Connecting the Past to the Present: Immigration Stories and Community

Posted on June 16th, 2015 by

Creating the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland immigration trunk lessons.

Creating the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland immigration trunk lessons.

One of my first projects at the Jewish Museum of Maryland was to adapt the Ida Rehr immigration trunk lessons for a new program for the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland. The education department is creating new partnerships with organizations like the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland and local schools to help students learn about Jewish history, the history of the Jonestown neighborhood, and of the greater Baltimore area.

While working on the project I myself learned about Jewish immigrants’ experiences. I learned why they came to America between 1880-1924 and the Ida Rehr story. Looking through the immigration trunk and the lessons, I realized that there are some connections to immigration issues today. Ida Rehr, a Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine came to Baltimore to create a new life for herself. When she came to America she lived with her older sister and her uncle at 116 S. Bond Street, a Jewish enclave in Baltimore. She was a factory worker and attended night school to learn English and how to become an American citizen. She also married a Jewish immigrant, Daniel Rehr, at Anshe Sphard Synagogue.

Looking through Ida Rehr’s immigration trunk.

Looking through Ida Rehr’s immigration trunk.

Ida Rehr’s immigration story is relevant today because Baltimore still has a large immigrant population. The Education Department is modifying the immigration trunk to discuss how immigrants are adapting to life in America and Baltimore today. Discovering Ida Rehr’s naturalization papers, passport, and the process she went through in order to become an American citizen made me think about what new immigrants have to go through today. Even though the immigrants that came over in the late 1800’s were from Southern and Eastern Europe, and the new immigrants are coming from other parts of the world, they share some of the same experiences. The immigrants who are coming to America today are from many different countries. “In 2012, 11.6 million foreign-born residents—28 percent of the foreign-born population—came from Mexico; 2.3 million immigrants came from China; 2 million came from India; 1.9 million came from the Philippines; 1.3 million came from both Vietnam and El Salvador; and 1.1 million came from both Cuba and Korea.” [“The Facts on Immigration Today.” 23 October 2014.] The new immigrants that are coming to U.S. are coming for some of the same reasons that Ida Rehr immigrated to this country in the late 1800’s.

The new immigrants are coming for economic and educational opportunities, as well as political and religious freedoms. The older immigrants had to struggle with similar issues that new immigrants are facing today which include applying for citizenship, finding housing and employment, maintaining their cultural heritage, and trying to adjust to life in America.

I also learned about immigration service organizations in the city that are trying to help new immigrants and refugees become American citizens. Organizations like the International Rescue Committee, CASA of Maryland (Multicultural Center Office), Baltimore Field Office for US Immigration and Citizenship services, and Justice for Our Neighbors Baltimore Office, are trying to help new immigrants and refugees become US citizens and adjust to living in Baltimore.

I developed a lesson plan that gives the Girl Scouts an opportunity to create their own immigration trunk. Through a guided questions activity that I designed the Girl Scouts could learn more about the immigration experience in Baltimore. I enjoyed working on this project because as an intern here from New York, it helped me learn about how Baltimore is still an immigrant city today.  This program also demonstrates that the Jewish Museum of Maryland is making an effort to encourage younger generations to learn about immigrants’ experiences and issues today. The museum is taking an initiative to connect immigration stories of the past to the experiences of immigrants that are living in Baltimore now. I feel honored to be involved in getting conversations going about these issues and helping the museum show their support for people in our community.

Falicia EddyA blog post by Education and Programs Intern Falicia Eddy. To read more posts from interns click HERE.

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Transformation & Process: From Intern to Staff, From Scavenger Hunts to Archival Activities

Posted on April 28th, 2014 by

As winterns turn to spring interns, which will soon bring us to our summer interns, it seems an appropriate time for me to reflect upon my own summer internship at the JMM, nearly two years ago. Fresh from my college graduation, I arrived at the JMM, ready to learn about museum education and to immerse myself into a meaningful project. There’s truly no better feeling than to see a museum utilizing something you worked on, whether it’s seeing your name and parts of your research within an exhibition, or seeing a school group participate in an activity that you designed.

My internship project in the summer of 2012 (which already seems like a lifetime ago!) was to create an activity pack for teachers to use in their classrooms that would make use of our own collection to teach grade school students about immigration to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For ten weeks I researched the evolution of immigration and naturalization laws, brainstormed fun activities that would make the topic interesting and relevant to young children, and chose the objects from our collection that I thought best told the story of American immigration. At the end of the summer, I had a PDF that was 45 pages long (including scanned photos of the objects and an answers sheet) of which I was very proud, but I had the sinking feeling that the link to download it from our website was going to collect layers of cyber dust.

For a few months after my internship ended, and I began working here full-time, this was true. But then Ilene Dackman-Alon started discussing the idea of re-imagining the activities that we do with students in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit. Many of our visiting school groups come year after year, and a few of the teachers were asking whether we had anything besides a scavenger hunt to do. In fact, we were getting a litte bored with the scavenger hunt format as well. This is not to say that most of the teachers disliked our scavenger hunt—in fact, many of them say in their field trip evaluations that they loved the scavenger hunt and why didn’t the other exhibits have them too? But it was clear to us that there was so much more that we could be doing with the Voices exhibit.

At the same time, Ilene had been thinking hard about different ways in which we could align ourselves with the Common Core Curriculum in the public schools. One theme that is stressed in the Common Core—and is a natural connection to the JMM—is the use of primary sources. Ilene asked me to adapt one of the classroom activities that I’d created so that it tied into the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit. I chose one that asked students to use close observation skills to glean information about the process of becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. from three different naturalization certificates (the piece of paper that you get when you become a citizen). To add a personal aspect to the lesson, we decided that the activity should be preceded by an educator guiding them quickly through the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit, and then asking the students to take a couple of minutes to write down a quotation from the exhibit to which they related or felt a close connection. After sharing these verbal primary sources with the class, the students are ready to look at documentary primary sources that will teach them about history, identity and citizenship, and maybe even a little bit about bureaucracy!

Leading an Immigration Archival Activity

Leading an Immigration Archival Activity

After a few guinea-pig classes (which showed me that I needed to re-order the questions so that the simplest ones were first), we now have an Immigration Archival Activity that we use either for groups  that are starting to use primary sources in their classroom projects, or are simply too old to appreciate scavenger hunts.

Deep in thought!

Deep in thought!

Ilene helps students decipher their documents

Ilene helps students decipher their documents

abby krolikA blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby, click here.

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Once Upon A Time…08.30.2013

Posted on March 4th, 2014 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 Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or jzink@jewishmuseummd.org.

 

1996063045Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  August 30, 2013

PastPerfect Accession #:  1996.063.045

Status:  Unidentified – do you know these young immigrants, associated with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)?

 

 

 

 

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