Number #2 – Check!

Posted on January 25th, 2016 by

As I write this blog, the weather reports are calling for a major blizzard to hit the Baltimore/Washington corridor.  The idea of snowstorm is kind of nice- thinking about it happening over the weekend-not really having to be anywhere except home with family, a fire, and lots of good food and drink.  However, my mind wanders back to two weeks ago, over Winter Break, enjoying 80 degree days in Hilton Head and Charleston, South Carolina.

The purpose of the trip to the south was to relax, ride bikes and visit Number #2 – Kalal Kadosh Bet Elohim (KKBE).  Why did do I care about Kalal Kadosh Bet Elohim.  Part of the visitor’s experience at the Jewish Museum of Maryland is to take a tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.  We tell our visitors that the Lloyd Street Synagogue (LSS)  is the third oldest synagogue in the country still standing in its original spot.  Touro Synagogue in Newport Rhode Island is Number #1 – built in 1759 and is the oldest existing synagogue building in  the United States.  Kalal Kadosh Bet Elohim is Number #2 and we as the owners of the Lloyd Street Synagogue here at the JMM are Number #3!

Kalal Kadosh Bet Elohim

Kalal Kadosh Bet Elohim

The Jewish community of Charleston can be traced back to 1695.  Jews were attracted to the civil and religious liberties of South Carolina, and by 1749, these early pioneers organized the congregation, Kalal Kadosh Bet Elohim (Holy Congregation House of God). Similar to the early Baltimore Jewish community, the congregation worshipped in people’s homes until 1794, they dedicated a synagogue described then as the largest in the United States, “spacious and elegant.”  The building was destroyed in the great fire of Charleston in 1838, and the new building was constructed in 1840 on the same Hasell Street site.  The building is one of the country’s finest examples of Greek Revival architecture.  The Kalal Kadosh Bet Elohim sanctuary is the second oldest existing synagogue building  in the United States and the oldest in continuous use.  It was designated a national landmark in 1980.

The sanctuary.

The sanctuary.

I was curious to as the similarities and differences between KKBE and the LSS.   The first thing that really struck me was the presence of an established Jewish community so early in the our nation’s history.  KKBE was established prior to the Revolutionary War- so it was very interesting to learn about the early Jewish Americans who settled in the US prior to the war.  KKBE has a letter on display from President George Washington dating from  1790 extending his congratulations to the congregation.  In thinking about Baltimore’s early Jewish community-the Jewish community is really not established until 1830, more than  50 years after the Revolutionary War.

The actual building of KKBE is very similar to  the LSS in that both buildings are built in Greek Revival architectural style.  The KKBE has six columns when compared to the LSS’s four columns.  The columns in Charleston also appear to be considerably  taller than the LSS too.   Both buildings have very  large doors for entranceways in the center of the buildings.  The Hebrew prayer and English translation of the Shma are on the outside of the synagogue in Charleston.  Both synagogue building have boot scrapers located outside the door.  My favorite detail of the “lego bricks” underneath the portico of the LSS can also be seen at KKBE.

My favorite detail of the “lego bricks” underneath the portico of the LSS can also be seen at KKBE.

The“lego bricks” of KKBE.

We walked inside the sanctuary, and the space is very beautiful and in ways similar to the LSS.  The ark is very impressive and is made of Santo Domingo mahogany.  The local tradition in the South is to keep the doors of the Ark open.   The Torah scrolls are enclosed behind glass inside the wooden frame.

The ark.

The ark.

The organ is in the back of the congregation and was installed in 1840 introducing instrumental music into its worship service. Since then KKBE has been connected with religious reform and the congregation was one of the founding members of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, making it  one of the earliest reform congregations in the country.   The organ is placed -very much in the way that I imagined the organ to have been installed by the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in 1870’s inside the LSS. in the back of the sanctuary on the balcony level.

The organ.

The organ.

One of my favorite things at KKBE was a beautiful mural that they had displayed in the social hall that depicts the “Patriots of Beth Elohim”. The figure on the horse represents the young Revolutionary patriot and legislator Francis Salvador who was killed and scalped by Tory-led Indians.  He was one of more than 20 Beth Elohim congregants who fought in the American Revolution, symbolized by the standing figure holding a Bible who represents Abraham Alexander, a Revolutionary officer and religious leader of Bet Elohim between 1764 and 1784.  The soldier seated with the broken sword and bowed head represents some 180 Jewish South Carolinians who served in the Civil War.  The tablet with the rampant lions and flames represent the brave Maccabees who fought for religious freedom in the second century BCE.  The soldier and the flag on the left represent KKBE members who served in subsequent wars.

“Patriots of Beth Elohim”

“Patriots of Beth Elohim”

I am so happy to place a checkmark on my bucket list – I have been curious to see KKBE, especially after so many visitors to the JMM have shared their own observations and stories about the rich history of the Jewish community in Charleston. I enjoyed making the connections between the two historic  buildings and I look forward to doing more research over the next few months as we try and showcase the Lloyd Street Synagogue as, “The American Synagogue.”  More details to follow!   Stay warm this weekend!

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

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




December Education Highlights

Posted on December 25th, 2015 by

At a quick glance looking at the December school group numbers, the education department was busy engaging with over 550 students (Pre K-Grade 11) from 15 schools throughout the area that took advantage of JMM education programs on site as well as outreach programs.  These students came from Jewish, Catholic and public schools from Frederick County, Harford County, Baltimore County and Baltimore City.

At the beginning of the month, eighth graders from Windsor Hills Middle School (one of the JMM’s museum/school partnership schools) came to the JMM to participate in activities relating to Paul Simon: Words and Music.  The students also helped us pilot a new education program that we recently developed looking at injustices (women’s rights, housing, slavery, civil rights, anti-Semitism etc.)  that have occurred throughout our history.  The students were so engaged in the archival exploration activity and used great critical skills in trying to understand the images and documents.  They enjoyed sharing their finding with their classmates.

A beautifully decorated bulletin board!

A beautifully decorated bulletin board!

The education department went to Matthew A. Henson Elementary School and celebrated the holiday of Hanukkah with over 60 preschoolers.   We were delighted to see the lovely Hanukkah bulletin board in the hallway outside of the classrooms.   The children loved learning about miracle of Hanukkah through puppets and also learned how to spin dreidels.  The students honed their one to one correspondence skills by matching the Hebrew letter on the dreidel to the work mat made by our education department.  The children also loved learning how to play Hanukkah dominoes and matching symbols of the holiday.

Learning the dreidel

Learning the dreidel

Last week, over 55 kindergartners from Highlandtown Elementary School visited the JMM in connection with their study of World Cultures and celebrations.  Students learned about the life of Ida Rehr and the Preschool Immigrant’s Trunk program.  Students loved learning about Ida’s brave voyage to ‘The Golden Land” and spent time role playing how Ida might have lived on Lombard Street during the 1920’s in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit.  The students also loved exploring the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Yesterday, students and parents from Bolton Street Synagogue kicked off the My Family Story project that is generously funded by the Hilda & Jacob Blaustein Enrichment Fund for Jewish Education.  My Family Story offers an opportunity for students and their families to delve into their family history and create an art installation that represented their family ancestry.  This year students and their families are participating in the My Family Story project from three local congregational schools, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Beit Tikvah Congregation and Bolton Street Synagogue.  Bolton Street students and their families gathered and enjoyed an Immigrant’s Trunk performance with Ida Rehr.  We are looking forward to seeing all of the projects that are being made in connection with the My Family Story project later this spring in April.

 

We look forward to working with students from area school after school resumes after New Year’s!

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

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Love My Lucy!

Posted on October 21st, 2015 by

Ok, I was very excited when Paul Simon: Words & Music was installed in the Feldman Gallery.  I loved seeing all of the objects and images  relating to Simon’s amazing music career.  But, I have to admit that I was “over the moon” when I saw the image of Lucille Ball in the exhibit on the cover of the United In-Flight magazine dated November 1968.  The label indicated that Simon scribbled the first draft of his famous, “The Boxer song in the magazine.

For those that don’t know – I am a closet “I Love Lucy “freak and I try and get a dose of her daily. I have been watching reruns of I love Lucy since I was a little girl.   I even have my own little I Love Lucy/Lucille Ball memorabilia collection proudly displayed throughout our home.  I actually squealed from excitement when I saw Lucy’s image in the Paul Simon exhibit.

So that got me thinking- what were the Jewish connections to Lucille Ball and “I Love Lucy”?  Here are some tidbits that I found in connection with Jewish Lucy!

Before I Love Lucy came on the air in 1951, the pioneer radio show, The Goldbergs was a popular show for over 17 years featuring Gertrude Berg as Molly Goldberg.  Berg created an endearing but somewhat scatterbrained homemaker whose good intentions often led to comic mishaps—which was not unlike her contemporary, Lucille Ball’s Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy.   “The Goldbergs” blazed the trail for I Love Lucy and all other sitcoms to follow!

Molly Goldberg

Molly Goldberg

Jess Oppenheimer was the creative force behind the I Love Lucy show as series creator, producer, and head writer. Lucille Ball called Oppenheimer “the brains” behind I Love Lucy.   In Laughs, Luck…and Lucy, Oppenheimer’s son Gregg recalls growing up in his home with his famous dad. “He said in order to be a comedy writer, you had to be seriously maladjusted as a child (laughs). He wasn’t raised Jewish but his mother said if anybody asks, tell them you’re Jewish and proud of it.”

Jess Oppenheimer

Jess Oppenheimer

In looking for Jewish references in the 180 episodes of the show, I discovered that there is a Jewish connection in the third episode of the series, “The Diet.”  This is the first time where we hear the name of McGillicuddy as Lucy’s maiden name.  It was originally supposed to be Teitelbaum, but the writers decided that the name might sound too Jewish.

The Diet Episode

The Diet Episode

Lucille Ball was not Jewish.   She was born into a Protestant family and she identified herself as a Protestant throughout her life, although she flirted with superstition and numerology.

When Lucille Ball married Desi Arnaz, many predicted they would have difficulties due to their religious differences. Arnaz came from a devout Cuban Catholic family and was also partially adherent to the Afro-Caribbean religion Osha, which was practiced by a large proportion of Cubans.  Many trace Arnaz’ famous “Babalu” song to these Osha roots.  When Arnaz and Ball were having difficulties conceiving children, Desi’s mother believed that this was because “Lucy and Desi remained unmarried in the eyes of the Catholic Church.”   Lucy and Desi had a Roman Catholic ceremony eight years after their initial wedding.

Wedding Photo

Wedding Photo

Lucy’s second marriage to comedian Gary Morton, a comedian who worked the Borscht Belt circuit, was Jewish. According to Wikipedia,  Morton was born Morton Goldaper in New York City, and he and Lucy  were married in New York City’s Marble Collegiate Church.  Lucy had attended this church for years because of its pastor, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.  The influence of Peale’s “positive thinking” (about oneself, as well about much else) philosophy on Ball was profound.  She is often quoted as saying:  I have an everyday religion that works for me.  Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.

The influence of Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy is evident in modern sitcoms. Will & Grace  was not only the first prime-time TV show to portray openly-gay main characters, but it also was one of the first shows to feature a Jewish lead female character. The show chronicles best friends and roommates Will, a gay lawyer, and Grace, a straight Jewish interior designer and their wacky friends. Grace, played by Debra Messing, is a redhead, dubbed a modern-day Lucille Ball. Grace, who has a pervasive Jewish sensibility, peppers her dialogue with funny Yiddish words and references to Jewish camp and her bat mitzvah.

Debra Messing

Debra Messing

I Love Lucy is often regarded as one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms in history. I Love Lucy can lay claim to so many pioneering ideas. It was the first television comedy to use the three-camera format in front of a live studio audience.
It was the first television series to show an interracial couple. It was also the first show to feature a pregnant woman being played by a pregnant woman. The show is still syndicated in dozens of languages across the world, and continues its popularity with today’s audiences.  It will and will continue to be my all -time favorite!

Ilene shows her Lucy Love!

Ilene shows her Lucy Love!

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

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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