Ten in the Twentieth: Baltimore Jews and Social Justice 1910s

Posted on February 8th, 2017 by

Article by Dr. Deborah R. Weiner. Originally published in Generations 2009-2010: 50th Anniversary Double Issue: The Search for Social Justice.

The Baltimore Jewish community has produced many leaders who have worked to make the world a better place. The range of issues they have addressed is impressive: from women’s suffrage to civil rights, labor relations to helping the elderly, refugee resettlement to eliminating poverty, and much more.

This chronology traces the careers of ten Baltimoreans who stood up for social change, with each person’s entry revolving around a turning point—one for each decade of the twentieth century. This is by no means a “Ten Best” list. The people included here are remarkable for what they accomplished, but others, equally remarkable, could have been chosen as well. These profiles should be seen as representative of a larger group of Baltimore Jews who have made major contributions to their communities and to the broader society in myriad ways.

The 1910s: Jacob Moses

Click here to start from the beginning.

1915: During a time of intense labor turmoil, Jacob Moses (1873-1968) is named arbitrator in Baltimore clothing industry disputes, selected jointly by union leader Sidney Hillman and manufacturer Sigmund Sonneborn. It is but one important facet of the career of this quintessential Progressive.

Jacob Moses. From Isidor Blum, The Jews of Baltimore (1910).

Jacob Moses. From Isidor Blum, The Jews of Baltimore (1910).

His concern with fairness made Moses not only a sought-after arbitrator, but an advocate for the rights of those he felt were treated unequally. As an attorney, state senator, Juvenile Court judge, and civic leader, Moses championed the principle of fair treatment under the law. He proposed juvenile justice reform because delinquent children did not have recourse to the legal protections of adults. He sought to establish a detention center for indigent defendants who could not make bail, because they were unfairly forced to languish in jail before being proved guilty. In 1924, he led a delegation that lobbied (unsuccessfully) for equal pay for female high school teachers.

Fragment of a newspaper cartoon about a strike by railroad shop workers in western Maryland. JMM 1963.42.15

Fragment of a newspaper cartoon about a strike by railroad shop workers in western Maryland. JMM 1963.42.15

Above all, Moses was a staunch feminist. He remained a vocal proponent of women’s suffrage after the premature death in 1918 of his wife Hortense, a suffragist and leader of Jewish women’s groups. In the 1920s he endorsed a national equal rights bill, proclaiming, “I believe that men and women should be equal in every respect before the law.” Moses also dedicated himself to Jewish causes. As a young man he presided over the Maccabeans, which aided Jewish youth; in the 1920s he became a leading Zionist—unusual for someone from a privileged German Jewish family.

Continue to The 1920s: Dr. Bessie Moses

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Generations 2007-2008: Bridges to Zion: Maryland and Israel

Posted on November 9th, 2016 by

Generations 2007-2008: Bridges to Zion: Maryland and Israel

Table of Contents

Introduction by Avi Y. Decter and Deborah R. Weiner – download as pdf

An American in Palestine: Mendes I. Cohen Tours the Holy Land by Deborah R. Weiner – download as pdf

The American Delegate(s)* at the First Zionist Conference by Avi Y. Decter – download as pdf

Revolutionizing Experiences: Henrietta Szold’s First Visit to the Holy Land by Henrietta Szold – download as pdf

Why I was a Zionist and Why I Now Am Not by Rabbi Morris S. Lazaron

“Israel” by Karl Schapiro

Mahal Days by Raphael Ben-Yosef

Photo Gallery: Maryland Philanthropy and Israel by Rachel Kassman

The Blaustein-Ben-Gurion Agreement: A Milestone in Israel-Diaspora Relations by Mark K. Bauman

The Comeback Kid: Leon Uris Returns to City College, 1995 by Rona Hirsch

“Who is a Jew” by Shoshana S. Cardin

Book Review: A Dream of Zion: American Jews Reflect on Why Israel Matters to Them by Melvin I. Urofsky

Field Notes: The Jewish Journey: The Jewish Museum in New York by Fred Wasserman

Chronology: Maryland and Israel

Cost: $10

To order a print copy of Generations 2007-2008, please contact Esther’s Place, the JMM Museum Shop at 443-873-5179 or email Devan Southerland, Museum Shop Assistant at dsoutherland@jewishmuseummd.org.

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Manuscript Collection 1: Dr. Stephen Laufer Papers

Posted on August 6th, 2015 by

Dr. Stephen (Schulim) Laufer (1894-1983) Papers


MS 1



The Dr. Stephen Laufer Papers were donated by Dr. Stephen Laufer and Mrs. Wilma Laufer Gabbay, a longtime resident of Baltimore, as 1983.5.  The collection was processed by Dr. Laufer, Mrs. Gabbay and Anne Turkos in 1982. Further information was added in 2003 by Robin Waldman with the assistance of Wilma Gabbay.

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. 



Dr. Stephen Laufer was born in Bolechow in East Galicia on January 6, 1894, the first son and second child of Israel and Golda (Diengott) Laufer. He attended school in Bolechow until the age of twelve and then left for the neighboring town of Stryj to continue his education, as at that time Bolechow did not have a gymnasium. When World War I broke out in 1914, the Laufer family moved to Budapest, and Stephen obtained work in a leather factory. As he had only completed the seventh grade of gymnasium, he petitioned to take the examinations for the eighth grade and the matura. He successfully did this in 1915, returning to Stryj for the tests.

Stephen (Schulim) Laufer, far right, with friends David Kreppel and Abraham Hruszowski.  The three boys were in the same fourth year high school class in Stryj, Pland, 1910-1911. JMM 1983.5.6

Stephen (Schulim) Laufer, far right, with friends David Kreppel and Abraham Hruszowski. The three boys were in the same fourth year high school class in Stryj, Poland, 1910-1911. JMM 1983.5.6

In 1915 Laufer registered with the Austro-Hungarian authorities and was found fit for army service; he was exempted, however, on the basis of necessary work. In 1918 all exemptions were cancelled and he was drafted into the army but peace was declared before he saw combat.

After the war, Stephen’s family returned to Bolechow and he decided to continue his education in Vienna in 1918. He earned a degree in agricultural engineering and also a doctorate in agricultural chemistry at the Hochschule fur Bodenkultur in 1922. For one year he served as the director of an orphanage farm in Stanislawow, then as a teacher of science in a Jewish gymnasium in Kalisch, Poland, from 1923-1925.

Black and white copy print of the Streifer family from left to right:  Henry Streifer, Joseph Streifer, Miriam Streifer, Aron Streifer, Wolf Streifer, and Ann Streifer, 1902-1905.

Streifer family from left to right: Henry Streifer, Joseph Streifer, Miriam Streifer, Aron Streifer, Wolf Streifer, and Ann Streifer, 1902-1905.

In 1920 Laufer married Anna (Chana) Streifer, daughter of Wolf and Miriam (Pomerantz) Streifer, also of Bolechow. They had three children: Ruth, born in 1923, who married Jerome Morton; Irma, born in 1935, who married Jack Katz; and Irma’s twin, Wilma, who married Albert Gabbay.

Dr. Laufer had been active in the Zionist movement as a teenager. In fact his studies were designed to prepare him for work in Palestine. In September 1925, he left for Haifa with his wife, daughter and mother-in-law. While in Palestine they had no luck finding permanent employment. When their money ran out, the family decided to move to America as relatives of the Streifers were already living there. In February 1929 they sailed on the Alesia, a French ship, from Haifa to Providence, Rhode Island. They lived briefly in Jersey City and Brooklyn and the Bronx for several years, and then bought a home in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, in the summer of 1942, where they lived until 1982.

Dr. Laufer’s first position in the United States was as a chemist for Schwarz Laboratories, a consultant for the brewing industry. He stayed with the company for 46 years, retiring in 1975. He advanced to director of research, director of laboratories, and vice-president. He was in charge of the United States Brewers Academy, which was run by Schwarz Laboratories. Dr. Laufer published closed to 100 articles in the fields of food and fermentation. In 1936 he was honored with the Cincinnati Achievement Award of the Master Brewers Association of America. He is listed in American Men and Women of Science. Dr. Laufer died on October 4, 1983, in New York.



The Laufer Papers consist primarily of reminiscences, miscellaneous documents from his years spent in East Galicia, World War I money, receipts and correspondence. Also included are publications pertaining to the brewing industry.

The reminiscences written by Dr. Laufer cover his early years in Bolechow and Stryj until the outbreak of World War I. A cousin of Mrs. Laufer’s, Frymka Brawer-Pordes, wrote a recollection in German about a school excursion also prior to 1914. This is an amplified version of a chapter in Memorial Book for the Martyrs of Bolechow.

Dr. Laufer’s strong interest in Zionism is represented by receipts for contributions made to various organizations and correspondence. The letters (written in German and Hebrew) are regarding possible employment in Palestine during the years 1922-1928.

Reminisces  of Stephen Laufer, written 1977-78.

Reminisces of Stephen Laufer, written 1977-78.

The papers are divided into three series.

Series I. East Galicia, consists of Dr. Laufer’s and Mrs. Brawer-Pordes’ reminiscences as well as the Bolechow memorial book. Also included are report cards from high school in Stryj; miscellaneous documents pertaining to school, army and citizenship in Polish and German; and Ukranian and Austrian money. Each category is arranged chronologically.

Series II. Palestine, contains receipts for contributions to Zionist organizations, letters from facilities in Palestine regarding employment, handbills concerning the opening of Dr. Laufer’s school in Haifa, and the plan of the ship Alesia. The arrangement in each category is chronological. 

Series III. United States, consists of some of Dr. Laufer’s publications, a bound monograph and several articles.

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