SuperKids 2012!

Posted on July 25th, 2012 by

A blog post by Education Intern Ariella Esterson.

Every Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., the doors to the Jewish Museum of Maryland burst open and in run the smiling faces of the SuperKids. SuperKids is a six-week summer reading enrichment program for boys and girls in grades 2nd,3rd, and 4th. The idea of SuperKids is to combine traditional summer camp activities with enriching learning experiences that helps to prepare students to return to school in the fall. They partner with many of Baltimore’s best-known cultural and historical organizations to ensure children receive a fun and educational summer. They integrate reading and writing into all aspect of camp so while the campers are having fun, they are also working to improve their literacy skills.

When the SuperKids arrive, they immediately can’t wait to get started with the day’s activities. The kids are split into 3 groups; one group to Lloyd Street Synagogue, one to Chosen Food and one to Voices on Lombard Street. One of the docents, Lois Fekete, is in charge of the Synagogue portion and teaches the SuperKids an intro to Judaism lesson and teaches them the Hebrew Alphabet. The group in Voices of Lombard Street set out on a scavenger hunt to learn about how immigrants lived when they arrived to Baltimore. They get to play and interact with the different objects inside the exhibit, such as the kitchen set and sowing machines.

So far, all of the SuperKids have loved these interactive sections and we’ve even had trouble having the kids leave the museum! Sample questions in the scavenger hunt include “Behind you is a bathtub. Read the text panel above it. Draw a picture of what was inside,” and “Find the photograph of people on a boat. These are immigrants coming to Baltimore. What is an immigrant?” Questions such as these ensure that the SuperKids read and write, which helps to prepare them for returning to school.

The third exhibit, Chosen Food, is the last stop for the SuperKids. In here, there are three different stations. The first station is a Hechser Hunt. A Hechser is a symbol placed on foods to show that these foods are considered Kosher. These symbols include the Star-K and the OU. The concept of kosher is introduced to the kids and then food packages and a chart of the different symbols are handed out and the kids need to locate the symbol on the boxes. They get really excited and love calling out when they find one with the name of the Hechsher they found.

Now that the kids know about Jewish foods, at the next station they learn about Jewish holidays and different Jewish foods eaten on those holidays. The kids are asked what their favorite holiday is, Jewish or Secular, and what’s their favorite food to eat on that holiday. We’ve gotten responses such as turkey on Thanksgiving and candy on Halloween. We then discuss different Jewish holidays and the food eaten on those, such as Matzah on Passover and Latkes on Hanukah. We then hand out a paper with a picture of a plate and have the kids draw their favorite holiday meal. We’ve gotten many delicious designs which have made us all very hungry.

The third and final station within Chosen Food is having all the kids sit down and reading them a book titled, “Matzo Ball Soup,” written by Jennifer Littman. (http:/// The book tells the story of a grandmother preparing matzo ball soup for her family to eat on the Sabbath.

It ties together the entire Chosen Food exhibit for it talks about a Jewish holiday with a specific Jewish food that is eaten. Through the entire Chosen Food exhibit, the SuperKids  read, write, and draw which is very important to aid their development as they prepare to return to school.

SuperKids is a great program that combines learning with fun. It’s so nice to see their smiling faces every week and their excitement about the museum and I can’t wait until next time!

For more information on SuperKids check out http:///

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A Mystery in Signage

Posted on June 26th, 2012 by

Hi everyone! My name is Ariella Esterson and I am one of the new Education interns here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. I am currently finishing my undergraduate degree in History and Secondary Education at Queens College in New York. Since starting my internship a few weeks ago, I have been lucky enough to shadow some tours and help rewrite the docent tour script. While reading through the script and participating in a tour, I have recently noticed the Hebrew inscription that is located on the outside of B’nai Israel.

Looking at this plaque, I was left with many questions. When was it put up and more importantly what did it say? Being able to read and understand Hebrew, I was able to figure out that the first line read “Sh’ar Shel Beit El” with means in English “Gate of the House of God.” This is written to symbolize that this building is a synagogue or Jewish house of worship. After consulting with a book on Hebrew acronyms, I can safely assume that the second line, the “Kuf Kuf” stands for “Kehilla Kedosha” or “Holy Congregation.” The third line was when I started having some issues translating. It seemed to be like a bunch of gibberish, with letters strewn all over the place. It was hard to determine what each letter was, and I realized I needed to do some research. The fourth line I assumed was a date, but until I solved the mystery of the third line, I assumed the fourth line would make no sense.

While scanning the Past Perfect database, I finally stumbled on a picture of this plaque that was accessioned to the museum in 1987 (1987.173.071)

As one can clearly see from this picture, besides for the peeling paint and old feeling to the plaque, the third line is clearly visible. The letters spell out the name of the synagogue “B’nai Israel.” Now that I knew what line 2 said, I played detective and matched up those letters to the plaque that is up now. Taking a pen and outlining the letters that made the words “B’nai Israel,” I found that the leftover letters spelled “Chizuk Amuno,” the old synagogue that used to reside there! What a find!

Although I was able to decipher what the third line said, I was still left with a burning question. Which synagogue name was listed on the plaque first? I hoped that the fourth line would help shed some light on this question. I hoped that this would result in a date of when the plaque went up, which would reveal which synagogue was listed first. Using Gematria, which is assigning a numerical value to Hebrew letters, I was able to see that “Taf” equals 400, “Reish” equals 200, “Lamed” equals 30, and “Vav” equals 6, to make a grand total of 636. To my disappointment, this was not a year that I could use. My eyes then saw the last three letters on the plaque which are “Lamed” “Pey” and “Kuf.” Consulting once again my acronym dictionary, I got the words, “L’Prat Katan,” which in English means “Small details.” What this means is that back in the day when years were written they would leave out a letter (Hey, which in this case would be 5,000) from the beginning of the year, but they would put this acronym at the end to remind the reader to add the original 5,000. When that is added, there is now a grand total of 5,636. When this year is converted to the English year, you are left with 1876, the year Chizuk Amuno was established!

Based on this information, one can safely assume that “Chizuk Amuno” was etched in first on the plaque. When the building was bought by “B’nai Israel,” they covered up the original letters and re-etched the name of their synagogue. During the restoration period in the 1980’s, workers uncovered both synagogue names and decided to keep them both there for all visitors to see the transformation. I can now say mystery solved!

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