This month’s Performance Counts comes from Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik!
Today is Maryland’s “Tourism Day”—an event organized by the tourism industry to make the case to our state legislators that recreational and cultural attractions have an important impact on the economy and quality of life in Maryland. In keeping with the spirit of the day, we decided to take a look at who comes to the JMM and where they come from.
This is a more complicated question than you might think; there are countless ways to categorize our guests. We usually divide our on-site visitors into four main categories: general visitors, school groups (including summer camps), public program participants, and adult groups (e.g. mah jongg clubs or sisterhood visits that book in advance). School groups are traditionally the largest segment of our visitors, but in the last two years general visitors have been catching up and program visitors are not far behind.
John Ruarah Middle School students explore The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit.
School groups come to us in a handful of main categories—public/private/parochial/homeschool; Jewish/non-Jewish; and Day School/Hebrew School. Within these groups, our single largest draw is from Baltimore City public schools, but this year we’ve had increasing success in attracting the local Jewish schools (both Day Schools and Hebrew Schools). We’ve also expanded our educational outreach in Baltimore County, and we are making efforts to recruit more parochial schools. We have even received a grant from the Delaplaine Foundation to extend programming, outreach and onsite visits to Frederick County schools. Our programs are aligned with the Common Core standards, which helps to attract the interest of teachers and principals. While we work with students at all grade levels—from Pre-K to even college level—the average group that visits us is in middle school, particularly 7th grade (when all the city schools teach “The Diary of Anne Frank”).
City Springs Elementary School students in the Lloyd Street Synagogue.
General visitors can be subdivided in several ways as well. The most obvious is, of course, geography. We don’t have data on 100% of our visitors’ points of origins (not everyone chooses to leave us a zip code), but we have enough data to give us a pretty good sample. It is true that a lot of our visitors come from Northwest Baltimore and the immediate suburbs, but there is also a significant segment from downtown Baltimore as well as Columbia, Md. We can tell when we’ve received coverage in the Washington Post Weekend section because we can see the boost in visits from Montgomery County, DC and Northern Virginia.
Many of our visitors come from a much farther distance. I love telling people that we get visitors from pretty much everywhere in the world! Just over the last year we’ve hosted guests from such far-flung and exotic states as Alaska and Oklahoma, as well as visitors from at least one country per continent (not counting Antarctica), including—but certainly not limited to—El Salvador, Argentina, Italy, Rwanda, Japan, and Kyrgyzstan!
For our public program attendance numbers, we are careful to not double count program participants as general visitors. For example, our raw number for general attendance last December was 517, but to get the right number for “on-site attendance,” we subtracted the number of participants in our programs that took place during our normal open hours, which left us with 222 as the general attendance. Our #1 best attended program in 2014 was the Joanie Leeds Chanukah concert—we counted more than 175 guests (though a few of them were in strollers)! Program attendance is probably the category with the greatest variability. Not only is it affected by the attraction of the topic or speaker, but also by the weather and the Ravens’ game schedule. There’s just no competing with football in Ravens’ Nation!
Some spirited dancing at our Joanie Leeds Chanukah Concert!
In addition to our on-site data, we also try to track off-site contacts : how many students we reach in the schools, or how many people who come to see Mendes Cohen at an event or who come up to our booth at a festival. Still, our focus is on the JMM as a destination, and that is the data that we are monitoring most closely. It helps us make sure we spend our limited resources wisely, and it tells us something about the success of our initiatives.
Climbing the Ladder of Success in a Nineteenth-Century Boomtown: The Cohen Family in Early Baltimore
Sunday, February 15th, 1:00 P.M.
Speaker: Tina Sheller, Goucher College
When Israel I. Cohen died in Richmond, Virginia in 1803, his wife, Judith, packed up her belongings and moved herself and her children to Baltimore. Why Baltimore? Early Baltimore was a bustling port town of merchants, shopkeepers, skilled craftsmen, workers, and slaves. How did these groups contribute to the dynamic expansion of the city’s antebellum economy? Who were the people that populated the growing port town, and how did the Cohens and other Jewish families adapt to life in a city soon to be known as “Mobtown?” All of these questions and more will be answered as we journey back in time to the era of Boomtown Baltimore.
Tina H. Sheller is an assistant professor of History at Goucher College where she teaches courses in American history and Historic Preservation.
How Jews Entered American Politics: The Curious Case of Maryland’s “Jew Bill”
Sunday, February 22nd, 1 p.m.
Rafael Medoff, The David Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
During Maryland’s first decades, a “Christians Only” policy applied to those seeking public office. Dr. Rafael Medoff, a noted scholar of Jewish involvement in American politics, will take a candid look at the Maryland legislature’s debates in the early 1800s over political rights for Jews and other non-Christians –a controversy that sheds fascinating light on the process by which Jews entered the American political arena.
Dr. Rafael Medoff is the author of 15 books about American Jewish history, Zionism, and the Holocaust, including a textbook, Jewish Americans and Political Participation, which was named an “Outstanding Academic Title of 2003” by the American Library Association’s Choice Magazine.
The Girls’ Photography Project Exhibition Reception
Sunday, March 1, 1:00pm
Program included with museum admission
In 2014, 15 African American and Orthodox Jewish girls ages 10-14 participated in a series of workshops that enabled them to learn about each other’s perspectives living in their northwest Baltimore City community. They learned to use a camera, take quality photos and most importantly, got to know one another while gaining an understanding of each other’s life experiences. The photos in this exhibit feature their view points and are truly one of a kind.
The exhibit has been sponsored by CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. in partnership with Wide Angle Media. This project has been generously supported by: David and Barbara B. Hirschhorn Foundation, The Fund for Change at The Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, Nathan & Lillian Weinberg Family Foundation, The Grandchildren of Harvey M. and Lyn P. Meyerhoff Philanthropic Fund, and The Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg Fund.
The exhibit will be on display February 23-March 8, 2015.
Opening Reception for My Family Story
Thursday, March 12
7:00 – 9:00pm
Join the JMM for an evening celebrating/honoring Jewish family history. Over the past few months, the JMM has worked with middle school students from Beth Tfiloh on an exciting and creative education program, My Family Story. In this inspiring program, students work with museum staff to investigate their family roots and discover deeper connections to larger issues of American Jewish history, community, Jewish identity and Israel. Their exploration culminates in an artistic expression that creatively represents their family’s history. The JMM is greatly looking forward to showcasing all of the students’ work on the evening of March 12th and invites the community to join us.
Got Shabbat: Bolton Street Synagogue with Jewish Museum of Maryland
March 13, 2015, 5:45pm
Venue: Bolton Street Synagogue
Join the Jewish Museum of Maryland, Bolton Street Synagogue and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore for a fantastic Shabbat evening specially designed for families with young chidlren.
Got Shabbat is an enriching family-friendly Shabbat celebration at a different synagogue each month. The evening includes Tot Shabbat, a full catered Shabbat dinner and activities for young children. Enjoy the opportunity to meet and connect with other families and the Jewish community. Families new to the area, interfaith families, and families new to Shabbat observance are all welcome and encouraged to join in the fun!
During the Passover Seder, we don’t just hear the story of Exodus; we see, smell, feel and taste liberation. Prepare for this multi-sensory experience with a night of wine tasting and matzah making! Matzah and wine are both central Passover symbols. Join us as we learn about the significance of matzah with Rabbi Levi Druk of Chabad Downtown and sample a variety of mevushal wines from Canton Crossing Wine & Spirits. Finally, have the chance to make your own matzah to share with friends and family for the holiday!
As with all late nights we will have plenty of food and drink available. Contact Carolyn Bevans at 410-732-6402 x215 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions!
What the Ancient Egyptians Took with Them—and Why
Speaker Dr. Betsy Bryan, Johns Hopkins University
Sunday, March 29, 2015, 1 pm
Included with Museum Admission
Mendes Cohen spent several months travelling in Egypt building a wonderful collection of antiquities that would later go on to form the basis of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum. We are very excited to be welcoming museum director Prof. Betsey Bryan to talk about the collection Mendes developed and the Egypt Mendes would have encountered during his travels.
Egypt Family Day
Sunday, April 12, 2015, 12 – 4pm
A 19th-Century American Jew Visits the Holy Land: Mendes Cohen in Jerusalem
Speaker: Dr. Deborah Weiner
Sunday, April 19th, 1:00 P.M.
Included with Museum Admission
Travel to the Holy Land with Mendes Cohen, early 19th century adventurer and proud citizen of the young American republic. Cohen’s account of his Middle Eastern journey, entertainingly recorded in his letters home, paints a fascinating portrait of the Jewish community of Palestine and offers a remarkable glimpse into one man’s evolving American Jewish identity.
Deborah R. Weiner is former Research Historian and Family History Coordinator at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. She is currently co-writing a book on the history of the Jews of Baltimore.
Closing Reception for Learning Your Letters: Braille Art
Sunday, May 3, 2015
1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Admission is Free
Learning Your Letters: Braille Art, presented by the JMM and the Braille Art Gallery, features braille drawings of artists of all ages and all abilities, to promote braille literacy. The exhibit will be open to the public in the lobby of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, from April 15, 2015, through May 3, 2015.
This past Sunday we warmly welcomed Dr. Adriana Brodsky of Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, to speak on Ladino as part of our Sephardic Lecture Series. Her presentation traced the origins of the language and explored both the oral and written traditions. Ladino is truly a fascinating language; as someone who knew nothing about the language and its history, I found Dr. Brodsky’s presentation incredibly informative!
Quite the crowd turned out.
Also known as Judeo-Spanish, Ladino is the spoken and written Hispanic language of Jews of Spanish origin. Interestingly, Ladino was originally just the language of a Spanish province and was not considered a Jewish language until the expulsion from Spain in 1492. After the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal, they continued to speak Ladino in the communities and countries to which they emigrated. As a result, the Ladino grammatical structure and vocabulary closely align with 14th and 15th century Spanish. However, as Jewish immigrants became immersed in their new communities their native language began to change and evolve. Dr. Brodsky explained that while some Jews emigrated to countries such as England and Italy (in relatively close proximity to Spain) and were able to maintain their language, other Jews moved to Sephardi communities deep in the Ottoman Empire where their language began to borrow and embrace new words from Arabic, Greek, Turkish and French.
Map of Judeo-Spanish emigration.
Dr. Brodsky also explained that a large part of the Ladino language is linguistic traditions such as proverbs and sayings, such as:
A gran’ a grano, hinche la gayina el papo (One seed at a time, a hen fills its craw.)
Antes ke te kases, mira lo ke hazes… (Watch what we do before you get married.)
Kon esos polvos se hizieron estos lodos. (That dust brought, or made, this mud.)
Dime kon kien fueres i direte kien eres (Tell me who you go around with and I’ll tell you who you are.)
In addition to proverbs and sayings, music was also an important part of the Ladino oral tradition. In order to illuminate it’s influence, Dr. Brodsky shared we all sang a wonderful rendition of Adio Kerida:
As the talk came to a close, we had the opportunity explore the written tradition and to decode a bit of Ladino. It was interesting to learn that most of the time, Ladino can be written in using three different methods: Rashi script, Square script or Solitro script (a cursive method of writing letters) (see below).
Rashi script, Square script and Solitro script
Following Dr. Brodsky’s talk, we hosted community workshop lead by Zachary Paul Levine, Curator at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. The JHSGW is currently in the process of planning their new regional Jewish museum (projected opening 2020) and its core exhibition. As part of that process, they are turning to the community for thoughts on which objects and themes should be included and explored more deeply. Before moving into an introduction to the institution and its vision for the future, Dr. Levine had us all go around and place post-its on images of our favorite objects displayed on posters around the room. After introducing the JHSGW, Dr. Levine told us the story behind each of the objects displayed. However, he presented them in thematic sets and it was up to the audience to determine if they felt that the object fit into its current category. Overall, the workshop got us thinking, talking, and sharing ideas for this new project.
This workshop was one of the first events in our series of community programs. We have several upcoming programs that showcase community collaborations and accomplishments. Later this month, February 23, 2015 – March 8, 2015, we’ll be hosting “The Girl’s Photography Project” exhibit sponsored by CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. in partnership with Wide Angle Media. In 2014, 15 African American and Orthodox Jewish girls ages 10-14 participated in a series of workshops that enabled them to learn about each other’s perspectives living in their northwest Baltimore City community. They learned to use a camera, take quality photos and most importantly, got to know one another while gaining an understanding of each other’s life experiences. The photos in this exhibit feature their viewpoints and are truly one of a kind. We invite everyone to join us for the reception on March 1at 1pm!
A Sneak Peek at “My Family Story” objects.
Later in March JMM celebrates Jewish family history with another special exhibit. Over the past few months, the JMM has worked with middle school students from Beth Tfiloh on an exciting and creative education program, My Family Story. In this inspiring program, students work with museum staff to investigate their family roots and discover deeper connections to larger issues of American Jewish history, community, Jewish identity and Israel. Their exploration culminates in an artistic expression that creatively represents their family’s history. We are greatly looking forward to showcasing all of the students’ work and invite you to join us for a reception on the evening of March 12th at 7pm.
A blog post by Carolyn Bevans, Museum Educator and Programs Associate. To read more posts from Carolyn, click HERE.