A blog post by Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education
During the month of June, I was out of the office the entire month. On June 3rd, the JMM held its Annual Meeting and we welcomed the new Executive Director, Marvin Pinkert. Two days later, I left with my family and we travelled to Amsterdam for three days and then travelled to Tel Aviv, to stay with my husband’s family for two more weeks. My family always teases me whenever we go anywhere, I always seem to find some connection to the Museum… so I thought I would share some of the connections…….
When we travel, I love to just walk the cities to really get a feel as to how the locals live. I enjoy shopping at the flea markets and seeing all of the yummy local foods available. In Amsterdam, we wandered through many of the neighborhoods throughout the city. On our first day, we walked over to the Jordaan neighborhood where the Anne Frank Museum is located. It was raining too hard and the line was too long so we went to a flea market near the Waterlooplein and we saw local vendors selling yummy cheese and fresh fish, Holland’s Chosen Food.
Across the street from the flea market, I noticed a sign Joods Historich Museum and we ran over to the Jewish Historical Museum. We arrived five minutes too late-after Museum hours so we opted for pictures from the outside. Across the street, we saw a sign that said Portugese Synagogue. We ran to the entrance of the building- once again, the building was closed to the public - we were too late! We did notice that the building was open to a private tour – once again we opted to take pictures from the outside.
Another JMM connection – In 1665, the Portuguese Jewish Community commissioned the Portugees-Israëlietische Synagoge, an elegant brick structure within an existing courtyard. Construction took place from 1671 to 1675 under Elias Bouwman and Danield Stalpaert. When completed, the Portuguese Synagogue was the largest synagogue in the world. The synagogue was restored in the 1850s and 1950s, but has been well-preserved in its original form. Miraculously, the synagogue survived the Nazi invasion of Amsterdam in 1940 unscathed. This building dates back to 1675. I thought, WOW, this building has the JMM beat by 170 years!
From Amsterdam, we travelled east to Tel Aviv to visit with my husband’s family for the rest of our vacation. It’s hard finding time to do “touristy” things when we visit, as we have so many family obligations and commitments. However, we did manage to get to the beach a few times – a short 10 minute ride by bus – and we went to the famous Shuk HaCarmel. I love seeing the fresh produce, the amazing colors of the fruits and veggies- everything always looks so vibrant. We stopped by the Druze woman who was making fresh pita and then filled it with labane (sour cheese) and zaatar (spices). We ate our fresh pita with hummus and tabuleh…. Israel’s Chosen Food…….
One day we travelled to Jerusalem-one of the world’s oldest cities. I love walking through the streets of the Old City. I love the smells and the exotic feeling going through the shuk. I love to haggle with shop vendors.
We stopped at the Kotel (Western Wall) and stood before this impressive remnant of the outside wall surrounding the Temple Mount that was destroyed in 70 CE. by the Romans. This is one of Judaism’s most holy places and millions of people come each year to place notes and offer prayers at this historic site. JMM Connection – Another place that is older than the Lloyd Street Synagogue… This time by a whopping 1775 years!
We arrived back to the United States, I recovered quickly from jet lag and the next thing I knew I was on a train to New York City to spend a week at Columbia University as an Alfred Lerner Fellow. I attended a week-long conference on Holocaust education sponsored by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. I spent five days in intensive sessions learning about the many facets of history and pedagogy by leading scholars in their field of expertise. Many days I was wiped out by the emotionally charged sessions.
One evening, we ventured downtown and toured the National 9-11 Memorial. We were all moved by the impressive site and peacefulness of the sound of running water in the pools…. It’s still a work in progress – Something everyone should see…..
I returned to Baltimore for one night and then our home was one of the lucky tens of thousands throughout the State of Maryland that lost power. The week was exceptionally challenging with no power and record high temperatures. Last Friday evening, my husband and I went to Fells Point for dinner- to get away from the heat in the house and feel some cooler breezes from the water. After dinner, we were walking along Thames Street and I noticed a building with a bicycle dangling in the air with lots of colored glass. My friend, Loring Cornish opened three floors of gallery space with his very creative art and mosaics and I was once again reminded of the JMM- we exhibited Loring’s work in 2011, In Each Others Shoes. Friday night, Fells Point, after hours… I am reminded of work… at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.