History Can Inform Contemporary Family Life

Posted on March 15th, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM’s new Director of Development, Tracey E. Dorfmann.

While reading On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews in Baltimore, I realized that 21st century families face some similar challenges to those of 19th immigrant families.

The Industrial Revolution was underway when many Eastern Europeans moved to Baltimore. America provided many new opportunities, but new freedoms created new challenges.  Family structure often crumbled under the weight of earning an adequate living in a capitalist society.  Families began to spend more “hours away from the security of family” due to work. Even children were expected to support the household by working. Families began to grow apart as independence and individuality flourished. Jewish communal organizations, Hebrew schools, and Yiddish theatre became part of the functional glue that held people together in a new way.

Louis Israelson (behind the counter) and his son Reuben and daughter Annetta in their family grocery store on Pennsylvania Avenue, c. 1929. Theirs was a typical small business, with all family members expected to pitch in. Courtesy of Glenda Goldberg and Susan Grott, CP 5.2012.1.

The Technology Revolution provides us with opportunities for business, employment, communication, improved health care and more.  Today’s definition of what constitutes a family has broadened to mean family by marriage or family by choice. Thankfully, children in America are now protected under child labor laws and educational requirements.  Even with all these advances we face new demands on our lives and time.

Once again, a wedge has been driven into family life. Our current dilemma is preserving time for the family in an age of of 24/7 connection to the work place. Working adults are expected to be available far beyond the traditional nine to five workday. Children are often, by necessity, in child care settings several hours before school starts and several hours after. Adults often spend more time each week interacting with colleagues, and children more time interacting within a composite peer group with few adults around. Once again, we find ourselves spending “hours away from the security of family.” When together, family members regularly sit in silence, with headphones on, focusing on hand-held devices or computer screens ­­–immersed in individual worlds.

In both periods we discover that freedoms can become limitations. We can learn from these 19th century stories the importance of developing a community that is built through meaningful activities, uplifting connections, and cultural events.

Join us, author Deb Weiner, and Baltimore’s own Gil Sandler at the Museum on Tuesday, April 10 at 6:30 p.m. to find out more!

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April 10, 2018: A Decade in the Making

Posted on March 9th, 2018 by

Performance Counts: March 2018

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes to us from Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

Ten Years in the Making

In 1971, Isaac M. Fein, the founder of the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland (predecessor to the JMM), published a comprehensive history of the Jewish community of Baltimore. The Making of An American Jewish Community: The History of Baltimore Jewry from 1773 to 1920, was originally published by the Jewish Publication Society of America and then re-released by the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland in 1985. It is an excellent book, and one that our Senior Vice President, Dr. Robert Keehn, recommends to friends and family alike.

In 2008, JMM’s then-director Avi Decter and JMM’s then-researcher Deb Weiner started talking about the successor to the Fein book. Deb suggested they bring in their colleague, Eric Goldstein to help research and write, and so began a journey that is scheduled to reach its finish on April 10 at 6:30pm with the official launch of On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore.

Samuel and Albertina Harrison at 1216 McElderry St., c. 1890. JMM 1991.36.1

We have notes in our institutional archives from a conversation the two colleagues had on August 28, 2008. Questions they were asking themselves included: How would they structure it? How could they update and complement the research Fein had done and tell the story into the twenty-first century? How could they include some of Gil Sandler’s important and compelling storytelling work? What distinguishes Baltimore’s story from other American communities?

The questions were intriguing to Museum staff and board, as well as some important patrons. At least seven donors made the book research, writing, and publishing happen, including: the Richard and Rosalee C. Davison Foundation, Willard and Lillian Hackerman, the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Charitable Foundation, and the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds. Additional financial support for the project was provided by the Southern Jewish Historical Society and the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University.

“The Masquerade Ball of the Harmony Circle, New Assemblr Rooms, March 1st 1866.” JMM 1990.44.1

Johns Hopkins University Press (JHUP) is the publisher of the work, per a contract signed between the two entities nearly five years ago. The questions from ten years ago are now answered in the JHUP/JMM publication of five chapters (plus an introduction and an epilogue) across 320 pages of historical storytelling. An additional 46 pages convey 907 footnotes. And because this is a work created by and with the Museum, more than 130 images–curated from our collections or borrowed from colleagues at more than 20 other institutions or private collections–punctuate the story.

Rosalie Silber Abrams (top left) and Governor Marvin Mandel (bottom left) at a signing ceremony for legislation Abrams sponsored. JMM 1983.88.17.1

And what a story it is! Ranging from the eighteenth century until the twenty-first, On Middle Ground presents compelling characters and absorbing dramas. The authors argue that Baltimore, with its multiple modes of in-the-middle-ness (as a port for both products and people, and as an in-between space—geographically and culturally—bordering both north and south), created an environment that made it a microcosm of the broader American (Jewish) story.

At the Museum on April 10, Deb Weiner will give a preview of the story with a book talk entitled Life on the Border: The Role of Place in Shaping the Baltimore Jewish Experience. Gill Sandler will also be there to entertain and enlighten as he is wont to do.

Temple Oheb Shalom groundbreaking, 1959. Pictured are Philip Kaufman, Scott Preterman, Arthur Feldman, Helene Sacherman, Shelby Silver, Marge Hecht, Sammy Fox, Steve Agetstein, Roy Gamse, Louis Salai, and John Katz,JMM 2002.117.11

If you can’t make April 10 (or you want to collect that second signature on your personalized copy!), co-author Eric Goldstein will join us at the Museum on May 9, sharing a different aspect of the book with a talk entitled Myth vs. Reality: The Maryland Jew Bill in Historical Context.

Whether or not you can make it to the official launch event, we hope you’ll come see us soon, and pick up your copy of the book at Esther’s Place!

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Intern Weekly Response: Catalog Reviews!

Posted on July 13th, 2017 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to read a selected JMM exhibit catalog and write a short review!  To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


 

Vacations and the Jewish American Dream: Contrasting Identities

By Collections Intern Amy Swartz

 Cover of the catalog.

Cover of the catalog.

The JMM’s catalog on Jewish Vacations, titled The Other Promised Land: Vacationing, Identity, and the Jewish American Dream, discusses where and how Jewish Americans vacation. Each article takes on a different place including Atlantic City, Miami Beach, or discusses a theme such as Heritage Tourism or Anti-Semitism. One theme that struck me was the conflicting identities Jews has in the context of these getaways.

Placard of the Warsaw Ghetto. These stone inserts cover the extent of the wall and are all that remain to tell people where the Ghetto once stood.

Placard of the Warsaw Ghetto. These stone inserts cover the extent of the wall and are all that remain to tell people where the Ghetto once stood.

A consistent conflict is between who is Jewish: German Jews/those who have been in the United States for longer vs. Eastern European Jews. German Jews had assimilated into American culture and were generally wealthier than their newer counterparts in society. These differences often manifested themselves during vacations. Another conflict discussed was the conflict between religion and vacation. Some Jews chose to be less religiously involved while on break which led to fierce criticism from fellow Jews.

The POLIN Museum in Warsaw, which tells the history of the Jews in Poland from medieval times until today.

The POLIN Museum in Warsaw, which tells the history of the Jews in Poland from medieval times until today.

 

The article titled “Heritage Tours” also touched on the idea of identity and who/what is Jewish. Jews who visited Warsaw realized that the Jewish history now remembered was explicitly about the Holocaust rather than the centuries of history prior. Many felt their history was no longer accessible there, specifically because most of the buildings and neighborhoods were destroyed during WWII. Having just visited Warsaw in March, and toured the Warsaw Ghetto, I understand the frustration as there is a less tangible history due to destruction. Identity plays a key role in most people’s lives, however, for Jews, vacations were an intersectional moment where conflicting identities emerged.


 

Chosen Food: How the Chosen People create a Food Culture

By Education Intern Erin Penn

What do you call a cat you can read? A catalogue! Here is the cover art for Chosen Food.

What do you call a cat you can read? A catalogue! Here is the cover art for Chosen Food.

I got to read and review Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture and American Jewish Identity for this week. The catalogue contains numerous essays about Jewish eating traditions, recipes, and the importance of food for a community.  In the midst of the essays, there are shorter pieces called “Contemporary Voices.” The entire catalogue was fascinating—it excited my interests and my taste buds.

The “Contemporary Voices” pieces were originally published in the Jew and the Carrot Website.

The “Contemporary Voices” pieces were originally published in the Jew and the Carrot Website.

I really enjoyed reading Ted Merwin’s essay about how the Jewish community and Jewish practices changed as the immigrated to America. He focused on the popularity of kosher restaurants and delicatessens as a central meeting place.  Merwin writes, “The corner kosher deli competed with the synagogue as the cornerstone of the Jewish neighborhood” (29). The essay was interesting because it did not focus on one specific city or type of cuisine and instead showed the widespread custom of eating out. I am curious if there are similar comparisons between other cultures and their eating customs and traditions. Don’t all immigrant communities hold onto and adapt their traditions, especially their food, in new American towns?


 

Beyond Chicken Soup: Jewish and Medicine in America

By Collections Intern Joelle Paull

Excerpt and photo from “Chicken Soup: Women and the Making of the Modern Jewish Home and Nation.

Excerpt and photo from “Chicken Soup: Women and the Making of the Modern Jewish Home and Nation.

In his introduction to the exhibition catalogue for Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews & Medicine in America, JMM Director Marvin Pinkert, wrote sought “to illuminate how scientific and cultural concerns have intertwined to shape not only the American Jewish experience, but an important field of human endeavor.” (Pinkert, 5). The essays in the catalogue do exactly that. From the role of the immigrant’s body in assimilation to representation of Jewish physicians in pop culture, the catalogue and essays within it show the process of assimilation and cultural exchange culminating with American Jewish doctor’s complex image in our culture.” (Merwin, 90).

The Marx Brothers in A Day at the Races, 1937. Courtesy of Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy, Inc. CP20.2016.2

The Marx Brothers in A Day at the Races, 1937. Courtesy of Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy, Inc. CP20.2016.2

The collection of essays as a whole are most successful in illustrating the many ways the Jewish immigrants were successful in making a place for themselves in the United States and the struggle of fighting stereotypes, prejudices, and in turn images of self-worth. It illustrates the role of health in many Jewish cultures and details various traditions surrounding health, medicine, and the body.


 

Small But Significant

By Exhibitions Intern Ryan Mercado

Catalogue cover

Catalogue cover

When I first arrived at the JMM back in June to begin this internship, I found a large blue booklet in the back pocket of my intern binder. This blue booklet, Enterprising Emporium: The Jewish Department Stores of Downtown Baltimore, is the catalogue for the corresponding exhibit of the same name that was on display at the JMM from 2001-2003. I was tasked with reviewing this catalogue for today’s blog post – but how does a person review a catalogue for an exhibit that they have not seen? That is the primary concern I had in terms of reading this catalogue. The layout of the catalogue helped me try to understand what I could not see with an intro and three scholarly essays. I’m guessing the essays correspond with the sections of the exhibit.

The Judaica collection of Florence Roger. This was on display at Hutzler’s Department Store next to other pieces of artwork. The displays were part of the store’s 90th anniversary commemoration.

The Judaica collection of Florence Roger. This was on display at Hutzler’s Department Store next to other pieces of artwork. The displays were part of the store’s 90th anniversary commemoration.

The introduction by former Museum Director Avi Decter set the stage for what I was about to read and what images I was going to see. I must admit that when I think of Jewish Baltimore, I don’t think of department stores, but the JMM is a Jewish heritage museum that tells the story of Baltimore Jews, and the fact that many historic department stores were owned by Jews is significant and it makes sense that an entire exhibit was devoted to the tropic. I think the intro well established me and gave me the necessary facts and figures one would need to know about the topic. After all, publications by the JMM should help educate non-Jews, and this catalogue does a good job at that. The one essay that I was immediately drawn to was one entitled: “Expressions of Jewish Identity in Baltimore’s Downtown Department Stores.” I immediately turned to that essay and began reading.

Hutzler’s 1960 Calendar which featured religious architecture. The Lloyd St Synagogue is featured for the month of March. This was one of many ways the store owners expressed Jewish identity, with little things such as this. 

Hutzler’s 1960 Calendar which featured religious architecture. The Lloyd St Synagogue is featured for the month of March. This was one of many ways the store owners expressed Jewish identity, with little things such as this.

I assume that museum catalogues offer supplementary information and history than the actual exhibit itself did. After all, you can’t possibly fit large essays onto exhibit placards. What I found in this essay was extremely interesting to me, and it taught me more of how Baltimore’s Jews sought to carve a space out for themselves. In this arena, they’re in Department Stores. How does a Jew express their Jewish identity in a Department Store? A store that remains open on the Sabbath! According to the essay, the sheer fact that the stores were owned by Jews meant that a relaxed atmosphere about working on the Sabbath or other Jewish holidays existed. Jewish employees could get off early or stay home. But expressing Jewish identity is more than just getting Saturday off.

The “Israel 67” Fashion show occurred at the Hochshild Department Store as a way to commemorate the new Jewish State in its early years and its fledgling culture.

The “Israel 67” Fashion show occurred at the Hochshild Department Store as a way to commemorate the new Jewish State in its early years and its fledgling culture.

I learned that to express Jewish identity, little things were done, sometimes things that weren’t noticeable to the trained eye. For example, one Department store celebrated its 90th anniversary by displaying a Judaica collection alongside other art pieces. Advertising of Jewish organizations in windows was also quite common. In company newsletters, news of Jewish employees and their families was also commonplace. One department store even printed a calendar that featured Baltimore religious architecture, in which the Lloyd St Synagogue was featured, which was truly significant since Baltimore was/ is predominately Christian. Finally, in a very department store-esque fashion, a store paid tribute to Israel 67 by featuring Israel art and products at their store, even dressing up mannequins in Israel fashion and having a fashion show. All these are small but significant. They showcase a community that had the power to assert their Jewish identity from a powerful soapbox that reached all Baltimoreans: through shopping. Their attempts at expressing their Jewishness is what stayed with me after reading the catalog.


 

Filling In the Blanks: The Voices of Lombard Street Exhibit Catalogue

By Education Intern Sara Philippe

The Voices of Lombard Street exhibit catalogue is an important, maybe necessary piece of work because of the added depth it provides an exhibit that seeks to cover a century’s worth of time. It provides detailed information wherever the exhibit lacks the space, including articles about the pre- 20th and late 19th century state of Jonestown, close-by Little Italy, and the area after the departure of most of its Jews towards the second half of the 20th century, among other topics.

An image from “A Different Kind of Neighorhood”

An image from “A Different Kind of Neighorhood”

I was really interested in the article A Different Kind of Neighborhood: Central European Jews and the Origins of Jewish East Baltimore because it touches on a part of the history of the neighborhood that is largely left out in the exhibit itself. While in the exhibit and on the synagogue tours, the shifts between Central and Eastern European immigration over time is discussed, there is little mention of what Jewish Baltimore looked like before the influx of Eastern Europeans towards the end of the 19th century. I appreciate how this article explains the reasons for the dispersal and lack of a principal residential area for Jews before mass industrialization took place causing ethnic enclaves like the Lombard Street neighborhood to form.

An Image from “Public Notions, Private Lives”

An Image from “Public Notions, Private Lives”

Public Notions, Private Lives: The Meanings of Place in an Inner City Neighborhood charts the history of the neighborhood as the Jewish population began to diminish significantly in the 1930s and the rise of the Flag House Courts housing developments in the 1950s. I love how the article focuses on the residents of the Flag House Courts in a way that Voices cannot given the extensive timeline it covers, while also detailing the ever-present racism that made Jonestown look as it did over time. It does a good job of detailing the role of racial segregation in the neighborhood and the factors that always allowed for white upward mobility. The article makes clear the factors that led to the transformation of the Flag House Courts as a racially mixed development to one that was 97% black. However, I believe the article falls short in analyzing the white flight that led East Baltimore’s Jews to move to other areas of the city and to the suburbs in the first place, while also depicting what that “exodus” looked like. Both the exhibit and the catalogue make me want to no more about this period and the phenomenon of white flight specifically as it affected Baltimore and the communities that were its victims rather than its benefactors.


 

Catalogue Review: Lives Lost, Lives Found

By Exhibitions Intern Tirza Ochrach-Konradi

Catalogue Cover!

Catalogue Cover!

I read the exhibition booklet for Lives Lost, Lives Found; Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees, 1933-1945. I never personally attended the exhibition that this book expands upon, so I cannot comment on how it ties to the physical presentation. However, this means that I can better interrogate the book as a lone production. I believe the publication works well as a standalone. The five essay sections are easy to follow and full of human detail that brings the facts of this period to life. The essays build a comprehensive picture of the reality of these immigrant’s lives. I most enjoyed the essay, “Knocking at the Door: The German Jewish Refugees and the U.S. Immigration Policy,” which focuses on the immigration of Bernard Mansbach and his subsequent fight to bring his family to the US.

Taken by Leo C. Hess on April 3, 1994 in Druid Hill Park. Bernard Mansbach is furthest right. To his left is his wife, Hertha Mansbach. (JMM 1994.142.062.001)

Taken by Leo C. Hess on April 3, 1994 in Druid Hill Park. Bernard Mansbach is furthest right. To his left is his wife, Hertha Mansbach. (JMM 1994.142.062.001)

The content of this exhibition was particularly suited to book form. I’m sure there are some objects that appeared in the physical exhibition that could not be represented well in the book, but a lot of materials associated with immigration, family photos, visa papers, newspaper reporting, and government documents, all lend themselves to inclusion in the print form. Although, my favorite part primary source inclusion is the quote collection which makes up the last section. They are fantastic to read. The one thing that I wish the section included was some manner of getting additional information on the experiences each quote references. This could have either been captions that give slightly more context to each quote or perhaps a page number from within the essays where the topic the quote references is discussed. This would also encourage readers to return back to the essay sections they may have skimmed on their first pass through the catalogue.


 

All of these exhibit catalogs are available for purchase at Esther’s Place, the JMM Shop!

Stop in or contact Devan Southerland, Shop Assistant at 443-873-5171 / dsoutherland@jewishmuseummd.org.

 

 

 

 

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