from his Uncle Max in nearby Beechville. The schoolroom was his uncle’s general store, and lessons took place in between waiting on customers. When the boy appeared in a Baltimore shul on the morning of his bar mitzvah (after an all-night trip with his family), it was the first time he had ever seen the inside of a synagogue.[3]

In Pocomoke, even bringing in a paid teacher involved extended family resources and local family participation. Recalled Mary Miller Weinman, “We [told] my grandfather in Baltimore he should go [to the dock] when the ship comes in and to see a fella who’s educated in Yiddish and who wants to be teacher, he’d have a job right away and he’d send him to Pocomoke. And he stayed in our house and he’d have his room and board and $25 a month!”[4]

The Rosenbaum family of Cumberland, c. 1935. Courtesy of Louise Miller, Simon and Stuart Rosenbaum, Frederika Rosenbaum Krall, and Morris Rosenbaum, L2000.109.28.

The Rosenbaum family of Cumberland, c. 1935. Courtesy of Louise Miller, Simon and Stuart Rosenbaum, Frederika Rosenbaum Krall, and Morris Rosenbaum, L2000.109.28.

Intense parental involvement in their children’s Jewish upbringing remained an important facet of small-town family life even after the advent of synagogues and Sunday schools. As Judy Edlavitch Scher explained in a 1980s Baltimore Jewish Times article, “In a place like Baltimore you have to give your kids a Jewish education but you don’t have to worry about the cultural part, it’s all around you. Here, though, you have to teach the educational and the cultural part.” With the influence of Christianity much more pronounced than in large cities, parents did not have the luxury of simply dropping their children off for classes and celebrating holidays. “The Jewish community of the upper Eastern Shore has survived because of those parents who cared enough about their Judaism to actively instill it in their children in their own homes,” observed a 1970s Baltimore Jewish Times article, quoting a young Easton woman who emphasized that “the key to her Jewishness was her parents’ dedication to it. ‘The synagogue was there but still had to be reinforced by my parents in our home.’”[5]

Continue to Part V: Summers in Baltimore

[1] Anne Miller, “A Jewish Way of Life on the Shore,” Baltimore Sun, 10 May 1998; Sadowsky interview.

[2] Phil Jacobs, “There Really ARE Jews on the Eastern Shore,” Baltimore Jewish Times, 16 August 1985; Schreter interview.

[3] Jacobs, “There Really ARE Jews on the Eastern Shore”; Goldstein, “Beyond Lombard Street,” 37-38.

[4] Mary Miller Weinman, interview with Helen Sollins and Moses Auerbach, 14 May 1979 (JMM OH 0093).

[5] Jacobs, “There Really ARE Jews on the Eastern Shore”; Susan Tomchin, “Looking Back with Pride and Ahead with Doubt,” Baltimore Jewish Times, 24 September 1976.

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