Jewish Educational Alliance: The Countryside

Posted on December 28th, 2016 by

Article by Jennifer Vess. Originally published in Generations 2009-2010: 50th Anniversary Double Issue: The Search for Social Justice.

Side Bar 3: The Countryside

Missed parts 1 – 7? Start from the Beginning.

”Paradise Home” in Catonsville. It was purchased by the Hebrew Benevolent Society to provide mothers and babies with country vacations. This was the earliest forerunner of Camp Woodlands, and later, New Camp Milldale. In the background is Dr. Harry Lindeu, medical student, who served as camp doctor. JMM 1995.98.30

”Paradise Home” in Catonsville. It was purchased by the Hebrew Benevolent Society to provide mothers and babies with country vacations. Dr. Harry Lindeu, medical student, who served as camp doctor, stands in the background. JMM 1995.98.30

Reformers blamed industrialization for many of society’s woes, including the dirt and pollution of the city. While the wealthy could flee the heat and disease of the urban summer for homes in the country, the poor did not have the choice to leave their homes and their work in the “dirty city” for more open, green spaces in the rural areas surrounding Baltimore.

Maccabean House: vacation house

Maccabean House: vacation house

Charitable organizations and settlement houses strove to give at least some respite to the women and children of Baltimore. Both the Daughters in Israel and the Maccabeans set up summer homes for their clientele. At as low a cost as possible, young women and boys could spend a few days on farms or in the mountains beyond the city limits. The JEA continued this effort. In 1910 a summer home was set up in Catonsville (then a rural area) for women and children. The JEA also worked with the Children’s Fresh Air Society, a national charity that sponsored trips for children to area farms.[1] Later, Sigmund Sonneborn offered his property on the Severn River as a camp for boys. Eventually a separate organization established a camp in the area of Catonsville known as “Paradise,” which became Camp Woodlands. Camp Woodlands served the Jewish children of Baltimore until 1952 when it merged with the JEA, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association and the Young Women’s Hebrew Association into the new Jewish Community Center.

~The End~

Notes:

[1] JEA meeting minutes, May 3, 1910 and June 2, 1910, MS 170, Folder 212, JMM.

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Jewish Educational Alliance: The Library

Posted on December 26th, 2016 by

Article by Jennifer Vess. Originally published in Generations 2009-2010: 50th Anniversary Double Issue: The Search for Social Justice.

Side Bar 2: The Library

Missed parts 1 – 6? Start from the Beginning.

Enoch Pratt Free Library Central Building, c. 1933. Photo by  Harry B. Leopold, courtesy of the Library of COngress.

Enoch Pratt Free Library Central Building, c. 1933. Photo by Harry B. Leopold, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Progressive-era reformers prized and promoted self-improvement. Ideally, education took place outside of the classroom as well as inside and the expanding public library system offered important resources for self-education. In Baltimore, the Enoch Pratt Free Library (EPFL) brought books to a wide range of citizens, opening branches throughout the city. In neighborhoods where building a branch was not economically feasible, the EPFL set up small “stations” in rooms within existing buildings. The station was a temporary measure until demand and financial resources allowed the construction of a local branch.[1] In East Baltimore the EPFL arrived in the form of Station 11, due to the efforts of the Jewish community.

The Maccabean House, the JEA’s predecessor, took the initiative to draw the Enoch Pratt Free Library into the neighborhood. The Maccabeans offered the books and the space if the EPFL would supervise, and in 1904 Station 11 opened with about 500 books in its collection. Library statistics clearly demonstrate the local demand – in the first two weeks, 121 people had registered and borrowed 666 volumes. Over the next year, 599 people registered and 17,291 books circulated.[2]

Station 11’s first librarian, Mrs. Bloch, shared the Progressive views of the settlement house movement. Like many librarians throughout the U.S., she saw the library as a major force in Americanization. She once wrote in a report to her superiors at the EPFL that “we have an opportunity to teach the half acclimatized foreigner to think American thoughts and so become Americans in spirit, which is of more benefit to them, and in the end to the people among whom they are destined to live, than all other means used to Americanize foreigners put together.” Mrs. Bloch communicated easily with her constituency, since she spoke English, German, Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew – the main languages spoken by the patrons. Station 11 also offered books in all of those languages.[3]

Inside the Enoch Pratt Free Library Branch, c.1940. Courtesy of Enoch Pratt Free Library, mdaa064.

Inside the Enoch Pratt Free Library Branch 11, c.1940. Courtesy of Enoch Pratt Free Library, mdaa064.

Debate raged within the larger library community over the inclusion of books in foreign languages, but for librarians like Mrs. Bloch it was more important to have immigrants reading good, wholesome, intelligent books, than to force English on them immediately. It seems, however, that as the immigrants learned English, they also craved information on their adopted country. According to EPFL records, American biographies, especially on George Washington, circulated more than other kinds of books at Station 11. However, the library books covered more than just American subjects. Patrons checked out volumes on physics and classical literature. Mrs. Bloch did not leave the influence of the library to the passive lending of books, she also established book clubs and lectures.[4]

In 1909, when the Maccabean House and the Daughters in Israel merged to form the JEA, Station 11 continued under the JEA until the end of the year as the settlement house negotiated with the EPFL to maintain the station elsewhere within the neighborhood. In 1910, the books moved into rented rooms across the street from the JEA at 1119 East Baltimore Street. Two years later, the librarian once again packed up the books and moved, this time to 1208 East Baltimore, not far from the lot where construction would begin on the new JEA house.

The residents of the neighborhood understood the importance of a larger, established branch library. In 1914 the JEA’s newsletter the Alliance Citizen put out a call for fundraising and published a list of clubs that had already contributed to the cause. In August of 1916, Station 11 once again crossed the street and reopened inside 1123 East Baltimore Street. “The quarters were cramped. Of the two-room facility, one and a half rooms were needed to house stacks.”[5] This would be its last temporary home. That same year, with the help of JEA head worker Isaac Aaronson, the EPFL obtained $10,000 from the city for the construction of Branch 11, just one block down Central Avenue from the JEA. World War I delayed construction, but eventually East Baltimore got its own branch library, which opened on November 23, 1921.[6] The building, now a private residence, still stands today.

Continue to Side Bar 3: The Countryside

Notes:

[1] Amy A. Begg, “Enoch Pratt Free Library and Its Service to Communities of Immigrant Residents of Baltimore during the Progressive Era, 1900-1914,” available from comm-org.wisc.edu/papers96/pratt.html.

[2] Annual Report for the Year 1904: Circulation Table, quoted in W. E. Jackl, “Station Number Eleven of the Enoch Pratt Free Library,” Journal of Library History (1972): 147.

[3] Annual Report for the Year 1909, quoted in Jackl, “Station Number Eleven,” 147.

[4] Begg, “Enoch Pratt Free Library,” 5.

[5] Annual Report for the Year 1916, quoted in Jackl, “Station Number Eleven,” 150.

[6] JEA meeting minutes, December 1916, MS 170, Folder 213; Jackl, “Station Number Eleven,” 151.

 

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Jewish Educational Alliance: The Levy Building

Posted on December 21st, 2016 by

Article by Jennifer Vess. Originally published in Generations 2009-2010: 50th Anniversary Double Issue: The Search for Social Justice.

Side Bar 1: The Levy Building

Missed parts 1 – 5? Start from the Beginning.

The JEA came into its own four years after it opened, when it moved into 1216 East Baltimore Street, a new building designed specifically for the needs of the organization. Until then, JEA workers had struggled to live up to the ideal of a strong, influential settlement house, offering a wide range of programs in small, inadequate spaces. They provided what programs they could and the neighborhood came to them by the thousands.

The Levy Building, headquarters of the JEA. JMM 1992.231.105

The Levy Building, headquarters of the JEA. JMM 1992.231.105

It was no surprise, then, when a large crowed crammed themselves into the stately new building on an intensely warm June day in 1913, to hear leaders of the Baltimore Jewish community and local officials dedicate the new headquarters of the Jewish Educational Alliance. The speakers described the JEA as a model settlement house, listing the activities that the JEA had already brought to the poor, heavily immigrant neighborhood and laid out plans for future change and growth. William Levy, whose family had constructed and donated the building in honor of his father, Michael S. Levy, gave the first speech of the day, emphasizing the Jewish nature of the organization.

Lewis Putzel, photo by Bachrach. JMM 1992.70.10

Lewis Putzel, photo by Bachrach. JMM 1992.70.10

The first president of the JEA, Lewis Putzel, waxed poetic about the settlement house’s activities, saying, “The street urchin need not be told to ‘move on’…but will here find a bright room . . . with books and games to meet his needs. . . . Men of all ages will assemble here . . . to prepare themselves for naturalization as citizens.” These themes of care, keeping children off the streets, providing education, and integrating immigrants reappeared in all of the speeches that followed. The mayor of Baltimore, the governor of Maryland, and the president of the United States (who sent a letter) praised the work already done by the JEA and the work that it would do in the future, expressing their own confidence in the work of this settlement house and of all settlement houses.[1]

Michael S. Levy, photo by Bachrach and Bro., JMM 2002.79.251

Michael S. Levy, photo by Bachrach and Bro., JMM 2002.79.251

The Levy building functioned as the headquarters of the JEA for nearly forty years.  In 1952, after the JEA closed, the building was purchased by the Seafarer’s Union. It later became an adult day care center. It still stands today, near the corner of East Baltimore Street and Central Avenue, its original brick façade obscured by later renovations, but the same building that served thousands of Jewish Baltimoreans.

Continue to Side Bar 2: The Library

Notes:

[1] Jewish Comment, June 20, 1913.

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