Chosen Food – A Year in Review

Posted on December 21st, 2012 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

The end of the month is quickly approaching which means many things – my kids are counting down the minutes to winter break; I’m getting awfully tired of Christmas music; and everyone at the Museum is scrambling to meet end of the year deadlines. The end of December also signals one more important event – the closing of Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture, and American Jewish Identity. This original JMM exhibition which opened in October 2011 has proven quite popular with visitors and staff and has inspired a variety of food-related conversations, blog posts, partnerships, and programs. It has truly been a year filled with food, food, and more food!

Here in no particular order are some of the highlights of this past year’s exhibition-related activities:

Iron Chef Passover

In 2011 we launched a new program initiative supported by the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education designed to attract young adults to the JMM for evening programs featuring speakers, exhibit tours, hands-on demonstrations, and workshops. We couldn’t have picked a better time to begin this program series as we themed many of our programs on the topics of food, gardening, and sustainability. Based on the popular Food Network show, we held two Iron Chef competitions (in celebration of Passover and Sukkot). Here we see a team participating in the Iron Chef Passover competition working to incorporate horseradish (the secret ingredient) into their dishes. One of the evening’s winning dishes was a surprisingly delicious horseradish ice cream.

EstherFest!

The JMM’s own amazing Esther Weiner hosted EstherFest! a celebration of Chanukah complete with latke making, joke telling, and story sharing. This program proved so popular, we repeated it again this year. Esther’s fame has traveled wide and far and she has been featured on WYPR’s The Signal. We cannot understand why Esther does not have her own cooking show on the Food Network!

Joe Regenstein – Everything You Wanted to Know about Kosher and Halal

Chosen Food highlights the ways in which Jewish food traditions have absorbed the customs of other ethnic and religious groups as well as the extent to which Jewish food culture has impacted mainstream American culture. We continued to explore these cross cultural comparisons through many programs. One program featured Dr. Joseph Regenstein, Professor of Food Science at Cornell University and head of the Kosher and Halal Initiative, who facilitated a fascinating discussion about the similarities and differences between kosher and halal dietary regulations.

Michael Twitty/Kosher Soul

What do you get when you mix Jewish and African American culinary traditions? Kosher Soul, a program featuring culinary historian, Michael Twitty, who demonstrated how he has incorporated his adopted Jewish faith into traditional African American recipes. The results were such tasty dishes as black bean hummus, collard green pastrami soul rolls, and sesame hamantaschen. Audience members loved tasting his dishes.

Knish 101

participants sampling knishes

So many Jewish delicacies to explore in such a short period of time. Knish lover, Laura Silver, provided a fact-filled lecture about the history of knishes followed by a sampling of many of Baltimore’s best home-made and store bought versions.

Chosen Food travels to the White House

Not all of our related programs took place on-site. In April we were invited to travel to DC to participate in a Passover program at the White House. Cookbook author Joan Nathan and White House pastry chef Bill Yosses led a hands-on cooking demonstration of traditional Passover dishes while JMM staff members Karen Falk and Rachel Cylus shared holiday stories.

Food-related programming also proved popular with families. This summer, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Hendler Creamery (a Jewish-owned ice cream company that was located just across the street from the JMM on Baltimore Street), we held several ice cream making (and eating) programs.

Celebrating the connection between Jews and Chinese food and games was the theme of our 2011 annual Christmas Day program, Chanukah, Christmas, and Everything Chinese. Thanks to the assistance of Lois Madow of the American Mah – Jongg Association we were able to provide mah jongg lessons for our visitors along with crafts, games, and tasty Chinese food sampling.

Join us again this year as we continue to celebrate the Jewish/Chinese connection at Dragons and Dreidels on Tues. December 25. [More info can be found at http:///www.jewishmuseummd.org/event/dragons-and-dreidels-%E2%80%93-christmas-day-jmm-special-guest-jennifer-8-lee or call Rachel Cylus at (410) 732-6400 x214]

City Springs school children visiting the exhibit

The exhibit proved popular with audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Thanks to the efforts of our education staff, we developed a range of activities for visiting school groups to enhance their tours through the exhibit with art projects, scavenger hunts, and small group discussions.

Chosen Food also served as inspiration for a year-long partnership project with students from nearby Commodore Rodgers Elementary/Middle School. Students toured the exhibit and then met regularly with JMM staff to gather family recipes and create a classroom cookbook. This year’s partnership project involves the creation of a school community garden.

JMM staff members learning about Jewish agricultural practices

One of our most rewarding partnerships has been with the staff at Kayam Farms at the Pearlstone Center. In addition to facilitating several Brews and Schmooze programs (and supplying the secret ingredient at our Iron Chef Sukkot competition), JMM education staff participated in two workshops at Pearlstone Center where we learned about traditional Jewish farming practices and how to lead related activities for school groups. In this photo you see us participating in an activity designed to teach children about the importance of poly-culture agriculture as opposed to mono-culture. Our group split into two teams, one representing pests and the other crops. As you can see, Elena and I had a great time pretending to be pests!

lining up for gefilte fish corn dogs at GefilteFest

Our culminating event took place this past October as we celebrated perhaps the most Jewish of Jewish foods at GefilteFest. Activities included fish themed activities, specialty tours of the exhibit, snacks, and a gefilte fish making competition featuring Liz Alpern of Gefilteria in Brooklyn; Dave Whaley, first cook at the Four Seasons; and the JMM’s own Susan Press. Believe it or not but top honors went to Chef Whaley’s deep fried gefilte fish corn dog!

Amazingly, this list is not at all comprehensive and only covers a sampling of what we offered this year. Other programs explored borscht making, pie making, bee keeping, canning demonstrations, and more.

If you still have not made it down to visit Chosen Food, do not despair. You still have time…but not much. The exhibit’s last day is Sunday, December 30. It then travels to Atlanta where it will be on view at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.

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Commodore John Rodgers Middle School

Posted on December 21st, 2011 by

A blog post by Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Last year Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, the JMM’s Education & Program Coordinator and I began a long-term museum-school partnership with Commodore John Rodgers Middle School (http:///www.baltimorecityschools.org/Domain/534) in Butchers Hill. I love this partnership for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons I love this project is that unlike most of my work as a museum educator, here I get to work with the students at CJR on a continual basis. One of my major roles as the Community Outreach Coordinator is to teach school groups off-site. However, it is rare that I get to see a school group more than once in the same year. I know that Elena will agree with me when I write that our CJR partnership has been one of the most challenging and rewarding projects we have worked on this year. Last week we had a meeting with the middle school social studies teachers to talk about our progress with the students and to create a game plan for moving forward. During our conversation we ended up discussing a few students who had dramatically improved from the 7th to 8th grade. It really is an amazing thing to see a student’s progress over time and I’d like to think that the JMM has had some positive influence over them.

The goal of the JMM-CJR partnership has always been to create large-scale projects with the students based around the exhibits currently being displayed at the JMM. This decision was based upon the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult for teachers to bring their students to visit the museum, even if the museum is right around the corner. Instead it is our role to bring the museum to the students. Last year we were lucky to have artist Loring Cornish and his exhibit, “In Each Others Shoes.” It came naturally that our final project that year was a large-scale mosaic that is now permanently displayed in the school. Loring was a big supporter of the project and worked with the students several times over the course of the partnership.

Loring Cornish and a CJR student installing the large scale mosaic created by CJR middle school students.

This year we are working on a project related to our “Chosen Food” exhibition. Although Elena and I would have loved to turn our CJR students into Jewish Farmers we scaled back our project and decided to create a cookbook with them instead. Each week we have been working with the students to teach them about healthy eating, food traditions and culture, and oral history and memory. Over the course of several months the students have been thinking about their own food cultures and traditions such as their favorite food on Thanksgiving or a meal that their grandmother cooks for them. We asked the students to interview a family member or friend about a recipe that is important to them. The final product will be a CJR middle school cookbook that will consist of the recipes they collected and the stories and memories that support them. We will also provide healthy recipes, Jewish recipes (what middle school student doesn’t want the recipe for gefilte fish?) and some recipes from our own families.

Trying out some yoga moves.

This is where you come in. I’d like to invite you to contribute your family recipes and stories to our collection. Our cookbook is focusing on family recipes in general, but will also have a focus on ethnic and cultural food as well as healthy eating. If you would like to contribute a family recipe and story, we certainly encourage you to. Please email me at rbinning@jewishmusuemmd.orgto provide a recipe or if you would like more information.

Students get a taste of fresh pomegranate.

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The JMM & Commodore Rodgers Middle School: Museum School Partnerships in Practice

Posted on June 20th, 2011 by

Mosaic Tile. Trina, 8th grade, Honor/Integrity.

Last week was bittersweet. For the past two months Elena Rosemond-Hoerr and I have been working with the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade class of Commodore John Rodgers Middle School, a Baltimore City public school  located about a mile a from the museum. A generous AEGON grant provided the JMM with the funds to create two long term partnerships with Baltimore public schools. Half of the education department, Deborah Cardin and Ilene Dackman-Alon, worked on a storytelling partnership this year with middle school students from Moravia Park Middle School while Elena and I worked on an art and place based project with the Commodore Rodgers students.

Loring Cornish talking about his work the CJR students.

Elena and I chose to work with Commodore John Rodgers Middle School because of its close proximity and shared history with the museum. Our inspiration for the mosaic project that we worked on with the students came from Loring Cornish’s exhibit, “In Each Other’s Shoes,” which is currently one display at the JMM through July 17. It was also important for us to let the students and teachers know that the JMM is a local resource for them to learn about their community. To emphasize these points we invited the entire middle school to visit the museum to tour our synagogues and exhibits and meet with Loring Cornish before we began working with them in their classrooms. The majority of the students had never visited the JMM or entered a synagogue.

Working with the 7th graders on their collages during the first week of class.

For the next few months Elena and I visited the middle school students on a weekly basis (which was an adjustment for us because they start school at 7:30 AM!).  Our final goal for the project was to have each student create a mosaic based on one of the school’s five promises: honor/integrity, commitment to quality, perseverance, no excuses, and contribution.  It was our hope that each student would use pictures, stories, words, and memories from their personal lives and community’s history to visually illustrate their promise.

Ms. Dekoster and 6th grade students analyzing one of the JMM’s archival images of the neighborhood.

Each week we did writing exercises, played games, and did art projects to prepare the students for making their final mosaics. One of the most special aspects of this project is that over the summer we will permanently install the students’ mosaics along a prominent wall leading up to the cafeteria. Loring Cornish will help us with the instillation and we hope to use shards of mirror and found objects as part of the final piece. We emphasized to the students that it was important for them to be thoughtful about their art, and its permanence in the school seemed to help them take this more seriously.

Mosaic Tile. Adriana, 7th grade, Perseverance.

Working with the students each week was an enlightening and exhausting experience for me. I have such a strong appreciation for Ms. Smith, Mr. Ayala, and Ms. Dekoster, the wonderful and caring teachers we worked with each week. At the end of the day each Wednesday when we were finished with the students, Elena and I would always wonder how these teachers had the energy to teach all day, every day. Despite the fact that Wednesdays were always an exhausting day, I looked forward to going to school each week to work with a diverse group of talented and energized kids.

Mosaic Tile, Rolando, 6th grade, Honor/Integrity

The students’ final mosaics turned out better than we imaged. It was so interesting to see how each student creatively expressed themselves. No two tiles are alike. Elena and I hope that the students and teachers at Commodore Rodgers Middle School enjoyed our time together as much as we did. Hopefully next year we will be able to partner with them again on another great project.

A blog post by Community Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

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