Processions, Debates and Curbstone Encounters: The Struggle over Kosher Meat in Baltimore, 1897 – 1918 Pt. 7

Posted on March 27th, 2017 by

Article by Avi Y. Decter. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

The boycott of 1910 was one dramatic episode in a twenty-year struggle over kosher meat that engaged meat wholesalers, retail butchers, shochets (ritual slaughterers), the Orthodox rabbinate, and thousands of ordinary Jews, especially in East Baltimore. In the first decades of the twentieth century, conflict over kosher meat was a familiar topic. Today, that contestation is little remembered and poorly documented. However, sufficient evidence survives to give us access to the trajectory and meaning of the protracted struggle over kosher meat. Here is that story.

Part VII: A Continuing Struggle

Missed parts 1 – 6? Start here.

Brotman Meat Market and Poultry, 1119 E. Lombard Street, c. 1923. From left to right: unidentified, Sarah Schneiderman Brotman, and Hyman Brotman. Brotman Meat Market and Poultry was owned by Hyman, Isaac (Itzhak) and Milton Brotman. JMM 2011.47.1

Brotman Meat Market and Poultry, 1119 E. Lombard Street, c. 1923. From left to right: unidentified, Sarah Schneiderman Brotman, and Hyman Brotman. Brotman Meat Market and Poultry was owned by Hyman, Isaac (Itzhak) and Milton Brotman. JMM 2011.47.1

Despite extensive newspaper coverage of the issues involved, we have no record as to the outcome of the 1910 Kosher Meat War in Baltimore, What we do know is that contention among consumers, retailers, wholesalers, and the rabbinate continued to fester in subsequent years, both in Baltimore and in other Jewish communities.[1]

In May 1918, the retail butchers announced a four-cent a pound rise in prices, effective immediately. Their rationale: rises in the cost of wholesale meat, plus sharp increases in other operating expenses such as ice, wrapping paper, and knife-sharpening. To pressure their customers and to emphasize their determination raise prices, the retail butchers declared a week-long boycott on kosher meat.[2]

The response of Jewish housewives was swift and predictable. They expressed outrage at the “exorbitant price for meat. It is beyond reason, they argued, and we do not propose to make the butchers rich in a little time.” Ten days later, on June 9, the Baltimore Sun reported “Kosher Riots Again.” A thousand women and men demonstrating at the Consolidated Beef and Provision Company, a leading meat wholesaler owned by Wolf Salganik, rushed the plant, leading to the arrests of six women and two men.[3]

The butchers and their customers reached an agreement on a price list that was “said to have the sanction of the wartime U.S. Food Administrator.” But the housewives were indignant that the new prices were for meat with the bone still in, while their understanding was that the price would be for meat with bone cut out. A mass meeting was helo in June 13 and a new meat strike was called. Several labor organizations, including the Amalgamated Garment Workers, the International Ladies Garment Workers, and the Cap Makers, came out in support of the strikers.[4]

The Jewish Comment noted that behind the wholesalers’ decision to raise their prices was a demand from the shochets for increases in their salaries. The wholesale butchers then claimed that this demand forced a rise in price to retailers and, in turn, to consumers. Meanwhile, in a struggle with a struggle, representatives of the Independent Hebrew Butchers Association, representing 150 retail butchers, descended on the store of Asa Goldman, who they alleged was selling meat at prices below those established by the Association, and emptied his refrigerator.[5]

Because America was now a participant in the World War, a new player entered the scene – the Federal Government. The United States Food Administration (USFA) was made responsible for “production, manufacture, procurement, storage, distribution, sale marketing, pledging, financing, and consumption” of foods essential to the war effort. The USFA regulated the supply, distribution, and conservation of foods (for example, promoting “Meatless Mondays”), promising a “fair price” to farmers, while furthering the war effort and preventing food shortages at home.

A hearing was held by the local Federal Food Administrator at which wholesalers, retail butchers, and consumers were able to testify, and an agreement was quickly announced. The agreement established a price list, increased the cost of kosher meat to consumers, and limited the kosher butchers to a profit ceiling of 25 percent. But the resumption of multi-dimensioned hostilities speaks to the importance of the issues and the long complicated struggles that underlay twenty years of contention over a basic – and symbolic – necessity of life.[6]

Continue to Part VIII: Memory and Meaning

Notes:

[1] See, for example, “Kosher Meat Case in Court,” Baltimore Sun, 4 June 1911, p. 9 and “To Boykott Kosher Shops,” Baltimore Sun, 26 February 1917, p. 2.

[2] “Kosher Meat Higher,” Baltimore Sun, 29 May 1918, p. 14.

[3] “Kosher Riots Again,” Baltimore Sum, 9 June 1918, p. 16. “Fined for Kosher Meat Riot,” Baltimore Sun, 10 June 1918, p. 5.

[4] “Kosher Again in Limelight,” Baltimore Sun, 14 June 1918, p. 16.

[5] “Baltimore Jews Abstain From Meat,” Jewish Comment, 14 June 1918, p. 263. “Kosher Butcher Acquitted,” Baltimore Sun, 20 June 1918, p. 16.

[6] “Agreement on Kosher Meat,” Baltimore Sun, 13 June 1918 p. 16. “Baltimore Jews Abstain From Meat.”

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




100 Years & the War that Will End War

Posted on August 1st, 2014 by

Here in Baltimore no one has any doubt what war we are commemorating.  As summer slips into fall one celebration after another will remind us of the events two hundred years ago that gave us our anthem, our pride and our continued independence.  As most of you know, JMM is a part of these festivities, honoring our own favorite Ft. McHenry defender, Mendes Cohen.

However, in much of the world the war being remembered this year is a century later.  On July 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia, the first in a series of domino triggers that will take the world into its first global maelstrom.  Within a month of the outbreak, futurist H.G. Wells had already published an article declaring that this would be “The War that Will End War”(it’s ok, we also don’t have time travel yet…or a Martian invasion).

The war would be twice tragic for the Jewish people.  First in the loss of life of soldiers drawn to patriotic duty at the early stages of the conflict and second in the inflammation of prejudice as pundits and politicians throughout Europe looked for a scapegoat for their ill-fortune in the fight.

When I was at the Jewish Museum of London this spring, I had a chance to see the exhibit “For King and Country?: The Jewish Experience of the First World War”.  As the “?” in the title implies there were a lot of ambiguities in the Jewish response to the conflict.  After all, many English Jews of the period were recent refugees of lands controlled by Russia and they did not necessarily favor a victory for the Czar, even if he was allied with Great Britain.  Moreover, reflecting the relative size of Jewish populations, more than twice the number of Jews fought for the Central Powers (Germany and Austria) as for the UK and France. In our collection at JMM we have several medals acquired by Jewish soldiers in the service of the German army, carried with them when they were forced to escape on the eve of WWII.

In our collection at JMM we have several medals acquired by Jewish soldiers in the service of the German army, carried with them when they were forced to escape on the eve of WWII. Cross-shaped WWI medal earned by Hugo Bessinger, 2011.4.1

Cross-shaped WWI medal earned by Hugo Bessinger, 2011.4.1

In fact, quickly browsing our collection, it becomes obvious that Baltimore Jews played important roles in the war.  Even before the doughboys went to Europe, the British Royal Fusiliers had begun recruiting American volunteers.  In particular they sought out Jewish young men who wanted to be sent to the front to face the Ottoman Empire in Palestine.

This cap pin, belonging to Simon Soibel, still bears the initials RF, even though the Royal Fusiliers units, the 39th and 40th battalions, were already referred to as the “Jewish Legion.” 1992.154.057

This cap pin, belonging to Simon Soibel, still bears the initials RF, even though the Royal Fusiliers units, the 39th and 40th battalions, were already referred to as the “Jewish Legion.” 1992.154.057

We have just one WWI uniform in our collection, but it unites two prominent Baltimore families.  This coat belonged to Lester Levy, hat maker and civic leader.  Levy, who had ambitions to fight in France, had been turned down by the Army for his poor eyesight.  Although he eventually got a waiver from the US Attorney General’s office, he was assigned to ordnance and never actually went overseas.  And the other prominent Baltimore family?  Well, the coat was manufactured by Henry Sonneborn & Co.

1990.114.001

1990.114.001

The collection also contains quite a few photos from the war effort.

These include an image of a rabbi and troops at a Passover seder in Paris in 1918, 1993.173.1.15

1993.173.1.15

and

three Red Cross nurses, named Levin, Fuxman and Ribakow, 1990.44.2

three Red Cross nurses, named Levin, Fuxman and Ribakow, 1990.44.2

As Jennifer Vess wrote in this blog several years ago, the role of women in WWI including not only the nurses but other participants in the combat support effort is particularly well documented in our holdings.

Members of the Jewish Welfare Board in Paris, France; Rose Lutzky, 3rd from right, 1993.173.12

Members of the Jewish Welfare Board in Paris, France; Rose Lutzky, 3rd from right, 1993.173.12

Barbara Tuchman, author of the most famous treatise on WWI, The Guns of August, once wrote “Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.”*  I would add just one thought to her cogent analysis – “without records and artifacts there are no books.”

*Bulletin of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 34, #2, 1980 (pp. 16-32)

Marvin Pinkert A blog post by JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




MS 215 The Eli Frank Collection of American Jewish Relief Committee Papers

Posted on March 21st, 2013 by

Sometimes differentiating between a personal collection and  institutional records can be a bit tricky.  In the case of this collection we have papers collected and compiled by an individual – Eli Frank – but the collection deals exclusively with one organization – the American Jewish Relief Committee.  So how did we handle it?  In this case it made sense to focus on the institutional nature of the collection, but indicate clearly the person who brought everything together.  And if this finding aid peaks your interest in either the person or the institution, we have more materials in our collection related to both.

The Eli Frank Collection of

American Jewish Relief Committee Papers

1919-1922

 MS 215

Jewish Museum of Maryland

ACCESS AND PROVENANCE

The Eli Frank Collection of American Jewish Relief Committee Papers was donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland in 1983 as accessions 1983.74 by Shane D. Stiller. The collection was processed by Jennifer Vess in February 2013.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.  Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual procedures. 

Black and white photograph of a group of orphans standing outside a barn, 1914-1919.  This photograph was used by the American Jewish Relief Committee to raise funds during World War I.  Courtesy of D.C. Liberles.  1980.29.5

Black and white photograph of a group of orphans standing outside a barn, 1914-1919. This photograph was used by the American Jewish Relief Committee to raise funds during World War I. Courtesy of D.C. Liberles. 1980.29.5

how to talk to women

HISTORICAL NOTE

The American Jewish Relief Committee was organized on October 25, 1914 in order to raise funds to help Jews particularly in Russia, Palestine and Eastern Europe who were suffering because of World War I.  The leaders of the national organization were mostly of German origin and well-to-do.  Only a month later the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee was formed to ensure that funds from the American Jewish Relief Committee, the Central Committee for the Relief of Jews Suffering Through the War, and the People’s Relief Committee to ensure that funds were distributed effectively.   Local branches of the American Jewish Relief Committee were formed throughout the United States and Canada including Baltimore.  Chairman for the Baltimore Branch included Dr. Harry Friedenwald (1916), Julius Levy (1919) and Eli Frank (1922).  Many Baltimoreans took part in the activities of the committee as members of the board or the various subcommittees or as donors.  The American Jewish Relief Committee received endorsements from nation political leaders including presidents, local political leaders and local religious leaders both Christian and Jewish.

Eli Frank, Sr. (left) and Eli Frank, Jr. (right).  Courtesy of Allina, Marcia Frank & Victoria Frank Albert.  1995.25.16.

Eli Frank, Sr. (left) and Eli Frank, Jr. (right). Courtesy of Allina, Marcia Frank & Victoria Frank Albert. 1995.25.16.

SCOPE NOTE

The Eli Frank Collection of American Jewish Relief Committee Papers contains newsletters, correspondence, invitations, reports and miscellaneous documents related to both the Baltimore branch and the national organization.  The correspondence, from September 1921 through August 1922, makes up the bulk of the collection.  The correspondence are organized chronologically and placed at the beginning of the collection.

zp8497586rq

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Next Page »