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

Once Upon a Time…08.13.2011

Posted on April 10th, 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 jzink@jewishmuseummd.org.

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  August 13, 2011

PastPerfect Accession #:  2006.004.123

Status:  Unidentified.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Chinese Food On Christmas

Posted on December 28th, 2011 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

When asked during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings how she spent Christmas Day, Judge Elena Kagan responded, “… like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.” It’s become something of an inside joke that this is how Jews spend Christmas, eating out at Chinese restaurants and going to the movies.  Despite the fact that today there are many more dining options available on Christmas, the practice of eating out in Chinese restaurants endures as a cherished tradition to be shared with family and friends.

The JMM’s recently opened exhibition, Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture, and American Jewish Identity, provides scholarly context for the connection between Jews and Chinese food. The Jewish attraction to Chinese food to Jews has roots in the early 20th century when Jewish immigrants lived in close proximity to Chinese restaurants inNew York’sLower East Side. Despite the fact that the restaurants were not kosher, the use of pork and seafood was well disguised in sauces and there was no worry of mixing meat and dairy (thus leading to the notion of “safe treyfe”). As Jews moved out to the suburbs, Chinese restaurants followed recognized the loyalty of this particular clientele.

Tearoom in Chinatown, New York City, N.Y. Feb. 18, 1903. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. CP 33.2011.4

The Christmas/Chinese food connection has been highlighted in comedy routines and pop culture references and has even been satirized in song.Baltimore’s own Brandon Walker had a YouTube hit with his 2007 music video, “Chinese Food on Christmas” that included these lyrics:

“I eat Chinese food on Christmas.

Go to the movie theater, too.

‘Cause there just ain’t much else to do on Christmas

When you’re a Jew!”

(Check out the full video here: http:///www.youtube.com/watch?v=dukfZs3RGhw)

Recognizing an opportunity to celebrate this great Jewish tradition of Christmas and Chinese food, the JMM devoted our annual Christmas Day bash to Chanukah, Christmas, and Everything Chinese. On Sunday, December 25, nearly 260 people joined us for festivities that featured Chinese food, games, and crafts. Guests of all ages enjoyed sampling Chinese treats (generously provided by David Chu’s China Bistro) as they gathered around card tables for competitive games of mahjong, another treasured Jewish pastime with Chinese roots, and Chinese checkers.

We even offered lessons, courtesy of Lois Madow, president of the American Mah-Jongg Association, for people interested in learning how to play. (For a comprehensive list of mahjong rules, check out http:///www.mahjong.net/mahjong-rules/) Several of my colleagues and I sat in on a lesson, and while I can’t say we understand all the ins and outs of this complicated game (although by the end we could distinguish between a “bam” and a “crack”), we had a blast learning and are even planning a few lunchtime games to sharpen our skills.

In another corner of our lobby, children (and adults too) patiently learned the art of origami (visit www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origami for the Chinese connection with origami) as they folded decorated pieces of paper into intricate designs including swans, flowers, and dreidels (there’s the Chanukah tie in!)

Other craft activities included paper lantern making, Chinese fan decorating, and beading.

Visitors learned about the Chinese signs of the zodiac and even had the opportunity to find out their corresponding sign on the Jewish zodiac which features traditional Jewish nosh (chopped liver, egg cream, bagel, etc.) instead of animals.

In the end, a good time was had by all!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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