Journey with JMM

Posted on October 20th, 2017 by

JMM Insights: October 2017 

A blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

Students explore Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage

Students explore Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage

JMM exhibits and programs often transport our visitors to another time and place, whether to mid 19th century Palestine in The Amazing Mendes Cohen, pre-Holocaust Poland in Remembering Auschwitz, or one of our recent lectures in conjunction with Just Married! “Sephardic Weddings: Traditions of Yesterday and Today.” We are pleased to carry on this tradition with our newest exhibition, Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage which opened this past Sunday to a crowd of 100+ visitors, including a special student group from Oheb Shalom.

Created by the National Archives and Records Administration, with generous support from the U.S. Department of State, the exhibit documents the long and rich history of Jewish life in Iraq which flourished for hundreds of year, beginning with the Babylonian exile through the middle of the 20th century. Evidence of this long history is on view in the exhibit through such artifacts as a Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793, and a Haggadah from 1902. Records including school primers and business correspondence testify to the community’s strong presence up until the mid-20th century when Jews faced increasing antisemitism in connection with the rise of the Nazis in Europe. In the aftermath of World War II and the creation of the State of Israel, most of the Jewish community emigrated and today, only five Jews remain.

A case of books preserved by the National Archives.

A case of books preserved by the National Archives.

While the artifacts on display tell a fascinating narrative of a once storied community, the story of how the exhibit came into being is equally remarkable. During the Gulf War in 2003, American troops entered a bombed building that had housed Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services. They found, in the basement under four feet of water, thousands of books and documents relating to the Jewish community of Iraq that had been gathered by the secret police. Thanks to the efforts of the National Archives, a team of conservation experts flew out to Iraq to assess the damage and to make recommendations for how best to preserve the material.

What a great audience for our opening day speaker!

What a great audience for our opening day speaker!

We were pleased to welcome Doris Hamburg, former Director of Preservation Programs at the National Archives as our opening speaker on Sunday. Ms. Hamburg spoke about the challenging conditions she and her colleagues faced as they tried to save these documents while operating in the midst of a war zone. Despite the many obstacles they encountered, they were able to ship more than 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents to the US where conservation and preservation efforts continued as well as the creation of a traveling exhibit. JMM is proud to be the 6th stop on its national tour.

Discovery and Recovery remains on view through January 18, 2018. We invite you to take advantage of the many companion programs that will take place the next few months to learn more about the rich history of Iraq’s Jewish community through food, dance, art, film and personal testimony of former Iraqi residents.

 

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Inescapable: America’s first international superstar makes a return visit to Baltimore!

Posted on September 25th, 2017 by

A blog post by JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. You can read more posts by Marvin here.


JMM Insights, September 20, 2017

The New Year is upon us and in addition to wishing all our readers a happy and healthy year ahead, I wanted to share some exciting news about the year ahead.

By now most of you know about our next two major exhibits in the Feldman Gallery (both of which have their origin at the National Archives).  On October 15 we open Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage featuring more than 20 artifacts and documents from the Iraqi Jewish community, recovered and restored from Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters.  Looking ahead to next spring, we’ll be launching Amending America: Bill of Rights on April 9 and putting new focus on the Lloyd Street Synagogue as a landmark of religious freedom.

A pair of exhibits from the National Archives

A pair of exhibits from the National Archives

But this summer we’ve continued to add to our calendar, developing a concept for a month-long performance series called “JMM Live” in February, an expansion of our Baltimore edition of the “My Family History” project in March and a collaboration with the Everyman Theater and Rich Hollander on a companion exhibit to the upcoming play Book of Joseph highlights March and April.

Every one of these projects will be a quality experience (and of course, I love all my children and all my exhibits equally) but I have to admit there’s a special excitement around our most recent addition to the program calendar.  On June 21, 2018 we will premiere Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini.  Houdini, aka Erik Weisz, would be a fascinating subject for an exhibit in any time or place.  But the story of a poor immigrant who escaped the shackles of social norms to rise to the status of international celebrity seemed like an ideal topic for an exhibit in our era.  To put together this project we’ve reached out to public museums and private collectors across the country – but what really has made the exhibit possible is our extraordinary guest curator, Baltimore magician and storyteller David London.

Coming Summer 2018!

Coming Summer 2018!

David has been creating interactive magical experiences for over 20 years. He is the Director of Circus of Wonders, and has been fascinated with Harry Houdini since he was a child.  He tells me that he performed his first magic trick at age seven and even his Bar Mitzvah speech explored Jews and magic. Since he signed onto the project in August, he’s been using his network of contacts within the magician community to make this exhibit a truly one-of- a-kind encounter with Houdini and his world. As a special treat for our readers, David has agreed to write a guest blog that we are calling “Finding Houdini,” where he will document his journey over the next several months as his visits Houdini sites, museums and collections. To join him on his adventures, click here! Consider this a small dip of honey to make your New Year that much sweeter.

Shana Tova!

~Marvin

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JMM Insights: Welcome to the Team

Posted on August 18th, 2017 by

This month’s JMM Insights is from our newest team member, Lorie Rombro.

Hi! My name is Lorie Rombro and I am the JMM’s brand new archivist.

Hi! My name is Lorie Rombro and I am the JMM’s brand new archivist.

I have always enjoyed museums and, after college where I studied Archaeology and Anthropology, I went for a Masters in Museum Studies from George Washington University. That was an incredible experience; many of our classes were at the Smithsonian. Getting a chance to explore behind the scenes in the museums after they closed to the public really sparked my love of collections and archives.

I have spent the majority of my career until now working in historic house museums as well as assisting a donor in starting a museum in San Antonio, Texas.  My free time is spent with my husband, my two boys and our dog, Bowzer, which keeps me very busy!

The JMM Archives Room, where I've been spending a lot of my time!

The JMM Archives Room, where I’ve been spending a lot of my time!

This is my third week as the Archivist at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and so far this has been an amazing experience. I didn’t have a chance to physically see the JMM archives before I accepted the job, and now that I’ve had a chance to dive in I’m overwhelmed by just how much information is housed here! Our archives cover the rich and vibrant history of the Jews in Maryland, and there is a lot of it.

So I am exploring, which has always been one of my favorite parts of working in a museum. I am from Baltimore and, although I think I know my own history, I have been learning so much about the Jewish history of Maryland and the institutions, organizations and people who built our community.

So many things to see in our online collections!

So many things to see in our online collections!

As an explorer, of course I had to look up my own last name in the Past Perfect Collection Database (which is available online).   I wasn’t expecting to find anything, so I was pretty excited when a Bluefeld Caterers receipt from my father’s Bar Mitzvah in 1958 came up!  It seems like such a small thing but that one piece of paper led to an amazing conversation with my father.

A humble receipt leads to so much more!

A humble receipt leads to so much more!

My father showed me his Bar Mitzvah photo album, which I had never seen before. It was the first time I had ever seen a photo of his great grandmother and some of my own great grandparents. I learned more about my history from a catering receipt then I thought possible. It’s why preserving the past is so important and shows how much one piece of paper may mean to future generations. (Also as a parent of a 12 year old boy and planning a Bar Mitzvah myself I was really impressed with the $4 dollar a person catering price.)

I can’t wait to see what else I will discover as the archivist at the Jewish Museum of Maryland!

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