Posted on December 16th, 2016 by Rachel
Opening June 18, 2017
In last June’s JMM Insights I let you know that we were working on a project to draw objects, photos and documents from our rich collection to create the exhibit Just Married! Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland (link: to the JMM insights article). Six months later we are well on our way to our goal. Joanna has combed our vaults for the most interesting invitations, ketubim, party favors and of course, beautiful wedding gowns. We have engaged an innovative design team led by Jeremy Hoffman of Ashton Design, a Baltimore firm. We are working on organizing all of the material into themes, looking at provocative questions about the meaning of the wedding and its symbols, the obstacles couples face and the way we remember wedding days. We even have a section on the business of weddings. Our education team is developing interactive experiences that we will incorporate into the exhibit – can you match the menu item or wedding tune with the right decade?
Rose Shapira of Pittsburgh married Sol Meyer Freedman of Baltimore on November 8, 1921. Gift of Shirley Freedman, JMM 1989.211.9, 6.26
Our collection is particularly strong in items from Baltimore from the late 19th century to the 1950s. Our goal, however is to represent the broadest cross-section of the Jewish wedding experience in Maryland – small towns as well as the big city, early history as well as recent history, and inclusive of all kinds of marriages, from every denomination (and non-denomination). This is where you, dear reader, are called on to help. We’ve now made it easy for you to share images with us through our special new url:
Here you can upload wedding photos and invitations (you can’t upload your gown, but a photo is much easier to store). While not every photo may be displayed in the exhibit, all of them will become part of our on-line catalog…and who doesn’t want the chance to say that their wedding or their parents’ or grandparents’ wedding is preserved in a museum.
Deborah Kaplan, daughter of Dr. Louis Kaplan, married Efrem M. Potts on November 24, 1949 at Chizuk Amuno, Baltimore. Gift of Efrem M. Potts. JMM 1995.192..11, 239
Besides preserving your own family history, you will be helping us build a documentary database of the wedding experiences of Jewish Maryland over time and this database will be of value to future generations. Our highest priority is to get a photo, an invite and basic factual information on as many weddings as you can. It doesn’t have to be your own wedding – but make sure that you have permission to send us the image; we don’t want to hear from Aunt Sadie that she never intended that bridesmaid’s dress to go public.
Florence Hendler married Howard Caplan on January 21, 1932, at the Southern Hotel, Baltimore. Invitation: gift of Naomi Biron Cohen, JMM 2009.58.9; photo: Anonymous gift, JMM 1918.104.22.168
There are no restrictions on the date or type of ceremony… we welcome the quiet elopement as well as the grand ball; the couple could have had fifty years of wedded bliss or ended in a quick divorce (though my “Aunt Sadie” advice applies here too). The only constraint is that there is some Maryland connection and some Jewish connection. This photo for example is ineligible because the bride is from Pittsburgh and the groom from Chicago:
…but I like it anyway.
So help us demonstrate the incredible diversity of loving relationships in our community and in our state. Add your image to the collection this December and we’ll thank you for it on Valentine’s Day!
Posted on November 18th, 2016 by Rachel
In the middle ages, alchemists sought out the philosopher’s stone that could turn base metal into gold. They never found it. But in 19th and 20th century America, entrepreneurs, mainly poor immigrants of Jewish or Italian heritage, found a way to turn waste materials into productive assets – in the process, not only transforming metal, rag and rubber, but also their own lives and their own communities.
In October 2018 the Jewish Museum of Maryland will launch a major national traveling exhibit called American Alchemy: Junk to Scrap to Recycling that will for the first time bring the largely untold history of this industry to a wider public.
Bales of rags. Shapiro Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 1942
We have been laying the groundwork for this project for nearly a year (in fact its origins go back to ideas generated in 2008). We have been researching photos and artifacts, assembling an exhibit team, developing budgets and funding plans. But it was just yesterday that the project had its formal launch as we invited leaders of scrap businesses from across the region to convene at JMM. Neal Shapiro, former president of Cambridge Iron and Metal here in Baltimore, and a consultant on the project helped assemble the gathering. We took them through Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America – a project that has much in common with our new venture:
> a similar scale and blend of “real things” and interactive experiences;
> a paired effort to explore both history and technology (and for the American Alchemy exhibit we will also add the art of recycling);
> an exhibition that works equally well for school groups and general visitors.
After the brief tour, I described our concept – it has a scope that stretches from an ad for scrap brass and copper by Paul Revere to the first car shredders to the latest metal analyzer guns. I also explained that while it would inevitably have a lot to say about the Jewish community (it’s estimated that just a few decades ago 80% of all scrap CEOs were Jewish), this particular exhibit was about the whole story of the industry – and would include people from all ethnic backgrounds who made the transformation from push carts to global enterprises possible.
An automobile graveyard outside Baltimore, Maryland, August 1941. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Next, we swapped stories. We learned about businesses with unlikely sites (e.g. Jersey Shores, PA), unlikely artifacts (e.g. a terrorist bombed Israeli bus – it was saved, not scrapped) and unlikely misfortunes (e.g. what happens when you drop a large battery in downtown DC). But more importantly we learned that we were “family” – as some of the senior members of the group recounted their memories of the parents and grandparents of their assembled “competitors.” Even I got to tell a few stories about the scrap metal and rag businesses owned by my family – and lessons learned that carry over to my work in museums.
So many stories around the room
On Monday we take the next step in our project’s development – a team meeting in New York, with our curator, Jill Vexler (also grew up in a scrap business household) and our designer, Alchemy Studio led by Wayne LaBar. We’ll be taking this huge topic and compressing it to 2,000 square feet – even a bigger trick than compressing a car into a bundle of metal with a hydraulic press!
If you are reading this newsletter and happen to have photos or documents related to the scrap industry, please contact Deborah Cardin at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are just interested in learning more about the exhibit and staying in the loop as our plans progress feel free to contact either Deborah or me.
Posted on October 21st, 2016 by Rachel
No Tricks, Just Treats!
I am always on the hunt for other worldly spirits and was looking for a new location to explore. Do you have any suggestions?
The Ghost Busters
While we have not heard of our Museum campus being haunted, I would encourage you to take one of our regularly scheduled tours of our two historic synagogues, Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel, to learn about the different congregations that worshipped there as well as to admire the beautiful architecture. On the tour, you will also be able to appreciate the building in a whole new light (with fewer dark shadows) as we have recently completed some improvements to the Lloyd Street Synagogue. We have repaired missing lamps, installed new carpeting, cleaned the cushions for the pew seats, and repainted areas that suffered scars and scuffs from wear. There is also a new mezuzah affixed to the doorpost of the synagogue. While we did not find any ghosts, we did uncover a beautiful spiritual place.
A spruced up synagogue!
In my travels around the world, I overheard you have a wonderful exhibit on Jews and Medicine. Could you tell me a bit more about it?
Yes, we are in the last ninety days of the Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America exhibit, as the exhibit closes on January, 16, 2017! Inside the exhibit, you’ll journey through the worlds of health in the mid-20th century, from med school to the doctor’s office, hospital, lab and pharmacy-and even a trip to the gym. You will also view rarely seen historic manuscripts, experience hands-on encounters with medicine and ethics, and examine the links between traditions and contemporary practices. You may also learn some surprising facts in the exhibit. For instance, did you know that in the 20th century, Jewish nurses were expected both to learn to serve tea properly AND to sing Christmas carols! Or that in the 19th century, anyone who could afford to pay tuition could attend medical school (a high school diploma was not even needed). If you would like to find out more, please visit our website. We hope you will visit soon, and maybe you can even bring a friend or two!
Come explore Beyond Chicken Soup!
I am the headmaster of a wizarding school and a student of mine told me that he flew into your Museum last month to see the world premiere of Henrietta Szold’s performance. Can you tell me more about Henrietta and how can I arrange the actress to perform at my school?
We launched our newest living history character, Henrietta Szold, last month to rave reviews. Henrietta Szold, was the daughter of a rabbi who broke with the traditional role of women to become a champion of Jewish engagement. Her tenacity and courage played a vital role in the expansion of social services, medical services and the founding of the state of Israel.
Natalie Pilcher Smith as Henrietta
Henrietta is eager to begin performing at schools, senior centers, synagogues and other organizations. Please contact me at 443-873-5167 or by email at email@example.com to schedule your visit. The cost is $300 plus mileage per performance, but we also offer subsides for schools. If you are at the Museum you may also try and spot the bust and plaque of Henrietta!
I’m normally pretty busy this time of year, but a few of my friends are asking of things to do in the area. I usually go drinking on Halloween itself, but do you have anything to get me in the mood the day before?
We have planned our ghoulish stuff for pre-Halloween, Sunday, Oct. 30th (which is also our Free Fall Day, freaky, right?) Our special lecture will be “Collecting, Preserving and Exhibiting: Exploring the Collections of the Nation’s Medical Museum”. You never know what lurks in their basement. When you are in the Museum, check out our shop where we have some medically themed merchandise, some of which might make nice gifts for Dr. Moreau or Dr. Frankenstein or other similarly disposed physicians on your Halloween treat list.
Some perfectly spooky options for this Halloween!
For more creepy fun you can also stay connected to the JMM by visiting our social media pages where we are featuring the hashtag #PageFrights, which is a month long social media celebration of Halloween. And if you need a break from the radio’s endless repetition of Monster Mash – we have something for you too: The ShowTime Singers will also be offering a free after hours concert at 5pm where they will be performing songs that audiences can easily relate to – and perhaps even sing along with – like Broadway tunes, patriotic numbers and even a little rock and roll.