Around the World in 10 Days…

Posted on March 9th, 2011 by

A few weeks ago I met an old friend who I had not seen for many, many years.  We spoke about our lives and our jobs and she asked me, “What does the program director do at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.”  So, I thought I would blog about what I do at the JMM!  Over the past ten days, I feel like I have traveled all over the world, between the many public programs and outreach opportunities that the JMM has participated in…… Here are some of the highlights…

The Netherlands

We visited Holland on February 24th when we held a book launch/Dutch tea and reception for the newest JMM publication, “18 Stones.” We welcomed noted author and illustrator, Susan L. Roth and Nancy Patz, to the JMM whereby our visitors learned from the artists how the book came to be.   “18 Stones” derives its title from the Jewish practice of leaving small stones on a grave. Actual photographs of Dutch Jews in the 1930s were the source for Patz’s oil pastel and charcoal portraits, which are accompanied by Susan Roth’s prose poems.  Daily life before the Holocaust is evoked by artworks as “The Marriage of Grietje and Aron,” in which the newlyweds seem to have so much to look forward to, and “The Recipe for Apple Kuchen,” in which the portrait of a smiling woman is accompanied by her recipe for an apple cake. Visitors to the event enjoyed Dutch treats of Gouda and edam cheeses, licorice, and chunks of thick bread with sweet butter and chocolate sprinkles.  I imagined myself walking along the canaled streets of Amsterdam and seeing a young girl that looked like Anne Frank talking to a school friend.

Nancy and Susan show off their hard work. Photo by Mark Mehlinger.

A delicious, Dutch-inspired spread! Photo by Mark Mehlinger.

Finland

On Sunday, February 27th, the JMM welcomed noted author, Antero Pietila (an immigrant from Finland) who wrote the acclaimed book, Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City. Antero’s book examines many of the famous neighborhoods of Baltimore and describes how segregation shaped our city, and how the migration from white to Jewish to black in many neighborhoods and its exploitation created the slums in Baltimore. Following Antero’s talk, celebrity radio host, Marc Steiner moderated a panel that included residents (both former and present) of the Reservoir Hill neighborhood.  I imagined myself living in the 1940’s, growing up as a teenager around Druid Hill Park as I was listening to the panel.

Photo by Mark Mehlinger.

Photo by Mark Mehlinger.

France

The next day, my colleague and friend, Simone Ellin (JMM Marketing director) got on a train and headed to Philadelphia to participate at the CAJM (Council of American Jewish Museums) Conference.  We had the opportunity to meet other colleagues from all country and from Jewish museums all over the world.  At the conference, we had the opportunity to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art where we were the first group to see the new exhibition, “Paris Through the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle,” that looks at the influence that Paris had on Marc Chagall and his fellow modernists from 1910 to 1920.  Just for a few moments, I imagined myself on the Champs-Elysees sipping a coffee at a sidewalk café.

Champs Elysees by Fernand Claver

Paris Through the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle March 1, 2011 - July 10, 2011 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Belgium

My friend Simone and I also had time for a bit of fun while in Philly.  We took in the movie Black Swan and we also visited the Eulogy Belgian Tavern, one of Philadelphia’s premier dining institutions that feature 21 drafts and 300 different bottled beers. The food is award winning and the restaurant is owned by a Belgian American family and staffed with a few employees from Belgium.  I remembered walking along some of the streets in Antwerp on Christmas Eve with my brother Jay and longing to eat all of the chocolate that I saw in the storefronts and seeing the Manneken Pis everywhere I turned.

Place Verte and cathedral, Antwerp, Belgium

This week, my position as program director started off with two programs sponsored by the Jewish Museum of Maryland.   We welcomed Lori Turner and Music Monkey Jungle/Kinderlach Rock to the JMM for a rockin’goodtime concert for the preschool set.  At the same time, the JMM was also invited to participate at the 51st Annual Interfaith Institute at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.   The year’s topic was “Immigration Challenges: Religious and Ethnic Responses.” The JMM’s program, Coming to America: Student Immigration Stories was highlighted at the conference.

Eritrea

El Salvador

This educational initiative was developed by the JMM and is designed to promote immigrant students from Baltimore City Public Schools to share their stories of immigration with other BCPS students. The JMM has the good fortune of working with two consummate professionals on this program, acclaimed storyteller, Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff and ESOL teacher extraordinaire, Sally Franklin.  These ladies both joined me on Monday at the program and the crowd of over 200 people had the privilege of listening to the stories of Patterson High School students Muluburan Bahre, from the African nation of Eritrea and Pablo Joseph Muñoz from El Salvador.  These students were so eloquent and poised telling their own stories that I found myself transported with Muluburan and Pablo to their native homelands of Eritrea in Northeast Africa and El Salvador in Central America.

It’s been an exciting ten days at the JMM!  I wonder where the next few weeks will take me.

 

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Tea with Nancy and Susan

Posted on February 25th, 2011 by

“Well, I certainly do like a good piece of apple cake,

who doesn’t? I’d love another piece, Grete.”

So begins “Recipe for Apple Cake,” one of the evocative poems in Susan L. Roth’s and Nancy Patz’s 18 Stones, just published by the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

The book’s food references—apple cake, honey cake, tea with lemon—were the inspiration for a Dutch-themed tea last Thursday, where we celebrated the publication of 18 Stones. Nancy and Susan held forth—delightfully—about the how the book came to be and how they worked together, and guests enjoyed quintessentially Dutch treats like bread with sweet butter and chocolate sprinkles, apple cake, biscuits with gouda cheese, and hot chocolate. And, no surprise, the flowers decorating the table were tulips.

18 Stones isn’t really a book about food, though. Susan’s poems and Nancy’s pastel drawings evoke Jewish life in fullness on the eve of World War II in Holland. By depicting what characters like Grete and Aron, Hendrik and Rosa ate, how they celebrated, fell in love, and built their families, Nancy and Susan truly honor the victims of the Holocaust.

Fittingly, Thursday evening’s program was at times somber and at times celebratory. But it was tasty through and through.

And, trust me, if you’ve never sprinkled chocolate shavings on your bread and butter, give it a try. You may just feel as if you’ve been transported to Amsterdam.

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It’s here! It’s here!

Posted on January 26th, 2011 by

18 Stones is hot off the press. Illustrated by local artist Nancy Patz and written by Susan L. Roth, this beautiful book imagines the story of a Jewish family living in Holland before the Holocaust.

Patz and Roth were inspired by a series of photographs belonging to Chaja Verveer, who was born in the Netherlands and who lost many relatives in the Shoah. Originally, Chaja’s photos were to serve as visual reference for a children’s book about Dutch Jews.

Chaja Verveer

But as Nancy and Susan studied the images, they became intrigued by the people in the photographs. The images inspired Susan to conjure an imaginary constellation of family relationships and dramas that, in fact, bear no resemblance to the Verveers’ pre-war experiences. Nancy used big, bold strokes to render these mysterious characters in oil pastel. Like Susan’s poems, Nancy’s lush drawings reflect her own very personal, visceral, and emotional response to the Verveer photos and to the characters Susan had evoked.

The result is a series of 18 prose poems and accompanying oil pastels that, in Nancy’s and Susan’s words “honor, respect, and remember Chaja’s family and all families whose histories were lost in the Holocaust.”

We’re honored that Nancy and Susan—both of whom have published widely elsewhere, and have earned awards for their work—chose the Jewish Museum of Maryland to publish 18 Stones. The book grows out of Nancy’s exhibition, Her Inward Eye, which opened at the JMM in April 2010. The 18 Stones drawings and poems were part of that show. Response to Her Inward Eye was so positive that Barbara Katz—a former JMM president—urged us to create a publication to extend its reach. She and others generously funded the publication.

Susan & Nancy

18 Stones is available in the Museum Shop or by visiting our website:

And please plan to join us on Thursday February 24, from 5-7 p.m. for a book signing and reception, as we honor Nancy’s and Susan’s wonderful achievement. For more information, visit: http:///www.jewishmuseummd.org/event/upcoming-events

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