Fish Stories

Posted on October 19th, 2012 by

A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink.

With GefilteFest  a mere 36 hours away, the JMM is swimming with activity. Ilene and Rachel are busy working on fish crafts, Rachel and Sue are discussing which fish comprise gefilte fish, Mark is installing a new fish in the Chosen Food kitchen, and I’m sharing Fish Stories with anyone who will listen.

Cinnamon, Old Bay & parsley fish swim above a sea bottom made of salt and black peppercorn. Come to the JMM on Sunday 10-5 and make your own.

Fish’s Bar Mitzvah, 1997

It’s Labor Day Monday, 1997. My father is on the phone telling me, “I am very disappointed in you. Do you know what today is?”  I search my brain. Grandma’s birthday was last month. Her anniversary is in 2 weeks. It’s the first week of school, so I haven’t missed an exam. “No, I have no idea.”

“It is Labor Day. It is Fish’s Bar Mitzvah. And where are you? Where is a card for Fish?”

And so I had forgotten all about my pet goldfish’s 13th birthday. Fish, who started out as one of those tiny goldfish that my sister and I had won at the annual Labor Day Fair in 1984, had officially become an adult. Fish was now over 8” long, with a beautiful flowing tail. Friends would look at Fish, the only resident in a 25 gallon fish tank (that’s another story), and recall when we had two smaller fish and marvel at his longevity. My father would proudly tell them that he single handedly kept that fish alive with the cheapest fish food out there.

Marvin laughed at this story, and told me that I lacked imagination in names…

Rusty and Stylish, 1984

Who says “Stylish” isn’t a good name for a fish? A mock up for a tie design featuring a tuna by Resisto Ties.

Fish wasn’t the original name my sister and I had chosen for our pet.  I named my fish Rusty and my sister chose Stylish for her fish, because he had lots of small black spots. The two fish lived happily in a 5-gallon fish bowl on the pot-belly stove in the living room for 2 years. Until one day, the fish lost their coloring and got white spots, the tell-tale sign of Ich, a fish disease.  rhttp:/// Sadly, one of the fish died.  But my sister stayed up all night talking to the remaining fish, asking it not to die. Remarkably, in the morning, the fish was better! The white spots were gone, and so were any of the black markings. (Yeah, looking back on this now, it seems as if my parents went out to the pet store and got a replacement fish, but they assured us that this was not the case!) My mom didn’t want either one of us to be upset that our personal pet died, so she diplomatically started calling him Fish. Had we known he was going to live another 14 years, we probably would’ve chosen something more creative like Thirsty, Chester, Gouda, or Henry V.

Fish Attempts Suicide, 1989

My mother was clearly in a panic when my father and I entered the house. I would say this was odd, since it was my father who just had the harrowing experience of teaching me to drive on twisting country roads, but my mother does tend to panic, so it was perfectly normal.

“Where is Fish?” my mother asked.

“In his bowl,” was my father’s calm answer.

“He’s not in the bowl,” my mother’s voice was pitching higher.

“He’s not in the back, either,” my sister chimed in.

Despite my sister and I insisting that we could care for our fish, my father was the one who ended up changing out his water in the back pantry. It was an elaborate process and my father complained about it repeatedly, but we were pretty sure that he actually enjoyed the opportunity to play with Fish.

Dad traipsed upstairs to the living room. Sure enough, the bowl was empty. He clomped downstairs to the pantry and inspected the sink. No fish there.  Had he accidentally throw Fish down the drain? He found the dog and forcibly opened her mouth. No fish tail there, either.  My dad repeated these actions, looking for Fish in the pantry, down the drain, in the empty container of reserved water, while the rest of us were too scared to look closely ourselves.   He continued to look all around the fish bowl and the pot-belly stove, and along the floor, all the way over to the cooling vent 6 feet away.


There was Fish, lying on his side. How on earth had he gotten over there? Uh-oh. It appears that the bowl was filled a little bit too high and Fish tried to make an escape.

My father gingerly picked up the fish. “Poor Fish. Oh, poor, poor Fish.”

He was about to give Fish the usual fish funeral flush, when the rest of us insisted that he get a proper burial. By now Fish had grown to be several inches long and he did not fit inside a match box. While my mother went upstairs to get a jewelry box, my dad plopped the fish back into the bowl.

Fish lay on his side, the way fish do when they’re dead.

And then, Fish moved his fin. My father shook his head in disbelief. Fish moved his fin again, and opened his mouth for a big breath.  We all stared at the bowl in disbelief. There was Fish swimming around his bowl, happy to be alive.

The very next day, Dad bought a new 25-gallon fish tank—with a lid.

I’ll happily tell you more Fish Stories on Sunday, when you come to the JMM for GefilteFest!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Once Upon a Time…02.24.2012

Posted on October 16th, 2012 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. Click here to see the most recent photo on their website. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contactJobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  February 24, 2012

PastPerfect Accession #:  1989.102.034

Status:  Unidentified! Can you help us identify the folks in this Becker family photograph?

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Happy Earth Day!

Posted on May 2nd, 2012 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus.

It all started a few months ago with a lively conversation in the West Wing about Peeps Dioramas.  If you haven’t heard of Peeps Dioramas (where have you been??), they are a national edible art competition each spring celebrating the popular Easter candy, Peeps.

“If only there were a Passover equivalent!” we exclaimed.

That is how the idea of “Ginger ‘Bread of Affliction’ Houses” was born.  Matzah – also referred to in many Haggadahs as the bread of affliction, is a pretty great building material, although it can be pretty crumbly and delicate, hence “ginger”.  Eventually we would like to have an edible art contest based around matzah, but for this year we decided to stick to Matzah House building.

With a little tweaking and some input from our colleague, Kim Jacobsohn at the DBJCC, the Earth Day Counts program began to take shape.  Just after Passover and right in the middle of the Counting of the Omer, Earth Day is the perfect time of the year to talk about Feeding the World from a Jewish Food perspective.

During Passover we spend a lot of time giving extra consideration for the foods that we eat.  Does it rise?  Does it have cornstarch?  Is it made with soybean oil?  Considering that Kashrut has a lot of rules and regulations to begin with, on Passover the rules multiply ten fold, it seems.  And with it, we find ourselves selling off chametz – leavened products, and buying new… well, everything.

But what about after Passover is over?  What happens to all the food we just can’t stand looking at one more day?  Why not turn it into edible art and celebrate how food ends up on our tables in the first place.

For this program we had seven family friendly activities.  First and foremost, of course, Building Matzah Houses out of leftover matzah and Passover candy.  The kids were pretty creative, even if many of the houses had to remain 2-dimensional objects of wonder.  We used cake icing to stick everything together, and the weird and wacky candies of Passover made for great decoration.  By making them edible, we even got a few participants who were ready to snack on some matzah again.

We also celebrated the foods we can eat, in the form of a Seven Ancient Species Taste Test.  Participants were invited to try the seven foods of the bible which were used in sacrifice at the ancientTemple.  We tried dates, figs, olives, grapes, pomegranates, wheat and barley in multiple forms and guests were invited to fill out surveys and tell us what they thought of these special foods.

Then we used two of the seven species (wheat and grapes) to make sandwiches for the needy.  With help from our friends at the Jewish Volunteer Connection, we donated pb&j sandwiches that we made together to Our Daily Bread and the Helping Up Mission.

Since wheat and barley are key elements in the Counting of the Omer, we decorated calendars to keep track of the days between Passover and Shavuot, when the Israelites would bring offerings to the temple.

All in all it was a great day, with around eighty people showing up to take part in the festivities.  The next Family Fun Day at the Jewish Museum of Maryland is July 1st when the Sol Food Bus will be arriving to teach us about Urban farming.  See you then!

*All photos by Will Kirk.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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