It’s All About Making Connections…

Posted on April 16th, 2018 by

A blog post by Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

Sometimes, being the Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement can be very stressful-trying to meet deadlines, meeting school groups, developing education resources.  Many days are harried, many days are just plain FUN, and at the end of the day- our work is about making those meaningful connections.

Let’s go back to last Thursday. The school group from the NAF Academy has arrived at the JMM – their visit includes a tour of the historic synagogues, where the students will learn about the different immigrant groups that used the building and about Jewish rituals and traditions.  The students ask great questions and enjoy learning about Judaism and Baltimore history less than 1 mile from their school.

This group was the first group of students that went through Amending America: The Bill of Rights.  The students were given a gallery guide to help them self-guide through the exhibit.  The students were engaged as the meandered through the gallery.   I looked up and I saw one of the students call out to his buddy, “Hey, get a picture of this!”  I looked up and instantly- a smile came to my face- this student saw himself at the March on Washington D.C in August 1963.

He was connecting to the exhibit, he saw himself as one of the protesters marching for civil rights back in history!  Our hope is that students find personal connections to our exhibits.

Less than 15 minutes after the group left, I hopped in my car and headed to John Carroll High School in Bel Air, Maryland.

John Carroll is a Catholic High School in Harford County and the JMM has a strong relationship with the school.  We were invited to be a part of the #TogetherWeRemember program that honors the millions of victims that were killed during the Holocaust and other genocides that have occurred in our lifetime.  #TogetherWeRemember combines, technology, art, and activism to transform remembrance to of past atrocities into a powerful tool for building peace in the present.  I went up to John Carroll because I volunteered to be a reader of names of victims.

Never would I imagine that reading the list of names would be so incredibly powerful. I was given a list of about 100 names, all who were victims of the Holocaust.

As I began to read the names, I noticed a common thread, the first names were either Moises, Chaim or Chaya.  In fact, these three names were the only names that I read for the 10 minutes.  As I got further in the list, it struck me that I kept repeating my own Jewish name, Chaya.  In fact, I repeated the name 44 times throughout the 10 minutes.

I got off the podium, slightly drained and emotional.  I was thinking about the 44 women who perished during the Holocaust- their families- and if anybody ever says their name and remembers that they once lived during the 20th century.  So powerful.

This Thursday, April 19, 2018, you can be a part of this powerful program too as the JMM is hosting a #TogetherWeRemember program @ 7:00 p.m.

Sign up, bring a group of friends, make your own connections and be a part of this transformative program.

 

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Celebrating Students, Finding Their Stories

Posted on March 16th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes to us from Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Learning and Visitor Experience.

At the Jewish Museum of Maryland, we are storytellers.

It’s one of the things we do best. Whether the stories of the “old neighborhood, Jonestown,” the voices of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, or one of the thousands of stories of individual Jewish Marylanders, we use story to connect our visitors and audiences to others and themselves. We also help others tell stories. We’re especially interested in helping students and families living in their own communities find and tell their stories. To make that happen, we have been developing partnerships with area schools for years.

Why do we do what we do? How does telling our stories benefit future generations?

Research has shown children who know more about their families display more confidence and are more resilient. Dr. Marshall Duke, a psychologist of Emory University, has conducted research that shows family stories are a critical part of adolescents’ emerging identity and well-being. Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world.  Research shows children who know their family and community stories have a strong “intergenerational self;” they know that they belong to something bigger than themselves.

In other words, stories connect the past and present to the future.

The month of March is extremely exciting for JMM storytelling. The JMM’s Education department is working on two programs in partnership with area schools and institutions: My Family Story and Morrell Park: PROJECTED. Each helps students develop their own family narrative, through a different medium. Through these partnerships, the JMM has been able to reach to a wider audience. We are a valuable education partner and resource to the larger community. Keep reading for more on both of them.


Earlier this year, area students from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Beth Israel Congregation and Bolton Street Synagogue embarked on an exploration of their own heritage with a project that goes beyond the usual family tree.

Through rigorous research and inspiring creativity, these students have produced beautiful art pieces illustrating their personal exploration into their family roots, and connections to the greater story of the Jewish People.  On March 8th, we held a special opening for My Family Story, celebrating this education initiative in partnership with Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Thousands of other students from around the world are also on their own My Family Story explorations, with the best projects from each school to be entered in Beit Hatfutsot’s international competition later in June.

Over the past months, I have had the opportunity to visit students in their classrooms as they created art to represent their family stories. I loved seeing them point out specific elements to illustrate the research they have done. Their faces shone as they shared their family stories.

I invite you to come celebrate with us the creativity, hard work, and beauty represented in these student-created works of art. The My Family Story exhibition will be on display through March 25th. My Family Story here at the Museum is generously supported by the Ronnie and Alli Russel Charitable Foundation.


Baltimore City Public Schools

In addition to our partnerships with religious schools and day schools, JMM has strong partnerships with five area Baltimore City Public Schools, where we provide a more customized and intensive educational enrichment for students and teachers.

All these programs are offered at no charge to  our partner schools, thanks in part to generous education program donors like the Henry and Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation, the Maryland State Department of Education, Larry Boltansky, and many of our Museum members.

Through our partnerships, we help students become active learners for the 21st century. As a museum, one of our most critical roles is in helping students build 21st-century skills in the areas of information, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic literacy, and global awareness.


Over the fall semester, JMM staff, with the guidance of J. Scott Fuqua (an award-winning young adult author), and Johns Hopkins University film students, have been working with the 8th grade students at Morrell Park Elementary/Middle school on a new, innovative program.Morrell Park: PROJECTED is a year-long storytelling initiative that has helped students gain insight into their personal family stories. Students learned storytelling and interviewing techniques, gaining the skills to interview family and community members. They used what they learned to tell their own stories, creating short film clips using their smartphones. The resulting films will be screened for the public as a way of celebrating the diversity, culture and roots of the Morrell Park community. Morrell Park: PROJECTED is supported by an Excellence Grant from Wells Fargo.

This project has been a transformative experience for many students.In the beginning, many students expressed a hesitancy to speak to their parents. Just a few months later, some of those same students shared that this project has enabled them to talk to family members in ways that they never had before. All of the participating students expressed an appreciation for the family members that shared personal stories of their past. The students are also rightly proud of the short films they have created, of their own learning, and of mastering a new skill on their smartphones.

You can listen to more about Morrell Park: PROJECTED over at WYPR’s “On The Record” here.

I hope you will join us on March 22 at 7:00 p.m., as these eighth graders from Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School walk the red carpet at the Jewish Museum of Maryland to celebrate the premiere of the autobiographical films they’ve created. This premiere is the first component in a two-part series, and we look forward to sharing news of the second part with you in the future.

We hope that you will visit JMM during the month of March to celebrate area students as they share their family and community stories!

 

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How Do I Connect?

Posted on March 1st, 2018 by

A blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

This week, I, along with a few staff members travelled back and forth to Washington D.C. to attend the CAJM (Council for American Jewish Museums) 2018 Annual Conference. The conference was a three-day event, designed to give professionals working in Jewish cultural organizations and institutions the opportunity to learn best practices in the museum field, visit museums and meet and schmooze with new and old friends. The conference is still fresh in my brain, so I wanted to share some thoughts. One of the main takeaways that I like to think about at conferences is: how do I connect with the speakers and places that we visit?

Day One started off with a downtown walking tour led by our friends from the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. We learned about the first synagogue building built in 1876 in our Nation’s Capital, Adas Israel; and learned about the congregation’s eventual move to the suburbs.

The original building is currently on stilts in the middle of a busy intersection in downtown DC; waiting to go on its final journey to the future campus of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.

After the walking tour, we went to where the conference was being held inside Adas Israel’s second synagogue building, now known as Sixth & I. The building has gone through numerous transformations from a Conservative synagogue, an African Methodist Episcopal Church to a hub for both synagogue and community space.

Sixth & I has a reputation in that they provide a space for impactful and provocative programs spanning different Jewish cultural traditions.

I found the history of the building to be similar to the history of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

I was happy to see so many old friends and colleagues at CAJM – and at one point I counted 10 people that I knew that had an association with the JMM at some point during their professional careers.

Day Two was held at The Wilson Center where the keynote speaker was Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Deputy Director of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. She spoke eloquently about our responsibilities as museum professionals as we tell the story of our culture and heritage.

She quoted Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.” How is that for a takeaway!

I participated in Talking Circles on specific topics of Israel and Audience Engagement. These activities allowed us to share what we do in our instituitions and hopefully gives other inspiration and ideas to take back to their own institutions.

Day Three was held at the USHMM – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The day started off with a guided tour of the museum, something that I had never done before. I have been to the museum many times but always went through the galleries by myself. As we walked along the corridors with the docent, I looked down and I noticed the cobblestones and then I read a sign that indicated that the stones were part of the cobblestones of the streets inside the Warsaw Ghetto. 

I literally had chills going down my spine.

Our final visit was to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

I was amazed at the beauty of the building on the outside.

I was so excited to go inside and was blown away by the exhibits and the information presented on the inside.  My experience inside those walls was incredible. I found myself going through waves of emotions, and finding many commonalities in our shared experiences, both the Jewish and the African American experience.

Our last stop was the museum shop, and once again, I found another connection to our shared experiences.

When our son Guy was a baby, he received a book called More, More, More by Vera B. Williams and there is a short chapter in the book called Little Guy.

I was transported back to reading the book to our son when he was a baby, and how 23 years later he has grown to be such an incredible person. I was very happy that I found this small piece of my own story inside the museum.

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