There is a lot of history to review here. Please click on the links below to take you to your area of interest.
- Coming Over
- Starting the BAYL
- The First Few Decades: Putting down roots
- WW II
- Settling Back In
- From the 50th Anniversary: 1951-1961
- From the 60th Anniversary: 1961-1971
- From the 70th Anniversary: 1971-1981
- From the 80th Anniversary: 1981-1991
- Taking Stock
- From the 90th Anniversary: 1991-2001
- Into the New Century
- What Drove the Jews to Leave Lithuania Before The First World War?
- Why Baltimore?
THIS IS OUR HISTORY
By Ruth Shapiro Reinberg
Updated by Philip S. Shapiro
NOTE: Ruth Shapiro Reinberg, a niece of BAYL founder Myer Smith, prepared the first BAYL family history in 1951 for the BAYL's 50th Anniversary Bulletin. She continued to add to the history for the ensuing 45 years, and was succeeded by her nephew Philip S. Shapiro. Following is the history as it appeared in the BAYL's 100th Anniversary Bulletin.
The last ten years of the 19th century saw our FAMILY pull up its roots and begin to migrate from Lithuania in quest of opportunity. A few went to England, one group to Palestine, and others to the Union of South Africa.
In 1891 Morris Nachamson came to Baltimore, thereby earning the distinction of being the first of our clan to establish residence in America. Max Romm and Rebecca Abramson were married in London, England in May 1892. The following year they took Morris Nachamson's advice and also came to the United States. And that, we are told, began the trek of our mishpoco to the United States of America. John Romm, however, first came to Baltimore, but after a few years went to South Africa where he remained until his death in 1945.
By 1901, the coterie included the Abramsons, Rocha Nessa Rubin's family, Myer Smith, his sister Celia, Albert Schwartzberg, Eli Nachamson, his sister Fanny, Brina Siegel, Eva, Rose and Sadie Harris, Fanny London and perhaps a few others. George Harris, the Stein family, Snaier Abramson, and Mordecai Laib Shapiro, first went to South Africa and then came on to settle in the United States.
In those days, everybody was a “koptson” but each did what he could to help those still in Europe. Soon, Myer Smith’s affinity for leadership began to assert itself. Deeply concerned in the welfare of all his kin, he arranged passage and visas for those who had no means of their own and met the costs with Bank Loans underwritten by himself and a few other interested persons. He was married to Anna Rubin, and their flat at 117 Front Street, became the Sunday evening rendezvous of the FAMILY while he collected five cents a week from as many relatives as could contribute and, in that way, he paid off the loans. His confidante and great friend was Uncle Max Romm, whom he consulted on every matter and whose sound opinion and liberal viewpoint he valued very highly.
By 1904, it was decided that these impromptu, weekly meetings ought to have formal status, and in May of that year, our FAMILY held its first called meeting in the home of Yankel and Rocha Nessa Abramson Rubin at 1013½ Low Street in Baltimore. From that day on, Baltimore has been the focal point of this Society. There is some variance of opinion as to date, for there are a few who say that the Sunday of Chol-hamoed Pesach, April 1905, was when the Farein was formally organized. Be that as it may, the minutes of January 14, 1934 include the following sentence: “es is dightlich bashtimdt givoren dos unzer Farein is organizert givoren in May 1904.” We are told that those who gathered together on that memorable evening were Rocha Nessa and Yankel Rubin, Becky and Max Romm, Celia Smith, Anna and Myer Smith, Albert Schwartzberg, Zacharia Rosen and Rubin Levine. Since no records have been found of those early days, we can only relate what we have learned from those who “remember” and appreciate how satisfying for them was the process of organizing.
From later records and from hearsay, we know that dues remained at five cents a week, with initiation at twenty-five cents per person. Meetings were held every few months in each other’s homes. Membership was limited exclusively to “Blute Freundt”, i.e. to all descendants of Rella Krok Romm Abramson, or of her first husband Yehuda Laib Romm, or of Abraham Abramson who was her second husband, or of their sisters and brothers. Since the charter members were descendants of Abraham Abramson and Yehuda Laib Romm, the group chose for its name B’nai Abraham & Yehuda Laib Family Society, and declared that its purpose was to continue the policy of making loans for any relative who, as a would-be-immigrant, needed that loan, and with the understanding that when he took his place within the FAMILY he would then repay the loan. The privilege of voting or of making loans was limited to the natural member only.
The earliest available records are from the “dues book” of March 7, 1909 through 1911. Its roster reads like a “Who’s Who”, and some of the names not already mentioned are those of Jake Adler, Sarah Rosen Davidov, Fanny Rosen Hausman, Ida Rosen Stutman, Max Silverman, Hyman Smith, Abram Rubin, Hyman Shapiro, Benjamin Shapiro, Ethel Sokolsky, Etta Devorah Smith, Jennie Seigel and Ida Silver. We learn too, that Tillie Levine, Mamie Yatovitz, Rachel Silver Snovsky and Henna Ginsburg became members in 1912. In 1914, Rocha Nessa Shapiro’s family moved to Baltimore from Harrisburg. Raphael Nussen and Sarah Meyerovitz, whose home was in Harrisburg, became members at the same time, as did Max Yatt. Also in that year, Aaron and Rachel Miller came from Palestine, and in 1915 their brother Sol joined the group. The Barrons and Anna and Louis Hurwitz entered the fold in 1918. In that same year, the Morris Nachamsons returned from one of their long sojourns in South Africa and Morris became the Secretary.
Those were happy days. All were young and hopeful, aware of the unlimited opportunities for improved living standards, and all the glory and freedom that is America, theirs for the earning.
They had banquets too, but called them suppers. The reader will find the record of the supper of September 29, 1912 an interesting study of costs as compared to today’s economy. Expenses, including Fish, Meat, Chickens, Beer, Soda, Vegetables, Labor, cook, dishes, etc., were $42.10.
Our founders always referred to this Society as the “Farein,” never “Verein” or even “Farband.” All three terms were synonymous, but evidently “Farein” is native to Lithuanian Jews and it is still in the common usage of our charter members. Hence, we, who follow in their footsteps, have adopted it with love and fidelity.
In 1913, the Articles of Principle were set down. They have been transliterated and recorded here verbatim.
“Ungenumen and baschlosen Jan. 1, 1914 airklareungen fuin unzer Constitution”
- Der tsveck foon unzer Farein zal zine arop tsu nemen greeneh und zae tsu helfen do airsteh tsite.
- Ven es vairt far-laangt heelfeh far a freindt fuin fer [der] familiah, awber air ba-laangt nit tsum Farein, hut de Farein a recht tsu geben a donation nit mair ve $10.00.
- Ven a freindt vendet zich nach a loan, arop tsu brangen freindt, zal do nemmer zich far-flichten ois tsu-tsolen in a yahr de loan, in monatlicheh uptsalingen.
- De tsalingen muze zine nor de suma monatlicha up-chalingen, nemlich, a loan aaf $25.00, 1.50 a monet, fuin $50.00, 3.00 a monet, $75.00, 4.50 a monet, fuin $100.00, 6.00 a monet; ah-na ergent velcheh interest.
From the beginning, the fund-raising methods practiced have not only been unusual but typical of the self-obligatory nature of our clan. For in addition to the initiation fee, a member is charged $1.00 each time a kindly Providence smiles on him – whether it be with his engagement, his marriage, or the birth of each child.
Unlike most fraternal organizations, however, this Society has never made it a practice to recognize the services of its officers with any token regard. Conversely, it has confined its material expressions to new babies, Bar Mitzvah boys and newlyweds; also, since 1940, to those observing a 25th wedding anniversary, and in 1942, to Mr. and Mrs. Max Romm and Mr. and Mrs. Rubin Levine in honor of their 50th wedding anniversaries. Later, Bat Mitzvah girls were also honored.
The First Few Decades: Putting Down Roots
With World War I and the tightening of all immigration laws, entry into the United States all but ceased. In 1920, when communications were once again fully established with those relatives still in Europe and in Palestine, and it was learned how much in need they were of help; each member of our Farein felt that in helping his cousin’s parent, sister or brother—and perhaps a niece or a nephew, it would be like helping his own. Consequently, the dues were raised to ten cents a week, initiation to $1.00, and the semi-annual allotments for Pesach and the High Holidays were increased. It is noteworthy that these allotments were made as outright gifts – not loans – and over a period of 35 years, more or less, have amounted to quite a sizeable sum. So genuine was the goodwill of our FOUNDERS, that the need of such aid from the Farein was never strongly questioned.
The next two decades – the 1920’s and 1930’s – saw the general membership increased by some 45 of our third generations. It can be said with pride, that they, and those who have followed, joined up spontaneously as soon as each was grown and financially independent.
So closely knit has been the relationship of our relatives, that when a few became interested in Greenhaven—a rustic settlement on the Stony Creek, 20 miles south of Baltimore—approximately twenty of our families also became interested, and together formed the Greenhaven Society which was entirely independent of the Farein. So anxious were they in preserving their status as a FAMILY that their membership was limited to those who are eligible to join the Farein. Summer meetings were frequently held there.
In the early days, the duties of the Secretary were to keep the “Dues books,” and we recognize the penmanship of the auditor as that of Benjamin Shapiro. Apparently no regular minutes were kept. The first fully recorded minutes are those of February 22, 1931 when Meyer Bebchick became secretary. The meeting was held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Max Romm.
The 27th Anniversary was celebrated with a dinner dance on October 18, 1931 at the clubhouse on Hamilton Terrace. The toastmaster was Max Romm.
The records of January 3, 1932, disclose the first appointment of a committee to render any immediate help needed by a member. These minutes also disclose Meyer Bebchick’s report of a relative in Lithuania who requested $35.00 to join her husband in South Africa. The request was satisfactorily considered. Mr. and Mrs. Abe Stutman were the hosts that evening.
On May 20, 1935, Meyer Bebchick resigned as secretary and was succeeded by A. Jesse Hermanson who served in that capacity for seven years. The minutes of that period disclose the following highlights:
- Feb. 16, 1936 – the 35th Anniversary was celebrated with a Banquet and Dance at the Shaarei Tfiloh Synagogue. A testimonial, signed by the 140 relatives present, was presented to the President, Mr. Myer Smith. The cost of the banquet to the Society was $120.70.
- Nov. 15, 1936 – A dinner meeting was held in the nation’s capitol with the Washington contingent as hosts. As a token of appreciation for his many years of tireless effort on behalf of the Farein, Myer Smith was presented with a wrist watch as a collective gesture from the membership.
- Jan. 16, 1938 – A banquet and dance were held at Shaarei Zion Synagogue and was attended by 197 of the members. In honor of Uncle Max Romm’s 70th birthday the membership presented him with a wrist watch. The cost of this banquet was $106.43.
- Nov. 20, 1938 – At a regular meeting held at the home of Philip and Hannah Rosen, the new Constitution was adopted.
Josh Hermanson resigned from his office on August 30, 1942 and Ruth Shapiro was elected to succeed him.
World War II say many of our young people in the armed forces and those members so engaged were excused from paying dues for the duration. At regular intervals – according to the holidays listed on the Jewish Calendar – packages were sent to our servicemen.
During 1942, a total of $1,200.00 was invested in War Bonds which yielded dividends semi-annually. This capital outlay represented the assets of this Society in 1942.
Periodically, the Farein has been approached for contributions to local charities. On April 4, 1943, the president vetoed such a request and then went on record “that the charitable activities of this Society must necessarily be reserved for the individual members and on occasion when called upon to contribute to projects of national scope whose activities are of prime interest and benefit to all the members of our Society.”
That summer, Uncle Max Romm departed from our scene and the minutes of September 5, 1943 take note of that great loss in these words: “Acting upon the request of the President to whom Uncle Max’s death is a great personal loss, Sol Levine made a very moving eulogy for our late Uncle Max Romm. Commenting at some length on the long career and full, rounded life of this man who was regarded by the members of the Farein as a ‘Rock of Gibraltar,” the speaker expressed to the bereaved family the sorrow and irrevocable loss of our Society.”
But the sudden and unexpected death of Myer Smith on December 1, 1943 rocked this Society to its very foundations. As the only president of our Farein since its inception some forty years previous, his was the figure that formulated its policies and developed its history. His passing, therefore, made for the unaccustomed need for reorganization.
The Board of Governors met in special session on January 23, 1944, and presented a slate of officers to the general membership, resulting in the election of Dr. Sol Smith, President – as a tribute to the memory of his father; Sol Levine, Vice-President; Ruth Shapiro, Secretary; Bertha Smith, Treasurer. On March 12, 1944, it was decided ‘that a tree be planted in Palestine in memory of each departed member of this Society, as a fitting and permanent memorial.’ Further, ‘it was proposed that in order to promote and sustain the interest of all out-of-towners, copies of the minutes be mailed to each.’ That was the beginning of our BULLETIN, with Leo Folb as its first Editor.
The fact that Myer Smith continued in office for over 40 years is evidence enough that there was little or no pressure ever to oust him. But in June 1945, more than half of our FOUNDERS were gone, and with them much of the warmth and sentimental concern for each other that was the very spirit of our Farein. Our FOUNDERS had a common bond. Not only were they relatives, they were also Landslite [fellow countrymen] for they had all come as strangers to a new world.
To our men and women in the Armed Forces, August 14, 1945 meant that the war was over. As a FAMILY we had so much for which to be grateful; especially since our loved ones would be coming home, —all save one. Jerome Rottman, son of Abe and Sadie Harris Rottman, gave his life for his country while on a mission over Germany. His death is the tragedy of all the FAMILY.
But the joyous homecoming did not go uncelebrated. On January 16, 1947 a gala Victory Banquet was held in the vestry of the Agudas Achim Anshe Sphard Synagogue, and among the 216 who attended were a goodly number from far and wide. As compared to the previous banquets, the cost of this affair was $1,147.00, $150.00 paid out by the treasury.
The general meetings were soon very well attended, and it became evident that the homes of most of our members were too small to accommodate the growing membership. So—it was reluctantly decided that while the summer meetings would continue to be held in Greenhaven, the winter meetings would be held in a public clubroom—the rental paid by the treasury and the refreshments provided by a successive group of hostesses. To meet increased expenses, dues were raised to fifteen cents a week. The first such winter meeting was held on October 7, 1945, at the Trenton Democratic Club, 3701 Park Heights Ave. The hostesses were Ruth Romm Abell, Bessie Silverman Folb, Goldie Stutman Michelson and Florence Sokolsky Stutman. On November 9, 1946 during the tenure of Sol Levine, it was agreed that the second Sunday of every second month be designated as a regular meeting date.
The international problem of rehabilitating the war-torn refugees of Europe found deserving consideration among our members. However, since the dues are used for the mutual aid of our members, the Board recommended the raising of funds independent of the treasury so that the society would be in a position, financially, to meet the requests for contributions by either national or international charities. This recommendation became an actual fact when Rebecca Smith Perlman established it with the sum of $100.00 requesting that it be known as the Anna and Myer Smith Memorial Fund as a living memorial to her parents. Remembering well the lifelong zeal and selfless devotion to the purpose of this Society by Myer Smith—founder, organizer and president—those present were so stirred that the initial amount was increased to $305.00 by spontaneous contributions.
The Memorial Fund continues to be the source from which we contribute to outside charities. Its big fund-raising project is the greeting-card system, but much of its monies have come from the personal contributions of our members. Since our membership is restricted to relatives, we confine all solicitations [to those who are] within our own group. There is always something to be thankful for, always a memory to cherish. That is why we have been able to make contributions as high as $1,000.00 to the United Jewish Appeal, the Histadrut, the Society of Lithuanian Jews, and theMo’os Chitim in our considerations.
On January 12, 1947, we conformed with the international trend of adopting war orphans, and took as our ward one Emil Dresser who was born in Paris in 1940. We met the $300.00 annual cost of his maintenance by private collections, and for three years, continued these contributions through the Baltimore Chapter of the Jewish Labor Committee.
The value of the BULLETIN, as the one great news link with all our known relatives everywhere, was dramatized by Cousin Leo Yatt in the late summer of 1947, when he journeyed from his home in Johannesburg, South Africa to visit with his sisters and brothers in Baltimore, and to acquaint himself with the B’nai Abraham and Yehuda Laib Family Society. In May, 1948, his brother Maurice made the 8,000 mile trip, and we have been told it was the BULLETIN that stirred up their long-slumbering memories and resulted in their much welcomed visit. In July of that year, their brother Sol Yatt became president.
For the first time in more than 30 years, we were able, in March 1949 – to effect the immigration of a family closely related to a goodly number of our members. While it is true that their passage was paid by the United States Government and in one necessary instance by private sources, it is good to know that our petition—with the signatures of our servicemen—expedited the entry of these survivors from Nazi terror.
The annihilation of more six million Jews by Nazi Germany and the disappearance of untold thousands behind the Iron Curtain make it quite probable that any roots not dug up 60 years ago are now completely destroyed. How fortunate for all of us that the adventuresome spirit of Morris Nachamson prepared the soil for the transplanting of our TREE here, in the New World.
From the 50th Anniversary: 1951-1961
On May 28, 1950, a revolutionary change was made in the administration of the Farein with the election of Ruth Shapiro Reinburg as its first lady president. A far cry from those early days when men sat around the council table while the women sat some distance away, and the children—the interested children—stood about and listened to the proceedings.
For years we had talked of writing a history of our Farein, of drawing up a Family Tree, of designing a proper seal. But it wasn’t until 1950, when we were caught up by the impetus of our Golden Jubilee that all three were accomplished. The various attempts made to develop the genealogy of our member-relatives had failed because the relationships seemed too involved. But when Ruth Hermanson took up the challenge, she met it successfully by the simplicity of her style. The tree and the history of the first fifty years of this Society appeared in the “Golden Book” – the special issue of our Bulletin, Vol. 4 – No. 18, published in January 1951, and on its cover – for the first time – was our newly drawn coat-of-arms. It was designed by Ruth Hermanson, Ruth Shapiro and Harold Yatt. The art work was done by the late Milton Hermanson, brother of Josh. We are proud of our seal; each symbol is meaningful. The grapes and the kiddush cup indicate the vocation of the Kroks and the Romms. Abraham Abramson is represented by the scroll and quill, for he was a ‘sofer,’ engaged in the making of Sefer Torahs. The seven branch Menorah and the six-pointed stars are symbolic of the Jewish people.
The 50th anniversary was observed on January 21, 1951 with a banquet and dance the Community Hall in Baltimore. We were a goodly company of 215 relatives and guests celebrating with all the warmth and pomp befitting such a milestone; it was the YEAR OF OUR JUBILEE. We toasted our Founders, paying special tribute to our beloved Aunt Becky Romm. Everyone was happy—undeniably proud of the affiliation. For Joseph and Max Gilletz of Montreal, Canada this great get-together with “blute freindt” was a long dreamed of reality. Less than 2 years later, Joseph Gilletz returned to Baltimore for the meeting of May 18, 1952, The minutes tell us that he gave a “nostalgic speech reminding us again of the fact that we all know each other so well because of the interest our founders and parents took in fostering this Society, and expressing the hope that the younger generation would continue."
The constitution has been reviewed at regular intervals. One qualification that was clarified, and on September 29, 1959 ratified unanimously, reads as follows: Article III-Membership-Section I-To adjust the eligibility of membership to the actual condition to include the sisters and brothers of Rella Romm Abramson with the original antecedents, since many of the earliest members stem from that relationship.
The several attempts to amend the constitution so as to permit the Society to hold money-making affairs have met with defeat, thereby sustaining the will of our limited membership that we confine all solicitations [to those who are] within our own group.
Since 1942 there were six 50th wedding anniversaries honored, namely: Mr. & Mrs. Harry Abramson, Mr. & Mrs. Morris Abramson, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Rubin, Mr. & Mrs. Harry Oxenburg, Mr. & Mrs. Abe Stutman and Mr. & Mrs. Hyman Smith.
The parties have been bigger and better, if not more frequent. The cost of the 50th anniversary affair was $1,539.39, $300.00 coming from the treasury. On October 31, 1954 a banquet and dance with variety show was held at the Talmudical Academy Auditorium attended by 257 relatives and guests. Total cost of $1,872.31 included $457.31 from the treasury.
On December 13, 1959 the 58th anniversary also was celebrated with a banquet and dance with a home-talent show at the Taludical Academy. The 305 fortunate enough to attend included 245 adults and 60 youngsters. Expenses totaled $2,438.38, cost to the Society $396.18.
Our memorial “forest” in Israel, started on May 12, 1944 with 35 trees as a fitting and permanent memorial to members who have passed from our midst since the founding of this Society. The minutes of January 10, 1954 record Philip Rosen’s motion that upon the death of a member a death notice be inserted in local newspapers.
The Anna & Myer Smith Memorial Fund continues to be the source from which we make annual contributions to international agencies which deal with the Jewish People. There have been repeated discussions as to the advisability of dividing these appropriations so as to include various health programs, but the general consensus is that these programs are the national concern of all races and creeds and as such are accepted by all races and creeds; whereas, the welfare of the Jewish People remains the sole concern and responsibility of the Jewish People.
Following an interval of 17 years, our Washington contingent was host to the Family on May 2, 1954 with a supper meeting at the 14th & Emerson Street Talmud Torah, in the nation’s capital. Another was held the following May 15 in the Shul at 405 Riggs Road; followed by still another five years later in May 1960 at the same location.
On July 14, 1957 the Society favorably considered a proposal by Miriam Shapiro Cohen, that a linen napkin project be started. These napkins are to be embroidered with the autographs of all members at fifty cents per name and will be joined together, making a large tablecloth for use at our functions.
On November 10, 1958, during the tenure of Dr. Sol Shapiro, it was decided to prepare a memorial book in which would be recorded the names of all deceased members. The idea grew to the inclusion of all antecedents and descendents. “It is to be permanent record bound in leather of fine quality.”
Goldie Stutman Michelson, our third lady president, came into office in July 1960 and promptly declared the approaching year 1961 – considered to be the 60th year of this Society – a Jubilee Year, rounding our six decades as a Family entity. The first meeting of that year, on January 25, 1961 honored the twenty-four relatives who had been members for more than 50 years. Gold pins, bearing the coat-of-arms which appears on the cover of our Bulletin, were presented to each. The ceremony was the high point of an unforgettable meeting nostalgically recalling vivid memories of what used to be when these veteran members were young and hopeful. The youth of that day matured quite early. They had to, faced as they were with the hardships of a new life in a new land, and all the while remembering their responsibilities to those they had left behind.
From the 60th Anniversary: 1961-1971
The gala supper party and dance of November, 1961 at the B’rith Sholom Hall brought our 60th year to a close. A surprise feature, however, was the conferring of pins on all past presidents. Expenses for the evening totaled $983.75 – cost to the Society $340.75.
We continue with the outstanding events of that past decade:
- September 17, 1961 – The beginning of a voluntary blood bank for our members through the American Red Cross, with Harold Yatt heading the project.
- January 1963 – During Harold Yatt’s presidency, Board Meetings became the forum for all business matters. Voting was reserved for General Meetings which became mostly social.
- May 19, 1963 – A General Meeting was held in the home of Dr. & Mrs. Solomon Shapiro, the first held in a private home in more than 18 years.
- September, 1963 – A $35.00 check was sent to Ida Bebchick’s nephew in Vilna, Lithuania. The contact was established by Ruth Shapiro in 1962 during her visit with Ida’s sister, Leba Rosin in Johannesburg, South Africa.
- July, 1964 – Sam Berzofsky president – The nominating committee had difficulty preparing a slate of qualified officers. Consequently, it was decided that, henceforth, no limit be set as to the number of terms an elected officer may serve.
- October 18, 1964 – A dinner dance was held at Blue Crest North in Baltimore. 304 members and guests attended. Expenses $2,741.00. Cost to the Society $510.00.
- Kathy & Maurice Yatt of Johannesburg, South Africa spent the summer of 1966 visiting the Family in the States and attended a General Meeting.
- November 13, 1966 – The 65th anniversary was celebrated with a dinner dance at the Blue Crest in Baltimore. Expenses $1,128.00. Cost to the Society $363.00. 135 members attended.
- August, 1967 – After 20 years, Michael Smith with his son, Sol, was able to effect the emigration of his wife, Rachel from the Soviet Union.
- November 18, 1967 – A Saturday night General Meeting was held at the Town & Country Hall in Baltimore. There was a good turnout.
- No one being available to serve as president, Shirley Goldblum, Sylvia Siegel, and Sylvia Silverman agreed to serve as a presidium.
- June 30, 1971 – Jeanette Rubin Berzofsky was elected president.
- October 24, 1971 – A banquet was held at the Ner Tamid Greenspring Valley Synagogue in Baltimore, bringing our 70th year to a close. It was attended by 217 members and guests. Enlarging a practice begun in the ‘50s, all members of 25 years standing were awarded the coveted membership pin.
During those ten years, there were three golden wedding anniversaries; namely, Abe & Sadie Harris Rottman, Abe & Tillie Levine Solomon, both of Baltimore, and Jake & Dora Rosen Wineberg, of Adams, Massachusetts.
In the subsequent eight years, several members were honored at the Purim meetings for their long and faithful service. Our Queen Esthers were: Tillie Solomon, Jeanette Berzofsky, Ruth Reinberg, Bertha Smith and Helen Romm.
From the 70th Anniversary: 1971-1981
In the past five-year period, the following events were noted from the minutes:
- January 1972: Surprise tribute was paid to Sarah & Sol Levine on their 50th wedding anniversary, at the Ohel Yakov Synagogue.
- February 1972: Copies of our 70th Anniversary Bulletin were given to the Jewish Historical Society and the Enoch Pratt Library.
- October 1972: Surprise tribute for Sarah & Tissie Rosenthal on their 50th wedding anniversary. This meeting was at the home of Leonard & Sylvia Solomon.
- July 1973: Miriam Shapiro Cohen was elected President.
- December 1973: Maxene & Frank Perlmutter and their two children moved to Israel as permanent residents. However, they have remained loyal and interested members of the Family Society. In fact, together with their newly adopted son Rami, the family timed a visit to Baltimore to coincide with the 75th anniversary banquet.
- July 1974: Debby Siegel Parker returned from a two-year stay in Israel and gave an interesting and enlightening talk.
- May 1975: Boris Savilevics, son of Rachel Smith & the late Michael Smith, visited from Russia and told us how happy he was to meet all of his relatives.
- July 1975: Dues were raised to $10.00 per year.
- August 1975: Judy Shapiro reported on the meeting that was held for those under 35 years old.
- January 1976: The 75th Anniversary, held at the Beth Tfiloh Sagner Auditorium, was attended by 275 people and cost $5700.00. The cost to the Family Society was $1,175.00.
- A cherished memento of our 75th year is the proclamation from Senator Charles McC. Mathias of Maryland, recorded in the Congressional Record, and a letter from President Gerald Ford, the White House, Washington, D.C., both of which were subsequently registered with the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland.
We continue with the events of the next five years:
- Sept. 12, 1976: The Suburban Orthodox Congregation at 7504 Seven Mile Lane in Baltimore became our new meeting place. Further, it was agreed to limit all future family business to the May and September general meetings, and to the six yearly board meetings. Our membership included 140 families.
- Feb. 1977: Sarah and Sol Levine were honored on their 55th wedding anniversary.
- July 10, 1977: Mervyn Hurwitz, our president, and his wife Suzanne housed this date’s General Meeting, sponsored by the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Ruchel & Max Silverman, and attended by 130 people.
- June 1978 marked the 50th wedding anniversary of Colley and Pearl Gilletz.
- July 16, 1978: General Meeting and Bar-B-Que sponsored by the Shapiros and Smiths.
- Sept. 10, 1978: Annual memorial meeting held at the Lloyd Street Synagogue, the oldest Jewish House of Worship in Maryland and now a National Shrine.
- Nov. 1978: David Shapiro was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. Annette Silverman was appointed Executive Secretary to the newly elected Governor of Maryland, Harry R. Hughes.
- May 1979: Planning began for the 80th Anniversary Banquet to be held in 1981; with Harold Yatt and Bernard Silverman as cochairmen.
- July 8, 1979: Goldie Michelson, serving in that capacity for the second time, became the new president.
- Sept. 2-3, 1979: We participated with a booth and memorabilia at the annual Jewish-American Festival at Rash Field, Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland.
- The American Red Cross presented certificates of appreciation for a gallon of blood donated each by Martin Cohen, Bernard Silverman & Stanley Richmond.
- Jan. 13, 1980: Helen Romm displayed a plaque with our Coat of Arms made by cousin Seymour Barr, of Massachusetts, and [which] were available at a nominal cost.
- May 17, 1981: A new slate of officers was installed, with Bernard Silverman as president.
From the 80th Anniversary: 1981-1991
Our 80th anniversary banquet was held on Sunday, Sept. 6, 1981, at Bluecrest in Baltimore. Chairman Harold Yatt reported that 238 members and guests attended, and that the affair was a huge success. Of special note was the large contingent of the Barr families. Scattered as they are in the South, it was a first time meeting with other members. Total cost of the banquet was $8404.48. Copies of the 80th anniversary bulletin are on file with the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Maryland Jewish Historical Society. A letter of congratulations on this milestone was received from Maryland’s Governor Harry Hughes.
In 1982 our roster listed a membership of 183. A notable event, as listed in the Washington Post, was the 60th wedding anniversary of Sarah & Isadore (Tissie) Rosenthal of Washington.
Also, the Anna & Myer Smith Memorial Fund became incorporated in order to obtain a tax free exemption number. All contributions to that fund are now tax deductible.
Manya & Sol Smith and their daughters Dianne and Beverly became Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. When Sol was 13, the normal age for a Bar Mitzvah, he was incarcerated by the Nazis.
In 1983 Sondra Levy became president to serve for the next three years!
On November 3, 1985, a benefit concert by Safam – a Boston based concert group led by Cantor Robert Solomon, son of Marvin and Shirley and sponsored by the friends of Shirley Solomon to raise funds for the research of ‘Lou Gehrig disease’ was an overwhelming success. More than $20,000.00 was raised and turned over to the Muscular Dystrophy Society. Shirley died shortly after.
The minutes describe our constant efforts to make the meetings interesting, especially for our young members; they are the future of the Society. When we were youngsters, and our parents were vitally involved, every meeting was interesting – an occasion to remember, even though geared for the adults. Their familiar pattern was our way of life, begun at home and nurtured at Greenhaven where for 35 years the big house on First Street at Catherine was the summer home for many of our members and a natural gathering place for all the Family. That was the golden era of ourmishpocho, when kinship - blute freint – were magic terms, and cousinly friendships firmly established. On any given Sunday, or weekday too, from early spring until autumn – and often on a clear winter’s day, one was sure to find many of the Family assembled there. For everyone, especially the regulars, rustic Greenhaven was indeed Shangri-la. But, since nothing is forever, time and circumstances finally took over. Having served its purpose, the property was sold in December, 1964 and the proceeds distributed among the 18 families still holding membership.
However, since the ‘50s there have been many new family members – young and newly marrieds. And during the period 1981-1986 – inspired perhaps by Alex Haley’s Roots, we saw, suddenly, the emergence of cousins from everywhere, mostly along the Atlantic Seaboard, all eager to be identified with and to join the BAYL Family Society, namely: Harold Oxenberg, Rita Silverman, Cantor Robert Solomon, Philip Shapiro, Sonia Lichter, Barry Steele, Bruce & Marlene Solomon, Lois & Philip Macht, Diana & Marc Grosman, Frances Ludman, Cheryl & Larry Smith, Janice Goldblum, Brownie & Buddy Adler, Arthur & Maria Glick, William & Frances Glick, Jack & Lottie Samet, Nathan & Ida Barr, James & Charlotte Barr, Harriet & Meyer Schlein, Joseph & Hannah Glick, Daniel Maxwell Billig, Dr. Howard & Toby Cohen, Alex & Hazel Samet, Milton & Ruth Pelovitz, Barry Yatt, Ted & Shirley Siegel Ross, Judy & Avi Auerbach, Hinda & Stephen Gordon, Suzie & Mark Gold, Diane Douglas, Manya & Sol Smith, Debby & David Roffman, Dr. Sol & Rita Barr.
Other relatives who became members include: Darrel Smith of Mississippi and Randy Smith of New York City, sons of Sol & Dolly of Austin, Texas; Barbara Barron of Austin, Texas, daughter of Irvin & Sarah Barron of Chester, Pennsylvania; Pamela & Michael Barr of New Jersey; Pamela & Richard Peterson of Nashville, Tenn., daughter of Joyce Hyman of Baltimore; Sharon Solomon of California, daughter of Leonard & Sylvia Solomon of Baltimore; Donald & Carlotta Stutman of Baltimore, son of Florence and the late Sidney Stutman of Baltimore; Dr. Arnold Barr (Lee) son of the late Barney & Jenny Barr; Mr. & Mrs. Steven Barr (Karin); Mr. & Mrs. Sheldon Barr (Eilene); Mr. David R. Hurwitz of California, son of Leonard & the late Ruth Yatt Hurwitz of Williamsport, Pennsylvania; Mrs. Fred Pelovitz of New Jersey; Mr. & Mrs. Gilbert Pelovitz (Helene) of New Jersey; Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Peters (Linda) of Baltimore; Mr. & Mrs. Ricky Popowitz (Sandy); Mr. Larry Samet; Mrs. Libby B. Shukoff; Mr. & Mrs. Stuart Solomon (Leslye) of Baltimore; Mr. & Mrs. Irving C. Swartz (Sylvia) of Virginia, daughter of the late Mary Smith Edelstein; Dr. Linda F. Barr and Dr. Joseph Adams of Baltimore; Mr. & Mrs. David Wilson, Jr. (Ilene) of Baltimore; Mr. & Mrs. Melvin Rubin (Phyllis) of Baltimore; Mr. & Mrs. Walter Levy (Tania) of Baltimore; and Mr. & Mrs. Stephen Cooper (Betty) of Baltimore.
In the 80th Anniversary Bulletin, our chronicler, Ruth Reinberg, wrote, “It is gratifying to note the interest and the awe with which the young people who marry into the Family view our heritage. They are impressed with the prestige of such an exclusive affiliation, are eager to join, and are proud to belong. We live in an age vastly different, more complicated, more sophisticated than that of our parents. This much we know; we all want to belong, and it is gratifying to have the younger element appreciate or continuity.”
The 85th Anniversary Banquet was held on August 31, 1986, at the Bluefeld Kosher Caterers in Baltimore, MD. Leonard Solomon was the Banquet Chairman. Herbert Yatovitz, as for the past banquets, was the treasurer. A show was produced and directed by Sunya Smith, of blessed memory, showing scenes of how the members came from the Old Country, scenes at the summer home, Green Haven, and a mock meeting. Ruth Reinberg was honored for the many years of service to the Family Society. She was presented with a plaque. All of her nieces, nephews joined in singing to Ruth. There was an attendance of 260 members and friends. The cost to the Family Society was $2,438.30. Sondra Levy was serving as president then and served through 1986. In 1987 Co-Presidents, Ruth Shapiro Reinberg and Sylvia Silverman were elected and installed and are still presiding at this time, 1991. Plans are underway to celebrate our 90th Anniversary Banquet on Sunday, September 1, 1991, at the Bluefeld Kosher Caterers. Our members Manya and Sol Smith are the Banquet Chairmen for the 90th Banquet. Harold Yatt will be the MC and in lieu of a home talent show we will have more time for socializing with our relatives who will be attending from far and wide.
From the 90th Anniversary: 1991-2001
On Sunday, September 1, 1991, the 90th anniversary Banquet was held at the Blue Crest in Baltimore, MD. The Chairmen were Manya & Sol Smith. We had an attendance of 225 members and guests. The evening began at 6:00 pm with a “happy hour”. Guests mingled, embraced and conversed. Members who attended were from Baltimore, MD, New Jersey, North Potomac, MD; Silver Spring, MD; Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas and Israel. Our embroidered tablecloth was on display. Also displayed on the walls was a family tree produced by Barry Yatt.
The out-of-town guests were introduced and asked to say a few words. There was a candle-lighting ceremony. Sarah & Isadore Rosenthal of Washington, DC, who recently celebrated 68 years of marriage and were among the original members, lit the first candle. Then all of our past presidents and current presidents, Ruth Reinberg and Sylvia Silverman, were asked to light a candle. Bertha Smith was the surprise honoree of the evening in appreciation of her many years of serving as our treasurer and financial secretary. She was presented with a gold chain with an engraved charm. The evening ended at 11 pm. The 90th Anniversary Bulletin stated, “What a wonderful way to celebrate 90 years of togetherness, kindness and charity to those in need” and looked forward to the 95th anniversary in the year 1996.
The 95th Anniversary Banquet was held on September 1,1996, at the Ner Tamid Synagogue in Baltimore, MD. Harriette & Marvin Solomon were chairmen of this milestone event. The reservation chairman was Herbert Yatovitz, who it was noted had done a fabulous job for all of our past banquets as well as the 95th. There were 222 adults and children in attendance. Members and guests were from Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, California, the State of Washington, New York and Israel. Bobby Nyk, a disc jockey, kept the guests on the dance floor most of the evening. All members received a Jewish calendar and a roster.
Jeanette Berzofsky was the surprise honoree at the 95th Anniversary. She was presented with a gold chain and engraved charm in appreciation for her dedicated service to the Family Society. Copies of the Family Tree, supplied by Gerson Stutman of Acton, MA, were on display and members were asked to bring their branch of the Family Tree up-to-date. Our embroidered tablecloth was on display and many names were submitted to be added to the cloth. It was an exciting evening and especially wonderful to see children of all ages enjoying the affair.
During the period 1996-2001, we lost our two co-presidents. Sylvia Silverman passed away on February 23, 1998, and Ruth Reinberg on April 16, 1999. With the increasing dispersion of Family members from the immediate Baltimore area, attendance at meetings was limited and there was considerable concern that interest in the Family Society itself was waning. In addition, the legendary Jeanette Berzofsky had to reduce the burdens which she had long and faithfully borne in administering many responsibilities for the Society.
At this juncture, a new generation of members stepped forward to lead the Family Society. In 1998, the energetic Rebecca Flaxman Tucker was elected president, and our current roll of officers and committee chairs is as follows:
- Rebecca Flaxman Tucker President
- Robyn Hurwitz Vice President
- Jonah Labovitz Treasurer
- Barry Yatovitz Financial Secretary
- Janine Chapman Recording Secretary
- Fran Solomon Stern Corresponding Secretary
- Harriet Schwartz Schlein Membership Chair
Other family members who have committed to continue long-standing Society projects include:
- Lynn Silverman Dopkin Bulletin
- Mervin Rosen Charity
- Fran Ludman Anna & Myer Smith Fund
- Martin Cohen Blood Bank
- Gerson Stutman Family Tree
- Sondra Smith Levy Tablecloth
- Karl Yatovitz History
- Philip Shapiro Historian
Further, the following members have undertaken the leadership for arranging the Society’s 100th Anniversary, which will be celebrated in Baltimore on Labor Day weekend 2001:
- Barbara Moss Leibowitz 100th Anniversary Chair
- Marvin Solomon Banquet Chair
- Leonard Solomon Program Chair
During the past five years, the following noteworthy events have occurred:
- June 24, 1998 Reorganization Meeting
- March 7, 1999 Purim Bingo meeting, chaired by Herbert Siegel
- May 6, 1999 Approximately 35 members attended an Orioles baseball game at Camden Yards, traveling together by bus, lead by Marvin Solomon, our family tour guide.
- March 27, 2000 First ever Family Society gathering in Jerusalem, Israel, hosted by Harriet Scher. Attendees included cousins originally from Australia, the United States, and Israel, some of whom had never previously met each other.
- July 9, 2000 First annual swim party social, hosted by Lynn and Richard Dopkin and featured a video of past banquets.
- July 1, 2001 Second annual swim party social, again hosted by Lynn and Richard Dopkin.
- July 25, 2001 Pre-rehearsal pizza party for the BAYL Children’s Chorus, who performed at the 100th Anniversary banquet. The party was hosted by David and Fran Solomon Stern.
- September 9, 2001 - The 100th Anniversary banquet was held in Baltimore, as part of three days of events. The joy of this event, however, was soon overshadowed by the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States.
The physical dispersion of the membership has increasingly been overcome by the rapid development of computers, e-mail, and the Internet. With these technological advances, members can quickly and effectively distribute and exchange information.
On the Labor Day Weekend of 2006 (September 2-4, 2006), a series of events were held to mark the Society's 105th Anniversary, including a dinner banquet in the social hall at Baltimore's Beth Tfiloh Synagogue.
On Labor Day Weekend of 2011 (September 2-4), the Society had series of events to celebrate its 110th Anniversary. At the September 3, 2011, banquet, Phil and David Shapiro gave a slide show presentation about the family's roots in Lithuania and history in Baltimore.
To mark the Society's 115th Anniversary, the members voted for a less formal gathering which would given people more time to speak with each other. On September 4, 2016, about 175 family members from many states and overseas attended a picnic at a pavilion in a public park in Columbia, Maryland.
For the 120th Anniversary, it was originally planned to again have a picnic in Columbia, Maryland, on Memorial Weekend Sunday, May 30, 2021. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on travel and gatherings, it was decided to postpone the reunion until Labor Day Weekend 2022.
What Drove the Jews to Leave Lithuania Before The First World War?
For many centuries, Jews lived in a federated country call the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. It consisted of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland.
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was known as “Litva” and the Jews who lived in the Grand Duchy were known as Litvaks. Today, most of the territory of the Grand Duchy is in Lithuania and Belarus.
Jews lived in Lithuania and Poland under the rights and protections of the 1264 Statute of Kalisz, a Polish law which is considered by some historians to be the first charter of rights in European history. The law guaranteed that Jews could not be enslaved, and gave them the rights to practice their religion, organize their own communities, and keep their language and culture.
The Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, circa 1650, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/Rzeczpospolita_voivodships.png
In the second half of the 1700s, the Russian, Prussian, and Austro-Hungarian Empires annexed the lands of the Commonwealth in three stages. In the final stage, in 1795, Russia annexed the territory that today is in northeastern Lithuania, including the area where our ancestors lived. The Russian takeover changed the circumstances of the Jews in many ways. In December 1804, a comprehensive set of laws restricted where Jews could live, required that Jews adopt surnames, and weakened the powers of self-government that Jews had enjoyed in the Commonwealth.
As the 19th Century unfolded, Jews faced increasing pressures to give up their religion and their economic circumstances deteriorated. For their part, the Russian authorities reduced restrictions on Jews leaving the Russian Empire, particularly after the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881. At the same time, the United States was rapidly industrializing after the end of the Civil War and welcomed immigrants from eastern and southern Europe.
A good summary of the factors that led to the emigration of Jews and ethnic Lithuanians from Lithuania in the late 19th Century is in the article,“Opening Gates to the West: Lithuanian and Jewish Migrations from the Lithuanian Provinces, 1867-1914," by Dr. Tomas Balkelis, Ethnicity Studies, 2010, Nr. 1-2 (Institute for Ethnic Studies at the Lithuanian Social Research Center, Vilnius), pp. 41-66.
In the 19th Century, Baltimore was the second largest port in the United States. During the first half of the century, Baltimore had strong trade relations with the Baltic German port of Bremen and vast numbers of German immigrants settled in the Baltimore. By the 1870s, about 25 percent of Baltimore’s population was either born in Germany or had German parents.
The Norddeutscher [north German] Lloyd steamship line was founded in Bremen in 1857 and initially provided transatlantic passenger and freight service to New York. However, in 1868, soon after the American Civil War, the Norddeutscher Lloyd entered into an agreement with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company (“B&O”) by which a ticket could be purchased in Bremen for passage to Baltimore and continued travel to other locations in the United States. Locust Point, in Baltimore’s harbor, became one of the nation’s busiest immigration centers, processing more than one million immigrants between the 1870s and the 1920s.
Many newcomers chose to stay in Baltimore. By the 1880s, most of the immigrants who embarked at Bremen had started their journey in Eastern Europe – the Russian Empire. They were primarily Poles, Jews, Lithuanians, Bohemians, Ukrainians, and Hungarians. Baltimore also received large numbers of Italian and Irish immigrants, who came by other routes.
The German port of Bremen is near the North Sea, just south of Denmark.
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