Living History at the Jewish Museum of Maryland
Over the past dozen years, the Jewish Museum of Maryland has developed significant expertise in the creation of compelling living history characters and a national reputation for excellence in this medium. In consultation with a team of professional historians, script writers, directors, and actors, we have created historical performances based on extensive research. These performances illuminate key themes of American Jewish history in an accessible and personal manner. The performances incorporate reproductions of artifacts, photographs, and documents from the JMM collections and include opportunities for audience interaction. For many viewers, living history performances resonate in powerful ways and the feedback we receive is universally positive.
Bessie entertains a crowd in Voices of Lombard Street. Photo by Will Kirk.
Today the Jewish Museum of Maryland has three active living history characters, Ida Rehr, a Ukranian immigrant who worked in the garment industry, Saul Bernstein, a Lithuanian peddler who became a professional artist, and Bessie Bluefeld, a Russian immigrant who started a renowned catering business, and Mendes I. Cohen, veteran of the Battle of Baltimore, business man, and Jewish adventurer. These characters perform around the state for students and adult audiences alike. Ida, Saul, Bessie, and Mendes are all based on real people who immigrated to Baltimore a century ago. A fifth living history character, Henrietta Szold, a Baltimorean educator and activist, is in the early stages of development, with plans to be introduced to the public in fall 2016. The Living History program at the Jewish Museum of Maryland teaches about Maryland history and illuminates the Jewish experience in America in previous eras by introducing audiences to a real person who lived it.
Living History Program performances are available for schools, public and private events and can take place at the Museum or outside venues. The cost for the living history program is $300 plus mileage reimbursement at $0.50/mile. To schedule a Living History performance or to learn more, please contact Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 443.873.5167.
Grant Cloyd performs as Saul Bernstein for excited students.
Through the Immigrant’s Trunk program, schools are able to schedule performances of these living history characters as well as rent trunks based on their lives. These trucks, which contain reproduction photographs, documents, letters, and objects from the Museum’s collections, allow the students an opportunity for hands-on interaction and exploration. Teachers are also provided with a curricular guide that includes instructions for classroom facilitation.
While there is a cost for the living history program the Museum is able to offer program subsidies to all schools in the Maryland Public School System as well as Archdiocese affiliated schools thanks to the generous support of the Maryland State Department of Education, the John J. Leidy Foundation and other funders.
For more information about educational opportunities related to our Living History Program, please head over to our Educational Programs Page.
Katherine Lyons as Ida Rehr.
To learn more about each of our Living History Characters, click on the names below:
Ida B. Rehr – a Ukrainian immigrant who worked in the garment industry
Saul Bernstein – a Lithuanian peddler who became a professional artist
Bessie Bluefeld – a Russian immigrant entrepreneur who started Bluefeld Catering
Mendes I. Cohen – veteran of the Battle of Baltimore, business man, and Jewish adventurer