Eye Witness

Posted on September 11th, 2013 by

A casual reader of these blog posts might think we’ve grown obsessive about the Civil War.  It is certainly true that our upcoming exhibit (member’s preview on October 12 at 7:30) has occupied many hours of staff and intern time – researching, writing, designing, fundraising, marketing and more.  And I think all of us have gotten more engaged and intrigued by the topic as we have understood it better.

Still all of us have other interests.  In my case, I am keeping one eye on ophthalmology.  This is not only because I am scheduled to have cataract surgery next week, but also because of a prominent role of one particular family of eye doctors in our plans for the 2015 exhibit Jews, Health and Healing.

Jonas Friedenwald, the progenitor, 1875.

Jonas Friedenwald, the progenitor, 1875.

The Friedenwald family included three generations of Baltimore ophthalmologists whose work and interests influenced much more than the field of medicine.  Dr. Aaron Friedenwald (1836-1902), Dr. Harry Friedenwald (1864-1950) and Dr. Jonas Stein Friedenwald (1897-1955).  The progenitor of this medical dynasty was none other than the Jonas Friedenwald who served as one of the original Board members of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and led the faction that broke away to create Chizuk Amuno.  It is a genuine American Jewish success story that this former umbrella mender and junk dealer would become the patriarch of generations of healers.

Dr. Harry Friedenwald

Dr. Harry Friedenwald

A special focus of the exhibit will be the middle generation – Dr. Harry Friedenwald.  Harry, whose sesquicentennial is September 21st of next year, spent much of his career as a professor at the University of Maryland Medical School.  He was a well-published scholar, completing some pioneering work on the connections between diabetes and eye disease.  But the most important reason we have chosen to shine a light on Harry Friedenwald is for his work as a collector.

Diploma of medicine awarded to Lazarus de Mordis. Padua, 1699. Potential loan from the Friedenwald Collection, National Library of Israel.

Diploma of medicine awarded to Lazarus de Mordis. Padua, 1699.
Potential loan from the Friedenwald Collection, National Library of Israel.

According to several sources, Harry was inspired by a lecture his father gave in 1897 entitled, “Jewish Physicians and the Contributions of the Jews to the Science of Medicine”.  From that point forward, Harry began to acquire one of the largest collections of material on this topic ever assembled in the United States.  His library included the codex of a 10th century Italian Jewish physician, Sabbato Donnolo, describing over 120 medicinal plants known at that time.  There is also 15th century translation of the original Arabic manuscripts of the 9th century Jewish physician to the Caliph as well as 15th century Latin translations of the work of Maimonides.  There are astronomical and astrological tables of Jewish origin from the early renaissance.  It includes the writings of Francisco Lopez de Villalobos, the Jewish-born converso who served as court physician to King Ferdinand (and I’m sure this is just a coincidence) was one of the first authors to describe the causes of syphilis.  And there is the writing of Jacob Mantino ben Samuel, a refugee from the Inquisition who became a physician to Pope Clement VII after nixing biblical nullification for the marriage of Henry VIII to Queen Catherine (you can bet I will be pursuing this story).

Baltimore People at Zionist Conference. Tannersville, New York - 1906 or 1907. Harry Friedenwald is located in the center of the middle row.

Baltimore People at Zionist Conference. Tannersville, New York – 1906 or 1907. Harry Friedenwald is located in the center of the middle row.

So what happened to Harry’s collection?  All three generations of Friedenwald doctors were active in the Zionist movements of their times.  Harry helped establish the medical care system in Palestine during the period just before World War I.  In 1948, Harry gave his entire collection of manuscripts  to the newly formed National Library of Israel.

As we began to prepare for our exhibit we contacted the Library.  They have given us agreement in principle to return a small number of works to Baltimore for inclusion in this project.  We couldn’t be more excited.

The extraordinary story of the Friedenwalds and the collection also has us thinking about the “why” behind the Jewish connection with the healing arts and sciences, not only physicians, but pharmacists, nurses, medical researchers, etc.  So we would like to hear your stories.  If you or someone you are close too is in the healing professions we’d like to learn about how that choice of occupation was made – what role did parental or family expectations, financial needs, Jewish learning or other factors play in this decision.  If you have a story you’d like to share send us a note. You can respond to this blog post or send a note to kfalk@jewishmuseummd.org.

We now take you back to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War…which is still in progress.

MarvinA blog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts by Marvin, click here.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

The Jewish Legion of World War I

Posted on November 15th, 2012 by

After 36 hours continuous journey we arrived in this town [Trudo, Nova Scotia,Canada] and I gladly jumped into a bath tub and after that I feel almost like new born and start my diary on the most adventurous event of my life: the campaign in Palestine. Ferdinand Breth, October 12, 1918, pg. 1. [MS 53, 2000.50.19]

Herman Carliner, seated in Jewish Legion uniform, Palestine, 1918. Courtesy Rita Miller and Elaine Carliner Millstone. 1996.80.5a

I think that most people’s knowledge of World War I is centered on the battlefields of France or maybe the cold Western Front. But World War I was fought in other places as well, including Israel, then Palestine.

This is a subject I am just beginning to understand, but what I’ve learned this about the fighting in what was then Palestine: Germany and the Ottoman Empire were allies. The Ottoman Empire at that time controlled a region that includedPalestine. Germany and Britain both desired control over the Middle East, and Palestine was a key region for that control. The British established the Jewish Legion to fight the Ottoman Empire (and the Germans) in Palestine. The battalions formed by the British consisted of Jews from all over the world: Britain, Palestine, America, Australia, etc.

Legionnaires standing at attention. Courtesy of Paulyne R. Hyman. 1998.35.11

We have very little in the museum related to the Jewish Legion, but we are lucky enough to have a few pictures and the diaries of Ferdinand Breth who joined the Jewish Legion with many others from the US and travelled to Palestine. The following are pictures of various soldiers in the Jewish Legion and excerpts from Breth’s diaries. Breth actually reached the Middle East after the armistice went into effect so he and his fellow recruits didn’t see any military action. But Breth wrote in detail about his comrades (including one Ethiopian Jew), camp life, and the Jewish communities he visited while abroad.

Louis Brandeis and Harry Friedenwald passing between two soldiers. Courtesy of Hanan Sibel. 1992.154.18

The most interesting persons of the Boston Bunch were 5 Christian Syrians, who joined the Jewish Legion because they want to free their homeland Palestine from the Turks. Pg. 14, October 16, 1918. [MS 53, 2009.50.19]

Jewish Legion soldiers in their daily dress at their camp, n.d. Courtesy of Hanan Sibel. 1992.154.4

As leader we now get a recruiting sergeant Rodman, who in some nondescript uniform was taken by most of us for real sergeant. He was a Hebrew teacher inBaltimoreand knew Sonneborn. Pg. 15 October 16, 1918 [MS 53, 2009.50.19]

Michael Margolis, Jewish Legion, c. 1918. Courtesy of Aaron and Dorothy Margolis. 1994.193.71ab

We crossed the Suez Canal on a pontoon bridge and then marched about a mile thru the camp, till we finally came to the tents destined for us. Next morning we were full of wonder about our new station. The camp is the biggest we ever saw, as far as the eyes could see the dessert sand is dotted with white tents.? Everywhere we see soldiers of all branches and of all nationalities. The camp is now used for demobilization and they arrive here by thousands soldiers from Palestine, Mesopotamiaand other places and are sent from here home. There are here Indian soldiers with big Khaki Turbans, long hair and long beards, Sundanese and other African troops, Australians, Scotch and many other troops. Also we about hundred Legionnaires, from the 38th Batailon [sic], which saw action in Palestine. They are mostly Egyptian and Algerian Jews…speaking Arabic and French, but we found also some American Boys among them, which told us the story of Palestine Campaign. Pg. 150-151, January 1919 [MS 53, 2009.50.19]

Jewish Legionnaires marching along a road lined with people and under suspended American, Israeli, and British flags, n.d. Courtesy of Paulyne R. Hyman. 1998.35.12.3

At about 3pm we arrived in Rafa, the first station inPalestine. We were in land of our dreams and many times before I was thinking what a wonderful moment it will be, when our Legion will reach the Palestinian ground. I expected that our boys will lose their heads in enthusiasm, that we will smile on our knees and kiss the land for which liberation we were willing to sacrifice our lives, but nothing like this happened. The Russian Jew is not a sentimentalist and the crossing of Palestineboundary, did not interrupt the quarelling [sic] of our bunch or the poker game of the other. We even did not sing Hatikwah, and as soon as the train stopped most of us were running to the cantine [sic] to buy cakes or cans of preserved pineapples. Pg. 159 January 1919 [MS 53, 2009.50.19]

The Palestine Legion, in Haifa on Shabbos, on Shul parade. Man with head down is Colonel Samuels, Simon Sibel’s former colonel. Courtesy of Hanan Sibel. 1992.154.2

Soldiers in front of their tents, n.d. Courtesy of Paulyne R. Hyman 1998.35.12.1

By the summer of 1919 Breth’s father was very ill and he asked to leave the service.

The repatriation papers I wrote about last night, came to-day and I may leave Palestine next week. It came so suddenly that I hardly can adjust my mind to it. Leave Palestine and maybe for ever, and still I have accomplished so little. It appears to me like deserting my post and even when I assure myself that I will come back, it cannot quiet my mind. I may come back, but so many things may happen. Pg. 16, August 24, 1919 [MS 53, 2009.50.20]

Funeral ceremony, n.d. Courtesy of Hanan Sibel. 1992.154.40

Jewish Legion veterans reunion, c. 1950 Identified are Abraham Shapiro, third from left in back row, William Braiterman, fourth from left in back row, and Julius Sussman, third from left in front row. Courtesy of Erich and Thelma Oppenheim. 1994.38.5

Posted in jewish museum of maryland