JMM Insights: Professional Development for Educators

Posted on January 20th, 2017 by

Professional development is always on the minds of the JMM museum professionals, and 2017 is starting off with lots of opportunities for our staff to grow.  Professional development refers to all types of educational experiences relating to an individual’s work. As museum professionals, we often go to conferences and attending meetings that provide us with additional   perspectives and insights in our work.  Visiting other museums is a great way for museum professionals to learn from one another and from other institutions.

Last Friday, the JMM took a field trip to DC to the National Gallery of Art.  Many of us experienced our first Museum Hack. Museum Hack tours are high-energy, personalized and interactive tours that were developed in NYC with the goal to reinvent the traditional museum tour.  Our staff went on a guided hack tour, led by Hannah, our bubbly and vibrant docent, and we experienced the galleries in an entirely new way. We heard incredible, scandalous stories behind the works of art, many of the pieces of art very familiar to us. We interacted with the art and with each other through photo challenges, kinesthetic activities, and conversations. We discussed Andrew Mellon and Leonardo de Vinci and delved deeper to Impressionism and sculpture.  Check out the JMM blog for more on our fantastic experience.

JMM at the National Gallery

JMM at the National Gallery

Every professional’s career can benefit from continuing education that helps him or her stay sharp and develop new skills in their field of expertise.  Professional development is an important way for teachers to refresh and deepen their knowledge of their own subjects and learn new ways to help students learn. Teachers need to be able to prepare their students to succeed in a changing world — they need to be able to teach students how to use emerging technologies, how to navigate evolving workplaces, how to communicate effectively, and how to think critically and solve problems. The more professional development teachers get, the more likely students are to succeed.

Over the past 11 years, the JMM has been providing area teachers with professional development opportunities that enable teachers to keep their skill sets fresh and learn new skills. The JMM promotes the responsible teaching of the Holocaust through a variety of resources and programs to help our educators increase their knowledge of Holocaust history and implement sound teaching strategies. Our annual Summer Teachers Institute provides teachers with quality Holocaust education, incorporating accurate history, appropriate pedagogy, classroom strategies, and teaching resources.

Summer Teachers Institute 2016

Summer Teachers Institute 2016

Over the next four weeks, the JMM will be offering two exceptional professional development opportunities for educators in the area of Holocaust education. Both workshops will take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and will provide teachers with the tools and resources to teach about the Holocaust in their classrooms and schools.

On January 27th, we are partnering with Echoes & Reflections, a multimedia program that provides US educators with both print and online resources from three world leaders in education: the Anti-Defamation League, USC Shoah Foundation, and Yad Vashem.  The Echoes and Reflections curriculum promotes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching about the Holocaust. It addresses academic standards, and uses informational texts along with primary source documents to inform learning.  The curriculum also incorporates visual history testimony in its lessons to engage students in the lives of survivors, rescuers, liberators, and other witnesses of the Holocaust.

The focus of this professional development will be on the materials and instructional strategies to effectively teach Elie Wiesel’s acclaimed NIGHT, a memoir about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and provide additional background that teachers can integrate into their instruction.  Teachers will be given the tools and resources to help their students examine the complex social challenges that they face every day and evaluate the issues of fairness and justice. More information on this program can be found here at our website.

Part Two of our professional development series will take place over Presidents’ Weekend, February 18-20.  The JMM is thrilled to be partnering with CENTROPA and Baltimore City Public Schools for its annual Winter Seminar: History, Holocaust, and Human Rights in the Global Classroom.

CENTROPA is a non-profit historical institute based in Vienna that uses new technology and digital storytelling to connect 21st century students to 20th century Jewish history – and with each other. Since 2000, CENTROPA has interviewed 1,200 elderly Jews in 15 countries from Central and Eastern Europe, and collected and scanned their family photos and placed on a database that is easily accessible to educators and the students in their classrooms.  Many of the most compelling biographies were turned into short multi-media films that are being used in 600 schools in 20 countries.

Teachers participating in the three day seminar (February 18-20) will learn how to use CENTROPAS resources (all available for free) to teach 20th-century European history, the Holocaust, civics, human rights, character education in  Social Studies and history, ELA and literature, foreign language, film, technology, and art classes. Details about the program can be viewed here at our website. More information about costs can be found on the application, located here.

Please share these professional development opportunities with someone you know who might enjoy learning more about these great resources that encourage learning and creativity for our 21st-century students in area schools. These workshops are geared for all teachers in private, public and parochial schools and are great for anyone interested in learning more about these topics.

ileneFor more information, please contact me, Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education 443-873-5178 or

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Insights: December Bride (and Groom) Edition

Posted on December 16th, 2016 by


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

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:

Marrying Maryland


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

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 1998.47.4.59

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 1998.47.4.59

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.

…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!

~Marvin Pinkert

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Insights: Dross into Gold

Posted on November 18th, 2016 by

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

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.

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

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  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.

-Marvin Pinkert

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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