JMM Insights, June 2015: Farewell to Mendes

Posted on June 19th, 2015 by

As the nation celebrated Flag Day this past Sunday, the JMM made one last connection to the life of Jewish Baltimorean extraordinaire, Mendes Cohen, through activities and a talk with conservator Michelle Pagan that explored one of the most iconic objects on display in the exhibit, the flag that Mendes.  Mendes created the flag in 1832 as he sailed up the Nile River proudly displaying his love for his country. This event marked the culmination of our ten month celebration of the life and times of Mendes Cohen and his family. We were thrilled by the positive response we received from visitors, many of whom expressed their surprise at never having heard of Mendes before, as well as their delight in finally ”meeting” this amazing man.

The following is a summary of exhibit highlights:

Accolades – Coverage of the exhibit on WYPR and MPT, as well as in articles in the Jewish Times, the Forward and Humanities (the magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities), helped spread the message encouraging people to come and discover the story of Mendes Cohen. It was hard to top the Forward’s review which encouraged readers to “Forget the National Aquarium: The Cohen exhibit – along with the museum’s permanent exhibit, “Voices of Lombard Street” makes the Jewish Museum of Maryland a must visit for tourists to Baltimore.” To cap things off, the JMM was a recipient of the 2015 Leadership in History Awards Winners for The A-mazing Mendes Cohen by the American Association of State and Local History.

On the cover of the Baltimore Jewish Times

On the cover of the Baltimore Jewish Times

PartnershipsThe A-mazing Mendes Cohen is an example of a model collaborative project and was brought to fruition through several important partnerships. We opened the exhibit during weekend festivities celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore which gave us the opportunity to partner with several local agencies and to be part of such anniversary events as the commemoration of the Battle of Bladensburg and the Defenders Day Celebration at North Point.

Mendes at Bladensburg

Mendes at Bladensburg

The Maryland Historical Society, as the repository of the bulk of the Cohen family papers, was vital to the exhibit’s success. We are so grateful to Burt Kummerow, president of MHS and his staff, for granting us access to their rich collections of material and to lending us such important documents such as the firman that Mendes received from the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire allowing him entry into Palestine and his travel diary.

Travel Firman, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society.

Travel Firman, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society.

As we began planning the exhibit, JMM executive director Marvin Pinkert had a brainstorm that proved transformational.  He reached out to Kelly Fernandi of Minotaur Mazes and the notion of capturing the twists and turns of Mendes’s life through a physical maze design was born. Kelly became an enthusiastic member of the Mendes Cohen Fan Club and contributed not only to the exhibit design but also to content and image research. Thanks to weekly meetings (by phone as Kelly is based in Seattle) we enjoyed a high degree of collaboration with our designer whose strong vision for the exhibit helped shape its final outcome.

New Findings – Each new exhibition involves extensive research in the JMM’s archives and collections as well as at other repositories. While we thought we knew a lot about Mendes Cohen and had previously created an educational resource kit exploring his connections to 19th century Palestine as well as published an article in Generations, our knowledge about Mendes and his family continued to expand as we uncovered new information through many different sources. Thanks to the painstaking efforts of researcher, Joseph Abel, Ph.D, who transcribed the bulk of the letters that Mendes wrote home from abroad, we were able to place Mendes at many seminal 19th century events including the student revolts in Paris, the coronation of a new king in England and the installation of a new Pope in Rome.

A couple of very special visitors made it to the last day of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen!

A couple of very special visitors made it to the last day of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen!

The most wonderful new piece of research was unveiled at our penultimate program, an exploration of the Cohen Family Tree. The exhibit claims that there are no known descendants of Israel and Judith Cohen. Genealogist Dick Goldman decided to challenge this assertion and was able to find new branches of the family descended from Alan Cohen III who changed his name to Clarke (hence, our difficulty in finding relatives) after he converted to Catholicism. Alan’s grandson Ronald Brown was one of our very last visitors to the exhibit on Sunday.

The Ghost of Mendes Cohen – The exhibit served as inspiration for the development of the JMM’s newest living history character, none other than Mendes himself, who comes back from the grave to revisit select moments from his incredible life. After debuting performances during many of the War of 1812 commemorative events that took place last summer, Grant Cloyd, the actor who portrays Mendes, has been busy visiting schools, synagogues and other venues. We look forward to continuing to offer performances even beyond the duration of the exhibit.

Grant Cloyd as Mendes

Grant Cloyd as Mendes

Education – More than 300 teachers and 2100 students participated in field trips and living history performances in conjunction with The A-mazing Mendes Cohen. Students from local public, private, parochial along with Jewish day and congregational schools visited the JMM.  We also had student groups visit from the outlying counties, including Howard, Montgomery, Prince Georges, and Anne Arundel County. Students visited from Forest Hills, New York and Philadelphia,  and also came from Ashkelon, Israel – Baltimore ‘s Sister City in Israel.

JMM educators created a rich array of educational resources including archival exploration activities (giving students the opportunity to explore primary sources related to his life), puzzle making games and scavenger hunts. Because Mendes’s life connected with so many important worldwide events, we were able to tie in school visits and resources with a wide array of curricular objectives.

The Gunpowder Challenge

The Powder Magazine Challenge

All of the students loved the interactives in the exhibit- especially the powder magazine and the world map stringing activity.  Students loved racing against the clock to ensure that the magazine did not explode.  Students loved learning where Cohen travelled and learned names of countries and cities throughout Europe and the Middle East.  Students also loved hearing about Cohen’s journal entry of July 4, 1832, documenting his travels on the Nile River, hoisting the flag made by Cohen’s Egyptian crew. Students also thought that it was “very cool” to see the actual flag that was hoisted on Cohen’s ship as well as  some of the Egyptian antiquities that Cohen brought back to Baltimore.

Mendes' hand-made flag, 1832

Mendes’ hand-made flag, 1832

Programs – The JMM held a record number of public programs this year and many of them were inspired by the life experiences of Mendes. Through panel discussions, scholarly and author talks, performances and family workshops, we explored such topics and themes as the War of 1812, 19th century travel, Egyptology, the fight to pass the Jew Bill, textile conservation and genealogy.

Hieroglyphs from our hands-on Egyptology Family Day.

Hieroglyphs from our hands-on Egyptology Family Day.

We were especially pleased with our Mitzvah Day program, inspired by Mendes’ attempts to piece together his identity, we made puzzles for children spending the holidays in The Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai Hospital. It was a wonderful day that saw families work together to create something really special. In total we made enough for all of the children visiting the hospital over the holiday period.

Senator Ben Cardin address the Annual Meeting crowd inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Photo by Will Kirk.

Senator Ben Cardin address the Annual Meeting crowd inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Photo by Will Kirk.

This year our Annual Meeting was also inspired by Mendes, specifically his time spent in office. We were honored to welcome Senator Ben Cardin to the museum to be our keynote speaker. A surprising success was our Sephardic Lecture Series, inspired by Mendes’ own heritage. We had two great programs exploring Sephardic history and Ladino.

During the course of the exhibit we started to record some of our programs, if you missed one of the lectures above check our website, you may still have a chance to explore a little more of Mendes Cohen’s life.

The maze is packed and out the door, the flag and jacket are back in our vaults – Mendes, like Elvis, has left the building – but the legacy is still with us.  As a team, we had so much fun with this project.  Don’t be surprised if Mendes and his siblings join us again in a future project.

 

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Performance Counts: June 2015

Posted on June 12th, 2015 by

A Welcome and a Farewell

With more than 80 people in attendance at Sunday’s Annual Meeting, the JMM membership approved the FY 16 slate of officers and trustees. We are pleased to welcome the following new members to the JMM board:

–Jeffrey Blavatt is the executive director of the Eisenhower Institute of Gettysburg College. He is also a co-founder and managing partner of Legal Services Group. An active member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Jeff has served on the boards of the Associated, Child Care Links and Baltimore County Child Care Advisory Council.

–Erica Breslau, PH.D. serves as scientific researcher in the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Since 2002 she has provided scientific leadership for cancer control and prevention activities in the areas of breast and colorectal cancers with concentrated research in aging, patient-provider communication, genomics and genetics in primary care and healthcare system decisions surrounding personalized medicine. She has a strong interest in archaeology and Jewish history.

–Roberta Greenstein is a career coach, travel coordinator for Off the Beaten Path Art Tours and also co-chairs downtown Charm City Hadassah group. Roberta has worked at several Associated agencies including the Darrell Friedman Institute and Jewish Vocational Services (currently known as Jewish Communal Services) and served as Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Howard County.

–Patti Neumann has extensive experience in sales and marketing as well as social medial strategy development. She is the founder/CEO of CITYPEEK. She is also a food and wine and social media columnist and blogger for the Baltimore City Paper, Jewish Times, Business Journal and CITYPEEK

–Judy Pachino is a speech language pathologist and is an active member of Beth El Congregation where she has served as a board member and sisterhood president. Judy has also been a member of Baltimore City’s Women’s Giving Circle.

In addition to these five new outstanding members of our board of trustees, JMM members also approved a new slate of officers including:

–Duke Zimmerman, President… Duke has been chair of the Collections Committee for the last seven years and has served four years as Vice President of JMM

–Dr. Robert Keehn, Vice President… Robert has been a chair of the Development Committee for the last four years and was reelected to a second term as Vice President.

–Saralynn Glass, Vice President… Saralynn will also serve as co-chair of the Collections Committee

–Toby Gordon, Vice President… Toby facilitated last March’s Board Retreat and will join Saralynn as a co-chair of Collections

–Bruce Hoffberger, Treasurer… Bruce is currently chair of the Finance Committee

–Arnold Fruman, Secretary… Arnold has served on the Board for six years

As wonderful as it is to welcome on board new leadership and members, our annual meeting is also always a bittersweet occasion as we say goodbye to several board members whose terms have ended. We would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the many contributions of the following individuals:

–Dr. Ira Papel – During Ira’s two-year tenure as President, he oversaw many important initiatives including the launch of our community master planning process, a task force devoted to refining the JMM vision which resulted in the production of new fundraising materials and two successive years of break even budgets which were accomplished through the successful completion of ambitious fundraising campaigns. Fortunately, Ira will remain on our executive committee as our Immediate Past President and will also chair our nominating committee.

–Jeff Dreifuss – As a longtime member of the JMM board and most recently filling the post of Vice-President, Jeff’s insightful perspectives helped shape our visioning process. Jeff also helped broaden our outreach to Howard County where he resides.

–Sarah Manekin – In the role of Board Secretary as well as chair of both our visioning taskforce and board nominating and education committees, Sarah has been responsible for helping to guide the Museum’s future vision.

–Brian McLaughlin – Brian’s experience as a real estate developer and knowledge of the local community informed our community master planning process.

–Jonathan Mogol – As co-chair of our facilities committee, Jonathan has played an integral role in helping us develop a plan for future growth. Jonathan has also worked with our staff to expand our reach to young adults through programs such as Purim Pandemonium.

We wish all of our outgoing board members all the best with their future endeavors and hope that they will continue to stay involved.

 

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Museum Matters, June 2015

Posted on June 5th, 2015 by

Procrastinators beware!

The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit has just one more week on this planet.  If you’ve been reading about this project for the last year and saying to yourself, “I’d really like to see that” – act now.

Before Mendes Cohen’s flag goes back into our vaults we have one more chance to celebrate its miraculous survival on Flag Day (June 14).  Join us in one last hurrah for this American patriot.

Speaking of hurrahs – why not make us a part of your Father’s Day festivities on June 21.  I’ll be leading a special tour at the National Archives at 2pm.  We’re going to visit the exhibit “Spirited Republic” about the government and alcohol (which features a still that belonged to the “father of our country”).  We’ll also take a close look at America’s only copy of Magna Carta which marks its 800th birthday next week –  and won’t that make all the fathers feel young by comparison!  In both instances I hope to add something about Jewish connections that you won’t find in the National Archives’ text labels.  We’re asking those interested to make reservations with Trillion – this program is free and we will be sure to get you out in time for our second option:  A presentation on Jewish distillers and a whiskey tasting back at the JMM (this program will be $10).  So you can make it a double header or a single malt day – the choice is up to you.  But please bring your dad (or your son) and share some holiday cheer with us.

~Marvin

 

Upcoming programs

All programs take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland unless otherwise noted. Please contact Trillion Attwood at tattwood@jewishmuseummd.org / 410-732-6400 x215 with any questions or for more information.

June 

Annual Meeting

Sunday, June 7, 1 p.m.

Samuel Boltansky Memorial Keynote Speaker: Senator Ben Cardin

Free

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The JMM is very excited to welcome Senator Cardin as our keynote speaker for our 2015 Annual Meeting. Senator Cardin has enjoyed a long career in American politics. He was the youngest elected speaker in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1979 – 1986 and today serves as one of Maryland’s representatives to the United States Senate.  Senator Cardin will draw upon his personal experiences to discuss what it means to be a Jewish politician today, the significance of his strong Jewish roots and how they have impacted his political career.

The program begins at 1:00pm with a presentation of the FY 15 slate of nominees to the JMM’s Board of Trustees for election by the Museum’s membership. The lecture will follow.

Refreshments will be served following the program. 

 

Finding Your Unknown Ancestors – and the Living Relatives of Mendes Cohen

Wednesday, June 10th, 6:30 p.m.

Free

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Interested in learning more about your family history? Join us as we welcome Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland (JGSM) to the JMM for this exciting program. Learn how to succeed in this fascinating process, where to start, helpful resources and some tricks form the experts! JGSM will demonstrate the process of tracing your family using a very familiar character as inspiration – Mendes Cohen.

Following the presentation JGSM will help several individuals commence their search.

 

Flag Day

Sunday, June 14

Included with Museum Admission

vintage-american-flag-waving

Help us bid a fond farewell to The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen. We honor one of the first “defenders” of the star-spangled banner, with activities and programs for every age and taste.  Work as a family team to test your knowledge on our state flags, design your own flag and make your own star spangled banner to fly this Flag Day. At 1:00 p.m., Michelle Pagan and Joanna Church will be talking about on the conservation of the flag Mendes Cohen carried on his voyage up the Nile.

 

Thirteen Paper Stars: What it Takes to Display a Two Hundred Year Old Flag

Sunday, June 14th at 1:00 p.m.

Speakers: Michelle Pagan, conservator and Joanna Church, JMM Collections Manager

Included with Museum Admission

flag

The American flag currently on display at the JMM is unique in several ways: made of Egyptian cotton, at a time when American flags were always made of wool, 13 paper stars, and only 11 stripes, but why?

Explore the story of how this mysterious flag came into the collection of the JMM, and what techniques have been used to exhibit it safely at the Museum. You will have a chance to pose questions to the Collections Manager, and to the Textile Conservator who made this flag to make it available for viewing today.

Michele Pagan is a Conservator in Private Practice, and a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation.  She has been conserving textiles since 1984, with clients such as the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the National Museum of American History, the Valentine Museum in Richmond VA, and the State of Vermont, where she conserved the Civil War Flag collection. She practices conservation in Washington DC and Brookfield Vermont.

 

Schnapps with Pops

Sunday, June 21st

2:00 p.m. National Archives Tour, 700 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC – FREE

6:00 p.m. Schnapps with Pops at the JMM – $10

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Join us to celebrate Father’s Day with a two-part exploration of the history of alcohol in America. First, visit the National Archives’ latest exhibit Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History with JMM executive Director Marvin Pinkert. Marvin has been prowling around his former haunts to look for Jewish angles on this national story.  As a bonus he will also be taking you by the only Magna Carta in America as that charter marks its 800th anniversary.  Find out why King Edward removed the clause relating to Jews from this version of Magna Carta – and much more.

Then come back to the JMM for a whiskey tasting and talk, “The Forgotten Jewish Heritage of American Whiskey.”
RSVPs required for the visit to the National Archives and preferred for the evening at the JMM. Transportation is not included. It is not necessary to attend both programs.

To rsvp please contact Trillion Attwood: call 410-732-6400 or email tattwood@jewishmuseummd.org.

 

Schnapps with Pops: The Forgotten Jewish Heritage of American Whiskey

Sunday, June 21st from 6 p.m., lecture at 6:30 p.m.

Speaker: Ried Mitenbuler, author of Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey

Admission $10, includes whiskey tasting

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The frontier iconography of countless American whiskey brands, particularly bourbon labels, captures many popular myths about the rise of this nation. Of course, the reality behind these labels is more complicated, and more interesting. Many were started by Jewish entrepreneurs who formed a prominent part of this quintessentially American industry well after the frontier was settled. Their involvement–and occasional efforts to downplay that role for political and economic reasons–is a story that illuminates the American experience as much as any of the marketing myths.

Taste your way through this history, samples of a number of the whiskeys explored are included in the program admission.

Reid Mitenbuler is the author of Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey (Viking). His writing has also appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, Salon, and Whisky Advocate, among other publications.

 

July

Cinema Judaica: Members opening reception

Thursday, July 2, 6:00 p.m.

Free for Museum members

Cinema_Poster

We invite Museum members to join us for the opening reception of Cinema Judaica. Take the opportunity to explore the exhibit in the company of Ken Sutak, author of Cinema Judaica: The War Years, 1939-1949 prior to his presentation The Great Debate, 1939—1941: How Harry Warner, Ernst Toller, and Alvin York Helped Win “The Great Debate” for American Interventionists.

Cocktails and light kosher refreshments will be served.

 

The Great Debate, 1939—1941: How Harry Warner, Ernst Toller, and Alvin York Helped Win “The Great Debate” for American Interventionists

Thursday, July 2nd, 7:00 p.m.

Speaker: Ken Sutak, author and curator

Included with Museum Admission

Ken Sutak with book

Ken Sutak, author of Cinema Judaica: The War Years, will explore how three unexpected men influenced the outcome World War II. Harry Warner, president of Warner Bros, Ernst Toller émigré Prussian-Jewish playwright and Alvin York, the immortal Sergeant York of WW I fame, who later became the most important interventionist spokesperson during “The Great Debate.” These three men were in the forefront of those who managed to change popular American opinion regarding World War II and help prepare the country for war.

 

Flickering Treasures

Sunday, July 12, 1:00 p.m.

Speaker: Amy Davis

Included with Museum Admission

 

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Celebrate the golden age of movie-going with Baltimore photographer and author Amy Davis as she presents photographs from her upcoming book, Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters. Her talk will explore the integral role of Jews in Baltimore cinema, as theater owners, operators and moviegoers. The collection of vintage and new photographs in Flickering Treasures tells a fresh story of Baltimore through the cultural prism of film exhibition. Participants will be invited to travel back in time to share reminiscences of their own favorite movie houses.

Photojournalist Amy Davis has garnered many national awards since joining the staff of The Baltimore Sun in 1987. Her fine art training from The Cooper Union informs her documentary approach. Her photographic work has been exhibited at The Brooklyn Museum, and is in the collection of the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York.

Creative Alliance, a lively non-profit arts organization based in the Patterson Theatre in Highlandtown, is the fiscal sponsor for Flickering Treasures.

More Programs

The JMM is pleased to share our campus with B’nai Israel Congregation. For additional information about B’nai Israel events and services for Shabbat, please visit bnaiisraelcongregation.org.  For more of this month’s events from BIYA, please visit biyabaltimore.org or check out BIYA on facebook. 

Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland May Meeting

Sunday, June 28, 1:30pm, the Pikesville Library’s meeting room

Letters from a Judean

Speaker: David Brill

 The program is free for paid members and $5 for non-members. Refreshments will be available. Go to www.jgsmd.org for more information.

Exhibits

Exhibits currently on display include The A-mazing Mendes Cohen (on display through June 14, 2015), Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore, and The Synagogue Speaks!

Hours and Tour Times

The JMM is open Sunday-Thursday, 10am – 5pm.

Combination tours of the 1845 Lloyd Street Synagogue and the 1876 Synagogue Building now home to B’nai Israel are offered: Sunday through Thursday at 11:00am, 1:00pm and 2:00pm.  We offer tours focused on the Lloyd Street Synagogue, Sunday through Thursday at 3:00pm and on Sunday at 4:00pm.  Our new Lloyd Street “1845: Technology and the Temple” tour is available every Sunday and Monday at 3:00 until The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen closes in June 2015.

Get Involved

The JMM is looking for volunteers to help staff our front desk, work in the gift shop, and lead tours as docents. No prior knowledge or training is required. All that is needed is an interest in learning about the JMM, our historic sites, exhibits, and programs and a desire to share this knowledge with the public. All volunteers are provided with thorough training. If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer program, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen at 410.732.6400 x217 or icohen@jewishmuseummd.org.

Membership 

Revamped and revitalized, membership at the JMM is now better than ever – with new categories, benefits, and discounts to enrich every visit to the Museum for you and your friends and families.

All members receive our monthly e-newsletter, along with a 10% discount at the Museum store, free general admission to the Museum, free admission to all regular programs, attendance at exclusive member opening events and discounted weekday parking at the City-owned garage at 1001 E. Fayette Street.

Your membership provides much needed funding for the many programs that we offer and we hope we can count on you for your continued support. Memberships can be purchased online! For more information about our membership program, please contact Sue Foard at (410) 732-6400 x220 or sfoard@jewishmuseummd.org.

 

 

 

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