Jews in the Adirondacks

Posted on August 10th, 2015 by

The MD/DC/VA area has always appealed to me as a place I would like to settle down, but the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York will always be my home. I was born and raised in the Adirondacks (ADKs) and most of my family was as well. In my bias opinion, it is the most beautiful place to live.

Map of Adirondack Park

Map of Adirondack Park

View from Owl’s Head Mountain.

View from Owl’s Head Mountain.

I spent this past week (my birthday week, YAY!) at a camp on Lake Champlain with my family. Out of curiosity, I began to research Jewish influence in the ADKs. I discovered an interesting family who shared my love of the ADKs and made it their home.

Louis Marshall, son of two German Jewish immigrants, was born in Syracuse, NY in 1856. As a child he attended Hebrew school. He became a lawyer who fought for the rights of minorities, a conservationist who was extremely passionate about protecting the Adirondacks, and a Jewish leader who served as the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and helped found the American Jewish Committee (AJC). Later in his life he taught himself yiddish.

Louis Marshall

Louis Marshall

Louis traveled to the ADKs during his young adult life and fell in love with the area. He found enjoyment in hiking and dreaming of having his own summer camp to visit. Unfortunately, several summer camps excluded Jews and other minorities from becoming members. Louis and his family, along with five other families, bought 500 acres of land on the Lower Saranac Lake and had their own camp built. It was called Knollwood.

 Knollwood

Knollwood

To quickly digress, Albert Einstein visited Knollwood quite often. He was actually at Knoll on August 6, 1945, the bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima.

Louis’ children spent several summers enjoying Knollwood. His son Robert “Bob”, was deeply influenced by the ADKs and closely followed in his father’s footsteps. Bob became a conservationist and writer, and was the co-founder of The Wilderness Society. In 1925 he became the 3rd ADK46er, meaning he hiked all 46 high peaks of the ADKs.

Bob Marshall

Bob Marshall

The Marshall family has left a lasting legacy, making the ADKs a tranquil and meaningful place for themselves and other Jews. I am always interested in making connections between my life and the past, and this was a great one!

Resources:

http://www.adirondackexplorer.org/book_reviews/louis-marshall-and-the-rise-of-jewish-ethnicity-in-america

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Marshall_(wilderness_activist)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Marshall#Family_life_and_legacy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knollwood_Club

http://adk46er.org/pdf/46R-Roster-as-of-5-29-15.pdf

 

IMG_0985A blog post by Collections Intern Kaleigh Ratliff. To read more posts from interns click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




An Intern’s Trip to Philadelphia

Posted on July 31st, 2015 by

Realistically, there must be people who dislike going on field trips, but I am not one of those people. Throughout my internship with the JMM I have been observing and practicing the work that Joanna, the wonderful Collections Manager, does on a daily basis, reaffirming my desire to become a Collections Manager. On July 23rd I was able to accompany Joanna to the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to pick up a donation, reminding me that Collections Managers sometimes go on field trips to other museums. I immediately added that to the list of reasons why I am on the right career path!

The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH)

The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH)

When we arrived at the museum, Claire Pingel, the Chief Registrar and Associate Curator of the NMAJH, met us in the lobby. She arranged for us to be able to look through the museum before we signed the paperwork and exchanged the donation.

The main lobby of the NMAJH

The main lobby of the NMAJH

The museum consists of five floors. The 1st floor contains the museum store and café, the Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame, and small rotating exhibits. Floors two though four hold the core exhibition which is split into three time frames. The exhibition begins on the 4th floor with “Foundations of Freedom: 1654 – 1880,” continues on the 3rd floor with “Dreams of Freedom: 1880 – 1945,” and ends with “Choices and Challenges of Freedom: 1945 – Today” on the 2ndfloor. The fifth floor is home to larger rotating exhibits, currently showing “Richard Avedon: Family Affairs.”

Claire escorted us to the 4th floor. Joanna and I quickly walked through the 1stthird of the core exhibition and then decided to look though the museum store and have lunch in the museum café. We then quickly walked through the 2ndthird of the core exhibition and called Claire when we were finished. She met us in the lobby and Joanna signed the Receipt, proving that the donation was transferred to her and the JMM.

 Joanna signing the receipt!

Joanna signing the receipt!

This was my first ever trip to Philadelphia. Despite the unfortunate short duration of our stay (3 hours), I was able to see a little of the city, catch a quick glimpse of Independence Hall which is situated right next to the NMAJH, and see some of the NMAJH exhibits. Although this field trip was fun, it was also educational. I was able to observe a museum partnership, which demonstrates how museums can help each other to be successful.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Skyline of Philadelphia

Skyline of Philadelphia

I absolutely plan to return to the NMAJH to look through their exhibits again when I have more time. I encourage others to visit as well! The museum is innovative and interesting. There are a ton of kid friendly activities throughout the core exhibition, and activities that adults can enjoy too.

IMG_0985A blog post by Collections Intern Kaleigh Ratliff. To read more posts from interns click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




The Nitty-Grits-y: An Extremely Brief Crash-Course of Southern Jewish History

Posted on July 30th, 2015 by

“So the consensus is that Elizabeth just melted cheese into a box of cornmeal, right?” I addressed the table of laughing interns in the break room, making sure I was up to date with the debate over whether or not she actually prepared grits the night before, or some unknown mystery substance from a bulk package at the store– I’d missed some information after laughing too loudly. The giggles continued as Elizabeth tried to scowl at me, to which I retorted with “don’t worry, everyone makes mistakes!”

“NO, that’s not the final answer! We still haven’t gotten everyone’s opinion!” Elizabeth tries to hold onto her hope and her dignity as she passes the Tupperware container of chunky yellow quicksand to Tracie, our Projects Manager, and we beg for an expert opinion to settle the dispute.

Jewish Food? Coarse White Grits on Spoon

Jewish Food?

After almost an hour of the Great Grits Debacle of 2015, we interns were aware of our inability to differentiate grits from, apparently, everything else, which was as disappointing as it was inspiring. Intern Wrangler Rachel suggested we use this as a learning experience, to which I replied “challenge accepted” and began researching the intersection of two environments: that of grits, and that of Jews.

While the former seems to have a relatively specific point of origin: grits are a maize-based porridge, typically eaten at breakfast, and are of Native American origin.The word itself, “grits,” comes from the Old English “grytt,” meaning “coarse meal.” The latter, however, might not prove as easy to define. Honing such a skill for millennia, Jews have grown to be impressive shapeshifters, even assimilators, into whichever culture by which they find themselves surrounded. Especially in a country with such a variation of culture as America. As the early settlers started to expand down the Atlantic coast and further west, Jews began to do the same: in fact, two Jewish merchants from Virginia, Isaiah Isaacs and Jacob Cohen, were among the settlers commissioned by the government to explore areas of what is now Kentucky. But it wasn’t just Jews from more northern colonies and states wanderlusting over new places to live; when mass immigration from Europe commenced around the 19th century, waves of Jews from the Old Country claimed new Jewish-American beginnings in the South, accepting the challenge to thrive under the Confederacy, and they did. Personalities like Judah Benjamin, a lawyer and diplomat who, some argue, would come to be one of the most influential Jews in the Senate, began to pop up around the South, and Jews became such a part of the South that at 1800, Charleston had more Jews than any city in the States at that time, with a population of over a thousand Jews (it might not sound like much now, but it was a huge deal at the time!), and there is documentation of General Robert E. Lee, in responding to a rabbi in Virginia, turning down a request for Jewish soldiers to be able to honor the high holidays during the Civil War, citing that “neither you nor any other member of the Jewish congregation would wish to jeopardize a cause you have so much at heart by the withdrawal, even for a season, of a portion of its defenders.”
The Jewish presence in the South has fluctuated in terms of exact numbers, but what hasn’t changed is our response to a new culture, and how we make it our own. So, whatever it was in that Tupperware container that Elizabeth brought from home, it definitely belongs in the JMM breakroom refrigerator.

Interested in finding out more about Southern Jewish life and food? Check out:

From Free Republic: A Tribe Apart: Jews of the American South

From NPR: Souther Jews Put Their Spin On Soul Food – interview with Marcie Ferris Cohen, author of “Matzah Ball Gumbo”

From Tablet Magazine: A TASTE OF THE JEWISH SOUTH: Jewish food festivals across the South by Joan Nathan.

Also from Tablet Magazine: Kosher Soul Food Brings Together African-American and Jewish Cuisine by Michael Twitty.

Southern Jewish Life Magazine

IMG_1605A blog post by Museum Intern Rachel Sweren. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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