For the past three decades, Pikesville resident Sarajane Greenfeld has attended gatherings presented by The Lecture Group, which is celebrating its centennial this year.
“I love going,” she says. “It’s just a part of my life. Wednesday morning is Lecture Group. Every speaker has his or her own special charisma.”
Since 1917, The Lecture Group – a Baltimore-based outfit with approximately 200 members and a waiting list — has met every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to noon. At the gatherings, speakers share their knowledge and expertise on a seemingly infinite number of topics related to art, music, history, current affairs and politics.
Although its current home is Pikesville’s Temple Oheb Shalom, The Lecture Group has met at different locations and explored myriad topics throughout its long history. When founded during World War I, it was known as the Child Lecture Group of the Child Study Association of America, according to Sharon Sagal, chair of The Lecture Group.
“They were a group of young women with young children, and for their own sanity, I guess, they got together to meet and socialize,” she says.
Sagal says Dr. Florence E. Bamberger, a noted professor of education at the Johns Hopkins University, first assembled the group.
“She was their adviser,” Sagal says. “But they decided they liked themselves as their own entity, so they broke off from the Child Study Association and incorporated as The Lecture Group.”
In 1933, the group shifted from its parenting focus to more general topics. Members met at the Phoenix Club, a German-Jewish society fraternal order at 1505-1507 Eutaw Place.
During World War II, The Lecture Group faced the possibility of having to close. Many members were unable to reach the meetings due to a gasoline rationing.
But determined to continue, the group relocated to the Central Library of the Enoch Pratt Free Library and held lectures there, even as membership dwindled. “They thought of everything in order to keep going,” says Sagal.
In recent years, the group has undergone many transitions. For one thing, men are now permitted to join this once women’s-only group. A committee was also established to recommend, select and recruit speakers.
Program chair Karen Egorin-Yaker says establishing a committee provided an opportunity for more eclectic speaker selections. “It just brought in such wonderful people because everybody had different contacts,” she says.
To ensure that new and topical subjects are covered each year, the committee plans two years in advance. For the upcoming 2017-2018 program, the group’s lecturers include “Shark Tank” winner Evan Lutz, CEO of Hungry Harvest, a fresh produce delivery service; Lynn Levy, a Baltimore-based private investigator; and Sandra Livingston, a retired educator who will present a program titled “One Hundred Years of Song.” After the lectures, there will be a question-and-answer period.
“One particular meeting impressed me a lot because the speaker was a very well-known author,” says Erma Sigler, a longtime committee member. “She wrote books about sex education for children. We thought it was very natural and important.”
Says Egorin-Yaker: “Some of the great joy of doing this is to know that you are exposed to things in a way that you ordinarily would not have been. The topic may not be what intrigues you, but by the time you walk out you are full of things to think about. You get old if you sit still.”
For information about joining The Lecture Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vera Livshin is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
Top Photo: Members of The Lecture Group, from left, Erma Sigler, of Park Heights, Karen Egorin-Yaker, of Greenspring, Sharon Sagal, of Pikesville, and Sarajane Greenfeld, of Park Heights, sit at Sigler’s home Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. (Photo by Steve Ruark)
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