Posted on July 9th, 2013 by Rachel
A blog post from Collections Intern Clare Robbins. Clare works with senior collections manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts by Clare and other JMM interns, click here.
This summer I’ve had a wonderful time working with Jobi in the Collections Department at the JMM. I’ve worked on a variety of projects including processing the 2012-2013 collections, creating a condition report notebook for the “Voices of Lombard Street” exhibit, and even writing the catalogue numbers on surface of several objects.
After practicing writing 1984.16.1 for thirty minutes, I finally wrote it on the bottle.
Last week, I started transcribing an oral history with Dr. Ruth Finkelstein that will be used in the upcoming “Jews, Health and Healing” exhibit. Dr. Finkelstein was a Baltimorean obstetrician and gynecologist beginning in the late 1930s through the 1980s who worked for better health care and family planning for women. Listening to Dr. Finkelstein discuss her experiences has definitely been one of the highlights from my summer. While I haven’t finished the interview, I thought I would share what I have found so far.
I’m busy transcribing Dr. Ruth Finkelstein’s interview.
Dr. Finkelstein grew up in New York City with her parents and four siblings. Her father decided early in her life that she would become a doctor. When she was twelve years old, Finkelstein’s father wrote to the Johns Hopkins Medical School for a catalogue that outlined how to get into medical school and she planned her life accordingly. After finishing high school, she attended Johns Hopkins for both undergraduate and medical school.
In medical school, Finkelstein worked and lived at the first birth control clinic in Baltimore, officially called the Bureau for Contraceptive Advice because, as Finkelstein recalls, “birth control was a dirty word.” Dr. Bessie Moses, a Baltimorean gynecologist, (you can read more about Dr. Moses here and here) opened this clinic on Broadway after she was denied space in the hospital. Moses used the first floor as a birth control clinic and rented the upstairs to medical students. While it was not illegal to open a privately funded birth control clinic at this time, Finkelstein recounted the difficulties that early gynecologist like herself and Dr. Moses faced. The Comstock law deemed birth control to be pornographic, thus making it illegal to import diaphragms (the only form of birth control at the time) from Europe. Margaret Sanger, an early birth control activist and nurse, smuggled the diaphragms into the United States and distributed them to Moses. Further, the only way a woman could go to the clinic was if she was referred by her physicians. Women, however, were only referred if they had a heart, lung, or kidney disease.
Finkelstein also discussed the difficulties female doctors experienced in the early twentieth century. Not only was Finkelstein the only Jewish woman at Johns Hopkins Medical School, she was also the only woman from her undergraduate class to pursue medicine. As a doctor, she found that her opinion was not respected by her male colleagues. The male doctors, she described, were “belittling” and overall dismissive of her opinions and diagnoses. Because of these attitudes, Finkelstein could only work with a small group of physicians.
Despite the many hardships Finkelstein faced, she worked in the largely male-dominated medical field as an obstetrician and gynecologist in order to help women. The best way that I can conclude this post is with a short quotations from Dr. Ruth Finkelstein describing her basic philosophy. “I’m a champion of the underdog. I’m a softy. My philosophy is to help people, I guess.”
Posted on October 18th, 2012 by Rachel
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.
On October 17, 2012, the JMM opened our newest original exhibition, Jews on the Move: Baltimore and the Suburban Exodus, 1945 – 1968. Exploring a seminal period in American Jewish history – the exodus of Jews from urban centers to newly established suburbs – Jews on the Move interprets the motivations and factors that led to Jewish settlement in the Northwest suburbs of Baltimore County in the post-war years.
Irene Siegel with children, 1959
In the years following WWII, Baltimore Jews, like so many other Americans, left behind close-knit urban neighborhoods in pursuit of the “American dream.” Within the span of a single generation, the Jewish community swiftly reconfigured itself and experienced a fascinating social, economic and cultural transformation. Jews on the Move explores the local angle of a national story of suburbanization through the eyes of developers, real estate agents, community institutions and organizations, synagogues, and of course the families who helped establish the suburbs of Northwest Baltimore.
Gilbert and Leslie Polt, c.1960
Louise’s Pizza, Liberty Road, 1963
Park Heights JCC, Jewish institutions followed the exodus out of the city. The opening of a suburban JCC on Park Heights Avenue in 1960 – in addition to the move of synagogues – helped families recreate Jewish enclaves in the suburbs.
What makes this exhibit project especially exciting is an innovative collaboration that resulted in its creation. Jews On The Move was developed through a partnership between the JMM and The Johns Hopkins University (JHU). With generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The JHU Program in Museums and Society partners with local museums to take undergraduate students out of the classroom and give them hands-on museum experience. The JMM was delighted to be invited to participate in this program, and in the spring of 2012, staff and consultants from the JMM taught a course at JHU that involved students in the creation of “Jews on the Move.”
Because of our partnership with JHU, the exhibit opened on its Homewood Campus. In order to prepare for the opening, on Wednesday morning, several JMM staff members in addition to exhibit designer, Ken Falk, installed the panel exhibition in Hodson Hall. The exhibit consists of vinyl banners that are attached to collapsing metal poles that connect to one another making it easy to transport and install.
Exhibit designer Ken Falk unrolling the exhibit banners
JHU faculty member Elizabeth Rodini watches as Karen Falk and student Molly Martell raise the exhibit panels
At the exhibit opening on Wednesday pm, Katherine S. Newman, James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, welcomed guests. JHU students who participated in the course talked about their experience in researching and designing the exhibit. Guests mingled, enjoying refreshments and an opportunity to view the exhibit and share their own reminiscences of their family’s move to the suburbs.
Jews on the Move has been designed as a traveling exhibit and is available at no charge to hosting institutions. If you are interested in hosting this exhibit, contact Rachel Cylus at (410) 732-6400 x215 / firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to check out the exhibit website www.jewsonthemove.org where you can send in your own suburban stories and photos.
Posted on October 12th, 2012 by Rachel
By Research Historian Deb Weiner
Last weekend I volunteered on a political campaign in the swing state to the north. As I was sitting in the campaign office in Harrisburg, another group of Baltimore volunteers walked in. One of the women looked at me and said, “You look familiar.” She looked vaguely familiar to me as well. Neither of us could figure out how we knew each other until she offered, “I’m from Pikesville.” I responded, “Oh, I work at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Have you been there?” Turns out she used to work at the Associated Jewish Federation, and we probably met at some kind of Associated-related event.
To anyone from Baltimore, my response would not seem to be a non sequitur. That’s because saying “I’m from Pikesville” is virtually a substitute for saying “I’m Jewish,” but without the awkwardness of announcing your religious identity to a (near) total stranger. The fact is, Pikesville is home to 30 percent of Baltimore-area Jews, according to the most recent Associated Population Study. Even more pertinent, around four out of five Jews live in the northwest portion of the Baltimore metro area, from Upper Park Heights to Owings Mills and beyond, in an area that might realistically be termed “Greater Pikesville.”
Which brings me to the subject of this blog post. Next Wednesday, October 17, we are opening the traveling exhibition “Jews on the Move: Baltimore and the Suburban Exodus, 1945 to 1968.” The exhibition reveals how and why Jews became concentrated in the metro area’s northwest suburbs in the decades after World War II. It was a process that took only a single generation to complete, but remains a powerful fact of Baltimore Jewish life today, several decades later.
It’s a national story, but with a local twist—Baltimore Jews joined the rush to suburbia that occurred across America after World War II, but why they ended up in one particular section of the metro area is a complex tale with a lot of local nuances. Ironically, the exhibition does not really focus on Pikesville, because it wasn’t until the early 1980s that Pikesville beat out Randallstown as the suburb of choice for Jews within northwest Baltimore. What the exhibition does do is show how the “northwest exodus” became firmly established in those early years of suburbanization, leading to the settlement patterns we see today.
By the way, I should mention that the exhibition is opening not here at the JMM, but at Hodson Hall on the Johns Hopkins University campus, where it will be on view until December 17. We created the exhibition in partnership with students in JHU’s Museums and Society program, through a class that JMM staff taught last spring. The students were from all over (California, New York, D.C. suburbs) but by the time the semester ended they could throw around terms like “Baltimore Beltway” and “Mandell-Ballow” with ease.