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Voter Education: Museum Advocacy

Posted on May 29th, 2020 by

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot is today, and it’s considered the date that the Israelites received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. Traditionally, this holiday is spent eating delicious dairy-based foods, like cheesecakes and blintzes, and studying together as a community. Some people even hold all-night study sessions, as they read medieval poetry and the Book of Ruth.

Here at JMM, we deeply value the power of sharing stories with the community. We want our stories to inspire learning, growth, and inspiration. We’re doing our best to offer these stories virtually, through programs and digital tours for adults and classrooms, but it’s hard to not be able to welcome you all to celebrate these stories and holidays together. As we look towards the future, we want to ensure that we can continue to offer the opportunities to learn from each other and to do so, we need your support.

Many Jewish communities host all-night study sessions on Shavuot. This year, many groups are hosting these sessions online. In this image, three young, Jewish men sit a table, studying together.

Building on your advocacy skills from last week’s blog post, we ask for your help in protecting museums and other similar cultural institutions. This uncertain time has placed a strain on all community services, including museums. As our JMM community knows, museums are an essential place for everyone. They provide the opportunity to learn about people different from our own, inspiring compassion and empathy. Museums collect and preserve history, allowing us to reflect on the past and imagine a better future. Museums are hubs of culture, education, financial growth, and togetherness, and we need you to share the necessity of their existence.

First of all, learn more about the essential nature of museums through these reports on Museum & Public Opinion and Museums as Economic Engines. Let these reports just be the start of your learning into how museums have a huge, positive impact on their community and on the nation.

The American Alliance of Museums, or AAM, has tons of resources on how to support and advocate for museums across the country.

Then, visit the American Alliance of Museums’ website on museum advocacy to find resources like advocacy ideas, videos to share, form letters to send to legislators, and social media packs to help you spread the word that museums need to be protected.

There are lots of ways to help: calling and emailing your representatives, writing op-eds, and sharing the information on your social media to encourage others to participate.

Help us to save American museums so that we can still offer programs, school groups can still visit, and we can continue to preserve and share stories for everyone.


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Mental Health Monday: Breathe

Posted on May 25th, 2020 by

We are not mental health professionals. If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like anxiety or depression, or they are impacting your daily life, please reach out to professionals who can help you. If you need immediate help, use the National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255, which offers online chats as well. Jewish Community Services also offer help to people experiencing emotional crises.

We aim to provide some tips and guides to help those who are self-isolating and to connect with our JMM community. These ideas might not work for everyone, but we hope that by starting the conversation about mental health, we can inspire you to take a moment to breathe and reflect on what you need today to feel good.

Today is Memorial Day. Usually, this three-day weekend signals the start of summer, meaning the start of cookouts, beach days, and traveling. We were planning to open a new exhibit this weekend, which has been delayed by our closure. Instead of taking the day to work, as we had expected to welcome people to see the new exhibit, we’re taking the day off. To start the day off with calmness and to help with actually relaxing, I’m going to do some breathing exercises. I invite you to join me in breathing today. Take the five minutes it would have taken you to read my blog post to instead do some breathing exercises. Here are some suggestions for videos to watch to breathe along with. If you want to find out more about meditation and breathing, check out our previous blog post about mindfulness.

1) Live Jelly Cam – Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a jellyfish live cam that I love watching to relax. You can breathe in sync with their movements or simply meditate on the shapes they make. Not into jellies? They also have a penguin cam if you need a little cuteness in your life.

2) Relax and Breathe: Do Nothing for 10 Minutes

This video simply shows a shape opening and closing. You breathe along to the shape’s movement, in order to regulate your breathing and find calm. There are lots of videos like this, where you breathe along with a shape or pattern, that can help you to find calm in your day.

3) Kids Meditation – Square Breathing (Focus & Calm)

Have kids at home? Teaching them to breathe and calm down is an invaluable skill for them and for you too! This video teaches kids square breathing, using adorable fish illustrations. And you may enjoy breathing along to it too.

Do you have a favorite tool to help you “just breathe?” Share in the comments!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Voter Education: Getting Involved

Posted on May 22nd, 2020 by

We’ve covered requesting an absentee ballot, how to educate yourself to prepare to vote, and even what to do at the polling place. But what if you want to be more involved in the political process, not just at the voting booth? Or maybe there’s a particular issue or law that you want people to pay attention to. Getting involved in local politics, through advocacy work, is an amazing way to amplify your voice and the needs of your community. And it’s easier than most people think!

Advocacy and lobbying can be done individually, as anyone can call their representatives, send letters and emails, and even appear in at meetings, such as town halls or legislative sessions. If you’re not sure where to start with your advocacy work, there are lots of groups that provide guidance and organization, based on who they represent, certain issues, or another unifying feature. You can start by connecting people from your synagogue or church, who may be working together to advocate for the local community. Or there may be specific issues that have brought people together, such as development over a particular part of your neighborhood. If you follow and support certain national organizations, like the ACLU, there are often local chapters that are doing lobbying work to ensure the rights of the people they protect. As you research these avenues, you may find an organization that fits closely with your beliefs and values. Finding a support network this way, as you embark into advocacy is incredibly helpful, as they have the resources and know-how to help you use your voice effectively.

Working together with a group or organization is essential for coordinating your efforts and being efficient. Here Callie Cochan, Phil Casponeschi, and Edward Rosenfeld hold up signs supporting Equal Opportunity in Employment. JMM 1998.147.004.001

Whether you have guidance from an organization or not, letting your local legislators know what is incredibly important. Local leaders especially are mindful of their constituents, as they know that their next election depends on the opinions of the people and can be determined by a very small margin. Keeping their constituents happy and secure in their choice of leader is a legislator’s responsibility, and so they want to hear what you need from them. This can be done in a few different ways.

Local politicians are always looking for support from their constituents. That gives you the power to influence their decisions! In this image, women from Baltimore county hold signs showing their support of their governor. JMM 2012.054.116.044

You can always email your representatives directly. Their email addresses should be listed on your state’s government website. If you live in Maryland, you can find the State Senate emails here and the State House of Delegates’ emails here. You can also use that website to find the County Council from your area and their contact information. Emails are useful for people who are uncomfortable speaking on the phone or who cannot send physical letters to their representatives. However, sending an email is not as effective as these other methods, as it can easily be ignored, especially if the representative has a lot of emails in their inbox.

Calling a representative’s office is a really direct way to communicate what you want them to do. When making a phone call, try to connect to a person, rather than leaving a voicemail. Like an email, a voicemail is easier to ignore than a live person on the line. When reaching the office, ask for the representative, rather than speaking to an aide, so that they can hear from you directly. If that isn’t possible, make sure to speak to an aide who is working on the issues you’re concerned with. Making a phone call like this can daunting for some, but remember, taking these calls and considering your concerns is your representative’s job. This is what they were elected for, and they are obligated to listen to you.

If calling is not for you, but you still want to make an impact, handwriting a letter is another effective way to get your voice heard. When you write your letter, make sure to plan out time for it to get mailed to your representative, especially if you are addressing an upcoming vote. You can always drop the letter off directly (just make sure to check local guidelines on access to government buildings, especially during this time). A handwritten letter makes a statement of the time and effort you put into addressing the issue. It shows that you really care and will take the time to share your concerns.

Two men sit at a table writing. Getting your friends to also write letters can make your position even stronger! JMM 1993.052.183

A combination of those three methods is a great way to reach out to your local representative. When communicating in any way to local government, remember a few tips. Make sure to prepare your message before calling or sending it along. The action you want them to take should be clear, such as asking them not to vote on a bill, and you should add your personal connection to the issue. Let them know why it’s so important that they don’t vote on the bill. If you have trouble with creating a message, you can ask the local organization that you’re working with, as they’re sure to come up with a form letter that people can use and adapt to fit their personal story.

Also, remember to focus your messaging on your representatives. Your opinion won’t be as impactful to legislators outside your district or area, so it’s not worth putting your energy towards changing their actions. However, there are some exceptions to this, such as when there is a big, national law being voted on. Work with local and national organizations, to find out where you can make the most impact but stay focused on local issues.

To take it a step further, you can show up in person (or in a virtual meeting) to show legislators you care. Attending town halls and other similar meetings are a great way to find out more about a legislator’s plans for the upcoming political session and to ask them questions or to take action. When preparing to attend a town hall, work with the local organizing groups, so that you’re not going alone. A crowd of people, maybe all wearing the same color or the same shirt, asking about a particular issue will place a lot of pressure on a representative to listen to them. You should also prepare your questions ahead of time, again, making it clear what action you want the representative to take. Keep the questions short and clear, while still adding your personal spin. Keeping it personal will make the legislator see how important the issue is to you and that they need to consider your feelings.

There are lots of other ways to get more involved in politics, such as writing op-eds, attending protests, and donating money. Hopefully, this is just the start of your involvement in your community and the future you want to see!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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