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.

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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.

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Louisville: Bourbon Barrels, Baseball Bats and Big Ideas

Posted on September 24th, 2015 by

Sandwiched between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Ilene Dackman-Alon and I attended the 75th annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History, held this year in Louisville, KY.  It was a great opportunity to tour museum sites, confer with colleagues, discuss industry trends and return with ideas to improve JMM.  Here are a few of the highlights:

1. Serving the Visually Impaired – Ilene attended a workshop at the American Printing House for the Blind. Founded in 1858, APH is the oldest organization of its kind in the United States. From 1858 until the Civil War began, APH organized its operation and raised funds to create embossed books. After the war, APH produced its first tactile books. By the early 1870s, APH was operating on a national scale. APH is the official supplier of educational materials to all students in the U.S. who meet the definition of blindness and are working at less than college level.  We saw the actual printing of pages with Braille letters as well as the binding of the books.

 

An APH educator

An APH educator

It was fascinating to hear from museum educators (who happened to be visually impaired as well) about how they experience museums and the importance of making museums accessible to all types of learners using a variety of interactives and engaging materials for all of the  senses.  I loved seeing all of the different tactile materials that are produced at APH in so many subjects (music, math, science, English arts, social studies).  They even showed us the Braille version of the program from President Obama’s Second Inauguration.

A display on music at APH

A display on music at APH

I was pleased to see that that many of the steps that the JMM has taken to serve the visually impaired under the leadership of Robyn Hughes are in line with best practices at APH. As we move forward in creating new exhibits at the JMM, I hope we can implement some of the ideas such as wheel-chair level chair rails, Braille texts and panels to create a richer museum experience.

 

Trilobite touch wall at Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Trilobite touch wall at Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Marvin took a tour of neighboring historic sites and also had a chance to see some interesting work being installed at the Falls of the Ohio State Park (just across the river from Louisville) where a firm had integrated tactile exploration into every part of its core exhibit.

2. We also enjoyed hearing the keynote speaker, Sam Wineburg, author  of  Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts.  Wineburg is an educator at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education.  He recently developed the Reading Like a Historian Curriculum which has been downloaded  over 2  million times.  The curriculum engages students in historical inquiry, one of the basic pedagogic skills that is a thrust of the Maryland Career and College Ready Standards and Common Core curriculum.  Each lesson revolves around a central historical question and features sets of primary documents designed for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities.

Wineburg  used the term “digital natives” to describe the generation that has grown up in the digital age.  The Internet provide us with so many different websites .  One of the questions that he raised,  Who is an Informed Citizen in the Digital Age?  How much of the information on the web should be believed?  Wineburg spoke about  “The Digital Tookbox”  and questions that one must ask to realize if the information and website really come from a reliable source.  He spoke about a case study that took place in Los Angeles, where teachers gave the students three websites and had them write about the reasons for the Holocaust.  All three website had not been vetted, and many students took the information on the website as absolute facts.  They went on to write essays with claims that the Holocaust never took place.

3. The history relevance campaign – a group within AASLH (among the leaders, Baltimore’s own John Durel) is trying to create energy on a national campaign to promote the value of history.  The effort was a response to the marginalization of history as a subject matter, both in schools and in the public conversation about cultural institutions.  The organizers  are stressing a common vocabulary that organizations like ours can use in making the case for greater civic and foundation support:  http://www.historyrelevance.com/#!value-statement/ca2m.  In the coming months I will be urging Historic Jonestown Inc., the Greater Baltimore History Alliance and the JMM Board to add our voices to this national movement.

4. A different way of looking at historic sites.  The archeologist giving the tour at the Farnsley-Moremen House began his talk by saying “no one famous or important ever lived here, it was not the site of a battle or any other monumental event.”  He went on to demonstrate, however, that it was a great site to talk about historical thinking and to engage the public in the process of uncovering history.  It caused me to think deeply about the balance we need to achieve between fixing our gaze on the important historic events that took place in our synagogues and on our block – and the illustrations we can offer through these spaces about “how we know” the lives of average Jewish Marylanders.

At the Falls, Jay was just a stiff, at Farnsley-Moremen House he was our very lively guide.

At the Falls, Jay was just a stiff, at Farnsley-Moremen House he was our very lively guide.

5. “Unfolding Events” – in many ways this was the most thought-provoking session I attended.  It was an open forum discussion about how museums could/should respond to “unexpected events” that have strong impacts on the cultural community – examples included Ferguson and Baltimore, the legislative struggle over gay rights that especially impacted Indiana, and the debate over Confederate flags, statues and emblems that is raging within and without Civil War sites.  One of the most interesting side-bars was the question of the obligation of museums to collect materials on political and social controversies that impact their respective communities.  This is a topic we raised at this week’s JMM Collections Committee.

6. One more honor for Mendes Cohen.  Ilene and I have to admit that one of the highlights was taking home the Leadership in History Award for the A-Mazing Mendes Cohen project.  What a great tribute to the whole team that put together this incredible project.  On the morning of the awards ceremony, Ilene and I staffed a booth explaining the background of the exhibit and living history character.  The most bittersweet moment was that nearly everyone who came by the booth said “when can I come and see it” and we had to explain the unhappy fact that the project had expired.  It certainly was an inspiration to bring back some of this experience within our new core exhibit.

Our poster presentation

Our poster presentation

postersession

Poster Accessories

7. Finally – full confession – we also had fun.  Marvin attended a workshop on “gamification” of museum content.  For someone whose two top passions are board games and museums this was as good as it gets.  On Thursday night we took a stroll down “Whiskey Row” – now home to several museums including the Frazier Museum (with a great homemade exhibit and theater program on Lewis and Clark) and the Louisville Slugger Factory Tour.  Here you see me holding Mickey Mantle’s baseball bat (but that’s only because Hank Greenberg’s wasn’t available).

A true Louisville Slugger

A true Louisville Slugger

But by far my most unusual Louisville experience was attending a small reception at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience.  This is the home of a business that proclaims itself Kentucky’s first commercial distiller.  It is indeed still a family owned business – except that family is not the Williams’ it’s the Shapira’s that have owned the parent company, Heaven Hill, for seven generations (for those of you who attended the Schnapps with Pops program in June, this comes as no surprise).  The tour of the faux factory was entertaining and it ends with a bourbon tasting.  I’m afraid the 23 year old bourbon was wasted on my uneducated palette.

Video screens informed you how to properly "taste" the bourbon.

Video screens informed you how to properly “taste” the bourbon.

Next year this conference moves to Detroit.  I’ll let you know if they let us test drive a Corvette.

A blog post from Executive Director Marvin Pinkert and Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Marvin click HERETo read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

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