A Trip to the Naval Academy with the JMM

Posted on August 27th, 2012 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus. To read more posts from Rachel, click here.

This year’s Salon Series – a three part summer partnership between the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Myerberg Senior Center – ended with a bus trip to the Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  We were shown around by our docent, David Hoffberger, and the current Jewish Chaplain, Rabbi Joshua Sherwin.

Exterior of the Uriah P. Levy Chapel

The Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy is called the Uriah P. Levy Chapel, named for America’s first Jewish Commodore.  Uriah P. Levy was born in Philadelphia in 1792 to a family with German and Portuguese origins.  At the age of ten he left home and went to sea, returning at age 12 to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah.  He was later an apprentice to a sailor.  When the war of 1812 broke out, Levy volunteered, and due to his years of experience at sea, Levy was able to rise immediately to the position of commodore (note: the US Navy no longer has the position of commodore.  The equivalent today is an admiral).  Levy eventually attained the rank of captain.  He was known for his stance opposing corporal punishment and was outspoken about banning flogging from naval punishment.  After refusing to punish a young sailor using flogging, Levy was court-martialed and dismissed from service.  The decision was later overturned by President Tyler.  Levy was proud of his Jewish heritage and addressed issues of anti-Jewish sentiment that he saw taking place in the Navy at the time.

Volunteer Docent, David Hoffberger, speaks to our group in the Jewish Chapel

Levy had a lifelong respect for Thomas Jefferson, who he considered sympathetic to issues of religious tolerance.  Levy purchased Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, and he and his family maintained the site until the 1920s (though Levy himself died in 1862).  Levy also commissioned a statue of Jefferson which stands in the rotunda in the U.S. Capitol.


Although the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Chapel was built in 2005, Jewish students have attended the academy since its early days.  Until 1972 it was mandated that students attend a weekly worship service on Sundays.  Jewish students and other students whose religious affiliations did not align with the chapels available on campus, were still required to attend.  In 1937 Jewish students persuaded the academy to allow them to attend a Jewish service at Kneseth Israel Synagogue, the only congregation in Annapolis, if that congregation would agree to have a special service on Sundays.  The Naval Academy permitted them to begin attending these special services in 1938, and as one of our bus trip attendees and JMM volunteers, Bobbie Horwitz, recalled from her childhood in Annapolis, attending the special service on Sundays and preparing food for the Naval Academy students was a big deal for the small community.

In keeping with the traditions of the Naval Academy, the group of students called themselves the “Jewish Church Party,” although they were eventually renamed the Jewish Midshipmen’s Club.   Kneseth Israel eventually moved out of the Annapolis city center, making it too far for the students to walk on Sundays, and even though compulsory attendance of religious services came to an end, Jewish students continued to look for a way to have services and social events.  Over the next few decades the Jewish Midshipmen’s Club (JMC) made us of storage spaces and the All Faiths Chapel.

In 1994 the Friends of the Jewish Chapel was founded to give support to the JMC , and in 1999 they began to plan and raise funds for the Uriah P. Levy Chapel.  It was dedicated in September 2005 and has provided a space for services, programs, and small exhibits related.

The Chapel looks like a boat!

During our visit over fifty attendees from the JMM and the Myerberg Center visited the chapel, which is built to look like the inside of a ship.  The aisle leading up to the bima is an optical illusion to look as though one is ascending.

Rabbi Sherwin discusses his work as Naval Academy Chaplain

As a special treat at the end of our visit, Jewish Chaplain, Rabbi Joshua Sherwin spoke to our group about his work at the Naval Academy.  Chaplains serve at a post for three years, and he recently became the 10th Jewish Chaplain to serve at the Naval Academy.  Only eight rabbis are active in the Naval Academy, Marines and Coast Guard.  Jewish and other minority groups are what is known as LDHD – Low Density, High Demand, which means that at any base in the world there is likely to be a at least one Jewish person on active duty.  So, the chaplains take turns visiting different parts of the world at holidays.  Rabbi Sherwin has been to Afghanistan several times for this reason.  In his work at the Naval Academy he, like all chaplains, serves all students, not just Jewish students.  The Jewish Chapel also serves all students, not just Jewish students.  The balcony of the chapel is always open so that students can come spend some quiet time there whenever they want.

Look for more bus trips with the JMM coming soon!

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A Trip to Annapolis and Internship Reflection

Posted on July 8th, 2011 by

A blog post by summer intern Morgan Byrn.

This Fourth of July week has been an action packed week. Monday, Mary (a fellow intern) and I hit the big city of Annapolis. We took at trolley tour of the city to learn about its history. We also stayed for the parade and the big fireworks show at the harbor. It was a great day! I really enjoyed looking out at the streets trying to imagine what it must have been like to be in the city in 1785 after the war has ended. It made me also think of how I like to stand outside of the JMM and try to picture the bustling of Lombard Street. The people selling chickens and veggies and the children running around getting food or playing games, what a sight it must have been. Thinking of the quotes in the Voices of Lombard Street, you can really picture the street in the early twentieth century.  I really have enjoyed taking groups through the exhibit. Seeing kids faces as they look at the outhouse and discover what it was, is priceless.

Leading and helping with school groups has also been one of my favorite things to do at the museum. Tuesday, we had the Super campers come to visit. They are a great group of kids. I helped with the Synagogue Speaks activities. The kids seem to really enjoy the activities. It was very interesting to hear what the kids were going to paint for their favorite thing painting. This corresponds to the murals that were once on the ceiling of the Lloyd Street Synagogue of the Holy Land. A lot of kids will draw their favorite place to eat or their favorite sports team; it is the ones that paint something close to them that is truly touching. One child painted him and his brother playing football outside. There was something so sweet in this simple painting, to him that was the most special place in the world. I think this is why I like working with children so much. They have a different outlook on life and the world. There is this thirst for knowledge and the understanding of the world that I think adults loose as they age. I know that many adults never lose that appetite for learning, but there is something different about children and their quest for knowledge. I used to babysit and during story time, my little buddy would ask ten questions per page about everything regardless of the story being read.  At first it was kind of annoying to have to stop and answer the questions. But then I realized that to him these were questions that were important and interesting to him. I learned to look forward to his questions. The same way I look forward to the questions that the school groups ask us at the museum. To a child knowing why the bathroom was outside or why they had to keep fish the tub are relevant and important to them. Their questions are something I look forward to when they come.

This internship as really shown me that working with children in a museum is something that I want to do. Yes, they are loud and sometimes crazy, but children are the people I relate to the most. Some may say it’s because I can talk to a fence post, but I think to think that it is because I understand their motivations for asking questions. Learning is something that I hope I never get to old to do. I also ask a lot of questions, just ask my mentor. There is nothing better than seeing something and then going to look up the history on it. I love the feeling of finding out something new.

Well that is enough seriousness for one blog! I would like to end on the fun things I learned this week. First, I learned the homes in Annapolis are controlled by the historical council in all aspects but outside paint. Therefore, people take liberties with the paint colors of their homes, as our tour guide put it, “they are either being really creative or getting their revenge.” I also learned that fireworks and parades are more fun when surrounded by people wearing the most red, white, and blue that they possibly can. Lastly, I learned that arts and crafts as a grad student maybe be more fun now than it was when I was a kid. I hope everyone came out and checked out Brews and Schmooze and got their picture taken with the JMM collage that the West Wing interns worked hard on!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Once Upon a Time

Posted on December 28th, 2010 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or jzink@jewishmuseummd.org.

Date(s) run in Baltimore Jewish Times: 9/24/10

PastPerfect Accession #: 1989.109.011

Status:Identified. Group of Azoans, c. 1955. Front: L-R Ernestine “Tine” Stiffman, Dorothy Bark, Dora  (Naviasky) Rockman, Mrs. Diener  Back L-R : Mr. Bark, Mr. Diener / Alternate ids: Hannah Kotzin, Numa Levy, ? Katzen, Betty Goldstein, Rabbi Rosenblatt, Manny Shenker

Special thanks to: Steve Steinberg, Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman, Shelia Friedman, Debbie Rockman Greenberg, David Earle, Helen Naviasky, Harriet Naviasky Sollod

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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