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JMM Insights: It’s Groundhog Day

Posted on April 3rd, 2020 by

It’s Groundhog Day!

Ok, I know that yesterday was April Fool’s Day, but today still feels like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. 

The monotony and stress of self-quarantined life, the same news stories when we wake up each morning, and the depressing notion that this will not end soon. Bill Murray’s character is able to escape from his confinement in Punxatawney, PA only by accepting his situation, improving himself and improving the lives of his neighbors.

At JMM, we’ve taken the important first step of accepting reality. We will not reopen our doors until at least the middle of May, and we have cancelled or postponed all public programs through June. As Dr. Fauci has advised, we don’t set the timeline the virus sets the timeline. We will follow that advice.

For those holding paid tickets for events in April, May or June we hope you will consider donating the cost of the ticket to our continued operations or hold onto your tickets to exchange for credit toward a rescheduled or future program. Every gift makes a difference as we work hard (from home!) to maintain our capacity to create great programs you care about. (If neither of these options are feasible for you, please let us know and we will make arrangements for a refund.)

The second step in Ground Hog Day liberation is self-improvement.

While we haven’t spent time learning to speak French or play the piano, we have been retooling JMM as a digital museum (temporarily). Last week we introduced you to Wondernauts, this week we are sharing resources related to our current exhibit Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling.

Scrap Yard was originally scheduled to close on April 26, but our revised plan will keep the exhibit on the floor through July, in the hope that more of you will be able to enjoy it after we reopen. In the meantime, we’ll be adding content to our digital museum every week.

The last step in freeing ourselves from the Coronavirus Groundhog Day involves helping our neighbors.

Everyone who is reading this while restricting their travel outside of home is already off to a good start. Those of us who are also able to give to the Associated as well as JMM, are fulfilling a double mitzvah, helping those in urgent need and preserving our heritage so that it’s there for our children and grandchildren when this dark winter finally recedes.

If you are looking for other ways to volunteer from home, let me recommend this link to our partners at Jewish Volunteer Connection. The Passover narrative tells us that our people endured 430 years of slavery before liberation, I think that working together and supporting each other we can make it through a few months of isolation.



Experience Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling through our eyes!

As part of our digital museum offerings, we’ve put together a few extra experiences for you related to our original exhibit Scrap Yard. We hope you’ll take a little time this week to explore this bonus content and let us know what you think.

First, check out this awesome series, Talia’s Tour Highlights. Talia Makowsky, our Visitor Services Coordinator, spends a lot of her time creating engaging experiences for our adult group visitors, including special tours for our exhibits – including for Scrap Yard.

And we didn’t want to leave our younger visitors out, so here’s a Blue’s-Clues-style series with Museum Educator Marisa Shultz and a fun design-your-own poster experience!

Plus our programs team has put together an awesome set of hands-on activities for everyone to try at home.

Already an expert on what’s in the exhibit from your previous visits? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with this series of “Making Of” videos sharing behind-the-scenes information you won’t find anywhere else. Hear from Marvin, Tracie, Joanna and more on some of their favorite stories, facts, and finds of making Scrap Yard – we’ll be adding to this series as we go, so be sure to check back often!

Don’t forget, we also have a whole website dedicated to learning more about Scrap Yard, the history of the industry, and the people involved.

From a breakdown of recyclable materials and their uses to an in-depth glossary of scrap vocabulary (and slang!) to the stories of Scrappers past and present, told in their own words, our Scrap Yard website is worth exploring.

And in case you missed them the first time (or just want to relive the experience), you can watch recordings of a selection of our Scrap Yard lectures:

Cash for Your Trash: Scrap Recycling in America

Lives Built on Scrap: A Family Biography

Secondhand Travels of a Global Scrap Man

And, for your reading pleasure, a story that hits a lot of boxes – good news, recycling, Maryland, and COVID-19: A Recycling Company Just Discovered 36,000 N95 Masks in a Dumpster.

As always, we thank those who helped make the Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling exhibit, website, and programs possible, including: Institute for Museum and Library Services; National Endowment for The Humanities; Boston Metals Co. in Memory of Morris Schapiro; The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries; David Berg Foundation; Baltimore Scrap: David, Larry, Ken, and Joe Simon; A gift in Loving Memory of Samuel Simon, from the Simon Family; Liebherr. See the full list of contributors here.


Be a part of our Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit exhibit!

Calling all young wondernauts! What would you bring with you to space? Why?

Astronauts living and working on the International Space Station can bring a Personal Preference Kit (PPK) into space with them. This Kit is used to carry their personal belongings. These Kits have size and weight restrictions – just like a suitcase you use for vacations. Imagine you are getting ready for a trip into space. What would you choose to bring with you? Maybe something to entertain you – a favorite book, perhaps? A favorite food or drink? Maybe something that reminds you of your family? Something to represent your culture? Something to practice your religion?

But remember, space is limited so you can only choose 5 things to fit in your PPK.

Students are invited to create an artwork inspired by your choices! Follow the directions found here and submit your work to potentially be included in our upcoming special exhibit!


This week on the JMM blog, Talia introduces her new #Upstanders series of Mental Health Monday posts, offering some suggestions for those of us struggling to work effectively from home.

For those of us looking for more exotic escapes from work, the JMM program team has prepared a compilation of resources, including musical performances and craft activities, related to our 2017 exhibit Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage while Talia takes us into the virtual world with a quick review of the newly released video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons and its in-game museum!


With Passover fast approaching, you might pull out your old Passover Seder plate and notice it is time for a replacement; maybe it’s chipped in some places or the colors are faded, or maybe it is just time for a change.

If this is the case, take a look at our burgundy and gold glass Seder plate (left) currently offered on our online shop. With deep, pre-formed spaces for placing traditional foods, the colorful decorations and metal inlay are guaranteed to add an impressive display to your Passover meals. The change in scenery during your Passover celebrations will add a little more excitement and calm to this stressful time.

Don’t see something you’re interested in at the online shop? Contact Shop Manager Chris Sniezek at and let us know.



JCA Virtual Seder
Sunday, Aprul 5, 2020
at 4:30pm

Join a virtual seder with Jewish Community Action (Minnesota), Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (New York), Detroit Jews for JusticeCarolina Jews for Justice and Jews United for Justice (DMV).  Here the story of Exodus, connect it with our modern struggles for liberation and come together as a community to take action and stand together in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Camp Girls: Fireside Lessons on Friendship Courage and Loyalty
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
at 7:00pm

Join author (and JMM board member!) Iris Krasnow as she discusses her newest book, Camp Girls, about her life-long experiences with Jewish summer camp and how camp gives us character traits that can form the spine of a successful life.

Music Festival
April 1 – 7, 2020
Various Times

Organized by NYC musicians Sirintip, Thana Alexa, Owen Broder and their nonprofit partner MusicTalks, the festival is proud to present a stellar lineup of artists contributing their time and talents to this cause.


This week’s #WhatWereReading comes from Director of Education Ilene Dackman-Alon, and two of our Trustees, Roberta Greenstein and Toby Gordon!

From Ilene: Being home over the past few weeks, has allowed me to do things that I never really have time to do. One of the first things I did at the start of my “new work schedule” was to head to the bookcase and grabbed Ernest Hemingway’s, The Sun Also Rises.  I don’t recall reading the book, in fact, I can’t recall ever reading any of Hemingway’s books. I liked to read F. Scott Fitzgerald in high school! Check out the rest of Ilene’s review here.

From Roberta: A charming, hilarious, and sweetly inspiring celebration of bad food and good company, Love Nina makes a young woman’s adventures in a new world come alive.

In 1982, 20-year-old Nina Stibbe moved to London to work as a nanny to two opinionated and lively young boys.  In frequent letters home to her sister, Nina describes her trials and triumphs, among them, a cat nobody likes, visits from a famous local playwright, and other adventures.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not so genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English Castle. She strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle” – and the heart of the reader – in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler is a collection of ideas, stories, and questions about the stuff of life, big and small, funny and sad. The book is largely a portrait of confidence. Reading it, some of it rubs off on us. It demonstrates the skill of the excellent comedic actress, a funny woman who roots hilarity in specifics.

From Toby: I am reading The Splendid and The Vile, Eric Larson’s new book about Churchill. It helps to read about his leadership in a crisis, and to think how people coped with the bombing of London. Next up is Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman!

What are you reading this week? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

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Mental Health Monday: Work-Life Balance

Posted on March 30th, 2020 by

Welcome to our new series, Mental Health Mondays! Right now, being an Upstander, or someone who takes action when something wrong is happening, can be difficult. Staying home and self-isolating in order help slow the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19 is the most important thing that we can do right now. By flattening the curve, you’re helping healthcare workers as they fight to save lives and provide care to each and every person who needs it. But practicing social distancing can be really difficult. And this overwhelming and scary time can cause a lot of stress, anxiety, and depression.

We are not mental health professionals. If you are feeling overwhelmed with these kinds of emotions or they are impacting your daily life, please reach out to professionals who can help you. If you need immediate help, use the National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255, which offers online chats as well. Jewish Community Services also offers help for people experiencing emotional crises.

We aim to provide some tips and guides to help those who are self-isolating, and to connect with our JMM community. These ideas might not work for everyone, but we hope that by starting the conversation about mental health, we can inspire you to take a moment to breathe and reflect on what you need today to feel good.

~Talia Makowsky, JMM Visitor Services Coordinator

Today, we are talking about work-life balance. For many of us, especially myself as the Visitor Services Coordinator, work directly relates to being at our office. Indeed, my hours directly coordinate to when the Museum is open to visitors, so I can support them with whatever they need. So, working from home has definitely been strange. For one thing, I don’t need someone to cover the front desk when I get lunch or use the bathroom. But I’ve also needed to figure out ways to be productive, even when I’m not at the Museum helping guests. I’ve come up with a few ways that help me, and I wanted to share them with you. Please note, I do not have any children or pets to take care of, and so my daily routine might look a lot different than yours. JMM also provides flexibility while working from home, to help support its staff, and this may not be the case for everyone.

A. Create a designated workplace:

This one is fairly obvious, but it can make a huge difference in how productive you are during your work time. Find a place in your home, whether it’s at a table, on a couch, or outside on the porch, and make it your regular work spot. Set it up so that it’s comfortable to sit or stand at for stretches of time, and you have all the supplies you need within easy reach. While you set up this space, think about the background as well.

A quick peek at Talia’s home office set up!

We’ve been doing quite a few video meetings and so I’m always aware of what people might see behind me while we meet. Try to find a space with natural light, if possible, or else a place that is well-lit, so you’re not straining your eyes. This will also help you to have nicer looking video meetings as well. Do your best to limit distractions (though some people prefer to work with some background noise), and let the other people in your household know that this is your designated workspace. If the space can’t be permanently set up as your workspace, try to figure out a way to easily set it up and clean it up, so you’re not spending lots of time getting things together. I also recommend tidying up your workspace once a week at least, so that you don’t mix your work papers and materials up with household items.

B. Keep a regular schedule:

This one is especially useful for me. I’m the type of person who prefers to have a routine, and so keeping my work schedule has helped me to stay productive. Keeping a regular schedule is also important for working with your colleagues. Whether you chose to keep a 9-5 schedule, or shift it depending on childcare, household duties, and other needs, make sure you communicate your hours with the rest of the staff! This way others know when they can contact you and when you’re busy. In addition to just scheduling your work hours, make it clear when you’re done with work for the day. When we work from home, it can seem easy to just keep checking your email, or to just finish up that last project. However, work life and home life can start bleeding together, making you feel like you’re working all the time and causing you to burnout. Have a set time for when you are no longer working (and if you need to adjust, make sure you take the time for yourself elsewhere).

From the JMM Collections: Photo of a  decorative clock presented as an award to Dr. Barry Gittlen by the Bosonova Biblical Archaeology Society of Northern Virginia. Baltimore Hebrew University Archives Collection, JMM 2009.40.4311.

One other way I’ve tried to use my routine to keep calm is by using the time I normally commute for other activities. In the mornings, before I start working for the day, I do a writing prompt for ten minutes. This creative task gets my brain working and helps me to transition from breakfast to work. In the evenings, after I finish work, I take a walk with my partner, if the weather is nice enough, so that we both get some fresh air and stretch our legs. Again, this may not be possible for everyone, especially as parents use this additional time for childcare. But if you can take ten minutes to meditate, write, breathe, walk, do a facemask, or anything else that is self care, I highly recommend it.

C. Get ready for the “office”:

Working from home can be an opportunity to work more casually. Maybe you’re tempted to wear pajama pants because no one will see your legs in the Zoom call. Or maybe you’re going to sit on the couch with the television on, because you can do that data entry work while watching Parks and Rec. However, I highly encourage you to try to act like you’re actually going to the office, to help your brain feel like it’s in productive mode. Instead of dressing in sweats, at least put on jeans or slacks. Wear something a little nicer than a t-shirt. If you know you’re having Zoom meetings, wear your regular office clothes, as though you’re seeing these people in person.

Dress for success! From the JMM collections, left to right: Abraham Kravetz, c.1915. JMM 1991.22.2; Dr. Julius Friedenwald, 1905. JMM 1984.23.25; Marian Lansburgh, c.1937. JMM 2004.78.61.

I know everyone has their own ways of staying focused (I have definitely listened to a lot of lofi hip hop) but try to work like you’re at the office. Let the people in your household know you’re at the office and let them know when you’re available to meet. Avoid turning on the television while you work. And make time to regularly check in with your coworkers, as you do projects together. If you act like you’re in the office, your brain will recognize that you’re currently in work mode, and you’re more likely to be productive. And don’t be afraid to take breaks. Whether you’re taking a few minutes to get coffee and read a book, or you need to walk around and stretch your legs, taking breaks is important to staying productive. Just make sure you set a time for when you’re going to dive back into work and stick to it.

Those are just a few tips that have been helping me as I adjust to the work from home (or WFH) life. If you have any suggestions for what helps you stay productive and focused while WFH, share them with us in the comments below or reach out on social media (FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Tumblr)! If you need any more help with how to balance work and life, there are tons of guides online that have suggestions for staying positive, focused, and balanced.


We’ll be back next Monday with another topic related to mental health. If you have a suggestion for a topic, or a question you’d like us to contemplate, feel free to share it with us!


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JMM Insights: What’s A Wondernaut?

Posted on March 27th, 2020 by

It’s hard to believe, but it was less than three weeks ago (March 5) when the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in Maryland. That very afternoon I held an impromptu meeting with Paige and Rachel to start working on a digital companion to our upcoming Jews in Space exhibit, to be prepared to serve the families and school children who rely on JMM as a resource for informal learning. With the support of the whole JMM team, they have come up with an outstanding concept and prepped it for initial roll-out in just 20 days!

And the best part is that there is no age limit on these activities. So even if you can barely remember 4th grade, you might take a stab at a few of these activities and even earn a badge or two of your own. We won’t judge.



The Jewish Museum of Maryland invites you on a grand adventure: Wondernauts 2020!

Wondernauts 2020 explores the Wonders of Space. Inspired by Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit exhibit, we will dive into challenges about everything from ancient star patterns to famous firsts in space science, to the imaginings of writers and artists picturing a distant future. We’ll even be observing our own skies!

Throughout our journey we will face challenges and tasks that will ask us to think hard, think creatively, and consult the world around us. As we complete these challenges, we’ll earn badges to mark our success.

Our Wondernaut activities are perfect for a variety of ages and a whole lot of fun for the whole family – not just those in the house with you, but those you’re hanging out with across the digital divide! We’ve made sure to include activities at all different skill levels and needing a minimal amount of materials.

And don’t worry, not all the activities require you to sit in front of a computer! We’re making all the activities available as pdf downloads and will mark the ones that don’t require a computer or electricity, to make them easy to find.

A science fiction lover? You might like to try our Design a Sci-Fi Cover and Create a New Planet activities!

More of a history buff? Check out the Mapping Historic Skies activity!

Perhaps you’ve got a small astronaut-in-training at home – check out our Build a Space Probe and Searching for Galaxies activities! (And don’t forget to Design Your Own Space Helmet.)

We’ll be posting activities and badges on a weekly (and sometimes daily!) basis, so we’ll be adding a section to this weekly JMM Insights newsletter highlighting what’s new for our Wondernauts.

And of course we’ll share these new additions on our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr) as well.


In the last week, we have all used some of our time for passionate reflection. In yesterday’s post, Tracie’s passion for social justice comes through in her very thoughtful review of a book I mentioned last week (Eric Goldstein’s The Price of Whiteness).

Flip back to Monday, and you’ll see my post about passion for Passover. Go back to last Friday and there’s a summary post about last December’s Great Jewish Bake Off likely that’s likely to bring out a passion for cookies even among the most disciplined of us.


That’s right, Esther’s Place: The JMM Shop is now selling online.

We’ve got a limited inventory of some of our favorite products, including our JMM branded swag and items perfect for Passover.

Don’t see something you’re interested in? Contact Shop Manager Chris Sniezek at and let us know.


Remembering the Maryland Women’s Suffrage Movement
Friday, March 27, 2020 at 12:00pm

Maryland women played an important role in the passage of the 19th Amendment. Kacy Rohn will discuss her research providing new insight into the statewide suffrage movement.

Once Upon a Boy
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at 7:00pm

Ron is intelligent, charming and full of life, but every day, his movements are increasingly limited by cerebral palsy. The film follows this remarkable family’s struggles as the parents do everything in their power to raise three children who are happy with their lot, despite the unfathomable gap between them.

I Want You To Know We’re Still Here
Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 8:00pm

Join author Esther Safran Foer for a virtual discussion on her memoir I Want You To Know We’re Still Here.


Development Director Tracey Dorfmann is finishing up Wild Ones: a Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in AmericaJon Mooallem explores the relationship Americans have with indigenous animals in our natural habitats.

This straightforward exploration of the wildlife conservation movement in America is a must-read for animal lovers. A different perspective on the wild species that reside in the United States of America along with humans. You will look at animals as diverse as the Polar bear and the Butterfly through brand new optics. Truly an eye-opener and an important read.

Next up for Tracey? The 1952 masterpiece about the nature of bigotry, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

What are you reading this week? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!


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