JMM Insights: Sunrise, Sunset Edition

Posted on June 10th, 2016 by

Were you a June bride or groom?  How about July or August?  Well next June we’ll be opening an exhibit to celebrate weddings from all parts of the Jewish community and every month of the year.  And you can be a part of the celebration!

On June 18th, 2017, the JMM will open “Just Married! Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland,” an original exhibition that exploring the many different ways our community has tied the knot from the 19th century through today.  We look at many of the ways that couples combine family, religion, fashion, and tradition to make their ceremony meaningful and personal?

Invitation to the marriage of Sarah Metzger and David Wiesenfeld, 1871, at the Lloyd Street Synagogue.  Gift of Joseph Wiesenfeld. JMM 1985.121.006

Invitation to the marriage of Sarah Metzger and David Wiesenfeld, 1871, at the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Gift of Joseph Wiesenfeld. JMM 1985.121.006

The JMM collections are home to a treasure trove of wedding stories.  These stories are told by artifacts, images, and documents, both secular and religious, expected and unexpected: wedding gowns, ketubahs, albums, invitations, gifts, speeches, chuppahs, souvenirs, and more that have been entrusted to us by Jewish Marylanders since the museum was founded.

Ketubah on parchment, dated Wednesday, 8 Kislev, 5590 (1832), Baltimore. Ze'ev Dov, son of Joseph, married Leah, daughter of Moses.  Gift of Samuel Himmelrich. JMM 1989.101.1

Ketubah on parchment, dated Wednesday, 8 Kislev, 5590 (1832), Baltimore. Ze’ev Dov, son of Joseph, married Leah, daughter of Moses. Gift of Samuel Himmelrich. JMM 1989.101.1

We can create a rich exhibit out of what we already hold.  Just in the first few months of research, we’ve already discovered that many of our treasures are, indeed, treasures: a handwritten invitation in German, from 1841.  Baltimore ketubahs that predate the building of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Formal photographs that show the breadth of options available to, and choices made by, Maryland couples.

Left to right:  Ida Fine and Mendel Glaser, 1894.  Gift of Robert Steinberg. JMM 1992.228.001 Sophie Frenkil and Lee L. Dopkin, 1921. Gift of Sophie and Lee L. Dopkin. JMM 1990.116.006 Miriam Caplan and Hal Rosenblatt, 1948.  Gift of Miriam Rosenblatt. JMM 1996.054.015 Sandra Dean and Ivan Fried, 1975.  Gift of Faith Dean.  JMM 2010.039.001

Left to right:
Ida Fine and Mendel Glaser, 1894. Gift of Robert Steinberg. JMM 1992.228.001
Sophie Frenkil and Lee L. Dopkin, 1921. Gift of Sophie and Lee L. Dopkin. JMM 1990.116.006
Miriam Caplan and Hal Rosenblatt, 1948. Gift of Miriam Rosenblatt. JMM 1996.054.015
Sandra Dean and Ivan Fried, 1975. Gift of Faith Dean. JMM 2010.039.001

But Joanna Church and this summer’s great team of interns aren’t stopping there.

Our collections are particularly strong when it comes to Baltimore in the decades between 1890 and 1950 – but now we’re turning to you, our members, friends and volunteers to help us flesh out the stories of a diverse Jewish community all across Maryland over the past sixty years.

If you’re interested in donating or lending your family wedding stories for display in the Feldman Gallery, let us know!  We have some fantastic wedding gowns from the 1900s-1930s but we’re looking for dresses and other textiles from the decades before and after.  We’re particularly looking for modern-day material capturing the breadth of our community, from the ultra-traditional to the newly created; we’re looking for weddings of all stripes – maybe even polka dots. For more information, or to discuss potential donations and loans, please contact Joanna Church, Collections Manager, at or 443-873-5176.

In a few weeks we’ll kick off of our official collecting initiative, in which we’ll ask people across the state to contribute an invitation and a photo from their weddings (and their parents’ weddings and their grandparents’ weddings); the results will be incorporated into a companion exhibit on our website. So start pulling out your albums and finding your favorite photos now!

This summer we’ve gone “beyond chicken soup”, next summer we’ll get beyond “Sunrise, Sunset”… who knows how far we can go?




Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Insights: It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Posted on May 20th, 2016 by

Jonestown horizontal 4C


On May 29 we’re putting out the welcome mat as six of greater Jonestown’s well established historic and cultural attractions celebrate the arrival of three brand new facilities planned over the next few years.  We hope you’ll join JMM, the Carroll Museums, Zion Church of Baltimore, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, Port Discovery, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, and B’Nai Israel: The Downtown Synagogue, in saying “welcome!” to our future neighbors.

We thought it might be a good idea to share the backstory behind this event.  Most of you will recall that last October we facilitated the development of the Jonestown Vision Plan and the launch of the new Jonestown brand identity.  In the months since, we’ve continued to work closely with the community and Historic Jonestown Inc. (HJI), led by Lindsay Thompson and Joe Cronyn on ways to put our ambitious goals into practice.

HJI is in the process of organizing itself into affinity groups, bringing together the neighborhood’s social service organizations, its religious institutions, its hospitality industry and its historic/cultural organizations to work on parts of the plan that are a natural fit with each group.  Our historic/cultural group has been concentrating on events and programs.  We felt very fortunate to be included in the Carroll Mansion’s current partnership in support of the All American House and we are studying other two-way and three-way collaborations to bring life to the streets of Jonestown, including tentative plans for a plein air art experience on surrounding streets later this summer.

Meanwhile we’ve had some terrific news about institutions bringing new activity and energy to our immediate vicinity.  Just a block away from the Lloyd Street Synagogue, Ronald McDonald House is well on its way to starting construction on a new facility.  The new Ronald McDonald House, which will be built at 1200 E. Baltimore Street, will reflect a commitment to incorporate best practices into all of its programs and services. The new house is intended to fulfill an institutional goal of establishing Baltimore as providing not only quality pediatric care but the most effective and compassionate family-centered care in the world.  Amenities included in the design of the new house were carefully selected through input from staff, volunteers and families. The new House will serve approximately 55 families daily and 2,200 families a year.  We intend to extend outreach to both volunteers and families. The coming of the new facility will also mean upgrades for the adjacent McKim Park.

And just a block away from the park, at 1100 E. Fayette Street, Kevin Plank and Under Armour have provided more than $6 million in support for a new recreation center, scheduled to open later this year.  The new center will be operated by Living Classrooms.  Jonestown’s cultural institutions are exploring ways to engage youth at the new center in our ongoing programs.

Go just a few blocks further down Fayette  Street and you’ll come to 901, announced last January as the new site for the National Aquarium’s animal care and rescue center.  Preparations are beginning now for an anticipated 2018 opening.  The Aquarium hopes to provide some public access to this behind-the-scenes space.  Jonestown has been welcoming new immigrants for more than 200 years – now we’ll have new arrivals with fins and tails as well.

Welcome to the New Neighbors!

Welcome to the New Neighbors!

It seemed like a great time to bring these new institutions into the Jonestown family.  From 1pm to 4pm we’ll have family activities for every taste.  Art projects, craft work, storytelling from Port Discovery and our new friends at the National Aquarium are bringing with a bearded dragon… just in case you’ve never seen a real dragon, or at least a real dragon with a beard. Admission to the Museum and to all the activities is free.

Happy birthday Mr. Jones!

Happy birthday Mr. Jones!

Speaking of every taste, there will also be birthday cake.  Whose birthday you ask?  Well Jonestown, of course.  On June 15, 1641, David Jones built his home by the falls that bear his name (not to mention the expressway they put on top of it).  So we’ve decided to jump the gun just a little and pull out the 355th birthday cake at our Jonestown celebration.  It seems a fitting way to mark a milestone for Baltimore’s oldest neighborhood and newest destination:  Jonestown – proudly we hail.

~Marvin Pinkert

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Insights: Shammes or Shamus?*

Posted on April 15th, 2016 by

Starting May 1st!

From May 1 to July 10, 2016, our Historic Jonestown neighbor, the Carroll Mansion will be transformed into a showcase for some of the most innovative manufacturers and craftsmen in Baltimore and across the nation. The Mansion has been designated the “All American House” by the MADE: In America organization.  To celebrate, the city invited other historic sites to participate in presenting “Baltimore’s American Treasures.”  We couldn’t resist recognizing our own Lloyd Street Synagogue as the “All American Synagogue.

Built in 1845, the Lloyd Street Synagogue is the third oldest Jewish house of worship still standing in the United States.  The building was designed by Robert Cary Long Jr., a prominent architect of churches during that time. Nearly every component of the original building along with the 1860 renovation and addition were the result of American craft and manufacturers.

For several months a great team of interns and staff have been scouring  through records and photos related to the material culture of the building and its contents.  By “material culture” we mean the physical evidence of a culture; and the interpretation of objects and the social context in which they were made and employed.

Article on re-dedication of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, 1905

Our research included Baltimore City Directories from 1843-1845; newspapers, congregational  minutes, Maryland Historical Society archives, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Archives, and the JMM’s own thorough research files, etc. The building has had such an extensive history, serving first as a traditional synagogue founded by German immigrants, and transformed later into a congregation that embraced reform traditions. The building was later sold to a Lithuanian Catholic Church and years later sold again to immigrants from Eastern Europe that transformed the building into a thriving center for Jewish tradition in East Baltimore.  Each of the congregations used local manufacturers and craftsmen to build and design many of the elements featured in the buildings like the Holy Ark, the organ, and the pews.

Bell illustration by Jonathon Scott Fuqua

We’ve come up with many fresh insights, but found ourselves still struggling with a few unanswered questions.  Where did the original torah scroll come from, what happened to the church’s bell, and how did we get conflicting stories of how the current chandeliers were acquired?  We decided that the best way to resolve these mysteries was to “crowdsource” the clues.  And that has led to the idea of putting together – “The Book, Bell and Candle Mystery” experience, a tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue with an interactive twist.  Part of the Book, Bell and Candle Mystery, will be to share with you the new stories and clues we’ve uncovered about the ritual objects used in the building.  But part will also be to get your input on unanswered questions that we still have pertaining to the objects, so we can crack the mysteries.

Rendering of LSS chandelier

The Book, Bell and Candle Mystery will debut on Sunday May 1st @ 3:00 p.m., and continue at that same hour every Sunday through July 3.  Whether you identify with a synagogue shammes or an investigative shamus, you’ll find something in this experience that opens a new window on this great historic site. So put on your “gumshoes” and your thinking caps and join us in our search for answers.

*For those of you struggling with the pun in the title – click here to see the explanation (and have no “shame.” Half our staff couldn’t figure it out either. -MP)!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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