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JMM Insights: February 2020

Remember The Ladies

In this month’s edition of JMM Insights, I asked our Archivist Lorie Rombro to share a few more highlights from her work researching the history of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore in celebration of the Centennial. I’ll link to a few of her past highlights at the end of this newsletter.


One of the things I’ve noticed while working on the Associated Centennial Campaign is how, over the years, the Associated has been able to change their organizations to meet the needs of the Jewish community. Many organizations do not survive due to an unwillingness to make the hard choices that change requires. Through researching the past of the Associated however, I have been able to see their transformation over time, as they responded to the needs of the community. When an Associated agency ends its time, it is because a need has been filled or organizations are merging to provide the most effective help.

Preserving the history of the Associated means we can still look back at and appreciated the constituent organizations that started the Associated, but which no longer exist – because the needs of the community altered. In 1926, then President of the AJC Sidney Lansburgh said, “To keep pace with the rapid development of technique and methods in modern social service there must be continuous study and planning, and that, too, has become an important function of our Associated,” a commitment that continues throughout the Associated today.

I decided to share with you some of what I found about four organizations in particular: The Daughters in Israel, The Council for Milk and Ice Fund, the Hebrew Ladies’ Sewing Society, and the Young Ladies Benevolent Society. These organizations may not be around today, but they did not end because of a quick decision based on financial duress. Rather, they were retired, revamped, and reorganized based on careful study.  I wish we had more information on these groups, so let me know if you have stories about some of these founding organizations of the Associated!
Daughters in Israel

Founded in 1895, the Daughters in Israel maintained a home for girls without parents, mostly immigrants who came to the United States alone. The goal was to provide young working women with a “real home life.” Most of the young women worked close to the home, so in addition to being provided a room to live in, they would come home for lunch each day. Each week, the girls went on an excursion together, had a day for friends to visit, and were offered courses in dressmaking and cooking. The cost was $2 a week for room and board, which included housekeeping. While many of the girls were able to pay their own way, a few were funded by the organization as “scholarships.” 

Daughters in Israel building at 1200 East Baltimore Street. JMM 2012.54.288.4

In 1896, the first home was started at 121 Aisquith Street before moving to 1111 East Baltimore and then to 1200 East Baltimore Street (where the Ronald McDonald House is today). In the first year of the Associated Jewish Charities, 74 girls were provided a home and only 22 needed scholarship assistance. In 1916 a summer retreat at “Buena Vista,” a former boarding house at Berkeley Heights in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Marylan,d was made available to the girls to have a week-long vacation away from the city. And in 1922, Camp Louise was presented to the Associated Jewish Charities by Aaron and Lillie Straus, specifically for the young women living at the Daughters in Israel home.
Young women vacationing c. 1917-1918. JMM 2019.000.5A

In the 1920s, the Associated Jewish Charities engaged the Bureau of Jewish Social Research, the predecessor to the Council of Jewish Federation and Welfare Fund, to undertake a survey of the Associated Jewish Charities and its constituent agencies. As a result of the survey’s findings it was decided that The Daughters in Israel organization should be closed.

An article from the Baltimore Jewish Times by the board of The Daughters in Israel that I found in a 1929 Associated Jewish Charities scrapbook explains the closing:
“With the cessation of immigration and the change of the neighborhood from a residential to a business section, the Daughters in Israel became a home for girls presenting a variety of problems of health and vocational maladjustment. The long-term stay of these girls in the Home acted as a deterrent in development, destroyed incentive, created a sense of satisfaction with the status quo and made it impossible to develop a constructive program for the girls. The survey recommended that the building be abandoned; the girls placed in private homes, and all health and problem cases be referred to appropriate agencies for attention and supervision.” The home was discontinued in October 1928 although this appears to have been a difficult choice the articles finishes by saying, “A substantial sum of money has been saved by the change. More important, we feel the girls are now developing a sense of individuality, self-reliance, and self-support.
Council for Milk and Ice Fund

Founded in 1898, the Council for Milk and Ice Fund’s purpose was to distribute milk and ice to needy infants and to meet "the urgent need of the afflicted during the summer season, and the great numbers of sick and ill-fed babies.” The work was eventually expanded to include all to whom milk was important, including undernourished children, elderly, and those recovering from tuberculosis.

JMM 2017.68.4.17

The Milk and Ice Fund would become one of the original constituent agencies of the newly formed Associated Jewish Charities in 1920. In 1921, 42,746 quarts of milk were distributed and during that summer thousands of pounds of ice. By 1926, the organization also provided advice on health and hygiene to those they served. The work was supported by donations from local ice companies and funding from the Baltimore Sun newspaper.  It was incorporated into the Jewish Social Service Bureau in 1934 as refrigeration became more common in households and social welfare programs expanded.
Hebrew Ladies Sewing Society

Founded in 1856, the Hebrew Ladies Sewing Society’s mission was distributing clothing to poor Jewish women and children. In 1921, they distributed 3,649 pieces of clothing to men, women and children as well 3,188 yards of fabric, 1,286 pairs of hose, 1,000 sheets and pillowcases, and 29 infant layettes. The organization would be dissolved around 1922 with local synagogue sisterhoods (including Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Temple Oheb Shalom, and Har Sinai Temple) taking over the group’s duties.
JMM 2000.28.1

Young Ladies Benevolent Society

Organized in 1900 with 300 working young women as its membership (these women who were not well off but hoped to help those like them who were suffering difficulties), the Young Ladies Benevolent Society assisted young women over the age of 16, specializing in supporting those with physical and mental disabilities, as well as giving “relief to girls suffering from illness, furnish[ing] maternity care, act[ing] as guide and mentor to girls and young women in need of advice; in conjunction with the Daughters in Israel conduct[ing] Camp Louise, a summer vacation camp for working girls.” The organization also assisted the unwed mothers in the community.  

In 1921, the Young Ladies Benevolent Society assisted 205 girls with financial support and provided 325 girls a low-cost vacation at Camp Louise.  In 1930, the Associated Jewish Charities created the Jewish Social Service Bureau which combined the Hebrew Benevolent Society, the Young Ladies Benevolent Society, and other organizations that provided social services to young adults and adults in the Jewish community.

~Lorie Rombro
Do you have stories, photos, or memorabilia related to these organizations, particularly the Hebrew ladies Sewing Society and the Young Ladies Benevolent Society? Let us know!
Check Out These Past Associated History Highlights!
Cash for Your Trash: Scrap Recycling in America
Sunday, February 23, 2020
at 1:00pm
Speaker: Dr. Carl Zimring
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Anne Frank House Virtual Tour
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
from 1:00pm - 4:00pm
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On View
My Family Story
March 1 - 8, 2020

My Family Story at JMM is supported, in part, by the
Ronnie and Alli Russel Charitable Foundation.
JMM Live: Jewish Folk Life Festival
Ken Kolodner and Elke Baker
Sunday, March 1, 2020
at  3:00pm
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JMM Live: Jewish Folk Life Festival
Yiddish Folksongs of Women
Sunday, March 15, 2020
at 3:00pm
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