How Do I Connect?

Posted on March 1st, 2018 by

A blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

This week, I, along with a few staff members travelled back and forth to Washington D.C. to attend the CAJM (Council for American Jewish Museums) 2018 Annual Conference. The conference was a three-day event, designed to give professionals working in Jewish cultural organizations and institutions the opportunity to learn best practices in the museum field, visit museums and meet and schmooze with new and old friends. The conference is still fresh in my brain, so I wanted to share some thoughts. One of the main takeaways that I like to think about at conferences is: how do I connect with the speakers and places that we visit?

Day One started off with a downtown walking tour led by our friends from the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. We learned about the first synagogue building built in 1876 in our Nation’s Capital, Adas Israel; and learned about the congregation’s eventual move to the suburbs.

The original building is currently on stilts in the middle of a busy intersection in downtown DC; waiting to go on its final journey to the future campus of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.

After the walking tour, we went to where the conference was being held inside Adas Israel’s second synagogue building, now known as Sixth & I. The building has gone through numerous transformations from a Conservative synagogue, an African Methodist Episcopal Church to a hub for both synagogue and community space.

Sixth & I has a reputation in that they provide a space for impactful and provocative programs spanning different Jewish cultural traditions.

I found the history of the building to be similar to the history of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

I was happy to see so many old friends and colleagues at CAJM – and at one point I counted 10 people that I knew that had an association with the JMM at some point during their professional careers.

Day Two was held at The Wilson Center where the keynote speaker was Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Deputy Director of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. She spoke eloquently about our responsibilities as museum professionals as we tell the story of our culture and heritage.

She quoted Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.” How is that for a takeaway!

I participated in Talking Circles on specific topics of Israel and Audience Engagement. These activities allowed us to share what we do in our instituitions and hopefully gives other inspiration and ideas to take back to their own institutions.

Day Three was held at the USHMM – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The day started off with a guided tour of the museum, something that I had never done before. I have been to the museum many times but always went through the galleries by myself. As we walked along the corridors with the docent, I looked down and I noticed the cobblestones and then I read a sign that indicated that the stones were part of the cobblestones of the streets inside the Warsaw Ghetto. 

I literally had chills going down my spine.

Our final visit was to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

I was amazed at the beauty of the building on the outside.

I was so excited to go inside and was blown away by the exhibits and the information presented on the inside.  My experience inside those walls was incredible. I found myself going through waves of emotions, and finding many commonalities in our shared experiences, both the Jewish and the African American experience.

Our last stop was the museum shop, and once again, I found another connection to our shared experiences.

When our son Guy was a baby, he received a book called More, More, More by Vera B. Williams and there is a short chapter in the book called Little Guy.

I was transported back to reading the book to our son when he was a baby, and how 23 years later he has grown to be such an incredible person. I was very happy that I found this small piece of my own story inside the museum.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Program Wrap Up: From Ladino to DC

Posted on February 12th, 2015 by

This past Sunday we warmly welcomed Dr. Adriana Brodsky of Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, to speak on Ladino as part of our Sephardic Lecture Series. Her presentation traced the origins of the language and explored both the oral and written traditions. Ladino is truly a fascinating language; as someone who knew nothing about the language and its history, I found Dr. Brodsky’s presentation incredibly informative!

Quite the crowd turned out.

Quite the crowd turned out.

Also known as Judeo-Spanish, Ladino is the spoken and written Hispanic language of Jews of Spanish origin. Interestingly, Ladino was originally just the language of a Spanish province and was not considered a Jewish language until the expulsion from Spain in 1492. After the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal, they continued to speak Ladino in the communities and countries to which they emigrated. As a result, the Ladino grammatical structure and vocabulary closely align with 14th and 15th century Spanish. However, as Jewish immigrants became immersed in their new communities their native language began to change and evolve. Dr. Brodsky explained that while some Jews emigrated to countries such as England and Italy (in relatively close proximity to Spain) and were able to maintain their language, other Jews moved to Sephardi communities deep in the Ottoman Empire where their language began to borrow and embrace new words from Arabic, Greek, Turkish and French.

Map of Judeo-Spanish emigration.

Map of Judeo-Spanish emigration.

Dr. Brodsky also explained that a large part of the Ladino language is linguistic traditions such as proverbs and sayings, such as:


  • A gran’ a grano, hinche la gayina el papo (One seed at a time, a hen fills its craw.)
  • Antes ke te kases, mira lo ke hazes… (Watch what we do before you get married.)
  • Kon esos polvos se hizieron estos lodos. (That dust brought, or made, this mud.)
  • Dime kon kien fueres i direte kien eres (Tell me who you go around with and I’ll tell you who you are.)


In addition to proverbs and sayings, music was also an important part of the Ladino oral tradition. In order to illuminate it’s influence, Dr. Brodsky shared we all sang a wonderful rendition of Adio Kerida:

As the talk came to a close, we had the opportunity explore the written tradition and to decode a bit of Ladino. It was interesting to learn that most of the time, Ladino can be written in using three different methods: Rashi script, Square script or Solitro script (a cursive method of writing letters) (see below).

Rashi script, Square script and Solitro script

Rashi script, Square script and Solitro script


Following Dr. Brodsky’s talk, we hosted community workshop lead by Zachary Paul Levine, Curator at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. The JHSGW is currently in the process of planning their new regional Jewish museum (projected opening 2020) and its core exhibition. As part of that process, they are turning to the community for thoughts on which objects and themes should be included and explored more deeply. Before moving into an introduction to the institution and its vision for the future, Dr. Levine had us all go around and place post-its on images of our favorite objects displayed on posters around the room. After introducing the JHSGW, Dr. Levine told us the story behind each of the objects displayed. However, he presented them in thematic sets and it was up to the audience to determine if they felt that the object fit into its current category. Overall, the workshop got us thinking, talking, and sharing ideas for this new project.

This workshop was one of the first events in our series of community programs. We have several upcoming programs that showcase community collaborations and accomplishments. Later this month, February 23, 2015 – March 8, 2015, we’ll be hosting “The Girl’s Photography Project” exhibit sponsored by CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. in partnership with Wide Angle Media. In 2014, 15 African American and Orthodox Jewish girls ages 10-14 participated in a series of workshops that enabled them to learn about each other’s perspectives living in their northwest Baltimore City community. They learned to use a camera, take quality photos and most importantly, got to know one another while gaining an understanding of each other’s life experiences. The photos in this exhibit feature their viewpoints and are truly one of a kind. We invite everyone to join us for the reception on March 1at 1pm!

A Sneak Peek at "My Family Story" objects.

A Sneak Peek at “My Family Story” objects.

Later in March JMM celebrates Jewish family history with another special exhibit. Over the past few months, the JMM has worked with middle school students from Beth Tfiloh on an exciting and creative education program, My Family Story. In this inspiring program, students work with museum staff to investigate their family roots and discover deeper connections to larger issues of American Jewish history, community, Jewish identity and Israel. Their exploration culminates in an artistic expression that creatively represents their family’s history. We are greatly looking forward to showcasing all of the students’ work and invite you to join us for a reception on the evening of March 12th at 7pm.

Carolyn BevansA blog post by Carolyn Bevans, Museum Educator and Programs Associate. To read more posts from Carolyn, click HERE. 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

A Visit from the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington

Posted on June 13th, 2011 by

Last week, our colleagues from the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington visited the JMM to learn more about what we do and how we do it, and to talk about potential collaborations between our two institutions. Laura Cohen Apelbaum, the JHSGW’s director, brought a group of trustees, staff members, and interns to meet with Duke Zimmerman, JMM vice-president and chair of our collections committee, Deborah Cardin, and me.

After a morning spent touring the Lloyd Street and B’nai Israel Synaogogues and our “Synagogue Speaks” exhibition, the group settled down to chat with us over lunch. We talked about plans, challenges, and common interests.

The JHSGW and the JMM have a lot in common. Like the JMM, their museum chronicles the story of a Jewish community (in their case, Jews living in the greater Washington, DC area) through collections, publications, programs, and exhibitions. Like the JMM, they are stewards of an historic synagogue—though our Lloyd Street Synagogue (1845) has their Adas Israel Synagogue (1876) beat by 31 years! And like us, they were founded by volunteers in 1960. We’ve grown in similar directions since, with a shared commitment to preserving and interpreting Jewish history and culture in a meaningful way for both Jewish and general audiences.

Visit the JHSGW’s website (http:/// for a look at their many exciting programs and initiatives, and plan to pay them a visit next time you’re in Washington.

Here we are with our visitors from the JHSGW (Duke Zimmerman, never without a camera, snapped the picture). The group including several trustees and most staff members—like our staff, many JHSGW staffers wear multiple hats and produce an impressive number of high quality programs considering their size.

Here we are in the B'nai Israel Synagogue. One thing the JHSGW did with their synagogue that we didn’t: they moved it! In 1969, volunteers arranged to have Adas Israel relocated about three blocks from its original site in order to save it from demolition.


A photo from the move. You can check out more by clicking the picture!

Laura Apelbaum and I stand in front of our computer animation of the Lloyd Street Synagogue sanctuary, showing how it changed over time. This was a big hit with our visitors.


A blog post by Associate Director Anita Kassof.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland