Outreach Within the Local Community

Posted on June 24th, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM intern Megan Orbach. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

The topic that I have chosen to write about in my first in depth blog post is Museums and community outreach in all its forms. Prior to beginning my internship at the JMM, I understood the importance of community outreach as far as donations and support go, to keep non-profit organizations, such as JMM, functioning. However, after starting and being here for a few weeks I have been privileged to learn about more ways that a museum can participate in outreach within the local community.

On one of my first days of my internship I was given the opportunity to observe a program that was held at the museum with two Baltimore city public schools. This program gave students the platform to tell stories from their lives. The students did this by making a video slideshow with the help of their teachers that would be presented to other students in their classes and to students of different schools. I got to experience watching two classes’ stories. These stories told of how students met their best friends to how they are dealing with the loss of a parent. Some of the students remarked that they liked the project because they felt that it finally gave them a voice. On the other hand, some liked it because it allowed them to see how similar others’ stories could be to theirs and in turn, sparked the potential for new friendships.

Students from Morrell Park and Graceland Park participated in Personal Stories: PROJECTED, coming together to share their short films with each other.

I was pleasantly surprised by this program because of the impact I saw it had made on students just by observing one session. Further, as a younger student myself, I had been on field trips to various museums but I had never participated in any programs with both my teachers and museum educators like the one I observed.

Museums exist to educate their guests and to tell stories. I have realized since starting my internship that museums also exist to reach out to their local communities and to help make a difference. I read an article written by Caldor Zwicky who is an assistant director at the MoMA for teen and community partnerships. Zwicky details his firsthand experiences working with local students through art classes and school visits. He also discusses an art program, likely similar to the story telling program at JMM, in which he recalls noticing the “yearning” of students to be paid attention to. Just like at JMM where students visited and participated in a project that helped them to find their voice, Zwicky’s art program encouraged the students he worked with to find theirs. He also told of his own participation in an art class at a museum when he was younger, recalling that it changed his academic and general life for the better, so much so that it contributed to his working at a museum today.

Calder Zwicky in 2016, working on an art project in association with his work at the MoMA.

All the programming that JMM does with local schools and other organizations in the community makes me even more proud to be an intern here. Of course, these programs are able to be in existence because of generous donations from community members and this allows me to see, once again, the importance of fundraising/development (the department for which I intern) and its essential role in making a difference.

As someone who is looking to work for a non-profit organization one day, potentially a museum, I am so appreciative of being afforded the opportunity to observe programs like the one I did and to see how much of an impact they can make.

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Every Family Has a Story to Tell

Posted on June 19th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!

When students from Annapolis Area Christian School visited this past May, they had a special guest visit with them. Students used their imagination and went back in time to 1941 where they met Ida Rehr, a Ukrainian immigrant who made the journey to Baltimore in 1913 and went on to work in the garment industry. Ida came to talk with the students about her experiences as a Jewish immigrant to the United States

Ida’s story is one of many stories about Jewish individuals immigrating to Baltimore that can be found in the collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Immigrant’s Trunk: Ida Rehr is performed by actress Katherine Lyons of one of the JMM’s Living History Performances. During this performance students are immersed in a real, first-person account bringing to life stories of immigration that they are learning about in the classroom.

Annapolis Area Christian School students meet Ida Rehr to hear about her journey.

A performance rich with content, Annapolis Area Christian School students were able to connections to their own lives. A personal favorite is when Ida shared her family heirlooms with the students.

Ida pulled two silver candlesticks from her trunk. She asked the students why did she choose these candlesticks above anything else she could have taken? Students chimed in with answers. Maybe she took them to sell if she needed money? Maybe because they provided light and warmth? Maybe to light on the holidays? Maybe to light for Sabbat dinner?

Ida lights the candle sticks that she brought with her.

Ida said that these candle sticks were in her family for a long time. They were an heirloom, passed down from generations. They were a reminder of her family.

Ida asked students, “What do you have in your house that has been passed down?”

Again, students’ hands shot up in the air with answers. Students told Ida about their great grandmother’s china, a uniform from World War II, a grandfather’s army canteen, family photographs, their grandmother’s recipes, silverware from a great-grandmother. A teacher even shared about their hutch that was their grandmother’s.

“Why not buy new furniture?” Ida asked, “Why do we save these things and take care of them and bring them when we move?”

“Because they are special,” responded a student.

“You know someone who had them before,” suggested another.

“To never forgot your family,” added another.

Ida shared that when she asked that question to another students, they had responded, “it is your legacy.” And when Ida asked what they meant by “legacy” the students said it was “a memory that you carry in your heart.”

Ida went on to share with students the menorah that her mother packed for her. She carried it all the way to America.

Students were able to ask Ida Rehr questions about her experiences.

In 1913, when Ida was seventeen years old, she decided to come to America. She left her family, her home, and her country to come. While it was not an easy trip, she was able to have a better life.

Ida’s story was brought to the Museum by her granddaughter. Everything in the story is real. Her granddaughter received an assignment at school to interview a family member. Over several visits, she interviewed Ida. Ida wrote down on notecards pieces of her story. The family made a scrapbook and included photographs. Like Ida’s story, the JMM houses numerous stories brought to us from family members.

Every family has a story to tell. Ida asked the students, “What might your family’s story be?”

Ida Rehr is portrayed by Katherine Lyons. 

Living History Program performances are available for schools, public and private events and can take place at the Museum or outside venues. The cost for the living history program is $300 plus mileage reimbursement at $0.50/mile. To schedule a Living History performance or to learn more, please contact Paige Woodhouse, School Program Coordinator, at pwoodhouse@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443.873.5167.


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Working at a Museum- What Does That Actually Mean?

Posted on June 18th, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM intern Ariella Shua. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

Easily the worst question I’ve gotten in college — after “what do you hope to do one day?” and “since you go to Hopkins, are you pre-med?” —  is “what are you doing this summer?”

Until you’ve locked down exactly what you’re doing for three months of supposed freedom, the correct response, I’ve learned, is to laugh and change the question.

Oddly, after a few weeks, the reaction changes. Finally something falls into place, and you suddenly have a plan for the next few months. Once you do have a response to the dreaded question, you look forward to it. Since I’m writing this post, you can guess that I currently fall into the second category.

So, what am I doing this summer? The easy part of the answer: I’m an intern at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. I’m primarily working with the Education and Programs departments.

The hard part of the answer: what does that actually mean?

Well, the difficulty behind that question is part of the reason I chose to work here this summer.

Let me give some context. I’m a rising junior at Johns Hopkins University, where I’m majoring in Writing Seminars. As of this spring, I decided, I’m also minoring in Museums and Society and in Marketing and Communications.

It was a long journey before I decided that that would be my path through college. I always knew I wanted to study writing but didn’t have many plans beyond that. I’ve done marketing previously and enjoyed the experience, so decided to add a minor in the subject. As for museums, though, I was mostly just curious when I signed up for my first classes.

After taking three museums courses at school, and visiting dozens of museums throughout my life, I suddenly knew what I wanted to do after graduation. I want to work in museums. The problem was, I didn’t know anything about how that worked.

Enter the Jewish Museum of Maryland. My goal for myself: learn how museums function and decide if I want to work in one someday.

This summer, my job for JMM is pretty broad. For Education, we’ve been working on a curriculum for the Jews in Space exhibit. After a crash course in outer space and how it relates to Judaism, we had to design a teacher’s guide to the exhibit. It was really exciting! I never knew that Jewish people had so much of an influence in space exploration and science fiction, or that astronomy and astrology meant so much to Jewish religion. Even after going to Jewish school for thirteen years, this was completely untapped territory for me.

The original “Jews in Space” exhibit at New York’s Center for Jewish History. In May 2020, it’s coming to JMM!

Working at a museum, I learned from Education, is about taking fascinating, important, and entertaining information and presenting it so that it’s accessible to anyone.

For Programs, so far we’ve primarily been planning for the Jonestown Festival. The Festival is an annual event hosted by JMM celebrating the history of the historic neighborhood, one of Baltimore’s oldest. This year, the theme revolves around Hamilton. While planning events and entertainment for the Festival, I have a great excuse to dive back into the mini-Hamilton musical obsession I had two years ago. (Shoutout: Jonestown Festival is this Sunday, June 23rd, at the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House from 12-4 PM.)

Working at a museum, I found from Programs planning, is about inviting visitors of all ages to discover history and society by making it as exciting as possible.

JMM also takes the interns on trips to museums and institutions around Baltimore. So far, we’ve visited the Walters Art Museum and the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House. While both were great, I especially loved the Walters visit. We got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Manuscripts and Rare Books collection hosted by the museum. As a Writing Seminars major who also loves museums, this was about as amazing as it gets. The curator showed us a dozen of the Walters’ most interesting rare books. One of my favorites of these was a copy of Aesop’s Fables from the 1400s. On the outside, though, it couldn’t look less like a copy of children’s stories: it’s bound in an old copy of the Talmud!

Aesopus moralisatus,” a copy of Aesop’s Fables, printed in the mid-1400s. The stories are bound in a page from a 12th-century edition of a Talmud. We saw this book, along with many others, during a tour at the Walters Art Museum.

Working at a museum, I saw that day, is also about preserving special items, even if they don’t seem important while they’re being made. One day, they can be about the coolest items imaginable (at least to me).

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been discovering a lot about how museums work. Behind the scenes, there’s a ton of planning that goes into every decision. And so far, I’ve enjoyed learning all of it!

Hopefully, it will go well enough that I’ll have an answer to the worst possible question that is posed to college students.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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