JMM Insights: Dear Abby

Posted on March 21st, 2014 by

Dear Abby,

I’m very excited to hear that the JMM will be opening a new exhibit all about my favorite game: Mah Jongg! I’m actually from Boston, but I have a sister-in-law in Baltimore, so I’ve heard about your museum, and I’ve been curious about it for awhile. This spring seems like the perfect time to finally make a visit, and I’d like to bring some of my girlfriends with me.

My girlfriends and I are in an unusual kind of “mahj” group: we do destination Mah Jongg! This means that we like to play in special locations. For example, last Mother’s Day we ditched the hubbies and played Mah Jongg for 48 straight hours in Las Vegas. It was such a thrill! If you can imagine it, it was kind of like one of those big poker tournaments that they have on TV, but with kosher food and better gossip.

Anyway, I hear from my sister-in-law that, in addition to seeing the exhibit, you can also reserve a few tables to play Mah Jongg at the museum itself. That would be perfect for our next destination! What do I have to do make a reservation? Does it cost anything?

I look forward to hearing from you, and to fleecing my friends of all their quarters in a rousing game at the JMM!


“Mahj” from Boston

Dear “Mahj”,

Wow, that’s quite a group you’ve got! Yes, it is true that we will have about six card tables set up in our Orientation Space that groups can reserve for 2 hour time slots. You should talk to me either by phone or email about bringing your group in to see the exhibit and playing a game or two of Mahj. There is no extra fee for reserving a table to play, so you will only have to pay $5 per person if you are bringing a group of 10 or more during our public hours.

If you wanted to bring your group here after our public hours, then the charge will be $40 per hour that we have to stay open past our usual hours. This fee simply covers our costs associated with staying open.

During the exhibit’s time here (March 30 to June 29), there will be some occasions when we will not take any reservations. Some of these are on days when we have all-day public programs that will need to use the Orientation Space (for example, a Mah Jongg Marathon—keep your eyes peeled for more news on that soon!). Other times will include the hours when we have a scheduled speaker. If you’re thinking of coming in to play on a Sunday, just know that the best times for which to sign up are at 11am or 3pm, since our speakers are usually on Sundays at 1pm.

While the tables in the Orientation Space are not for impromptu games of Mah Jongg, there will be one table inside the exhibit itself that will be set up for impromptu playing or “playing” for anyone who wants to just move the tiles around. For these tables, we ask that you write your name on the sign-up form inside the exhibit and limit your playing to about 30 minutes if people are waiting for a chance to play.

I hope that answered all of your questions. Can’t wait to see your group at the JMM!

Best Wishes,


You won't want to miss the opening of this great exhibit!

You won’t want to miss the opening of this great exhibit!

Dear Abby,

I am writing a novel that is a semiautobiographical-mystery-thriller family saga stretching from the turn of the 20th century to the 1980’s, set in Baltimore. I would like to do some research both about what life was like in those decades, as well as some research into my own family history. In starting the research for this book, I’ve come across a few family skeletons, including the mystery of the location of the body of my Great-Aunt Fannie, who was shunned by her family for not serving crab at her son’s bar mitzvah! Can you imagine—not a crab cake or even a coddy in sight? Since the whole family refused to attend her funeral, there’s no one left who can remember where she was buried. I know that the JMM has a lot of this kind of information in their archives, so can I stop by sometime to do my research? Is there a research fee? I think I’m a member of the museum, but honestly, I can’t remember.

Thank you for your help!


The Future Laura Lippman


Dear Future Laura Lippman,

Not to be a grouch, but I’m afraid we need to insist that on-site research can only be done here by appointment, and we need a few weeks of lead time to arrange it. We have a very small staff, with all of us wearing several hats, which means that we need a little extra time to complete research requests.

Let me first suggest that if you’re looking for something specific in our collections or trying to find where your Great-Aunt Fannie is buried, the first place to stop is our online collections database! If you go to our website ( and go to the “Collections & Research” section, you’ll find many resources, including a link to search through our collections and archives. In the Family History section, we even have downloadable spreadsheets for all of the Jewish cemeteries in Baltimore, so you can find where your ancestors were buried.

If you want more help, you will want to call our designated research phone extension at (410) 732-6400 x213 or email, if it’s a genealogy question you have, you can call this extension, (410) 732 6400 x224, or email–to submit your contact information and research question. A staff member will get in touch with you to make an appointment.  Depending on demand, this may take a few weeks.

If you are a member, then you can do research here for free! For non-members, it’s $8 per visit, and for non-member students it’s $8 per project (so you can visit multiple times and pay only once). This fee also includes admission to the museum, for when you feel like taking a break and wandering through the galleries.

I can’t wait to read your book when it’s finished!




Dear Abby,

I’ve been a member of the JMM for many, many years, but lately, I’ve become a real katzisher kop, and I’m afraid that I will forget to bring my membership card with me the next time I come to visit the museum. If I do forget, will I still be able to get free admission? More importantly, will I still get my 10% discount at your fabulous gift shop? Next week, my cousin is visiting, and I plan on bringing him down to see your latest exhibit, and the fear of forgetting all of these important things is keeping me up at night! Speaking of which, should I use one of my guest passes for my cousin, or is he included in my family membership?



I. Forget


Dear “Forget”,

I’m sorry to hear that your forgetfulness is keeping you from getting your beauty sleep! Well, you can rest easy now, because there’s no reason that forgetting to bring your card should keep you from enjoying your membership benefits. When you arrive at the museum, simply tell the person at the front desk your first and last name, and they will confirm your membership status for you by looking at our list of current members. You can also do this if you can’t remember whether or not you’ve renewed your membership for the coming year.

Family memberships cover up to six members within a single household, so unless your cousin lives with you (and it sounds like he does not), then he is not included in the family membership. That being said, this is the perfect time to use one of your guest passes!  But please do remember to bring the guest pass with you when you bring your guest (perhaps put it in your bag or pants pocket the night before). Your cousin will have to fill out the back of the guest pass with his information before handing it to the front-desk person.

We’ll see you soon!



Dear Abby,

I’m planning a program for my sisterhood, and I’m having a lot of trouble finding a good speaker for the group! They’re an intellectually curious bunch, so I want to provide a speaker who will really pique their interest. Someone told me a long time ago that you offer a Speakers Bureau, but I think I’ve also heard that you no longer offer that Speakers Bureau. Which is true? Can you help me find a speaker?

Thank you for your help!


“Desperate in Columbia’


Dear “Desperate in Columbia’,

It is true that we used to have a Speakers Bureau, in which we charged organizations a fee to have a talk delivered by a member of our research or curatorial team.  We no longer do that. We have so many exciting projects ahead that we need our creative team to keep its focus on programs and exhibitions.

On the other hand, we are happy to talk to groups about our exhibits! If you have a sizable group (25 or more people), consider inviting our director, Marvin Pinkert to come speak.  Schedule permitting, Marvin is happy to talk about the latest topics in our featured exhibit at JMM. For example, in honor of our quickly approaching new exhibit, Project Mah Jongg, Marvin has developed a fascinating talk on the history of Jews and games—as both players and creators—that stretches back to the days of the Bible! Unlike our Speakers Bureau, these talks are free of charge.

If such a talk sounds like a good fit for your event, you can talk to me ( about scheduling him to come talk to your group.

Best Wishes,




Dear Abby,

My parents are finally downsizing from the home they’ve lived in for 40-odd years to a condo, and my siblings and I have been helping them sort through what we think they should keep and what they should give away or throw out. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff there is in their attic! The condo is pretty small, so they can’t keep much, but a lot of it is in pretty good condition, so we feel bad throwing it away. Could I bring down all this stuff to donate it to the museum?


Child of Hoarders


Dear “Child of Hoarders,”

It depends on what kind of “stuff” you’re talking about. If it’s a sewing machine, then probably not —we’ve got six already! It also depends on where this attic is located. Is this attic in Maryland, or does it belong to someone who lives or lived for a significant period of time in Maryland? We only collect objects that pertain to Jewish life in Maryland, so if your parents lived all their lives in Virginia, then I’m afraid we won’t be interested in their belongings. However, if these objects are directly related to people who live or lived in Maryland, then we might possibly be interested in adding them to our collections.

But please don’t just drop it on our doorstep!

First, you should call our Collections Manager, Jobi Zink, and ask her if she thinks we’ll want it for our collection, and she will tell you what to do next. If she thinks that we might be interested in your parents’ things, then she will present the objects to our Collections Committee, which decides which new objects the museum will accession.

Best Wishes,



abby krolik copyDear Abby is written by our Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby, click here.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

National History Day Competition comes to Baltimore City Public Schools…

Posted on February 17th, 2014 by

This past week, Ilene and I had the honor of being judges in a National History Day Competition at Mount Washington Middle School (Ilene actually was a judge at several other schools’ competitions as well, but I was only able to attend this one). The competition has existed for many years, but this was the first year that Baltimore City public schools have participated, which we learned when three different schools asked us to volunteer as judges for their school’s competition.

Each year, elementary and secondary school students can participate by selecting any topic in history that relates to the annual national theme. This year, that theme is “rights and responsibilities.” Students can work by themselves or in small groups to research and present their topic as either a small “exhibit” (think science fair presentation board), a paper, a performance, a documentary, or a website that they design. They must make use of both primary and secondary sources and make connections not just between their topics and the theme, but also to current events that demonstrate the topic’s relevance. The first step is the school-level competition. The winner from each school goes on to the local competition, and the winner at that level goes on to a state-wide competition, and then that winner proceeds to the National History Day competition, held each year at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Picture 1

Mount Washington Middle School is one of our newest partner schools. One of our favorite teachers, Ryan Kaiser, just moved there this year from Patterson Park Public Charter School, and it was he who invited us to be judges for their school level competition. The judges were pulled from various educational institutions across the city–teachers from other schools, educators and administrators from the District Office, the Maryland Humanities Council, and us, the Jewish Museum of Maryland!

Ilene and I were assigned to work together. We were handed folders with the names of the students whose projects we’d be judging as well as the rubrics and rules for grading. As a first time judge of anything, it was a little overwhelming, so I was very glad that the folder also included a list of suggested questions to ask the students, such as “Why did you choose this topic?” and “What was the most important thing you learned from this?”

Picture 2

The projects we saw covered a wide range of topics, including Nelson Mandela, Child Labor Laws, and Grave Robbery. As expected, there was also a wide range of ability, but given that this was probably the first big research project many of the students had undertaken (many of the students we were judging were 6th graders), we were both impressed by the scope of each student’s project and also by their clear enthusiasm.

We were especially impressed by one girl’s project which compared the murders of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin. Not only was she able to make a connection between an historical event and a current event, but she was also able to articulate other comparisons between the two cases. Her exhibit included sections on two different, flawed systems of justice that existed, or still exist, in the U.S., as well as how the two cases influenced and inspired contemporaries.

Overall, the experience of judging the History Day competition was a very positive one. I wish we’d had more time to look at other projects besides the ones we were assigned to judge. And I’m already looking forward to judging again next year!

Picture 3

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Mapping Jewish Community – A Hopkins Mini-Course

Posted on January 13th, 2014 by

Back in late November, I received an intriguing email from a history Phd candidate from Johns Hopkins University. She and another history grad student were putting together a mini course for JHU’s intercession, in which undergraduate students can take 3-week courses in a wide variety of topics that they wouldn’t necessarily get to explore in the normal semester. This particular mini course was to be about mapping Jewish community in Baltimore—and what better place to start then the Jewish Museum of Maryland?

New facade!


The three of us and Ilene Dackman-Alon met to discuss the scope of the course and to see where we could help out.  It was ultimately decided that the class would have their first meeting here at the museum, where they would tour the synagogues and exhibits, and later on, back in their classroom, our living history character, Ida Rehr (played by Katherine Lyons), would come visit them.

Cover of the Voices of Lombard Street brochure

Voices of Lombard Street

Last Tuesday, the class arrived, eager to learn about the roots of Jewish Baltimore. Before beginning the tour, they took turns introducing themselves and explaining why they had signed up for the course. Many of the students came from mixed backgrounds—one Jewish parent—and so were curious about the history and culture from which they came. When the instructors—the grad students—introduced themselves, they talked about how their identities weren’t shaped just by their religion, but also by where in the country they grew up. One, who grew up in Viriginia, said she felt that she had the very specific identity of being a Southern Jew, while the other, who grew up in New York City, related strongly to the cultural identity of being a New York Jew. Listening to this conversation, Ilene and I couldn’t help but wish that the Chosen Food exhibit were still here!

LSS by Jono David

LSS by Jono David

The students enjoyed seeing the two historic synagogues and learning about the migration of the Jewish community within Baltimore. It’s great to see so many people who are interested in learning about the Jewish American experience and identity and that the JMM is viewed as an invaluable resource for schools of all kinds!

abby krolik copyA blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts by Abby, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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