Luboml exists only in memory Exhibit: Survivors of an extinguished Jewish community in Eastern Poland have assembled photographs and memorabilia that chronicle the life and death of a small town

Fine Arts

December 29, 1998|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

"Remembering Luboml: Images of a Jewish Community" at the Jewish Museum of Maryland chronicles the life and death of a Jewish market town in Eastern Poland. Luboml dated to the 14th century and, by the 1930s, had a population of 4,000 or more Jews.

There were a few industries (flour mills, a distillery), but most of the people were shopkeepers, and on Mondays, the farmers came to town to buy and sell, sometimes 500 strong. A picture of the town square on market day is so crowded with humanity that it looks like a miniature version of Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Luboml was apparently a happy town. "We laughed a lot, it was a good life," recalled Ann Friedman Gershenson.

Happy, that is, until the Nazi hatred began to spread across Europe in the 1930s. Some left Luboml for the United States, South America or Palestine, but most didn't -- couldn't.

In November 1937, Joseph Zygielman in Luboml wrote to Nathan and Devoyne Eiger, who had emigrated to New York: "Every day you take the newspaper in hand and see that in such and such a town they broke the window of a store, looted the merchandise, drove a Jewish shopkeeper from the market. The Jew appears to the worst criminal, in whose face anybody is free to spit. The day that you left Poland should be your biggest holiday."

The Nazis came to Luboml in June 1941. They set up ghettos. They murdered 300 to 400 Jews at a time. On Oct. 1, 1942, they killed all the rest, except a few who escaped, and most of those were soon rounded up. More than 8,000 from Luboml and the region were killed. Fifty-one survived.

In 1994, a movement to preserve the history of Luboml began and, to date, the Luboml Exhibition Project has collected thousands of photographs and artifacts and recorded oral histories.

One result is "Remembering Luboml." Its five sections of texts, photographs and relics deal with such subjects as the town's history, youth, religious and family life and the destruction of its people. The relics include postage stamps, candlesticks, wine cups, a matzo cover.

The photographs are mostly of people rather than buildings or street scenes. The show is well-installed, understated and, partly because of that, extremely hard to take.

The hardest part is the pictures of the little children, smiling for the camera, soon to be butchered. They would be in their 60s now.

The museum also has a complementary exhibit, "Salt Talks," paintings by Randy Rosenberg. She was invited to the Artist's Museum in Lodz, Poland, last year as a resident artist and took the opportunity to create a series of paintings on such themes as memory, search for home and religious identity.

Some of the texts in her pictures are effective, but as a whole these paintings unfortunately fail to impart the profound emotions that must have gone into them.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland, at 15 Lloyd St., is open noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays. Admission is $4 adults, $2 children and students. The Rosenberg exhibit runs through Feb. 21, the Luboml exhibit through March 7. For information, call 410-732-6400.

In honor of women

Many Marylanders know of Betsy Patterson, the Baltimorean who married Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Jerome, and Mother Elizabeth Seton, the first native-born American canonized by the Roman Catholic church. But how many know of Margaret Brent, Cornelia Andrews Gibbs, Catherine Offley Coleman and Anna Small Eisenhart Anderson?

They are all pictured in the exhibit "In Her Own Right: Portraits of Women in the Collection of the Maryland Historical Society." It honors 21 Maryland women from the 17th to the 20th centuries.

Some of the painters of the women are well known, including Sarah Miriam Peale, with two works including a self-portrait (she earns a place in the show as one of the first professional women artists in the country). Gilbert Stuart painted Rosalie Eugenia Stier Calvert and her daughter Caroline (Rosalie Calvert was a plantation manager and investor in addition to raising nine children). Other artists of note include John Hesselius, Grace Turnbull, Alfred Partridge Klots and R. McGill Mackall.

But this is essentially a history show, built around the subjects, not the artists.

Among them, Margaret Brent was a 17th-century lawyer who went before the Maryland Assembly to argue for women's rights. She lost.

Lina Hamburger Hochschild was a patron of the arts and social welfare causes in the early 20th century.

Catherine Offley Coleman was headmistress of Hannah More Academy for young women in Reisterstown from 1956 to 1964 and was also a biblical scholar. Cornelia Andrews Gibbs was a civic activist of a curious stripe, who campaigned against women's rights in the first half of the century.

Anna Small Eisenhart Anderson published novels and was also an occupational therapist and active in politics at mid-century.

The show also includes civil rights leader Juanita Jackson Mitchell, opera singer Rosa Ponselle and fashion designer Claire McCardell.

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