Posted on August 12th, 2016 by Rachel
I’m so pleased to announce another successful summer of interns! The Museum welcomed ten new interns into our intense, ten-week internship program this year, spread across multiple Museum departments.
By the Numbers
10 interns from 10 different schools, half representing Maryland institutions like Salisbury University, Hood College, Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. But we also had interns from Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, University of Rochester and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This year the majority (8) of our interns grew up in Maryland!
Interns in DC
Interns participated in a combined 3,500 hours of work and learning over the course of their internships.
33 Blog Posts – In addition to the 2 individual blog posts we ask each intern to write over the course of the summer, this year we introduced the “Intern Thoughts: A Weekly Response” series. Each week (with one extra to cover our Summer Teachers Institute) interns were presented with a prompt, readings, or a set of questions to consider and respond to. You can check out all the entries in this series HERE. And to see all entries by (and about) our interns on the blog, check out the “intern” tag!
Workshopping with Karen
Staff donated their time and expertise, along with a few outside professionals, to offer 10 professional workshops throughout the summer!
Object Handling with collections manager Joanna Church
Introduction to Exhibitions and Oral History Training with curator Karen Falk
Exhibit Evaluation with Marianna Adams of Audience Focus, Inc
Holocaust Memory Art Workshop training with artist Lori Shocket
Grant Proposal Writing with deputy director Deborah Cardin
Museum Management with executive director Marvin Pinkert
Visitor Services with visitor services coordinator Graham Humphrey
Project Management with associate director Tracie Guy-Decker
Resumes & Cover Letters with development & marketing manager Rachel Kassman and Joanna Church
20 hours of museum shop inventory – The assistance of our summer interns meant we were able to complete this humble but incredibly important job in only a week!
Enjoying Flag Day festivities
Interns were able to participate in 4 fieldtrips over the course of the summer. On Flag Day they visited the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House & Museum – director Amanda Davis was kind enough to follow up their visit with a visit of her own to JMM, spending a brown-bag lunch with the interns and sharing the joys and challenges of her role at the Flag House. Interns were treated to an intimate tour of the Library of Congress, with a special stop at the Hebraic Collections reading room; they also got to meet the education staff of the Walters Art Museum and learn about their specialty “touch tours” for the visually impaired. Finally, interns were also able to visit the United States Holocaust Museum & Memorial during the Summer Teachers Institute.
A Quick Summary
Saralynn and Sheldon Glass Education Interns:
David Agronin, Anna Balfanz, Rachel Morin, Benjamin Snyder
This summer saw are largest class of education interns ever. Education director Ilene Dackman-Alon and programs manager Trillion Attwood worked with four interns this summer. All four worked together to create audio tours of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, staff the front desk, research our newest living history character, Henrietta Szold, and organize the Summer Teachers Institute. The education interns were instrumental in working with four summer school classes from Baltimore City Public schools and facilitated education programs in connection with Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in Baltimore; and Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews & Medicine in America.
Anna and Ben had the opportunity to work with students who have visual impairments from the National Foundation for the Blind- Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Camp. Anna also planned a special Lloyd Street Synagogue Rosh Hashanah display, which we can’t wait for you to come see!
Rachel got to put her graphic designs skills to work and created a new interpretive brochure for the Lloyd Street Synagogue as well as fliers and even a program postcard for the Museum’s public events.
David, in addition to his education-related tasks, worked with executive director Marvin Pinkert on research for our upcoming exhibit American Alchemy, an exploration of the scrap and recycling industries.
Exploring Voices of Lombard Street
Saul L. Ewing, LLC in Memory of Robert L. Weinberg Collections and Exhibitions Interns:
Gina Crosby, Emilia Halvorsen, Becky Miller, Tamara Schlossenberg, Alice Wynd
Curator Karen Falk oversaw three interns this year: Alice, Becky, and Emilia. These three young women worked on a variety of tasks related to Belonging, the new core exhibit JMM is developing. They surveyed the collections for objects, images and ephemera that will illustrate a range of stories about being Jewish in Maryland.
In preparation for a grant proposal to be completed this winter, they reviewed the academic literature on Jewish identity and Jewish community, and contributed to the exhibit team’s thinking on themes and narratives for the exhibition. Since the exhibit is expected to include an interactive game as a major element, Becky reviewed the literature on the use of games in museum exhibitions. Emilia researched core exhibitions in other identity museums, in both America and abroad. All three interns worked on evaluating visitor response to the Beyond Chicken Soup exhibition, and all three also did some very valuable oral history transcription. When the summer began, Karen didn’t think they would even be able to complete a review of the collection, much less contribute to the museum in so many other ways – she is truly impressed!
Collections manager Joanna Chuch supervised two interns this year: Gina and Tamara. Together these interns assisted with turning the pages of the National Library of Israel manuscripts in Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America. They also worked together on processing a large collection of blueprints.
Tamara has continued the semi-annual collections inventory begun last summer, including a thorough inventory and cataloging effort of 32 large flat file drawers, and inventories of both Voices of Lombard Street and Synagogue Speaks. She also created a finding aid for our large archaeological collections, both the material culture and the related paperwork, with details on the dates, locations, and work done – making this material much easier to use. She has also assisted with a few research requests and donation offers.
Gina has done intensive research into our oral history and memoir collections looking for information and stories relevant to next year’s Just Married! exhibition; many of these oral histories had not been transcribed or digitized previously. She has also worked with Joanna on formulating the overall narrative of the exhibit, and has attended meetings of the exhibit team as the planning process begins.
Visiting the Library of Congress
Jewish Museum of Maryland Digital Projects Intern: O. Cade Simon
This was an experimental internship I introduced this summer and Cade was a great candidate. He was flexible and game for whatever I wanted to try. Cade’s projects ranged from researching various geo-cached data applications to creating a stop-motion video to promote our upcoming Great Chicken Soup Cook-Off! Cade also photographed all the collages created during our Holocaust Remembrance workshops, so they can be turned into their final forms as “Holocaust Memory Reconstruction: A Sacred Culture Rebuilt,” which will be displayed as part of our Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity exhibition opening in March 2017.
This post is by Rachel Kassman, Development & Marketing Coordinator and JMM Intern Wrangler.
Posted on August 11th, 2016 by Rachel
Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to reflect back on the last ten weeks and share what they’ve discovered about museums, themselves, and their future goals; some of your favorite memories from the past ten weeks, and to update us on their major projects.
Not a Farewell, but a See You Later
Museums haven’t been the same, since I became an intern at one. Now I read museum labels not just for information, but to consider their writing style. I see glass displays and wonder about the hundreds upon hundreds of hours of brainstorming, researching, and grant writing that had to happen before those objects could be shown. I’ve got a third eye now; unlike my usual pair, which see the exhibits for what they are. My third eye can see the invisible behind-the-scenes hands and minds that made the exhibit possible.
Are museums in my future? This future, which at the beginning of the summer was more an impression than a concrete vision, still feels very hazy. I’m still undecided about my major, although I’ve enjoyed the places where my work here has intersected with anthropology and organizational studies. I like the parts of my work which have allowed me to be creative, like when we formulated themes and sections for the new core exhibit. If I were to intern in a museum again, I’d be interested to see more of the administrative side. I’m curious about the questions museums face, and how museum directors and administrators are trying to answer or solve them, such as, “How do we get people to come?” and “How do we get people to care?” From what I’ve seen of the world of small museums, administration overlaps with exhibitions; administrators get to be part of the creative process, while overseeing the big picture and the long term of the museum itself, a perfect combination of my interests. That’s why I’m considering taking some classes in the Organizational Studies major at school this next year.
Regardless of my future in museums, if it exists at all, I’ll always see exhibits differently. Now the word “museum” evokes more than old heavy objects and marble floors. When I hear “museum,” I think of lunch breaks at the picnic table behind the offices, giggling with my fellow interns. I think of my first tour of the basement collections, learning how to handle old and delicate things with white gloves. I think of surreptitiously following visitors through Beyond Chicken Soup to observe their engagement, particularly the time when a mother and daughter spent over two hours in the exhibit, very very much engaged! And goodness knows how I’m going to miss the always full, always happy candy bowl.
Don’t cry, JMM! We’ll always have this summer.
I’m sad to be leaving when I am, because we’re still very much in the early days of the new core exhibit. It would be neat to check in a year from now, when things may be more concrete, and less lists of people and events on an infinite number of GoogleDocs! But our work is still moving along, and I feel proud to have made contributions to what I can tell is going to be an amazing exhibit. We’ve narrowed down lists of our iconic figures, and expanded lists of new names. We’ve restructured and refined our themes. Next week, we will have focus groups, which I hope will be the final key to deciding who and what our exhibit will focus on, and I hope I can be there for some. Seeing how real people respond to the research and thinking I’ve been doing, even at this early stage, will help make tangible the ideas I’ve worked on, as well as our still-distant core exhibit as a whole. I look forward to coming back in 2019 (with my BA in some unknown major!) and walking through the exhibit that will have grown out of this seed I’ve helped nurture.
~ Emilia Halvorsen
Serving the Community
Over the course of this internship, I would hope that I learned at least something about the museum’s role in society. The Museum must serve as a resource to the community, at least as much as it is to function as an attraction in its own right. A museum, especially one which focuses on a local phenomena, like the JMM, must serve its community as its primary mission. As for myself, I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how to maintain good work habits, and how to stay productive over a long period of time.
I think my most interesting memory of the internship was our first visit to DC to see the Library of Congress. As well as seeing the incredible building and institution for the first time, I think it was a chance for me to get to know the other interns better, and spend some time with them outside of the normal work environment. I think we all grew to appreciate each other more as individuals. And of course, the trip was fun.
Right now, I’m working on holiday orders for the programs department, as well as research for the museum’s new scrap exhibit, and a script for a new audio tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. I sincerely hope that my experience at the JMM will help me move on to bigger and better things in the near future.
~ David Agronin
Combining Learning and Action
The last two months at the Jewish Museum have been a truly eye-opening experience. I have spent the last several years at Towson University studying Education with a focus in History. While I have always enjoyed the various subjects that fall under the social studies category, my passion was very much in the actual teaching. Working with kids and people is what I prefer doing, rather than burying myself in books and internet articles doing research. Working at the museum allowed me to do both, often simultaneously. As I look towards my teaching career, which will begin within the next few years, I will be sure to include museum trips in my curriculum. The JMM is a great example of how a museum trip can enhance any lesson, especially by breaking the monotony of a classroom. I loved working with the school groups that came to visit.
The most memorable parts of this Summer come from meeting the other interns and museum staff. All of us are attending different colleges and have something different to share. The education department in the West Wing where I spent most of my time is always an entertaining spot. Anna, Rachel, David and I are always laughing together or debating various topics. The four of us also had the honor of working with Trillion and Ilene who taught us something new everyday. Each day the interns meet outside in the courtyard for lunch, and once a week we have a workshop with a museum professional. The staff, from Deborah Cardin to Marvin Pinkert, all offered fantastic advice on various topics.
Rachel, David, Anna and I have spent the last few weeks working on an audio tour for the Lloyd Street Synagogue. We wrote scripts and spend a few hours last week trying to record them. I think I owe Rachel and Anna an apology, as laughter got the best of me and we had to hold off on recording for a little while. Regardless, I hope the recordings will be a valuable asset to future museum tours. Anna and I also got to work with a group of students from the Maryland School for the Blind which was extremely rewarding. The kids were excited, sweet and I was happy to have the chance to show them what the museum has to offer.
In short, this Summer was extremely fulfilling for me. I would like to thank the staff, interns and volunteers. Everyone from James, our security guard, to Trillion, my supervisor, had something to offer me this Summer. I look forward to using what I learned in my teaching career, and I cannot wait to come visit the Auschwitz exhibit in March 2017.
With my time at the museum ending, it’s time for some reflections. Overall, this internship confirmed something I basically already knew. With great coworkers, a relaxed yet upbeat atmosphere, interesting projects, and a meaningful mission, it’s no problem waking up early to work everyday. With this in mind, thought about the future some this summer, especially while working with the archives. I always considered graduate school abstractly, but recently put that thought aside. However, as I wrote about in a separate blog post, looking through all the magazine and brochure artifacts made me realize how much knowledge is contained in boxes in museum basements. The idea of spending a few years tracing topics through different publications and making new discoveries reignited my interest for a potential masters degree. In the short term, I discovered that my university offers a year long internship with its museum that involves designing and implementing an exhibit, with an application due next month. I’m seriously considering applying, something I wouldn’t have done before this internship.
Sneak peak of display case
I enjoyed every day at the museum, but some moments really stood out. One day, I helped facilitate workshops with a group of visually impaired students, which included running around the lobby to avoid being “eaten” by a paper skeleton one of the kids created. Of course, she caught me, as I ended up on the floor begging for mercy while she laughed and pretending to make her skeleton eat me for the fifth time. All of the student groups were so different, and really added something special to the internship. Aside from these groups, I had a great day at the Student Teacher Institute (STI) on its day at JMM. Even with the Holocaust as a primary topic, the atmosphere was upbeat and energized, with all of the teachers in the museum eager to learn. All of the speakers were so engaging, especially ones who incorporated interactive elements. I usually don’t think of conferences very positively, because it’s difficult for me to sit and listen to multiple speakers, even when I’m interested in the topic. This experience provided me with a counter example to that. Besides these standout moments, working day to day with the other education and program interns always brought interesting conversation. Inside of staying in a cubicle, we all shared an office space that facilitated conversation. We covered politics and philosophy many times, as well as more light-hearted topics. My internship definitely wouldn’t have been the same with a different group of interns here.
With a day and a half left, I’m finishing up some great projects. I’ve collected all the items for the Lloyd Street Synagogue Rosh Hashanah display, worked with Trillion and Joanna to find the right spot and display case to use, wrote my first draft of the labels, and decided how I’d like the objects to be arranged on the display case. Pretty soon, it will be out of my hands! I’m also working with the other interns on the audio tour of Lloyd Street Synagogue. We’ve practiced recording and made the edits to our script. With so little time left, we need to make each recording count! Tomorrow, the last day, definitely isn’t going to be a laid back last day; it’s crunch time.
– Anna Balfanz
It’s hard to believe that my JMM internship is nearly over! I remember what I thought this internship would be about in the beginning; contrasting those assumptions with what I have learned about how a museum runs in the past ten weeks highlights how beneficial this experience was. Most importantly, I learned how much work and thought goes into each exhibit they show here. For the whole summer, Emilia and I have been examining and reworking the big idea of the new core exhibit, which is currently set to open in 2019, and that work will continue after the summer internships are over! My interactions with the other staff members and observations of their meetings impressed upon me how much they truly care about the content of this exhibit and what it represents. In terms of my personal growth, I learned that I have absolutely no self-control when a bowl of candy is sitting in front of me and that I need to push myself even harder to think outside of the box, which has been an essential exercise with this summer’s work.
My favorite moments of this internship have been the interactions between all of the interns. From experiencing the deeply meaningful Holocaust Museum in D.C. together to playing Pokemon Go on our lunch breaks, we have become a close cohort over the past ten weeks.
Evidently, the JMM has a bit of a Zubat infestation.
One afternoon a few weeks ago, we were between projects, so we took all of the quizzes on J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore website (which Hogwarts house you would be in, what kind of wand you would have—important stuff) and compared results.
The results for my work this summer have been more abstract than those for the online tests. Our main project has been figuring out the categories of what defines Jewish identity that we want to include in the exhibit and the people and stories that exemplify each category. By the end of this week, we will have an updated list of categories with corresponding characters based on extensive research in our collection. I bet they will change many more times between today and when the exhibit opens, but we have definitely made real progress during these ten weeks.
Reflections on Working in JMM Collections
Ten weeks go by faster than I would have imagined. I was startled to realize I’ve been working here at the museum since June. It has become such a part of my routine, not coming in will feel weird. It’s crazy and kind of cool how much of my prior knowledge I’ve been tapping into; things such as how read blueprints, and topographical maps which I’ve found to be useful in locating and entering the basic descriptive information about the documents. My art history knowledge is useful in identifying themes and describing the artworks of the museum. I find that there are a lot of different versions of Moses and the Ten Commandments in the Jewish Museum’s collections, some of which I have talked about in different blogs. I even got to tap in to my archaeological knowledge with the creation of a finding aide.
This internship has helped me do something that I have desperately wanted to do: help bridge the gap between collections and the availability of knowledge. This past year in college in my archaeology field work seminar, we talked a lot about archaeological collections, and how they are often poorly stored and documented. After learning that I decided that I wanted to try and find a way to fix that problem. By helping to catalog materials, adding more detailed descriptions to archival documents, and updating and writing finding aides, I hope that the information and history that collections contain will be easier to find, whether it be for exhibitions or private researchers. It will also help me as I go into future careers, whether I end up going into museum work or into cultural resource management in archaeology.
– Tamara Schlossenberg
And That’s a Wrap, Folks!
Over the past ten weeks, I’ve learned a lot about oral histories and Jewish weddings. I’ve gone through every oral history the Museum has collected in the past forty-odd years hoping to find gold, and I did! But that was just the beginning. Since the last update, I’ve been digitizing and listening to the oral histories that hadn’t been transcribed, and looking at all the oral histories together to try to decide who should be a key couple in the exhibit—aka, which couples have the best story or the most information that we can use. At this point, we’re so swamped with married couples we’re using index cards to sort them all out, old school-style. Fortunately, we’ve found a designer for the exhibit and met with him, which helped hammer out some better ideas about what this exhibit is going to look and feel like, which helps me pinpoint better stories. Although the exhibit is still nowhere near close to finished, looking back at day one when all we had was a list in Past Perfect (our collections software) and a vague idea that the exhibit would be about weddings, I can’t believe how much we accomplished in moving this project forward in the past ten weeks.
The Index Card Puzzle
Working here at the JMM has taught me so much about museums behind the scenes! As I learned on one of our field trips to Washington D.C., seeing exhibits in other museums now has me viewing them with an understanding of how someone worked on them, thought them through, designed them with a specific idea in mind. I recognize how much research and background and effort gets put into each exhibit, and I have so much more respect for museum professionals and everything they put into each and every exhibit. Also, the JMM has really taught me a lot about what I need out of a career and a workplace. It’s been a great place to intern for ten weeks, but I don’t think long-term that museums work is for me. Watching Joanna get excited about certain parts of the collections and hearing Marvin talk about Museum management made me realize that I don’t have that kind of excitement and passion for this work. As much as I like museums and I like learning about the theories and social science of museums, I realized that I want to find the career that I have the same passion and drive for that all of the staff has for museums here at JMM. I’m not certain what that is yet—I’m looking at law school and other options—but I now know that museums aren’t quite the right fit for me.
Me, Becoming One with a Museum Exhibit
This is not a final goodbye to the JMM for me; if nothing else, I will definitely be coming back to see my wedding exhibit when it opens in all its glory. But it is goodbye to working here, to seeing the friends I’ve made here every day. As I think about leaving, I remember some of the best moments I’ve had here at the JMM—from the simple pleasure of eating lunch in the shade of the courtyard surrounded by my friends, to the excitement and satisfaction of completing a milestone in my project. I also really enjoyed our internship visits, such as visiting the Walters Art Museum and getting to learn about and actually experience a Touch Tour. Even though I don’t foresee a future in museums for myself, I’m glad I had the chance to have a great experience here at the JMM, and I’m sorry to have to say goodbye.
– Gina Crosby
Final Week at the JMM
It has been an interesting ten weeks here at the JMM, an animation major working at a museum has been quite a crash course in a totally new world. As a kid I had the pleasure of having parents who enjoyed going to museums, they have always been a part of my life. I had never seen the administration side of the work, so taking a look into this experience from another lens has been quite interesting. I learned a lot about how I feel about museums and history. Sometimes it takes knowledge and experience within something to learn to appreciate its full value. I learned some practical skills that I think will aid me in the grand scheme of things. I am currently pursuing some outside work regarding museum visitor surveys which I worked with at the JMM.
A picture from our field trip to D.C featuring the creature I was tasked with placing in photos
I have experienced a variety of fun times in this internship, as much time as was spent working was spent socializing and having a good time. It was nice to meet some other people around my age interested in a vastly different field, being around artists all time can be draining so it was refreshing to be around some different mindsets. The DC trip was a fun blur of activity, some other activities that come to mind: shuffling around onions and baked chicken for hours working on a stop motion while people peered in confused, some of our usual intern shenanigans on our down time.
A picture from our upcoming stop motion about chicken soup
As I wrap up this internship at the JMM I take a moment to look back on what I have accomplished and how these projects will live on or be continued. I started working to digitize the Mendes Cohen exhibit as a website, this project evolved into a new and interesting start-up in Baltimore working with geo-location. This geo location project has been started and spans the museums departments working to bring a more inclusive historical experience to the everyday person walking through Baltimore. The city is old and filled with stories, monuments and historical buildings ripe for exploration by both the tourist and the everyday resident of the city. As time progresses this project has included the education department. I am now currently working on a fun stop motion animated short about making chicken soup for the JMM’s Beyond Chicken Soup exhibit about the Jewish community and medicine. It is nice to see the projects I worked on featured and to watch their development continue with the input of the museum as a whole.
– O. Cade Simon
We are in the home stretch now and basically everything that I have been working on is finished. The brochure for the Lloyd Street Synagogue is complete and needs to printed as well as a miscellaneous other flyers and postcards that I have created. Additionally, I created a colored and black/white version of a placemat for a Chicken Noodle Soup program for school groups. Lastly, we are all working on an audio tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue as well as a tour of Jonestown. It will incorporate an app and will allow users to move around individually, which I think is pretty interesting.
As far as my future with museums I think that I have come to the conclusion that I am more attracted to artifacts and art more so than I am about the programs that go along with the exhibits. That being said, I did find this experience crucial to my development and growth. It has also opened my eyes to that wide range of opportunities there in museums, because I have always thought of museums as limited in opportunities, but there is a lot more that keeps an institution such as a museum running. Actually, while we were at the Walter’s Museum when we were able to talk to the conservationist, I found that really interesting and a potential career path…if I can figure out how to understand chemistry.
Among my favorite memories had to have been meeting everyone. It was amazing how quickly relationships formed among the interns. I also think that, in part, it has a lot to do with the small work environment. I actually got to know my supervisors as opposed to “that person that gives me stuff to do”. I really enjoyed that. Betsy had a great impact on me as well. Her zest for life is inspirational and her charm is timeless. Of course, I’ll miss the endless candy bowl as well.
Overall, this experience has changed my views on museums, and the amount of work that goes into them. It made me want to explore them further, so I think I took a step in the right direction, and that’s really all I wanted.
~ Rachel Morin
A Summer at the JMM
The last ten weeks at the JMM has been an adventure. We have taken field trips to different locations like the Walter’s Art Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Library of Congress. We have learned new skills like how to conduct oral histories, how to engage different types of visitors and how project management keeps things moving. Along the way, we bonded with each other and became our own little family of interns. Even though we didn’t all work in the same department, the interns ate lunch together almost every day. Whenever possible, we sat outside in the shade to take a break from the cold office. We talked and laughed and played Pokémon Go. It’s sad to think that it all had to end.
This was late because I was in Alaska, so here’s a picture of the John’s Hopkins Glacier.
My original purpose for this internship was to find out if I am compatible with museum work. As a rising senior at Salisbury University, it is time for me to start thinking seriously about how I am going to live my life. I wanted to discover if this was a place where I could enjoy my work and not feel burdened by my job, and I can confidently say that this is true. Creating a core exhibit is hard work and the stressors of deadlines are a definite reality, but the joy of investigating stories and finding materials to weave them together outweighs the pressure of looming deadlines.
At the beginning of my internship I was the public history intern. After a few weeks of research as well as digitizing and transcribing oral histories I became more involved in the exhibitions project. After many google docs and working lists, we have finally created a solid idea. The internal bits and bobs may change before it is completed in 2019, but we have made some real progress this summer on refining ideas and compiling useful information. The intense amount of brain storming and formulating ideas we have done this summer has kept me active and ready to go back to college this fall. I can’t wait to come back when the exhibit opens and find out what the final exhibit contains.
~ Rebecca Miller
Posted on August 10th, 2016 by Rachel
Art as Resistance
One of my favorite learning activities at this year’s Summer Teachers Institute was experiencing a lesson on the Jüdischer Kulturbund. After visiting the Holocaust Museum yesterday, I had learned a little about the Jewish cultural renewal that occurred in Germany in the face of discriminatory laws, and I was left wanting to know more. In perfect serendipity, one of today’s workshops was on exactly that. When all of Germany’s Jewish artists and performers were fired from their jobs, the Jüdischer Kulturbund formed to allow Jewish artists to continue creating, albeit within tighter restraints. We went through a practice lesson, which was designed to show kids how people use art as a form of resistance, and allow them to creatively engage in this idea. We were split up into groups, and tasked to create four pieces of art, each one with an added restriction. In order, they were: You cannot use the color red, you cannot use writing utensils, you cannot use construction paper, and you cannot portray the American flag, but you must represent the spirit of it. The activity was fun, and the wrap up questions afterward were also helpful in making the lesson more meaningful.
During my second semester at college, I taught a twice-a-week class about democracy and grassroots civic projects to middle schoolers, and lesson planning was definitely one of the most difficult parts. On the one hand, you want the students to get your Big Idea and really understand it, but on the other hand, they have to find it interesting and fun. An activity like the Jüdischer Kulturbund one I expereinced today would be the perfect blend of fun and thoughtprovoking. I could definitely see this being adapted to fit my classroom next year, and am encouraged by seeing the Maryland teachers here today share these innovative lesson plans and ideas.
Day One at Beth El Congregation
The biggest lesson I took from the Summer Teachers Institute program was the difficulty of planning Holocaust education. When dealing with such difficult and distressing subject material, it’s very difficult to stay responsive. My natural tendency when confronted with information about the holocaust is to shut down; I feel that there is so much about the holocaust ingrained in the modern Jewish sub-consciousness that I already know all the raw facts. Rather than just presenting information, the goal of holocaust education should be to illuminate the warning signs of impending tyranny and oppression, and to avoid the mistakes of the past, rather than the revel in the suffering of the past.
Holocaust survivor Goldie Szachter Kalib
During the Summer Teachers Institute, I was able to hear Holocaust survivor Goldie Szachter Kalib’s testimony about her experiences in Poland and Auschwitz as a young girl. Her powerful account demonstrated the lengths to which she and the adults around her went to keep her safe in the face of relentless Nazi cruelty. She so effectively conjured up the image of her as a Jewish child separated from her family in Nazi-occupied Poland; I will never forget her story. Hearing Mrs. Kalib speak emphasized to me that the victims and survivors of the Holocaust are all people with meaningful life stories, not just figures in photos or statistics in books.
Deborah Batiste presenting on “Echoes & Reflections”
The most mesmerizing part of STI was the combination of stories from the past and how they are being understood today. When we worked together in groups it helped me to understand what it means to be part of a community that does whatever they can to stand in solidarity. It emphasized what it truly means to be a person associated with a history people who have overcome tragedy through finding joy wherever they could. This circles back to the importance of supporting your community so that strength is built up in all the members of that community.
The Real Monuments Men
For the summer Teachers Institute program I was able to attend two days of the program, the Beth El hosted day and the JMM hosted Wednesday event. I was captivated by the events as they focused on the arts both during and after the Holocaust. I was particularly interested in the sections centering around the cinematography of the Holocaust as it happened and the fiction and non-fiction films/documentaries that emerged years after. I am interested in video and film myself so it was really interesting to learn about the effects of this cinema in the Jewish community.
For instance, I learned a majority of concentration camp footage was from Nazi propaganda, additionally allies used video footage of the camps for propaganda as well. I was also surprised to learn that the making of Holocaust themed movies has been a fairly recent endeavor. Movies I always assumed had some degree of accuracy were also debunked as well others I thought less of such as Uprising had hidden detail I wouldn’t have known about. I was also really interested to learn of one speaker’s story detailing the exploits of her father. He was one of the monetary men serving in WW2 to track hidden Nazi money and stolen art works. Her story about how she uncovered the classified documents in storage and rooted through them until she discovered the character playing George Clooney in the film Monuments Men was in fact her father. Overall it was a very interesting experience that I learned a lot from.
-O. Cade Simon
JMM Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon welcomes participants at the opening of our 2016 Summer Teachers Institute.
This week the JMM hosted the 2016 Summer Teachers’ Institute about Holocaust education. The theme this year was Holocaust Remembrance through the Arts. I attended both the first session at Beth El Synagogue and the third session at the JMM, unfortunately missing the visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum. It was, above all else, a singularly moving experience to see so many teachers brought together for the purpose of learning how to better pass on the history and the story of the Holocaust in ways that students can understand and deal with meaningfully. It was also heartbreaking to hear and see so many stories of loss and grief, and knowing that even for those who survived they could never forget. Even though I don’t plan to go into education, I’ve already made plans to follow up on some of the material I learned about in these sessions and I’ll remember this week for the rest of my life.
“Skokie” and “The Wave”
During the summer teacher’s institute there was a lot of information to process. I found the section about Holocaust films especially interesting. I went to a living historian workshop during the spring and they also talked about the value of using film and T.V. to start a dialogue about history. It got me wondering about other films that could be used to tell the story of the Holocaust that might not be Holocaust films, such as “Skokie” which is good at continuing the story and showing that Nazi ideology did not die with the end of WW II, or “The Wave” which looks at a high school history experiment gone wrong to try and show students how the Nazis were able to rise to power. I feel these films would help to contextualize the Holocaust and show how its effects continued past the fact.
Spoken Work Haikus
Participants in “Music and Art: Exploring Responses to Oppression”
I’m not a teacher, and likely won’t become one, but that didn’t matter. The Summer Teachers Institute, especially the third day at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, was a very enjoyable experience. My favorite part was with Gail Prensky and Sarah Baumgarten during their presentation “Music and Art: Exploring Responses to Oppression.” When I first heard about its interactive nature, I admittedly felt apprehensive. I was tired and wanted another presentation like the first, where I could sit back and enjoy. The thing is, the moment we split up into groups to begin projects, I didn’t feel tired anymore. The presenter split us into groups of five and gave us the choice of either a visual art or musical project with specific restrictions. My group contained two other interns and two younger teachers, and we decided to do the musical challenge of writing a love song without the word love. We bounced around all kinds of ideas, the interns easily joking around with the teachers. Eventually, we settled on writing haikus about the love for humanity. Because this took us so long to decide on, as we were busy jotting down synonyms to love and deciding whether we wanted this to focus on a gentlemen longing for a maiden, or a maiden longing for a gentlemen (I was outnumbered), or whether it should follow the “traditional” haiku format with allusions to nature, we were still scribbling down stanzas while watching all the other groups present (everyone was amazing). Finally, I stood up to recite the spoken word poems, with the guys standing behind me and snapping for the musical element. One of the interns encouraged everyone to snap, and soon the whole room was snapping and grinning. I won’t remember the exact words of the other presenters, no matter how engaging. This experience, however, is something I doubt I’ll forget for a long time.
Josh Headley on incorporating graphic novels into Holocaust education.
The Summer Teacher’s Institute took place on August 1st-3rd, the final day hosted by the Jewish Museum of Maryland and was most interesting for me. As an aspiring social studies teacher, the programming and speakers at STI discussed a plethora of topics that I am interested in. My favorite speaker was Josh Headley, the head of the social studies department at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.
Josh did an excellent job explaining how he has incorporated graphic novels into holocaust education. He went on to explain that by sparking his students’ interest in certain topics, he managed to inspire them to research other subjects that mattered to them. This very simple notion is often overlooked by the public school system and leads to disengaged students. Sir Ken Robinson, a renowned international educator, has said “If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without any further assistance, very often. Children are natural learners.” Josh is exemplifying this concept by giving his students the tools that are necessary to further their education on their own.
The speakers and programs at STI were all beneficial to me and I look forward to using the abilities I gained as a teacher in the near future.