Reflections on my 1st year at the JMM

Posted on April 27th, 2016 by

Where you'll find Graham...usually!

Where you’ll find Graham…usually!

As it’s coming up to my year anniversary working at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I thought I’d share a few projects I’ve worked on (and some fun I’ve had along the way). You may be wondering what a Visitor Services Coordinator does. While my primary responsibilities involve taking admissions at the front desk, delivering the daily synagogue tours when our volunteer docents are unavailable, scheduling school and adult visits to the Museum and handling rentals, I’ve also taken on a few other tasks.  For instance, I’ve learned the Point of Sale system in the shop, worked to make the museum more accessible and have improved the visitor experience by installing a bike rack and re-landscaping our front courtyard area.

Enjoying baseball with the interns

Enjoying baseball with the interns

I’ve enjoyed the challenge of working with contractors, gaining experience with project management and learning new tours such as the “Sounds of the Synagogue.”  I’ve mentored our summer interns and organized a field trip for them to an Orioles game in Camden Yards. I also assisted with the de-installation of the Mendes Cohen exhibit.

De-installing 'The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen'

De-installing ‘The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen’

Sometimes I’ve been asked to do a few usual things such as installing Ikea bookcases for our shop, acting as a valet parker when guests got blocked in our staff parking lot, and driving to the Museum late at night for a false burglary alarm.

Showing off some Ikea skills!

Showing off some Ikea skills!

I’ve had fun acting as an ambassador for the JMM whether it was tabling at the National Council for Public history’s annual conference in Baltimore or dressing as a doctor to promote our new Beyond Chicken Soup (chickensoupexhibit.org) exhibit for Charm City Tribe’s Wild Purim Rumpus.

The Wild Purim Rumpus

The Wild Purim Rumpus

Part of the joy of the job has been interacting with visitors from all over the world and hearing their connections to Jewish life in Baltimore. I’ve made lasting friendships with our many volunteers and have grown close to many of the staff.

In the coming year, I hope to take on more volunteer management responsibilities, as our current volunteer coordinator, Ilene Cohen, will be soon leaving the Museum. I also look forward to transitioning to a computerized ticketing and admission system. As always, if you have any suggestions of how I can make the visitor experience better, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

GrahamA blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.

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Once Upon a Time…08.21.2015

Posted on April 26th, 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 jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

 

1995126073Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  August 21, 2015

PastPerfect Accession #:  1995.126.073

Status:  Partially Identified! Attendees pose for this photo at a Jewish Chautauqua Society dinner, MArch 31st, 1948 at the Sheraton Hotel: front row, far left: possibly Rabbi Rosenblatt.  Front row, second from right: Rabbi Abraham Shusterman.

Special Thanks To: Jerome Schnydman, Harvey Lempert, Suzanne Grant

 

 

 

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Of Strangers and Slaves

Posted on April 25th, 2016 by

On this third day of Passover, I’m thinking a lot about strangers.

I have the great good fortune of being among the inaugural cohort of “community leaders” in the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies (ICJS)’s year-long Imagining Justice in Baltimore initiative. Earlier this month, as a part of this initiative, Rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin did a workshop with the community leaders (there are about 25 of us, each of us an early- or mid-career non-profit professional who self identifies with one of the 3 Abrahamic faiths of the ICJS’s name) and then a public lecture. The title of both was “Imagining Justice in Baltimore: A Jewish Perspective.”

Bezalel style seder plate, silver plated brass with scalloped edge, purchased from Rabbi Benjamin Dinovitz of Ohel Yaakov Synagogue, c. 1930. JMM 1994.197.001

Bezalel style seder plate, silver plated brass with scalloped edge, purchased from Rabbi Benjamin Dinovitz of Ohel Yaakov Synagogue, c. 1930. JMM 1994.197.001

In the several hours I spent in Professor Gopin’s presence, he posited repeatedly that the most important commandment in the Torah is to “love the stranger as yourself.” He pointed out that this commandment appears more than 30 times in the Hebrew Bible. In Gopin’s framework, the significance of loving the stranger (separate from the “neighbor”), is in connecting with the other, whomever that is. He talked about transgressing boundaries, meeting people where they are, honoring the other human being as a human being, regardless of their behavior. For me, his words gave new resonance to that oft-repeated phrase, “love the stranger as yourself.”

Interestingly, especially with this season’s Seders so recent in my memory, each time we are told to love the stranger in the Torah, it is followed by the reminder “for you were strangers in Egypt” (c.f. Leviticus 19:34 for an example). You were strangers in Egypt it says. But as the Seder artfully reminds us through all 5 senses, we weren’t merely strangers in Egypt. We were slaves.

JMM 1984.023.1047

JMM 1984.023.1047

I haven’t fully teased out this idea, but I am becoming more and more certain that the crux of my imagining justice in Baltimore is in the woefully short distance between “stranger” and “slave.”

I believe empathy is the catalyst through which true change comes to human society. The compulsion to comfort, heal, help the other is, in my view, the way the Divine intervenes in human events. That is why Torah reminds us we were strangers in Egypt. That is why the Haggadah enjoins us to imagine we ourselves left Egypt. We are commanded to remember what it feels like. We are commanded to have empathy.

Love the stranger as yourself for you were strangers in Egypt. JMM 1995.201.11

Love the stranger as yourself for you were strangers in Egypt. JMM 1995.201.11

This year, on the fifth day of Passover, the eight-day celebration of our liberation from the land in which we were estranged and enslaved, we will commemorate the anniversary of the moment when individuals and communities who for centuries have been estranged by the system and enslaved by racism, poverty, and mass incarceration, groaned in their suffering and cried out; that stretch of several hours, alternatively called Uprising or Rebellion, when grief and rage erupted in the streets of Baltimore.

As I think about the shifting identity of the stranger and the slave, I cannot help but be struck by the secular drama playing out in the season of our religious-historical drama. Right before Purim, with American electoral politics in mind, I wrote about channeling Esther to find the bravery to stand up to Pharoah. Now that Passover and election day are both upon us, I feel that need ever more strongly.

Photo from one of last year's rallies.

Photo from one of last year’s rallies.

Passover 5776/2016 falls in the middle of an election season in which fear of the stranger, fear of the other, has become a commodity. The lesson of Passover is that we cannot sit idly by while the stranger becomes the enslaved—we cannot allow the oppression we suffered to be meted out on another. And so we are commanded to repudiate the fear of the stranger and to replace it with love.

JMM 2002.111.118

JMM 2002.111.118

Tracie Guy-DeckerA blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

 

 

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