The Impact of Federal Funding on JMM

Posted on February 10th, 2017 by

Performance Counts: February 2016

The JMM relies on many different funding streams to support our exhibitions, educational programs, public programs and ongoing operational needs. As our exhibits tend to be our most costly initiatives, we typically develop a multi-year fundraising strategy for each project that targets a mix of private and public prospects from individuals, foundations, corporations and government agencies. We have been especially fortunate over the past few years to have received significant federal support for our exhibits that have provided vital funds for such activities as planning, exhibit design and fabrication and have helped us leverage additional funding from private sources. Total government support in the FY 16 budget (including both federal grants and state funds through the Maryland State Department of Education SAI program and Maryland State Arts Council) was $493,000.

Happy 50th!

Happy 50th NEH!

Our two principal federal funders are the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Through its Public Humanities Project initiative, NEH funds exhibitions that are grounded in the humanities and offers support for both project planning and implementation. The application process is rigorous and requires an intensive amount of staff time for researching humanities connections as well as writing detailed responses to each question of the narrative and preparing budgets and other supporting documentation in the form of letters of support, bibliographies, staff resumes and other relevant material. Applications are subjected to several rounds of review by both NEH program staff as well as a peer review process that involves museum colleagues from museums around the country. The JMM has a long history of successful applications including our most recent award of an implementation grant in the amount of $300,000  for Beyond Chicken Soup. We have recently submitted a planning grant application for our new core exhibit, Belongings and are hopeful that it, too, will be awarded. The NEH stamp of approval is a powerful tool for fundraising and also serves as a mark of distinction among the museum community.



Likewise, we have frequently been awarded grants from IMLS. Our most recent submission, through the Museums for America initiative, was awarded $150,000 in support of Scrap Yard: Innovations of Recycling. As with NEH, the grant application process is challenging and requires many hours of staff time to complete. The review process is also similar and involves several rounds of evaluation by program staff and peer reviewers. Having participated in panel reviews of other institutions’ applications, which requires many hours of reading applications and then debating their merits over the course of two days of meetings with colleagues from other museums, I can attest to the rigorous vetting process in which applications are subjected before a determination is made of whether or not to award funding. This makes our track record of success especially rewarding.

Robyn and Esther at Museum Advocacy Day 2013.

Robyn and Esther at Museum Advocacy Day 2013.

Because both NEH and IMLS are federal agencies, their budgets are authorized annually by Congress. In recent weeks there has been talk about defunding NEH and IMLS funding prospects are unsure as well. Clearly cuts to these agencies would be detrimental not only to the JMM but to the larger community of museums and historic sites that serve as vital communal educational resources. We are actively engaged in several advocacy efforts to make our voices heard in this debate.  The Greater Baltimore History Alliance (GBHA), a consortium of forty local history museums, is developing a statement of support on behalf of the NEH. We will be represented at the American Alliance of Museums’ Advocacy Day, at the end of February, by JMM consultant and docent extraordinaire, Robyn Hughes. During the two days of meetings with congressional delegations, museum professionals and volunteers from around the country will convey the important message urging our representatives to maintain level funding of all federal arts and humanities agencies.

We encourage citizens who share the belief that history and heritage matter to let their voices be heard by their representatives on this important topic.

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

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A letter to my 5-year-old

Posted on February 9th, 2017 by

This post was originally published at Huffington Post via a special series from the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies. For more information on this please see the statement at the bottom of this post.

Protest sign from a march/rally/protest held on May 1, 2015 in response to the ongoing uprising/unrest in Baltimore after the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray.  Rally organized by Baltimore United for Change, SEIU, and CASA. These signs were printed up and made available to protesters who did not make or bring their own. JMM K2015.2.1

Protest sign from a march/rally/protest held on May 1, 2015 in response to the ongoing uprising/unrest in Baltimore after the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray. Rally organized by Baltimore United for Change, SEIU, and CASA. These signs were printed up and made available to protesters who did not make or bring their own. JMM K2015.2.1

Dear Daughter,

I know sometimes it feels like I’m always away at meetings. For three nights this week alone, I will not be home for dinner with you.

When you get a little older, perhaps I will bring you with me to some of my meetings. For now, I want you to know that even though it means I am not always with you, I do what I do for you. I do it because you deserve everything the world can offer; because you deserve to inherit a just world.

One day, I will have you read the open letter I wrote to God in which I describe the moment that changed the course of my life–our lives–and started me on this specific journey.

Until then, as you watch the work that I do—the meetings for Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, for Jews United for Justice, with The Open Church, and the Institute for Islamic, Christian, & Jewish Studies—the persistent, incremental, often thankless time I spend thinking, talking, reading, planning, calling, and crying for justice and fairness, I hope you are learning what it means to be a citizen; I pray you are learning what it means to be a Jew.

I want you to know that I do what I do because I am Jewish, because I feel that God and the world demand it of me. And even as I teach you what is precious to me about our inherited tradition, I want you to know others who work for justice.

I want you to know them as Muslims, Christians, and Unitarians, as Mormons, Hindus, and Buddhists. I especially want you to know the Atheists, and yes, the other Jews. You need to understand why I do what I do, even as you see that the Jewish framework that motivates me is not the only one.

When you begin to see what we have in common, and just as importantly, what is distinct for each of us, I believe you will begin to see, as I strive to, what is beautiful in all of us. You will feel what is beautiful in yourself. Our capacity to see the beauty–and pain–in others and feel it in ourselves is the divine working through us; empathy is a gift from God.

God gives us this gift to help us to fulfill God’s command “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deut 16:20). Justice, My Love, is fairness, but it is more than that. Justice is balance. It is the state of affairs in which everyone gets what they deserve.

Sadly, it is a rare occurrence for far too many people. You will learn, Sweetheart, that it is easy to see when justice is denied to you (even now, you already complain to me when you believe you are the victim of injustice). It can be harder to recognize injustice when it doesn’t affect you directly. What’s worse, sometimes even justice is difficult to recognize or accept if its manifestation means the loss of some privilege.

And that is why God has granted us empathy. The capacity to feel another’s pain is an important step toward recognizing, embracing, and pursuing justice when that justice is not for you.

Do not misunderstand my words. You know, Little One, that I am precise with my language. When I say “empathy,” I mean empathy. I do not mean pity. Pity is not an equitable emotion. If you are feeling pity for someone, you need to examine your heart and do what you can to move past the judgment inherent there. Pity is an emotion based on unequal power, and it does not bring the world closer to the world I want for you.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

President Obama wisely reminded us of the nature of empathy when he invoked the words of To Kill A Mockingbird in his farewell address. He said:

“Each one of us needs to try to heed the advice of a great character in American fiction, Atticus Finch, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'”

This is what I want you to remember from the President’s Atticus-advice: you will never completely understand what another person is feeling, but you must try. To do so, you must believe people when they express their lived experience even when it doesn’t match yours. When you do, you will be practicing empathy, and I believe it will lead you toward justice.

In a very old book known as the Wisdom of the Fathers, or Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Tarfon is reported to have said, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither may you desist from it.” (2:21)

For Rabbi Tarfon, and for me, “work” is the repair of the world. The truth of his pronouncement–both that I cannot expect to complete the task and that I cannot shirk my responsibility to try–resonate for me and through me. It is the wisdom of these words that guide me, day after day, as I grapple with the enormity of the world’s grief and the limits of my own power.

Especially in the face of injustice, in the shadow of bullies, abusers, and bigots, it is easy to feel powerless. The brokenness of the world is daunting. It is overwhelming. But Sweetheart, do not be misled. I am powerful. You are powerful. We are powerful.

I have seen change happen–not earthquakes, but small shifts in attitude, in posture, in acceptance. I have felt the cumulative energy of a room full of people willing to embrace the suffering of others; embrace it and say, “I see that you are in pain and I am diminished by it.”

I do not know if the world I want for you will exist in my lifetime–or yours. I pray that it will even as I fear that it will not. Nevertheless, for your sake, for our neighbors’ sake, for your grandparents’ and your children’s sake, for God’s sake, for my sake, I may not desist.


My deepest love always,

Your mother

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


The city of Baltimore is part of a national conversation around questions of justice, race and community. At this pivotal moment in our city’s history, indeed our nation’s history, the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies highlights the continued importance of bringing diverse religious perspectives to address civic and social challenges. In the initiative Imagining Justice in Baltimore the ICJS will contribute the perspectives of local Jews, Christians and Muslims to the public conversation about justice, and injustice, in Baltimore. Each contributor represents her or his own opinion. We welcome this diversity of perspective and are not seeking a single definition of justice between traditions, nor denying the multivocal nature of justice within traditions. The long-term goal of the Imagining Justice in Baltimore initiative is to create a model of interreligious learning and dialogue around differences that demonstrates how a robust commitment to religious pluralism can shape public life.

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Ten in the Twentieth: Baltimore Jews and Social Justice 1910s

Posted on February 8th, 2017 by

Article by Dr. Deborah R. Weiner. Originally published in Generations 2009-2010: 50th Anniversary Double Issue: The Search for Social Justice.

The Baltimore Jewish community has produced many leaders who have worked to make the world a better place. The range of issues they have addressed is impressive: from women’s suffrage to civil rights, labor relations to helping the elderly, refugee resettlement to eliminating poverty, and much more.

This chronology traces the careers of ten Baltimoreans who stood up for social change, with each person’s entry revolving around a turning point—one for each decade of the twentieth century. This is by no means a “Ten Best” list. The people included here are remarkable for what they accomplished, but others, equally remarkable, could have been chosen as well. These profiles should be seen as representative of a larger group of Baltimore Jews who have made major contributions to their communities and to the broader society in myriad ways.

The 1910s: Jacob Moses

Click here to start from the beginning.

1915: During a time of intense labor turmoil, Jacob Moses (1873-1968) is named arbitrator in Baltimore clothing industry disputes, selected jointly by union leader Sidney Hillman and manufacturer Sigmund Sonneborn. It is but one important facet of the career of this quintessential Progressive.

Jacob Moses. From Isidor Blum, The Jews of Baltimore (1910).

Jacob Moses. From Isidor Blum, The Jews of Baltimore (1910).

His concern with fairness made Moses not only a sought-after arbitrator, but an advocate for the rights of those he felt were treated unequally. As an attorney, state senator, Juvenile Court judge, and civic leader, Moses championed the principle of fair treatment under the law. He proposed juvenile justice reform because delinquent children did not have recourse to the legal protections of adults. He sought to establish a detention center for indigent defendants who could not make bail, because they were unfairly forced to languish in jail before being proved guilty. In 1924, he led a delegation that lobbied (unsuccessfully) for equal pay for female high school teachers.

Fragment of a newspaper cartoon about a strike by railroad shop workers in western Maryland. JMM 1963.42.15

Fragment of a newspaper cartoon about a strike by railroad shop workers in western Maryland. JMM 1963.42.15

Above all, Moses was a staunch feminist. He remained a vocal proponent of women’s suffrage after the premature death in 1918 of his wife Hortense, a suffragist and leader of Jewish women’s groups. In the 1920s he endorsed a national equal rights bill, proclaiming, “I believe that men and women should be equal in every respect before the law.” Moses also dedicated himself to Jewish causes. As a young man he presided over the Maccabeans, which aided Jewish youth; in the 1920s he became a leading Zionist—unusual for someone from a privileged German Jewish family.

Continue to The 1920s: Dr. Bessie Moses

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