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Spectacularly A Glow: The Baltimore Chanukah House

Posted on December 24th, 2019 by

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

“It is spectacularly a glow in celebration of the Jewish holiday.” – From the Baltimore Sun December 17, 1998 article Electric Avenues, on where to find the best holiday decorations in Baltimore.

The building at 6211 Park Heights Avenue at the corner of Strathmore was called the Chanukah House. A four-apartment building owned by Ann and Morris Cohen, their son Irwin and brothers William and Samuel Shoken. The home would become a holiday favorite with events, school trips and visits from people near and far. For many years it was the home of a community-wide Chanukah celebration sponsored by CHAI and the Mayor’s Office. They would put out flyers “All are welcome to joins us for lighting the Chanukah menorah”. In 2009 the Chanukah House was sold but for over 20 years their decorations and Chanukah holiday spirt would delight the entire community.

JMM 2011.72.1.

I found the information on the Chanukah House while finishing a manuscript collection about Beth Jacob Congregation. While working on a donation from Ann and Morris Cohen, I found a file labeled “Chanukah House”. With Chanukah rapidly approaching (I know this because my 9-year-old begins to remind me that Chanukah is coming shortly after his birthday in October) I decided to take a break from the Congregation records and process the Chanukah House. The articles, flyers, and especially the thank you notes in our collection tell the story of a wonderful tradition that appeared to not only make the families putting up the decorations happy but the hundreds of people who visited as well.

A thank you note from Brooke, a Kindergarten student at Cross Country Elementary who went to visit the house with her class in December 1999. JMM 2011.72.5.

Unidentified thank you notes — I particularly like the Chanukah giraffe! JMM 2011.72.6.

I have always enjoyed Chanukah not because of the presents, but because of the time we spend together playing dreidels (which is an Olympic sport in my house, there is no messing around when chocolate is on the line) making and eating holiday meals and lighting the candles. I never saw the Chanukah House but I do recommend taking a drive by the home with Chanukah decorations on Greenspring Avenue near Smith Avenue and the looking for the car I see in my neighborhood with lights and a giant menorah on the roof.


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If You Give an Archivist a Brand-New Scanner

Posted on October 28th, 2019 by

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

Like the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, the same is true when an Archivist receives a new, fast and wonderful scanner: things will happen. I will admit I was so excited when I saw the box for the new Epson scanner, I couldn’t wait to set it up and start using it. Thankfully, all went according to plan and the scanner was up and ready in no time.

Sidney Lansburgh, Sr. and Marian Epstein Lansburgh taken in Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1917. Gift of Margaret Nomentana, JMM 2014.40.81.33.

It was easy to decide what to do first. Our fantastic volunteer Sylvia Nudler had just finished adding a collection of photographs about the Lansburgh family of Baltimore to our collections database, PastPerfect. This wonderful collection included a large photo album – each photograph had a sticker with a number on it and in the front of the album was a list with information on each photograph in the album. I love identified photographs! What people write on the back is sometimes just as interesting as the front and, although a wonderful image is incredible, being able to relate that image to people adds so much to our knowledge of Maryland Jewish history.

Marian Epstein Lansburgh. Gift of Margaret Nomentana, JMM 2014.40.81.15.

This information on the Lansburgh family comes from our Manuscript Collection, MS 126: The Lansburgh Family Papers.

“Marian Epstein Lansburgh (c. 1891-1977) was the second daughter of Jacob and Lena Weinberg Epstein. She graduated from Girls’ Latin School in Baltimore and attended boarding school in Berlin. As a young woman, Marian studied singing, and she later became an active member and supporter of the Baltimore Music Club, the Baltimore Opera Company, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Marian was also a benefactor of the Baltimore Museum of Art and contributed to the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund, Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Park School, Dartmouth College, and the United Fund. She would marry Sidney Lansburgh, Sr. (1878-1958) the son of Max and Rebecca Sonnehill Lansburgh. One year after his marriage to Marian Epstein, he became a partner in his father-in-law’s wholesale business, Baltimore Bargain House. Sidney was the vice-president of the company until 1929, when it merged with Butler Brothers and became the American General Corporation, a company for which Sidney was, at various times, chairman of the board, president, and treasurer. Later in life, Sidney was the chairman of the board for Raleigh Haberdasher, Inc.

Marian Epstein Lansburgh (right) and Hannah Bennett (left), standing in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Gift of Margaret Nomentana, JMM 2014.40.81.42.

Sidney participated in many philanthropic activities in Baltimore. He was a trustee of Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Baltimore Museum of Art, the director of the Baltimore chapter of the American Red Cross, a member of the advisory committee of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a member of the national executive committee of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a life member of the boards of the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund and of the Jewish Children’s Society of Baltimore, a trustee of the Jacob Epstein Foundation, and a chairman of the building committee of the Hebrew Orphans’ Asylum. Sidney was also president of the Associated Jewish Charities from 1933-1935, the organizer and first president of the Jewish Welfare Fund, an organizer and trustee of the Park School, a member of the committee on relief and unemployment for the Baltimore Association of Commerce, a general chairman of a United Jewish Appeal campaign, a co-chairman of the United Palestine Appeal campaign, a co-chairman of the Baltimore Symphony Fund, and a vice-chairman of the Baltimore Red Cross and War Fund Campaign.”

On the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (L to R) Arthur T. Lyon, Elizabeth Lansburgh Lyon, Marian Epstein Lansburgh, Sidney Lansburgh, Sr. who is holding Patricia Lyon in his arms. Gift of Margaret Nomentana, JMM 2014.40.81.86.

The images in this post, and below, are all from the fabulous photo album that I wanted to share, freshly scanned on our brand-new scanner!

Katz family. From left to right: Harriet Katz, Ethel Epstein Katz, Buddy Katz, and Kauffman Katz. Ethel was the older daughter of Jacob and Lena Epstein and was married to A. Ray Katz. Gift of Margaret Nomentana, JMM 2014.40.81.69.

Jacob Epstein holding his infant great-grandson, Kenneth Greif. Gift of Margaret Nomentana, JMM 2014.40.81.72. 

I hope this is labeled correctly because on a personal note, Kenneth Greif was one of my English teachers at the Park School. He was the most wonderful, caring and kind teacher. He taught you to love words and appreciate all types of literature and instilled a confidence in all his students.


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100 Years of Scrapbooks

Posted on October 11th, 2019 by

For this month’s edition of Performance Counts, archivist Lorie Rombro shares some of her favorite finds as she’s been researching the history of the Associated in preparation for the upcoming Centennial Celebrations. This week scrapbooks, next week Scrap looks! You can read more posts by Lorie HERE.

Performance Counts: October 2019

For the past two years I have had the pleasure of assisting the Associated in preparing historical information to celebrate the upcoming centennial. Searching through the over 3,000 photographs and archival files about the Associated at JMM (along with an additional 4,200 + photographs and records about the Jewish Community Center, Levindale, and many of the agencies that are part of the Associated), has been fascinating.

Associated Jewish Charities subscription mailer, 1925.

Two of the resources here at the Museum that I have really enjoyed working on for the centennial are the historic Jewish Times and our collection of scrapbooks about the Associated. From 1921 to 1931 the Jewish Times had an almost weekly page dedicated to the Associated. It began as Philanthropictopics: A Forum of the Associated Jewish Charities Baltimore. This name of the page lasted until 1923 (I understand why they changed it. Although fun, it was a mouthful.) to eventually become Associated News by 1929. These weekly updates would give a variety of information, history and yearly statistics on agencies of the Associated, events and classes that were happening, new officers and board members, information on dues collection and campaigning, and general information to help the community understand what the Associated did.

Left: Philanthropictopics, Jewish Times, June 1922. 1917-1925 Scrapbook, JMM 2017.68.1.56. Right: Associated News, January 3, 1930. 1926-1930 Scrapbook, JMM 2017.68.2.

My favorites were the “Day in the life of” series, where a featured Associated agency would give real examples of what they were doing and the story of a person who came to them for help. I also enjoy the helpful hints section, such as the plea to “Please Be Accurate” from January 1930. This feature was a quick note asking benevolent citizens to make sure that when seeking help for others, they gave the correct name and address to the Hebrew Benevolent Society so that the social workers did not have the uncomfortable moment of addressing the wrong family! I also always enjoyed following the sports sections: which Talmud Torah was up in the baseball tournaments and how the various Jewish Educational Alliance teams were doing.  Reading these columns gives not only a clear picture of what the Associated was doing but also what that work meant to the Jewish community.

Associated Scrapbook, 1926-1930, JMM 2017.68.2.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland houses one hundred and sixty-five scrapbooks on the history of the Associated and its campaigns. These incredible pieces of history span the years from 1918 to 1992 and are an enormous resource in looking at the last 100 years of the Associated and Baltimore’s Jewish community. These stuffed scrapbooks are full of newspaper and magazine clippings, mailers from the Associated, synagogue newsletters, and internal documents.

Article about the creation of the Associated Jewish Charities, July 23, 1920. JMM 2017.68.1.11.

Starting with information on both the Federated Jewish Charities and United Hebrew Charities, the scrapbooks collect articles from all the local papers on the amalgamation of the two organizations and the beginnings of the Associated we know today.

Information and statistics from all the constituent agencies of the Associated Jewish Charities, 1926. 1926-1930 Scrapbook. JMM 2017.69.2.1.

These scrapbooks are amazing. As I process them, I find more and more information that adds to our understanding of the history of the last 100 years. What’s also interesting is what’s missing – while we have the scrapbooks from 1917-1935, there are no documents for 1936-1946 in the scrapbook collection. The next materials start with a Women’s Division scrapbook for 1947. In fact, throughout our whole collection at the Museum, we have very few records for the Associated during those years.

When the Associated still sent out letters to the community in Yiddish. 1929-1931 Scrapbook. JMM 2017.68.4.13e.

These are just a few examples of the resources available in our collection that have helped me understand what the Associated Jewish Charities and its agencies did in its early years and its importance to the community. I can’t wait to celebrate the Centennial with our whole community!


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