Volunteer Spotlight: Ilene Cohen

Posted on June 6th, 2016 by

Throughout the month of June, Ilene Cohen will be tying up loose ends and training staff members about the JMM’s Volunteer Program and her role as Volunteer Coordinator, a role that Ilene established over 12 years ago.   Ilene came to the JMM because she loves museums – she had been a docent at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond and she wondered about volunteer opportunities after moving to Baltimore.  Ilene met with Deborah Cardin and former assistant director, Anita Kassof; she was recruited as Volunteer Coordinator.  She remembers signing in for the first time on February 7, 2004 and since then Ilene has led the JMM in her position as Volunteer Coordinator.  Her duties include volunteer recruitment, volunteer retention, scheduling, interviews, meetings and deciding the “best fit” for each volunteer throughout the various departments in the museum.  Ilene sits at her desk in the education/programs wing, two afternoons a week.  The JMM is so grateful to Ilene for her years of dedication and love for our volunteers and the JMM.

The marvelous and miraculous Ilene!

The marvelous and miraculous Ilene!

Over the past few years, Ilene has been a monthly contributor to the JMM’s blog, highlighting the JMM’s incredible volunteers in her Volunteer Spotlight.  I love this monthly piece because I learn more about our volunteers, their lives outside of the JMM, and the reasons that brought them to the JMM as a volunteer.   I asked to write this month’s Volunteer Spotlight, especially as we celebrate our volunteers and Ilene Cohen’s retirement at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Event on Sunday evening, June 5th.

Ilene Gudelsky Cohen was born in Kensington Maryland and attended Montgomery County public schools.  She attended Walter Johnson High School (the only school named for a player on the Washington Senators); and later attended the University of Southern California and received a bachelor’s degree in gerontology.

After college, Ilene moved back to the DC area where she worked as a travel agent.  She met her future husband, Neri Cohen, who was attending medical school in Baltimore on a blind date.   After a year, Ilene moved to Baltimore and this year she and Neri will celebrate 30 years of marriage.

Ilene and Neri moved to Richmond Virginia, where Neri continued his medical career. They started their family, and today they are the proud parents to Dena Cohen Blaustein, who just married on Memorial Day weekend, and Joel Cohen, who works and lives in DC.   They are empty-nesters and moved downtown after raising their children in Owings Mills.  They love living downtown so close to great restaurants and places of interest.

Ilene volunteers at the JMM, because she just loves to just hang out in museums.  She loves the JMM staff and also loves to contribute to the institution. Ilene has loved getting to know all of the volunteers and feels that the role of Volunteer Coordinator suits her perfectly- as she likes to take care of  “all the details and arrangements”.

Ilene was very excited about the possibility of working at the JMM because both of her parents grew up in Baltimore.  As we all know, living in “Smalltimore” everyone knows everyone- and Ilene has enjoyed meeting visitors and making connections to her own family’s past.  Ilene receives instant gratification in her job when she sees the volunteers fulfilled in their volunteer duties at the JMM.  She also loves working on the annual  Volunteer Appreciation Event.  Ilene knows that our organization would not be what it was without the help and support of so many generous volunteers.

Ilene feels a lot of pride in the role that she has created as JMM’s Volunteer Coordinator.  She is proud that the JMM has a dedicated person in the role, and she has enjoyed networking with other volunteer coordinators throughout the ASSOCIATED agencies through the Jewish Volunteer Coordinator Network.

After 12 years of service, Ilene will be moving on.  In her spare time, Ilene volunteers in various organizations throughout the city.

Docent at the Walters Art Museum for the past 11 years.

Reading partner at Francis Scott Key Elementary

President, Charm City Hadassah Chapter

Active in the Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation through the ASSOCIATED.

In addition to volunteering, Ilene and her family love to travel to exotic places and have travelled to places like the Galapagos Islands, Peru, Australia and Istanbul.

Ilene has been invited to be a part of the Docent Executive Committee at the Walters Art Museum where she will work with a corps of over 70 volunteers.  We know that she will do an outstanding job in her new role.

We thank Ilene Cohen for all of her dedication and love for our volunteers and the JMM over the past 12 years.  We wish her happiness and contentment in her next role. We also look forward to seeing her and Neri at future JMM events!!

Every month we highlight one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, send an email to Sue Foard at sfoard@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x220! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

 

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My Family Story Project, 2016

Posted on March 17th, 2016 by

I love to visit area schools and I felt such joy over the past two weekends visiting three local religious school programs that are participating in the My Family Story project, an initiative from Beit Hatfutsot’s International School for Jewish Peoplehood Studies which has been funded and supported by the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education.  The students participating in this project have embarked on a journey to the past, an exploration of heritage, and a project that goes beyond the usual family tree.  This journey has connected students to their personal stories, their family stories and to their story within the greater story of the Jewish People.  These students are not alone in this adventure.  Students and teachers throughout the Jewish world and Israel have also been on their own family explorations and are participating in this project.

Student project

Student project

During the 1990’s, a prominent psychologist at Emory University, Dr. Marshall Duke was tasked with researching the nature of “myth and ritual in American families.”  From his research, Dr. Duke discovered that one of the most important things a family can do is to develop a strong family narrative.  There was a lot of research at the time into the dissipation of the family.  Duke  was more interested in what families could do to counteract those forces.  Dr. Duke set out to help families build and talk about their history; it proved to be quite a breakthrough.  Digging deeper in his research, Duke said, “children who have the most self-confidence have what he calls a “’strong intergenerational self”.  They know they belong to something bigger then themselves.  Leaders in other fields have found similar results, many groups use what sociologists call sense-making, the building of a narrative that explains what the group is about.

Student project

Student project

In speaking to the students from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Bolton Street Synagogue and Beit Tikvah, these children really seem to have a sense of pride about their stories that they shared with me.  They learned about places throughout the world where their ancestors emigrated from along with stories that hopefully they will pass on to future generations. One of the students told me that one of her ancestors shared in a pail of beer with President Lincoln… How cool is that!!!

Student project

Student project

The projects will be judged at the My Family Story Exhibition that will take place on Thursday evening, April 7 at the JMM.    Projects will be judged based on a rubric in areas of,   Jewish peoplehood, depth of research, aesthetics and creativity.  The projects will be scored and two winners will be picked and sent to Beit Hatfutsot in Israel along with other projects from students participating throughout the world.  The staff at Beit Hatfutsot will pick 40 winners and those winners will receive a free trip to Israel in June and meet with the international winners who also won from their communities.

Student project

Student project

The students have been really working hard on their projects….. Hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek at some of their works in progress……..  We hope you will make your way to the JMM to see the creativity of area students and the interpretations of their family narratives.  Want to learn more about this awesome project? Contact Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education; idackmanalon@jewishmuseummd.org

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

 

 

 

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Leap Day aka Sadie Hawkins Day

Posted on February 29th, 2016 by

Today is Monday, February 29, the calendar anomaly better known as Leap Day.  As a kid, I always thought that being born on February 29th was pretty cool.  Every four years you were able to officially celebrate your birthday, but on the alternative years you could pick any day that you pleased!  I remember that in junior high school that there was a Sadie Hawkins Dance that took place on February 29th (also known as Sadie Hawkins Day). For this dance it was considered proper for a girl to ask a boy to the dance, In the 70’s, the whole equality thing had not really caught on yet.   I always imagined Sadie Hawkins to be a woman that lived in the Wild West and was sort of brazen, carrying a gun in her boots.

I was surprised to learn that Leap Day was a tradition that originated long ago in Ireland.  On this day, women were allowed to ask a man for a date or for their hand in marriage; contrary to the usual tradition of women waiting patiently for men to ask them on a date, or for his hand in marriage.  In the United States, the Leap Day phenomenon was documented as early as the 20th century. Slate Magazine features some vintage postcards dedicated to warning men about the hazards of accepting female visitors on Leap Day.

Picture women with nets chasing after fleeing men, ca. 1912, Slate Magazine

Picture women with nets chasing after fleeing men, ca. 1912, Slate Magazine

Today the Leap Day custom is kept alive by pop culture, most recently in the Amy Adams  2010 romantic comedy named Leap Year,  a film about a woman who heads to Ireland to ask her boyfriend to accept her wedding proposal on leap day, when tradition supposedly holds that men cannot refuse a woman’s proposal for marriage.

Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, Leap Year, 2010

Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, Leap Year, 2010

I also learned that Sadie Hawkins was not from the Wild West, but she was actually part of U.S. pop culture and she also has Jewish roots.

Surprise!!!!  Sadie Hawkins Day was introduced in pen and ink in by Al Capp’s classic comic strip Li’l Abner. In the comic, Sadie Hawkins was a spinster at the age of 35, and her father set up a race for local bachelors. Whoever Sadie caught was going to be her husband. The town, and the reading audience loved the idea and the race became an annual fixture of the comic strip, and soon spread into real-life society, spawning Sadie Hawkins Day dances.

Li’l Abner Comic book, Sadie Hawkins edition

Li’l Abner Comic book, Sadie Hawkins edition

According to Wikipedia, Sadie Hawkins Day is a pseudo-holiday entirely created within the comic strip. It made its debut in Li’l Abner on November 15, 1937. Capp originally created it as a comic plot device, but in 1939, only two years after its inauguration, a double-page spread in Life proclaimed, “On Sadie Hawkins Day Girls Chase Boys in 201 Colleges.” By the early 1940s the comic strip event had swept the nation’s imagination and acquired a life of its own. By 1952, the event was reportedly celebrated at 40,000 known venues. It became a woman-empowering rite at high schools and college campuses, long before the modern feminist movement gained prominence.

Al Capp, the creator of Li’l  Abner  was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1909. His parents, Otto Caplin and the former Matilda Davidson, were both American-born, but their parents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. His father’s family hailed from the Lithuanian village of Yanishok.

When he was nine, Capp was pinned under a New Haven streetcar while on his way to a haircut, requiring the amputation of his left leg above the knee.   His father was an amateur cartoonist and taught his son about the foundations of drawing during his recuperation.

Capp (he shortened his name so that it would fit inside within the cartoon panel of “Li’l Abner”) never finished Bridgeport High School, but decided early on that he wanted to become a cartoon artist. He attended three different art schools – and was expelled from each when he failed to pay tuition.

In 1932, Capp went to New York and began knocking on doors. Once he began to get work there was no stopping him. By 1934, Capp had devised the concept of a comic strip about the residents of an imaginary town in the American South that he called Dogpatch, which he sold to United Features Syndicate. “Li’l Abner” premiered on August 13, 1934, and ran until November 1977. At its peak, it appeared in 900 papers domestically and more than another 100 overseas.

Al Capp, VillageNews

Al Capp, VillageNews

In terms of both popular success and critical acclaim, Capp may well have been the most accomplished American cartoonist of the 20th century.  In 1953, novelist John Steinbeck suggested that “Capp may very possibly be the best writer in the world today.”   Sadie Hawkins Day and Sadie Hawkins dance are two of several terms attributed to Al Capp that have entered the English language.

I am not sure if there are Sadie Hawkins dances anymore –but I thought it was interesting to learn that Al Capp, a Jewish cartoonist, was responsible for coining a phenomena that was such an important  part of American culture during the 20th century.

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

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