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.

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“Henrietta Szold‘s Baltimore” Bus Tour Debut

Posted on May 4th, 2017 by

The past few months I have worked with historian Barry Kessler and Ilene Dackman-Alon on the Henrietta Szold’s Baltimore Bus tour, which launched this past Thursday with a bus filled with local Hadassah members from the Greater Baltimore chapter. In preparation for the tour, I helped to create a booklet that accompanies the tour filled with quotes and images related to Henrietta’s life in Baltimore. I also went on “practice tours” throughout the city with Barry and Ilene. To create the booklet, I searched through the JMM database to find pictures of Henrietta Szold (1860-1945) and her family as well as images of Baltimore’s cityscape that she would have seen or visited in the late 1800s.

Henrietta Szold, about 1910. Gift of M. Jastrow and Alexandra Lee Levin, JMM

Henrietta Szold, about 1910. Gift of M. Jastrow and Alexandra Lee Levin, JMM

It was especially meaningful to have this premiere tour be for Hadassah, the organization Henrietta Szold founded in 1912 to provide medical aid to the people of the land of Israel. Barry’s narration of the tour allowed us to imagine what downtown Baltimore looked and felt like in the late 1800s, when Henrietta was born and raised, and gave the Hadassah group a better understanding of the early life of their founder.

I learned a lot about the life of Henrietta Szold and her family in Baltimore, and I also learned a great deal about the city’s cultural and economic history while researching this tour and working with Barry. For example, I learned about the importance of Camden Station, located down the street from where Henrietta was born on South Eutaw Street, and how it was one of the gateways to the city. Camden Station had a significant impact on the economic life of Baltimore’s mercantile industry workers. Nearby, many impressive garment factory buildings sprung up bearing the names Strouse, Sonneborn, and Hamburger, which are now loft style apartment buildings. One highlight on the tour was the stop at the Oheb Shalom Cemetery on the east side of Baltimore near Dundalk. Many prominent Baltimore Jewish families have relatives who were buried here. We stopped to pay our respects to Henrietta’s family- Rabbi Benjamin Szold and his wife Sophie Schaar Szold and their other children (Henrietta is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem).

Oheb Shalom Cemetery on O’Donnell Street. The group stopped at the gravesite of the Szold family. Photo by Alex Malischostak

Oheb Shalom Cemetery on O’Donnell Street. The group stopped at the gravesite of the Szold family. Photo by Alex Malischostak

Another memorable stop on the tour was the Oheb Shalom Eutaw Street Temple located in Bolton Hill, now run by the Prince Hall Masons. We were able to go inside the beautiful and historic sanctuary which the Masons have preserved so that others can learn more about this impressive building and its history.

Albert Queen, President of the Board of Trustees of the Prince Hall Masons addresses the tour group at the Eutaw Street Temple (former site of Oheb Shalom 1892-1960). Photo by Alex Malischostak

Albert Queen, President of the Board of Trustees of the Prince Hall Masons addresses the tour group at the Eutaw Street Temple (former site of Oheb Shalom 1892-1960). Photo by Alex Malischostak

Iconography from the Eutaw Place Temple inspired by the Great Synagogue in Florence, Italy, now the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge. Photo by Ilene Dackman-Alon.

Iconography from the Eutaw Place Temple inspired by the Great Synagogue in Florence, Italy, now the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge. Photo by Ilene Dackman-Alon.

Henrietta Szold: Living History Character was made possible through the generous support of the Kolker-Saxon-Hallock Family Foundation, Inc., a supporting foundation of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Educational opportunities were made possible by the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund of the Associated.

Alex MalischostakPost by Museum Educator Alex Malischostak.


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JMM Insights: Learning By Doing

Posted on April 21st, 2017 by

Want to listen to a pumping heart? Save the day at Ft. McHenry by removing ammunition from a stockade? Turn a pickle into a light bulb?

If you’ve visited JMM in the last few years, you might have done all of the above.  The opportunities to “learn by doing” continue this summer with our next exhibit, Just Married!: Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland now under development.

As you might expect, this exhibit features wedding gowns, accessories, invitations, and even ketubahs that are more than 150 years old.  But in making this experience accessible to people of all ages and all learning styles it will also contain “interactive” experiences.  Despite the 21st century jargon in the name, interactives in museums date back more than a century.

In 1911, Jewish businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald took his 8 year-old son William to the Deutsches Museum in Munich.  There he saw something new in the museum world – instead of halls exclusively devoted to objects in cases, some of the exhibits had cranks and levers and pulleys.  These devices invited visitors not just to observe the scientific world but to understand it through participation. Rosenwald was so impressed with the impact of this new style of museum experience that he became determined to bring it back to America, to his hometown of Chicago – and so began the story of the Museum of Science and Industry, the nation’s largest science museum.

Over the course of the 20th century, interactives migrated from science museums to children’s museums and by the 1980s to natural history and history museums as well.  These exhibit units are sometimes characterized as “activities for kids,” but it is the experience of museum professionals that interactives receive as much of a workout from adults as children, if only vicariously (i.e. “Johnny, try pulling the crank first and then flipping the lever”).

In approaching the interactives for Just Married!: Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland, we began, as always, with educational objectives…how do we transform the topic into a vehicle for inspiring in-depth exploration and critical reasoning?  What concepts and activities would fit our exhibit themes, while attracting visitors both young and old?  We came up with a mix of puzzles, tactile experiences, and audio rewards to engage the brain as well as the senses.

The meeple family tree

An important part of interactive planning is beta testing. Over the winter, we tested two of our activities, one on the public and one on the JMM staff.
Our seating chart puzzle, designed by our in-house game maven, involves a set of adorable but in-law challenged meeples [wondering what meeples are? (and no, the singular of “meeples” is not “merson”)].  Our meeple families: the color-coded Pinkerts and Greensteins, Silvermans and Goldbergs needs to be strategically seated to achieve a set of goals for the bride and groom.  In this way we hoped to transform a common problem into a 3-D logic puzzle – both entertaining and thought provoking.

A seating challenge!

We set a simple prototype in the JMM lobby and invited visitors to give it a try.  This gave us insight into what visitors found confusing – such as the fact that unlabeled meeples are indistinguishable (so who could say if cousin Steve was sitting where he should be?) We experimented with affixing tiny labels to the meeples, simplifying the game’s rules and clarifying how to reset the game board for the next player.  All of these small adjustments will contribute to successful interactive – a tool that promotes learning (and fun).

Curator Karen takes a crack at matching photos

Joanna’s match-the-photo puzzle was tested out on the staff in a slightly less formal manner (but with scorekeeping, which always adds to the fun). In this activity, players are asked to match the wedding and anniversary photos of several Maryland couples from various eras.  Our collections include some great images, thanks to generations of Marylanders celebrating the milestone anniversaries of parents and grandparents.  Eleven of our staff and volunteers gave the game a try; there were mixed results, score-wise (and yes, one person did successfully match all eight couples), but everyone found themselves engrossed in the challenge.

Marketing and Development Manager Rachel had a tough time as the inaugural tester

These trial games were invaluable.  In the case of the photos, Joanna learned that the original version – a scattering of sixteen photos from eight couples, with no indication as to which images were wedding and which were anniversary – was much too difficult for anyone who hadn’t been staring at the pictures for three days like she had.  A few tweaks to the set-up improved things considerably. Our goal is to make interactives challenging – but not frustrating, often a difficult “sweet spot” to find.Interactives are just one component in turning a space into an experience.  A strong interactive complements, but does not replace, memorable images or artifacts – but the right tools can transport the visitor from “watcher” to “doer” and give them a sense of personal ownership of an exhibit.

MarvinBlog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert (with assistance from Collections Manager Joanna Church). To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

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