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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

Connections Around the World

Posted on July 27th, 2012 by

A blog post by Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education

During the month of June, I was out of the office the entire month.  On June 3rd, the JMM held its Annual Meeting and we welcomed the new Executive Director, Marvin Pinkert.  Two days later, I left with my family and we travelled to Amsterdam for three days and then travelled to Tel Aviv, to stay with my husband’s family for two more weeks.  My family always teases me whenever we go anywhere, I always seem to find some connection to the Museum… so I thought I would share some of the connections…….

When we travel, I love to just walk the cities to really get a feel as to how the locals live.  I enjoy shopping at the flea markets and seeing all of the yummy local foods available.  In Amsterdam, we wandered through many of the neighborhoods throughout the city. On our first day, we walked over to the Jordaan neighborhood where the Anne Frank Museum is located.  It was raining too hard and the line was too long so we went to a flea market near the Waterlooplein and we saw local vendors selling yummy cheese and fresh fish, Holland’s Chosen Food.  

Across the street from the flea market, I noticed a sign Joods Historich Museum and we ran over to the Jewish Historical Museum.  We arrived five minutes too late-after Museum hours so we opted for pictures from the outside.  Across the street, we saw a sign that said Portugese Synagogue.    We ran to the entrance of the building- once again, the building was closed to the public –  we were too late!  We did notice that  the  building was open to a private tour – once again we opted to take pictures from the outside.   

Another JMM connection – In 1665, the Portuguese Jewish Community commissioned the Portugees-Israëlietische Synagoge, an elegant brick structure within an existing courtyard. Construction took place from 1671 to 1675 under Elias Bouwman and Danield Stalpaert. When completed, the Portuguese Synagogue was the largest synagogue in the world. The synagogue was restored in the 1850s and 1950s, but has been well-preserved in its original form. Miraculously, the synagogue survived the Nazi invasion of Amsterdam in 1940 unscathed. This building dates back to 1675.  I thought, WOW, this building has the JMM  beat by 170 years!   

From Amsterdam, we travelled east to Tel Aviv to visit with my husband’s family for the rest of our vacation.  It’s hard finding time to do “touristy” things when we visit, as we have so many family obligations and commitments. However, we did manage to get  to the beach a few times  – a short 10 minute ride by bus – and we went to the famous Shuk HaCarmel.  I love seeing the fresh produce, the amazing colors of the fruits and veggies- everything always looks so vibrant.  We stopped by the Druze woman who was making fresh pita and then filled it with labane (sour cheese) and zaatar (spices).  We ate our fresh pita with hummus and tabuleh….  Israel’s Chosen Food…….

One day we travelled to Jerusalem-one of the world’s oldest cities.  I love walking through the streets of the Old City.  I love the smells and the exotic feeling going through the shuk.  I love to haggle with shop vendors.

We stopped at the Kotel (Western Wall) and stood before this impressive remnant of the outside wall surrounding the Temple Mount that was destroyed in 70 CE. by the Romans. This is one of Judaism’s most holy places and millions of people come each year to place notes and offer prayers at this historic site.    JMM Connection – Another place that is older than the Lloyd Street Synagogue…  This time by a whopping 1775 years!

We arrived back to the United States, I recovered quickly from jet lag and the next thing I knew I was on a train to New York City to spend a week at Columbia University as an Alfred Lerner Fellow.  I attended a week-long conference on Holocaust education sponsored by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.  I spent five days in intensive sessions learning about the many facets of history and pedagogy by leading scholars in their field of expertise.  Many days I was wiped out by the emotionally charged sessions. 

One evening, we ventured downtown and toured the National 9-11 Memorial.  We were all moved by the impressive site and peacefulness of the sound of running water in the pools…. It’s still a work in progress – Something everyone should see…..

I returned to Baltimore for one night and then our home was one of the lucky tens of thousands throughout the State of Maryland that lost power.   The week was exceptionally challenging with no power and record high temperatures.  Last Friday evening, my husband and I went to Fells Point for dinner- to get away from the heat in the house and feel some cooler breezes from the water.  After dinner, we were walking along Thames Street and I noticed a building with a bicycle dangling in the air with lots of colored glass.  My friend, Loring Cornish opened three floors of gallery space with his very creative art and mosaics and I was once again reminded of the JMM- we exhibited Loring’s work in 2011, In Each Others Shoes.  Friday night, Fells Point, after hours… I am reminded of work… at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Love, Israeli Breakfast Style

Posted on December 16th, 2011 by

A blog post by Education and Program Director Ilene Dackman-Alon.

I can honestly say that no two weeks are ever the same at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  Each week I am usually consumed with planning meetings and group visits, so I usually jump at the chance to do something different and last Sunday was one of those occasions to do something a little different.

A few days after Thanksgiving, the Executive Director of the JMM asked me if my family and I would be willing to participate in a photo-shoot for the Museum in connection with our current exhibition, Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture and American Jewish Identity.  My first instinct was to ask- why my family and exactly what would we be doing… The answer… . Having an Israeli breakfast at home with family and friends….  With an offer like this- how could I refuse?

There are many things that I love about Israel-(besides my husband, Shay who LOVES to cook) and one of them is the very extravagant Israeli breakfast.   In the United States, a traditional breakfast is, bagel, lox, cream cheese, a slice of tomato and some cucumbers, or eggs served with breakfast meat and hash browns.  This is NOT the traditional breakfast fare that we served at our house this past Sunday………

Photo by Elena Rosemond-Hoerr

There was not a bagel in sight- just a few loaves of earthy, crusty bread.  Lots of veggies, sliced tomatoes, onions, cukes, red peppers on a platter in addition to Israeli salad with tomatoes, cucumbers onions and lettuce slices in very small pieces drizzled with olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper.

We served homemade burekas (that my friend Ayela taught me how to make almost 20 years ago).  Burekas are small puffed pastries that can be filled with anything that you like, sweet or savory.  I made cheese burekas and added some garlic to the cheese and we also served potato burekas.

Eggs came in a lot of varieties at our breakfast.  First, Shay made haveeta (omelette) with lots and lots of parsley and feta cheese.  It was cooked to perfection with such a beautiful green color.

We served hard boiled eggs that are traditionally served with burekas. In addition, Shay made shakshooka –a Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, and lots of cumin.  It is believed to have Algerian and Tunisian origins.  It was yummy and pretty as a picture.

We served jachnun – a traditional Yemenite Jewish dish prepared from rolled dough  which is baked on very low heat for about ten hours. The dough is rolled out thinly, brushed with shortening  and rolled up, similar to puff pastry.  It turns a dark amber color and has a slightly sweet taste. It is traditionally served with a crushed/grated tomato dip, hard boiled eggs and schkrug, a hot sauce.

We celebrated the morning with mimosas.  We drank Turkish coffee and finished the meal with fruit salad, coffee cake and rugelach. A perfect way to start our Sunday with family and friends!  -Israeli Breakfast Style!

Above photos by Will Kirk.



Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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