Highlights from the 2018 Summer Teachers Institute

Posted on August 17th, 2018 by

A shorter version of this post was shared via our JMM Insights e-newsletter on August 16, 2018. To read past editions of JMM insights, click here. To read other posts by Ilene Dackman-Alon, click here.

Last week, August 6-8, the 2018 Summer Teachers Institute celebrated a milestone, it’s “bar/bat mitzvah” year, in that for the past 13 years, a community of learners have come together to learn about best practices in teaching Holocaust education.  This year 30 teachers from public, private and parochial schools along with a few JMM Board members, staff, volunteers and interns attended the 3-day professional development opportunity.

This year’s program, Lessons of the Shoah: Primary Sources for the Classroom, provided participants with new ideas as well as new program and education resources to help make Holocaust Education more meaningful for students. The following are program highlights:

Day 1

Our first day convened at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  Howard Libit of the Baltimore Jewish Council and Marvin Pinkert, JMM Executive Director gave welcoming remarks to the group. Mary Johnson of Facing History & Ourselves opened the program and asked participants to think about the 1st anniversary of the white supremist rally in Charlottesville, VA.  She posed the question; how do we discuss this event with our students and how do we teach our students not to be apathetic and to be engaged in the conversation?  The topic was a natural segue to Mary’s presentation about the rise of Nazism during the 1920-30s.    Mary spoke about Doris Bergen’s Four Stages of the Holocaust and gave the teachers suggested readings to take back to the classroom from the Facing History curriculum.   The teachers participated in classroom activities to illustrate the four stages.

Following the break, the teachers heard survivor testimony from Mr. Herbert Hane, who shared his experiences growing up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany.  After lunch, we focused our learning on the thousands of people trying to leave Europe during the rise of Hitler and Nazism.   The teachers watched the JMM’s short documentary, Lives Lost: Lives Found: Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees 1933-1945 and learned about the exhibition that uncovered the stories of more than 3000 Jewish refugees that were able to make a new home for themselves in Baltimore with the assistance of many local Jewish residents.  The teachers also participated in an archival exploration activity that is a popular resource for classroom teachers in helping students use more critical and analytical skills. At the end of the day, each teacher received a copy of the JMM’s 2017 publication, Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project.

Lives Lost: Lives Found Archival Exploration, JMM L2003.63.3 courtesy of Rudolph Cohen.

Day 2

We spent our second day in Washington, DC at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. In addition to viewing the permanent exhibits, we also were able to tour a new exhibit, Americans and the Holocaust.  The exhibit examines the motives, pressures and fears that shaped American attitudes and responses to the threats of Nazism and Hitler’s regime during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

The exhibit reveals how much information was available to Americans at the time and asks why rescuing Jews did not become a priority, except for a few individuals who took the risk to help.  The afternoon presentation by USHMM scholar, Rebecca Erbelding, focused on an on-line resource created as a companion to the exhibition.  Dr. Erbelding demonstrated many valuable features of the website which includes a vast array of educational resources.

Afternoon session with Dr. Rebecca Erbelding.

Day 3

Day Three took place at Towson University/Baltimore Hebrew Institute, with Dr. Hana Bor, Peggy Meyerhoff Pearlstone Professor sharing her research findings on The Impact of the Summer Teachers Institute: Teaching and Understanding the Holocaust.

Following the presentation, the participants toured the exhibition, Vergissmeinnicht – Forget Me Not on display in the Cook Library at Towson. The exhibit highlights the lives of 25 children that grew up in the Franconia area of Germany.

Ashley Todd Diaz- Head of Special Collections and Joyce Garczynski, University librarian gave an overview of the exhibit to the teachers.  Teachers were able to try out the sample lessons on iPads in connection with the exhibit.    Dr. Fred Katz, who is featured in the exhibit, spoke to the group of his experiences growing up in Germany but also about his later work as an author and sociologist. After lunch, the teachers headed to the University’s Special Collections and Archives.   Elaine Mael and Ashley Todd Diaz gave the teachers a presentation about the rich holdings that are available at the library in Holocaust education.

The day concluded with Goucher College professor, Dr. Uta Larkey giving a presentation, Working with Film in Holocaust Education.  Participants watched the Oscar winning film Toyland.

Each day of the Summer Teachers Institute, the teachers and participants submitted evaluations.  We were delighted by the responses and feedback we received from teachers. Comments such as, “very in-depth discussion of the 4 phases of the Nazism and the Holocaust.  Love the chronology activity with the anti-Jewish laws on notecards. Mary is very engaging and makes people think!  I loved that she modeled exactly how we could teach in our classroom.” “Mr. Hane’s story is spellbinding! A truly amazing man!”  “Some things I knew, but so much more I had no idea was going on in America, Great resource to know about!”  “Fabulous.  I’m so excited to bring this to my school. I’m sure our history teachers will use this exhibit too.”  These remarks demonstrate the extent to which our Summer Teachers Institute provides a high-quality educational experience for teachers.

Because our Summer Teachers Institute meets the qualifications of both the Maryland State Department of Education as well as Baltimore City Public Schools for high quality professional development (to qualify, we need to submit an application for review), we can offer participants professional development credit.  To be eligible for the credit, teachers must turn in a written reflection (for MSDE credit) as well as an implementation plan (i.e. lesson plan, for Baltimore City).  These reflections and teaching plans provide another measure for assessing programmatic impact for teachers and which resources they plan on using.  It was gratifying to learn from this year’s submissions that teachers plan on integrating content from each session as well and many of the websites, books and lesson plans they received.  Evaluation and reflections also provide important feedback as we plan for next year’s program.

We are grateful to our program partners: Baltimore Jewish Council, Towson University, the Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education and MSDE for their help in planning this year’s program. We are also grateful to our program funders, Judy and Jerry Macks and Family and the Joan and Joseph Klein, Jr., Foundation for enabling us to reach out to such a such a diverse group of educators and provide them with valuable classroom resources.

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Summer Reading

Posted on July 20th, 2018 by

JMM Insights: July 2018

In my youth this was the time of year you went out to the beach and curled up with a book under an umbrella. But these days, both vacations and attention spans seem shorter so maybe sitting in your backyard with a tablet will have to suffice.  If you do I encourage you to spend some time with the JMM blog posts – short stories, (mostly) non-fiction that explore topics related to our collections, our exhibits and American Jewish history. 

If you haven’t visited our blog posts before, summer is a great time to start.  Our regular crew of staff and volunteer bloggers has an infusion of talent from our summer interns – great writers in training.  I recently re-read Ellie Smith’s post on her internship experience (and it reminded me of the excitement I felt when I first started in museums thirty years ago.  I have asked Rachel to share some other highlights of what you’ll find on our site.


Did you know there are over 2,000 posts on the JMM blog?!? That’s a bit overwhelming for anyone’s to-read pile, even a digital one. So below are some great starting points for exploring all of the great content we’ve been creating – I’ve shared 5 of my favorites below along with some suggestions from two of my newest colleagues at the Museum!

As the blog manager I’m always excited when Marvin signs up for a post, because I know I’m going to learn something new and often unexpected! His most recent post on a meeting with Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith is a fun look at how many of the best stories and pieces of history our discovered – through coincidence.

But I think my favorite post from Marvin might be this one from a year ago – “Originalism” Run Amuck, which connects objects from our collection to American history and current events still relevant now.

I also strongly recommend reading Joanna’s recent post A Single Suitcase. As our director of collections and exhibits, Joanna Church has a wonderful talent for telling the stories of objects in our collections – in this post she uses a suitcase to help illustrate the story of one family’s trials to rescue their parents and create a new life in America.

This spring, director of learning and visitor engagement Ilene Dackman-Alon wrote a post that touches on the core of how we think about museums here at JMM – as places to connect. She shared her experience at this year’s Council of American Jewish Museums conference and following along with her adventure made it a learning experience even for those unable to attend the conference.

And you definitely don’t want to miss the post that kicked off our #MugShotMonday campaign: But First, Coffee! from deputy director Tracie Guy-Decker. This post has it all – a personal story, a book recommendation, a tie to our collections, and a boost for our social media channels; there’s something for everyone!

Paige Woodhouse, our visitor services coordinator, picked one of my favorite blog post series – intern posts! From Paige:

“JMM’s Interns bring a new voice and a fresh perspective to the daily “behind the scenes” of the Museum. My favorite blog posts of late (I have two) both come from interns providing a “behind the scenes” look at the work done at the JMM. Marisa brilliantly described the way our education team works to develop educational programming in Zen and the Art of Education Programming. Ash provided some thoughtful insight into her work with our scrapbook collection in Unfolding Narratives – Scrapbooks and Their Interactive Stories. Interested in reading more from our interns? Take a look here.”

And I love this selection from director of development Tracey Dorfmann, which really shows the power of digital and also includes a book recommendation:

“I just celebrated my year anniversary of living in Baltimore.  As a resident “tourist” I love to research the city’s history. While pursuing information about Druid Hill Park I encountered a photo of sheep grazing in the park in the early 1900s. (Sheep grazed there until 1945.) A Google search lead me to source of the image ––I was thrilled to discover that it came from the JMM database (!) and was part of a JMM blog post by our Director of Collections, Joanna Church. In her blog post she discussed a young adult novel entitled The Hired Girl. Her post inspired me to read this short historical fiction piece with an eye out for Baltimore landmarks and as a possible gift for the young adult readers in my family. Joanna did a terrific job illustrating that time period in Baltimore’s Jewish history by aligning JMM database images with scenes that take place in the story. Enjoy!”

Just in case you’ve missed a few e-newsletters here and there, you can also read past issues of both JMM Insights and Performance Counts! over on the blog. Don’t delay – catch up on your summer reading and explore our treasure trove.

Happy Reading!


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Inescapable: The details make the story more real

Posted on June 22nd, 2018 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights is brought to you by JMM Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

Tonight, our latest original exhibit Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini opens at a members-only preview (by the way, if you’re reading this and you don’t yet have a ticket, I am sorry to tell you that we are completely sold out. Please come on Sunday to see the exhibit and take in the Magic of Jonestown outdoor festival).

Since our JMM Insights newsletter is supposed to give you, the JMM insider, an inside look, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about an underappreciated component of exhibits: props.

I have written before about the power of objects in museums. One of our interns recently tackled the question Do Museums Need Objects, and another intern wrote yesterday about objects in this exhibit. But what I want to talk about are the physical items in exhibits that are not, in fact, artifacts.

I admit that I am a little biased in focusing on this for Inescapable, since one of the more charismatic of the props in the show, the Edison cylindrical record player, belongs to my husband, David. But that’s only part of the reason I wanted to talk about props with you. Before I worked in a museum, I admit that I never once thought about props in museum exhibits. Maybe you’re in the same boat. But in my opinion, they can be the details that complete the story.

My husband’s Edison player gives a visual context to the recording of Houdini’s voice. It helps conjure the experience for the visitor. Curators and exhibit designers use props to help create an environment in which you, the visitor, can encounter the artifacts.

In Voices of Lombard Street, we use a lot of props to create a fully immersive environment. In most instances, museum props are used to make your museum experience a more immersive one, and immersion helps make your visit there memorable (I discussed the importance of memorability when I wrote about how we measure the museum).

In addition to David’s Edison player, there are several props in the Behind the Curtain section of Inescapbale.

There are props integrated into interactive elements, and there are reproductions of photos and posters throughout the exhibit. But don’t worry, Dear Reader, we are not trying to fool you! Our labels will tell you everything you need to know about an object or image, including the nature of what you’re looking at (original or reproduction), where the artifact, image or prop came from, and who owns the intellectual property (if anyone). (Note that if there is no label on an object in a JMM exhibit, you can be pretty sure it’s a prop.)

And so, JMM Insider, you now have a choice as you encounter exhibits, whether here or at other museums. You can use your new insights to take a peek behind the scenes, noting where we Museum Professionals have introduced props to enhance your experience, or you can ignore the details on the labels and allow yourself to be fully immersed. Either way, at least when it comes to this exhibit, I trust you’ll enjoy the effect of all our effort.



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