A Year in Review

Posted on December 23rd, 2016 by

This is the time of year for reflection, for compiling top ten best and worst lists, for noting what we did (and did not accomplish) and how we can do better in the year ahead. In keeping with the spirit of the season, what follows is a list of some of my favorite JMM moments from 2016.

1. Paul Simon: Words and Music exhibit brings in record crowds – By the time we closed the exhibit, on loan from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, more than 5,000 visitors came through our doors over the course of three months. But even more gratifying than the numbers was how the exhibit enabled us to raise our institutional profile and attract new visitors, thanks, in part, to widespread media coverage.

The exhibit provided us with an opportunity to hold several musical performances in the Lloyd Street Synagogue, such as our concluding program by Baltimorean Sonia Rutstein, which proved popular.

The exhibit provided us with an opportunity to hold several musical performances in the Lloyd Street Synagogue, such as our concluding program by Baltimorean Sonia Rutstein, which proved popular.

2. Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America opens – After more than three years of development, we opened a major, original exhibition that explores the influence of science and culture on one another and how medicine has impacted Jewish identity. The exhibit opened to many accolades from both press and the public and we continue to receive wonderful feedback from visitors.

Opening Beyond Chicken Soup

Opening Beyond Chicken Soup

The exhibit marked another important milestone as we successfully raised more funds than ever before for an exhibit and many of our sponsors came from within the medical community. And if you haven’t had a chance to see it, don’t worry, the exhibit remains on view through January 16. (But don’t put this off too long!)

3. Our newest living history character, Henrietta Szold, debuted in September– With a fabulous performance by actor Natalie Smith, the newest member of our Immigrant’s Trunk living history roster, focuses on Szold’s contributions to Zionism and to improving access to quality healthcare in Palestine.

Henrietta in action

Henrietta in action

To date, the character has performed at the JMM, at schools and synagogues.

4. Our annual Summer Teachers Institute successfully engaged more than 40 educators from public, private and parochial schools from across the state – This three-day workshop featured scholars, artists, survivors and a visit to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Teachers enjoyed participating in an interactive session exploring artistic responses to oppression facilitated by Gail Prensky and Sarah Baumgarten.

Teachers enjoyed participating in an interactive session exploring artistic responses to oppression facilitated by Gail Prensky and Sarah Baumgarten.

Comments such as: “How do I adequately put into words all that was imparted during this experience? I was completely blown away with the amount of information conveyed throughout the various presentations and, on a logistical level, I was impressed by the professionalism and organization of the entire workshop. The materials and resources were such a valuable blessing and I walked away having learned so much and excited to be able to take it back into the classroom and school environment.“ reflect the program’s success.

5. JMM launches a new statewide collecting initiative in conjunction with an upcoming exhibition, Just Married! Wedding Stories of Jewish Maryland – In keeping with our mission to collect, preserve and interpret Maryland Jewish history, and to fill in gaps in our collection, JMM staff is looking to collect new material that reflect the diversity of Jewish Marylanders wedding traditions.

You can read more about this important project in last week’s JMM Insights.

You can read more about this important project in last week’s JMM Insights.

6. In preparation for our upcoming exhibit, Remembering Auschwitz, JMM staff, in partnership with artist Lori Schocket and The Human Element Project, held a series of workshops for Holocaust survivors and their families. The workshops resulted in the creation of collages, created on canvases that incorporated photocopies of participants’ photographs and documents that will be transformed into plaques. The plaques will be on display as part of our spring exhibit (March 5-May 29, 2017)

The Rozga siblings make collages honoring their parents.

The Rozga siblings make collages honoring their parents.

7. Our educational programs make connections between past and present –

One example can be seen in a visit this fall by a group of students that included Syrian refugees who learned about immigration history – as they made connections with their own personal experiences – through a tour of Voices of Lombard Street.

One example can be seen in a visit this fall by a group of students that included Syrian refugees who learned about immigration history – as they made connections with their own personal experiences – through a tour of Voices of Lombard Street.

In addition this year’s Lessons of the Shoah, a high school interfaith program co-sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council that took place at John Carroll High school, focused on the plight of refugees, past and present.

8. We continued to build new partnerships and expand existing ones – JMM has long benefitted from our continued partnerships with such organizations as the Baltimore Jewish Council, The Maryland State Department of Education and Baltimore City Schools. This year we were proud to co-sponsor programs with the Gordon Center; the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies; Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University and many others. These collaborations give us the opportunity to reach new and diverse audiences and also allow us to provide access to speakers and programs we would not be able to afford on our own.

An April program sponsored by the 21st Century Cities Initiative of Johns Hopkins University on the topic of redlining brought many people to the JMM who had never before visited for a discussion on a topic that still has contemporary relevance.

An April program sponsored by the 21st Century Cities Initiative of Johns Hopkins University on the topic of redlining brought many people to the JMM who had never before visited for a discussion on a topic that still has contemporary relevance.

One particularly successful joint program was developed in partnership with the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, an October event that was billed as a Jewish Baltimore Family Reunion. Alfred Moses delivered a talk in the Lloyd Street Synagogue based on his book about his family’s business.

One particularly successful joint program was developed in partnership with the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, an October event that was billed as a Jewish Baltimore Family Reunion. Alfred Moses delivered a talk in the Lloyd Street Synagogue based on his book about his family’s business.

9. After more than 160 years in existence, the Lloyd Street Synagogue receives new attention – The JMM’s star attraction, the Lloyd Street Synagogue, was the subject of new research, art, conversations and some well deserved maintenance. In conjunction with Paul Simon: Words and Music we developed a themed building tour that examined the role that music has played in the life of the different congregation that have called LSS home.

We also invited artists for a day of plein air painting and were delighted by the different artistic interpretations of our beloved synagogue.

We also invited artists for a day of plein air painting and were delighted by the different artistic interpretations of our beloved synagogue.

Our efforts to breathe new life into the building resulted in a series of two conversations held with community stakeholders and representatives of other local history organizations. We asked participants to provide feedback about how we can better make use of the synagogue as a venue to attract new audiences (as well as encouraging repeat visitation). We were thrilled by the responses we received and look forward to implementing some of the ideas that were generated. Noting that the inside of the synagogue had gotten a little worn over the years, we also decided to invest in a major fall cleaning project that resulted in a sparkling interior.

10. JMM receives an award from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for an upcoming exhibit on the scrap industry – How gratifying it was to receive notification in September that the JMM, once again, was selected to receive a prestigious (and competitive) grant award from this federal agency. We received the notice just weeks after we launched the second phase of planning for our upcoming exhibition Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling with a site visit from members of our exhibit team including curator, Jill Vexler, and the folks from our design firm, Alchemy Studios.

As part of the team meeting in September, we visited a nearby scrap yard, Baltimore Scrap Corp.

As part of the team meeting in September, we visited a nearby scrap yard, Baltimore Scrap Corp.

The exhibit opens in Fall 2018.

As with all Top Ten lists, there are so many more highlights from the past year that I could have included. 2016 was, indeed, a banner year for the JMM. We look forward to seeing you in the year ahead and wish you and your family happy holidays and a wonderful new year!

deborahA blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

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A Trip to the Scrap Yard

Posted on September 21st, 2016 by

The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s newest original exhibition project, American Alchemy: From Junk to Scrap to Recycling officially launched its second phase of development with a convening of our project team, including new project curator, Jill Vexler, and our designers from Alchemy Studios. The exhibition which explores the history of Jewish involvement in the scrap industry also will reflect the experiences of non-Jews and covers a wide swath of history from the 18th-21st centuries. We are currently in the process of collecting stories and artifacts that reflect the unique nature of these businesses, many of which have remained in the same families for generations.

As you can see from this map, the scrap industry has a large national presence and our exhibit team is conducting research in many other cities beyond Baltimore.

As you can see from this map, the scrap industry has a large national presence and our exhibit team is conducting research in many other cities beyond Baltimore.

What better way to inspire our team than a visit to a local scrap yard so we could get a first-hand look at the materials, technology and human capital that are necessary in order to transform one person’s junk into another person’s treasure. So we drove to south Baltimore to visit David Simon at Baltimore Scrap Corp. David regaled us with stories of life in the scrap industry and described the evolution of his family’s business which got its start in 1916.

The highlight of our visit was a guided tour of the yard where we saw huge mounds of metal object castaways and flattened cars that were awaiting their turn in the gigantic shredder (sadly, we could not see the shredder in action as it is used during night hours in order to save electricity costs).

The highlight of our visit was a guided tour of the yard where we saw huge mounds of metal object castaways and flattened cars that were awaiting their turn in the gigantic shredder (sadly, we could not see the shredder in action as it is used during night hours in order to save electricity costs).

We were all impressed by the sheer scale of materials that were piled high in mounds, not to mention the speed at which materials are completely transformed into reusable parts. We all left feeling energized and excited about our work on this project.

Baltimore Scrap Corp.

Baltimore Scrap Corp.

The project also got an important boost with news we received last week that the exhibit was the recipient of a highly competitive federal grant award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. American Alchemy opens at the JMM in Fall 2018.

deborahA blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Performance Counts: Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project

Posted on July 15th, 2016 by

While we often devote the content of Performance Counts to analyzing numbers, this week’s edition instead highlights the personal stories that are at the heart of one of the most sobering statistic that we often discuss, the six million Jews (not to mention millions of others) who were murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices during the Holocaust.

In March 2017, JMM will open a new exhibition, Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity that brings together diverse projects that highlight different aspects of Holocaust history. The exhibition will be displayed in our Feldman Gallery where the visitor experience begins several centuries prior to the Holocaust when Ozwiecim, the town that eventually became known as Auschwitz, served as a site for a thriving Jewish community (A Town Known As Auschwitz from the Museum of Jewish Heritage). The community’s fortunes, however, changed significantly with the occupation of Poland by the Nazis in 1939 and visitors next examine the impact of the Nazi occupation through a display of blueprints and other documents that focus on the construction of the death camp that is now firmly associated with the town (The Architecture of Murder from the American Society for Yad Vashem). Dispersed throughout the gallery will be contemporary photographs of the camp by photographer, Keron Psillas, as well as related artifacts from the JMM collection and on loan from community members.

As plans for Remembering Auschwitz began to crystallize, it became clear that we were missing one key component, the individual stories that are central to understanding the Holocaust’s impact. We, therefore, decided to include an art installation that serves as the exhibition’s conclusion and provides an opportunity for visitors to reflect on the experiences of the people whose lives were upended by Nazi atrocities. The Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project is composed of individual plaques honoring the experiences of our local community of Holocaust survivors. This project was brought to JMM by artist, Lori Shocket and the Human Element Project. In the middle of June, Lori and her husband Neal spent two weeks in Baltimore helping facilitate workshops for Holocaust survivors, their descendants and family members. Participants were invited to bring photographs and documents that highlighted their experiences from before, during and after the Holocaust along with a personal statement. The materials that they brought were photocopied and integrated into collages on 10” x 10” canvasses. Working from photographs of the collages, Lori will then create plaques honoring each individual story that will be hung in our gallery.

Five workshops took place both at JMM and at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC. We were honored to meet nearly 20 Holocaust survivors who took part in the workshop themselves, sometimes with spouses, children, grandchildren and friends as their willing assistants. Many other children and grandchildren made collages in memory of family members who are no longer alive, some of whom perished during the Holocaust, others who survived but who have died in more recent years. Thanks to the assistance of more than a dozen volunteers, several of whom were new to JMM volunteer corps, we collected 47 beautiful collages that will be integrated into our art installation.

It was truly a privilege sorting through stacks (and sometimes bags, boxes and suitcases) of family treasures including photographs and documents and listening as participants shared stories of their beloved family members – some of whom did not survive. One thing that is clear from the collages we collected is that the experiences of our local community of Holocaust survivors are diverse. We counted more 10 countries of birth including Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Greece, Lithuania, Russia and Romania. Some collages honor the experiences of refugees whose families left Europe in the 1930s. Others experienced the horrors of confinement in camps and ghettos, while still others were hidden either alone as children or with other members of their families by generous and courageous non-Jews. We heard incredible and daring stories of escape, of survival in forests and close calls that almost resulted in arrests. By the end of each workshop, close relationships were often forged between JMM staff and volunteers and participants many of whom shared their appreciation for being given the opportunity to participate.

Although Lori and Neal returned to California, we are still holding additional workshops in an effort to collect more stories and collages. This Sunday, July 17, we will be at the JCC of Greater Washington at 12:00pm. We have timed the workshop to coincide with a monthly meeting of Montgomery County Holocaust survivors. We are also holding another workshop at JMM on Sunday, July 17 at 10:00am. JMM staff is also happy to make individual appointments so that people can come and make a collage at a time that is more convenient. For more information or to sign up for a workshop, please contact me at (443) 873-5165 / dcardin@jewishmuseummd.org.

We are grateful to the many individuals and institutions that have partnered with us on this special project including: Lori and Neal Shocket and the Human Element Project, the Baltimore Jewish Council, the Weinberg Park Heights JCC, the JCC of Greater Washington, the Center for Jewish Education and Jewish Community Services. And a huge thank you to the many wonderful volunteers, staff, board members and interns who assisted with the collages. We look forward to celebrating with everyone at the exhibit’s opening on March 5, 2017.

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