San Antonio, Texas – A Jewish story

Posted on April 30th, 2019 by

We’re taking a quick break from our #TravelingWith Grace series to share this blog post by JMM’s Director of Development, Tracey E. Dorfmann about her recent visit to Texas! To read more posts from Tracey, click here. We’ll pick back up with Grace next Tuesday.

Pesach, Texas style – UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures

I recently had the opportunity to travel to San Antonio for professional development. The Association of Fundraising Professionals Conference was insightful and energizing, not to mention there is nothing like being around 2,500 optimists for three days! I extended my hours each day to include some local culture and museums. It was clear that I was in Texas when I entered the first museum.

This sign was posted on the front door. Texas is a right to carry state, Maryland is not.

Being part of the JMM team familiarized me with some of the Maryland Jewish story. It was fascinating to compare the Jewish immigration story of Texas to that of Maryland. The Institute of Texan Cultures at University of Texas San Antonio articulated a good deal of the local Jewish story. I learned that, like the Maryland story, Jews began to immigrate to Texas in the 1880s. Between 1907 and 1914 the Galveston Plan was devised. The Galveston plan was created and managed by several Jewish agencies and some prominent Jewish philanthropists with a goal of dispersing immigrants fleeing from Eastern Europe and Russia away from east coast cities. It was seen as a way to separate the established German Jewish communities from the influx of eastern European Jews. It was also a way to keep Charleston’s long-established Jewish community from growing much larger as South Carolina explicitly wanted only Anglo-Saxon immigrants by this point in time.

As a result, about 6,000 Jews arrived in Galveston and were dispersed to the small but established towns of San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas. UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures

San Antonio already had a small Jewish community that included the Mexican Caravajel family of Jewish decent. Two Jewish patriots in the Texas army fought the Mexican troops in San Antonio in 1835. A Jewish community was founded there beginning in the 1850s.  The Battle of the Alamo took place in 1866, and there were already Jews in San Antonio at that time. Jews were worshipping in homes for a few decades before the first formal congregation was formed in 1874. (As a point of reference Lloyd Street Synagogue was built in 1845 and Chizuk Amuno was built in 1876.) By the 1900s the Jewish population in San Antonio began to grow.

Just like in Baltimore, Jewish immigrants in San Antonio were known for retail commerce. Texas banned state banks in the late 19th century so a few enterprising Jewish dry goods merchants installed bank vaults.  It was in this way that some Jewish families in San Antonio entered the banking business. UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures

I also made time to visit the Briscoe Western Art Museum. In their permanent galleries visitors can engage with art and artifacts that date back to the introduction of the first Spanish horses to the area in the 16th century.

I couldn’t help noticing a beautiful Native American warrior costume adorned with ermine tails. It’s noteworthy that ermine tails have signified royalty and power in many cultures of the world. c.1890-1910, Briscoe Western Art Museum. 

What a surprising experience to realize a connection between the exhibit I was viewing in Texas and our own Fashion Statement exhibit! Both exhibits use coats with ermine tails as a symbol of power and status. I look forward to next my next foray and exploration of small regional museums.

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Posted on December 28th, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM’s Director of Development, Tracey E. Dorfmann. To read more posts from Tracey, click here.

Baltimore. It’s taken 18 months, but it finally feels like home. Over my lifetime there have been a few places that I called home. One consistency I have noticed, no matter where I have lived, is that there are many threads of connection between people. I love learning about the individuals with whom I interact, because I’m bound to find a connection. This is indeed what recently happened to me in my neighborhood.

My community is wonderfully eclectic. I live by the northern border of Baltimore City near Belvedere Market. I have wonderful neighbors. One or two hail from Baltimore city and environs but most, like me, are not natives. There is a representative sampling from the mid-Atlantic, a few from the mid-west, and others from the south. Their careers are equally diverse: hospice clergy, architect, health care administrator, fire inspector, costume designer, graphic designer, fabric artist, TV sound production, professional chef, music sound production, attorney, judge, web designer, licensed social workers and even a few non-profit professionals.

I am always eager and excited to share about JMM.  At a recent holiday party, I was encouraging my neighbors to visit the Museum. The last day for the Houdini exhibit is January 21st and I want folks to experience the exhibit before it closes.  One of my neighbors turned to me and asked, “is that where the Lloyd Street Synagogue is?”

I explained that the striking and iconic Lloyd Street Synagogue (1845 –) Greek Revival Architecture is indeed one of the most significant holdings in our collection along with the B’nai Israel Synagogue (1876 – which has an outstanding Moorish Revival interior).  The noteworthy and historic synagogues, two of the oldest in Maryland, flank our Museum building.

My neighbor shared with me that in the late 1970’s she had been a planning assistant at the Commission for Historic and Architectural Preservation. She remembered working on the nomination paperwork for the Lloyd Street Synagogue so that it could to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. Completely fascinated, she enjoyed learning how pivotal JMM is in the revival of the Jonestown neighborhood, how relevant we make our exhibits, the far-reaching scope of our school programs, and the range of our public programs.

The next day I received a text from her saying that she had joined as a JMM member and would be attending a lecture here in the coming weeks.   A few more days passed I received and email with an attachment. The email message read “look who signed and prepared this application.”

What I opened was a copy of the National Registry of Historic Places Nomination Form from 1976. There on the form in the section “form prepared by” was my neighbor’s name. Smalltimore – I get it now.

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Meet The New Trustees

Posted on June 15th, 2018 by

Performance Counts: June 2018

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes from Development Director, Tracey Dorfmann.


As a newcomer to the JMM team, one of the delightful things I have discovered is the exceptionally dedicated JMM Board. This group of 30 talented women and men help the staff behind the scenes and sometimes right out front.

Just a few of our excellent board members!

Together they give over a thousand hours of service by sharing their wisdom and expertise at meetings, helping us raise money for projects, weighing in on many topics, and adding to our strategic visioning conversations. Several of our board Members also volunteer in many other capacities of the Museum such being docents and aiding in our collections department and attending relevant meetings outside of our building.

Board members at work

Last month we elected six officers, Board President Dr. Robert Keehn; Vice Presidents Nancy Kutler, Jeff Scherr, and Len Weinberg; Treasurer Jerry Macks; and Secretary Arnold Fruman. All of our officers have devoted years of their lives to this museum – recruiting new friends, engaging in our programs and enabling our success. In addition to electing these officers, we also added several new faces to fill vacancies and I would like you to get to know them.

This year we welcome five new Trustees. They are: Robert (Bob) Manekin, Robyn Schaffer, Angela Wells-Sims, Stuart Rosenzwog, and Steven Hawtof. These individuals infuse our leadership with a wide range skills, knowledge and interests. Respectively they represent the following professions: Commercial Real Estate, Health Administration, Healthcare Finance, Building Materials Distribution, Business and Real Estate Law.

Four – Bob, Angela, Stuart, and Steven are Baltimore natives. One (Robyn) was born in Schenectady, NY but has called Baltimore home since 1999.  One of our new board members (Bob) was a JAGC Officer on active duty stationed in Hawaii. Cumulatively, at different points in their lives they have lived in four states and in one other country, Israel. They all have children. The JMM staff hopes to meet all 14 school-aged and adult children from these five families.

Some favorite films include Amadeus, Annie, and The Wizard of Oz.  Favorite books include A World Undone, and Excellence by John Gardiner. Their passions include: family, Judaism, connecting the discourse between health and education, growth and change, and appreciating life.

What they Love about Baltimore:

“It’s home”

“a large Orthodox Jewish population and many Kosher restaurants”

“Historic Architecture, Public Parks, Great Food, Innovative and Talented People”

“History and Diverse Ethnicity”

Every one of them loves Maryland because of its location and particularly because of the diversification of lifestyles and geography: urban, rural, beach, and mountains.

In total we have 21 Trustees who are volunteering for three-year terms: Sheldon Bearman, Erica Breslau, Neri Cohen, Alan Dorenfeld, Roberta Greenstein, Saralynn Glass, Toby Gordon, Lola Hahn, Steven Hawtof, Bonnie Heneson, Skip Klein, Abram Kronsberg, Suzanne Levin-Lapides, Ira Malis, Robert Manekin, Judy Pachino, Lee Rosenberg, Stuart Rosenzwog, Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, Claire Tesh, and Angela Wells-Sims. We have two Trustees volunteering for a one-year Presidential Appointment: Robert Gehman and Robyn Schaffer

We are looking forward to a vibrant and productive year with our terrific Board of Trustees.


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