A few weeks ago I met an old friend who I had not seen for many, many years. We spoke about our lives and our jobs and she asked me, “What does the program director do at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.” So, I thought I would blog about what I do at the JMM! Over the past ten days, I feel like I have traveled all over the world, between the many public programs and outreach opportunities that the JMM has participated in…… Here are some of the highlights…
We visited Holland on February 24th when we held a book launch/Dutch tea and reception for the newest JMM publication, “18 Stones.” We welcomed noted author and illustrator, Susan L. Roth and Nancy Patz, to the JMM whereby our visitors learned from the artists how the book came to be. “18 Stones” derives its title from the Jewish practice of leaving small stones on a grave. Actual photographs of Dutch Jews in the 1930s were the source for Patz’s oil pastel and charcoal portraits, which are accompanied by Susan Roth’s prose poems. Daily life before the Holocaust is evoked by artworks as “The Marriage of Grietje and Aron,” in which the newlyweds seem to have so much to look forward to, and “The Recipe for Apple Kuchen,” in which the portrait of a smiling woman is accompanied by her recipe for an apple cake. Visitors to the event enjoyed Dutch treats of Gouda and edam cheeses, licorice, and chunks of thick bread with sweet butter and chocolate sprinkles. I imagined myself walking along the canaled streets of Amsterdam and seeing a young girl that looked like Anne Frank talking to a school friend.
On Sunday, February 27th, the JMM welcomed noted author, Antero Pietila (an immigrant from Finland) who wrote the acclaimed book, Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City. Antero’s book examines many of the famous neighborhoods of Baltimore and describes how segregation shaped our city, and how the migration from white to Jewish to black in many neighborhoods and its exploitation created the slums in Baltimore. Following Antero’s talk, celebrity radio host, Marc Steiner moderated a panel that included residents (both former and present) of the Reservoir Hill neighborhood. I imagined myself living in the 1940’s, growing up as a teenager around Druid Hill Park as I was listening to the panel.
The next day, my colleague and friend, Simone Ellin (JMM Marketing director) got on a train and headed to Philadelphia to participate at the CAJM (Council of American Jewish Museums) Conference. We had the opportunity to meet other colleagues from all country and from Jewish museums all over the world. At the conference, we had the opportunity to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art where we were the first group to see the new exhibition, “Paris Through the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle,” that looks at the influence that Paris had on Marc Chagall and his fellow modernists from 1910 to 1920. Just for a few moments, I imagined myself on the Champs-Elysees sipping a coffee at a sidewalk café.
My friend Simone and I also had time for a bit of fun while in Philly. We took in the movie Black Swan and we also visited the Eulogy Belgian Tavern, one of Philadelphia’s premier dining institutions that feature 21 drafts and 300 different bottled beers. The food is award winning and the restaurant is owned by a Belgian American family and staffed with a few employees from Belgium. I remembered walking along some of the streets in Antwerp on Christmas Eve with my brother Jay and longing to eat all of the chocolate that I saw in the storefronts and seeing the Manneken Pis everywhere I turned.
This week, my position as program director started off with two programs sponsored by the Jewish Museum of Maryland. We welcomed Lori Turner and Music Monkey Jungle/Kinderlach Rock to the JMM for a rockin’goodtime concert for the preschool set. At the same time, the JMM was also invited to participate at the 51st Annual Interfaith Institute at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. The year’s topic was “Immigration Challenges: Religious and Ethnic Responses.” The JMM’s program, Coming to America: Student Immigration Stories was highlighted at the conference.
This educational initiative was developed by the JMM and is designed to promote immigrant students from Baltimore City Public Schools to share their stories of immigration with other BCPS students. The JMM has the good fortune of working with two consummate professionals on this program, acclaimed storyteller, Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff and ESOL teacher extraordinaire, Sally Franklin. These ladies both joined me on Monday at the program and the crowd of over 200 people had the privilege of listening to the stories of Patterson High School students Muluburan Bahre, from the African nation of Eritrea and Pablo Joseph Muñoz from El Salvador. These students were so eloquent and poised telling their own stories that I found myself transported with Muluburan and Pablo to their native homelands of Eritrea in Northeast Africa and El Salvador in Central America.
It’s been an exciting ten days at the JMM! I wonder where the next few weeks will take me.