Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Indiana Historical Marker Dedicated!

This past labor day, about 75-100 people gathered at Ahavath Sholom to dedicate an Indiana Historical marker. This marker was the result of almost two years of fundraising, researching, and writing and it was all worth it. The Ligonier Historical Society got a 125th birthday cake for the 1889 Ahavath Sholom synagogue building, we had a silent auction and period liturgical music playing in the background, and yours truly gave an architectural building tour! While it was swelteringly hot, the mayor of Ligonier came to celebrate with us as we dedicated the marker and read a poem that was read during the dedication of the building, 125 years ago. 

Below is the text of the marker that is cast aluminum, powder-coated blue with gold-lettering.

Side 1:
German Jews immigrated to the U.S. in greater numbers starting in the 1850s. In the 1860s,
Ligonier’s Jewish residents formed the congregation Ahavath Sholom (Hebrew for “peace loving”) and circa 1867, built a small synagogue nearby. The congregation formed close relationships with local churches. The Jewish community prospered, providing civic and business leaders.

Side 2:
In 1889, the congregation dedicated a new synagogue here. Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, founder of American Reform Judaism, spoke on religious tolerance at the dedication; the celebration included people from other cities and states. Jewish population peaked around 1900, later declining as younger residents moved to larger cities for educational and economic opportunities.

Credit Line:
Installed 2014 Indiana Historical Bureau, Ligonier Historical Society, Ligonier Public Library, and Indiana Jewish Federation Friends of Ahavath Sholom. 

If there had been more space on the sign, we would have loved to individually list the names of our generous donors whose excitement and monetary contributions made the marker possible: the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana; the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne; the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis; the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley in South Bend; and the Michiana Jewish Historical Society.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It's all happening so fast!

There is so much happening at Ahavas Sholom this month that I have to share with you my excitement!

First, the Ligonier Historical Society (LHS) has finished cataloging all the 3D objects and 2D paper items in the collection. This process has taken two years and would not have been possible without the help of all the LHS member-volunteers. Once our catalogs and finding guide are finalized this fall, I will be posting them to the blog so researchers, Ligonier community members, and anyone who is interested can dig around and discover what's available at the LHS.
Archival boxes hold hundreds of years of Ligonier paper items.
Post-it notes will be replaced this week with permanent box labels. 
3D items were placed in waterproof tubs and inventoried for lower level storage.
Archival silica packets placed inside the tubs wick away any additional moisture.
Items too big for the tubs will be stored on the main level. 

Secondly, last year, we applied for an Indiana Historic Marker. The application process was quite competitive and there were three long steps involved. The cost of the marker is $2,050 and all four Jewish Federations and the Michiana Jewish Historical society have pledged funds to make up the balance of the marker and I am taking care of all the administrative tasks as a volunteer. The Ligonier Historical Society will host the dedication celebration festivities in early-mid September. More updates on this to come later this month! I truly believe that State recognition (the building is already on the National Register for Historic Places) will help us not only to secure future funding, but also to insure the building is maintained and appreciated for years to come. Learn all about Indiana's historic marker program by clicking here! 

Finally, the LHS/1889 Ahavas Sholom Temple building will be open for visitors by the end of the month. The summer exhibit celebrating the 125th anniversary of the temple will take visitors back in time to what Ligonier looked like in the 1880s and 1890s. Stay tuned for a "Visitors" tab to include opening dates, times, and contact information!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Record workshop day and a very sweet visitor!

Thanks to Jeana, Everett, Dan, Jed, Ann, and Angie, we were able to get a lot accomplished at Ahavas Sholom this past Saturday! This time we divided into teams and worked on three organizing/archival projects.

First, Dan, Ann, and Jeana worked to organize "Ligonier Schools 005" collection. They organized this collection into five archival boxes. A lot of the material in this collection is oversized and we still have these oversized items yet to organize next time.

Second, Jed and I worked on compiling the Historical Society's finding guide. As Jed brought each of the 49 boxes my way, we gave the box a title and recorded each folder's name. Now we are able to see the bulk of the holdings of the Historical Society as well as search by key word! As we add more information to this document, it will only become more and more useful to anyone and everyone interested in Ligonier's history.

Third, Jeana and Angie worked to organize the administrative materials of the Historical Society. While sorting through educational materials, guides, receipts, donation papers, and other items related to the Historical Society, Jeana and Angie also found many archival documents that were later interfiled into our five archival categories and 49 boxes.

The Kidd Marshmallow mural in Ligonier.
The Circle K "hecksher" (kosher symbol)
At around 2pm, we had a very sweet visitor to our workshop: Chris Kidd, of the former Kidd Marshmallow Company. Kidd Marshmallow Company was Ligonier staple for three generations before it recently closed. A few months ago, I received an inquiry from a filmmaker interested in making a film about American confection-making. He wanted photos and video footage of the Kidd Marshmallow Factory and Everett knew Chris would be the one to ask! Chris was nice enough to bring two videos and several photographs of Kidd Marshmallow when it was in operation. He also donated several other items of significance to the Historical Society. Before he left, I asked Chris how Kidd's made kosher marshmallows and he gave me the whole scoop! Twice a year (or so) Kidd's would close down normal operations and a Circle K rabbi would come to observe the cleaning of the equipment (of course the equipment was cleaned constantly, but twice a year a rabbi watched in order to certify the marshmallows as kosher). Then, the recipe was altered to substitute the regular gelatin with kosher beef gelatin. Chris told us a funny story about the testing that was involved for the kosher marshmallows and how they attempted to use a vegetable cellulose to make "pareve" (not meat or dairy) marshmallows. Disaster ensued as a tan-colored slime emerged! This was far from the delicious powdery-white fluffy marshmallows we all grew up with as.... Kidds.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Ligonier Jewish community papers... Check!

Even with a small crowd, this past Saturday we managed to sort all the Ligonier Jewish Community papers. We found all types of papers: personal correspondence, calling cards, bank statements, cemetery deeds, family photographs, business memos, meeting minutes, lawsuit papers, holiday cards, the list goes on and on! Some of the earliest materials dated to the 1880s. But we also found things, like these cancelled checks by the Ahavas Sholem Cemetery Association, as late as the 1960s.

All in all we sorted ten boxes of Jewish community materials (they are the boxes down in front in the photo below). Some of the papers were too large to put into the boxes. In these cases, we labelled them as "oversized materials" and will measure them for an appropriate box. 

Next up: March 22nd, our final set of 2D materials, Ligonier Schools! Please let me know if you'd like to volunteer to help us in this ongoing venture; if you love history like all of us, you'll fit right in! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Lost Shul in Burlington, VT

I just read this article in the Forward newspaper about a turn-of-the-century synagogue mural discovered in Burlington, VT. The community is calling the restoration of this mural and its relocation to a site nearby the "Lost Shul" project. The article describes the congregation who commissioned the mural as well as the accomplished artist who painted it. The story is truly one of inspiration and beauty.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

27 boxes down! 2 more series to go!

This past Saturday Jeana, Everett, Cyndi, Dan and even Dan's wife and my mom came out to continue sorting archival subject "Ligonier People." We divided this subject into several series including "Beverforden family," "Churches," "Perry Township Home Economics Club," "Ligonier Regulators," and well, the list goes on and on! We've sorted piles of paper neatly into 27 tidy archival boxes so far. Nothing is more satisfying than lining the boxes up at the end of the day and soaking it all in!

While I think we've ordered enough letter-sized archival boxes and folders, I do think we'll need some additional archival supplies. If you'd like to donate one or more of the following to our project, please shoot me an email and I'll be happy to coordinate the donation!

  • Post it notes: just regular old 3x3 Post its in whatever color you can find. 
  • Plastic paper clips: (we probably need about 1,000 or more) 
  • Acid free paper to sandwich acidic photos (for now) and highly acidic newspaper clippings.
  • Archival box labels: Gaylord ML0600 acid-free shipping labels. 
  • Legal-sized archival folders: Gaylord AF200HW folders. 
We still have four more workshops scheduled for this spring and two more subject collections left to sort. In addition, we have several scrapbooks, ledgers, and other bound volumes to get through. Wish us luck, but better than that, come join us in our cataloging efforts in February!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Indiana's historic synagogues are truly loved

Maggie of the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley just sent me this wonderful video clip of the Sons of Israel synagogue in South Bend and the restoration work that was done there over the past few years. The synagogue is now a shop for baseball paraphernalia, but it has been immaculately restored and cared for.

The synagogue was built in 1901, making it the third-oldest synagogue still standing in Indiana (our very own Ahavas Sholom is the second-oldest), and boasts an incredible sanctuary, almost castle-like pillars, and an impressive facade. I have yet to visit the synagogue, but I have a feeling I will be going this summer to check out the building, see a baseball game and hopefully, get a kosher hot dog! I'm sure I can persuade my mom to come along... that won't be difficult!