Posted on November 21st, 2013 by Rachel
The newest installment of “Dear Abby!”
My wife and I live in the North Pole, but every so often, we take the reindeer down to Baltimore to eat some good crabs and maybe catch a Raven’s game. At our last visit, we saw your brochure at the Visitors’ Center, and we tried to visit your museum. I say tried because we came across two problems. The first was that we couldn’t find a parking space! A sleigh is not exactly a compact vehicle, so street parking was out of the question, and your lot was full. We finally decided to give up and come another time when we saw a large group of schoolchildren walking into the museum. As much as we love children, due to the delicate nature of my occupation, it would simply be disastrous if I visited a museum while large numbers of children were present. We were also worried that the level of noise that generally comes with schoolchildren would startle our reindeer.
I don’t suppose you have any “adult only” hours at the museum?
Dear Mr. Kriss,
I’m sorry to hear that you had such a frustrating time trying to visit us! The lot that you saw across the street from us does not actually belong to the museum, unfortunately. That is a city lot, and it does often get filled up during the work week, as you saw. On Sundays, it is much easier to find a spot there, and on the street—which is free on Sundays too. There’s also a garage nearby where you can park. The entrance to the garage is on Baltimore St., just before crossing East St. To make it even better, we have a deal with that garage! The regular price for parking there is $5 for the day, but if you let us know that you parked there, we’ll give you a coupon that takes $2 off of that. You can also find information about parking at the museum on our website, here: http://jewishmuseummd.org/visiting/parking-and-transportation/.
School children discovering the Lloyd Street Synagogue.
As for not wanting to share the museum with a school group, that is an understandable dilemna. Schoolchildren can be very exuberant in their quest for knowledge (and in their excitement to be out of the classroom), and while some people might enjoy the energy that those kinds of fellow visitors bring to the museum experience, others might prefer a more peaceful, maybe even zen-like quality. If you (or your reindeer, in this case) are the latter kind of visitor, than I would recommend that you visit on a weekday afternoon. Most of our school groups come in the mornings, and our busiest day, in terms of any type of visitorship, is Sunday.
And don’t forget that, unlike many other museums, we are open on Mondays! You can extend that relaxing weekend feeling by visiting us on a Monday afternoon.
I hope this helped you and that we will be seeing you and the Mrs. very soon!
Have a question of your own for Abby? Click HERE to email her! Make sure to put “Dear Abby” in the subject line!
Posted on November 18th, 2013 by Rachel
It’s our second installment in the “Dear Abby” series!
My long-time friend from New York City—let’s call her “Flo”—is coming to visit, and I really want to show her a good time! I’m always hearing about life in the Big City, so this is my chance to show her that Baltimore has great things too. My very first thought was that the JMM would be the perfect place to take her! Flo volunteers at the Tenement Museum, so I think she’ll really enjoy seeing the synagogues and the exhibits. Flo can also be a bit of a snob when it comes to food—everything, it seems, tastes better in New York. I’d like to have the time to see the museum and also take her to a nice place for lunch. How long does it take to go through the whole museum, and are there any good places to eat that are nearby? Later on, we will meet up with her daughter, “Sarah,” who keeps kosher. Is there a kosher Starbucks nearby where we can meet her?
“Tired of hearing about the Big Apple”
Your friend probably talks so much about how great New York is because she’s jealous that you get to live in “Charm City.” This visit is your chance to show her a true Baltimore experience, so she can have that memory to take home with her and shout her love for Baltimore from the top of the Empire State Building. You are absolutely correct that the best way to do this is to take her to the JMM!
I would say you should allow yourself about 20-30 minutes in each exhibit—so that’s 60-90 minutes total for all three exhibits. Of course, a lot of it depends on the individual visitor. For example, I’m a compulsive reader, so I drive my friends and family nuts by making them wait for me as I take over an hour to go through one exhibit! However, I’ve seen that most visitor find that 20 minutes is the perfect amount of time to absorb what the exhibit is trying to say without experiencing the dreaded “museum fatigue.” The synagogue tour takes between 45 minutes to an hour—it depends on how many questions you ask the docent! The docents try to aim for 45 minutes, but if you get them started on their favorite topic within Jewish-American history, we can’t be held accountable for how long your tour will take! I can, however, promise that it will be enlightening.
Exploring “Voices of Lombard Street”
And, of course, you have to make time for the gift shop! What better way to impress your friend then by showing her the many wonderful things she can buy as a keepsake or as a thoughtful gift for a loved one at our museum shop? All together, I’d allow 2.5 to 3 hours for your visit.
To answer your question about feeding your friend, I will tell you that you are in luck! We happen to be located within easy walking distance of a great number of excellent eateries. Just on the block of Lombard Street that is diagonally across from the museum, there are not one, not two, but three delicatessens—Attman’s, Weiss’s, and Lenny’s—and, if you walk a few blocks south from us on Exeter St. or High St., you will find yourself in the heart of Baltimore’s charming Little Italy (which, I might add, is larger than what is left of NYC’s Little Italy). If you walk a little further south from there, you will enter the trendy Harbor East neighborhood, where there is everything from high quality fast food to fancy, white-cloth restaurants.
As for kosher food, that’s a little more difficult to find in downtown Baltimore. The only kosher restaurant downtown is a cute little café (dairy) called the Van Gough Café. It’s about a half-mile to three-quarters of a mile from the museum, on the corner of Ann St. and—you guessed it—Gough St.
Have a question of your own for Abby? Click HERE to email her! Make sure to put “Dear Abby” in the subject line!
Posted on October 11th, 2013 by Rachel
With our newest exhibition, Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War opening this weekend, we have heard from many Marylanders who have family connections to the Civil War. Through extensive research, some have assembled detailed family trees and fascinating documents that highlight their ancestors’ roles during the war. This week’s issue of JMM Insights focuses on genealogy and the variety of resources available at the JMM to assist individuals as they embark on family history research.
Each month the JMM receives dozens of requests by phone and email from individuals looking for all kinds of information about their families. The most common requests come from individuals from all over the country seeking the location of a relative’s (who lived in Baltimore) gravesite or date of birth or death. Sometimes people have detailed information about the relative in question but need just one final piece of information to complete their family tree. Other requests involve more extensive research when they have limited information but hope that we can help steer them in the right path towards learning more about their family’s history. Genealogical research is very much like trying to solve a mystery and it is often fascinating following the trail of clues from one source to another. Unfortunately we are not always able to find the specific information that the researcher is seeking but more often than not, we are able to provide them some assistance or to refer them somewhere else where they might be able to find what they are looking for.
Family History Resource Page
Thanks to the assistance of many JMM staff and volunteers who have worked for years compiling valuable databases that are essential for genealogy, the JMM has a variety of resources available for researchers. Many of these are available on our website (jewishmuseummd.org/collections-research/genealogy/). For example, indexed databases for cemeteries located throughout the state include the names of individuals buried at that site, along with the date of death of the individual in question, and the section in the cemetery in which the person is buried. This information is essential for people looking to find specific gravesites as so many cemeteries are large and encompass multiple congregational plots. Other records that are used frequently to assist individuals looking for information about dates of death and location of burial are the Jack Lewis Funeral Home records (1924-1939 and 1956-1965)and the Baltimore Jewish Times obituaries.
People who want to conduct more extensive genealogical research can make an appointment to visit our library to look through our resources which also include bound editions of the Baltimore Jewish Times, census records, city directories and passenger manifest lists of ships from Europe that brought immigrants to the Port of Baltimore. We also serve as a repository for people who have compiled family trees and these are available for researchers, as well. Further resources include a database of Baltimore’s religious personnel, Yizkhor (Memorial) books of East European towns, and circumcision, midwife, and marriage records of individual Baltimore-area mohels, midwives and rabbis.
The JMM also maintains a list of referrals for researchers when we do not have the resources that they need to complete their searches.
As many of you are aware, several months ago, in order to balance the JMM budget, we made some difficult decisions that resulted in the elimination of two full-time staff positions, both of which provided valuable assistance to researchers. While other members of the JMM staff have stepped up to ensure that we are still able to provide access to our collections for researchers, we have also found two outstanding new volunteers who have taken on the task of working directly with researchers.
Edie speaking to a group from the Jewish Genealogical Society of MD.
Edie Shlian began volunteering in July. Edie has extensive experience conducting research into her own family’s history and in the few months that she has been here, she has provided invaluable assistance handling genealogy-related requests. Edie has become quite familiar with our resources and has had some wonderful successes tracking down vital information for researchers. Genealogy is truly a passion for Edie and we are fortunate to have found someone so dedicated to providing assistance on behalf of the JMM.
John Sondheim is a member of the JMM Collections Committee. A retired librarian from the Enoch Pratt Library John has extensive knowledge about local Jewish history. John is working with senior collections manager Jobi Zink to provide assistance to students, scholars and museum professionals who are interested in conducting research in our collections. Thanks to John’s hard work and dedication, we have been able to keep our library open regularly for research appointments.
We are most appreciative of the work that Edie, John, and the many other volunteers who work in our library perform as they compile genealogical databases, scan photographs, identify people in photographs, organize our vertical files, transcribe oral histories and memoirs, and process archival and photographic collections by creating new folders and boxes for materials. It is through their collective efforts that we are able to make our collections accessible to the public and to perform such a valuable service in connecting people to their past.
How To Make Use of JMM Resources
If you are interested in conducting research at the JMM, the first place to start is with our website. As mentioned above, many of our genealogical databases can be downloaded directly from our website. In addition, our collections database is available online (jmm.pastperfect-online.com/) and is the first place to start if you are looking to see if we have objects, photographs or documents that are of interest to your particular area of research.
Past Perfect Search Screen
Once you have searched through our online resources and determine that you would like to come in to research materials further, it is necessary to make an advanced appointment. Appointments can be made through the following means:
- For collections research, call (410) 732-6400 x213 / firstname.lastname@example.org. It is helpful to provide the catalog number of particular items from the database you would like to see and a good description of the project you are working on.
- For family history research, call (410) 732-6400 x224 / email@example.com
- For photograph reproductions, call (410)732-6400 x219 / firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, please note the catalog number and description of the photograph you would like reproduced.
Please note that messages left on by phone or email are checked by staff one-time per week and it is not always possible for someone to return your message immediately. Please try to give ample notice when you wish to make an appointment as it can take several weeks before we can accommodate your request.
One of the wonderful benefits of JMM membership is that there is no charge to make an appointment for research. For non-members there is an $8 daily fee.
Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland
We are pleased to report that the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland has recently begun holding regular meetings for its members and that the JMM is proud to partner with this organization to make our genealogical records more accessible. The JGS of Maryland is an association of individuals in our community who are searching for their roots and growing their family trees. The group meets on a regular basis to share information, overcome “brick walls”, and to enhance knowledge and skills. The JGS of Maryland recognizes the importance of web based research and helps members identify and use the most valuable sites for Jewish genealogy. Members of the society regularly offer lectures and workshops regarding Jewish genealogy to the community and help others interested in discovering their ancestors and their places of origin. For more information, check out their website at www.jewishgen.org/jgs-maryland.
Be sure to stop by the JMM this weekend as we open Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. Our members opening takes place on Saturday, October 12 at 7:30pm followed by our opening to the public on Sunday, October 13. For more details, visit our website, jewishmuseummd.org/calendar-event/upcoming/.