JMM Insights: Recovery & Renewal

Posted on May 17th, 2019 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Program Manager Trillion Attwood, as she shares a look at the development of our newest program series, Recovery & Renewal: The Immigration Experience. Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!

This Sunday, May 19th at 1:00 pm, we open a new series of programs in partnership with Baltimore Hebrew Congregation with generous support from the Lois Rosenfield Caring Fund of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

The series, titled Recovery & Renewal: The Immigration Experience, has been in development since 2018 and is inspired by our current exhibit Stitching History from the Holocaust. This exhibit, on loan from the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, explores the attempts made by one woman and her husband to escape from Nazi persecution and find refuge in America. The exhibit reminds viewers that the staggering loss of life during the Holocaust denied the world not merely of millions of human beings, but of the potential achievements of those individuals—whether artistic, scientific, political, philosophical, or otherwise.

At the JMM we use programming to add to the conversations that are started within our exhibits. In the case of Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini we decided to explore in greater detail subjects such as Houdini’s wife Bess, his time in Hollywood, and his place in Vaudeville history.

As we began to think about programing to accompany Stitching History from the Holocaust, and the national debate surrounding immigration was increasingly noisy, impassioned, and complicated, we saw an opportunity. We decided to use our programming to not just explore the past, but also explore how the lessons that were learned (or at least should have been learned) during the Holocaust– apply to our current situation.

Much of the current political rhetoric around immigration mirrors that of the 1930s and 1940s. For example, the way in which individuals’ religion was perceived to be indicative of their potential negative impact upon society, or the way in which individuals, regardless of religion, were denied access to safe havens despite facing intolerable and dangerous conditions in their homes.

As we explored our options in this vein, we learned that Baltimore Hebrew Congregation was also looking to explore similar themes. This led to a collaboration and the development of this series. Both the Museum and Baltimore Hebrew wanted a series that was easily accessible and would explore both the history of the Holocaust and contemporary stories of immigration.

We hope this series will encourage greater understanding and empathy for those who are trying to enter our country today, while dispelling some of the myths and misinformation within some political rhetoric. By encouraging visitors to act now, we hope to avoid future generations having to ask the same questions: What could have been? What achievements were lost?

The generous funding provided by the Lois Rosenfield Caring Fund to support this series means we are able to offer additional features for the series’ programs. All the presentations will be followed by a light reception, during which we will continue to discuss the themes explored within the presentations. We will take time to really reflect upon what we have heard and think about how we might best be able to apply the lessons learned to the current immigration situation and our own lives.

Additionally, a free bus will be offered from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation to the JMM for all programs — you don’t have to worry about finding parking downtown. This bus is available for anyone attending the programs, not just Baltimore Hebrew Congregation members!

This is certain to be an excellent, thought provoking, and inspiring series. Please join us for one or more of the upcoming programs – I would especially encourage you to try to attend one from each era of immigration explored.

You can find a full list of the programs in this series which are taking place both at the JMM and Baltimore Hebrew Congregation here.

Above images of immigration selected from the collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.


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Once Upon a Time…04.20.2018

Posted on February 6th, 2019 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church by email at

JMM 2001.13.164

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: April 20, 2018

PastPerfect Accession #: 2001.013.164

Status: Unidentified – do you recognize this young couple (possibly recent immigrants to Baltimore), with this adorable puppy, c. 1985?

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Second Cousins, Card Parties, and Chickens in the Back Yard: Family Life and Jewish Community in Rural Maryland Part 5

Posted on January 22nd, 2018 by

generations-2002-385x500Article written by Deborah R. Weiner, former JMM research historian and family history coordinator. Originally published in Generations  – Winter 2002: Jewish Family History. Information on how to purchase your own copy here. Many thanks to JMM collections manager Joanna Church for re-typing this article.

Part V: Summers in Baltimore
Miss the beginning? Start here.

 The young woman from Easton cited another influence that helped her maintain a Jewish identify: spending summers with relative sin Baltimore. In fact, kinship ties to the big city have played a major role in the lives of Jews in Maryland’s rural areas and small towns. The summer visit to Baltimore relatives has been a constant in small-town Jewish family life through the years, though the trip has become considerably shorter over time. Bar and bat mitzvah preparation, kosher food buying, securing a rabbi for weddings or other events – all have been made easier by the family connections that most small-town Jews have to Baltimore (or, as sometimes has been the case in western Maryland, to Pittsburgh). Perhaps above all, Baltimore has been a crucial source of “new blood” for the communities, since marriages among local families were limited by the fact that so many were related to each other. As Alvin Grollman succinctly put it, “We all went to Baltimore to find our wives. The big city was good for that.”[1]

Of course, Baltimore also acted as a powerful magnet pulling people away from small towns. For every young person who found a mate and returned home, there were more who stayed to enjoy the opportunities and benefits of city life. Many families moved to the city when their children reached their late teens, fearing that the dearth of eligible Jewish mates would lead to intermarriage. But there can be no question that having extended family in Baltimore helped sustain Jewish life in rural Maryland.

The Hirsches of Havre de Grace continue the tradition of extended family life among small-town Jews. JMM 2002.5.8.

The Hirsches of Havre de Grace continue the tradition of extended family life among small-town Jews. JMM 2002.5.8.

Ultimately, despite help from their big-city relatives, small-town Jews mostly had their own determination and their local extended families to thank for their ability to maintain a Jewish way of life. And despite (or perhaps, because of) the distinctly non-Jewish atmosphere of their towns, family life in rural areas could be seen as impressively Jewish, since almost all religious and social activities were carried out within a family setting.

Since the 1950s, the exodus from small town to big city has accelerated. But occasionally the move is in the opposite direction, and the reason often has something to do with family. When Joan Gelrud left New York City for Bethesda in the 1970s, even that thriving suburb seemed “small townish” to her. When she got to St. Mary’s County, “I thought it was out of a novel. But we had family here and my husband had a thriving business, and I got pregnant and my children’s grandparents were here and aunts and uncles, and it seemed like it could be a good thing for a starting family situation.” In recent years, she’s been president of the local congregation, and again, family has been a key motivation: “I think I do more because we’re here. Because it’s not so easy, you make more of an effort. I like that my kids see that.”[2]

~The End~

[1] Tomchin, “Looking Back with Pride”; Jacobs, “There Really ARE Jews on the Eastern Shore.”

[2] Joan Gerlund, interview with Karen Falk, Lexington Park, Md., 19 October 2000 (JMM OH 0384).


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