JMM Insights: Dear Abby June 2014

Posted on June 13th, 2014 by

Dear Abby,

When I was a young whippersnapper, I traveled extensively to lands near and far, and I acquired a precious ring on one of these journeys. Several years ago, I donated this ring to the JMM for safekeeping, because it was causing an inordinate amount of strife within my family. I would like to check up on the ring on my next visit the museum, will I be able to see it? I understand that you have topnotch security—which is why I chose your establishment in the first place.

Sincerely,

Your Friend from Middle Earth

 

Dear Middle Earth,

If you want to make sure that you will see your precious ring when you visit us, I would recommend that you make an appointment with our Collections Manager several weeks ahead of time. Many museums, including the JMM, have more things in our collections than we could possibly put on display at any one time. If your donated item is going to be used in an exhibit, we will be sure to let you know. Otherwise, it is probably safely tucked away in an acid-free box in our basement.

Best Wishes,

Abby

 

Dear Abby,

I recently retired from my high-energy job, and I am already bored, bored, bored! I just can’t get used to having all that free time and quiet in the house. There are only so many times you can get coffee or lunch with your friends until you’ve run out of things to gossip about. And you know you’ve got it really bad when you’ve rearranged the furniture so many times that you’ve worn out the carpet you only bought 6 months ago. I have lots of energy and I need some way of using it! Do you take volunteers at the JMM? How do I sign up? I don’t have any museum work experience, so do you provide training?

Yours Truly,

Bored Out of My Mind

 

Dear Bored Out of My Mind,

We have many, many wonderful volunteers here at the JMM! And we honestly, we don’t know what we would do without them. If you are interested in volunteering with us, the first step is to call or email our amazing Volunteer Coordinator, Ilene Cohen, at (410) 732-6400 x217 or icohen@jewishmuseummd.org.

Ilene will tell you about the various volunteer opportunities that we have. These include giving tours (being a docent), helping in the shop, and manning our front desk. All of these are very important positions. Being a relatively small staff with big ambitions for serving our community, we often find ourselves stretched too thin. That’s where our incredible volunteers come in. We depend on you to help us fill in the spaces where we can’t be.

Ilene will also work with you to find what your expertise and interests are, to see how we can best utilize your talents. She will also take the time to tell you everything you need to know for your position and give you the time and space to practice.

Generally, we ask that our volunteers commit to coming in at least twice a month. Typical daily volunteer shifts are from 11am to 4pm, though it can be changed a little to suit the individual volunteer’s schedule. The only exception to this is for the docents, who only come in for 2-3 hours at a time for very specific times of the day.

As a volunteer, you enjoy some perks here at the JMM. In addition to getting a 20% discount at the giftshop, there are a few opportunities during the year when we have special programs and field trips for our volunteers. And of course, you get the inside scoop on everything that’s happening at the Museum!

If you want to hear more about what our volunteers do, you can read our Volunteer Spotlight blogposts here: http://jewishmuseummd.org/?s=Volunteer+Spotlight

Best Wishes,

Abby

 

Dear Abby,

I clean house for a family of seven bachelors. They are hard working fellows, but they track in a ridiculous amount of mud around the house—I can barely keep up with them with the mop! I would like to have a full day with them out of the house, so that I can give the house a nice, deep clean. Maybe I’ll even bake them an apple pie for when they return home…

Anyway, I saw an ad for your museum in the newspaper, and I thought this could be the perfect place to send those little men for a day of much needed culture! Do I need to make a booking for them to visit the Museum? How do I do that, and what is the admission fee? If I book a tour for them, what will that tour cover?

Thank you for all your help!

Sincerely,

The Fairest Housekeeper of Them All

 

Dear Fairest Housekeeper,

You’ve already completed the first step to booking a tour at the Museum—talking to me! I arrange all group visits to the museum—including school groups, synagogue groups, social groups, you name it! That being said, our definition of a “group” that is eligible for the group rate discount is ten people, so if your seven bachelors have three friends they’d like to bring with them, and they (or you) schedule their visit in advance with me, then they can pay only $5 per person. If not, then they will have to pay the normal individual admission rate, which you can find here: http://jewishmuseummd.org/visiting/admissions-fees/.

Since group visits are scheduled in advance, we can arrange for tours of almost anything you want—within reason, of course! Most likely, we won’t be able to give you a tour of the collections unless you call our Collections Manager well in advance of your visit and talk it through with her. We always give tours of the Lloyd Street and B’nai Israel synagogues five times a day (for the full schedule, read here: http://jewishmuseummd.org/visiting/#MuseumHours) For scheduled group visits, however, we offer the additional possibility of having a docent lead your group through our special exhibitions.

I hope this answers all of your questions, and if it doesn’t, please call or email me—I would be happy to talk it over with you.

Best Wishes,

Abby Krolik

 

Dear Abby,

My family is planning our vacation to Baltimore for late July this year (I know, it seems like the worst time to come to Baltimore, but don’t you worry, we’re from Texas, so Baltimore will feel positively cool to us!). It’s common knowledge that no visit to Baltimore is complete without stopping by the JMM, so you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be there! I see that the Project Mah Jongg exhibit will be closed by then, and that The A-Maze-ing Mendes Cohen won’t open until September, so what will we be able to see in July? Will there be something family-friendly for all ages? We’ve got a wide range of ages in my family—both actual and mental!

Thank you for your help!

Sincerely,

Your Fans from the Lone Star State

 

Dear Lone Star State,

Never fear, there is always something exciting happening at the JMM! Not only can visitors always see our two historic synagogues and our permanent exhibits, Voices of Lombard Street and The Synagogue Speaks, but we’ve also got something brand new coming this July. Last year, we noticed that we were going to have several “dark” weeks between the close of Mah Jongg and the opening of Mendes, so we’ve decided to try something we’ve never done before, and we’re calling it The Electrified Pickle!

Pickle_logo4For five weeks, starting on July 13th, the Feldman Gallery (where our temporary exhibitions usually are) is turning into a Makers’ space, where people of all ages can explore innovation through the ages with a mix of displays of old fashioned technology and hands-on workshops. Each Sunday during this time will have a different theme. The first one will be “Power This!,” with a focus on electricity and girl power. The following Sundays will be “Print This!”; “Fly This!”; “Imagine This!” and “Code This!.” There will also be a community art project component to which all of our visitors will be able to contribute.

As we get closer to the date, be sure to check for more information about our programming for The Electrified Pickle on our website, www.jewishmuseummd.org!

We can’t wait to see where this new project will take us, and we definitely want you and your family to be  part of the experience!

Best Wishes, Abby

abby krolik copyDear Abby is written by our Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby, click here.

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JMM Insights May 2014: Project Mah Jongg & Education

Posted on May 9th, 2014 by

Since the successful opening of Project Mah Jongg, The Education and Programs Department has planned some wonderful programming for adults in connection with the exhibit.  We’re particularly excited for our Mother’s Day Mah Jongg Madness event this Sunday and our upcoming “The Art of Mah Jongg” talk with Robert Mintz, chief curator at The Walters Art Gallery on Sunday June 8th.
In addition to our Sunday programs we have been delighted to welcome a charming stream of mah jongg mavens to the Museum. These groups of ladies are coming down to the JMM during our early morning opening hours; often armed with their  own mahj sets and accoutrements for play (if you’re looking for a few mah jongg themed items yourself, don’t worry, our museum shop has got you covered!).  It seems that the ladies are making the JMM a destination for the day (something we highly recommend).  The first order of the day, of course, is visiting our special exhibit Project Mah Jongg; then it’s a leisurely browse through the Museum shop and a visit to the neighborhood for lunch only to head back to the lobby for some intense game play, and then finish up the day taking advantage of the synagogue tours – a full day indeed!

Talmudic Academy 2014

Talmudic Academy 2014

While these lovely ladies are a natural audience for all things mah jongg, the challenge of the exhibit for our department was how to present Project Mah Jongg to school groups? Learning to play mah jongg can be challenging and we couldn’t actually teach a group of students how to play the game in twenty minutes. Mah jongg takes practice to really understand the strategies and even just learning the different symbols on the tiles takes time. We knew we needed to develop an experiential learning opportunity – a way for students to engage and apply academic understandings through hands-on experience, while simultaneously learning new information about the world around them.

Younger students learning at play.

Younger students learning at play.

For inspiration, we turned to the mah jongg handbook. We started by looking for key words that described the game, keeping in mind that students from third to twelfth grade would need to understand.  Success! First we had to familiarize students with the building blocks of the game: the tiles! So we concentrated on the basic symbols – bams, craks, dots and jokers.  Then we tackled math concepts: doubles, triples, quads and quints, consecutive, sequence – a perfect way to fuse classroom learning with the basics of how to win at mah jongg.  From there we developed a hands-on experience where the students could actually play a modified version of the game and apply simple math strategies.  Younger students were given Mah Jongg Mats where players take turns picking tiles, working to complete their mats using the new math concepts that were introduced earlier.  Older students were given a modified card for mah jongg play and used rules similar to the card game “rummy,” using the mah jongg tiles to mimic the different types of hands for play on the “card.” In this way we elevated game playing into an exercise in set theory and critical thinking skills.

Our older students are equally fascinated!

Our older students are equally fascinated!

Project Mah Jongg really pushed us to think creatively with our educational activities and we were nervous – would the students understand?  Would they be engaged and enjoy playing the modified version of the game?  Well, we are excited to report that the students and their teachers have all commented how much fun Mah Jongg is!  Both versions of the game are proving to be popular – most students really seem to enjoy playing with their friends. All of our teacher evaluations have indicated a positive feedback for the exhibits and the engaging learning activities connected to our exhibits.  The teachers for both the younger and older grades have even inquired as to where they can obtain sets to bring back to the classroom!

ileneA blog post by Ilene Dackman-Alon, Education Director. To read more posts from Ilene, click here.

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JMM Insights April 2014

Posted on April 18th, 2014 by

Above the Sea

Each year the Jewish Museum of Maryland offer a major presentation on immigration made possible through the generous support of Frank and Helen Risch.  Frank’s parents, Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch, sought refuge in Baltimore in 1937, fleeing the storm of Nazi persecution.

In the first seven years of this program, we have focused on the experience of emigration and exile in America, offering performances, stories and lectures on immigrant populations from the great wave of Eastern European Jews of the late 1890s to the most recent arrivals from around the globe.  This year we are offering insights into another way station of refuge, thousands of miles from our shores.  Shanghai, whose name literally means “above the sea” was high ground for thousands of Jews escaping from the same forces that brought the Risch family to Baltimore.

Mark Your Calendar!

Mark Your Calendar!

Helping us explore this topic is an exceptional expert, Rabbi Marvin Tokayer. Rabbi Tokayer previously served as United States Air Force Chaplain in Japan. Upon his discharge he returned to Tokyo to serve for eight years as rabbi for the Jewish community of Japan. In addition to numerous Japanese-language books and contributions to the Encyclopedia Judaica, Rabbi Tokayer is the author of The Fugu Plan, and co-author of the newly published Pepper, Silk and Ivory: Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East.

Additions for the "to be read" pile!

Additions for the “to be read” pile!

Rabbi Tokayer has entitled his talk:  “From Poverty to Culture: The Refugee Community in Shanghai During World War ll.” This will be a powerful evocation of how the 20,000 Jews of Shanghai struggled against impossible odds to not only survive, but thrive in this unexpected refuge. The program will be held Sunday, May 18th at 2:00pm and will take place at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, located 7401 Park Heights Ave, Baltimore, MD 21208.  The program is free to the public – so be sure to invite all your friends!

To coincide with the Risch Memorial Program we are putting together a small lobby display using materials from our collections, which will be on view during the month of May.   It turns out that Baltimore and the Jewish Museum of Maryland both have some strong connections to the Jews of Shanghai. You may have noticed the photograph used in this year’s Risch Memorial Program publicity, which pictures a couple sitting in a rickshaw. We would like to introduce you to that couple: Wilheim Kurz and Selma (Hirschfeld) Kurz. Wilheim and Selma were both Holocaust survivors. They met as refugees and theirs was the first Jewish wedding in the Shanghai Jewish colony!  They moved to Baltimore in 1947 and Wilheim was kind enough to bequeath his Jewish materials (including photographs and archival documents) to the Museum. We are hard at work transcribing an oral history done with Wilheim in 1979 and look forward to sharing more of Wilheim and Selma’s story with you as it is revealed.

Wilheim and Selma Kurz, 2004.43.4.

Wilheim and Selma Kurz, 2004.43.4.

We know there are more legacies of the Jewish Colony in Shanghai out there! We’ve identified at least two other individuals associated with the city who now reside in the metro area.  We encourage you to contact us with your stories and your materials. And if you know anyone who lived in Shanghai, we would love to invite them to the program – please send us their contact information. If you have any information to share, contact Trillion Attwood at tattwood@jewishmuseummd.org /410-732-6400 x215.

Shanghai Ghetto in 1943

Shanghai Ghetto in 1943

If you’re interested in learning more about the Jewish Colony of Shanghai, there is actually a pretty good start at Wikipedia, but we know our JMM explorers will want to go further. If you are seeking a list of the numerous books and memoirs about the experience, including Rabbi Tokayer’s The Fugu Plan, you can find a great collected list here at the The Shanghai Jewish Tours website. If you happen to be traveling, you might want to stop by China’s Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum – last year they sent their “Jewish Refugees in Shanghai (1933-1941)” exhibit on a three city tour of the US.  There’s even a Chinese animated family film (and graphic novel) called A Jewish Girl in Shanghai – and you can rent a streaming copy here. 

Check the JMM website for an upcoming blog post on Jewish-Chinese connections and if you are looking for the lighter side of that connection – find a foursome and visit (or revisit) Project Mah Jongg.

 

 

 

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