Eye Witness

Posted on September 11th, 2013 by

A casual reader of these blog posts might think we’ve grown obsessive about the Civil War.  It is certainly true that our upcoming exhibit (member’s preview on October 12 at 7:30) has occupied many hours of staff and intern time – researching, writing, designing, fundraising, marketing and more.  And I think all of us have gotten more engaged and intrigued by the topic as we have understood it better.

Still all of us have other interests.  In my case, I am keeping one eye on ophthalmology.  This is not only because I am scheduled to have cataract surgery next week, but also because of a prominent role of one particular family of eye doctors in our plans for the 2015 exhibit Jews, Health and Healing.

Jonas Friedenwald, the progenitor, 1875.

Jonas Friedenwald, the progenitor, 1875.

The Friedenwald family included three generations of Baltimore ophthalmologists whose work and interests influenced much more than the field of medicine.  Dr. Aaron Friedenwald (1836-1902), Dr. Harry Friedenwald (1864-1950) and Dr. Jonas Stein Friedenwald (1897-1955).  The progenitor of this medical dynasty was none other than the Jonas Friedenwald who served as one of the original Board members of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and led the faction that broke away to create Chizuk Amuno.  It is a genuine American Jewish success story that this former umbrella mender and junk dealer would become the patriarch of generations of healers.

Dr. Harry Friedenwald

Dr. Harry Friedenwald

A special focus of the exhibit will be the middle generation – Dr. Harry Friedenwald.  Harry, whose sesquicentennial is September 21st of next year, spent much of his career as a professor at the University of Maryland Medical School.  He was a well-published scholar, completing some pioneering work on the connections between diabetes and eye disease.  But the most important reason we have chosen to shine a light on Harry Friedenwald is for his work as a collector.

Diploma of medicine awarded to Lazarus de Mordis. Padua, 1699. Potential loan from the Friedenwald Collection, National Library of Israel.

Diploma of medicine awarded to Lazarus de Mordis. Padua, 1699.
Potential loan from the Friedenwald Collection, National Library of Israel.

According to several sources, Harry was inspired by a lecture his father gave in 1897 entitled, “Jewish Physicians and the Contributions of the Jews to the Science of Medicine”.  From that point forward, Harry began to acquire one of the largest collections of material on this topic ever assembled in the United States.  His library included the codex of a 10th century Italian Jewish physician, Sabbato Donnolo, describing over 120 medicinal plants known at that time.  There is also 15th century translation of the original Arabic manuscripts of the 9th century Jewish physician to the Caliph as well as 15th century Latin translations of the work of Maimonides.  There are astronomical and astrological tables of Jewish origin from the early renaissance.  It includes the writings of Francisco Lopez de Villalobos, the Jewish-born converso who served as court physician to King Ferdinand (and I’m sure this is just a coincidence) was one of the first authors to describe the causes of syphilis.  And there is the writing of Jacob Mantino ben Samuel, a refugee from the Inquisition who became a physician to Pope Clement VII after nixing biblical nullification for the marriage of Henry VIII to Queen Catherine (you can bet I will be pursuing this story).

Baltimore People at Zionist Conference. Tannersville, New York - 1906 or 1907. Harry Friedenwald is located in the center of the middle row.

Baltimore People at Zionist Conference. Tannersville, New York – 1906 or 1907. Harry Friedenwald is located in the center of the middle row.

So what happened to Harry’s collection?  All three generations of Friedenwald doctors were active in the Zionist movements of their times.  Harry helped establish the medical care system in Palestine during the period just before World War I.  In 1948, Harry gave his entire collection of manuscripts  to the newly formed National Library of Israel.

As we began to prepare for our exhibit we contacted the Library.  They have given us agreement in principle to return a small number of works to Baltimore for inclusion in this project.  We couldn’t be more excited.

The extraordinary story of the Friedenwalds and the collection also has us thinking about the “why” behind the Jewish connection with the healing arts and sciences, not only physicians, but pharmacists, nurses, medical researchers, etc.  So we would like to hear your stories.  If you or someone you are close too is in the healing professions we’d like to learn about how that choice of occupation was made – what role did parental or family expectations, financial needs, Jewish learning or other factors play in this decision.  If you have a story you’d like to share send us a note. You can respond to this blog post or send a note to kfalk@jewishmuseummd.org.

We now take you back to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War…which is still in progress.

MarvinA blog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts by Marvin, click here.

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




A Peek at Jewish Baltimore’s Civil War History

Posted on June 28th, 2013 by

Todd NessonA blog post by Exhibitions Intern Todd Nesson. Todd is working with Karen Falk on our upcoming exhibition Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. You can read more posts by Todd and other interns here.

“Just imagine Maryland seceding from the new confederacy (I hope she will never join it), Baltimore from the counties, they in turn from each other, Old Town from West End, Fells Point from Federal Hill, and then from each other. What a pretty State of Anarchy does this principle inaugurate.”

-Aaron Friedenwald, 1861

 

Aaron Friedenwald was expressing his sentiments to his largely pro-Southern family when he wrote the above quote. At the time, Aaron had been traveling in Europe to continue his medical education. He was shocked to learn of the outbreak of hostilities between the Union and the Confederacy and urged his family to recognize what he saw as the folly of the Confederate cause. Aaron’s arguments failed to sway his family and following the Pratt Street Riots, Isaac Friedenwald, one of Aaron’s brothers, went off to fight for the Confederate armies while the rest of his family continued to support the Southern Cause.

Isaac Friedenwald

Isaac Friedenwald

Following the riots, Baltimore found itself placed under martial law. The State Legislature was disbanded to ensure no votes of secession could take place and the guns of Fort McHenry and Federal Hill were pointed inward at the city to ensure its compliance. Just as Aaron recognized the strong Confederate leanings of his family, the Federal Government saw the strong Confederate leanings of Baltimore and provided their poignant reason for not revolting.

Image courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

Image courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

As noted, the Jewish population in Baltimore (and across the country) was not immune to the division gripping the country. Sometimes these divisions led to rather public arguments between members of the Jewish community. One in particular involved Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. The congregation found itself increasingly in the limelight due to its bombastic, pro-abolitionist and pro-Union Rabbi, David Einhorn. Einhorn would use his newspaper, Sinai, and his pulpit to counter the arguments of Pro-slavery clergy in the Jewish community. These pro-slavery clergy included Rabbi Raphall of New York and Rabbi Illowy of Baltimore. Following the Pratt Street Riots, Einhorn fled Baltimore to Philadelphia due to the strong possibility that he would be attacked for his pro-Northern views. Once there he would continue his support of the Union and abolitionist causes. Following the war, he headed to New York City became the Rabbi for Congregation Adath Israel.

Rabbi David Einhorn

Rabbi David Einhorn

Some Baltimore Jews, such as Leopold Blumenberg would put their prior military training at service of their new country. Blumenberg immigrated to Baltimore in 1854 after leaving the Prussian Army. At the time he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant but was unable to progress further due to the rampant anti-semitism in the Prussian army. When hostilities broke out, Blumenberg volunteered with the 5th Maryland Regiment and rose to the rank of Major. At the battle of Antietam he was wounded in the leg and given an honorable discharge along with an appointment as Provost Marshal of the second Maryland District.

General Leopold Blumenberg.

General Leopold Blumenberg.

Jews were found on both sides of the conflict during the Civil War, taking up the Blue and the Grey for reasons similar to those of their non-Jewish neighbors. The fires of war would help to forge and shape the Jews of America through politics and warfare, both at home and on the battlefield. Baltimore, due to its location on the dividing line between the Union and Confederacy found itself providing a turbulent atmosphere in which many Jews were forced to decide where they stood on the pressing matters of secession, slavery, and the future of the country that they had traveled so far to become a part of.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland