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Posted on October 7th, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie HERE.

As an archivist, I read all the time. At work I am constantly reading, either quickly looking at something to determine where it belongs and how to catalog the information to more in depth reading. There is also the reading that should be scanning but you become so involved in what is being written that its hard to put the papers down. This doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does it’s hard to tear yourself away. You begin to get to know the people you are working on, not personally, but you get an interesting look at their lives through their correspondence, diaries, and public writing and occasionally you become a fan.

While working on the Associated Centennial I have become a fan. Beyonce has her Bey Hive, Taylor Swift has her Swifties and I AM A “GREENSTEINER” (still working on that one). I am proud to admit that I have become a huge fan of Harry Greenstein. I have read his speeches, his biography, and looked at his travel diaries. The more I read the more impressed I am with Mr. Greenstein. There is not enough room in a blog to write all that he has done but I would like to give a short history of a man who devoted his life not only to the Baltimore Jewish community and the larger world-wide Jewish community, but to changing our city, state, and country for the better.

Harry Greenstein graduation photograph, c.1916. Gift of Mrs. Samuel Block, JMM 1971.20.36.

Harry Greenstein was born in Baltimore at 625 West Lombard Street on October 31, 1894, the only son of Abraham and Fannie Greenstein. Harry would grow up in Baltimore with four sisters, and by all accounts was devoted to his family. While Harry began his high schooling at Baltimore City College, when his father returned from the Trudeau Sanitarium in Saranac Lake, New York where he had been treated for tuberculosis, the family moved to a forty-acre farm in Reisterstown. Harry would thrive in the country, graduating valedictorian from Franklin High School and eventually moving back to the city with his sister, Bertha, to take a job and help support his family.

In 1913 he began his studies at the University of Maryland School of Law, graduating with honors in 1918 and then establishing a successful law practice.  Harry first participated in Baltimore Jewish affairs as a member of the American Jewish Relief Committee, which assisted European Jewish victims of World War I.  Later he helped organize the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association, and served as its president for ten years, from 1922 to 1932.

Harry Greenstein on UNRAA Middle East Mission, 1944. Gift of Mrs. Samuel Block, JMM 1971.20.163.

But Harry would become best known in Baltimore for his 37 years as Executive Director of the Associated Jewish Charities (1928-1965) and Executive Director of the Jewish Welfare Fund of Baltimore (1941-1965). During his tenure Harry took several leaves of absence to assist in local and national affairs. During the Depression, he served as Maryland’s first State Relief Administrator and the Director of the Maryland Board of State Aid and Charities, administering over $65 million in aid to the poor from 1933 to 1936.  In 1933 he was also appointed Maryland Civil Works Administrator and at least 49,000 people were provided job opportunities through civil works programs during the Depression.

Harry Greenstein travel journal, Cairo 1944. Gift of Mrs. Samuel Block, JMM 1971.20.293b.

Harry’s work extended beyond the state level. In 1939 he worked on the creation of the National Refugee Service in New York, which would later become the United Service for New Americans. From 1941-1943 he served as the as the Chief Regional Welfare Evacuation Officer, tasked with planning (and executing if necessary) evacuation plans for Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington D.C.  From 1943 to 1945, Harry was appointed the Director of Welfare for UNRRA, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, for Greece, Yugoslavia, and Albania. In 1949, the Secretary of War appointed him Advisor on Jewish Affairs in post-war Germany to assist the United States Army in dismantling Displaced Persons Camps in Germany and Austria, and in securing war reparations from Germany for the Israeli government and for the rehabilitation of Jewish life in Europe.

General Lucius D. Clay welcomes Harry Greenstein his new Advisor on Jewish Affairs in his Frankfurt, Germany. February 14, 1949. Gift of Mrs. Samuel Block, JMM 1971.20.229.

This position outside the Associated may have been the most impressive. The main purpose of his position was to accelerate the closing of the DP camps in US occupied Germany. In the 8 and a half months Harry was there, 67,200 Jews left the United States zone of Germany and Austria: 40,300 went to Israel; 23,500 to the United States; and 3,400 to other countries. Harry Greenstein helped thousands of people with no country and no home begin new lives in the countries of their choosing.

Harry Greenstein in a Levy hat at a celebration for his 30th anniversary as Executive Director of the Associated Jewish Charities, May 1958. Gift of Janet Fishbein, Ellen Patz, Ruth Gottesman & Vera Mendelsohn Mittnick, JMM 2002.79.998.

Through his leadership the Baltimore Jewish community survived the Depression and World War II; assisted Displaced Persons and immigrants from around the world to settle in Maryland, helped create innovative social services and support Jewish education. His work allowed for the growth of the Jewish community and helped prepare the community for the numerous changes of the 20th century.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Ten in the Twentieth: Baltimore Jews and Social Justice 1970s

Posted on February 27th, 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 1970s: Harry Greenstein

Click here to start from the beginning.

1971: Harry Greenstein (1895-1971) dies, marking the end of an era in Baltimore’s Jewish communal history. Head of the Associated for almost four decades, Greenstein was a major player in international welfare work who always returned home to Baltimore after his relief missions.

Harry Greenstein (right) and William Bein (left) JDC Director for Poland, standing on rubble of Warsaw Ghetto, Poland, 1949. JMM 1971.20.214

Harry Greenstein (right) and William Bein (left) JDC Director for Poland, standing on rubble of Warsaw Ghetto, Poland, 1949. JMM 1971.20.214

After helping organize the YMHA and serving as president, Greenstein became executive director of the Associated in 1928 and served until 1965. During his tenure, the organization changed dramatically to meet the needs of the Jewish community. Services relocated from downtown to northwest Baltimore, agencies consolidated, and present-day institutions such as Levindale, the JCC, and Sinai Hospital took shape.

Greenstein’s local achievements were all the more remarkable considering that he was frequently “loaned out” by the Associated to state, federal, and international agencies, where his impact was substantial. Appointed Maryland’s first relief administrator in 1933, he set up the state’s public welfare structure. In 1939, with European Jewry in crisis, he prepared a report for American Jewish leaders which FDR termed a “model of constructive absorption of immigrants” and led to the creation of the National Refugee Service. For the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, he helped design and administer plans for helping Europe recover from World War II. Appointed advisor on Jewish affairs to the U.S. Army of Occupation in Germany and Austria in 1949, he was instrumental in liquidating the displaced persons camps and resettling Holocaust survivors.

 Harry Greenstein (right) and General Lucius D.Clay (left) as General Clay welcomes his newly appointed Advisor on Jewish Affairs, in his Frankfurt, Germany headquarters, February 15, 1949. JMM 1985.174.4

Harry Greenstein (right) and General Lucius D.Clay (left) as General Clay welcomes his newly appointed Advisor on Jewish Affairs, in his Frankfurt, Germany headquarters, February 15, 1949. JMM 1985.174.4

The title of Greenstein’s biography, “Justice, Not Charity,” exemplified his approach to welfare work. Communal leader Paul Cordish captured his impact when he called Greenstein “the personification of the collective conscience of our community.”

Continue to The 1980s: Ruth Wolf Rehfeld

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Posted on May 5th, 2016 by

Enjoy these photos from the 12th Seminar in Mexico, Committee on Cultural Relations with Latin America, from the Harry Greenstein collection, JMM 1971.20, MS 80. Check out Past Perfect Online to read about the individual images (start with 1971.020.055).

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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