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B'nai Spotlight - Gilbert Barron

B'nai Spotlight will highlight a range of members of the B'nai Israel family who have a long and deep history with the shul. A new profile will be published at least monthly. Every person has incredible stories. Here you will find a few.  Each profile tells the reader something about the member who heads up the profile and offers interesting stories of their family connection to B'nai Israel or shul history.  The profile also provides their insights on "belonging" to a community - in short, their "My B'nai Story".  We hope you enjoy B'nai Spotlight.

 

 

 

I am Gil Barron. I'm a retired businessman who had the privilege of spending my work life in one of the most Jewish of Jewish businesses - the deli business.  Though my family had left southeast Baltimore by the time I was born I am definitely from here, and I've come full circle for my family, praying and still sometimes leading services at the only shul left in the old neighborhood - B'nai Israel.  It's all about family and belonging.

When Gil Barron was born on the 16th of October 1924 the family had already left southeast Baltimore and were living on Byron Road in Pikesville. However, the family’s American roots lie in our old Jewish neighborhood.  

The Barron family emigrated from Lithuania in the late 19th century when Gil’s father, Daniel, was only three years old. By 1900, Daniel was 14 and living with his parents on South Spring Street in Washington Hill, less than half-a-mile from B’nai Israel. Daniels’ father, Abraham, eventually established himself as a grocer in the neighborhood. While Yiddish was the Barron family’s first language, by reading the cans and other product labels, the grocery store taught Daniel’s mother, Ida, how to speak English.   

Like his father, Daniel himself was enterprising. At 17, he started his career in the food business with a grocery and butcher store at Hill and Sharp streets in South Baltimore. By 1910, the family had relocated to S. High Street.  Ida made wigs in a room of the house, which she called “The Store”. In the same year, at 24 years old, Daniel would open D. Barron’s Delicatessen at the East Lexington Market, which would become a mainstay of the Baltimore deli scene and of Lexington Market for decades.

(Ida and Daniel Barron at the deli)

In 1917 Daniel married Ida Blaustein.  Ida Blaustein, a Russian immigrant, grew up on Lloyd Street across from B’nai Israel.  Like many Russian immigrants during this time, her father, Samuel, worked in Baltimore’s garment industry as a coat tailor. He is buried next to his wife, Ida, in B’nai Israel’s cemetery. 

By 1920, Daniel and Ida were renting a house on E. Ashland Avenue. They would move on to the Byron Road house in Pikesville where they were living when Gil was born in 1924, but by 1930 they bought a house on Keyworth Avenue. Eventually they would end up on Forest Park Avenue.

During World War II, Gil Barron did a stint in the army before he joined his father in the deli. 

Though they were now many years out of the southeast Baltimore Jewish neighborhood, they maintained the connection. Gil recalls that after work the father and son would return to the old neighborhood. You might think that spending every day in a deli would not incline you to go to another deli in your time off, but Gil remembers how they often ended up at Attman’s on Lombard Street. Gil expanded operations greatly. He had the first hot dog carts in Baltimore.  The deli, liquor shop, and salad bowl were all separate stands in Lexington Market.

Daniel Barron had a very active life outside the deli.  His 1980 obituary records: 

“Although he had limited formal education, Mr. Barron was a self-taught man who was an expert in mathematics. He was a special agent for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. before entering the food business. He also received numerous awards for selling World War I bonds. A founder and long-time board member of Shaarei Zion Congregation in the 6600 block of Park Heights Avenue, Mr. Barron was also active in the Zionist Organization of America, the Lexington Market Merchants Association, and belonged to many charitable organizations.”

Gil Barron took over the deli and other operations from his father in 1968, but his father kept coming in a few days every week.  By 1969, advertisements in the Baltimore Sun promoted not only the deli at D. Barron’s Delicatessen, but their salads, smoked fish, liquors, and a catering service. 

Gil’s cousin on his mother’s side, Arnold Blaustein, introduced him to B’nai Israel in the 1980s and Gil decided to reconnect to the old neighborhood by davening at B’nai Israel. During that time he would frequently, and still does occasionally, lead Shacharit services on Shabbos. Although he isn’t positive, he believes his grandfather, Abraham Barron, davened at B’nai Israel.  In any case, when Gil walks into B’nai Israel, he is less than a half mile from his grandparents house on South Spring Street and even closer to their next house on S. High Street where his father conceived of the deli that would become such an important part of their family and the Baltimore Jewish community.

Ida Barron née Blaustein was also very active in community affairs. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the below photographic shows Ida in 1950 as a member of the Arrangements Committee of Ahavas Shalom Congregation's Annual Purim Banquet.



Standing: Mrs. Fein, Ida Barron, Mrs. Baker, Mrs. Kermisch, Mrs. Shulman, Mrs. Alperstein, Mrs. Ida Silverstein, 2 unknown, Mrs. Berlin, Mrs. Levin, Mrs. Wachter.  Sitting: Mr., Nochumovetz, Baker, Shulman, Alperstein, Silverstein, 1 unknown, Levin, Wachter

It's all about family and belonging

Though this story of the Barron family has centered considerably around the Lexington Market deli, one of the legacies of the family is more personal.

Gill brought his own children up in the deli.  The Barrons have always had a very strong sense of family and Jewish culture. All of the children worked at the market in their teen years.  "Dad would say he wanted us to see and experience how he earned the money to support the family."

Daughter Laura is now a pediatrican, and married to Elli Lieberman, a Professor in Political Science and former deli man, with two sons: Evan and Ori, both in medical school.  Son Marc Barron is now a music teacher, with a son, Ross,  a freshman in college.

Daughter Ava, recalls how holidays were spent together with both families Shabbos was a full day with shul in the morning, a big family lunch, then bagels and lox at 6:00 pm. Basically, all day with family. That tradition, Ava now carries on with her husband, Harry Shasho and their sons, Daniel and Benjamin.  While neighborhoods evolve, employment shifts, and shuls change change with each passing year, the warmth of family and the flavor of Shabbos being about family continues to extend through the generations.

Sat, January 25 2020 28 Tevet 5780