Finding MY Stories at JMM

Posted on July 18th, 2018 by

By collections/exhibits intern Cara Bennet. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

When I first started my internship at the JMM I noticed that a large portion of the museum’s collections and stories focus on the greater Baltimore area. As someone who grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I kept asking myself how I fit into this museum. I’m a Jew. I grew up in Maryland. Where’s my story? It took a little more digging but in the past few weeks I’ve stumbled across several objects, places, and stories that have made me think “Oh I know this! This is familiar to me! This is relevant to my life and my history.”

One of these illuminating moments happened a few weeks ago as I was updating the exhibition script for Just Married! Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland. I’m currently working on turning the physical exhibit which was on view at the JMM last summer into an online exhibit. As I was reviewing the script, I stumbled across a label about Claire Dratch Bridal Salon, which is located in Bethesda, MD (where I grew up) and happens to be where my mom bought her wedding dress. I had grown up hearing the name Claire Dratch and had vague memories of passing the salon in downtown Bethesda but had never realized its cultural and historical significance. I had no idea that Clare Bacharach Dratch was Jewish, had escaped Nazi Germany, and went on to start a successful business, outfitting generations of local brides (including my mom).

My parents on their wedding day.

Another enlightening moment happened the other day as I was browsing a list of Maryland synagogues in PastPerfect. Most of the synagogues were unfamiliar to me because I grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. Most of my Jewish friends belonged to synagogues in D.C. and my family continued to attend Temple Sinai (also in DC) even after we moved to Maryland. Since my dad also grew up in Maryland I was curious if he had belonged to any of the synagogues on the list. He told me that while he never belonged to one synagogue (his family jumped around for high holidays and Hebrew school) he and my uncle both had their Bar Mitzvahs at Temple Beth-El in Bethesda. I found another family connection!

My Dad and Uncle’s Bar Mitzvah invitations.

I love that the JMM’s exhibits focus mainly on the stories of individuals not just famous or influential figures. While it is certainly important for museums to highlight significant historic figures whenever possible, it is equally important to shed light on the stories of everyday people and communities. These stories are much more relatable and relevant and allow visitors to see their own stories and family histories within the exhibits. The JMM’s exhibits do a great job of highlighting the voices and stories of Maryland’s Jewish community and making them relatable and accessible to a wide audience.

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Once Upon a Time…09.08.2017

Posted on May 22nd, 2018 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 Joanna Church by email at

JMM 2002.49.9

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: September 8, 2017

PastPerfect Accession #: JMM 2002.049.009

Status: These are the Balabans, celebrating at a Bar Mitzvah around 1950 – but we don’t know anyone’s first name! Can you help?

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Graham’s Adult Bar Mitzvah

Posted on June 30th, 2017 by

A blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.

All ready for the ceremony.

All ready for the ceremony.

Earlier this month, I had my adult Bar Mitzvah ceremony in the historic Lloyd Street Synagogue.  It was an honor celebrating it in the oldest synagogue in Maryland and the third oldest still standing in the country. I had relatives fly in from England, California and Washington State as well as guests who drove from Rhode Island and Ohio. I was also delighted that some of our volunteers were able to come in addition to my friends from the Jewish community.

Preparing to read from the torah

Preparing to read from the torah

During the service, I lead prayers such as the Shema and the Amidah. Rabbi Dinin did a wonderful job describing the significance of each of the prayers to the audience. My friend RLee sang a version of Shalom Rav and another friend Gereon read a Prayer for Peace. It was also very special having my parents read the Priestly blessing.

Giving the D'var Torah

Giving the D’var Torah

In my Dvar Torah, I tied in my love of sailing, traveling and the environment with my Torah portion of Shelach (Numbers 15: 37-40) and Haftarah portion of Noah (Isaiah 54:1-10). I talked about how since moving to Baltimore three years ago, I have reconnected with my faith through attending services at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, doing service projects with Repair the World and socializing with other young Jewish adults at Moishe House and Chai Life.

After the service, we had a small reception inside B’nai Israel and then some joined us for a dinner in Little Italy. The next day, many of my family members joined me for a tour of the synagogues and were able to explore our exhibits.

The historic Lloyd Street Synagogue

The historic Lloyd Street Synagogue

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. I would like to thank Mickey Rubin, who privately tutored me for the past year and for Rabbi Dinin who officiated the service and to Rabbi Mintz who offered B’nai Israel as the place for my reception. I would also like to thank the Jewish Museum of Maryland for allowing me to celebrate this special occasion at the museum. Don’t forgot, that you too can have your special occasion at the JMM. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me to find out more about renting the Lloyd Street Synagogue for your bar mitzvah or wedding.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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