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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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Museo Antonio Felmer

Posted on December 13th, 2018 by

A blog post from JMM Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. To read more posts from Wendy, click here.

I knew extremely little about Argentina and Chile until this past month when I was fortunate to spend 2 ½ weeks there.

The majority of the population are descendants of immigrants, just like in the US.  Besides seeing people that resembled those I see on the streets at home, the immigrant similarity really hit home when I visited Museo Antonio Felmer, a museum outside the Chilean city of Puerto Varas.  The collection consisted of objects brought by German immigrants to Chile, starting from the mid 1800’s into the 20th century.  There was a parallel immigration of Germans to Baltimore at the same time.  Some of those Baltimorean immigrants established the congregation that populated our Lloyd Street Synagogue.  I wonder how many of their precious objects they carefully packed and brought to the new world to either help them in daily tasks or with their occupation.

Antonio Felmer, a descendant of one of the German families in Chile, wanting to preserve his community’s history, started collecting household and farm related items which he housed it in his barn.  Antonio has since died, but his son has taken over the ever-growing collection and is running the museum that fills the three floors of the barn.  Much to his son’s chagrin, Antonio didn’t keep records regarding the provenance of the items or the items’ function. It has taken some guess work, and input from visitors to determine the function of some of objects.  For example, for years, he wondered why a chair in the collection had only 10” tall legs.  A visitor recalled that mothers would sit on chairs like that to be close to their children as they sat around her on the floor.

The collection is wonderfully displayed with related items grouped together. Many of them are kept in working condition from items needed for daily living to items used for entertainment.

There were food molds, meat grinders, – wait, didn’t I see similar objects in the pop-up exhibit in the lobby of JMM in September?

There were multiple sewing machines which brought to mind the sewing machine in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit.

Yes, there were wedding dresses, too, on display.  Most of the wedding dresses in the JMM “Just Married” exhibit were white.

In this collection, some of the dresses were black though the veils were always white.

Why black?  Because the dress owners lived in a poor farming community where the women needed to have the dress to wear for other good occasions and white was not practical to keep clean.

When I saw a steamer trunk on display, I wondered if Houdini held the patent on its design.

The Felmer family obviously has a passion to preserve their history, something all who are associated with the Jewish Museum of Maryland can relate to.

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A Story from the Archives: Is This Goldie?

Posted on October 22nd, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

In 1948 the United Jewish Appeal, with the help of numerous international organizations assisting in moving over 240,000 displaced Jews from D.P. Camps, France, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, North Africa, Shanghai, and other places to new lives in Israel, America, Canada, Australia and all over the world.

One of the vessels moving refugees was the USAT General Stewart that was originally used in 1946 to transport the troops home from Europe and Asia. By 1950 the General Stewart was being used to transport refugees for the International Refugee Organization, traveling from Bremerhaven Germany to New York and Halifax, Novia Scotia. Many of these refugees fleeing to the United States and Canada were Jewish.

On December 1, 1950 Abraham, Sonja and their 4-year-old daughter Goldie Friedman would board the USAT General Stewart in Germany with almost 1300 other refugees and twelve days later arrived in New York. Aaron and Sonia were the sole survivors of their families, their lives had been torn apart by the Nazi regime and after ten years of living in ghettos, concentration camps and as a displaced person they would be able to start a new life in the United States.

The Friedman’s were met by workers of the United Service for New Americans, part of the United Jewish Appeal, an organization that was supported by the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund in Baltimore. From the harbor the Friedman family boarded a train to Baltimore and were met by Mrs. Julian Adler, a representative of the Council of Jewish Women in Baltimore.

Above images from the 1949 Associated Jewish Charities scrapbook.

Sonia, Aaron and Goldie Friedman and Mrs. Julian Adler from the Council of Jewish Women in Baltimore, JMM 1996.063.041.

I learned about the Freidman’s in the 1950-1951 Associated scrapbook in the museum’s collection. The Friedman family would have an entire article written about them in the New American magazine distributed by the United Service for New Americans. The first article, ­Baltimore Opens Its Doors to a Newcomer was printed on December 29, 1950. The article starts with “The recently liberalized immigration law has resulted in a new flow of refugees to this country…. Baltimore is receiving an average of ten such families a month…Approximately $300,000 is spent annually by Associated agencies for its refugee aid program, a quarter of a million dollars of which is expanded by the Jewish Family and Children’s Bureau. The Story of the arrival of and adjustment of one family under the auspices of the JFCB, the Friedman’s, will be told pictorially as a regular weekly feature of the Jewish press.”

As I moved on the next page of the scrapbook something about the picture on the cover made me turn back the page, the names were so familiar. On a whim I took a picture of the article and texted it to my mother, “Is this Goldie?” After a few hours, my mother texted back, “YES!”

I couldn’t believe it, the little girl in the article was one of my mother’s closest friends. I had grown up my whole life knowing Goldie and her family, we took family trips together, my first time at Disney was with them. I had met her father as well and remembered him as the kind and sweet grandfather of my friend. Because of this I was able to find information in our HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) records on Goldie’s arrival to this country and her parents’ history.

At the museum we often get to help families find information on their history, sometimes it’s hit or miss but it’s always very gratifying when we can use our collection to help someone understand their past. And in case you were wondering I always take a peak to look for my own history as well. United Hebrew Charities Donor Booklet, 1915, JMM 1997.134.067.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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