Voices from My Childhood

Posted on July 1st, 2015 by

SuperKids, a summer camp program, is organized by a nonprofit called Parks and People Foundation. The organization is “dedicated to supporting a wide range of recreational and educational opportunities; creating and sustaining beautiful and lively parks; and promoting a healthy natural environment for Baltimore.” So it’s only fitting that SuperKids takes a group of young, inquisitive learners around different places in Baltimore, expanding their environmental sights and experiences as well as their vocabulary list. The Jewish Museum of Maryland has been privileged to be one of these sites for the last few years during their Jonestown neighborhood tour.

On a wet and muggy Tuesday morning, a yellow school bus reminiscent of my own elementary school days brought 25 eager students to the museum’s red brick road. They were extremely well behaved for kids who would essentially be on a different field trip every day for the summer. It was me who couldn’t contain the excitement of seeing my fellow peers (I may look like a 20-something year old, but I’m a child at heart). Since the group was too large to take all at once, Lois, one of our super volunteers, took half of the kids on a tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue while Falicia and I took the other half to do two activities- a scavenger hunt in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit and an archaeology puzzle activity.

I’ve never been one to simply observe, so here I am “making” a traditional Sabbath dinner with some of the kids while reading them the newspaper.

I’ve never been one to simply observe, so here I am “making” a traditional Sabbath dinner with some of the kids while reading them the newspaper.

While Falicia helped with the archaeology “dig,” I assisted with the Voices of Lombard Street portion where the talk of immigration brought back my own memories of my parent’s journey to this country from South Korea for the “American Dream.” Unlike the Jewish immigrants who came to Baltimore on a ship, my parents took a plane, and they weren’t fleeing religious persecution. But I remember rolling my eyes at my parents every time they lectured me on how hard they worked to build a nice home for the family, and how they too worked menial yet necessary jobs beyond their intelligence and skills. I remember threatening my parents to call child services for making me work at their dry cleaners on my free Saturday, only to be bribed by McDonald’s. Like Paul Wartzman whose mom used to make gefilte fish every Friday, my grandmother used to make dduk-mandu-guk (rice cake and dumpling soup) every Sunday. And how my mom used to drive out of her way to go to a Korean market not just for authentic Korean food from the Motherland, but for human interaction with people who also spoke her native language.

This is me, age eight, standing in front of my new house being built. Although we only lived here for a year, this was a milestone for my family because it was the first home that truly belonged to us. No more living in relative’s homes and no more renting.

This is me, age eight, standing in front of my new house being built. Although we only lived here for a year, this was a milestone for my family because it was the first home that truly belonged to us. No more living in relative’s homes and no more renting.

And for me to now teach elementary school kids about that same topic brings this whole experience to a full circle. To set the record straight, I’m a natural born U.S. citizen and I’ve learned to not take that for granted.

I’m not Jewish. My family is Christian, and in fact, I’m part of a very loving and active church community. I came to work at this museum, excited to learn about another religion and perhaps learn more about my own. I didn’t expect to have much in common with those who lived on Lombard Street, but as I talked about each part of the exhibit to the students, I saw my own childhood in the quotes hanging on the walls.

It’s funny how June was Immigrant Heritage Month and on the very last day, it took a group of kids to make me realize how important that month should have been to me. If SuperKids were real superheroes, their superpower would be sparking a child-like spirit, curiosity, and wonder in adults. I certainly feel rescued. I may not have a degree in teaching, but I’m still so honored to be a small part of that process, and I look forward to a summer filled with SuperKids!

IMG_0993A blog post by Education Intern Eden Cho. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

 

 

 

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Pause for Thought

Posted on July 1st, 2015 by

“You see what she did there? That’s good. That’s really good. You hear that? She paused. That silence makes people feel like they need to say more—like they need to fill the space. You can get some great stuff that way.”

Karen Falk, our curator at the museum, is sharing with me some tricks of the trade before I conduct an informal oral history over the phone the following day.

And these are tricks that I could definitely use—I’ve sometimes been known to exhibit signs of mild tremors when asked to even ring up distant relatives. While the idea of speaking with a stranger about their career choices and personal values is then definitely a little intimidating at first, it’s actually not so much the conversation that puts me on edge, but rather something about the nature of speaking over the phone. It’s precisely that pause that Karen keeps talking about—the lingering silence that makes my palms sweat as imagine the other person’s expression on the receiving end.

The tools of the trade!

The tools of the trade!

We’re conducting these interviews as part of our research for the museum’s upcoming exhibit, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America (set to open in March of 2016). A common occurrence at the museum  as many of the exhibits maintain a unique first person perspective, I’ve already read through five oral history transcriptions conducted with medical professionals (or their family members) who worked in and around Baltimore during the 50s.  We’ll eventually use these interviews either as brief quotes in the soundscape of the exhibit, or in their more complete form and create a listening station for visitors to enjoy on their own.

However they ultimately become incorporated into the exhibit, this unique opportunity to explore these stories was one of things I looked forward to most when I began this internship a month ago and has truly been an incredibly fascinating, and at times, even humbling experience. One interviewee spoke about Jewish quotas in nursing schools when her sister applied in the early 1950s and the blatant antisemitism she was confronted with by the administration. Another weaved colorful stories about a family business fabricating anatomically correct plastic models for medical schools. Nearly every oral history transcription I read highlighted a sense of the interconnectedness of medicine and Jewish values—of a shared notion of the tradition of community care and the sanctity of human life.

Reading these personal insights made me all the more excited to organize my own oral history interview, to be conducted with a current nurse practitioner student in New York.  With this conversation and a few others, Karen is looking to acquire more contemporary perspectives in the field and I look forward to uncovering the new stories and experiences of someone not much older than myself. But then my early onset Parkinson’s flares up again…

Despite my growing nervousness, the following afternoon I felt confident in the knowledge that I was at least formally prepared. Armed with a few more insider tricks from Karen, a prepared list of some twenty questions, and an intimidating piece of recording equipment, I felt pretty well equipped. And, for the most part, I was. I successfully managed to set up the microphone, I asked the questions we had prepared, and somehow even overcame the impulse to fill the static void that inevitably arose. But what I wasn’t at all expecting was to be so blown away by my interviewee’s perspective and career choices, so much so that the silence that hung in the air wasn’t as piercing as I anticipated it to be. In fact, it wasn’t unsettling at all.

I realized, admittedly only after hanging up, that this phone call in fact allowed me to let her words speak entirely for themselves—liberated from the visual stimuli that can otherwise distract or distort our impressions. The lingering pauses that I am now playing back as I transcribe the interview don’t magnify the unease I felt, but rather the power of her words.

IMG_0999A blog post by Exhibitions Intern Elizabeth Livesey. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

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Once Upon a Time…11.07.2014

Posted on June 30th, 2015 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church at 410.732.6400 x236 or email jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

 

1994111003Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  November 7, 2014

PastPerfect Accession #:  1994.111.003

Status:  Unidentified! Do you recognize from your own family photos anyone from this Shaarei Tfiloh Confirmation class, taking in Patterson Park in front of the pagoda in 1917?

 

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