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Education Spotlight

Posted on February 14th, 2020 by

Performance Counts: February 2020

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes to us from Director of Learning and Visitor Experience Ilene Dackman-Alon. Below, Ilene shares three of the major projects our education team has been working on this year. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

JMM’s education department has not skipped a beat in the new year! School groups are enjoying the Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling exhibit, and the activities our department has created help students learn the stories of scrap families as well as use critical thinking skills to imagine what it might be like to work in a scrap yard.

The student response has been incredibly enthusiastic, especially as we discuss the importance of recycling and taking care of the environment. They are quick to identify differences they can make in their own schools, homes, and communities. We are also receiving positive feedback from our visiting teachers, who cite how much they love seeing their students engage with the exhibit and activities. Teachers have also confirmed the effectiveness of the curricular guide we send them in advance of their field trip experience to JMM.

In addition to our exhibit-based education programming, the team has been hard at work creating and refining projects and programs for a variety of different audiences, from hands-on student work to teacher professional development. There are three programs in particular that are coming to fruition over the next two months, and we wanted to share them with you!

1. Winter Teachers Institute 2020: Confronting Antisemitism

For many years, JMM and the Baltimore Jewish Council have co-sponsored the very successful Summer Teachers Institute (STI), a three-day professional development opportunity dedicated to providing teachers with resources and materials to help them teach about the Holocaust in their classrooms. Each day of the Institute takes place in a different location – JMM, the United States Holocaust Museum (USHMM), and a changing third location (last year’s Day 3 took place at the American Visionary Art Museum).

Through STI we are able to provide an incredibly important professional development opportunity for teachers and educators at all levels and located all over the state of Maryland. The experience allows participants to not just be a student in the classroom, learning something new, but also providing them with the tools and resources to bring back to their classrooms. In addition, participants can receive achievement units which are applied to their continuing education requirements.With such a positive track record, last year we decided to expand our efforts in professional development and Holocaust education by piloting the first Winter Teachers Institute (WTI),which coincided with the Jewish Refugees and Shanghai exhibit. Like STI, this two-day event took place at two different locations, the first day here at JMM and the second day at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China and USHMM in Washington, DC.

The response to this program was overwhelmingly positive and this weekend we debut Day 1 of the second annual Winter Teachers Institute: Confronting Antisemitism. This first Sunday, February 16th, will take place at JMM and the second Sunday, February 23rd, will take place at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NYC, where participants will see the Auschwitz: Not Long Ago. Not Far Away exhibit. Over the two days, teachers will learn from scholars, educators, and Holocaust survivors, exploring the topic of antisemitism through historical and contemporary lenses.

This year’s Winter Teachers Institute is made possible, in part, through the generous support of Sheldon and Saralynn Glass and the Joan G. & Joseph Klein, Jr. Foundation.

2. My Family Story 2020

2020 marks our 6th consecutive year of participation in the international education program presented in collaboration with Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People in Israel. Jewish students from area schools research their family history with a goal of presenting their family stories and placing these stories in the broader context of Jewish history. Through interviews with family members and independent research, students make significant discoveries about who they are and where their families came from. They learn about historical events that have affected their families and discover their connections to the Jewish community. You can read more about JMM’s involvement with My Family Story here.Students, with the help of their teachers, transform these family stories into meaningful art installations, reflecting personal heritage and pride. The art installations are displayed and judged, with winners selected to have their project presented for inclusion in the international My Family Story exhibit at Beit Hatfutsot. The competition is intense, and for the past five years, the Baltimore Jewish community has been represented at the international show! Students whose projects were selected also receive a trip to Israel to take part in the opening exhibit ceremonies at the Museum. This year, if a Baltimore student project is selected, we will work with The Associated to arrange a special visit for the student(s) and their families to visit Baltimore’s sister city, Ashkelon.

3D Pens at Ohr Chadash Academy and Mannequin head at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.

This year we will host projects from students at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Bolton Street Synagogue Religious School, and Ohr Chadash Academy. Over the past few weeks our staff have visited the students at some of this year’s participating schools to learn more about their projects and the stories behind them. The kinds of materials we’ve observed the students using to tell their own individual stories are so unique, including mannequin heads, 3D pens, and paper towel rolls! We can’t wait for you to come and see the projects for yourselves. Families will celebrate their enterprising students’ works at a special reception on February 27th, but the projects will only be on display to the public March 1 – 8, 2020, so don’t delay on planning your visit!My Family Story at the Jewish Museum of Maryland is supported, in part, by the Ronnie and Alli Russel Charitable Foundation.

3.The Immigrant’s Trunk: Ida Rehr Education Initiative

The last education program – and the newest – is one we are particularly excited to share. Thanks to a generous grant from the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund of The Associated, we have been able to create a new, expanded experience around our Ida Rehr living history character.

The Ida Rehr Education Initiative combines aspects of the beloved Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore exhibit and the living history performance of Ida Rehr, a Jewish immigrant who arrived in Baltimore from Ukraine in 1914. The combination is achieved with a comprehensive learning packet that supports learning outcomes in Jewish history, social studies, storytelling, and primary-source research. The experience introduces students to concepts and themes such as Jewish immigration, Americanization, and Baltimore and Maryland history. The Ida Rehr living history character is portrayed by professional actress Katherine Lyons, who has been playing the role for over 15 years.

To expand the living history character experience beyond a single performance, we have created three distinct modules for the project, each building on the previous experience. The program begins with a trip to the classroom that features the Ida Rehr living history performance. Following the performance, the students will then visit the Museum to explore the historic Lloyd Street Synagogue and our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit. During this visit to JMM, our education staff will help the students make connections between their in-class experience with Ida and their time at the Museum.

The third module takes the experience back into the classroom. Students will watch a newly created video featuring the character of Ida Rehr, who will invite the students to open a trunk that has been delivered to the classroom. In the trunk we have placed reproductions of artifacts that Ida highlighted in her performance. In the video, Ida guides the students through several activities that will culminate in them creating a classroom exhibit of Ida Rehr’s life. Students will work to create labels to identify each item and explain how each object, photo, and document relate to Ida’s immigration experience.

A little behind-the-scenes excitement for you – the education team had a wonderful time and learned a lot by working with a real camera crew, complete with film and cameras, lights and lighting, sound, a make-up artist and lunch for the crew, in the process of creating the video!

We can’t wait to share this experience with students all over Maryland. This spring (2020) we are piloting this education initiative in Baltimore City and Baltimore County schools served by CHAI’s Schools and Community Partnerships team. After this spring’s pilot, we will refine the experience as needed and begin outreach to a wide variety of schools in our networks, public, private, independent, parochial, Jewish, and non-Jewish. We are confident students and their teachers will really enjoy this extension of the living history character experience and how each of the modules is founded on a well-rounded, hands-on, sensory unit on immigration. This Initiative also offers a wonderful opportunity to extend the lessons and encourage students to apply what they have learned to exploring their own personal and family histories.

The Immigrant’s Trunk: Ida Rehr Education Initiative was funded by the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore.

Our education team is excited to share these initiatives and programs with you! We are always working to provide the best educational experiences possible to our students, visitors, members, and friends and we’ve got even more coming down the pipeline.

Looking forward to sharing even more innovative work from the JMM education department with you in the future!

Header Image: Mr. Almy sits at his teaching desk at City College, c. 1930-1945. Gift of Stanford C. Reed, JMM 1987.19.36.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

The Education Team Goes Shopping!

Posted on December 19th, 2019 by

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

It always fun when we can get out of the office – and when you can connect shopping with work-especially going to second-hand stores – I must say- I am all about it!  Last week, Marisa and I had two opportunities to do just that.

We needed to find objects to be included in an education resource that we are creating – The Ida Rehr Education Initiative – that is being supported by the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Education Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore.

This comprehensive curriculum will support learning outcomes in Jewish history, social studies, storytelling, and primary-source research centered around the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit combined with the living history performance of Ida Rehr, a Jewish immigrant that arrived in Baltimore in 1914 from the Ukraine.

The modules for the education initiative include a pre-visit experience that combine performance and education, facilitated by the living history character, Ida Rehr.  This experience will introduce the concepts of the exhibit, including Jewish immigration, Americanization, Maryland and Baltimore history, and neighborhoods and communities. Ida Rehr is performed by professional actress, Katherine Lyons who has been playing the role for over 15 years.

Following the pre-visit experience in the classroom, students will visit the JMM and visit the historic Lloyd Street Synagogue as well as see the Voices of Lombard Street exhibition.  Here specific concepts about Ida’s life will be highlighted and students will also learn how to interpret primary sources, from archival objects such as immigration papers, birth certificates, and letters to other material culture artifacts, such as garments, jewelry, or household goods.

The post visit experience will take place back in the classroom which will be introduced in a video, by the character Ida Rehr whom the students met in their pre-visit experience.  Through the video students will be invited to put all their new skills to work, using (reproductions of) primary sources provided by the Museum tointerpret Ida Rehr’s life and creating their own classroom museum.

JMM is excited to introduce these new modules to both Jewish and non-Jewish students. We intend to pilot them this spring (2020) with schools served by CHAI’s School and Community Partnerships team—members of the Baltimore City and Baltimore County Neighborhood Public Schools. These schools serve both Jewish and non-Jewish students.

So, we needed to go SHOPPING to find some of the items for Ida’s trunk, to help her tell the story of her life and her journey to the United States from the Ukraine.

Our first stop was the Hadassah Resale Store where we found two sets of Shabbat candlesticks along with two Hannukiot (menorahs) to represent the ritual objects that Ida uses to tell her immigration story in the living history performance.

We purchased vintage metal lunch pails from eBay to represent the lunch pails that Ida took to work when she was a seamstress at Sonneborns.  Ida brought her lunch to work in the metal pail so that the rats would not be able to get inside and eat her lunch.

Our final shopping trip was to the GoodWill Store on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.  We bought two outer coats that will also be used as props to tell the immigration story.  I headed over to the area where there were framed items and started browsing. I came across the most charming and delightful cross-stitch work- I just had to stop and admire.

I really took a liking to this handiwork- complete with “Fiddler on the Roof” characters and the initials “HL” on the right-hand bottom corner. I thought the people were charming and loved the detail in the cross-stitch – especially the men’s’ beards.

I wondered who “HL” was – and if they lived in Baltimore- and what other works did they create?

In many instances, when I come across Judaica at secondhand stores and flea markets, I feel a need to rescue the pieces. Often I buy them and give things away as gifts. But sometimes I just have to keep them. This framed piece clearly needed a permanent home, and I knew the perfect place. Once I brought it back to my office, I noticed something else: The cross-stitch had a message – SHALOM!

I think that shopping second-hand stores is always an adventure- and usually includes finding that “special item.”

I love that our work allows me to combine two areas of interest- education and history.   How fun is it that the Ida Rehr Education Initiative allowed us to find this incredible piece of art!  In the next week or so, we intend to find the best spot for this piece here in the Education Wing.  Be sure to stop by and admire our Fabulous Fun New Find!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Thank You MAAM!

Posted on October 24th, 2019 by

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

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel north to the lovely Hudson Valley region to attend the annual conference of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums (MAAM).  I am on the conference planning committee and I also serve on the MAAM Board as the representative for the State of Maryland.

The conference was held at the Thayer Hotel at West Point.

Upon my arrival, I dropped my things in my hotel room and walked up the street to the West Point Museum/US Army Center of Military History.  The Museum’s galleries have many displays relating to the history of the US army and its weapons and warfare. I learned that the Museum is the nation’s oldest federal museum and that the Thayer Hotel was named for Colonel and Brevet Brigadier General Sylvanus Thayer who was known as the “Father of West Point.”

Thayer was an early superintendent of the United States Military Academy and was an early advocate of science and civil engineering as part of the curriculum at the school.

One of the best things about the conference is having the opportunity to visit interesting and unique museums in the area.

I walked back to the hotel and met up with colleagues who were going to the Storm King Art Center. The place is beautiful and situated between two mountains on 500 acres of grounds.  It is breathtaking in so many ways when you see art and nature intersect.  The Museum has one of the largest collections of contemporary outdoor sculptures in the United States.

The sessions that I attended during the conference were very interesting and I loved learning about what other Museums are doing in the areas of programming and education.

I was particularly proud of our own Rachel Kassman who participated in a panel discussion about Balancing Social Marketing in Museums. Rachel did a fabulous job showcasing the JMM’s wonderful social marketing initiatives.  She was in great company with presenters from the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum and the Corning Museum of Glass.  The presentation that I connected with the most was one by Tamara Christian, President and COO of The International Spy Museum in DC.  Tamara spoke thoughtfully about the “The Culture of the Workplace” and shared her ideas about how to successfully change the culture of the workplace to be a more positive experience for all stakeholders.

One of the MAAM board members shared with me that she visited a unique Jewish historical site, called the Gomez Mill House and if possible, I should try and visit.  On the last day, I travelled north about 30 minutes to a town called Marlboro and found this little gem complete with a refurbished water wheel.

The Gomez Mill House touts itself as being The Oldest Jewish Dwelling in North America and tells the story of the six owners of the property.

Luis Moses Gomez, a Sephardic Jew and the son of a Jewish immigrant merchant, was one of one of the early Jewish families in colonial New York.  Gomez acquired about 3000 acres of land that was situated close to several American Indian trails and realized that this would be a good place for barter and trade. In 1714. he constructed a stone house to serve as both a trading post and fortress alongside a stream that was named Jews Creek. Gomez and his sons conducted business here for close to thirty years and Gomez later became the president of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York which was later named Congregation Sherith Israel.

My guide Rich was so knowledgeable about the building and shared with me so many interesting tidbits.  He also told wonderful stories of the other 5 families that used the original trading post and converted it to the present-day structure.   I loved learning about each of these families and of their contributions to the community and the region.

My two favorite stories in addition to the Gomez family was the story of Martha Gruening, a Jewish suffragist and civil rights activist, who bought the property to open a school.  I also learned that Arts and Crafts paper historian and artisan Dard Hunter built the mill in 1913 and later produced the world’s first one-man made books at the site.

Rich also shared with me that this beautiful chanukiah (ca 1840’s) (Hanukah menorah) was used at the White House Holiday Celebration in 1998 during the Clinton years.

I would recommend seeing this “gem” of a museum only second to the Jewish Museum of Maryland!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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