Within Baltimore’s flourishing Jewish community, there are organizations that are working to keep alive connections to ancestors. The B’nai Abraham and Yehuda Laib Family Society (BAYL) is one such organization that is committed to maintaining relationships among descendants of the society’s progenitors. According to Phil Shapiro, a member of the society, nearly three-quarters of Baltimore’s Jewish population have roots from Lithuania.
BAYL hosted its 115th anniversary picnic on Sept. 4 in Baltimore. The society normally hosts reunions every five years. It was attended by approximately 170 individuals from all over the nation and was recognized with letters from the president of Lithuania as well as both the Israeli and American ambassadors in the country.
Originally founded in Baltimore in 1901, BAYL is believed to be oldest Jewish family society in the world. The idea was that the first relatives who came to the United States from Europe would save their money to help other members of their families immigrate. While family societies were common in the 1930s, very few are left today.
The two families that formed BAYL are linked by Rella Krok, whose first husband was Yehuda Laib Romm, and she later remarried Abraham Abramson. The members of the families used to get together every Saturday night to pool pennies, bringing over another family member when they had accumulated $20. All of the members in attendance at the Baltimore reunion are descendants of the original family society.
Another organization dedicated to Lithuanian Jewry, Remembering Litvaks, Inc., “undertakes projects dedicated to remembering the Jewish communities that existed in Lithuania, including educational programs dedicated to researching and teaching the history of Jewish life in Lithuania and improving the physical condition of Jewish gravesites and other locations of historical significance to Lithuanian Jewry,” according to its website. Shapiro is involved with that organization as well.
The organization recently introduced the Ruvin Bun Award, which “will be given for research and education regarding the original vision of the Lithuanian state as a tolerant, multicultural society with a Western-style constitution that established a democratic government.” More information on the award can be found at bit.ly/2cJmUYh.