HERITAGE Magazine of the American Jewish Historical Society | WINTER 2015
Magazine of the American Jewish Historical Society
CONTENTS American Jewish Historical Society CHAIRMAN EMERITUS
Kenneth J. Bialkin CHAIRMAN
Bernard Michael VICE PRESIDENTS
George M. Garfunkel Joshua Landes Steven D. Oppenheim SECRETARY
Louise P. Rosenfeld ASSISTANT SECRETARY
Samuel R. Karetsky Harvey M. Krueger Joshua H. Landes Sidney Lapidus Andrew E. Lewin Norman Liss Bernard J. Michael Jeffrey S. Oppenheim Steven D. Oppenheim Nancy T. Polevoy Louise P. Rosenfeld Bruce Slovin Joseph S. Steinberg Morton M. Steinberg Ronald S. Tauber Paul B. Warhit Beth Wenger, ex-officio Justin L. Wyner Hedy Zankel Laurence Zuckerman
HONORARY LIFE TRUSTEES
Sheldon S. Cohen Alan M. Edelstein Robert D. Gries Daniel K. Kaplan Arthur S. Obermayer Sue R. Warburg
Samuel R. Karetsky ASSISTANT TREASURER
Andrew Lewin BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Stanley I. Batkin Kenneth J. Bialkin Ronald C. Curhan Deborah Dash Moore Ruth B. Fein George M. Garfunkel Michael G. Jesselson Arnold H. Kaplan
American Jewish Women Doctors and the Early Birth Control
Giving Four Heroines their Place in Holocaust History
Using Technology and DNA Genealogy to Solve Historical Mysteries
Explorable AJHS Collections: Science, Medicine and Technology
A Publication of the American Jewish Historical Society 15 West 16th Street New York, NY 10011 www.ajhs.org 212-294-616 Rachel Lithgow, Executive Director Susan Malbin, Director of Library and Archives Laura Bacigalupo,Office Manager Tanya Elder, Senior Archivist Christine McEvilly, Digital Archivist and Librarian
Boni Joi Koelliker, Photo and Reference Archivist UJA-Federation of New York Archives Project Contacts Susan Woodland, Senior Archivist Eric Fritzler, Metadata Librarian Heather Halliday, Archivist Marvin Rusinek, Archivist and Webmaster
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SIMON SCHAMA is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and a Contributing Editor of the Financial Times. He is the author of sixteen books and the writer-presenter of more than forty documentaries on art, history, and literature for BBC2. His art criticism for The New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for criticism in 1996; his film on Bernini from The Power of Art won an Emmy in 2007 and his series on British history and The American Future: a History, Broadcast Critics Guild awards. He won the NCR nonfiction prize for Citizens, National Book Critics Circle award for Rough Crossings, the WH Smith Literary Award for Landscape and Memory. He writes on cooking and food for GQ; fashion for Harpers Bazaar and on everything else for the FT. He curated the Government Art Collection show Travelling Light at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and has collaborated with Anselm Kiefer, John Virtue and Cecile B. Evans on contemporary art exhibitions and installations. His latest project is The Story of the Jews, which was broadcast on television and published as a book in the UK in autumn 2013, and in the US in spring 2014. The second volume of The Story of the Jews is due to be published in autumn 2014.
Message from the Executive Director When discussing what our topic would be in 2014, Innovation seemed a natural fit. For such a small minority in the New Republic, American Jews have been an innovative force since the first 23 of us arrived in New Amsterdam from Recife in 1654. Our new online, interactive exhibition, which you can explore in this issue, really details, in truly innovative fashion, how the Jews helped to shape American culture in the antebellum period. Howard Rock will focus on one individual from this period who is also featured in that exhibit, Isaac Hays, a Jewish physician who was innovative in areas that moved far beyond simple medicine. But let us not leave out the ladies in the arena of science and medicine! Melissa Klapper will take you on an historical journey that chronicles the important, and deeply innovative 20th century moment where feminism, medicine and activism collided in the early birth control movement. In this issue, Laura Liebman will show our readers how the AJHS archives, and advances in DNA can help families solve century old mysteries, while our chief librarian will share what kinds of collections in the areas of science, medicine and technology are available for researchers in these important areas. As important as science, medicine and technology are, we did not limit our scope to the sciences. We invite our readers to see our October installation (in cooperation with Yeshiva University Museum) at the Center for Jewish History, our headquarters downtown in New York City. We have commissioned the artist, Jonah Bokaer, who has contributed his thoughts on innovation in visual arts and dance for this edition of Heritage, to create a response to a haunting historical event that took place in Poland in 1944. The decidedly American response to this historical Jewish event through media, dance, visual art and our own primary source material housed in the partner collections at the Center for Jewish History is perhaps the most innovative event ever to take shape under our roof. It is proof positive that interdisciplinary partnerships can create amazing and innovative results. If you cannot get to New York to see this exciting installation, fear not! This fall, it will be digitized and placed on our website so that you can see what happens when history and art collaborate. The result is remarkable. On November 17th, we will honor the great public historian Simon Schama (The Story of the Jews) as our laureate. In our entire history, Simon is the first historian to receive the Emma Lazarus Statue of Liberty Award. All of our readers are invited to attend, and you will find information in this issue about how to purchase tickets, or better yet, become a sponsor of this wonderful evening, which I can promise will be full of surprises. It is my sincere hope that your reading of this edition of Heritage, our first ever digital publication, reflects the direction that the American Jewish Historical Society is heading. Without losing our 123 year old soul, AJHS is striding to invigorate all areas of American Jewish history. We consider ourselves the future of the American Jewish past, and we hope you will too.
American Jewish Historical Society
HERITAGE | Winter 2015
American Jewish Women Doctors and the Early Birth Control Movement By Melissa R . Klapper
t’s a truism that Jews worldwide have been leaders in science, technology, and medicine. Countless books with titles like “A Chosen Calling: Jews in Science in the Twentieth Century” or “Jews and Medicine: An Epic Saga” celebrate their accomplishments, and every year when the Nobel Prizes are awarded the tally of Jewish winners increases, a fact loudly trumpeted by Jewish media outlets. With the rare exception of such undeniable personalities as chemist Gertrude Elion and DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin, however, Jewish women get the short shrift in these narratives of success. As the collections of the American Jewish Historical Society attest, Jewish women were present and critically important to every aspect of the American Jewish experience, including science, technology, and medicine. One of their most important fields of endeavor was the early birth control movement. As activists, consumers, and distributors of contraception, Jewish women played significant roles in the evolution of birth control in the United States. The organized movement is often dated to 1916, when Margaret Sanger (not Jewish, though her first husband William Sanger was) opened her first birth control clinic in Brooklyn. She advertised the clinic in Yiddish and Italian as well as English, and Jewish mothers lined up for blocks, baby carriages in tow. But Sanger’s own interest in birth control came out of her earlier socialist roots and her connections with radicals such as Emma Goldman. Goldman saw a link between revolutionary class struggle and women’s reproductive control. She used her publication “Mother Earth” to press for birth control, handed out literature on contraception at her lectures, and gave demonstrations of contraceptive techniques, for which she went to jail. Sanger found many other allies throughout the American Jewish community as well. Her pamphlet “What Every Girl Should Know” was translated into Yiddish almost immediately, and all the American Jewish periodicals conducted a lively debate on the topic of birth control. The Jewish birth rate, already on the way down in eastern Europe prior to the turn-of-the-century period of mass migration, dropped even more sharply in the United States, demonstrating many American Jews’ choice to limit their family sizes. Sanger believed that medical professionals should distribute contraceptives through independent facilities free of the organized control of American medicine. Diaphragms, the most up-to-date and effective contraceptive technology at the time, required training for the women using them. The birth control clinics that resulted from this innovative thinking offered unique opportunities to female Jewish doctors and patients alike. At a time when anti-Semitism restricted all American Jewish doctors’ abilities to secure medical residencies and positions and the Jewish hospitals reserved the bulk of their staff jobs for men, Jewish 6
women doctors turned to birth control clinics as places where they could practice medicine, conduct research, and contribute to a cause they virtually all believed in. A 1930 general survey of birth control clinics noted that “The Jewish physicians in the United States have done more to aid organized clinics than any other body of people.” A significant number of these doctors were Jewish women. Bessie Moses in Baltimore; Elizabeth Kleinman and Lucile Lord-Heinstein in Boston; Anna Samuelson in the Bronx; Evelyn Berg in Brooklyn; Olga Ginzburg and Rachelle Yarros in Chicago; Sarah Marcus in Cleveland; Nadine Kavinoky and Rochelle Seletz in Los Angeles; Esther Cohen and Golda Nobel in Philadelphia; Hannah Mayer Stone, Marie Warner, Cheri Appel, Anna Spiegelman, Naomi Yarmolinsky, and Lena Levine in New York; Hannah Seitzwick-Robbins in Trenton; and dozens of others were crucial activists. These Jewish women directed clinics, promoted sex hygiene and often marriage counseling in their communities, advocated for relaxation of anti-birth control statutes in their states, wrote books about contraception, worked to overturn restrictive legislation, advised policy makers, and, most importantly, served as the human face of the movement for many thousands of women patients. In addition, they became internationally known birth control researchers. At the Seventh International Birth Control Conference in Zurich in 1930, for example, Kavinoky, Stone, and Yarros all addressed large audiences on scientific and social aspects of contraception. Jewish women doctors also served as primary figures in the legal battles that surrounded birth control work. Depending on their state of residence, Jewish women doctors who worked at birth control clinics routinely acted illegally to help their patients. Lucille Lord-Heinstein, a doctor in the Boston area, recalled years later, “I continued to break the law, oh I certainly did. I was thoroughly convinced with [every] cell in my body, and I would stand there with my fist upraised that this was good medicine.” Hannah Mayer Stone was arrested during a 1929 raid on a New York birth control clinic after an undercover female detective visited the clinic and was prescribed a diaphragm. Upon receiving a package of contraceptive materials from Japan, Stone also became the center of the court case that ultimately yielded a 1936 federal court ruling stating it was legal to mail contraceptive items that would be used by physicians for legitimate medical purposes. This important court case removed contraception from its former statutory designation as “obscenity,” overturned federal restrictions on sending birth control materials through the mail, and reflected the growing acceptance of birth control by the American public. Another way in which Jewish women doctors shaped the early twentieth century birth control movement was through the positions they took
American Jewish Historical Society on the relationship between contraception and eugenics. Although the very word “eugenics” sets off alarm bells in a post-Holocaust world, it is important to recognize that during the early twentieth century ideas about scientific racism were respectable, even conventional. At the time, eugenics developed both a positive mode, that is, that the best people should have the most children, and a negative mode, that is, that the fertility of inferior groups should be restricted. The birth control movement always associated itself with positive eugenics. These goals were lauded by a wide array of American Jewish figures, including Rabbi Sidney Goldstein of the Free Synagogue in New York, who remained on the board of the American Eugenics Society even after the Nuremberg Laws were passed in Germany in 1935. Still, concerns remained despite the common interest of birth control and eugenics in promoting healthier babies. Rachelle Yarros, a longtime doctor at the famed Hull House settlement in Chicago, faulted eugenicists for paying attention only to heredity and not to environment, writing “They talk of improving the human race as if environment and conditions of life and work had no effect on human character.” As a doctor active in a poor and working-class community, she daily witnessed the successes of immigrants and their children, people whom the eugenics movement might dismiss as “inferior.” Although Yarros was an early, prominent, and active supporter of birth control, she did not believe that quality of character was tied to class status. She, like many other Jewish women doctors, did not allow her concerns about this issue to distance herself from the birth control movement, however. In 1935 Yarros appeared before the original Committee on the Social Security Act to argue that birth control should be part of the social security plan so that not only privileged women with access to birth control could have lower mortality rates and healthier children. She pointed out that the birth rate was highest among already overburdened, unemployed people and urged the committee to incorporate contraceptive advice into any social welfare legislation. As women who sought information and contraception, doctors and nurses who provided it, and advocates who fought to make it freely available, Jewish women played a variety of roles in the early birth control movement and relied on an array of medical, psychological, economic, and moral justifications. The Jewish women doctors who conducted research, treated patients, fought legal restrictions, and wrote birth control manuals and books on marriage and sexuality exerted a tremendous amount of influence on the American Jewish community and the nascent field of women’s health. They deserve to be remembered and honored just as much as other Jewish pioneers of science, medicine, and technology.
Dr. Melissa R. Klapper is Professor of History at Rowan University and Book Review Editor of American Jewish History, the scholarly journal of the American Jewish Historical Society. Her most recent book, Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890-1940 (NYU Press, 2013) won the 2013 National Jewish Book Award in Women’s Studies.
HERITAGE | Winter 2015
Isaac HAYS B y D r . H o wa r d R o c k , P h D
In addition to being the first prominent Jewish physician in the New Republic, author Howard Rock gives a brief biography of the little known physician, artist, naturalist, and renaissance scientist. 8
American Jewish Historical Society
HERITAGE | Winter 2015
saac Hays (1876-1879) was one of Philadelphia’s leading Jewish citizens and one of the most prominent American physicians of the nineteenth century. Born to Samuel and Richea Gratz, Hays’ father was a wealthy merchant who made his fortune in the East India trade. Young Isaac received the classical education appropriate for Philadelphia’s elite, studying first with the eminent divine and classical scholar, Rev. Dr. Samuel B. Wylie, and then at the University of Pennsylvania where he received his B.A. After serving a year in his father’s business, Hays determined to be a physician and became a pupil of Dr. Nathaniel Chapman, later the first president of the American Medical Association (AMA). Chapman was a sophisticated Virginian with a magnetic personality and a garrulous member of Philadelphia’ best and brightest. While serving as apprentice to Chapman, Isaac entered the University of Pennsylvania Medical School where one of his teachers was Philip Syng Physick, a general surgeon with a special interest in the treatment of the eye and is now regarded as the “father of ophthalmology” in America. When he began his studies the practice of ophthalmology was limited as the knowledge of oracular anatomy was well known but the pathology much less so. As most of Physick’s time was devoted to his work as a general surgeon, Hays became America’s first full time ophthalmologist. During his early years in practice Hays became close to many young rising and stimulating Philadelphia physicians some of whom worked with him at the Philadelphia Dispensary in the early 1820s, the first ophthalmic dispensary in Philadelphia, and then at the Pennsylvania Dispensary for Diseases of the Eye and Ear that succeeded the Dispensary in 1825. It was at the Wills Hospital for the Relief of the Indigent Blind and Lame (later only the blind) that Hays did his most important work from 1834 to 1854, reporting on non-congenital
colorblindness as a pathologic condition and becoming one of the first physicians to correct astigmatism through corrective cylindrical lenses. Finally, he developed a medical instrument that combined the use of a knife and needle in the treatment of cataracts that would be employed by many fellow ophthalmologists. Far and away Hays’ greatest contribution to medicine was as a journalist. That career began with his selection in 1826 to the staff of the Philadelphia Journal of the Medical and Physical Sciences edited by his mentor, Nathaniel Chapman. Within a few years as editors moved to other cities, Hays became an editor in February of 1826 at the age of thirty. By the end of that year he was sole editor. This journal was the fourteenth medical journal to be published in the United States. Ten had already been discontinued. The only other ones in print were the New England Journal of Medicine and the Medical Recorder or Philadelphia Monthly Journal of Medicine and Surgery. Hays combined his journal with the Recorder and renamed it the American Journal of the Medical Sciences, which would soon become the first national medical periodical. Thirtyseven prominent physicians from all over the country served as collaborators. In 1841 he became the sole editor and would remain at that position alone for the next twenty-eight years. Each issue contained one section on original communications, one on reviews and biographies and one periscopic section oriented to recent progress in medical science throughout the world. As the United States was hit by recurring waves of cholera that carried off thousands of citizens, largely in the poorer neighborhoods, Hays in 1832 took on the editorship of the weekly Cholera Gazette, an attempt by the medical community to come to grips with this deadly disease. In 1843 he also founded the Medical News, a monthly that kept physicians up to date with the news of the various medical colleges and societies
American Jewish Historical Society
In addition to being the first prominent Jewish physician in the New Republic, author Howard Rock gives a brief biography of the little known physician, artist, naturalist, and renaissance scientist
in the country. And in 1879, near the end of his long career, he became editor of the Monthly Abstract of Medical Science, the first of many journals of abstracts. The Medical News led to the formation of a national medical society, organized in 1846 into what would become the American Medical Association, for whom he served as treasurer from1848 to 1852. Hays was responsible for the first code of ethics of the AMA. While never publishing any single book, he contributed a chapter on ”Diseases of the Eye” to Dewee’s Practice of Medicine in 1830 and edited an American edition of Sir Wallis Lawrence’s “A Treatise on Diseases of the Eye and T. Wharton Jones’s “P r i n c i p l e s o f O p h t h a l m i c Medicine and Surgery”. His fine classical education allowed Hays to emerge as a renaissance figure. Beyond his medical practice and medical journalism he had a strong interest in science in general. Elected to the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1818, at age 22, he presented his first medical paper there, “Forces by Which Blood is Circulated,” which was published three years later. Of particular interest was the study of prehistoric animals. As a member of the Academy his reputation for equanimity and gentility were apparent when he engaged in a debate over whether or not a New Jersey fossil should be renamed Saurocephalus. He also entered a dispute over whether or not a fossil found in Orange, New York was an elephant or a juvenile mastodon, publishing a paper, “Description of the Inferior Maxillary Bones of Mastodons.” At the Academy he worked with William McClure, geologist, Thomas Say, entomologist and Titian Peale, the artist and natural historian. The Academy collaborated with John James Audubon on the study of birds, and Hays was active in its new edition of Wilson’s American Ornithology. He was a member of the esteemed Franklin
HERITAGE | Winter 2015
Institute, founded in 1824 for the promotion of the mechanic arts and housing a museum of science. He became its corresponding secretary and sat on its committee of publications. Because of his comprehensive interest in science, Hays was elected to the prestigious American Philosophical Society where he read papers on mastodons. Hays was also one of the first twelve managers of the Musical Fund Society, established in 1820 to help the city’s musicians. Hays was the most prominent Jewish physician of the nineteenth century, throughout his career he remained identified as a Jew. He was the nephew of Rebecca Gratz, the celebrated Philadelphia educator and philanthropist. Records reveal that he was involved in the search for a Hazan at Philadelphia’s first Synagogue, Mikveh Israel and in the Jewish Orphan Asylum, working with Rebecca Gratz. Despite his eminence, Hays was known as an affable man. He did not marry until age thirty-eight, when he wed Sarah Ann Minis in Savannah. Sarah came from a family that was dated to the fortyone Jewish settlers that left England for Georgia in 1733. He fathered seven children all but two of whom survived to adulthood. One, Isaac Minis, took over the editorship of the American Journal of Medical Sciences. Hays died during the influenza epidemic of 1879, aged 83. Hays was prominently featured in the American Jewish Historical Society’s last exhibition By Dawn’s Early Light, which chronicled the contributions of Jews to very early American culture. That exhibition can be seen in this edition of Heritage. 1 Edwin Wolf, II and Maxwell Whiteman, The History of the Jews of Philadelphia from Colonial Tiems to the Age of Jackson (Philadelphia. 1956, 1975) 2 Leon Morgensterrn, “Isaac Hays, M.D.: NineteenthCentury Pioneer in Ophthalmology,” Journal of the American Medical Association (March 2004), 385387 3 Nathan Flaxman, M.D., “Isaac Hays, Pioneer American Ophthalmologist,” Journal of the American Medial Association (1936) 78-90
Walk through history w i t h o u t l e av i n g y o u r s e at
By Dawn’s Early Light: Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War For Jews, initially a tiny minority in the early Republic, freedom was both liberating and confounding. As individuals they were free to participate as full citizens in the hurly-burly of the new nation’s political and social life. But as members of a group that sought to remain distinctive, freedom was daunting. In response to the challenges of liberty, Jews adopted and adapted American cultural idioms to express themselves in new ways, as Americans and as Jews. In the process, they invented American Jewish culture.
AMERICAN JEWISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY
s of heritage formaT ajhs .org are available in digital format at ajhs.org previous aT issues of heritage American Jewish Historical Society
HERITAGE Magazine of the American Jewish Historical Society | WINTER 2014
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A Special Thank You to:
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Sid Lapidus by Jewish MajorBernard Leaguers, Inc. and the Topps Michael aseball card series. It includes updates on all Joseph S. Steinberg e usual collection of and historical oddball notes, Jody John Arnhold n the World Baseball HenryClassic, Arnhold“in memoriam” The new series will available at AJHS.org The be Tawani Foundation
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Amy Goldman Fowler and Carey Fowler Hedy Zankel Suzie Handler Marylyn Malkin William A. Ackman Paul Warhit The David Berg Foundation
HERITAGE | Winter 2015 17
Giving Four Heroines their Place
in Holocaust History
by Rochelle G. Saidel , PhD. E x e c u t i v e D i r e c t o r , R e m e m b e r t h e Wo m e n I n s t i t u t e
he exhibition October 7, 1944 recognizes and presents an artistic American response to the heroism of four young Polish Jewish women: Roza Robota (Ciechan贸w, born 1921), Estera Wajcblum (Warsaw, born 1924), Regina Szafirsztajn (Bedzin), and Ala Gertner (Bedzin, born 1912). Without the brave activism of these women, the men working in the Sonderkommando in Birkenau could not have blown up the crematorium there on October 7,
1944. Crematorium IV was damaged beyond repair and never used again. In the Spring of 1943, Estera, Regina, and Ala were all assigned to work in the Weichsel-Union-Metallwerk, a munitions factory just outside of Auschwitz. Roza Robota, who worked in the Auschwitz clothing depot, enlisted them to join a planned revolt by smuggling gunpowder from the factory. Roza, who had been a member of Hashomer Hatzair in Poland, was recruited into the camp underground by Noah Zabludowicz, who came from her hometown and youth group. The three young women and others in the Union began to smuggle gunpowder from the secure Pulverraum in the
munitions factory to the underground in the Sonderkommando in Birkenau, the adjoining camp. The operation was successful until one of the women was betrayed. Witness testimony points to Ala, who may have been duped by a Russian Jew named Klara or a Czech half-Jewish man (possibly named Koch), both of whom worked in the Union. Her arrest was followed by that of the other three women, and all of them were brutally tortured. They were released for a while, but then were publicly hanged in the first week of January 1945, just
American Jewish Historical Society weeks before a death march out of the camp and then the camp’s liberation by the Soviet Army. The Union Kommando worked in night shifts and day shifts, and the women were hanged two at a time, forcing both of the shifts to serve as witnesses. The consensus of survivor testimonies is that Regina and Ala were hanged in front of the first group (the night shift), and Roza and Estera were later hanged in front of the day shift. Herta Ligeti Fuchs, an eyewitness to the hanging of Ala and Regina, said that the workers were told, “Union Kommando eyes front,” and forced to watch. “Like dolls they were pulled up” on the gallows, she said, “and dangled, already two lifeless dolls.” Roza Robota’s last words, communicated by Zabludowicz, were “Be strong and be brave.” Just as the the story of this courageous deed is often left out of the Auschwitz-Birkenau narrative, women’s experiences have frequently been omitted from Holocaust history, and women have been edited out of history in general. This exhibition contributes to righting this wrong by integrating the names of Roza Robota, Estera Wajcblum, Regina Safirsztain, and Ala Gertner into the history and commemoration of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Holocaust. These four remarkably brave young women paid with their lives for resisting in Auschwitz. But according to eyewitness testimony by survivors from the Union Kommando, compiled by Auschwitz survivor and author Dr. Lore Shelley, the four were not the only heroines who participated in smuggling gun powder to the Sonderkommando underground. The names of other young Jewish women prisoners (and there may be more) who resisted in this way and survived include: Marta Bindiger Cigi, Lusia Ferstenberg, Herta Ligeti Fuchs, Chaya Cohn Kroin, Eugenie Frischler Langer, Regina Ledor, Rose Gruenapfel Meth, Irka Ogrudek, Hadassah Talmon-Zlotnicki, Mala Weinstein, and Batsheva from Cracow. By extension, this exhibition also recognizes their heroism.
Artist Statement By Jonah B okaer A r t i s t, C h o r e o g r a p h e r
Let me begin with an apology. I was approached nearly two years ago, to respond to 70th Anniversary of October 7, 1944, and hesitated to accept the invitation: my initial sense was that dance & choreography lack the criteria to respond to human suffering, on the scale of war, atrocity, crime, and genocide. Should the choreographic arts try to depict, to represent, or to pay tribute to historical events? And how? It took nearly 14 months to respond to this commission. What moved me forward with acceptance to embark on this project, was my initial research, which showed - time and time again - nothing. The four women who are the subject of this exhibition have often been written out of history by male survivors, and initial research often yields an absence of information on who these women are, and what the specifics of their bravery entailed. Initial research can also yield the converse: involving inaccurate dramatizations of the women’s narrative (through existing film, and plays), offering the possibility of harm to history, and subjective
interpretation through an artistic license. My research has been archival in nature: nearly full-time immersion in the archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, who commissioned the project; the archives of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research; and the profound access and cooperation of the archival leaders at the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau. While I am not a historian, I apply methodical rigor to any activity I undertake - and I’m glad to share that correspondences, perhaps even small discoveries, were made into what these women’s narrative was. In this exhibition, I have worked closely with the curator and the participating archives to include four layers of work. The first is an existing, unrelated video of four women dating back to 2012 before this project began. I have reassembled that same case, two years later, to make a parallel quartet that is more overtly focused on the lives of these women - imagining what their hands might have done, in 1944. My colleagues at the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau also worked with me, during a 5 day period of living immersion at the site, to understand an hour-by-hour account of the events of October 7, 1944 which includes the events before and after this storied event. Through my own choices, I also entered the (abandoned) facility of the WeichselUnion-Metallwerk, where three of the four women worked. The result of my journey to Poland, is a documentary “adagio” which reconstructs the saga, through what remains of the architecture - and with no figures. I think of these architectural spaces as empty prosceniums, of a kind, and I have used an entirely documentary approach. A softer form of resistance, through music, is also used as a way to pay tribute to these women, and is offered with the possibility of healing our understanding of the narrative - or perhaps of our emotions around these events. Bach’s Violin Partita in D Minor, with Henry Szeryng interpreting the famous Chaconne (which many choreographers have used), will be a continuous presence in the gallery, and offers some respite from the music which was played in 1944 as a form of “enforcement” for these prisoners. 8 gradual enlargements of the score drawn by hand, and 8 diminishing sections of a violin taken apart by hand, form an envelope for the archival items to be encountered. I am grateful to both AJHS, and YIVO, for allowing their material to be exhibited in such a generous manner. All of my work addresses the ephemerality of dance and choreography, and I believe this exhibition does, as well. But I’ve also decided to accept the task, of paying tribute to these brave women. If choreography cannot truly address the atrocities of the 20th century - then I personally reach out to them, across time, and thank them for their bravery.
HERITAGE | Winter 2015
Center for Jewish History 15 W 16th St, New York October 7 - December 30, 2014 In partnership with Yeshiva University Museum & YIVO
October 7 1944 By Jonah Bokaer
American Jewish Historical Society
Using Technology and DNA Genealogy
to Solve Historical Mysteries B y L au r a A r n o l d L e i b m a n
ogroms, migrations, and aliyah may have spread our families around the world, but the Internet draws us back together. Cousins I never knew existed find me through social media. Can technology also help us solve the mysteries of the past? Some of my relatives seem to think so. “Dear Family,” begins one recent email from a long-lost cousin, “I am from the Chicago Branch of Berkelhamer Family. We just received the results, from having Dad’s DNA sample registered… The more family that we have registered, the better the data will be.” Yet was my cousin correct? If I had my DNA tested, would it allow us track the Berkelhamer family farther back into the past than ever before? Moreover, as a scholar of American Jewish history, I wonder if DNA could help us understand Jewish American history better. Using my own family as a guide, I explain what genetics testing can—and can’t—tell us about our lineage, and then turn to a perplexing case of mistaken identity buried, in part, in the vaults of the American Jewish Historical Society. When used in conjunction with archival sources, DNA can help us unlock some of the past’s mysteries. First the bad news. As a geneticist’s child, I know getting my DNA tested wouldn’t help my Berkelhamer kin. Patrilineal studies like that of the Chicago Berkelhamers trace information on the Y chromosome of a family, and as the daughter of a daughter of a male Berkelhamer, I only inherited a X chromosome from that illustrious clan. My DNA would not reveal much about Berkelhamers, other than whom they married. Indeed only one of my first cousins (my grandfather’s son’s son) carries the Berkelhamer Y chromosome. If I wanted to better understand my part in the Berkelhamer saga, my best bet would be to harass him or his father.
On the positive side, as a woman, I do preserve a matrilineal line that could illuminate my maternal history. While women inherit an X chromosome from both their parents, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) passed along to women from their fathers is destroyed at fertilization. Thus, if I had my mtDNA tested, it would reveal my maternal line and could help me understand about the unknown lineage of my orphaned maternal great-grandmother, long before she married into the better-documented Footlik family of Odessa. I could also test my DNA using a BioGeographical Ancestry test to “discover my ethnicity.” At first glance, such a test seems a bit useless, as I know a lot about my ancestors’ geographic origins. However, such a search might be less foolhardy than it seems. While my mother’s family appears to have lived in Europe for an extremely long time, my father’s family came to Barbados in the early 18th century and lived there through the 1870s. Many “whites” in Barbados comingled their DNA with people of African descent, and race was often more flexible in the Caribbean than in the United States. Thus, a BioGeographical Ancestry test might tell me if an ancestor had lied about their family ties or if later descendants had a different understanding of their race than may have existed in earlier eras. And frankly, sometimes people lie.Even professional genealogists get it wrong. I know this because research by academics like Karl Watson and myself suggests that even the work of preeminent Jewish genealogist Malcolm Stern at times misses the mark, mainly because he lacked access
HERITAGE | Winter 2015
to key records. Occasionally , families want to hide what historians might think are the most interesting aspects of their family lines. Could DNA confirm the very things people in the past had tried so hard to suppress? The genealogical error and subsequent mystery I have recently been pondering belongs to another early Barbados family --that of the island’s wealthiest Jew, Abraham Rodriguez Brandon (1766-1831). Records in Barbados, London, Suriname, and The Hague reveal the Rodriguez Brandon clan is not what genealogists had previously led us to believe. Stern and other early historians believed Abraham Rodriguez Brandon and his wife Sarah Esther Lopez were the parents of Isaac Lopez Brandon (17921855) and Sarah Brandon Moses (1799-1828). Stern was only half right, though. Isaac’s father was Abraham Rodriguez Brandon. According to synagogue minutes however, Isaac’s mother, was an unnamed slave woman, who Karl Watson hypothesizes may have been named Esther Gill. The same slave woman was the mother of Isaac’s sister, Sarah. This genealogical error might have been inconsequential if Isaac and Sarah had never converted, married, or left the island. But they did. Moreover, they married into one of the most illustrious families in New York’s premier congregation. Their descendants were presidents of Shearith Israel, architects, authors, and prominent American businessmen (Figure 1). The error in their official lineage not only changes the history of their descendants, but also our understanding of race and Jews in the Americas more broadly. Today multiracial Jews make up 12% of U.S. Jewry, and many believe their story deserves more space in Jewish American history. The Rodriguez Brandon clan suggests the history of multiracial
Jews began much earlier than most Jews in the United States today might assume. Moreover, for the antiquarian, knowing the actual heritage of Isaac and Sarah makes the previously charming but otherwise fairly unexceptional miniature portraits owned by American Jewish Historical Society exceedingly rare and precious, since they document an important early moment in this new history (Figures 2 & 3). Isaac and Sarah’s portraits are the earliest known images of multiracial Jews in the United States, and predate the previously earliest known photograph of a multiracial descendent of Caribbean Jews by over twenty years.Yet, Isaac and Sarah’s story still has major gaps. If it were available, could DNA help us learn more? While Abraham Rodriguez Brandon’s life was fairly well documented, Sarah and Isaac’s mother’s story remains enigmatic.. The little we do know about their mother is intriguing. First we know their mother was also of partial Sephardic descent. Although Isaac and Sarah’s mother’s mother was a slave named Deborah, their maternal grandfather was Isaac Lopez (Sr.), and his family were Sephardim (Figure 4). Were the mixed-race children of Abraham Rodriguez Brandon, then, also relatives of his wife, who similarly bore the last name Lopez? Second, we know Isaac and Sarah’s Sephardic family felt affection for them. With their father’s help, their maternal Sephardic greatgrandmother Hannah Esther Lopez paid to have Sarah and Isaac freed. She not only took care of them during their life, but she made the children her primary heirs. With their inheritance, Isaac travelled to Suriname, converted to Judaism, and was circumcised. Sarah’s marriage record from Bevis Marks in London likewise lists her as a convert, and
American Jewish Historical Society
evidence suggests she made the voyage to Suriname with her brother. While Sarah and Isaac’s spouses probably knew of their mixed heritage, the Brandon siblings not only seem to have passed into the“white” Jewish society of New York’s Shearith Israel, but also to have been accepted as white by the New York census. In fact, the brother and sister duo appear to have passed so successfully that no family member has corrected the online genealogies that erase their slave ancestry. Could DNA testing confirm the story told by archives? Moreover, could DNA help us learn more about their mysterious mother?
genealogy or Jewish American history. There is no DNA that sets all Jews apart; rather, DNA helps underscore the diversity of the Jewish experience in Americas. During the era in which Isaac and Sarah lived, Jews were increasingly seen as a separate race, but genetics show this hypothesis to be false: there is no “Jewish gene.” Jewish DNA combines the past’s diverse strands. It is time to reclaim our heritage. To find out more information about how AJHS can help you fill in the gaps in your own family history search, please visit the newly reopened genealogy reading room at the Center for Jewish History.
DNA tests could find information about Sarah and Isaac’s African ancestry and help reconnect lost relatives. A mtDNA would give us the best information about Sarah and Isaac’s mother and her mother Deborah’s lineage—the very information that is hardest to find in the historical record. However to perform a mtDNA test, we would need to be able to test direct female descendant of Sarah Brandon Moses, and unfortunately both her daughters died without leaving any children. This leaves us with a generic BioGeographical test, which might reveal from what part of Africa Sarah and Isaac’s slave ancestors had been taken. This would be interesting information indeed, and difficult—though not impossible--to find in the historical record. Although we know whom Isaac and Sarah’s father was, a Y-DNA test could also be illuminating. Y-DNA could be obtained either from Isaac’s son’s male descendants or any male-to-male-to-male descendants of his father’s second marriage. Learning about the family’s Y-DNA might help the family reconnect with relatives, since Isaac’s father appears to have had sons by other slave women. Similarly evidence suggests Isaac might also have had a son by one of his slaves. Comparing Y-DNA could resolve that puzzle and expand the family. In sum, DNA evidence can help us find new relatives and understand the complexity of the Jewish American experience. While the media has tended to focus on Cohen or Levi genes, for the vast majority of Jews who are regular “Israelites,” such tests are relatively useless. Yet, normal DNA tests that examine mtDNA or Y-DNA, or do a BioGeographical analysis could still yield interesting data for those interested in their
Illustrations: Figure 1: Daguerreotype of A.R.B. Moses (Abraham Rodriguez Brandon Moses, 1820-1882), son of Sarah Brandon Moses née Brandon and President of Congregation Shearith Israel, NY (1871-72, 1878-79). American Jewish Historical Society Archives, 1936.007.008 Figure 2: Portrait of Isaac Lopez Brandon, Artist unknown, Early 19th century, Oil on ivory, 3 1/8 x 2 1/2 in. American Jewish Historical Society Archives. Figure 3: Portrait of Sarah Brandon Moses, Artist unknown, Oil on ivory, 2 3/4 x 2 1/4 in. American Jewish Historical Society Archives. Figure 4: Revised Rodriguez Brandon Family Tree by Laura Arnold Leibman
HERITAGE | Winter 2015
Explorable AJHS Collections: Science, Medicine and Technology B y S u s a n M a l b i n | h e a d o f L i b r a r y a n d A r c h i va l s e r v i c e s at t h e A m e r i c a n J e w i s h H i s t o r i c a l S o c i e t y
hen we think of a “historical” archive, we often think of traditional aspects of history: events, places, and people. However, more and more, scholars and researchers in the fields of public health, science, the history of medicine and technology, have been approaching our collections as valuable research tools. Here are just a few collections that we have identified in these areas that highlight the contributions of Jews in these important areas of American and American Jewish History. One of the first to come to mind– though not usually thought of in terms of Science and Technology – but definitely in terms of Innovation and change in American Life --is the Tobias Geffen Collection, undated, 1888-1970, P-516. The collection contains the surviving papers of Rabbi Tobias Geffen who served as a rabbi in New York City (1904-1907), Canton, Ohio (1907-1910), and Atlanta, Georgia (1910-1970). http://digifindingaids.cjh.org/?pID=364879 Of special interest is the extensive documentation of Geffens’ rabbinate in Atlanta, consisting of correspondence and responsa to numerous religious questions, and various charitable efforts on behalf of institutions in Europe and Palestine. There is a large body of material relating to the dietary certification of Coca-Cola in 1935. The certification of the soft drink as kosher for Orthodox consumption was a major innovation and turning point for ‘Americanization’ of Orthodox Jews. Rabbi Geffen asked the Coca-Cola Company for a list of ingredients and pointed out the problems of an animal fat based glycerin. As a result, Coca-Cola introduced a vegetable glycerin for year round use. Geffen also pointed out that the grain based alcohol was a problem for Passover use, so CocaCola turned to a beet based sweetener. The yellow top bottles of soda are now ubiquitous at Jewish homes during Passover and go a long way to making it possible for observant Jews to ‘have a coke’ at baseball games. These changes in the chemical composition of the popular beverage reflect both the company’s marketing strategy of appealing to as broad a base as possible and the strong Jewish customer base of the company. Other responsa discuss etrogim, sacramental wine, Passover, the Sabbath, Kashrut, gittin [divorce], schochetim, etc. Another major collection not often thought of in scientific terms is the Baron De Hirsch Collection, undated, (bulk 1882-1935), I-80.
http://digital.cjh.org:1801/webclient/DeliveryManager?pid=109209 The Baron de Hirsch Fund Records document the organization’s involvement in the planning of agricultural communities across the United States and to some extent in South America; the founding and administrative dealings of agricultural and trade schools; the establishment of the Jewish Agricultural Society; and the business records of the Fund itself. In addition, the collection documents the protection offered to immigrants through land settlement, agricultural training, and trade and general education. The Fund promoted agricultural and technical training for East European Jewish immigrants across the Americas. There are approximately 30 digitized photos available of the Baron De Hirsch Agricultural Training School in Woodbine, NJ. The Finding Aid notes: Baron de Hirsch believed that anti-Semitism would be lessened if Jews could learn skilled trades and become successful in business. With this in mind, the Fund established New York City’s Baron de Hirsch Trade School in 1895. Students received a short cou4rse of instruction lasting about six months during which time they were taught basic skills. In 1935 the Fund turned the school over to the city which had recently begun its own course of trade instruction. AJHS has digitized about 30 images of the Baron de Hirsch Trade School, NY available online. The collection is almost 110 linear feet, and includes correspondence and reports of about 150 national and local American Jewish organizations relating to work with immigrants.
Of greatest significance are the Baltimore Hebrew Benevolent Society, Boston Hebrew Industrial School (later the Hecht House), National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives at Denver, Federation of Oriental Jews of America, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, National Conference of Jewish Charities, National Council of Jewish Women, National Farm School (later the Delaware Valley College of Science & Agriculture), (New York) Clara de Hirsch Home for Working & Immigrant Girls, New York Educational Alliance, New York Jewish Immigration Committee, and local organizations in cities across America.
reports and other files from Brooklyn Federation, 1909-1944 [Brooklyn merged with New York Federation in 1944] and the digitization of the Federation Board of Trustees minutes,1916-1992.http://digital.cjh. org/R/A1A5CX98TUU21CMFVRT4C656JJRJVKK2E51CKNXA6S 599896C5-00237?func=collections-result&collection_id=1924&pds_ handle=GUEST Call Number: aa-i433-fjpbot-1916
A few AJHS Collections in the area of Medicine are:
In partnership with the Center for Jewish History, AJHS has completed a CLIR [Council on Library and Information Resources] funded grant to survey 12 small regional Jewish Historical Societies in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. So far we have agreements with the Delaware Jewish Historical Society in Wilmington, DE; the Fairfield County Jewish Historical society, CN; the Greater Hartford Jewish Historical Society, CN; Providence, Jewish Historical society of Rhode Island; and that of Western Massachusetts and Central New Jersey in South Brunswick the survey results will enable us to build partnerships and offer support to our smaller colleagues and add information to the Portal to American Jewish History [jewsinamerica.org] so check out the latest partners and holdings. Since the last Heritage, the Portal has added the records of the Heintz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA and the records of the Southern Jewish Historical Society Collections at the College of Charleston, SC.
• E. Michael Bluestone papers, undated, 1913-1980, P-362. This collection contains primarily the professional writings and correspondence of Bluestone and his medical associates. Of special importance in his collected writings are a large number of studies pertaining to specific hospitals and hospital needs in various communities and material relating to the Hadassah Medical Organization (1926-1928) and his hospital administrative work. • • Louis Arthur Ungar papers, 1915-1919, P-137. This small collection has around 350 photos relating to Ungar’s experience as a dental officer with the American Zionist Medical Unit for Palestine, including two albums, one with descriptive titles; negatives; original photographs and postal cards of scenes in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine; personal photographs; depictions of military life; and photographs of hospital activities and personnel (some relating to the Rothschild Hospital in Jerusalem). • • Selman A. Waksman papers, 1886-1975, P-97.The highlights of this collection feature the photographs (1919-1968), including those taken in Stockholm where he received the Nobel Prize for Physiology & Medicine (1952); diaries kept during his many trips abroad (1924-1973), which contain scientific data, comments on the scientific developments in the various countries, especially France, Italy, Japan, and Israel, as well as the first public report of the activities of the Rutgers Research & Educational Foundation, entitled, Of microbes and men (1959). There is also personal correspondence and writings about people Waksman met during his career.
Portal to American Jewish History
Recently the National Foundation for Jewish Culture closed its doors (June 2014) and AJHS took in the remaining archival materials as well as the hard drives from the 21st Century office all of which will be processed under a Leon Levy and Shelby White processing grant to the Center for Jewish History.
Susan Malbin is Director of Library and Archives at AJHS.
Other Library and Archives updates United Jewish Appeal/Federation of North America – Greater New York Archives Project.
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We are now in year three of our four year project to process and organize the thousands of archival papers UJA/FedNY. You can read about the progress on the project and some of its discoveries on the weekly blog: www.thiscangobacktothearchives.wordpress.com. New updates include: a finding aid for the Federation Budget Department’s Annual Agency Files series, which can be found here: (http://access.cjh.org/1944506); the digitization of the minutes, annual
HERITAGE | Winter 2015
To Our Donors The American Jewish Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the generosity of all our members and donors. Our ability to collect, preserve and disseminate the record of the American Jewish experience would not be possible without your commitment and support. Mr. Benjamin S. Shapell
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Jewish American Hall of Fame
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