It’s Moses in a Landslide

Posted on April 25th, 2016 by

There are those occasions when the secular and Jewish calendars converge in an unusual harmony.  We all remember “Thanksgivukkah” and this year features the equally rare “Hanuyearsikkah”.  But this month my thoughts go to an exceptional April convergence.  Let me start with a question:

Q: When was the first time you could cast a vote for a Jewish candidate in a US presidential primary?

A: 40 years ago, in 1976, and the candidate was Gov. Milton Shapp

Milton Shapp

Milton Shapp

Well, of course, that’s if you lived in Massachusetts, Illinois or Shapp’s home state of Pennsylvania.  By the time the primary calendar turned to Maryland in late May, Shapp had dropped out, after taking less than 5% of the vote in his home state.  Another early favorite in the election season with strong ties to the Jewish community, Scoop Jackson, had also pulled out after the Pennsylvania primary.  In fact, out of the 16 candidates who had entered the Democratic race only a handful remained by the time voting took place here.  The winner, by a wide margin, was Jerry Brown.  But Brown and the ABC (“anyone but Carter”) campaign started too late to stop Carter’s momentum.  We may not have voted for the eventual Democratic nominee and president, but Maryland holds the distinction of being one of three states to vote for the only 1976 candidate who is still in public office forty years later.

So what makes this Maryland primary night different than all other Maryland presidential primary nights?  Well, by my count it is the first time that Passover and presidential primary elections have converged in this state.  From the 1960’s through 1984, Maryland Primary Day was in May, too late for Passover.  From 1988 through 2008 Primary Day moved around between mid-February and early March, too early for Passover… even in 2012 when it was pushed back to late March it was still too early to overlap that year.

But this year the match between the Jewish festival of freedom and the secular exercise of liberty is “just right.”

Now Moses did not need to run in a primary, this didn’t mean he was immune to politics.

One of the earliest references I could find to political selection was in the Parsha Yitro in the Book of Exodus.  In that section, Moses in the wilderness is overwhelmed by the burden of adjudicating every dispute in the community.  He gets advice from his father-in-law Jethro (the first political consultant?) that he should appoint a system of judges to handle lesser cases.  Jethro goes on to tell Moses “But you shall choose out of the entire nation men of substance, G-d fearers, men of truth, who hate monetary gain, and you shall appoint over them [Israel] leaders over thousands, leaders over hundreds, leaders over fifties, and leaders over tens.”

I make no claim to Biblical scholarship, but I find it interesting that the subject of the appointment of judges comes one chapter ahead of the delivery of laws on Mt. Sinai.  This sequence – officials first, laws second – suggests to me an awareness that even the most noble and principled law can be perverted by unjust or corrupted men.

Today each of us plays a bit of the role played by Moses in selecting leaders for our community.  The scale may be different, but as we go to the polls to choose a leader for the three hundred millions, I think Jethro’s advice about seeking people of substance, humility, honesty and financial integrity still applies.  Let’s follow the example of Moses and choose wisely.

MarvinA blog post by JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Planning a New Exhibit

Posted on April 20th, 2016 by

Planning for a new JMM core exhibition took a big step forward yesterday with the convening of a planning charrette. (Charrette, the French word for “cart”, refers to an intensive planning session that involves group brainstorming around a set of questions or problems – ).

Participants included members of the JMM board and lay leaders who are members of our Program Committee as well as museum professionals and consultants, drawn from the fields of exhibition design and audience engagement. Over the course of three hours, group members shared memorable museum exhibition experiences and discussed strategies for creating meaningful core exhibit experiences.

The bulk of the time was spent in small group discussions where participants addressed a series of questions relating to “balance” and “tools”. Conversation on such topics as how one exhibit can meet the needs of diverse audiences (Maryland natives vs. tourists / Jewish vs. non-Jewish / students in groups vs. adults vs. families) and how to integrate the voices of visitors into the exhibition’s design dominated the first breakout session. The second session focused on more concrete tools for conveying content such as how to make effective use of archives and objects and how can we incorporate appropriate technology to enhance exhibit content.

Members from each group faithfully recorded observations and comments on flip chart sheets.

Members from each group faithfully recorded observations and comments on flip chart sheets.

that were then posted on the walls of the room for everyone in the entire group to view. Participants were encouraged to use stickers to note the comments that they felt were most important including statements such as “Don’t forget the importance of Wow!” “Make sure that the exhibit is flexible and can be changed to keep people coming back”, “Resist the urge to show everything”, “The best exhibits are experiences and invite exploration and journeys”.

Museum staff came away feeling energized by all the wonderful ideas and insights (and perhaps also slightly daunted by the challenges we still face in creating an innovative core exhibition that captures the full scope of Maryland Jewish history in a dynamic fashion). The exhibition is slated to open in 2019 so obviously, we are still just in the preliminary stages. Stay tuned for more!

deborahA blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Once Upon a Time…08.14.2015

Posted on April 19th, 2016 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


1994189001Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: August 14, 2015


PastPerfect Accession #:  1994.189.001


Status:  Unidentified – do you recognize anyone in this 1911 Har Sinai confirmation class?




Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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