28 November 2008

Maryland: Jewish history

Maryland Public Television aired a special on the state's Jewish history, according to this Baltimore Jewish Times story.

What struck Karen S. Barber the most was the oneness, that sense of unity, even during times of great struggle and adversity.

“The Jews in Maryland have, for hundreds of years, practiced the core tenet of Judaism, the idea that you start by helping your own,” she said.

An award-winning independent television and video producer, Ms. Barber is the creative force behind “Maryland Generations: The Jewish Experience,” the latest installment in Maryland Public Television’s “Maryland Generations” series.

The program covers the mid-19th century to today and aired on November 23, 24, 25.

Barber spoke with immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe, World War II refugees, local historians and others, interweaving the stories with archival footage, photographs and memorabilia.

Among the many stories she heard, Ms. Barber said she was especially struck by the tales of Jews who left the comfortable familiarity of the city to seek their fortunes in Maryland’s smaller towns and rural regions.

“I didn’t know anything about the population that went into some of the more rural areas and what life was like, the challenges those people faced in making life in a small town,” she said.

For those who ventured into Southern Maryland, Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, “there were so many challenges, things as basic as the difficulties of finding kosher meats, of getting a bar mitzvah,” she said.

Barber talked about the lengths some individuals went to sustain their identity while living in rural areas.

“To balance life as a Jew and life as a business person in Cumberland, they took ads in the newspapers to alert the public that they would be closed because it was Yom Kippur. Kids took the train to Baltimore for Hebrew lessons,” she said. “All that was very interesting.”

The program delves into some of the historic moments within the state’s evolving Jewish community, including those Jews who moved to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area during the New Deal era. It looks at the struggle to expand the rights of Maryland’s Jews, the divide among Jews regarding the abolition of slavery, and especially the complex relations between Jews of German origin and those from Eastern Europe.

There's more to read in the complete article at the link above.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I'm a transplant to Montgomery County, Maryland, now essentially a Washington, DC, suburb. I think in all things you have to get beyond the exurbs to sense the other Maryland, very much alive.