Sacred Space, Past and Present

Posted on June 26th, 2017 by

Post by Collections Intern Joelle Paull.  To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

Old Synagogue, Krakow

Old Synagogue, Krakow

Studying medieval art, I have become really interested in how ritual space shapes a community and in turn is shaped by a communities need. While studying and traveling in Europe, I found myself exploring medieval synagogues and Jewish ghettos. Until that point my studies had been focused on Christian ritual spaces that became the center of towns across Europe. I was excited and pleasantly surprised to find myself in Jewish ritual spaces, often the center of centuries old Jewish neighborhoods. In some cases, like in the Jewish ghetto in Venice, the only distinguishing features of the synagogues are the rows of windows in the upper gallery.

These were unusual when compared to the narrow, cramped homes surrounding them. The same is true of the Old Synagogue in Krakow, one of the many centuries old synagogues on the perimeter of the city center, which was built in the 15th century, underwent many changes and was ultimately renovated and restored in the 20th century after WWII. Today, it is located in the corner of a square and is a simple multi-level brick building, with three large windows over the large entrance. From the outside there is little indication of the function of the building or the large rib vaulted interior.

Color snapshot of the Lloyd Street Synagogue facade, c. 1982.

Color snapshot of the Lloyd Street Synagogue facade, c. 1982.

Walking into the Lloyd Street Synagogue my first day of work, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the synagogue and the spaces I had studied. The Lloyd Street Synagogue is a perfect example of a ritual space that evolved over centuries to reflect the community around it. The synagogue was the center of the Jewish community in Baltimore and as such took on both a religious and civic importance. The archaeological discoveries at the current synagogue, showcased in the exhibit, The Synagogue Speaks, allow us to understand what the synagogue looked like from 1845 to today.

From this understanding we can begin to understand how it functioned on a day to day basis and the role it had in the lives of its patrons. The unassuming facade of the sacred building gives little to no indication that it is a synagogue. It was only in the 1900s, after the building was converted the building back into a synagogue that the exterior begins to show signs of its function – Hebrew lettering on the portico, the gallery level windows on the façade. The 20th century synagogue, until it was beginning in the 1960s, was elaborately decorated, with new furniture, chandeliers, and murals. The following restoration returned the synagogue to its original 1860s appearance. The ability to walk into a space and see the many layers of its history makes the Lloyd Street Synagogue unique. The oral and written histories and the many artifacts only add to our understanding of the space itself.

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A “Just Married!: Extra: A Little Chuppah History

Posted on June 23rd, 2017 by

Curators have to make choices: not everything can make it into an exhibit, and there’s seldom enough space to share every interesting fact about the things that are on display. That’s where social media comes in! Here’s a closer look at another “Just Married” story. ~Joanna

The oldest of the three chuppahs on display in the exhibit is this burgundy velvet canopy, trimmed with gold braid and large green sequins. In addition to the “Mazel Tov” inscription in the center, it reads in Hebrew: “From the hands of the ladies auxiliary of Mogen Abraham.” (“Ladies Auxiliary” is transliterated from English.)

Gift of Isaac Kinek. JMM 1990.50.1

Gift of Isaac Kinek. JMM 1990.50.1

Gold embroidery and green sequins!

Gold embroidery and green sequins!

The Mogen Abraham, or First Galician, Congregation was founded in 1891, and existed at various East Baltimore addresses until it merged with Adath Yeshurun in 1974.  During the time this chuppah was in use, around the 1920s, this Orthodox congregation met at 402-404 S. Bond Street.

A storefront at 402-404 S. Bond Street, circa 1960. It’s not clear if this is the same building as that used by the synagogue. Photo by Menasha Katz. JMM 1987.137.58

A storefront at 402-404 S. Bond Street, circa 1960. It’s not clear if this is the same building as that used by the synagogue. Photo by Menasha Katz. JMM 1987.137.58

Despite its long history, this is one of those congregations for which we have very little material; in fact, right now a Vice President badge, the synagogue’s cornerstone from the S. Bond Street building, and this chuppah are the only artifacts in our collection.  The  Adath Yeshurun-Mogen Abraham Congregation closed sometime in the past few years.

Marble cornerstone from Congregation Mogen Abraham at 404 South Bond Street, 1902-1917. JMM 1992.76.1

Marble cornerstone from Congregation Mogen Abraham at 404 South Bond Street, 1902-1917. JMM 1992.76.1 This cornerstone has a story of its own – check it out here!

To read more posts from Collections Manager Joanna Church, click HERE!

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Intern Weekly Response: Project Check-Ins

Posted on June 22nd, 2017 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to share what they’ve been working on and learning in their internships thus far!  To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


 

My First Weeks as an Education Intern

by Education Intern Erin Penn

As an education and programs intern, I have loved having my hand in several different exciting projects and activities. The first two weeks Sara and I were tasked with various crafts both big and small for Just Married! Wedding Stories of Jewish Maryland opening.  We helped carry out Trillion’s vision by making poms-poms of all sizes, building from the ground up the metal archway for the photo booth at the opening, and stuffing the favors with pastel almonds and Hershey kisses. All of these elements together created a warm and beautiful space for a successful program an event. I loved seeing the awe of the faces of all the guests when the saw the transformed space with our arch and pom-poms.

The arch definitely looked better once we pinned flowers!

The arch definitely looked better once we pinned flowers!

I have also been able to work on future programs in association with the upcoming exhibit Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage. Diving into the endless opportunities, I have gotten more familiar with the museum’s audience, programs, and hopes for this specific exhibit. I know there are going to be awesome events like Iraqi Family Day. I’m a sad I’ll be out at school for this program. I have also learned a lot about the current exhibits at the museum, going on school tours through Voices of Lombard Street and the Lloyd Street Synagogue and also attending docent training on Monday for Just Married! The first couple of weeks have been exciting and varied. I can’t wait to see how these projects continue during this summer.


 

Lessons from the Basement

by Collections Intern Joelle Paull

Down in the Basement

Down in the Basement

How many interns does it take to move an object? Yesterday we found out! Collections interns Amy and I have officially begun one of our summer projects — inventory of the collections. After a few weeks, I am still surprised by the many treasures we come across in the collection. From large scale paintings to everyday household objects, pulling things off the shelves is always exciting.

One of many heavy objects in the collection.

One of many heavy objects in the collection.

Yesterday fellow collections intern Amy and I encountered some commemorative plaques that had yet to be photographed for the museum catalogue. We soon learnt why. Having, with some effort, tackled most the plaques in the section, we turned to the bottom shelf only to find we could not move them. After a few minutes of trying we decided to enlist help. We ventured upstairs to ask if any of the exhibitions interns were willing to help. Luckily all three volunteered, because, as we soon realized, we would need all of us to lift the large bronze plaques from the shelf and onto the table.

Ultimately the mission was a success; we photographed, measured, and surveyed the objects before returning them to their designated shelf. Each day has been something new. Yesterday we discovered how many interns it takes to move a large bronze plaque, who knows what we will find out next!


 

Planning Galore

by Education Intern Sara Philippe

Over the past two weeks, my partner in Education and Programs and I have been primarily focused on helping put together the opening of the new Just Married! Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland exhibit. We made tissue paper flowers, built and decorated an arch, and framed and hung wedding photos for the JMM Family Wedding Album on display during the opening, to name a few things. I was very happy to see the opening night go so smoothly and to see the culmination of everyone’s hard work.

Trillion and I cleaning up after the opening party.

Trillion and I cleaning up after the opening party.

While working towards the opening of the exhibit, we also began planning a few events that will be taking place in December: Iraqi Jewish Family Day, Dollar Day, and Mitzvah Day. We have been getting in contact with performers, caterers, and artists, as well as designing crafts for these programs. We have also just begun work with the Education Department, designing activities and materials to facilitate children’s experiences in Just Married. I’m excited to continue to work with museum curriculum, creating new elements of it and revamping others. I’m also excited to continue to familiarize myself with the museum and synagogue tours, and hopefully be able to give my own!

Last week, the interns celebrated by Flag Day by visiting the Flag House (a short walk away from the JMM) where we witnessed the flag raising ceremony and attended a lecture.

Here’s me having fun dressing up and raising a mock flag.

Here’s me having fun dressing up and raising a mock flag.


 

Week 3 Check-In

By Collections Intern Amy Swartz

View of one of the storage spaces for collections.

View of one of the storage spaces for collections.

I am about mid-way through my third week interning at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. So far I have learned a lot about collections work and have embarked on some exciting new projects. Last week consisted mostly of helping my supervisor, Joanna Church, with setting up the new exhibit: Just Married: Wedding Stories From Jewish Maryland. I was able to work with textiles such as dresses for the first time, which was very cool as I had always been interested in historical fashion. I assisted in getting the exhibit ready for the public by doing the fun stuff like stuffing and arranging dresses and some of the more unseen jobs such as cleaning the plexiglass display cases, putting together scrapbooks, making flower decorations and a chandelier, and vacuuming the exhibit. All of the work was worth it as the Opening Night was really fun and rewarding.

The first shelf we began to inventory (check out those frames and plaques).

The first shelf we began to inventory (check out those frames and plaques).

I also have been working on two other collections projects. My fellow intern Joelle and I have been going through paper files to make sure all information is up to date on the online system and that the files are organized properly. We have also just started another project where we are inventorying artifacts such as paintings and plaques. We are making sure that the objects are where they are supposed to be and checking their condition. Overall I have learned more about object handling and am tackling some cool projects!

Inventorying can be very messy!

Inventorying can be very messy!


 

Up On the Wall

by Exhibitions Intern Tirza Ochrach-Konradi

I have been working on an oral history collection project which is a collaboration between the JMM and Beth Am. Beth Am amicably split from Chizuk Amuno in 1974 and this project aims to collect the experiences of congregants who were present for the birth of Beth Am. I began by doing background research about the time period during which Beth Am was founded. Then I started to prepare for doing interviews. I expanded a set of existing interview questions and I have been transcribing the interviews that were completed before I began this internship.

Papers on my cubicle wall!

Papers on my cubicle wall!

The photo of my cubical wall shows some of the information that I’ve been working with. I’ve got a list of early Beth Am members, a map of Baltimore city neighborhoods, the original copy of the interview questions with edits, and a pair of brochures from my visit to the temple. I’ve also got a flier for last year’s intern night with a bunch of sticky notes all over it because all the interns have been planning for this summer! The second image shows the Baltimore Home Owners Loan Corporation redlining crayon map and the area description form for the section including JMM and Jonestown. The movement of Jews out of Baltimore city and into the suburbs coincides with the redlining period. This website lets me click through the neighborhoods and see the original forms filled out by the housing authority surveyors. This in one of the resources that has helped me build context for the period of history that I am working with. I am excited to move forward with this project and to get started doing interviews!

Home Owners Loan Corporation map resource.

Home Owners Loan Corporation map resource.


 

From Dentists to Delegates: My first weeks at the JMM

By Exhibitions Intern Ryan Mercado

Notes I compiled for my research on Dr. Samuel Neistadt.

Notes I compiled for my research on Dr. Samuel Neistadt.

What an interesting three weeks these have been! I did not know what I would get into with Museum Work but it’s safe to say three weeks in that I am not disappointed in what I found. My initial preconceptions about what I would be doing was helping with exhibit research. I did not know what that would entail but the projects that I have been doing for Karen are truly meaningful and are using all the skills I learned in my undergrad career back at UMBC. As a History major, research and putting pieces together for interpretation is central to the curriculum. That knowledge is precisely what I have used in my first weeks. The first project I did for Karen was a character profile for the new exhibit, “Belongings.” I chose to research about Dr. Samuel Neistadt (1888-1974). He was a dentist and Jewish labor leader in the 1920s-50s His story is fascinating and his life and work applies nicely with the themes of “Belongings.” I spent several days digging through his archival papers and finally pieced together a concise history as well as quotes to use. It was a lot of hard work but I truly did feel I was doing something meaningful. The best part was, I was never bored, and the prospect of going into a job and being bored all the time truly did scare me.

The Archives box of E. Milton Altfeld. An important box that will help me with my research on the Jew Bill.

The Archives box of E. Milton Altfeld. An important box that will help me with my research on the Jew Bill.

As for the second project that I have been working on, it is a continuation of research about the “Jew Bill.” This topic has special meaning for me as I wrote my Senior Thesis on the Jew Bill and how antisemitism was present during its legislative journey through the General Assembly. The work I am doing on it now is naturally more applicable to “Belongings.” I am researching Thomas Kennedy, an MD State Delegate in the 1820s who helped pass the “Jew Bill. I am currently finding quotes that Karen can use to help depict the story of the Jew Bill and how its story shows belonging among Maryland Jews and their determination to be equal among their fellow Marylanders under the law. I’ve just begun this project so not much to report on now, but I’m sure I’ll have more news later on. I’ll see you all next week as I report on my networking trip I will be taking to Montreal, Canada where I will be visiting the Museum of Jewish Montreal!

 

 

 

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