Posted on May 11th, 2011 by Rachel
Sometimes I can’t help not get personally invested in some of the programs that we have at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and this past Tuesday’s program, In Each Other’s Shoes: African Americans and Jews Sharing Spaces and Perspectives: Past, Present and Future was no exception.
The program featured a panel discussion that was moderated by Neil Rubin, editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times. The panel included Rabbi Andy Busch of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Rev. Charles T. Sembly, Pastor at Union Bethel AME in Randallstown and a Morgan State University architectural student, Kordae Henry. Rabbi Busch spoke about his own congregation’s connection with the Mount Olive Baptist Church and how both congregations currently share space at Baltimore Hebrew due to a fire at the church a few years ago. Pastor Sembly spoke about his congregation’s long history (since 1826) and how their current home on Church Lane in Randallstown (a former synagogue) was adapted to suit the needs of the church. Kordae Henry, an architecture graduate student at Morgan, displayed his senior project and spoke about the plans that he designed for a synagogue near the entrance of Druid Hill Park complete with a Matisyahu Social Hall and The Shofar education wing.
In order to prepare for this program, I thought we needed to have some sort of presentation to give an overview and examples of how former synagogues are now the homes to African-American churches. I did some research through the JMM’s own collections, and we decided to take a field trip through Baltimore and back to my own stomping grounds in Randallstown, Maryland to find some of these buildings.
We started our search not far from the museum and we drove to 1901 Madison Avenue which was the former home to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation after they left the Lloyd Street address. BHC occupied the building from 1891-1951 and moved to it present home on Park Heights Avenue. Berea Temple acquired the building in 1950 and in 1976; the building was designated as a national landmark and recorded as such in the National Registry of Historical Sites with the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Baltimore Hebrew Congregation's Madison Avenue Temple, c. 1905.
From there we went to the Forest Park neighborhood and saw the Beth Tfiloh Synagogue that was built on Fairview Avenue and Garrison Boulevard. My own family is steeped in Beth Tfiloh’s history as my grandparents were early members of the congregation, my father became a Bar Mitzvah there in 1939 and my parents were married in the building in 1951. We had the opportunity to go inside the building which is now the Wayland Baptist Church. I got chills when I walked inside the sanctuary and realized how much of my own family’s history took place in the building.
From Beth Tfiloh, we drove along the Liberty Road corridor to see how the synagogues buildings that I remembered as a kid– looked like today.
Bnai Jacob started at 543 West Baltimore Street and later moved to Christian Street in 1908. In 1957, the site was purchased at Liberty Road and Patterson Avenue. In 1973 the building was defaced with Nazi slogans and a Ku Klux Klansman was convicted for conspiring to bomb the building. Today, the building is home to the Christian Life Church.
Bnai Jacob at 6605 Liberty Road.
Liberty Jewish Center was a synagogue located on Church Lane and a lot of my friends that I went to school with attended services here. Today, the building is home to Union Bethel AME, a church that has roots in Randallstown since 1826. I loved the stained-glass windows that are currently on the building.
Liberty Jewish Center on Church Lane.
Finally, the last place that we went to was Beth Israel-Mikro Kodesh that was located closest to my childhood home in Hernwood Heights. All of the Jewish kids in my neighborhood attended this congregation and I remember the candelabrum that was on the outside of the building. Today, the building is home to Colonial Baptist Church.
Beth Israel Zelic and Anne Gresser Chapel, c. 1970.
We took over 75 pictures of buildings that were former synagogues and are now homes to African-American churches. We just saw a smattering of the buildings around the city… I look forward to another field trip to document more.
A blog post by Program Director Ilene Dackman-Alon.
Posted on March 9th, 2011 by Rachel
A few weeks ago I met an old friend who I had not seen for many, many years. We spoke about our lives and our jobs and she asked me, “What does the program director do at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.” So, I thought I would blog about what I do at the JMM! Over the past ten days, I feel like I have traveled all over the world, between the many public programs and outreach opportunities that the JMM has participated in…… Here are some of the highlights…
We visited Holland on February 24th when we held a book launch/Dutch tea and reception for the newest JMM publication, “18 Stones.” We welcomed noted author and illustrator, Susan L. Roth and Nancy Patz, to the JMM whereby our visitors learned from the artists how the book came to be. “18 Stones” derives its title from the Jewish practice of leaving small stones on a grave. Actual photographs of Dutch Jews in the 1930s were the source for Patz’s oil pastel and charcoal portraits, which are accompanied by Susan Roth’s prose poems. Daily life before the Holocaust is evoked by artworks as “The Marriage of Grietje and Aron,” in which the newlyweds seem to have so much to look forward to, and “The Recipe for Apple Kuchen,” in which the portrait of a smiling woman is accompanied by her recipe for an apple cake. Visitors to the event enjoyed Dutch treats of Gouda and edam cheeses, licorice, and chunks of thick bread with sweet butter and chocolate sprinkles. I imagined myself walking along the canaled streets of Amsterdam and seeing a young girl that looked like Anne Frank talking to a school friend.
Nancy and Susan show off their hard work. Photo by Mark Mehlinger.
A delicious, Dutch-inspired spread! Photo by Mark Mehlinger.
On Sunday, February 27th, the JMM welcomed noted author, Antero Pietila (an immigrant from Finland) who wrote the acclaimed book, Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City. Antero’s book examines many of the famous neighborhoods of Baltimore and describes how segregation shaped our city, and how the migration from white to Jewish to black in many neighborhoods and its exploitation created the slums in Baltimore. Following Antero’s talk, celebrity radio host, Marc Steiner moderated a panel that included residents (both former and present) of the Reservoir Hill neighborhood. I imagined myself living in the 1940’s, growing up as a teenager around Druid Hill Park as I was listening to the panel.
Photo by Mark Mehlinger.
Photo by Mark Mehlinger.
The next day, my colleague and friend, Simone Ellin (JMM Marketing director) got on a train and headed to Philadelphia to participate at the CAJM (Council of American Jewish Museums) Conference. We had the opportunity to meet other colleagues from all country and from Jewish museums all over the world. At the conference, we had the opportunity to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art where we were the first group to see the new exhibition, “Paris Through the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle,” that looks at the influence that Paris had on Marc Chagall and his fellow modernists from 1910 to 1920. Just for a few moments, I imagined myself on the Champs-Elysees sipping a coffee at a sidewalk café.
Champs Elysees by Fernand Claver
Paris Through the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle March 1, 2011 - July 10, 2011 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
My friend Simone and I also had time for a bit of fun while in Philly. We took in the movie Black Swan and we also visited the Eulogy Belgian Tavern, one of Philadelphia’s premier dining institutions that feature 21 drafts and 300 different bottled beers. The food is award winning and the restaurant is owned by a Belgian American family and staffed with a few employees from Belgium. I remembered walking along some of the streets in Antwerp on Christmas Eve with my brother Jay and longing to eat all of the chocolate that I saw in the storefronts and seeing the Manneken Pis everywhere I turned.
Place Verte and cathedral, Antwerp, Belgium
This week, my position as program director started off with two programs sponsored by the Jewish Museum of Maryland. We welcomed Lori Turner and Music Monkey Jungle/Kinderlach Rock to the JMM for a rockin’goodtime concert for the preschool set. At the same time, the JMM was also invited to participate at the 51st Annual Interfaith Institute at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. The year’s topic was “Immigration Challenges: Religious and Ethnic Responses.” The JMM’s program, Coming to America: Student Immigration Stories was highlighted at the conference.
This educational initiative was developed by the JMM and is designed to promote immigrant students from Baltimore City Public Schools to share their stories of immigration with other BCPS students. The JMM has the good fortune of working with two consummate professionals on this program, acclaimed storyteller, Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff and ESOL teacher extraordinaire, Sally Franklin. These ladies both joined me on Monday at the program and the crowd of over 200 people had the privilege of listening to the stories of Patterson High School students Muluburan Bahre, from the African nation of Eritrea and Pablo Joseph Muñoz from El Salvador. These students were so eloquent and poised telling their own stories that I found myself transported with Muluburan and Pablo to their native homelands of Eritrea in Northeast Africa and El Salvador in Central America.
It’s been an exciting ten days at the JMM! I wonder where the next few weeks will take me.
Posted on September 3rd, 2010 by Rachel
A blog by Program Director Ilene Dackman-Alon.
An outdoor sign welcomes our visitors.
Photo by Will Kirk
The activity level at the JMM this week has been a whirlwind due to the opening of the new exhibition, A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People. As Program Director my job is to deal with all of the details. RSVP lists, catering, programs, speakers, sound system, time limits, ice, tablecloths and name tags………the list of details could go on and on… But after two successful events in connection with our newest exhibition, I am finally able to take a break from the details and relax for a moment and reflect on the week.
Photo by Will Kirk
I think one of the most special moments for me was not the actual events relating to the opening, but rather a quick conversation afterwards that I had inside the museum shop. Esther, the museum shop manager, was having a conversation with two nuns dressed in habits, and she was trying to explain to them the significance of a Jewish ritual object, the mezuzah (http:///en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mezuzah). She asked me for my help in translating the Hebrew text written on the klaf, the insert inside the container.
Example of a klaf.
Some mezuzahs from our collection:
(left) 1986.120.001 Purchased from the Frank Meisler Gallery in Jaffa, c.1985
(right) 1991.007.056 Mezuzah in the form of a stylized pitcher
The mezuzah is not, contrary to popular belief, the outer container. The mezuzah is actually the parchment scroll within, on which the “Shema” — a biblical passage declaring the oneness of G d — is handwritten by an expert scribe. A mezuzah mounted on the doorpost designates the home as Jewish, reminding us of our connection to G d and to our heritage.
An example of writing a mezuzah scroll.
I think that the reason that the conversation was so significant for me was that I had never had a conversation with a nun before and the fact that I was having a conversation with these women about scripture from the Bible was WAY COOL! I was able to explain to another person outside of my own faith about the significance of this Hebrew text that is so very familiar to so many people. I realized that we all believe in one God (whichever that might be); and the scriptures point out ways we should embrace and love our neighbors. In other words, we are all “A Blessing to One Another.”
Here are some photographs from the opening festivities!
All of the following photographs were taken by Will Kirk.
Karen Falk leads a “curator’s tour” through the exhibit.
A visitor from the Polish Embassy!
Original exhibition curator James Buchanon gives a VIP tour.
Visitors enjoying “A Blessing to One Another.”