From Side Shows to Spooky Seances

Posted on October 5th, 2018 by

Museum Matters: October 2018

October is the midpoint in our run of Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini and our programming has reached a feverish peak. We have something new to offer every Sunday this month all leading up to the big Halloween week.

We’ve even been researching JMM’s own vaults to find the “magic” hidden within, which led us to “A Little Magic from the Collections,” which is being installed today in our feature exhibit alcove, and will remain on display through Halloween.

Perhaps most magical of all – this month includes two free days. On October 21st we participate in Free Fall Baltimore and the entire Museum is free, including our 1pm program with Ken Trombley, Capturing Houdini. On October 7th the Lloyd Street Synagogue is available to the public all day (with docents, but no formal tours) as part of Doors Open Baltimore. (The Museum and our 1pm program with James Taylor will still have regular admission on the 7th, however.)

All this provides those of you who have seen the Houdini exhibit a good excuse to return (and bring a friend). And for those procrastinators who haven’t made it yet, don’t miss out on the best month to see the show!


Upcoming programs
All programs take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland unless otherwise noted. Please contact our Programs Manager at / 443-873-5177 with any questions or for more information.


Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 1pm

Street Show, Sideshow, Stage Show:
Novelty & Variety Entertainment and its Spread
Speaker: James Taylor
Reserve Seats Now

Sunday, October 14, 2018 at 1pm

Magic and Monotheism
Speaker: Jonathan Dauber, Yeshiva University
Reserve Seats Now

Sunday, October 21, 2018 at 1pm

Free Fall Baltimore!
Capturing Houdini
Speaker: Ken Trombley
Reserve Seats Now

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Family Day!
Houdini’s Magical Halloween
Reserve Seats Now

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Official Houdini Sceance
Tickets: $50 ($25 for Museum Members)
Please note seating is extremely limited for this event.

Esther’s Place

Have you explored our Shabbat items recently?

We have many lovely, unique pieces guaranteed to make your Shabbat or holiday beautiful and meaningful. From embroidered challah covers to modern or contemporary candlestick sets, striking Kiddush cups to elegant Havdalah sets to a selection of glass and wood Shabbat trays. Our Shabbat candles—which come in a variety of color styles—make the perfect table addition or gift.

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Torah Mantles on a Field Trip

Posted on October 4th, 2018 by

A blog post by Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

This week, Trillion and I had the pleasure of taking some of our Torah mantles and binders on a little field trip, to help the Hinenu: Baltimore Justice Shtiebel develop ideas for a new mantle of their own.  As I told the group, our collections – fabulous as they are! – are not often called upon for general research purposes, so I was delighted for the opportunity to share some of our pieces with them.  We met in a cozy room at Homewood Friends Meeting and spent an hour poring over a selection of 19th and 20th century mantles, binders (or wimples), and other related Torah dressings – made of silk, linen, velvet, and cotton, and embellished with a wide variety of colors, materials, and symbols.

Annie Sommer Kaufman, a textile artist and member of Hinenu, will be making a mantle for their recently welcomed Torah scroll, loaned by Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Philadelphia).

After the show-and-tell portion of the evening, she and the other attendees ‘circled up’ to start discussing what they want on their mantle, inspired (at least in part) by the historical examples from our collection. To prepare for the visit, I took the chance to delve into these meaningful and beautiful pieces – so look for some Torah textile-related blog posts in the near future! In the meantime, here are a few glances at our collections field trip.

I can’t wait to see what the Hinenu members come up with for their own meaningful, beautiful piece.

Huge thanks to Annie, Rabbi Ariana Katz, and the whole congregation for inviting the JMM to participate in the process!

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Volunteer Spotlight on Fran Banks!

Posted on October 3rd, 2018 by

Post by Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. Periodically we highlight one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, send an email to Wendy at or call 443-873-5168! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

Fran Banks’ face lights up when she explains what she does as a volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Her current project is entering information about engagements and weddings announcements from the Jewish Times into the museum database.  She started with issues from 1928 and has progressed to the Second World War years.  Being a Baltimore native, she is familiar with many of the families mentioned in the Jewish Times and most weeks she reads announcements about people she knows personally.  The first week Fran worked on this project, she read an engagement announcement about her aunt and it was written by Fran’s grandparents.  What an engaging way to begin a project!

Of course, as one reads these various announcements, you can’t help but also read the ads adjacent to them.  Fran recalled seeing an advertisement for a venue “the Community Hall” noting soup to nuts meals for $1.25 per person.

The first project Fran worked on at JMM, about two years ago, was entering data from birth announcements kept by area midwives.  She found it interesting that the announcements also included the father’s occupation.  Fran was able to track how the father’s occupation changed as each family grew.  For example, one father was listed as a buttonhole maker when his first son was born, but by the 5th child, he was listed as a master tailor!  First–born sons usually had a name noted, but later-born children within the same family were frequently listed as boy 4, girl 7, etc.

Fran looked specifically at JMM for volunteer opportunities because she wanted to do something totally different than what she did for work. She stated, “I love seeing where small pieces of history fit into a larger picture, so what I’m doing suits me just fine. And I know that I’m entering data that someone will eventually use to find family, friends or get a sense of the Baltimore community.”

Before her 2013 retirement, Fran was an emergency room nurse at Sinai Hospital for 20 years and then she worked for the Baltimore County Department of Aging.  The Department of Aging job entailed home visits, identifying services and / or specific modifications needed to maintain people safely in their homes or to determine if an assistive living facility would be more appropriate.  Fran was amazed by many people she met and how well they were able to deal with issues related to aging and illness.

In addition to volunteering one day a week at JMM, Fran is engaged in many other activities.  She has been taking courses at CCBC on art history and English, is involved in weekly Torah study and a book group.  She is active in her synagogue, Temple Oheb Shalom. She keeps her hands busy doing needle crafts and she is one of the on-line citizen typists for the U.S. Archives.  She transcribed some records on Lee Harvey Oswald and Alger Hiss.  Additionally, she travels to Philadelphia with her husband as often as possible to visit with her son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

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