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Surprising Connections

Posted on December 12th, 2019 by

A blog post by Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

Sometimes the best way to come up with a potential blog topic is to look up the date your post is due, and let Wikipedia data lead you astray.  For example, here are birthdays for December 12. A quick glance down the list showed me a few familiar names, reminding me that I actually already knew that 12/12 is Frank Sinatra’s birthday, and adding the fun fact that he shares it with his friend Sammy Davis, Jr.  Speaking of old Hollywood, December 12 is also Edward G. Robinson’s birthday, and I remembered that oddly enough we have a few photos of the actor in our collections.  (I noticed them some years ago because he’d been misidentified by a young intern who, bless their heart, did not spend all of high school watching Turner Classic Movies, like me.)

Harry Diamond, left, and Edward G. Robinson, right. From the Harry Diamond collection, anonymous donor. JMM 1989.80.41

In this undated photo by Baltimore photographer Nat Lipsitz, Harry Diamond and Edward G. Robinson examine a piece of paper; both are wearing large “Israel Bonds” tags on their lapels.  Robinson (1913-1972), a Jewish actor (born Emanuel Goldenberg in Romania) known for his ‘tough guy’ persona on screen, was a major supporter of Israel Bonds. In the 1950s and ‘60s he was a regular performer at the Chanukah Festival for Israel, held at Madison Square Gardens, culminating in the celebration of his 75th birthday, December 12, 1968, on stage at the event (held four days later, on December 16th); tributes from President Lyndon B. Johnson and Premier Levi Eshkol of Israel, congratulating him on his years of service to Israel Bonds, were read aloud that evening. This work was an extension of his efforts during and after WWII, when he used his movie stardom to publicize the plight of refugees – such as in this 1948 short, “Where Do You Get Off?”

All that being said, though it’s not surprising to see Robinson in an Israel Bonds-themed image, the specific Baltimore information is not yet known. Robinson was in town for film premieres and stage plays – and art auctions (he was a prolific collector) – many times over the years, and thus he could have taken the time to help with local Israel Bonds efforts more than once; we’ll need to do a little more research to pin down this particular event.

And since I started with Frank Sinatra, I’ll note that while we don’t have any photos of him (or of member of the tribe Sammy Davis, Jr., for that matter) in our collections, he doesn’t go entirely unrepresented. Our Baltimore Jewish Council collection contains a small file of materials related to the production and release of “The House I Live In,” a 1945 short film in which Sinatra catches a group of kids chasing a Jewish boy, and proceeds to teach them about religious tolerance and American values. You can watch it here, thanks to the Library of Congress; it’s only 10 minutes and worth a viewing, though I should note that in addition to the enjoyable sight of Hollywood’s fanciful version of the ideal young whippersnapper (and, of course, your man doing some signature crooning), there is also some use of war footage.  More to my point today, our BJC file on the film includes reviews of and reactions to the film from the Baltimore papers, and this form postcard sent out by BJC Executive Director Leon Sachs, noting that the film will be shown at the Hippodrome and urging “friends of every faith” to watch what he calls a “truly American job [that] should get a genuine American response.”

Postcard from the Baltimore Jewish Council encouraging support of “The House I Live In,” October 30, 1945. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Council, JMM MS 107.

 And there are your unexpected connections for December 12!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Camp Woodlands

Posted on March 29th, 2019 by

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

While searching through the negatives in the Nat Lipsitz photograph collection for images of the opening of Camp Milldale in 1953 on Stevenson Road, I found 1951 images of Camp Woodlands. When I began my research on the Associated I had never heard of Camp Woodlands. Of course I knew what Camp Milldale was, many of my friends had attended camp there and were counselors when we were teenagers (I never attended having gone to Beth Tfiloh Camp as a camper and a counselor), so I was interested to learn more about an unknown Baltimore day camp.

Camp Woodlands was a constituent agency of the Associated Jewish Charities from 1922 to 1952. It began in 1913 when the Hebrew Benevolent Society purchased a 10-acre plot of land on Paradise Avenue in Catonsville Maryland as a summer retreat for mothers and children. The retreat was called “Paradise Home” or the “Jewish Country Home” and the social workers from the Hebrew Benevolent Society would select families who could attend for two week sessions in the country.

Sketch for the Country Home of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, Catonsville, Maryland.  Thomas V. Stars Landscape Architect, April 24, 1910. JMM 1996.063.001.

In 1922 the camp was officially renamed the Woodland Country Home and became an independent constituent of the new Associated Jewish Charities. The 1922 booklet, Some Important Accomplishments of Your Charity Association, said that 246 men, women and children were given a vacation that summer. By 1928 the Woodland Country home is described in campaign material as, “vacations furnished for husbands and wives, parent and children – some 335 in all, at the Woodland Country Home during the exhausting mid-summer days. Pleasant little bungalows scattered through beautiful groves of forest tress. A wonderful way of bringing back health, and renewing courage to the sorely pressed.”

Invitation to dedication of new cottages including directions to the camp. “To reach Woodland Country Home: Follow Frederick Road to Paradise Avenue (six miles from City Hall), then South along well-marked road about three-quarters of a mile.” JMM 2017.068.003.106.

The 1930 Season Report to the board of the Associated Jewish Charities listed that, 460 individuals were served by the camp consisting of 119 mothers, 4 fathers, and 336 children under the age of 14. Of the 336 children, 62 were eight to thirteen-years-old unaccompanied by an adult. Over 900 hundred people had applied for a vacation that summer.

Campaign postcard from 1930, written on the back, “Boys and girls, undernourished babies, and work-worn mothers, each summer obtain relief from the sweltering heat of bricks and concrete, in the green shady surroundings of the Woodland Country Home. Rest, good food, and outdoor recreation soon put color in pale cheeks and ‘pep’ into listless bodies.” JMM 2017.068.004.003.

Another campaign brochure from 1930 showing the children at the Woodland Country home having afternoon milk. JMM 2017.068.004.017.

Woodland Country Home July 25, 1931. JMM 1996.063.128.

In 1948 the camp would once again change its name to Camp Woodlands and would exclusively serve children as a summer day camp. They also provided one week at the end of the summer for Golden Agers Camp, for those young at heart, but over the age of 65. In 1951 the Jewish Educational Alliance (JEA), the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association and Camp Woodlands merged into one new organization, the Jewish Community Center or JCC. Camp Woodlands would continue to operate until the summer of 1953 when Camp Milldale was opened on Stevenson Road. The Catonsville location was purchased by the state for highway development.

Below are the pictures I found in the Nat Lipsitz collection.

They were all taken in July and August of 1951.

These are amazing photographs but because they are negatives no one is identified.

If you recognize anyone please let us know! (Particularly the winner of this turtle race.)

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

The Treasures You Find in the Basement

Posted on July 25th, 2018 by

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

When you work in a museum, collection storage is often in the basement. Some people may feel basements can be uncomfortable or frightening, but I truly love basements. Most of the time I go down knowing what I am looking for and its right were its supposed to be and that’s wonderful, but I do enjoy the times when it becomes a bit more of an adventure. My son said maybe it would be more exciting if I walked into the archives and a movie announcer voice said, “Welcome to the Archives” and began playing the Indiana Jones theme music. That would be incredible, but even without the music I feel like I can be on a quest of discovery.

 A few weeks ago, I was searching a collection of 3×5 negatives, mostly from the 1950’s and 1960’s. The negatives were donated by the photographer, Nat Lipsitz in 1980.  A Baltimore photographer, Nat Lipsitz worked with the Associated for nearly 30 years, as well as Israel Bonds, the Jewish National Fund, Zionist organizations, and other Jewish and non-Jewish groups. I was looking for Associated Jewish Charities, Women’s Division, G-Day photographs, and I was side tracked by the word “Fashion Show”. Its hard not to look at photographs of a fashion show, especially ones from the 1950’s and 1960’s. What I found were wonderful photographs of the Israel Bonds Fashion Shows!

The first group were identified in the photographer’s notebook as, models at Hutzlers, modeling clothes for Israel Bonds 12/31/52.

The second group of photographs had a beautiful and very tall women in the center of the photo.. Since she was in all the photographs I felt she was the special guest and was interested in learning who she was.

After some research, I found who I was looking for on the cover of the programs for the 1966 Israel Bonds Fashion Show, Bess Meyerson. JMM 1988.218.25

In the January 5, 2015 Washington Post Obituary for Bess Meyerson, Adam Bernstein wrote:

“A raven-haired, hazel-eyed beauty who stood 5-foot-10, Ms. Myerson was a captivating figure from the moment she was named the first — and still only — Jewish Miss America. Born to immigrant Jews from Russia, she was raised in a Bronx housing project and embodied an up-from-poverty success story that made her an overnight sensation and possibly the best-known Miss America in the contest’s history.

For decades, she enjoyed something close to reverence among a generation of Jews who had lived through the Holocaust and found in her win a symbol of Jewish assimilation and acceptance in an otherwise hostile world.”

Ms. Meyerson would go on to be named the NYC commissioner of Consumer Affairs in 1969 and in 1980 name NYC commissioner of Cultural Affairs. She would have an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 1980 and loose in the Democratic primaries. She would also be charged with bribery and conspiracy charges in 1987. In all she had an incredibly interesting life and finding her photograph gave me a chance to learn more about her.

*As a footnote all the photographs are not identified – please email me if you know any of the women in the photographs!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland