What Carroll County Missed

Posted on December 7th, 2017 by

A blog post by JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. You can read more posts by Marvin here.

Talmud to Tik: Iraqi Jewish Heritage Day. Photos by Will Kirk.

Last Sunday, here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland we had a celebration of Iraqi Jewish culture – there was a dance troupe and musical performances, henna painting and hamsa making, storytelling and some pretty darn good cookies.

It was one of the biggest attendance days of 2017 – with nearly 220 visitors – including visitors from DC and Montgomery County and a whole school group from the Eastern Shore.  There were people of all ages and many ethnic backgrounds.  I mention this not to brag about what we accomplished (at least not just to brag), but also to mourn the way in which fear has trumped reason and denied opportunities to share and learn.

I am sure by now you are aware of the decision of the Carroll County School Board (on the recommendation of the county sheriff) to ban field trips to Baltimore City.   The ostensible reason was the “recent violence in the traditional tourist areas of the city.”

Now I’m not going to minimize the fact that there is a real violence problem in the city and my heart goes out to each of the 300+ families who have lost a loved one.  However, like any risk we face in life I think this requires a little perspective.  How many people are killed or even injured each year in the city while visiting a museum or participating in a Christmas Parade?  Darn few.

I happen to live in a collar county and I commute to the Jewish Museum everyday.  I am acutely aware of the fact that the fatality toll on this state’s highways is 70% higher than the number of murders in the city.  This doesn’t persuade me to stop driving… no more than a county-wide crisis with prescribed opioids would suggest I should stop seeing a doctor.

But some would argue, “why take any risk for the sake of a field trip?”  “It’s just a frivolity.”  I took a look at the Carroll County Schools website.  There I found a document entitled Vision 2018, describing the four major strategic initiatives of the school system.  One of the four major planks was “Prepare Globally Competitive Students.”  Surely, a part of being “globally competitive” is a greater understanding of the 7 billion people on the planet who do not live in Carroll County.  Such understanding has many components but only a few are found on the Internet or in a textbook. Some need to be experienced by meeting people who come from other cultures or contact with the artifacts and places that shape ideas and beliefs.  And most of us will remember something we experienced on a field trip years after we have forgotten everything that was taught in school that week.

Jonestown: Proudly we hail.

As concerned as I am about the ban in Carroll County, I am far more concerned about the way this ban has influenced conversations in the Jewish community over the last couple of weeks.  I have heard the argument made that some neighborhoods are too risky to visit, including our own neighborhood of Jonestown (home of JMM, the Star Spangled Banner Flag House, the Reginald F Lewis Museum, the historic Shot Tower and – with all irony intended – the Carroll Mansion).  I object to this line of argument for all the reasons stated above… and one more: it flies in the face of Jewish values.

We are a caring community that would no more abandon the place that gave us birth (Jonestown, Baltimore) than we would the parents who nurtured us.  A “Jewish” reaction to the very real challenges is not to hide but to repair.  All around us are institutions committed to making Jonestown a better place including our new neighbors Ronald McDonald House and the National Aquarium, not to mention the expanding Helping Up Mission.  At a time when so many are investing in Jonestown are we really going to let our fears prevent us from lending a hand? And sometimes lending a hand requires no sacrifice – just ask the 220 people who enjoyed themselves on Sunday, advancing this community’s economy.

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JMM Insights: It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Posted on May 20th, 2016 by

Jonestown horizontal 4C

WELCOME!

On May 29 we’re putting out the welcome mat as six of greater Jonestown’s well established historic and cultural attractions celebrate the arrival of three brand new facilities planned over the next few years.  We hope you’ll join JMM, the Carroll Museums, Zion Church of Baltimore, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, Port Discovery, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, and B’Nai Israel: The Downtown Synagogue, in saying “welcome!” to our future neighbors.

We thought it might be a good idea to share the backstory behind this event.  Most of you will recall that last October we facilitated the development of the Jonestown Vision Plan and the launch of the new Jonestown brand identity.  In the months since, we’ve continued to work closely with the community and Historic Jonestown Inc. (HJI), led by Lindsay Thompson and Joe Cronyn on ways to put our ambitious goals into practice.

HJI is in the process of organizing itself into affinity groups, bringing together the neighborhood’s social service organizations, its religious institutions, its hospitality industry and its historic/cultural organizations to work on parts of the plan that are a natural fit with each group.  Our historic/cultural group has been concentrating on events and programs.  We felt very fortunate to be included in the Carroll Mansion’s current partnership in support of the All American House and we are studying other two-way and three-way collaborations to bring life to the streets of Jonestown, including tentative plans for a plein air art experience on surrounding streets later this summer.

Meanwhile we’ve had some terrific news about institutions bringing new activity and energy to our immediate vicinity.  Just a block away from the Lloyd Street Synagogue, Ronald McDonald House is well on its way to starting construction on a new facility.  The new Ronald McDonald House, which will be built at 1200 E. Baltimore Street, will reflect a commitment to incorporate best practices into all of its programs and services. The new house is intended to fulfill an institutional goal of establishing Baltimore as providing not only quality pediatric care but the most effective and compassionate family-centered care in the world.  Amenities included in the design of the new house were carefully selected through input from staff, volunteers and families. The new House will serve approximately 55 families daily and 2,200 families a year.  We intend to extend outreach to both volunteers and families. The coming of the new facility will also mean upgrades for the adjacent McKim Park.

And just a block away from the park, at 1100 E. Fayette Street, Kevin Plank and Under Armour have provided more than $6 million in support for a new recreation center, scheduled to open later this year.  The new center will be operated by Living Classrooms.  Jonestown’s cultural institutions are exploring ways to engage youth at the new center in our ongoing programs.

Go just a few blocks further down Fayette  Street and you’ll come to 901, announced last January as the new site for the National Aquarium’s animal care and rescue center.  Preparations are beginning now for an anticipated 2018 opening.  The Aquarium hopes to provide some public access to this behind-the-scenes space.  Jonestown has been welcoming new immigrants for more than 200 years – now we’ll have new arrivals with fins and tails as well.

Welcome to the New Neighbors!

Welcome to the New Neighbors!

It seemed like a great time to bring these new institutions into the Jonestown family.  From 1pm to 4pm we’ll have family activities for every taste.  Art projects, craft work, storytelling from Port Discovery and our new friends at the National Aquarium are bringing with a bearded dragon… just in case you’ve never seen a real dragon, or at least a real dragon with a beard. Admission to the Museum and to all the activities is free.

Happy birthday Mr. Jones!

Happy birthday Mr. Jones!

Speaking of every taste, there will also be birthday cake.  Whose birthday you ask?  Well Jonestown, of course.  On June 15, 1641, David Jones built his home by the falls that bear his name (not to mention the expressway they put on top of it).  So we’ve decided to jump the gun just a little and pull out the 355th birthday cake at our Jonestown celebration.  It seems a fitting way to mark a milestone for Baltimore’s oldest neighborhood and newest destination:  Jonestown – proudly we hail.

~Marvin Pinkert

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Performance Counts May 2014: Planning Ahead

Posted on May 16th, 2014 by

In the past few months you have read quite a bit about our current and upcoming exhibits:  Project Mah Jongg, the Electrified Pickle, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen and Jews, Health and Healing.  We also are preparing for some wonderful events including the 8th Annual Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch program this Sunday, featuring Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and our June 1 Annual Meeting with Dr. Len Saxe.

Yet even as we busily engage in the business of creating, funding and presenting these exciting current projects, we still keep one eye focused on the road ahead.  You will recall that in the fall of 2012 the Board’s ad hoc “Futures Committee” produced a new vision document for the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  The vision reinforced our focus on some of the attributes that make a museum successful, the so-called “four Ds”:  destination, documentation, discourse and discovery.  This vision has guided us in much of what’s been accomplished in the last eighteen months – the doubling of our public hours, the dramatic growth in our attendance, the strengthened relationship with The Associated, our reaccreditation by the American Alliance of Museums and even the painful decisions that have led us to a balanced budget in FY ’14.

This summer we will enter into a second phase of institutional planning.  A new ad hoc “Planning Committee” will be formed with the goal of diving into the next level of the question “What is the Jewish Museum of Maryland?”.  The concept is to build on the work from 2012.  For example, we have made the commitment to focus on becoming a destination – now we’ll ask the question, “what are the distinguishing features of that destination?”.  How are we similar or different from other Jewish museums?  from other Baltimore museums?  How do we make the most of our unique assets?  This stage of planning will be critical as we look ahead to the way we develop our core environment, the historic synagogues and our permanent or signature exhibit.

Simultaneously with this search for “who we are?”, we are launching a second planning process this summer that seeks to answer the question “how do we fit in?”.  This neighborhood vision/plan is being conducted in partnership with The Associated and in conjunction with the Jonestown Planning Council.  As an anchor institution of historic Jonestown, JMM is a key stakeholder in the future development of our community.  The success of the museum is ultimately dependent on what is built around us, not just on what we build.  JMM has contracted with the firm of Mahan Rykiel to serve as our consultant for a planning process that will attempt to understand the needs and interests of current residents and businesses, the downtown Jewish community, and the potential museum audience to craft a compelling vision of what this area might become.  Mahan Rykiel will also work with JMM, The Associated and the community to give some thought to the “branding” of Jonestown and its identity as a great place to live, work, play and visit.

Both planning processes are open to your thoughts.  We will speak to many people over the next few months, but you don’t have to wait for us to call, you can hit the “reply” button to share your ideas.

Marvin Pinkert

This month’s Performance Counts was written by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts by Marvin, click here. To read past issues of Performance Counts, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland