Posted on April 18th, 2014 by Rachel
Above the Sea
Each year the Jewish Museum of Maryland offer a major presentation on immigration made possible through the generous support of Frank and Helen Risch. Frank’s parents, Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch, sought refuge in Baltimore in 1937, fleeing the storm of Nazi persecution.
In the first seven years of this program, we have focused on the experience of emigration and exile in America, offering performances, stories and lectures on immigrant populations from the great wave of Eastern European Jews of the late 1890s to the most recent arrivals from around the globe. This year we are offering insights into another way station of refuge, thousands of miles from our shores. Shanghai, whose name literally means “above the sea” was high ground for thousands of Jews escaping from the same forces that brought the Risch family to Baltimore.
Mark Your Calendar!
Helping us explore this topic is an exceptional expert, Rabbi Marvin Tokayer. Rabbi Tokayer previously served as United States Air Force Chaplain in Japan. Upon his discharge he returned to Tokyo to serve for eight years as rabbi for the Jewish community of Japan. In addition to numerous Japanese-language books and contributions to the Encyclopedia Judaica, Rabbi Tokayer is the author of The Fugu Plan, and co-author of the newly published Pepper, Silk and Ivory: Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East.
Additions for the “to be read” pile!
Rabbi Tokayer has entitled his talk: “From Poverty to Culture: The Refugee Community in Shanghai During World War ll.” This will be a powerful evocation of how the 20,000 Jews of Shanghai struggled against impossible odds to not only survive, but thrive in this unexpected refuge. The program will be held Sunday, May 18th at 2:00pm and will take place at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, located 7401 Park Heights Ave, Baltimore, MD 21208. The program is free to the public – so be sure to invite all your friends!
To coincide with the Risch Memorial Program we are putting together a small lobby display using materials from our collections, which will be on view during the month of May. It turns out that Baltimore and the Jewish Museum of Maryland both have some strong connections to the Jews of Shanghai. You may have noticed the photograph used in this year’s Risch Memorial Program publicity, which pictures a couple sitting in a rickshaw. We would like to introduce you to that couple: Wilheim Kurz and Selma (Hirschfeld) Kurz. Wilheim and Selma were both Holocaust survivors. They met as refugees and theirs was the first Jewish wedding in the Shanghai Jewish colony! They moved to Baltimore in 1947 and Wilheim was kind enough to bequeath his Jewish materials (including photographs and archival documents) to the Museum. We are hard at work transcribing an oral history done with Wilheim in 1979 and look forward to sharing more of Wilheim and Selma’s story with you as it is revealed.
Wilheim and Selma Kurz, 2004.43.4.
We know there are more legacies of the Jewish Colony in Shanghai out there! We’ve identified at least two other individuals associated with the city who now reside in the metro area. We encourage you to contact us with your stories and your materials. And if you know anyone who lived in Shanghai, we would love to invite them to the program – please send us their contact information. If you have any information to share, contact Trillion Attwood at email@example.com /410-732-6400 x215.
Shanghai Ghetto in 1943
If you’re interested in learning more about the Jewish Colony of Shanghai, there is actually a pretty good start at Wikipedia, but we know our JMM explorers will want to go further. If you are seeking a list of the numerous books and memoirs about the experience, including Rabbi Tokayer’s The Fugu Plan, you can find a great collected list here at the The Shanghai Jewish Tours website. If you happen to be traveling, you might want to stop by China’s Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum – last year they sent their “Jewish Refugees in Shanghai (1933-1941)” exhibit on a three city tour of the US. There’s even a Chinese animated family film (and graphic novel) called A Jewish Girl in Shanghai – and you can rent a streaming copy here.
Check the JMM website for an upcoming blog post on Jewish-Chinese connections and if you are looking for the lighter side of that connection – find a foursome and visit (or revisit) Project Mah Jongg.
Posted on April 16th, 2014 by Rachel
Part of my role at the museum is to handle the reservations of one of our travelling exhibits, Jews on the Move: Baltimore and the Suburban Exodus, 1945 – 1968. The exhibit has been in storage for several months but is currently on display until April 14th at Beth Israel Synagogue.
In addition to displaying Jews on the Move, we also had an evening lecture there last week about some of the themes it highlights. The lecture, titled Jews on the move: A Conversation, was led by Dean Krimmel, a museum consultant who was a member of the team that developed the exhibit. The talk gathered a great audience and created a huge amount of conversation.
Dean Krimmel at Beth Israel
Dean started the lecture by asking a few questions, and he asked those who answered “yes” to stand. We were asked:
- Were you part of the suburban exodus?
- Were you born here in Baltimore?
- Have you lived here for your adult life?
- Are you a newcomer?
Getting some exercise at Beth Israel!
Unsurprisingly, the first two questions had a huge response, with most of the room standing. The final question, received a much smaller response, but it was interesting to see what people considered a newcomer to be. I knew I certainly would fit within this category, having only been here for a year. What surprised me was that people who had lived here their entire adult life still considered themselves newcomers! However, I quickly learned that, unless you went to high school in Baltimore, some will consider you a lifelong newcomer. This also led to another interesting point: this city is unique in that, when asked “what school did you attend?” you are not being asked about college but rather about high school.
The high point of the evening was hearing all of the conversations that were inspired by the program, both during the lecture and after, around the exhibit. People discussed their memories of moving to the suburbs, the reasons for doing so and some of the restrictions that they faced. Many people had similar experiences with regards to their suburban exodus, especially relating to their experiences with real estate agents.
We were also treated to a little of the history of Beth Israel and its movements by Bernie Raynor.
There was also plenty of reminiscing prompted by images in the exhibit, especially regarding schools and shopping centers.
We also looked at some of the original advertisements for the newly built homes during the suburban exodus.
Overall, everyone had a lovely evening. The chatting continued for an hour after the lecture finished. Everyone shared memories and even remembered some things thought long forgotten.
Blog post by Program Manager Trillion Attwood. To read more posts from Trillion, click here.
Posted on April 15th, 2014 by Rachel
The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: October 4, 2013
PastPerfect Accession #: 2003.035.046
Status: Partially identified! B’nai B’rith Scholarship Breakfast at the state office in Pikesville, MD, n.d. 1. Unidentified 2. Unidentified 3. Unidentified 4. Ted Levin 5. Rose Hellman, Chair of the Baltimore County Board of Education. Do you recognize anyone else in this photo?
Special Thanks To: Stan Levin