It’s All About Making Connections…

Posted on April 16th, 2018 by

A blog post by Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

Sometimes, being the Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement can be very stressful-trying to meet deadlines, meeting school groups, developing education resources.  Many days are harried, many days are just plain FUN, and at the end of the day- our work is about making those meaningful connections.

Let’s go back to last Thursday. The school group from the NAF Academy has arrived at the JMM – their visit includes a tour of the historic synagogues, where the students will learn about the different immigrant groups that used the building and about Jewish rituals and traditions.  The students ask great questions and enjoy learning about Judaism and Baltimore history less than 1 mile from their school.

This group was the first group of students that went through Amending America: The Bill of Rights.  The students were given a gallery guide to help them self-guide through the exhibit.  The students were engaged as the meandered through the gallery.   I looked up and I saw one of the students call out to his buddy, “Hey, get a picture of this!”  I looked up and instantly- a smile came to my face- this student saw himself at the March on Washington D.C in August 1963.

He was connecting to the exhibit, he saw himself as one of the protesters marching for civil rights back in history!  Our hope is that students find personal connections to our exhibits.

Less than 15 minutes after the group left, I hopped in my car and headed to John Carroll High School in Bel Air, Maryland.

John Carroll is a Catholic High School in Harford County and the JMM has a strong relationship with the school.  We were invited to be a part of the #TogetherWeRemember program that honors the millions of victims that were killed during the Holocaust and other genocides that have occurred in our lifetime.  #TogetherWeRemember combines, technology, art, and activism to transform remembrance to of past atrocities into a powerful tool for building peace in the present.  I went up to John Carroll because I volunteered to be a reader of names of victims.

Never would I imagine that reading the list of names would be so incredibly powerful. I was given a list of about 100 names, all who were victims of the Holocaust.

As I began to read the names, I noticed a common thread, the first names were either Moises, Chaim or Chaya.  In fact, these three names were the only names that I read for the 10 minutes.  As I got further in the list, it struck me that I kept repeating my own Jewish name, Chaya.  In fact, I repeated the name 44 times throughout the 10 minutes.

I got off the podium, slightly drained and emotional.  I was thinking about the 44 women who perished during the Holocaust- their families- and if anybody ever says their name and remembers that they once lived during the 20th century.  So powerful.

This Thursday, April 19, 2018, you can be a part of this powerful program too as the JMM is hosting a #TogetherWeRemember program @ 7:00 p.m.

Sign up, bring a group of friends, make your own connections and be a part of this transformative program.


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Take a Bow!

Posted on April 13th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts is brought to you through the joint efforts of our Visitor Services Coordinator Paige Woodhouse and our Interim Program Manager Lindsey Davis.


The Jewish Museum of Maryland has sounded a bit different over the past couple of months.

Usually one of the quieter Lloyd Street neighbors, our lobby echoed with the sounds of Punk Rock, Sephardic Ladino fusion, and Hollywood legends. From February 11-March 25th, 10 full days and 16 different programs brought 393 visitors in to the Museum specifically to attend JMM Live! Our JMM Live! series included three films, nine musical events, two author talks, and three theater performances. The turnout was outstanding – and nearly 20% of event attendees were new visitors to the Museum.

Our guests came from all over – Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kansas City, Missouri. And if we’re going to mention distance, we must also mention our Q&A Skype with South Korea!

JMM Live! also saw quite a bit of “repeat business.” Miriam Winder Kelly was our #1 audience member, attending seven separate programs!

But she had some competition, with 3 “runners up” each attending five different programs, and 2 more folks attending four programs each!

The JMM Live! series was, above all else, full of surprises and new experiences.

Never before have we played Yiddish punk rock videos on our projector, or had first-hand accounts told from the stage about Jazz clubs and the Jewish Mafia. We welcomed the tales of Gershwin and Hammerstein, listened to one-woman plays, and heard true stories from our living history characters. We even held a few dance parties in our library as our little ones not only listened but danced to – and made – their own music.

Our performers were gracious, talented, and warmed by the reception they received from our audience members.

From all of us at the JMM, we’re grateful for your willingness to participate differently, help us express ourselves creatively, and your ability to be challenged intellectually through new stories and new methods of storytelling. As the curtain closes on JMM Live!, we hope each of you takes a bow – we couldn’t have done it without you.

~Lindsey & Paige

(And in case you were wondering, our screening of Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story wins the prize for most popular program – we sold out not once, but TWICE, sharing the experience with 160 people between the two showings!)

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The Blaustein–Ben-Gurion Agreement: A Milestone in Israel-Diaspora Relations Part 2

Posted on April 12th, 2018 by

Written by Mark K. Bauman. Originally published in Generations 2007-2008: Maryland and Israel. To order a print copy of the magazine, see details here.

Part II: A Formal Declaration of Statehood

Missed the beginning? Start here.

The formal declaration of statehood in May 1948 and Israel’s success in securing its borders in the war that ensued transformed and intensified, rather than ended, ongoing debates over Israel’s relationship with diaspora Jewry – and, in particular, American Jewry. Fundamental difficulties over the role of diaspora Jews in forming the new nation and ultimately their relationship to it and its relationship to them can be traced to the pre-state era. For decades American Jewry had been divided as well as energized by the dream of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. From the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries, Zionists, non-Zionists, and anti-Zionists supported varied philosophies and rallied behind specific organizations, fighting for power and influence. Zionists, although divided over theories (as examples, the nature of the new country and the relationship between Jews and Arabs within it) and tactics, were largely united in their desire for a Jewish state. Through the American and World Zionist Organization they strove for that aim while helping run the Yishuv.[1]

For their part, Jewish non-Zionists and anti-Zionists had long aided Jews in Europe and Palestine for humanitarian reasons and as part of their opposition to international antisemitism. Nonetheless anti-Zionists opposed the creation of a Jewish state. They believed that Jews had found welcome in many of their present countries and that creation of such a state would foment dreaded charges of dual loyalty that fostered antisemitism. Non-Zionists believed that they held a middle ground. Although withholding support for political Zionism, they refrained from actively opposing it.[2]

Jacob Blaustein boarding a TWA plane bound for Israel, February 11, 1952.

Non-Zionists and anti-Zionists had dominated the AJComm since its inception. Leaders like attorney Louis Marshall comprised an American elite raised in Classical Reform congregations that defined Judaism as a universalistic religion of social justice. They opposed antisemitism at home and abroad as part of the fight for human rights and to secure their positions without jeopardizing them.[3] Paradoxically, their financial aid and advocacy for Jews at home and abroad reflected a sense of ethnic identity that extended the definition of Judaism beyond religion.

With the establishment of Israel in 1948, attitudes toward the new state that derived from these former stances became problematic, as all sides adjusted to a new reality. Now an elected government ran an independent nation. The creation of Israel fulfilled the Zionists’ fundamental mission. They re-directed their efforts toward assisting in the defense and prosperity of the fledgling country and also toward influencing its nature and policies. With the Holocaust and establishment of Israel, non- and anti-Zionists grappled with the existence of a Jewish state. Except for recalcitrant members of the American Council for Judaism, they accepted the new nation but, like the Zionists, needed to negotiate their relationship to it. Jacob Blaustein had to unite the different factions within the AJComm even as he sought to secure its place in the pantheon of American Jewish organizations. He simultaneously mediated with other Jewish organizations, with the American government and public opinion, and with Israeli and other world leaders.

Continue to Part III: Visions of Zion

[1] See for example, Urofsky, We Are One; Ganin, An Uneasy Relationship.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Cohen, Not Free to Desist

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