Posted on October 11th, 2013 by Rachel
With our newest exhibition, Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War opening this weekend, we have heard from many Marylanders who have family connections to the Civil War. Through extensive research, some have assembled detailed family trees and fascinating documents that highlight their ancestors’ roles during the war. This week’s issue of JMM Insights focuses on genealogy and the variety of resources available at the JMM to assist individuals as they embark on family history research.
Each month the JMM receives dozens of requests by phone and email from individuals looking for all kinds of information about their families. The most common requests come from individuals from all over the country seeking the location of a relative’s (who lived in Baltimore) gravesite or date of birth or death. Sometimes people have detailed information about the relative in question but need just one final piece of information to complete their family tree. Other requests involve more extensive research when they have limited information but hope that we can help steer them in the right path towards learning more about their family’s history. Genealogical research is very much like trying to solve a mystery and it is often fascinating following the trail of clues from one source to another. Unfortunately we are not always able to find the specific information that the researcher is seeking but more often than not, we are able to provide them some assistance or to refer them somewhere else where they might be able to find what they are looking for.
Family History Resource Page
Thanks to the assistance of many JMM staff and volunteers who have worked for years compiling valuable databases that are essential for genealogy, the JMM has a variety of resources available for researchers. Many of these are available on our website (jewishmuseummd.org/collections-research/genealogy/). For example, indexed databases for cemeteries located throughout the state include the names of individuals buried at that site, along with the date of death of the individual in question, and the section in the cemetery in which the person is buried. This information is essential for people looking to find specific gravesites as so many cemeteries are large and encompass multiple congregational plots. Other records that are used frequently to assist individuals looking for information about dates of death and location of burial are the Jack Lewis Funeral Home records (1924-1939 and 1956-1965)and the Baltimore Jewish Times obituaries.
People who want to conduct more extensive genealogical research can make an appointment to visit our library to look through our resources which also include bound editions of the Baltimore Jewish Times, census records, city directories and passenger manifest lists of ships from Europe that brought immigrants to the Port of Baltimore. We also serve as a repository for people who have compiled family trees and these are available for researchers, as well. Further resources include a database of Baltimore’s religious personnel, Yizkhor (Memorial) books of East European towns, and circumcision, midwife, and marriage records of individual Baltimore-area mohels, midwives and rabbis.
The JMM also maintains a list of referrals for researchers when we do not have the resources that they need to complete their searches.
As many of you are aware, several months ago, in order to balance the JMM budget, we made some difficult decisions that resulted in the elimination of two full-time staff positions, both of which provided valuable assistance to researchers. While other members of the JMM staff have stepped up to ensure that we are still able to provide access to our collections for researchers, we have also found two outstanding new volunteers who have taken on the task of working directly with researchers.
Edie speaking to a group from the Jewish Genealogical Society of MD.
Edie Shlian began volunteering in July. Edie has extensive experience conducting research into her own family’s history and in the few months that she has been here, she has provided invaluable assistance handling genealogy-related requests. Edie has become quite familiar with our resources and has had some wonderful successes tracking down vital information for researchers. Genealogy is truly a passion for Edie and we are fortunate to have found someone so dedicated to providing assistance on behalf of the JMM.
John Sondheim is a member of the JMM Collections Committee. A retired librarian from the Enoch Pratt Library John has extensive knowledge about local Jewish history. John is working with senior collections manager Jobi Zink to provide assistance to students, scholars and museum professionals who are interested in conducting research in our collections. Thanks to John’s hard work and dedication, we have been able to keep our library open regularly for research appointments.
We are most appreciative of the work that Edie, John, and the many other volunteers who work in our library perform as they compile genealogical databases, scan photographs, identify people in photographs, organize our vertical files, transcribe oral histories and memoirs, and process archival and photographic collections by creating new folders and boxes for materials. It is through their collective efforts that we are able to make our collections accessible to the public and to perform such a valuable service in connecting people to their past.
How To Make Use of JMM Resources
If you are interested in conducting research at the JMM, the first place to start is with our website. As mentioned above, many of our genealogical databases can be downloaded directly from our website. In addition, our collections database is available online (jmm.pastperfect-online.com/) and is the first place to start if you are looking to see if we have objects, photographs or documents that are of interest to your particular area of research.
Past Perfect Search Screen
Once you have searched through our online resources and determine that you would like to come in to research materials further, it is necessary to make an advanced appointment. Appointments can be made through the following means:
- For collections research, call (410) 732-6400 x213 / firstname.lastname@example.org. It is helpful to provide the catalog number of particular items from the database you would like to see and a good description of the project you are working on.
- For family history research, call (410) 732-6400 x224 / email@example.com
- For photograph reproductions, call (410)732-6400 x219 / firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, please note the catalog number and description of the photograph you would like reproduced.
Please note that messages left on by phone or email are checked by staff one-time per week and it is not always possible for someone to return your message immediately. Please try to give ample notice when you wish to make an appointment as it can take several weeks before we can accommodate your request.
One of the wonderful benefits of JMM membership is that there is no charge to make an appointment for research. For non-members there is an $8 daily fee.
Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland
We are pleased to report that the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland has recently begun holding regular meetings for its members and that the JMM is proud to partner with this organization to make our genealogical records more accessible. The JGS of Maryland is an association of individuals in our community who are searching for their roots and growing their family trees. The group meets on a regular basis to share information, overcome “brick walls”, and to enhance knowledge and skills. The JGS of Maryland recognizes the importance of web based research and helps members identify and use the most valuable sites for Jewish genealogy. Members of the society regularly offer lectures and workshops regarding Jewish genealogy to the community and help others interested in discovering their ancestors and their places of origin. For more information, check out their website at www.jewishgen.org/jgs-maryland.
Be sure to stop by the JMM this weekend as we open Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. Our members opening takes place on Saturday, October 12 at 7:30pm followed by our opening to the public on Sunday, October 13. For more details, visit our website, jewishmuseummd.org/calendar-event/upcoming/.
Posted on July 19th, 2013 by Rachel
Those of you who follow our blog posts may have noticed the accent this summer on Civil War stories (June 28, July 2, July 3). This reflects not only the 150th anniversary commemorations but our own work in preparing for next fall’s exhibit. I have asked curator, Karen Falk, to tell you a bit about her take on what makes this exhibit important.
Insights from the Civil War
It may come as a surprise to some, but all American Jews can find a connection to the Civil War, whether or not they have ancestors then in the country and in the conflict.
At least, that’s our observation, based on our work with the upcoming exhibition, Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War, which will open at the JMM on October 13. (Thank you to the organizers of the exhibition, the American Jewish Historical Society and Yeshiva University Museum.) Here are some ways that I’ve connected with the story.
The Jewish debate over slavery. Daughter of the sixties that I am, I was brought up to believe that social justice was a central tenet of Judaism. I’ve learned, however, that such thinking was not as common among the Jewish immigrants of the mid-19th century as it became for later generations. Jews were divided on the question of slavery: they tended to gravitate towards the opinions of their neighbors, North and South. As new immigrants (of 150,000 Jews in America on the eve of the Civil War, 100,000 had been in this country for a decade or less) struggling to make a living and unsure of their place in American society, most Jews preferred neutrality.
Lloyd Street Synagogue, home of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in 1864. Photo by D.R. Stiltz & Co. photographers. Used with permission from Ross Kelbaugh. JMM 1997.71.1
There were those, however, who expressed strong opinions, among them, the rabbis of Baltimore. Rabbi Bernard Illoway, who served Baltimore Hebrew Congregation from 1859 to 1861, defended slavery from the pulpit saying, “Why did [Moses] not, when he made a law that no Israelite can become a slave, also prohibit the buying and selling of slaves from and to other nations? Was there ever a greater philanthropist than Abraham, and why did he not set free the slaves which the king of Egypt made him a present of?”
Rabbi David Einhorn of Har Sinai Congregation (1855-1861) was incensed by this biblical justification of slavery by Rabbi Illoway and other rabbis. A staunch defender of human rights, he also used the Torah to support his position: “The ten commandments, the first of which is: “I am the Lord, thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt,—out of the house of bondage” can by no means want to place slavery of any human-being under divine sanction….”
Rabbi David Einhorn, c. 1860, artist unknown. JMM, L1987.018.001.
Rabbi Einhorn’s views enraged the secessionist-leaning population of Baltimore and he fled the city, taking a pulpit in Philadelphia. Rabbi Illoway also left Baltimore soon after his speech, for a pulpit in New Orleans.
The attempt to expel the Jews. The Civil War era was not without anti-Semitism. There were commonly-repeated canards about the Jews: they didn’t fight in the military; they were profiteers; they were cunning cheats. At its worst during the war years, these doubts about the Jews translated into General Ulysses S. Grant’s infamous Orders No. 11, whereby “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department [including Kentucky and parts of Tennessee and Mississippi] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.”
Grant issued his order on December 17, 1862. Fighting in his area delayed dissemination of the order throughout the whole of the territory he governed, but enforcement began immediately in Paducah, Kentucky. (Kentucky was a border state: slave-holding but part of the Union.) Jews throughout the country raised an outcry. One man ousted from his home, Cesar Kaskel, immediately traveled to Washington, DC, seeking an audience with President Lincoln. He was seen and supported by the president, who directed Grant to revoke his order.
Telegram announcing the revocation of Grant’s General Orders No. 11, January 6, 1863. Courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society.
All of this happened quickly; the order was officially rescinded by Grant on January 17, 1863. American Jews had learned something very important about their home. As historian Eli Evans observes, “the Northern Jewish community had stood beside the Jews in the South, demonstrating a sense of community that transcended sectional bitterness. Jews [in the Union] had publicly petitioned their government to revoke an order by its most popular general in the midst of a war, and the head of the nation had agreed.” Jews had come together to protest an injustice, had been heard, and been protected.
It’s personal. Civil War stories often illuminate difficult personal decisions. One such story is told by one of the most remarkable documents in the exhibition, a draft of a will for Benjamin Owens Cohen. Cohen, his Jewish father, Barnet Cohen, and non-Jewish mother Catharine Owens, a “free woman of color,” lived in South Carolina. As a free person of mixed race, Benjamin Cohen would have had limited potential marriage partners, so he purchased his wife and owned their children. By 1841, when he was thinking about a pathway to freedom for his family, South Carolina was passing laws that made it nearly impossible to simply emancipate one’s slaves. His will thus bequeaths his wife and children to his white half-brother. On advice from his lawyer, Cohen stated in his will that while “it may be thought that this devise is intended to avoid and defeat the laws of this commonwealth, which affords me protection….I therefore declare…that I intend no such unlawful act. I know that by the law, [my family] are slaves and must remain so….”
Draft of a will for Benjamin Owens Cohen, 1851. Courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society.
This draft of Cohen’s will is part of an AJHS collection documenting Cohen’s situation. Scholars have been unable to find a legally-filed will for Benjamin O. Cohen, and we do not know how the family resolved the problem. Historian Bertram Korn suggests that “perhaps Benjamin Owens Cohen outlived the institution of slavery and was able to spend his last days with a family freed from involuntary servitude.” I hope so, too.
Posted on June 21st, 2013 by Rachel
This month we asked Senior Collections Manager and official Intern Wrangler Jobi Zink to give you an inside look at our internship program.
Now in its 8th year, the JMM Internship program is gaining a reputation for training the next generation of museum professionals. Since 2006, we’ve offered 113 internships in collections, exhibitions, education & programs, and development.
Our 10-week summer internship program attracts undergraduate and graduate students from across the country—Washington (State), Tennessee, Minnesota, and California are represented this summer, as well as Maryland—while our fall, spring and winter internships tend to draw from the local colleges and universities. Many students use the internship to confirm their passion for the museum field before pursuing a Master’s degree, while others use it as a springboard for teaching careers.
The JMM internship program includes a series of professional-development workshops and training. Object handling and digital photography are taught during orientation, while proposal writing, public speaking and resumes, cover letters & interview skills are scheduled later, after the interns have had a chance to become comfortable in their day-to-day activities in the museum.
Another distinguishing component of our internship program is the field trips to other museums and cultural organizations in the area. By exposing the interns to the vast variety of museums—historic houses, super-small theme-specific, enormous, art, history, or science museums—they see that working in a museum is wonderful, but no two museums are the same, and no museum is free of problems. The field trips often introduce departments that the JMM does not have like conservation or fabrication. Afterwards, staff and interns talk about what they learned, and describe their experiences in blog posts.
The JMM is grateful to Saralyn and Sheldon Glass and Saul L. Ewing, LLC for sponsoring the 2013 Saralyn and Sheldon Glass Education and Program interns and the Robert L. Weinberg Collections and Exhibitions interns. If you’d like to sponsor JMM interns, please contact Development Manager Rachel Kassman at email@example.com or call 410-732-6402 x225.
Now, let us introduce this year’s summer intern class – you can also follow along with our intern exploits at our blog, using the “interns” tag!
I am currently a senior at UMBC where I am majoring in Art History and minoring in Psychology. I am really interested in museums/galleries and currently am planning on applying to Law School. As far as careers go, I would love to work in the legal side of the arts world.
Though I have only been an intern at the Jewish Museum of Maryland for about two and half weeks now, as my first internship, it has been an extremely enlightening experience. I have learned a lot about the operations that go behind the scenes of a museum, such as with the maintenance of the museum’s collections. So far, I have learned how to use the PastPerfect database, and I’ve learned about cataloguing and accessioning, and I’ve also learned how to perform condition reports and house objects. I think that this internship will greatly increase my knowledge of museums and will therefore aid my potential future career choice.
Hi! My name is Yonah Reback and I am a rising Junior at Johns Hopkins University where I am pursuing my B.A./M.A. in History, with an eye toward law school down the line. I have come all the way from my hometown of Seattle, WA, to spend my summer interning at the Jewish Museum of Maryland!
My internship at the JMM focuses on researching an exciting new exhibition, slated to open in August 2014. Though not officially named, the exhibition will spotlight the life of Mendes I. Cohen, one of Baltimore’s most fascinating Jewish characters. Part ‘Forrest Gump,’ part ‘Indiana Jones,’ Mendes Cohen defended Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, helped run his family’s successful banking business, and traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East. Most significantly, Mendes was the first American-Jew to experience the land of Israel in the 1830s. I look forward to bringing this wonderful project to life during my time at the JMM this summer and invite you to visit when our exhibition opens!
I’m from a suburb of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. I received my undergraduate degree in Anthropology/Archaeology at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. In the fall, I will be starting my second year of the masters program at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. I am in the Masters of Science Anthropology degree program focusing on Midwest late prehistoric archaeology, specifically dealing with ceramic analysis. I am also in the Certificate in Museum Studies program that is held at the Milwaukee Public Museum and instructed by museum staff. My career goals right after college would be to work as an archaeologist for a few years in the field and then working in collections at a natural history museum.
I am working on the archaeological collection from the Lloyd Street Synagogue excavation. I have been going through the various bags of artifacts and photographing the objects and attaching the images to the records in Past Perfect.
I was born and raised in Gaithersburg, Maryland but lived in Catonsville for four years while attending the University of Maryland Baltimore County. At UMBC I completed a BS in Biological Science and a BA in Cultural Anthropology. This fall I will begin my Master of Public Health at the University of Maryland, College Park. I have a lot of interests in Public Health ranging from education to policy and from health access problems to sexual health- and I’m not quite sure what direction I will be taking yet.
I was drawn to the Jewish Museum of Maryland this summer because of the Jewish Health and Healing project. It has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, a good combination of my history in biology and anthropology and my future in public health. We are in the beginning stages of research and planning for this exhibit. It has been really fun to get to put to use the knowledge I have gained in school and to get a look into how much really goes into the planning of an exhibit.
My name is Todd Nesson and I was born and raised in Owings Mills, MD. I am currently pursuing my MA in History at UMBC where my thesis work is focusing on Jewish organized crime in America.
As an intern at the JMM, I have been conducting research for the upcoming exhibit Passages through Fire: Jews and the Civil War, which is coming from the Yeshiva University Museum in October. The focus of my work has been on adding a Maryland twist to the story and demonstrating the war’s impact on Baltimore and Maryland Jewry along with their varied responses to the war and its attendant issues.
I am English and recently moved here, having married my American husband. I went to school back in England where I studied at the University of Liverpool getting a BA and MA in Egyptology and an MA in Museum studies at University of Leicester. I am looking to develop a career in museums, not necessarily with a focus on Egyptology, possibly in education or collections.
Within the museum sector one area that I am really interested in is the way in which museums can cater for older people. I had my first American experience in this area last week, when we visited the JCC for a session on gefilte fish. It was an excellent session, led by Ilene Dackman-Alon, almost every person present was able to contribute in some way with a story about gefilte fish. It seemed like everyone enjoyed the day, I know I had a fantastic time and learnt loads.
Hi there! I’m Marissa Walker, an education and programs intern. I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, but moved to the greater Baltimore area to attend Goucher College. At Goucher, I was a dance performance and English writing double major. After graduating, I moved back to Cincinnati for a year and a half, where I attended the University of Cincinnati for a year in order to obtain an Adult ESL graduate level teaching certificate. I have always been interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the area of museums, and felt this internship would be an excellent way for me to narrow down which area sparks my interest. In addition to furthering my education, I am also ambitious in the performance world, hoping to continue my career as an aerial circus performer and dancer on a professional level.
It’s hard for me to choose one thing I have learned so far during my time at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, as I already feel I have gained so much knowledge across the board. Working on revamping and creating supplemental educational materials for the current and upcoming exhibits has been very educational for me as a developer. I have also loved beginning to work with all the social media we are using for outreach in an educational context. I find that aspect of museum programming and marketing to be fascinating.
Hi everyone! My name is Clare Robbins, and this summer I am interning with the Collections Department at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. I am from Murfreesoboro, Tennessee, and earned my bachelor’s in history from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. I am currently working on my master’s in public history at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. After I graduate, I would like to work in a museum world and pursue a career in collections management.
So far this summer, I processed some of the objects from the 2012-2013 donations. This proved to not only been a great learning experience but also quite enjoyable. I loved learning the story behind various objects like a rope that a nursing student at Sinai Hospital used to keep her keys on when working in the psychiatric wing in the 1950s. I even liked finding a place for all the objects in collection storage rooms as it was a great way to explore the rest of the objects in JMM’s collections.
My name is Kathleen Morrison. I was born in Washington DC, moved to Frederick, MD when I was three, and was raised there. Last year, my parents and I moved to Baltimore to take advantage of the richer cultural life in the city. This May, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in Southern Maryland with a Bachelor of the Arts in History. I’m not sure what I want to do yet, but I love history and I know I want to have a career where I can work with it every day. Whether that means preservation, writing, or education, I don’t know. Hopefully my future holds a mix of all three.
So far, I’ve been cataloging papers donated last year. Many of them are very interesting and provide an insight to not only daily Jewish life in Maryland, but also daily life around the middle of the century. One of the most interesting papers I’ve come across is a sadly anti-Semitic, anti-African American housing deed, which stipulates that the sale to the new owners is only valid as long as they never rent,r sell, or house Jews or African-Americans on the property. How the original owner intended to enforce this is unknown, but it’s a reminder of how much things have changed for the better today.