Posted on December 19th, 2014 by Rachel
Our “Dear Abby” feature gives us a chance to answer commonly asked questions about how to get the most satisfaction out of your JMM visit. These questions are often asked of our Visitor Services Manager, Abby Krolik, thus, the name! (Any resemblance to a syndicated feature with a similar name is purely coincidental.)
1) Dear Abby,
Time flies so fast, and I’ve just realized that winter break is right around the corner! I love my kids, but the thought of having all three of them home at once, with nothing to do, for a week and a half, fills me with dread. What can I do with them to keep them from each other’s throats and to keep me from tearing my hair out? Oy vey! There’s only so many times in a row that I can watch Frozen before “Let It Go” becomes permanently stuck in my head.
Please, please, please tell me that the JMM is open during the holidays!
Avoiding Cabin Fever
Dear Cabin Fever,
We will be open for much of the holiday season, but with a few exceptions to allow our staff to enjoy some time with their families. We will be open at our regular hours except for New Year’s Day, when we will be closed completely, and we will have early closings December 24th (closing at 3pm), December 25th (closing at 4pm), and December 31st (closing at 3pm).
As always, there is something to do here at the JMM for all ages! Kids and the young at heart have delighted in the maze in The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit (while the adults at heart enjoy the content), and the Voices of Lombard Street and The Synagogue Speaks exhibits have several hands-on portions. In addition to our interactive exhibits, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on our programs calendar, which you can find on our website, on Facebook, and on many local online calendars (such as The Baltimore Sun and The Jewish Times). We strive to have programming for all ages, from lectures for adults, to the rocking Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights concert we had for kids just a couple of weeks ago!
We’ve got you covered this winter break (and every school break) when it comes to entertaining your family!
2) Dear Abby,
I’m the kind of man who thrives on staying busy—especially if it’s a task that will bring a smile to a kid’s face. I’m a real sucker for a kid’s big, toothy grin. Right now, I’ve got a great job in a factory up north that’s going through its annual crunch time this season. I love it! The only problem is that our only day off from work is Dec. 25, when everything is closed. And I know what you’re going to say—why don’t you go see a movie and have some Chinese food? Those are always open on Christmas Day. But like I said, I enjoy being busy, and watching a movie or devouring chicken lo mein doesn’t count as busy in my book.
I happen to be pretty close to my boss, so I was telling him about my problem, and he told me that he and the missus often come to your museum on Dec. 25 because you’re one of the few places open, and that you guys always have a great program. It sounds like a good idea to me, but I thought I’d check in and see what exactly you guys are doing that day.
Your Friend from the Great North
Dear Great North,
It’s always nice to hear that someone had such a good time at our museum that they recommended us to a friend. Please tell your boss that we would really appreciate it if he and his wife could leave us a review on our TripAdvisor page. You should do write one too, once you’ve come to visit us!
We do have a fantastic program planned for December 25th, a.k.a “Mitzvah Day.” We are collaborating with Jewish Volunteer Connection to participate in the city-wide Mitzvah Day program. From 10:00am to 1:00pm, we will be decorating puzzles and putting together fun gift packages for children who have to stay in Sinai Hospital over the holidays. Sounds like a perfect fit for you!
If you’re wondering why puzzles, it’s because of our current special exhibition, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen. Mendes Cohen spent much of his life trying to piece together his complex identity, much like putting together a puzzle. And who doesn’t love puzzles, anyway?
Then, at 1:00pm, our renowned local historian, Gil Sandler, will further explore the topic of identity building in his talk, Becoming American in Jewish Baltimore. He will share the story of how many early Jewish Baltimoreans got their start.
It should be a great day, and we would love for you to join us!
See you on the 25th!
3) Dear Abby,
I’m from out of town, but my son lives in Baltimore, and I’ll be visiting him during Chanukah. Since you work at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, you must know everything there is to know about Jewish Baltimore! The first and most important thing I must know is …where is the best place to go for Chanukah shopping? I still have several people left on my holiday gift list—which brings me to my next question. My husband is a dreidel enthusiast. He collects dreidels of all kinds. I’d like to buy one for him to add to his collection, but every time I see some in the stores, I realize he has at least one of each kind there. I need to find him a unique dreidel. Is there some kind of dreidel emporium in Baltimore?
The next important thing I need to know is…which is the best deli in Baltimore? Is it Attman’s, Lenny’s, or Weiss’s?
Dear Mrs. Dreideleh,
I see you have your priorities straight! I’m more than happy to answer your questions—and the first one in particular. It just so happens that the best place in Baltimore to go to for all of your Chanukah shopping needs is…the JMM! We are currently having a Chanukah Madness sale, which means that everything in the shop that is Chanukah related is 25% off until the end of December.
Joseph’s Coat Menorah
Do you need a menorah in the shape of a trolley car? We’ve got it! Do you need Chanukah candles? We’ve got it! Do you need more gelt than you can possibly eat in a life time? We’ve got it! We also, of course, have our usual array of Jewish books, art, games, and jewelry that are perfect for that special someone on your holiday gift list.
Safed Candles from Israel
Which brings me to your second question: do we have a supply of not-your-everyday dreidels? Of course we do! We have metallic dreidels, wooden dreidels, and we have plastic dreidels that you can fill with candy. We also have a whole case full of decorative dreidels that come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. I couldn’t possibly describe them all, so you’ll just have to come down here yourself to take a look.
And while you’re down here, you can sample the three delis of Corned Beef Row and decide for yourself which one is best.
4) Dear Abby,
I hate winter. I hate the snow and the slush and the cold winds. I especially hate driving in this weather—people are just crazy when the weather turns bad! The whole season makes me wish I were a bear with lots of fur and nice warm cave to hibernate in. But if I can’t sleep the season away, I might as well keep myself entertained, and I do enjoy the exhibits and programs that you have at the JMM.
However, the last thing I want to do is battle the elements and idiotic drivers to get to the museum only to discover that it has closed because of the weather. How do I find out ahead of time whether the museum has decided to close or open late (or close early)?
Waiting for Spring
Dear Waiting for Spring,
I’m glad you asked that question because it’s a very important one. There are times when the weather outside is frightful and we do have to close the museum. The first place you can always check for this kind of information is our website: www.jewishmuseummd.org . If we have plans to close the building, it will be posted on the middle of the front page. We try to make sure we’ve posted our decision by 9am so that you can make plans accordingly. If it’s a weekday, our policy for the first day of any weather event is to go along with whatever the Baltimore City Schools are doing. After the first day, however, we make the decision ourselves based on the conditions of the roads and on the ability of the folks who clear the sidewalk and secure the building to make it to Lloyd Street.
We’re a hardy group, so we try not to close unless it is really necessary!
Posted on November 26th, 2014 by Rachel
If you’ve visited the Jewish Museum of Maryland and made use of our facilities (and let’s face it, you probably have—after all, the #1 question at the front desk is “where are the bathrooms?”), then you might have noticed how dark the bathroom area was. It was this weirdly shaped room full of dark shadows on dark floor. And I hated it!
I’ve been railing about the needlessly dark bathroom foyer ever since I came here in 2012. Many of the front desk volunteers can attest to this. So you can imagine my elated surprise when I turned on the lights to the bathroom foyer this past Sunday morning and found this:
Of course, I knew that they were changing the lights to LEDs this past Friday, but I didn’t anticipate such a dramatic change! Unfortunately, I don’t think I have any “Before” photos of the bathroom to help make the comparison. If I’d known what a different the LEDs would make, I would’ve snapped a photo on Thursday.
I think we’re going to have to be even more diligent about vacuuming the floor there…now that visitors can actually see the floor clearly!
A blog by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby, click here.
Posted on September 22nd, 2014 by Rachel
A few days ago we had our first opportunity to test out the educational programs we’d created for school groups visiting The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit. The 8th graders at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School were brave enough to sign up to be our guinea pigs!
Checking out the exhibit
Going into it, our education staff was unsure if we could manage more than ten students at a time inside the maze. Nightmareish images of children hiding in unseen corners and running roughshod over the interactives flooded our minds. Limiting the number of students allowed in the maze at one time would of course make planning field trips for large groups very awkward. We had to be creative about our use of time and space. The plan we came up with was based on the average group size of 40 students. We would split them in half—20 and 20—between Voices of Lombard Street and The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen. The 20 in Mendes Cohen would then be split again—10 and 10. The first group of ten would be led through the exhibit, while the second group did an archival activity in the Orientation Space. They would switch at 15 minutes, and then, at the half hour mark, switch with their classmates in Voices, and repeat.
Hard at work
We learned a lot by observing a school group go through the exhibit. The first thing we learned—much to our relief—is that it’s not as terrifying to take students through the maze as we’d imagined. We decided that it would not be impossible to even take up to 20 students at a time. The next thing we learned was that we really needed to give the students more time to go through the exhibit. It has so much to offer—from the fun of going through a maze, to the neat objects on display, and the hands-on interactives dispersed throughout the corridors and “rooms”—and no one was benefitting from having to rush through it.
The teacher also expressed her disappointment that we had put as much emphasis on the archival activity as on the exhibit itself. She felt that the archival activity could as easily be done in the classroom as at a museum, and she’d hoped for a more hands-on experience for her students. While I don’t think we should completely discount the appropriateness of utilizing our primary resources during a museum visit (many schools have limited access to these kinds of resources), we did take her critique to heart.
Afterwards, we went back to brainstorming: how could we supply just enough structure to make the school’s visit intellectually stimulating without making it seem like just another day in the classroom? How could we best get a group of students to not just walk through the maze, but to actually engage with its content? We had previously assumed that these two activities had to be separated—hence the archival activities. Now we needed to come up with a way of bringing the two together.
A major theme of the exhibit is the puzzle of Mendes Cohen’s complex identity. The exhibit seeks to demonstrate the different aspects of his character with his objects, letters, and actions. There are puzzle pieces scattered throughout the exhibit that list his attributes—e.g. “Family Man” and “Proud Jew.” Each of these puzzle pieces lifts up to reveal a question about how we know that Mendes was all of these things. At the end of the exhibit, we turn the question to the visitor: what are the attributes that make up you?
A “make your own” puzzle piece
It was this central theme that led our Education Director, Ilene Dackman-Alon, to a breakthrough idea. For the next school group that visits us, we will ask the students to work in pairs to find each of the puzzle pieces in the exhibit, and to write down the answer to each one’s question. At the end of the exhibit, we will ask them to think of attributes that describe their own class. Each pair will contribute their attribute to a piece of the class puzzle that they will then get to take back to school with them!
We are very excited about this new plan! It can be daunting to have to go back to the drawing board after working so hard to come up with the first lesson plans, but actually knowing what it looks like to take a school group through the exhibit helped us shape what we hope will be an even better one.
A blog by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby, click here.