Kander, Simon, Mrs.
Lizzie Black Kander, community service leader and cookbook author, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her father, John Black, was of English descent and owned a dry goods store. Her mother, Mary (Pereles) Black, was of Austrian birth. Kander's brother, Herman Black, was the publisher of the Chicago American newspaper from 1916 through 1933. Kander and her five brothers and sisters were raised in a Jewish Reform tradition, which emphasized the importance of helping the poor. She graduated from Milwaukee High School in 1878 and was married to Simon Kander, a clothing salesman and real estate and insurance businessman, on May 17, 1881. They had no children.
As a young woman in her twenties, Kander began working to help Jewish immigrants -comprised mainly of Russian Orthodox Jews arriving in large numbers-overcome poverty and adjust to American ways. She joined the Ladies Relief Sewing Society, where she collected used clothes and repaired them for needy families. As president of the society in 1894-95, she expanded the group's activities and philosophy, making personal contact between volunteers and immigrants a priority. Their name changed to the "Keep Clean Mission" in 1895 and quickly changed again to the Milwaukee Jewish Mission (1896) as activities expanded beyond lecturing children on cleanliness, to include industrial education, sewing, paperwork, painting and drawing. In 1900 the Mission, under Kander's direction, merged with another Jewish charity, the Sisterhood of Personal Service, to form Milwaukee's first settlement called simply "The Settlement." Settlements -- institutions founded by educated, affluent citizens to provide services within a congested urban area - were already established by this time in Chicago (Hull House) and New York City (University Settlement). Kander succeeded in attracting financial and volunteer support for "The Settlement" from Milwaukee's Federated Jewish Charities. As president from 1900 to 1918, she expanded the educational services to assist children and adults, recent Jewish immigrants and long-time citizens. There were night classes in English and American history, instruction in Hebrew, a mothers' class, athletic and cultural clubs for children, a lending library, a savings bank, a gymnasium and public baths.
In the early years, one of the most popular programs was a cooking course led by Kander and other women. Teaching modern cooking skills, they introduced nutritional principles and American ingredients, while still including traditional Jewish dishes (keeping the only kosher kitchen for Orthodox students outside of New York City.) They also taught American methods of housekeeping. To reduce the amount of time students spent copying recipes from the blackboard, and to convince skeptical Old World parents that this was an important aspect of assimilation, Kander's committee wanted to print the recipes in a book form. The male trustees of the Settlement thought the $18 expense a waste of money, so funds were raised by selling advertising and arranging to sell surplus copies.
The first edition of 1,000 copies of The Settlement Cookbook: The Way to a Man's Heart appeared in 1901, and was an immediate success. Since assimilation necessitated adjustments between Jewish and American culinary traditions, the cookbook contained Jewish and American recipes, and recipes that were amalgams of these traditions. In this way the cookbook reflected some of the foods and recipes that Jews brought with them, foods they encountered for the first time, and variants from other parts of Europe, all presented within an up-to-date domestic science framework. Also, given the anecdotal evidence that poor cooking was responsible for much marital discord, the readers of the day probably took the sub-title quite seriously.
The second edition appeared in 1903, and sold 1,500 copies. To date the book has gone through more than 40 editions and has sold more than two million copies, which makes it the most profitable charity cookbook ever. Kander served as cookbook editor from 1914 until her death, revising each edition and adding new recipes. The skeptical trustees - who once joked that they would gladly share in any profits should the ladies publish a cookbook without their financial support - would see cookbook royalties provide more than a quarter of the sum paid for a brand new building in 191l; the Settlement values of service and education would endure, even as the needs of Milwaukee Jews changed. Immigration tapered off in the 1920s, and by 1931 the group had changed location again, to a building five times larger; now called the Jewish Community Center, it offered an expansive program of vocational, cultural and communal activities, as well as sports and social events. The cookbook royalties, again, covered a large portion of the building's cost.
Kander believed that women had an important role in the family: those who were educated to keep a thrifty, clean and healthy household could keep their family safe from impoverishment, and set it on the road to security and success. Besides her work with the Settlement, Kander was very active as a member of the Board of School Directors of Milwaukee (1907-1919), where she helped establish a vocational high school for girls centered on a domestic arts curriculum. She survived her husband by nine years, and lived to be eighty-two years old. She died in Milwaukee, and is buried there in Greenwood Cemetery.
- Diner, Hasia R., Hungering for America. Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.
- Erlebacher, Albert, Notable American Women 1607 - 1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Ed. Edward T. James. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.
- Kander, Mrs. Lizzie Black, "The Settlement" Cook Book. The Way to a Man's Heart. Containing Many Recipes Used in the "Settlement" Cooking classes, the Milwaukee Public School Cooking Centers, and gathered from various other Reliable Sources. Milwaukee: J.H. Yewdale & Sons Co., 1901.
- Perry, Marilyn Elizabeth, American National Biography. Vol. 12. Eds. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford, 1999.
- Pierce, Charles, ed., The New Settlement Cookbook. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.
- Swichkow, Louis J., and Lloyd P. Gartner, The History of the Jews of Milwaukee. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1963.
Written by Anne-Marie Rachman