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Be an Upstander: Sadie Jacobs Crockin

Posted on April 24th, 2020 by

Last week, we shared our newly online The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit, which allows us to revisit the story of this extraordinary Baltimorean with even more people. Inspired by this exhibit, and by the ongoing theme of voter education, I wanted to return to the story of Sadie Jacobs Crockin.

Photograph portrait of Sadie Jacobs, taken in the late 1890s. Sadie Jacobs Crockin Collection, JMM 1996.21.9b.

JMM featured Crockin back in 2010, in a pop-up exhibit in our lobby called VOTE! The Life and Work of Sadie Jacobs Crockin, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the League of Women Voters. This exhibit went on to travel to various local organizations as a part of the celebrations. It’s fitting to revisit Sadie and her story today, as we celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the League, as well as women’s right to vote, with the ratification of the nineteenth amendment in 1920. And we’ll be celebrating later this year with a new exhibit dedicated to her life! While we don’t have an entire website available as a resource about the exhibit, I wanted to share the central story of Crockin’s life, and some ways we can honor her work and the work of women as they fought for their right to choose their leaders.

Sadie Jacobs was born in Baltimore in 1879 and grew up in Virginia, where she also attended college at Randolph-Macon College. She joined the first generation of women to attend college in the US, and she clearly made her mark during her time there. She was even awarded “Best Address” for her graduation speech, for which she received this gold medallion.

Gold medallion, 1898, courtesy of Arthur C. and Sally T. Grant, JMM 2010.14.24.

Clearly, Sadie had a talent for speaking and leading people. She returned to Baltimore after marrying Emil Crockin and lived on Park Heights Avenue until he passed in 1943. Thanks to Emil’s success as a clothing manufacturer, eventually becoming the owner of Wearwell Clothing Company, Sadie had the freedom and ability to pursue her own interests in education and philanthropy and was especially interested in helping immigrants to adapt to American life. She even taught night classes in English as a second language for immigrant women, much like Henrietta Szold. Indeed, over the course of Crockin’s life, she and Szold were friendly enough that Szold sent her a telegram, wishing her happiness upon the occasion of her daughter’s marriage.

This telegram was sent on June 22, 1927, to wish Emil and Sadie happiness for the marriage of their daughter, Frieda. JMM 2011.2.1.

Crockin even helped to form the Baltimore Chapter of Hadassah, of which the national organization Szold created, and served as President for its first 15 years. Her skills in leadership and public speaking lent themselves to this role, and she was a defining character in the development of the Baltimore Hadassah Chapter, which is still going strong today. During the VOTE! exhibit we featured some of Sadie’s belongings from this time, such as a notebook she used to draft speeches and keep meeting agendas.

Notebook, c.1915, courtesy of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Baltimore Chapter.

Crockin was also elected to represent Baltimore at the first American Jewish Congress, in 1918. She gave an oral report on the event, and her experience speaks to her intelligence and curiosity, as she talked about the diversity of the delegates and the historical proceedings. And her position as a leader in the community is demonstrated by her role in attending.

Crockin’s report on the American Jewish Congress, 1918, courtesy of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Baltimore Chapter.

Beyond her work in Hadassah, Sadie saw the importance of teaching people about their civic duty: voting. With the passage of the nineteenth amendment, suffragist leaders organized the League of Women Voters (or LWV), to encourage women to vote and to educate them before they stepped into the ballot box. Crockin was inspired by the first League President, Maud Wood Park, when Crockin attended an address of hers. Crockin decided to step forward to lead the Baltimore chapter of the League, despite her other various responsibilities.

LVW is very active today, helping everyone to access their voting rights and learn about their current elections.

LWV Baltimore is still very active, working to inform people of their voting rights, and engages in advocacy over public policy legislation. It’s clear that Sadie’s leadership has had an impact on the organization, as they continue to work towards education and helping others. During her time serving as president, LWV regularly recognized how important Crockin was to the organization, including when she retired from her role in 1930.

Sadie Jacobs Crockin was presented with this beautiful silver bowl at her retirement from the LWV Baltimore Presidency, in 1930. Silver presentation bowl, courtesy of Arthur C. and Sally T. Grant, JMM 2010.14.24.

Throughout her life, Sadie continued her advocacy work, always focused on helping others to find education and dignity. Her legacy continues today, as we plan to display another exhibit about her life this year, curated by our Director of Programs and Visitor Services, Trillion Attwood. Stay on the lookout for the opening dates!

In the meantime, help us honor Sadie’s life and work by practicing your own civic duty. Make sure you vote in any upcoming elections, such as the Baltimore Mayor and Special Maryland District 7 elections. Check your State Board of Elections for more information about upcoming elections, and visit our previous blog post to learn how to educate yourself before you step into the booth.

We thank Sadie Jacobs Crockin, and all the women who worked to ensure that women have the right to vote. We also recognize all the people who continue to work today, to ensure that our rights are not taken from us.


 

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Chronology: Maryland and Israel Part 2, 1900 to 1950

Posted on August 28th, 2017 by

Compiled by Avi Y. Decter and Dr. Deborah R. Weiner. Originally published in Generations 2007-2008: Maryland and Israel

 Missed part 1? Start here.

1903

German-speaking Baltimore Jews organize the Theodor Herzl Zionistischer Verein (Zionist Association), the first German-speaking Zionist organization in America. A leading Reform rabbi, William Rosenau, declares: “I believe that one can be a good reform Jew and be a Zionist.” Two of the organization’s founders, Dr. Harry Friedenwald (Aaron’s son) and Henrietta Szold, will play major roles in the history of Zionism, nationally and internationally.

Baltimore Jews also organize Kadima, a vigorous Zionist group that also concerns itself with local Jewish problems, creating a bridge between the Zionist movement and the community as a whole.

 

1904

Harry Friedenwald, with inscription to Louis L. Kaplan. JMM 1996.10.64

Harry Friedenwald, with inscription to Louis L. Kaplan. JMM 1996.10.64

Dr. Harry Friedenwald (b. 1864) of Baltimore is elected the second President of the Federation of American Zionists, serving until 1917 and as honorary President until his death in 1950.

 

1996.010.064 – Photograph of Harry Friedenwald, with inscription to Louis L. Kaplan.

 

1905

Dr. Herman Seidel with a Zionist group believed to be Poalei Zion, c. 1905. JMM 1963.9.1

Dr. Herman Seidel with a Zionist group believed to be Poalei Zion, c. 1905. JMM 1963.9.1

In December, a recent immigrant to Baltimore from Lithuania, Herman Seidel (1884-1969), organizes in Baltimore the first national convention of the Poale Zion (Zionist Workers) organization with 22 delegates in attendance. The Labor Zionist movement supports kibbutzim (cooperative settlements), the labor union Histadrut, and worker-owned businesses in Palestine. Every Friday night, Seidel attracts a crowd to his soapbox on a corner in East Baltimore, where he encourages support for the pioneer working Jews of Palestine.

 

1906

Boris Schatz

Boris Schatz, courtesy of the Schatz Estate.

Sculptor Boris Schatz (1867-1932) founds the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem to create a completely Jewish art blending Jewish motifs, Near Eastern design, and art nouveau forms. Jews traveling to Palestine return with the school’s jewelry, rugs, metalwork, and wood carvings, reminders of the Land of Israel. Bezalel products are exhibited at expositions in Baltimore in 1914 and 1931, and also at local Zionist stores such as Fannie Drazen’s in East Baltimore.

1909

Henrietta Szold takes her first trip to Palestine, where she is appalled by the health conditions of the Jewish and Arab residents. Upon her return, she organizes Zionist study groups and travels around the United States, speaking about Palestine.

 

1912

In New York, Henrietta Szold founds and is elected first President of the Hadassah Chapter of the Daughters of Zion. Two years later, the organization is re-named Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Hadassah funds and organizes progressive health and social services in the Land of Israel which eventually grow into the Hadassah Hospital, while Hadassah becomes the largest Jewish membership organization in the United States. A branch of Hadassah is established in Baltimore in 1913.

1915

Louis H. Levin, c. 1915. Photo by Nat Lipsitz, JMM 1987.80.2

Louis H. Levin, c. 1915. Photo by Nat Lipsitz, JMM 1987.80.2

Baltimoreans gain national attention by sending a thousand tons of food to starving Jews in Palestine. Louis H. Levin travels with the ship S.S. Vulcan to Palestine and supervises distribution of the food.

1917

In June, Zionists from around the country gather in Baltimore for a week-long meeting featuring leading Zionist thinkers and speakers. The convention and its distinguished guests inspire mass demonstrations in the City and inspire local Zionist activists and organizations.

Great Britain issues the Balfour Declaration on 2 November, declaring that Britain views “with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” When Great Britain organizes the Jewish Legion to help free Palestine from the Turks, Dr. Herman Seidel serves as a recruiting officer for the Legion in the Baltimore-Washington area. About 90 young Baltimoreans volunteer to serve. The Jewish Legion becomes the first Jewish “army” in modern times.

 Rabbi Abraham Schwartz (1871-1937). JMM 1976.1.1

Rabbi Abraham Schwartz (1871-1937). JMM 1976.1.1

A branch of the religious Zionist organization Mizrachi is organized in Baltimore by Rabbis Shepsal Schaffer, Avraham N. Schwartz, and Reuben Rivkin. Mizrachi, founded in 1902 as the religious faction of the World Zionist Organization, is based on the idea that Torah should be the guiding force of a Jewish state in Palestine

1918

Dr. Harry Friedenwald is appointed chairman of the Zionist Commission, intended to help realize the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The next year, Dr. Friedenwald, Rudolph Sonneborn, and others travel on a medical mission to Palestine.

 

Zionist Society of the Johns Hopkins Unversity, 1924. JMM 1991.104.4

Zionist Society of the Johns Hopkins Unversity, 1924. JMM 1991.104.4

Johns Hopkins University students and faculty organize the Collegiate Zionist Society of Baltimore. The Society holds a weekly study circle and monthly meetings to publicize Zionist ideas on campus and to raise funds for the cause. Professors David Blondheim, Aaron Ember, and Aaron Schaffer serve as faculty leaders and contribute to national college-level Zionist efforts. Jonas Friedenwald (1897-1955) serves as President of the Society during his years at Hopkins and later assists with the development of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School.

 

1920

Postcard certificate for the purchase of a tree for the Jewish National Fund, Tree Fund, 1919. JMM 1988.99.1

Postcard certificate for the purchase of a tree for the Jewish National Fund, Tree Fund, 1919. JMM 1988.99.1

Baltimore establishes its first Jewish National Fund Committee. The JNF was established in 1901 to purchase land in Palestine for Jewish settlement. By 1904, it had enough land for its first village, Kfar Hittim.

 

1920s

Two campers at Camp Moshava Labor Zionist Camp.Gift of the Beser Family,  JMM 1993.173.62

Two campers at Camp Moshava Labor Zionist Camp. Gift of the Beser Family, JMM 1993.173.62

Zionist youth groups establish summer programs, with outings in Druid Hill Park. In the 1930s, the Labor Zionist Habonim and the Religious Zionist Hashomer Hadati share a Severn River shore property owned by Sigmund Sonneborn. Today, Zionist education remains central to Habonim Camp Moshava near Bel Air, where campers speak Hebrew, practice Labor movement ideology, and enjoy Israeli dancing, theater, and arts.

 

1926

Seven women from the Labor Zionists (Poale Zion) organize a Baltimore chapter of Pioneer Women, the Women’s Labor Zionist Organization of America (today known as NA’AMAT USA). Through the years, the organization supports a variety of projects aimed at improving conditions for women and children in Palestine and, later, Israel. In 1972 the group opens a “Baltimore Day Care Center” in S’derot. Today, many Baltimoreans continue to participate in NA’AMAT USA and its mission to support the women and children of Israel.

1933

Henrietta Szold at AZMU in Jerusalem, c. 1920. JMM 1992.242.7.42a

Henrietta Szold at AZMU in Jerusalem, c. 1920. JMM 1992.242.7.42a

Henrietta Szold, now living in Palestine, organizes and supervises the Youth Aliyah movement to bring young Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany to Palestine. The new organization secures visas, provides transportation, and helps to settle the new arrivals in Jewish agricultural settlements. The movement rescues 11,000 young German Jews from the Nazis.

1942

 Aaron Straus. JMM 1991.178.1

Aaron Straus. JMM 1991.178.1

The American Council for Judaism is founded primarily by Reform Jews to combat Jewish nationalism and oppose the establishment of a Jewish state. Baltimore philanthropist Aaron Straus (1865-1958) is a key financial backer and Rabbi Morris Lazaron (1888-1979) is one of its ideological spokesmen.

1945

On 25 June, Baltimorean Rudolf Sonneborn brings together Jewish industrial leaders in a New York meeting with David Ben-Gurion, then chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive in Palestine. In the 1950s, Sonneborn serves as national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal.

1947

Richard Henig in lower left, passengers on Exodus ship to Palestine, ca. 1945. JMM 1993.50.14

Richard Henig in lower left, passengers on Exodus ship to Palestine, ca. 1945. JMM 1993.50.14

Baltimore Jews purchase the S.S. President Warfield, a Chesapeake Bay steamer, re-fit the ship, and load a cargo of guns and ammunition. The ship sails to France where it embarks 4,530 Holocaust survivors destined for Palestine. The ship, re-named Exodus 1947, is intercepted by the British and its passengers are interned. The international furor that follows makes the Exodus “the ship that launched a State.”

1948

"They shall come home/Mazel Tov to Israel State/Sunday May 16th, 1948" from Ahavas Shalom Synagogue on Poppleton Street

“They shall come home/Mazel Tov to Israel State/Sunday May 16th, 1948” from Ahavas Shalom Synagogue on Poppleton Street. JMM T1989.13.2

The State of Israel is declared on 14 May. On the 19th, Baltimore Jews rally in support of the new state outside of Beth Tfiloh Synagogue. Speakers include Baltimore Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., who declares that “America must rally to the support of the new Jewish state, morally and in every way. As Americans we can do no less.” A second rally is organized at the Fifth Regiment Armory on 3 June, drawing 6,000 people at which actor Murray Slatkin reads a poem by Baltimorean Karl Shapiro: “When I think of the battle for Zion / I hear the drop of chains . . .”

Continue to Part III: Maryland and Israel, 1950 to 2008

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Ten in the Twentieth: Baltimore Jews and Social Justice 1940s

Posted on February 20th, 2017 by

Article by Dr. Deborah R. Weiner. Originally published in Generations 2009-2010: 50th Anniversary Double Issue: The Search for Social Justice.

The Baltimore Jewish community has produced many leaders who have worked to make the world a better place. The range of issues they have addressed is impressive: from women’s suffrage to civil rights, labor relations to helping the elderly, refugee resettlement to eliminating poverty, and much more.

This chronology traces the careers of ten Baltimoreans who stood up for social change, with each person’s entry revolving around a turning point—one for each decade of the twentieth century. This is by no means a “Ten Best” list. The people included here are remarkable for what they accomplished, but others, equally remarkable, could have been chosen as well. These profiles should be seen as representative of a larger group of Baltimore Jews who have made major contributions to their communities and to the broader society in myriad ways.

The 1940s: Rose Zetzer

Click here to start from the beginning.

1941: Rose Zetzer (1904-1998) and her colleague Anna Carton open the first female law firm in Maryland. For Zetzer, it is the culmination of a hard-fought struggle to establish herself in her profession.

Rose Zetzer, at the time of her graduation from Eastern High School. Photograph by Columbia Art Studio, Co. JMM 1998.86.112

Rose Zetzer, at the time of her graduation from Eastern High School. Photograph by Columbia Art Studio, Co. JMM 1998.86.112

In 1925 Zetzer became one of only five woman lawyers in Maryland. Unable to get a job at an established firm—though some offered to hire her as a secretary—she worked on her own until partnering with Carton. (Two other women later joined the partnership.) Zetzer also waged a campaign to join the male-only Maryland State Bar Association, which finally admitted her as its first woman member in 1946. She and other female lawyers had formed the Women’s Bar Association in 1927; she served as president for several years.

Rose Zetzer, portrait by Underwood & Underwood. JMM 1998.86.122

Rose Zetzer, portrait by Underwood & Underwood. JMM 1998.86.122

Zetzer was also a champion of legal aid for the poor, becoming the first woman to serve on the board of the Legal Aid Bureau. She devoted herself to Jewish causes as well, including Hadassah and the Jewish Big Brother League.

Continue to The 1950s: Walter Sondheim Jr.

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