Finding a Home in the Collections

Posted on October 30th, 2013 by

Within the first five minutes of my internship at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I found myself in the midst of an intimidating board meeting. Over the course of the next two months, I realized that I had joined a dynamic staff and a group of enthusiastic Collections interns. So far, I have worked with a wide range of collections including photographs, oral histories, scrapbooks, rare books, invitations, and Bar Mitzvah cards. The most exciting evening of my internship was the day Jobi Zink entrusted me with the condition reports for two swords and a rifle for the Passages through Fire: Jews and the Civil War exhibit. You can find photographic evidence of my excitement at handling these objects on the JMM Facebook album or by clicking these links: Civil War Sword and Full Sword and Scabbard.

While most of the other collections are not as thrilling as swords and rifles, I gained valuable insight about Jewish culture in Baltimore and the rest of Maryland by processing multimedia collections. As an out-of-state undergraduate at UMBC, learning about Jewish life in all aspects of Baltimore’s history has helped me feel at home. I particularly enjoyed processing an affectionate oral testimony about Camps Louise and Airy. Growing up, I never attended Jewish summer camps, so I was intrigued to learn about this important aspect in the history of Baltimore’s Jewish youth. This record is now available in the JMM’s digital collections (Oral History #170).

Most of my work is in the form of paper documents – ranging from Hebrew diplomas, High Holy Day Cards and Bar Mitzvah invitations to family photos and newspaper clippings from Jewish businesses. I am especially intrigued by the sheer extent of the collections donors such as Linda Lapides saw fit to donate to the JMM collections. Within her file, I found a vibrant story of Jewish life evolving and changing within the city of Baltimore. Perusing her donations helped me realize that Jewish life extended far beyond the walls of the synagogue in Baltimore City.  My favorite piece of the collection was a German-language book representing the early Zionist movement, encouraging Jewish people to migrate to what was then British Palestine (Palästina). This was an exciting opportunity to practice my German language skills! In the next file, I stumbled upon two scrapbooks and a large collection of photographs detailing the development of the family-owned Greenberg’s Jewelers – yet another reminder of Jewish life outside of the synagogue. I can’t wait to find out what else lies in store for me to process in the library closed stacks!

Intern JenA blog post by Collections Intern Jen Wachtel. To read more posts by JMM interns, click here.

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A Slight Family Resemblance?

Posted on October 21st, 2013 by

For those of you lucky enough to have already seen our new exhibit, Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War, you might have noticed this portrait in the beginning of the exhibit, of Betsey Wiesenfeld, neè Friedenwald.

Betsey Wiesenfeld

Betsey Wiesenfeld

You might also have read the letter written by Betsey’s young daughter, Rosa Wiesenfeld, to her father while he was in prison during the war.

Rosa Wiesenfeld

Rosa Wiesenfeld

What you might not know, is that we have a celebrity in our midst. Beloved, long-time volunteer, Betsey Kahn, is Rosa’s granddaughter, and is Betsey Wiesenfeld’s namesake! The next time you see Betsey at the front desk, try to see if you can spot the family resemblance!

Betsey Kahn

Betsey Kahn

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

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Explore the Civil War You Never Knew

Posted on October 18th, 2013 by

Nearly 200 people joined us at the JMM this past weekend (Oct. 12 and 13) to celebrate the opening of Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. The exhibit comes to us from the American Jewish Historical Society and Yeshiva University Museum and has been enhanced by the JMM to include artifacts and stories that reflect the role of Maryland Jews in the war.

The exhibit sheds light on both how the Jewish community (which numbered 150,000 in 1860) participated in the war as well as how the war impacted the community.

Here are some of the opening event highlights:

guests in gallery

guests in gallery

At Saturday evening’s members’ preview, guests enjoyed viewing the fascinating artifacts on display especially those that told local stories. It was fun hearing the chatter in the gallery as people constantly exclaimed how surprised they were to learn about the extent of Jewish involvement in the war effort.

Guest using the stereoscope viewer

Guest using the stereoscope viewer

The JMM installation featured several new activity stations. Here a guest explores the section of the exhibit on Civil War era photography by testing out a stereoscope viewer.

2nd South Carolina String Band

2nd South Carolina String Band

With their authentic period costumes and instruments, music of the Second South Carolina String Band gave the lobby a Civil War-era feel.

Karen leading tour

Karen leading tour

JMM curator Karen Falk led two filled-to-capacity exhibit tours where she shared stories about individual artifacts and stories on display.

Marvin leading tour

Marvin leading tour

JMM executive director Marvin Pinkert premiered our new 1861 themed tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue for guests at Saturday’s event. This tour takes visitors back in time to the 1860s as they explore what Jewish life was like in Baltimore at this time as well as the important role that the Lloyd Street Synagogue (then Baltimore Hebrew Congregation) played in the debate on slavery. This new tour will be given daily (Sun-Thurs) at 3pm.

BSA student

BSA student

We are so grateful to the two students from the Baltimore School for the Arts who attended the event in period costume. It was especially fun watching Amelia navigate tight corners in her hoop dress. Thank goodness fashion trends have changed!

guests viewing objects in case

guests viewing objects in case

Our member’s preview was followed by a successful opening to the public on Sunday. We were delighted to see many people – both longtime friends to the JMM and first time visitors – take in the exhibit. Many people brought their children who enjoyed playing with the exhibit’s activity stations.

visitor talking to re-enactor

visitor talking to re-enactor

On Sunday, we were privileged to have two Civil War re-enactors attend in authentic soldier uniforms. Guests enjoyed having the opportunity to speak with them as they learned about their uniforms’ details and items of significance.

Jonathan Karp

Jonathan Karp

Jonathan Karp, former director of the American Jewish Historical Society and one of the exhibit’s project directors, provided fascinating insights on the development of the exhibit and shared some of his favorite stories with our guests.

Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War is on display at the Jewish Museum of Maryland through February 28, 2014. We hope you will stop by for a visit.

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts by Deborah, click here. All photos by Will Kirk.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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