Hometown Heroes: The Henrietta Szold Story

Posted on August 19th, 2016 by

From Director of Education Ilene Dackman-Alon: 

JMM 1989.143.1

Have you ever noticed this bronze sculpture, sitting in the corner of the lobby near the entrance of the Museum? JMM 1989.143.1

The sculpture was made by Dina Lee Steiner, a Baltimorean and prominent artist whose works are in private and public collections throughout the world. Steiner and Stuart J. Cordage, gifted the work to the Museum in memory of the sculptor’s parents and brother: Ida, Maurice and Henry Steiner.


The plaque reads: Henrietta Szold 1860-1945 born in Baltimore where she founded the first night school for immigrants; she gave the world Hadassah; and Youth Aliyah. 

Henrietta was the eldest daughter of Rabbi Benjamin Szold, the spiritual leader of Baltimore’s Temple Oheb Shalom. Throughout her life, Henrietta was committed to helping those who were in need.  Szold’s many contributions included establishing a night school in Baltimore for new immigrants and the creation of Hadassah, a national Zionist women’s organization devoted to improving health care in Palestine that is still in existence today.  She spent her later years living in Palestine where she was involved in the rescue of European Jewish children during World War II through her work with Youth Aliyah, an initiative that helped resettle and educate Jewish youth in Palestine.

Henrietta is mentioned in Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews And Medicine in America, which explores the American Jewish involvement with medicine from the late 19th century through the “golden age” of American medicine in the 20th century.

In 1909 Szold and her mother travelled to Palestine, which led to a life-changing experience that would bring a major change and direction in her life. Horrified by the lack of medical resources and treatment available to Jewish women and children, Szold became committed to improving the social welfare systems in Palestine.

Szold’s strong will and determination inspired thousands of American women to embrace Zionism and advocate for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.  Hundreds of women joined Daughters of Zion (which in 1912 became Hadassah) chapters throughout the country.

 Henrietta Szold with a class of nurses, December 21, 1921, Jerusalem. JMM 1989.79.24

Henrietta Szold with a class of nurses, December 21, 1921, Jerusalem. JMM 1989.79.24

Henrietta Szold’s story serves as a wonderful companion to the exhibit and provides additional interpretation about the role that American Jewish women played in improving healthcare in Palestine. 

We invite you to join us on Thursday evening, September 22nd, when JMM will debut the incredible story of a rabbi’s daughter who broke from the traditional roles of women during the 19th century, to help strengthen her people, at home and abroad.

An advocate for education, Zionism, and health care, Henrietta Szold was a champion of community organizing and Jewish engagement and our own “Hometown Heroine.  The Henrietta Szold Story will offer audience members a unique educational experience that will appeal to diverse audiences—including students and adult groups—from across the state and region.

Playwright Dale Jones and Making History Connections and actress Natalie Smith have embraced Szold’s own words and stories to tell the gripping tale of a hero whose tenacity and courage played a vital role in the expansion of social services, medical services and the founding of the state of Israel.

The Szold living history character is presented in conjunction with Beyond Chicken Soup:  Jews and Medicine in America.  Find out more at www.chickensoupexhibit.org.

Funding for the Henrietta Szold Living History project was provided by the Kolker-Saxon –Hallock Family Foundation, Inc.  supporting foundation of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

The educational program for the Henrietta Szold living History Project is funded through the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education of The Associated: Jewish  Community Federation of Baltimore.

For more information about the Henrietta Szold Living History project, contact JMM’s Director of Education, Ilene Dackman-Alon at idackmanalon@jewishmuseummd.org







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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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