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Voter Education: Museum Advocacy

Posted on May 29th, 2020 by

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot is today, and it’s considered the date that the Israelites received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. Traditionally, this holiday is spent eating delicious dairy-based foods, like cheesecakes and blintzes, and studying together as a community. Some people even hold all-night study sessions, as they read medieval poetry and the Book of Ruth.

Here at JMM, we deeply value the power of sharing stories with the community. We want our stories to inspire learning, growth, and inspiration. We’re doing our best to offer these stories virtually, through programs and digital tours for adults and classrooms, but it’s hard to not be able to welcome you all to celebrate these stories and holidays together. As we look towards the future, we want to ensure that we can continue to offer the opportunities to learn from each other and to do so, we need your support.

Many Jewish communities host all-night study sessions on Shavuot. This year, many groups are hosting these sessions online. In this image, three young, Jewish men sit a table, studying together.

Building on your advocacy skills from last week’s blog post, we ask for your help in protecting museums and other similar cultural institutions. This uncertain time has placed a strain on all community services, including museums. As our JMM community knows, museums are an essential place for everyone. They provide the opportunity to learn about people different from our own, inspiring compassion and empathy. Museums collect and preserve history, allowing us to reflect on the past and imagine a better future. Museums are hubs of culture, education, financial growth, and togetherness, and we need you to share the necessity of their existence.

First of all, learn more about the essential nature of museums through these reports on Museum & Public Opinion and Museums as Economic Engines. Let these reports just be the start of your learning into how museums have a huge, positive impact on their community and on the nation.

The American Alliance of Museums, or AAM, has tons of resources on how to support and advocate for museums across the country.

Then, visit the American Alliance of Museums’ website on museum advocacy to find resources like advocacy ideas, videos to share, form letters to send to legislators, and social media packs to help you spread the word that museums need to be protected.

There are lots of ways to help: calling and emailing your representatives, writing op-eds, and sharing the information on your social media to encourage others to participate.

Help us to save American museums so that we can still offer programs, school groups can still visit, and we can continue to preserve and share stories for everyone.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Voter Education: Getting Involved

Posted on May 22nd, 2020 by

We’ve covered requesting an absentee ballot, how to educate yourself to prepare to vote, and even what to do at the polling place. But what if you want to be more involved in the political process, not just at the voting booth? Or maybe there’s a particular issue or law that you want people to pay attention to. Getting involved in local politics, through advocacy work, is an amazing way to amplify your voice and the needs of your community. And it’s easier than most people think!

Advocacy and lobbying can be done individually, as anyone can call their representatives, send letters and emails, and even appear in at meetings, such as town halls or legislative sessions. If you’re not sure where to start with your advocacy work, there are lots of groups that provide guidance and organization, based on who they represent, certain issues, or another unifying feature. You can start by connecting people from your synagogue or church, who may be working together to advocate for the local community. Or there may be specific issues that have brought people together, such as development over a particular part of your neighborhood. If you follow and support certain national organizations, like the ACLU, there are often local chapters that are doing lobbying work to ensure the rights of the people they protect. As you research these avenues, you may find an organization that fits closely with your beliefs and values. Finding a support network this way, as you embark into advocacy is incredibly helpful, as they have the resources and know-how to help you use your voice effectively.

Working together with a group or organization is essential for coordinating your efforts and being efficient. Here Callie Cochan, Phil Casponeschi, and Edward Rosenfeld hold up signs supporting Equal Opportunity in Employment. JMM 1998.147.004.001

Whether you have guidance from an organization or not, letting your local legislators know what is incredibly important. Local leaders especially are mindful of their constituents, as they know that their next election depends on the opinions of the people and can be determined by a very small margin. Keeping their constituents happy and secure in their choice of leader is a legislator’s responsibility, and so they want to hear what you need from them. This can be done in a few different ways.

Local politicians are always looking for support from their constituents. That gives you the power to influence their decisions! In this image, women from Baltimore county hold signs showing their support of their governor. JMM 2012.054.116.044

You can always email your representatives directly. Their email addresses should be listed on your state’s government website. If you live in Maryland, you can find the State Senate emails here and the State House of Delegates’ emails here. You can also use that website to find the County Council from your area and their contact information. Emails are useful for people who are uncomfortable speaking on the phone or who cannot send physical letters to their representatives. However, sending an email is not as effective as these other methods, as it can easily be ignored, especially if the representative has a lot of emails in their inbox.

Calling a representative’s office is a really direct way to communicate what you want them to do. When making a phone call, try to connect to a person, rather than leaving a voicemail. Like an email, a voicemail is easier to ignore than a live person on the line. When reaching the office, ask for the representative, rather than speaking to an aide, so that they can hear from you directly. If that isn’t possible, make sure to speak to an aide who is working on the issues you’re concerned with. Making a phone call like this can daunting for some, but remember, taking these calls and considering your concerns is your representative’s job. This is what they were elected for, and they are obligated to listen to you.

If calling is not for you, but you still want to make an impact, handwriting a letter is another effective way to get your voice heard. When you write your letter, make sure to plan out time for it to get mailed to your representative, especially if you are addressing an upcoming vote. You can always drop the letter off directly (just make sure to check local guidelines on access to government buildings, especially during this time). A handwritten letter makes a statement of the time and effort you put into addressing the issue. It shows that you really care and will take the time to share your concerns.

Two men sit at a table writing. Getting your friends to also write letters can make your position even stronger! JMM 1993.052.183

A combination of those three methods is a great way to reach out to your local representative. When communicating in any way to local government, remember a few tips. Make sure to prepare your message before calling or sending it along. The action you want them to take should be clear, such as asking them not to vote on a bill, and you should add your personal connection to the issue. Let them know why it’s so important that they don’t vote on the bill. If you have trouble with creating a message, you can ask the local organization that you’re working with, as they’re sure to come up with a form letter that people can use and adapt to fit their personal story.

Also, remember to focus your messaging on your representatives. Your opinion won’t be as impactful to legislators outside your district or area, so it’s not worth putting your energy towards changing their actions. However, there are some exceptions to this, such as when there is a big, national law being voted on. Work with local and national organizations, to find out where you can make the most impact but stay focused on local issues.

To take it a step further, you can show up in person (or in a virtual meeting) to show legislators you care. Attending town halls and other similar meetings are a great way to find out more about a legislator’s plans for the upcoming political session and to ask them questions or to take action. When preparing to attend a town hall, work with the local organizing groups, so that you’re not going alone. A crowd of people, maybe all wearing the same color or the same shirt, asking about a particular issue will place a lot of pressure on a representative to listen to them. You should also prepare your questions ahead of time, again, making it clear what action you want the representative to take. Keep the questions short and clear, while still adding your personal spin. Keeping it personal will make the legislator see how important the issue is to you and that they need to consider your feelings.

There are lots of other ways to get more involved in politics, such as writing op-eds, attending protests, and donating money. Hopefully, this is just the start of your involvement in your community and the future you want to see!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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