The Mount Pleasant Jewish Home for Consumptives – a Personal Connection

Posted on March 28th, 2018 by

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

In 1907 Jacob Epstein gave $35,000 to the Federated Jewish Charities for a tuberculosis hospital and another $500 annually toward supporting the institution. Seventy-two acres were purchased off Westminster Pike, north of Reisterstown and the Jewish Home for Consumptives, also known as Mount Pleasant was opened in 1908.

I knew very little about Mount Pleasant prior to working here at the Museum, but what I did know was through my own family history. When WWII began my grandfather, who had recently married my grandmother, went to register for the Navy. At the physical it was discovered that he had tuberculosis, although he had no symptoms. My grandfather proceeded to spend the next year at Mount Pleasant. He always believed that he had contracted tuberculosis from living at a boarding house in Baltimore when he first arrived from New York, but would never know the true cause.

I was excited to find a large portion of the 1926-1932 Associated scrapbook dedicated to the history of Mount Pleasant.

Inside the scrapbook was an incredible amount of information on the sanitorium, not just the invitations to events – which I always love to see (especially the menus),

but also copies of the forms for admission including a clothing list and directions. 

One of the most interesting finds was a small booklet titled, “Your Cure and your Sanatorium” from 1931. JMM 2017.68.3.38

It begins with, “By coming to the Sanatorium, you have taken an important step towards recovery. Everything about this sanatorium has been planned for the sole purpose of helping you win your battle. Rest, good food and fresh air are the three most essential elements of treatment. Occasionally, medicines for the control of certain symtoms and special forms of treatment may be prescribed. Cheerfulness and determination to get well, you must supply. This will not be difficult in the company of others who are striving, like yourself, to regain health. Courage is contagious.” The booklet goes on to explain what tuberculosis is, why rest is the most imprtant step in healing, and the times of day that patients must rest, eat, and recieve treatments, a daily schedule for patients, as well as the critera for being declared well enough to return home.

Its easy to understand the ideas behind the sanitorium, hoping to create a place where people could heal and regain their strength, allowing them to return to normal life. But was the sanitorium successful?

The 1917 annual report included not only statistics for the Home, but a Superintendent’s Report as well.

In it, the superintendent, Jacob Cohen, M.D, wrote “ we aim to do more than teach the patient how to take care of himself. As has been said in former reports, it is the settled purpose of the Medical Board not to discharge patients who may be a menance to the community, but to keep them indefinitely if thought desirable, and forever if necessary. You probably know that most of our patients have either moderate or far advanced lesions; very few of our admissions are incipient cases. The cause of this is probably two-fold, occasional failures on the physcian’s part to recoginize the disease in its incipiency, but much more so, I think, the unwillingness of the average Jewish workingman to admit that he needs medical attention until the disease has made extensive inroads.” The statistics show that a majority of the people in the hospital that year where tailors or housewives and when looking at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum records many children where placed in the orphanage because one parent had either died or was being treated for tuberculosis.

Happily, my grandfather was cured, though he never spoke of his time there. But because of Mount Pleasant, he was able to come home and become a father and the most wonderful grandfather anyone could ask for.

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Judging My Family Story

Posted on March 21st, 2018 by

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

Make sure to stop in by March 25th, it’s your last chance to see these amazing projects!

This was my first experience working with the My Family Story project, an amazing program done with Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.

As the projects came in to the Museum it was amazing to see the creativity and thoughtfulness that each child put into their piece.

I was even more amazed by the work when the curator statements where added, revealing the carefully researched stories behind each piece of art.

It was a great honor to be asked to judge the event, along with members of the JMM Board of Trustees, and JMM volunteers.

Each judge was given a group of projects to look at and to view them in turns of aesthetics, creativity, depth of research and Jewish peoplehood. This helped allow me to focus on the projects – otherwise I might not have been able to decide! Every project told an incredible story of a family’s journey and I was impressed by all the work that was done.

Each judge then presented their top projects, which were discussed and reviewed by all the judges.

All the finalists were amazing and it was truly a difficult decision to get down to the final two for the Beth Tfiloh group. One of the projects I selected as a “top two” was chosen as a winner! Erela I.’s piece was beautifully done, and her curator’s statement truly showed the thoughtfulness and research that went into the work.

The Winning Projects from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School:

Erela I. ’22, A Light Surrounded by Persecution

Erela’s “Curator Statement:”

My Family Story display shows my family’s heritage of religious Jews who lived in Iran. In my project I have a black surface with a collage of images of Persian Jews, Arabic writing, and the persecution of Jews in Iran. The collage represents the environment that both of my parents grew up in. One filled with hate and bad opinions towards all Jews. My family was surrounded by this threat of danger all throughout their lives in Iran until they immigrated to the US in 1984 and 1992. In the center of my project is a figure shaped like an open house. This represents my family’s safe haven in a habitat of darkness. Set up inside of the house is a setting of a Shabbat night dinner table with lit candles a family saying Kiddush. These moments in Iran, in this event, represents the light that being Jewish brought to my family.

Maya T. ’22, 1801 West Mosher Street

Maya’s “Curator Statement:”

This representation of my family story depicts the grocery store that my great-grandparents owned when they moved to the U.S after surviving the Holocaust. My grocery store is made in a wooden box. Inside, there are four parts to the store. The fridge, resembling the frigid weather that my great-grandparents had to endure in the DP camps, and the shelves, with bread and crackers, resembling the only food that my great-grandparents were given. Then I made a fruit stand, with six different fruits with significance to six million Jews killed and the differences between each person and his story. Lastly, the tiles on the floor represent the silver dollars used to pay for the groceries at my great-grandparents’ grocery store. These silver dollars are very important to me because my great-grandmother saved those dollars and gives them to me and my brother when we lose teeth. Finally, on the outside of my box, I have created a collage of pictures with me and my great-grandmother because I am so fortunate to be able to know her and her amazing story. One of the lessons I can learn from my great-grandmother is independence. Even at 93, my great-grandmother makes the holiday meals for all of our family. I can also feel connected to her by the silver dollars that she gave me. I keep these silver dollars safe, and plan on giving them to my great-grandchildren, and telling them my great-grandparents’ story, in hopes of instilling their values in future generations, when the time will come.

I can’t wait to see what comes next year!

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Football…in the Archives?

Posted on February 26th, 2018 by

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

A few weeks ago, while processing a collection I came upon a list of addresses and I was unsure how it connected to the collection. As I was looking over the list I noticed the very last name: John Unitas. This piqued my interest andso  I began looking up the other names on the list.

What I found was five players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame! Maybe you recognize them: Raymond Berry, Gino Marchetti, Lenny Moore, Jim Parker, and Johnny Unitas.

As it turns out, all the names on my mysterious list were players who were on the Baltimore Colts between 1961-1963 (many were also on earlier and later, but this is the period they all overlapped).*

The collection was donated from the estate of Bernard S. “Bucky” Levin. Mr. Levin was a lifelong sports fan whoalso owned a pharmacu in Baltimore. His pharmacy not only provided medical supplies to the Baltimore Colts, but also filled prescriptions for many players. One of Mr. Levin’s philanthropic interests was the Eddie Block Memorial Courage Award dinner, which is named for the late Colts trainer and raises money to help abused children.

I found additional information on the Colts inside a folder labeled, “From Ed Block” including articles and information on the 1977 NFL Draft.

Check out pick #26 for Baltimore’s choice!

All this research made me think about growing up in Baltimore. As a child I had no interest in football, but I knew who the Colts where. My father, grandfather, and uncles all watched the games and were on the phone throughout a game discussing each play and every call.

I think if you are from Baltimore and are old enough to remember the Colts, everyone has a story to tell. My first real experience understanding how important football was to the city was when I was 7 and attending summer nature camp at Goucher college. I remember the doors to the building where large and very heavy and getting them open could be difficult. Luckily there where very large men running around on the field next to the building who were happy to help. After a few days of camp, I told my father that I had met the largest men I had ever seen and that they always waved and said hello when we passed them.

Photo of 1958 Baltimore Colts (signed by Ordell Brasse and Alex Sandusky, both of whom were on my mystery list). JMM 2001.113.99

After a series of questions starting with “what are these men doing?” and moving on to “are they playing a game?”, my parents discovered I was waving hello to the practicing Colts! I’m not sure if my father had driven me to camp before that, but he certainly did afterwards.

The 1958 Baltimore Colts radio and television schedule, produced by National Bohemian. Gift of Steven Sklar, 2016.10.130.

I saw first hand how excited people where to meet them and watch ever step they took. Although 7 year old me was really only impressed with their size, it left a lasting impression on me on how important sports can be to a person and a city.

*Please don’t try and grab an autograph at any of these addresses! But you can get a taste of “Where Are They Now” in this feature from the Baltimore Sun!

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