Posted on July 17th, 2015 by Rachel
Lloyd Street has been a historic place to worship, a place to visit, a place to shop and a place to live, but next month it becomes something it has never been – a place to watch movies!
JMM’s summer experiment with outdoor film is about more than an evening’s entertainment, it is even more than a great accompaniment to our latest exhibit, Cinema Judaica. Our free movie nights are part of a much larger effort to redefine the future of the Historic Jonestown neighborhood of Baltimore.
Perfect for Summer
As regular readers of this newsletter know, the JMM has been working with neighborhood organizations for the last year on a project to develop a “community vision.” The vision encompasses concepts for land use (especially the activation of vacant lots), landscaping and spatial connectivity of commercial and cultural developments, and the creation of a brand identity for the community. JMM, as an anchor institution of Historic Jonestown, served as a catalyst for the project. Working with The Associated we have brought on a team of urban planners from the firm of Mahan Rykiel to help the community find its voice. We received underwriting from both the France-Merrick Foundation and the Goldseker Foundation in support of this effort. Mahan Rykiel has been meeting with members of the Jonestown Planning Council and Historic Jonestown, Inc. as well as public officials to talk about the challenges and opportunities for the community. At the end of this month, they will hold a public meeting to discuss what they’ve heard and take input on a potential brand that will put Historic Jonestown on the map.
So what does this have to do with movies? Well, the thrust of this whole exercise is two-fold: 1) to bind together the neighborhood and 2) to illustrate the potential of the community for future development. Our experiment in free cinema is one small step to meet both goals. On the one hand, the films are an invitation to local residents and business patrons to participate in the life of JMM. On the other hand, bringing visitors from other parts of the city onto our streets at night sends a powerful message about the future of Lloyd Street and the yet-to-be-developed parcels that adjoin us.
Two Must-See Classics!
Our outdoor screenings are scheduled for Sunday, August 9 (The Great Dictator) and Sunday, August 23 (Gentleman’s Agreement). The films themselves will be shown on an inflatable 9’ tall by 12’ wide screen which we’re setting up in the parking lot across the street from our front door. The films will start at 8pm to get us close to sunset. Like our neighbors at St. Leo’s, our film fest is a BYOC* event (bring your own chairs).
The museum will stay open during the film. And admission to the museum after 5pm will also be free. We’re setting up picnic tables in our courtyard if you would like to bring your own food for a pre-movie picnic. We’ve invited food trucks to join us – look for an update on who is coming in our August 7 Museum Matters.
For those who really want to make a day of it there is even an afternoon program to go with each film. At 3pm on Aug. 9, Dr. David Ward of the University of Pittsburgh will be speaking on “Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator: Fighting Fascism with a Movie” and at 3pm on August 23 Dr. Greg Metcalf of University of Maryland, Baltimore County will be offering his take on the world of Jewish film in “From The Jazz Singer to Alvy Singer: The Depiction of Jews in Hollywood Film from Al Jolson to Woody Allen.” Both lectures are included in the price of daytime admission. (By the way, we also have a third film offering in August on the 16th at 5:30pm – we’re showing this one indoors because of its early start time – the film is the animated classic An American Tail).
Enjoy an early evening with the kids!
For those of you wondering about the logistics of the outdoor films: We will run the films, rain or shine (though if it is rain, we will move the film indoors and just pretend we’re outdoors). Since we’re making use of the parking lot for the film – we’ve made arrangements with Lenny’s and Attman’s to borrow their parking spaces that evening (both restaurants are closed on Sunday nights).
So circle these dates on your calendar – come for the films, come for the picnic, come for the exhibit, but most importantly come to be part of a vibrant future for Historic Jonestown, a genuine happy ending to Lloyd Street’s cinema debut.
Posted on June 19th, 2015 by Rachel
As the nation celebrated Flag Day this past Sunday, the JMM made one last connection to the life of Jewish Baltimorean extraordinaire, Mendes Cohen, through activities and a talk with conservator Michelle Pagan that explored one of the most iconic objects on display in the exhibit, the flag that Mendes. Mendes created the flag in 1832 as he sailed up the Nile River proudly displaying his love for his country. This event marked the culmination of our ten month celebration of the life and times of Mendes Cohen and his family. We were thrilled by the positive response we received from visitors, many of whom expressed their surprise at never having heard of Mendes before, as well as their delight in finally ”meeting” this amazing man.
The following is a summary of exhibit highlights:
Accolades – Coverage of the exhibit on WYPR and MPT, as well as in articles in the Jewish Times, the Forward and Humanities (the magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities), helped spread the message encouraging people to come and discover the story of Mendes Cohen. It was hard to top the Forward’s review which encouraged readers to “Forget the National Aquarium: The Cohen exhibit – along with the museum’s permanent exhibit, “Voices of Lombard Street” makes the Jewish Museum of Maryland a must visit for tourists to Baltimore.” To cap things off, the JMM was a recipient of the 2015 Leadership in History Awards Winners for The A-mazing Mendes Cohen by the American Association of State and Local History.
On the cover of the Baltimore Jewish Times
Partnerships – The A-mazing Mendes Cohen is an example of a model collaborative project and was brought to fruition through several important partnerships. We opened the exhibit during weekend festivities celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore which gave us the opportunity to partner with several local agencies and to be part of such anniversary events as the commemoration of the Battle of Bladensburg and the Defenders Day Celebration at North Point.
Mendes at Bladensburg
The Maryland Historical Society, as the repository of the bulk of the Cohen family papers, was vital to the exhibit’s success. We are so grateful to Burt Kummerow, president of MHS and his staff, for granting us access to their rich collections of material and to lending us such important documents such as the firman that Mendes received from the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire allowing him entry into Palestine and his travel diary.
Travel Firman, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society.
As we began planning the exhibit, JMM executive director Marvin Pinkert had a brainstorm that proved transformational. He reached out to Kelly Fernandi of Minotaur Mazes and the notion of capturing the twists and turns of Mendes’s life through a physical maze design was born. Kelly became an enthusiastic member of the Mendes Cohen Fan Club and contributed not only to the exhibit design but also to content and image research. Thanks to weekly meetings (by phone as Kelly is based in Seattle) we enjoyed a high degree of collaboration with our designer whose strong vision for the exhibit helped shape its final outcome.
New Findings – Each new exhibition involves extensive research in the JMM’s archives and collections as well as at other repositories. While we thought we knew a lot about Mendes Cohen and had previously created an educational resource kit exploring his connections to 19th century Palestine as well as published an article in Generations, our knowledge about Mendes and his family continued to expand as we uncovered new information through many different sources. Thanks to the painstaking efforts of researcher, Joseph Abel, Ph.D, who transcribed the bulk of the letters that Mendes wrote home from abroad, we were able to place Mendes at many seminal 19th century events including the student revolts in Paris, the coronation of a new king in England and the installation of a new Pope in Rome.
A couple of very special visitors made it to the last day of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen!
The most wonderful new piece of research was unveiled at our penultimate program, an exploration of the Cohen Family Tree. The exhibit claims that there are no known descendants of Israel and Judith Cohen. Genealogist Dick Goldman decided to challenge this assertion and was able to find new branches of the family descended from Alan Cohen III who changed his name to Clarke (hence, our difficulty in finding relatives) after he converted to Catholicism. Alan’s grandson Ronald Brown was one of our very last visitors to the exhibit on Sunday.
The Ghost of Mendes Cohen – The exhibit served as inspiration for the development of the JMM’s newest living history character, none other than Mendes himself, who comes back from the grave to revisit select moments from his incredible life. After debuting performances during many of the War of 1812 commemorative events that took place last summer, Grant Cloyd, the actor who portrays Mendes, has been busy visiting schools, synagogues and other venues. We look forward to continuing to offer performances even beyond the duration of the exhibit.
Grant Cloyd as Mendes
Education – More than 300 teachers and 2100 students participated in field trips and living history performances in conjunction with The A-mazing Mendes Cohen. Students from local public, private, parochial along with Jewish day and congregational schools visited the JMM. We also had student groups visit from the outlying counties, including Howard, Montgomery, Prince Georges, and Anne Arundel County. Students visited from Forest Hills, New York and Philadelphia, and also came from Ashkelon, Israel – Baltimore ‘s Sister City in Israel.
JMM educators created a rich array of educational resources including archival exploration activities (giving students the opportunity to explore primary sources related to his life), puzzle making games and scavenger hunts. Because Mendes’s life connected with so many important worldwide events, we were able to tie in school visits and resources with a wide array of curricular objectives.
The Powder Magazine Challenge
All of the students loved the interactives in the exhibit- especially the powder magazine and the world map stringing activity. Students loved racing against the clock to ensure that the magazine did not explode. Students loved learning where Cohen travelled and learned names of countries and cities throughout Europe and the Middle East. Students also loved hearing about Cohen’s journal entry of July 4, 1832, documenting his travels on the Nile River, hoisting the flag made by Cohen’s Egyptian crew. Students also thought that it was “very cool” to see the actual flag that was hoisted on Cohen’s ship as well as some of the Egyptian antiquities that Cohen brought back to Baltimore.
Mendes’ hand-made flag, 1832
Programs – The JMM held a record number of public programs this year and many of them were inspired by the life experiences of Mendes. Through panel discussions, scholarly and author talks, performances and family workshops, we explored such topics and themes as the War of 1812, 19th century travel, Egyptology, the fight to pass the Jew Bill, textile conservation and genealogy.
Hieroglyphs from our hands-on Egyptology Family Day.
We were especially pleased with our Mitzvah Day program, inspired by Mendes’ attempts to piece together his identity, we made puzzles for children spending the holidays in The Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai Hospital. It was a wonderful day that saw families work together to create something really special. In total we made enough for all of the children visiting the hospital over the holiday period.
Senator Ben Cardin address the Annual Meeting crowd inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Photo by Will Kirk.
This year our Annual Meeting was also inspired by Mendes, specifically his time spent in office. We were honored to welcome Senator Ben Cardin to the museum to be our keynote speaker. A surprising success was our Sephardic Lecture Series, inspired by Mendes’ own heritage. We had two great programs exploring Sephardic history and Ladino.
During the course of the exhibit we started to record some of our programs, if you missed one of the lectures above check our website, you may still have a chance to explore a little more of Mendes Cohen’s life.
The maze is packed and out the door, the flag and jacket are back in our vaults – Mendes, like Elvis, has left the building – but the legacy is still with us. As a team, we had so much fun with this project. Don’t be surprised if Mendes and his siblings join us again in a future project.
Posted on May 15th, 2015 by Rachel
JMM has always prided itself on its small, dedicated team of outstanding professionals. It’s amazing what a dozen people can do, when you have great talent supported by strong volunteers and lay leadership.
This month has brought two new members to the team to existing/future vacancies. I thought that we’d use this issue of JMM Insights to introduce Tracie Guy-Decker, our new Associate Director for Projects, Planning and Finance, and Graham Humphrey who will replace Abby Krolik as Visitor Services Manager. I am really excited to have Tracie and Graham on board and I know you will join me in welcoming them into our family. I have asked them both to tell a bit of their own stories.
My great great grandmother, Dora Bachrach Fink, was a member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation when it was in the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Now that I am Associate Director at JMM, every day, I sit at a computer that is but yards from the place my ancestors worshipped more than a century ago. Working for JMM is also a homecoming for me professionally—a return to working with and for the Jewish community. (I served as the Marketing Director for the Jewish Federation and the JCC in Virginia Beach until my husband, a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy, received orders that moved us to Maryland.)
Tracie and her husband Dave.
This is an exciting time for JMM, and I’m honored and humbled to be able to be a part of it. My colleagues are smart, funny, capable professionals, and under Marvin’s leadership the Museum is on a trajectory to become a center for Jewish and secular history and culture in Baltimore—not tomorrow, but soon. I’m excited to lend my skills, expertise, and experience to that trajectory (and to learn new skills along the way!). I’m also excited to be able to share this amazing resource with my daughter, Ruth (3 years old). The Museum family will watch Ruth and the Museum grow together over the next several years.
Ruth enjoying the rocket seats at Patterson Park
I’m also heartened by the welcome I’ve received from all of the friends of the Museum thus far—professionals, lay leaders, volunteers, members, and visitors have all been amazingly friendly and helpful as I learn my way around (literally and figuratively). I’d love the opportunity to reciprocate that welcome: if you’re in the Museum, please stop by. You can tell me your story of the Museum or the Lloyd Street Synagogue, we could play “Jewish Geography,” or just say ‘hi,’ I’m here Monday through Thursday, and will never turn down a cup of coffee.
Hello! My name is Graham Humphrey and I was recently hired to be the new Visitor Services Coordinator to replace Abby Krolik after she leaves the Museum at the end of the month to continue her studies. I received my MA in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and my BA from Brandeis University in Art History. For the past seven years, I have been working at museums, aboard sailboats and at National Park sites in visitor services, education, development and collections management. I have gotten to lead experiential education programs while dressed up in period costume at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, teach basic seamanship to students aboard the schooner the Lady Maryland and work with goats at the Carl Sandburg Home in North Carolina. In my free time, I enjoy visiting other museums and historic sites, exploring the great outdoors, attending cultural events and staying involved within the Jewish community.
I am excited about continuing to make the Jewish Museum a welcoming environment and to ensure that visitors have a rewarding experience. I also hope to encourage public discourse about contemporary issues, explore how we can engage new audiences as well as serve as agents for social change in our community.
Marvin’s note: We don’t plan I having Graham work with goats… but a “Jewish pirates sail”, well who knows what is possible.