Performance Counts: The Baltimore Book Project

Posted on April 15th, 2013 by

As part of our mission to preserve and interpret Maryland Jewish history, the JMM strives to promote research that sheds new light on the past. Our collections offer an important window into the Jewish experience and scholars from around the world come here to study them. In addition to making our materials available to others, we mount our own research projects and present the results to diverse audiences in ways that bring the past alive and help people discover new meanings and interpretations, through our exhibitions, programs, and publications.

In 2011, former director Avi Decter embarked on ambitious project to reexamine the history of the Baltimore Jewish community and publish a comprehensive, full-length study. Under the JMM’s sponsorship, Emory University Professor Eric Goldstein and JMM Research Historian Deborah Weiner are engaged in writing On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore, a work grounded in current scholarship that will be made accessible to a broad audience. In this issue of “Performance Counts,” we thought we’d share with you some of the exciting discoveries they’re making that give us new ways of looking at Maryland’s Jewish past.

Here’s an example.  The “Jew Bill” is a well-known chapter in Maryland Jewish history. The story is typically told like this:  in early Maryland, the Christian oath requirement for holding public office indicated the low status of Jews and prevented them from participating in civic life. Their champion, state legislator Thomas Kennedy, managed to win passage of the “Jew Bill” in 1826 after years of battling prejudice. The bill (which allowed Jews to swear a more general oath) enabled Jews to finally become full citizens.

The Jew Bill. 1987.82.1

The Jew Bill. 1987.82.1

The real story is both more complicated and more interesting, as our new research has helped uncover. Jews had in fact already been key participants in Baltimore civic life and had even held public office (without swearing a Christian oath). The oath requirement was just one of many archaic provisions in the state constitution that figured in a power struggle between Federalist and Republican legislators, and became a source of rivalry between rural and urban factions. In a nutshell, many rural legislators opposed the Jew Bill because they believed it was part of Baltimore’s attempt to gain greater influence over state affairs. Jews and most other Baltimoreans favored policies that benefited commerce, which agrarian interests found threatening.  When changes in the voting laws expanded the electorate, more Republicans were elected to the legislature—among them, Thomas Kennedy. By 1826, Republican and urban forces had gained enough power to pass the Jew Bill, along with other measures.

This interpretation not only alters our view of the status of Jews during the era, it also sheds light on an important aspect of Maryland’s political history: the ongoing struggle for power between the city and the other sections of the state. And it shows how Jews were very much involved in that power struggle, as participants rather than simply as victims of prejudice.

Jumping 100 years to the 1930s, correspondence recently uncovered in our archives allows us to add to the factual knowledge about a contentious debate over the American Jewish community’s response to the rise of Nazi Germany. Some historians have charged that because of timidity, apathy, and disunity, American Jews didn’t do enough to pressure the U.S. government to oppose the Nazi regime or relax immigration restrictions before World War II. As a result, they say, American Jewry bears a share of responsibility for the Holocaust.  Others contend that American Jews did as much as they could, but there was little scope for effective action given both public opinion in the U.S. and the determination of the Nazis to carry out their plans. The debate has focused on the actions of national organizations such as the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress.

What both sides lack is evidence on the local level of what Jewish communities around the nation were doing. The JMM’s Friedenwald collection begins to fill this gap. Harry Friedenwald and Simon Sobeloff, leaders of the Baltimore branch of the American Jewish Congress, were in constant communication with national leader Stephen S. Wise and gave him a running update of their campaign to unite the Baltimore Jewish community around a course of action. Their letters pulse with a sense of urgency and reveal an almost frantic flurry of activity as early as March of 1933, just after Hitler took power. We learn of their successes, frustrations, and strategies for overcoming obstacles that ranged from the “singularly silent” Baltimore newspapers to the passivity of influential Jewish leaders.

Harry Friedenwald from "Ten Jewish Leaders in America" by Samuel Strouse, 1968.1986.100.1

Harry Friedenwald from “Ten Jewish Leaders in America” by Samuel Strouse, 1968.1986.100.1

Among other things, the branch held rallies, convinced Baltimore newspapers to improve their coverage of the Nazis’ war on the Jews, and got prominent community figures to speak out. In 1934 they helped get Maryland’s U.S. Senator Millard Tydings to sponsor a resolution calling on Germany to stop persecuting its Jewish citizens. The Tydings Resolution would have been the first official U.S. statement on the matter—had it not languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. With supporting evidence from our research in the Baltimore Sun about the climate of opinion in the U.S. (did you know that a Nazi cruiser made a festive ten-day “good will” visit to Baltimore harbor in 1936 that included public tours of the ship, parties with public officials, and a soccer match against a local team in Gwynns Falls Park?), our interpretation will weigh in on the “did as much as they could” side of the argument.

These are just two examples of how our Baltimore Book Project is transforming our view of the past by bringing important stories to light. And because On Middle Ground will be the first comprehensive social history of an American Jewish community outside of New York, as well as of a Baltimore ethnic group, it will contribute considerably to the fields of American Jewish history and Maryland history.

The JMM is grateful to the following sponsors of On Middle Ground for their generous support of this project: Willard Hackerman, the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Foundation, and Rosalee and Richard Davison.

We are delighted to report that an essay Dr. Eric Goldstein has written for the book, “How German Were ‘German’ Jews in America in the Nineteenth Century?  A View from Baltimore,” has been awarded the 2012 Joseph L. Arnold prize for the best essay submission on Baltimore history. The award notification recognized Eric for writing “a nuanced investigation of the established interpretation that Jewish immigrants from German-speaking regions of Europe in the 19th century identified with German culture by exploring the complexities of German Jewish identity with Baltimore-based evidence regarding associational life, politics, and language preference.” This award sponsored by the Baltimore City Historical Society will be announced at a conference on Friday, May 3. We congratulate Eric on this achievement.

07-personal-span-new-articleLargeWe are proud of the role that the JMM plays in preserving our local Jewish heritage and helping to connect visitors of all backgrounds to the past. Please check out this wonderful article from last Sunday’s New York Times travel section in which the reporter describes how a visit to the JMM helped her learn more about her family’s history:  http:///nyti.ms/ZaRqdU

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CATALOGS: Exhibitions from the Jewish Museum of Maryland

Posted on November 4th, 2012 by

Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture, and American Jewish Identity

Table of Contents:

Introduction by Avi Y. Decter and Juliana Ochs Dweck
Contemporary Voices: Cholent Traditions from Around the Globe by Elizabeth Alpern
“Our Parents Were Hungry and We Are Sated”: The Immigrant World of American Jewish Food by Hasia R. Diner
Contemporary Voices: Expanding the Definition of Jewish Food by Ruth Abusch-Magder
Cuisine and Companionship: Eating Out Jewish in America by Ted Merwin
Contemporary Voices: Giving New Meaning to “Less is More” by Dorothy Lipovenko
From Beef a la Mode to Guacamole Latkes: A Genealogy of American Jewish Cookbooks by Lara Rabinovitch
Contemporary Voices: What Belongs on the Plate at a Sustainable Jewish Wedding? by Elisheva Margulies
“Who Can Cater a Bris in Queens?”: Circumcision Meals in Contemporary America by Juliana Ochs Dweck
Contemporary Voices: Shabbat Meals: At Home, Away from the War by Molly Birnbaum
Passover Bunny Cakes: Negotiating Jewish and Gentile Identities in the Passover Season by Carol Harris-Shapiro
Contemporary Voices: Eco-Glatt by Yael Greenberg
Ethical Eating: The New Jewish Food Movement by Mary L. Zamore
Contemporary Voices: A Grandmother’s Chicken Paprikash by Shulamit Seidler-Feller
Beyond Kashrut: Six Jewish Food Rules by Vanessa L. Ochs
Contemporary Voices: Kasha Recipes Get a Modern Makeover by Louisa Shafia
Jewish Foodways:  Choosing Food, Making Meaning by Carole M. Counihan
Reflecting on Chosen Food by Stephen J. Whitfield

Publication of this catalog was made possible with generous support from:

National Endowment for the Humanities
The Herbert Bearman Foundation, Inc.
Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, Inc.
Henry and Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation
Maryland State Arts Council
Betsey and Philip Kahn Publications Endowment
Louis and Frances B. Booke Research Endowment

Cost: $20.00

Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore

Table of Contents:

Foreward by Deborah R. Weiner, Anita Kassof, and Avi Y. Decter
The Local and the Global: Lombard Street and the Modern Jewish Diaspora by Hasia Diner
A Different Kind of Neighborhood: Central European Jews and the Origins of Jewish East Baltimore  by Eric L. Goldstein
“We Were Poor and We Didn’t Know It”: Growing Up in Old East Baltimore by Anita Kassof
“Keeping Peace in the Family”: The Jewish Court of Arbitration, 1912-1945 by Melanie Shell-WEiss
“Tutto il Mondo e Paese”: Baltimore’s Little Italy as Immigrant Hometown by Melissa Martens
Public Notions, Private Lives: The Meanings of Place in an Inner City Neighborhood by Deborah R. Weiner
See Change: A Visual Journey through the Urban Landscape by Dean Krimmel

Publication of this catalog was made possible with generous support from:

Henry & Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation
Lucius N. Littauer Foundation
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Maryland Historical Trust

Cost: $20.00

Enterprising Emporiums: The Jewish Department Stores of Downtown Baltimore

Table of Contents:

Forward by Mark Neumann
Memory and Meaning in Baltimore’s Jewish-Owned Department Stores by Avi Y. Decter
Merchant Princes and Their Palaces: The Emergence of Department Stores in Baltimore by Dean Krimmel
White Sales: The Racial Politics of Baltimore’s Jewish-Owned Department Stores, 1935-1965 by Paul A. Kramer, Johns Hopkins University
Expressions of Jewish Identity in Baltimore’s Downtown Department Stores by Melissa J. Martens

Publication of this catalog was made possible with generous support from:

The Henry and Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation
Maryland Historical Trust
Maryland State Arts Council

Cost: $15.00

Lives Lost, Lives Found: Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees, 1933-1945

Table of Contents:

Introduction by Avi Y. Decter
The Third Wave: German Jewish Refugees Come to Baltimore by Deborah R. Weiner
To Leave a World Behind?: German Jews Confront the Onset of Nazism by Sonat Hart, Baltimore Hebrew University
Knocking at the Door: The German Jewish Refugees and U.S. Immigration Policy by Anita Kassof
Matters of Public Knowledge: The Baltimore Jewish Times and Nazi Germany’s War Against the Jews, 1933-1942 by Dirk Bonker, University of North Florida
Germany’s Loss is Baltimore’s Gain: Jewish Youth from the Third Reich Remake Their Lives in Baltimore by Chana R. Kotzin
In Their Own Words: The Experiences of Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees by Robin Z. Waldman

Publication of this catalog was made possible with generous support from:

The Ingber Family RAM Foundation
In honor of Erich Oppenheim, our father, grandfather, and great grandfather
The Henry and Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation
The Lucius N. Littauer Foundation

Cost: $18.00

We Call This Place Home: Jewish Life in Maryland’s Small Towns


Table of Contents:

Forward by Mark Neumann
Introduction by Avi Y. Decter
The Jewish History of Small-Town America by Lee Shai Weissbach, University of Louisville
Beyond Lombard Street: Jewish Life in Maryland’s Small Towns by Eric L. Goldstein, Emory University
In the Belly of the Whale: Staying Jewish in Maryland’s Small Towns Today by Karen Falk

Publication of this catalog was made possible with generous support from:

The Henry and Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation
Henry and Elizabeth Lehmann Philanthropic Fund
National Endowment for the Humanities
Maryland Historical Trust
Maryland State Arts Council

Cost: $15.00

The Other Promised Land: Vacationing, Identity, and the Jewish American Dream

Table of Contents:

Forward by Avi Y. Decter
Vacation Days: Jews in the American Landscape by Judith E. Endelman
Baltimore’s Backyard: Jewish Vacations in Maryland by Deborah R. Weiner
A Place in the Sun: Jewish Vacationers in Atlantic City, 1890-1945 by Melissa Martens
A Movable Community in the Catskills by Phil Brown
Miami Beach: Like Strawberries in Winter by Deborah Dash Moore
Visiting Vanished Worlds: Reflections on Jewish Heritage Tourism by Rebecca Kobrin

Publication of this catalog was made possible with generous support from:

The Henry and Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation
The Lucius N. Littauer Foundation
National Endowment for the Humanities
Maryland Hostircal Trust
Maryland State Arts Council
Willard and Lillian Hackerman
 Cost: $15.00

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GENERATIONS: The Magazine of the Jewish Museum of Maryland

Posted on November 1st, 2012 by

To order your own copy of Generations, email eweiner@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x211

Generations 2011-2012: Special Theme Issue: Jewish Foodways

Table of Contents:
Intro: Baltimore Jewish Foodways by Avi Y. Decter
“Processions, Debates and Curbstone Encounters”: The Struggle over Kosher Meat in Baltimore, 1897-1918 by Avi Y. Decter
Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses by Jennifer Vess
Bedlam with Corned Beef on the Side: The Jewish Delicatessen in Baltimore by Barry Kessler
Romancing the Coddie by Gilbert Sandler
Photo Essay: HENDLER’S: The Velvet Kind by Rachel Kassman
Book Review: The Sacred Table: Creating a Jewish Food Ethic reviewed by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin
Field Notes: The Pearlstone Center by Jakir Manela
Chronology: Baltimore Jewish Foodways compiled by Avi Y. Decter

Cost: $10

Generations 2009-2010: 50th Anniversary Double Issue: The Search for Social Justice

Table of Contents:
Introduction by Avi Y. Decter and Deborah R. Weiner
“Remember that You Were a Slave”: Rabbis and Slavery on the Eve of the Civil War by Avi Y. Decter
“Poor Man’s Boarding School”: The Hebrew Orphan Asylum under Tabbi Samuel Freudenthal, 1886-1910 by Anita Kassof
“The Great Influence of the Mothers in Israel”: Baltimore’s Jewish Community Confronts the Woman Question by Caroline Young Friedman
A “Children’s Playground” and “Centre for Adults”: The Story of the Jewish Educational Alliance, 1909-1952 by Jennifer Vess
Two Lives in Labor: Jacob Edelman and Sarah Barron edited by Avi Y. Decter
Enduring Idealism: Baltimore Jews in the Communist Party by Leonard M. Helfgott
Social Justice through Medical Ethics: Dr. Jacob Morgenstern’s Legacy at Crownsville State Hospital by Suzanne Richmond
My Father’s Crownsville by Doris Morgenstern Wachsler
Demonstrators: Reform Rabbis Confront Segregation by Gilbert Sandler
Everyday Heroes:  A Baltimore Couple Recalls the Civil Rights Movement by Deborah Rudacille
CHAI: Making a Stand in Upper Park Heights by Simone Ellin
Keepers of the Earth: The Jewish Environmental Movement Comes of Age by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin
Book Review: Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City reviewed by W. Edward Orser
Field Notes: National Museum of American Jewish History: Core Exhibit by Josh Perelman and Ivy Weingram
Chronology: Ten in the Twentieth: Baltimore Jews and Social Justice by Deborah R. Weiner

Cost: $10

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

Table of Contents:
Introduction by Avi Y. Decter and Deborah R. Weiner
An American in Palestine: Mendes I. Cohen Tours the Holy Land by Deborah R. Weiner
The American Delegate(s)* at the First Zionist Conference by Avi Y. Decter
Revolutionizing Experiences: Henrietta Szold’s First Visit to the Holy Land by Henrietta Szold
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

Generations 2005-2006: Telling Time: Stories and Storytellers in Honor of Gil Sandler

Table of Contents:
Introduction by Avi Y. Decter and Deborah R. Weiner
The Bard of Baltimore: An Interview with Gilbert Sandler
“The Dispersed of Judah”: A Speech on the Jew Bill, 1825 by John S. Tyson, Esq.
The Publisher Departs: The Rabbi as “Black Republican” by Rabbi David Einhorn
Three Bloody Days: Letters from the Bialystock Pogrom, 1906 by Chaim Goldberg
A Smelkinson’s Eye View of the World: Place, Memory, and Stories of an East Baltimore Childhood by Deborah R. Weiner
The Married Bachelor by Ethel Rubinstein Berman
The Great Escape: A True Story of Jewish Intrigue in Baltimore, circa 1930 by Gedaliah Cohen
Israel Bonds, Kosher Chickens, and the FBI by Harry Diamond
Photo Gallery: Every Picture Tells a Story by Jobi Zink
Dad’s Store, 1920-1968 by Hilda Perl Goodwin
Starting Out by Irene Siegel
Marching for Soviet Jewry by Shoshana S. Cardin
Divided Lives: A Generation of Baltimore Jewish Women Tell Their Tales by Pamela S. Nadell
Hand-Made Haggadot: The Zaben Family Haggadah
Chronology: Telling Time: A Century of Maryland Historical Writing
Field Notes: Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust by Louis D. Levine
Review: Gil Sandler: An Appreciation by Michael Olesker

Cost: $10

Generations 2004: Recreation, Sports & Leisure

Table of Contents:
Introduction by Avi Y. Decter
A Club of Their Own: Suburban and Woodholme Through the Years by Deborah R. Weiner
The Dancing Schools of Baltimore’s Jewish Society by Gilbert Sandler
Equine Passion: The Cohen Family at Pimlico Race Course by Robin Z. Waldman
Match Point: Fighting Racial Discrimination in Druid Hill Park by Barry Kessler with Anita Kassof
City of Champions: Major League Sports and Baltimore Jews by Diane L. Jacobsohn
“A Nice Clean Room”: Pool Hall Portraits from 1950s Baltimore by Michael A. Lang
Amateur Jewish Athletes: Then and Now by Jobi O. Zink
Chronology: The Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore
Field Notes: National Museum of American Jewish History by Mike Silver and Ari Kelman
Review: Martin Abramowitz, Jewish Major Leaguers by Raphael Alvarez

Cost: SOLD OUT!

Generations 2003: Entertaining Maryland

Table of Contents:
Introduction by Avi Y. Decter
“Always Have Kind Words for the Place that Feeds You”: Jews on “The Block” by Deborah R. Weiner
A Front-Row Seat on Cottage Avenue: Memories of Boyhood Entertainment in the Depression Years by Gilbert Sandler
Now Playing at the Hippodrome: Baltimore’s House of Vaudeville, an Interview with M. Robert Rappaport by Dean Krimmel with Steve Liebowitz
Photo Gallery: Performing Community by Avi Y. Decter with Erin L. Titter
Barry Levinson’s Baltimore: An Appreciation by Stephen J. Whitfield
Building Bridges: A Conversation with Liz Lerman by Melissa Martens
Chronology: Entertaining Maryland by Avi Y. Decter
Field Notes: National Jewish Archive of Broadcasting
Review: The Jews of Prime Time by David Zurawik by Joyce Antler

Cost: $10

Generations 2002: Jewish Family History

Table of Contents:
Introduction by Avi Y. Decter
All in the Family: Jewish Women in Baltimore Family Business by Jayne Guberman and Shelly Hettleman
Second Cousins, Card Parties, and Chickens in the Back Yard: Family Life and Jewish Community in Rural Maryland by Deborah R. Weiner
Dispossession and Adaptation: The Weil Sisters Rebuild Their Family in America by Anita Kassof
From the Collections: A Jamboree, A First Grandchild, and A World at War: Glimpses of Family Life from the Schapiro Family Papers by Robin Z. Waldman
Photo Gallery: Family Photos: Images of the Jewish Family in Baltimore by Erin Titter
“I Think It Will Go”: Robert Weinberg Creates the Jewish Heritage Center by Avi Y. Decter
Field Notes: Center for Jewish History, NYC
Chronology: Jewish Family Services by Melissa Goldman with Gail Lipsitz

Cost: $6

Generations 2001

Table of Contents:
Introduction 
by Avi Y. Decter
New Light on an Old Landmark: Recent Discoveries at the Lloyd Street Synagogue by Barry Kessler
Strangers No More: Jewish Life in Maryland’s Small Towns by Karen Falk
From the Collections: Saul Bernstein, Baltimore Artist by Jobi Zink
Photo Gallery: Dressing the Part by Melissa Martens
Field Notes: Small Jewish Museum
Chronology: Baltimore’s Downtown Department Stores compiled by K. Meghan Gross

Generations 2000: Fortieth Anniversary Edition

Table of Contents:
Introduction 
by Avi Y. Decter
Isaac Hamburger and Sons: Memories of a Family and a Store by Albert Berney
The Jews of Western Maryland: Cumberland and Beyond by Leonard Schwab
Growing Up with Jacob Blaustein: Personal Memories by Barbara Blaustein Hirschhorn
Strange Journey: From Lithuania to Baltimore by Way of Aergentina by Dorothy Tucker Katzenstein
Young Voices on Yom Kippur: The Tzemach Tzedek Boy’s Choir by Howard E. Siegel
Paradise Lost: A Retrospective of Liberty Road’s Jewish Community by Steve Liebowitz
The “Frum” Community: Not All Black and White by Margie Pensak
Maryland’s Jewish Treasure House: The Jewish Museum and its Collections by Anita Kassof
Photo Gallery: The Jewish Museum of Maryland
Chronology: The Jewish Museum of Maryland by Barry Kessler

Cost: $6

Generations 1999

Table of Contents:
Introduction 
by Avi Y. Decter
A Rabbi’s Daughter Remembers by Clementine Lazaron Kaufman
Every Year a New Rabbi by Morton Ellin, M.D.
Baltimore’s Little Jerusalem by Barnett B. Berman, M.D.
The Saga of Samuel Shapiro & Company, Inc. by M. Sigmund Shapiro
Remembering “Pa” by Richard Lansburgh
Orthodoxy in East Baltimore: A Retrospect by Melvin J. Sykes
Cost: $6

For information on older issues of Generations, please contact Archivist Jennifer Vess, jvess@jewishmuseummd.org, 410-732-6402 x213.

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