Renewal and Revival: Indecent and the Education Department

Posted on July 5th, 2017 by

Blog post by Education Intern Sara Philippe. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

 

This past weekend, I saw the Broadway show Indecent in New York City. It is a play about God of Vengeance, a Yiddish play written by Polish Jewish writer Sholem Asch in 1907 that was performed across Europe in Yiddish, and eventually in the United States where it was translated into English and performed on Broadway, and then again in Poland during World War II where it was performed in an attic in the Lodz ghetto. The show is a powerful testament to the power of art and theatre, especially in its capacity to preserve history and make it relevant in the present. It is proof that what may seem a mere remnant or artifact, is in reality, a leaving, breathing thing. Among other things, Indecent brings to life the Yiddish language and its near-extinction as a result of assimilation of Jews in the US and the Holocaust in Europe.

The opening scene of Indecent. Captions are written in English and Yiddish or Hebrew throughout.

The opening scene of Indecent. Captions are written in English and Yiddish or Hebrew throughout.

It is in this effort to tell stories that are in danger of being lost that Indecent reminds me of my work at the JMM. As Education interns, Erin and I have been working on an educational resource for the upcoming exhibit Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage, which involves us in work guided by the same overarching principle that values history and heritage for its perpetual importance. In designing activities that will allow students of all ages to have more enjoyable and meaningful experiences of the exhibit, we have endeavored to treat every aspect of the contents of the exhibit as a reflection of living people and traditions as well as of people and traditions that existed in the past. Indecent’s writer Paul Vogel, and its director Rebecca Taichman, emphasize their desire to connect the material of the play to ongoing questions of xenophobia and immigration, for example, that pertain to the present day just as much as they did in early 20th century America. They tackle these issues in explicit terms and make no attempt to tell the story of God of Vengeance as if it has ended.

As we work towards a comprehensive education reference, our goal is always to encourage the future users of the resource to see the artifacts displayed in the exhibit as more than artifacts. A badly damaged schoolbook written in Arabic and used in Iraqi Jewish schools is not a collation of pages, but rather an opportunity to discuss efforts to ensure the survival of Judeo-Arabic, spoken by Iraqi Jews, and other minority languages that may be under threat. A tik, the Torah holder used in Iraqi Jewish communities becomes an opportunity to marvel at the evolution and varied uses of language, as we create an activity that asks students to re-interpret the word “tik” through actually making their own tik inspired by what they have learned about the word’s modern-day uses in Hebrew.  The story of the anti-Jewish pogroms in Baghdad in 1941 that led many to flee their native country, are an opportunity to consider minority persecution and displacement of peoples around the world and in Iraq today.

A tik from the Iraqi Jewish Archive.

A tik from the Iraqi Jewish Archive.

The stories of the past that animate Indecent as well as the Iraqi Jewish Archive offer us so much more than just a look at a time and people gone by. They are evidence of the resiliency of any people and the continuing desire we have to discover and recover, and to turn a richness that could have been lost and relegated solely to the past, into art and education. What I am learning in the Education department is the importance of turning everything behind a glass wall in an exhibit into a living creature with meanings and implications that must not be forgotten. Though it is often impossible to bring back to life what has been lost or destroyed, it is possible to enrich the lives of people today using the creations of the people of the past.

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Once Upon a Time…09.09.2016

Posted on June 6th, 2017 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church by email at jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

 

JMM 2011.40.120

JMM 2011.40.120

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  September 9, 2016

PastPerfect Accession #:  2011.40.120

Status: Identified! Parents of Yeshivat Rambam students awaiting a musical performance, c. 1995 – left to right: Daniel Sykes, Jane Mayer, Phyllis Sykes

Thanks To: Dan Sykes, Jane Mayer, Deborah Hamburger, anonymous

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Volunteer Spotlight on Lois Fekete!

Posted on June 5th, 2017 by

Lois Fekete has been a Volunteer Docent at the JMM for around 8 years. She is a proud 5th generation Baltimorean and is retired after teaching for 35 years, mostly in Jewish day schools. She taught students ranging from pre-k to middle school aged kids with learning issues. Lois became involved at the JMM for several reasons. First, she has a family connection to Lloyd Street Synagogue. Her brother was involved in making the plans for the restoration of the synagogue in the 1960s. After living out of state for thirty years, the Jewish Museum of Maryland seemed like a familiar place to re-”Baltimore-ize.” Most of all Lois missed working with kids of all ages. She believes they have so much to teach us and she loves to learn.

Lois in the courtyard

Lois in the courtyard

Lois has enjoyed sharing information about Baltimore’s Jewish heritage to diverse audiences. She has also learned a lot from the students. Lois mentioned one particular ESL class of Muslim girls where she asked them what they liked best about living in the United States. There was not a dry eye in the room when one girl replied that what she liked the most was that she was able to learn in this country.

In her spare time, Lois enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, traveling and spending time with her grandchildren.

Lois tours students through "Voices of Lombard Street"

Lois tours students through “Voices of Lombard Street”

We have found Lois to be a dependable and passionate educator who we often rely on to lead elementary school students on synagogue tours and through our exhibits. We hope that she will remain at the JMM for many years to come!

If you know of anyone else who might like to join Lois as a docent (or in any other area of the Museum), please have them contact Sue Foard at sfoard@jewishmuseummd.org.

GrahamPost by Visitor Services Coordinator Graham Humphrey. Every month we highlight one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, send an email to Sue Foard at sfoard@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443-973-5162! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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