JMM Insights, August 2013

Posted on August 16th, 2013 by

This Sunday Zap! Pow! Bam! takes its final bow.  But our comic book comrades aren’t the only super heroes we’re losing this week.  We also say good-bye to this year’s class of interns.  It seems like just yesterday I was asking Jobi to introduce our young colleagues.  Now I have asked her to summarize their accomplishments.

Hail and Farewell

Interns in dumpster

You probably have already seen or heard about our wonderful summer 2013 interns in some way—whether it has been through the spotlights in JMM Insights, the Intern Spotlight on the JMM blog, or through their own posts on the blog, twitter, and Facebook (if not, you can see what they’ve been blogging about here). The interns were asked to tweet weekly and write two blog posts about their experience over the course of their internship. Not only does this give them a chance to publish about their projects and work, but it gives public a chance to get to know them as well.

As the official “Intern Wrangler” it is my honor to brag about these amazing emerging professionals and their many significant contributions to our museum, whether it was behind the scenes in collections, developing the scenes in exhibitions, or in the public eye with our programs.

fed hill intern

Saul L. Ewing, LCC in Memory of Robert L. Weinberg Collections Interns:

Katharine Harper, Kathleen Morrison, Erin Pruhs, and Clare Robbins worked with our photographic, archival, archeological, and three-dimensional collections (respectively). Although most of their time was spent our climate-controlled basement, they truly helped me run the collections department smoothing during the transition to the reduced department.  They processed and housed many of our recent accessions, adding hundreds of new items to the database. Collectively they photographed or digitized upwards of 1,000 objects and photographs, bringing us to the astounding milestone marks of 90% and 70% of 3D and photo collections that are accessible in digital format!

LSS_Erin 18

Some individual highlights of their work include: Kathy selected the next 6 months-worth of Snapshots photographs for our partnership with the Jewish Times. Kathleen developed a spreadsheet of Baltimore Phone and City Directories, checking for duplicated (there were none). Erin read the Lloyd Street Synagogue Archaeology reports, refined existing records, and sorted the “new” archaeology collection from the 1996 expansion. Clare worked on an expansive condition report notebook for the 100+ original artifacts in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibition and brought oversized documents to be scanned at the Baltimore City Archives.

Labeling (Tweet 6-20)

To understand how the departments are intertwined, collections interns were also involved in some exhibitions work. They worked together to condition report and rehouse objects from the Chosen Foods traveling exhibit, and pulled various objects and archival materials from our collections for the Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War exhibit. Each collections intern also transcribed a health-related oral history interview with a Maryland Jew—each more than an hour in length—for the benefit of the upcoming Jewish Health and Healing project (2015).

OH transcribing

Saralynn and Sheldon Glass Education Interns:

Trillion Attwood and Marissa Walker, our Education and Program interns, hit the ground running! Within a week they were giving tours of our synagogues and exhibitions to visitors, and planning exciting events for the Museum. Together they worked on several successful events including Clark Kent’s Bar Mitzvah party; How to Create Your Own Superhero workshop; and the Tom Chalkley and Craig Hankin discussion—drawing over 140 people to the Museum. Trillion and Marissa created two Late Night on Lloyd Street programs: Best Hebrew Workshop Ever and A Taste of Jewish and Israeli Art events.

Hebrew Workshop

Lest you think it was all fun and games, Marissa and Trillion both created new educational materials relating to topics ranging from the immigration of Jews from Germany to Locust Point and the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit. In addition to providing tours to the public, they each guided (or corralled!) 6 groups of 25 ‘Super Kids’ through our campus (300 kids!) in a 5 week period. Whew!

Picture 009

Trillion also assisted in planning a group of 120 from the Meyerberg Senior Center to the Newseum. She helped install our Jews on the Move exhibition, and with planning the Super Art Fight, and this Sunday’s Up, Up and Away event, as well as the upcoming September Late Night on Lloyd Street. It is no surprise that with her enthusiasm and proven efficiency, Trillion was recently hired by the Jewish Museum of Maryland as the new Programs Manager.


Saul L. Ewing, LLC in Memory of Robert L. Weinberg; Barbara Katz; Johns Hopkins University Andrew W. Mellon Exhibitions interns:

The summer 2013 exhibition interns Elaine Hall (Ewing), Todd Nesson (Katz) and Yonah Reback (Mellon) worked on the Jewish Health and Healing; Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War; and The Amazing Mendes Cohen exhibitions. Their projects ranged from preliminary background research for future projects, as well as urgent assistance for the immediate exhibition.


Elaine Hall read 40 oral histories, articles, and books relating to Jewish health and healing, extracting about 500 useful quotes for future use, conducted internet and database research relating to the topic, brainstormed and helped with the beginning stages of planning for the future exhibit. She also wrote a description of the current ideas for the exhibit, and documented where future researchers can go from here.

Civil War Model

Todd Nesson has been essential in the organization and design of  Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War; providing background research, producing labels, adding 60 items from the JMM collections to the upcoming exhibit (pulled by the collections interns), and finding 30 objects to add to the exhibit from 8 different lenders.


Although his internship was officially at the JMM, Yonah Reback found himself in the Maryland Historical Society archives for most of his internship. He attempted to sort through the archives and the apparently illegible handwriting of Mendes Cohen. Yonah got a start on collecting interesting facts and bits of information about the man and the legend. Rachel Cylus will be proud!

Flag House

We also sent our interns out on field trips to different museums and cultural institutions. The education interns went to Gettysburg for inspiration on Civil War educational programs that would appeal to a wide range of students. Marvin Pinkert led a tour at the National Archives. The interns celebrated Flag Day at the Flag House and Museum; attended an evening event at the Walters Art Museum; visited the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture; toured the United States Holocaust Memorial Museums off-site storage; and learned the ins and outs of crating! The interns also participated in hands-on workshops at the JMM.

Lobby Display

One workshop, led by Rachel Kassman, focused on the creation of a small lobby exhibit. Working together in groups, the interns were tasked with creating lobby displays based on a single subject areas and utilizing the JMM collections. Clare and Erin’s future exhibit will detail archaeology at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and has interactive activities. Trillion and Marissa’s display will introduce the public to Nechama and Paul Spector, local teachers who moved to America in 1949. Now on display, Elaine, Katharine, and Kathleen’s exhibit coincides with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Equality, revealing the Maryland Jewish connection to the civil right movement of the 1960s. This was an excellent way for the interns to gain some practical experience in the creation of exhibits and to be able to see a tangible finished product of their 10 weeks at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.


-Jobi Zink & Elaine Hall

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Museum Insights, July 19, 2013

Posted on July 19th, 2013 by

Those of you who follow our blog posts may have noticed the accent this summer on Civil War stories (June 28, July 2, July 3).  This reflects not only the 150th anniversary commemorations but our own work in preparing for next fall’s exhibit.  I have asked curator, Karen Falk, to tell you a bit about her take on what makes this exhibit important.

Insights from the Civil War

It may come as a surprise to some, but all American Jews can find a connection to the Civil War, whether or not they have ancestors then in the country and in the conflict.

At least, that’s our observation, based on our work with the upcoming exhibition, Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War, which will open at the JMM on October 13. (Thank you to the organizers of the exhibition, the American Jewish Historical Society and Yeshiva University Museum.) Here are some ways that I’ve connected with the story.

The Jewish debate over slavery. Daughter of the sixties that I am, I was brought up to believe that social justice was a central tenet of Judaism. I’ve learned, however, that such thinking was not as common among the Jewish immigrants of the mid-19th century as it became for later generations. Jews were divided on the question of slavery: they tended to gravitate towards the opinions of their neighbors, North and South. As new immigrants (of 150,000 Jews in America on the eve of the Civil War, 100,000 had been in this country for a decade or less) struggling to make a living and unsure of their place in American society, most Jews preferred neutrality.

Lloyd Street Synagogue, home of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in 1864. Photo by D.R. Stiltz & Co. photographers. Used with permission from Ross Kelbaugh. JMM 1997.71.1

Lloyd Street Synagogue, home of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in 1864. Photo by D.R. Stiltz & Co. photographers. Used with permission from Ross Kelbaugh. JMM 1997.71.1

There were those, however, who expressed strong opinions, among them, the rabbis of Baltimore. Rabbi Bernard Illoway, who served Baltimore Hebrew Congregation from 1859 to 1861, defended slavery from the pulpit saying, “Why did [Moses] not, when he made a law that no Israelite can become a slave, also prohibit the buying and selling of slaves from and to other nations? Was there ever a greater philanthropist than Abraham, and why did he not set free the slaves which the king of Egypt made him a present of?”

Rabbi David Einhorn of Har Sinai Congregation (1855-1861) was incensed by this biblical justification of slavery by Rabbi Illoway and other rabbis.  A staunch defender of human rights, he also used the Torah to support his position: “The ten commandments, the first of which is: “I am the Lord, thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt,—out of the house of bondage” can by no means want to place slavery of any human-being under divine sanction….”

Rabbi David Einhorn, c. 1860, artist unknown. JMM, L1987.018.001.

Rabbi David Einhorn, c. 1860, artist unknown. JMM, L1987.018.001.

Rabbi Einhorn’s views enraged the secessionist-leaning population of Baltimore and he fled the city, taking a pulpit in Philadelphia. Rabbi Illoway also left Baltimore soon after his speech, for a pulpit in New Orleans.

The attempt to expel the Jews.  The Civil War era was not without anti-Semitism. There were commonly-repeated canards about the Jews: they didn’t fight in the military; they were profiteers; they were cunning cheats. At its worst during the war years, these doubts about the Jews translated into General Ulysses S. Grant’s infamous Orders No. 11, whereby “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department [including Kentucky and parts of Tennessee and Mississippi] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.”

Grant issued his order on December 17, 1862. Fighting in his area delayed dissemination of the order throughout the whole of the territory he governed, but enforcement began immediately in Paducah, Kentucky. (Kentucky was a border state: slave-holding but part of the Union.) Jews throughout the country raised an outcry. One man ousted from his home, Cesar Kaskel, immediately traveled to Washington, DC, seeking an audience with President Lincoln. He was seen and supported by the president, who directed Grant to revoke his order.

Telegram announcing the revocation of Grant’s General Orders No. 11, January 6, 1863. Courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society.

Telegram announcing the revocation of Grant’s General Orders No. 11, January 6, 1863. Courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society.

All of this happened quickly; the order was officially rescinded by Grant on January 17, 1863. American Jews had learned something very important about their home. As historian Eli Evans observes, “the Northern Jewish community had stood beside the Jews in the South, demonstrating a sense of community that transcended sectional bitterness.  Jews [in the Union] had publicly petitioned their government to revoke an order by its most popular general in the midst of a war, and the head of the nation had agreed.” Jews had come together to protest an injustice, had been heard, and been protected.

It’s personal. Civil War stories often illuminate difficult personal decisions. One such story is told by one of the most remarkable documents in the exhibition, a draft of a will for Benjamin Owens Cohen. Cohen, his Jewish father, Barnet Cohen, and non-Jewish mother Catharine Owens, a “free woman of color,” lived in South Carolina. As a free person of mixed race, Benjamin Cohen would have had limited potential marriage partners, so he purchased his wife and owned their children. By 1841, when he was thinking about a pathway to freedom for his family, South Carolina was passing laws that made it nearly impossible to simply emancipate one’s slaves. His will thus bequeaths his wife and children to his white half-brother. On advice from his lawyer, Cohen stated in his will that while “it may be thought that this devise is intended to avoid and defeat the laws of this commonwealth, which affords me protection….I therefore declare…that I intend no such unlawful act. I know that by the law, [my family] are slaves and must remain so….”

Draft of a will for Benjamin Owens Cohen, 1851. Courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society.

Draft of a will for Benjamin Owens Cohen, 1851. Courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society.

This draft of Cohen’s will is part of an AJHS collection documenting Cohen’s situation. Scholars have been unable to find a legally-filed will for Benjamin O. Cohen, and we do not know how the family resolved the problem. Historian Bertram Korn suggests that “perhaps Benjamin Owens Cohen outlived the institution of slavery and was able to spend his last days with a family freed from involuntary servitude.” I hope so, too.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Insights: June 2013

Posted on June 21st, 2013 by

This month we asked Senior Collections Manager and official Intern Wrangler Jobi Zink to give you an inside look at our internship program.


 Internship Insights

Now in its 8th year, the JMM Internship program is gaining a reputation for training the next generation of museum professionals. Since 2006, we’ve offered 113 internships in collections, exhibitions, education & programs, and development.

IMG_2572Our 10-week summer internship program attracts undergraduate and graduate students from across the country—Washington (State), Tennessee, Minnesota, and California are represented this summer, as well as Maryland—while our fall, spring and winter internships tend to draw from the local colleges and universities. Many students use the internship to confirm their passion for the museum field before pursuing a Master’s degree, while others use it as a springboard for teaching careers.

The JMM internship program includes a series of professional-development workshops and training. Object handling and digital photography are taught during orientation, while proposal writing, public speaking and resumes, cover letters & interview skills are scheduled later, after the interns have had a chance to become comfortable in their day-to-day activities in the museum.

IMG_2277Another distinguishing component of our internship program is the field trips to other museums and cultural organizations in the area. By exposing the interns to the vast variety of museums—historic houses, super-small theme-specific, enormous, art, history, or science museums—they see that working in a museum is wonderful, but no two museums are the same, and no museum is free of problems. The field trips often introduce departments that the JMM does not have like conservation or fabrication. Afterwards, staff and interns talk about what they learned, and describe their experiences in blog posts.

The JMM is grateful to Saralyn and Sheldon Glass and Saul L. Ewing, LLC for sponsoring the 2013 Saralyn and Sheldon Glass Education and Program interns and the Robert L. Weinberg Collections and Exhibitions interns. If you’d like to sponsor JMM interns, please contact Development Manager Rachel Kassman at or call 410-732-6402 x225.

Now, let us introduce this year’s summer intern class – you can also follow along with our intern exploits at our blog, using the “interns” tag!


Katharine Harper:

Katharine HarperI am currently a senior at UMBC where I am majoring in Art History and minoring in Psychology. I am really interested in museums/galleries and currently am planning on applying to Law School. As far as careers go, I would love to work in the legal side of the arts world.

Though I have only been an intern at the Jewish Museum of Maryland for about two and half weeks now, as my first internship, it has been an extremely enlightening experience. I have learned a lot about the operations that go behind the scenes of a museum, such as with the maintenance of the museum’s collections. So far, I have learned how to use the PastPerfect database, and I’ve learned about cataloguing and accessioning, and I’ve also learned how to perform condition reports and house objects. I think that this internship will greatly increase my knowledge of museums and will therefore aid my potential future career choice.IMG_2118

Yonah Reback:

Yonah RebackHi! My name is Yonah Reback and I am a rising Junior at Johns Hopkins University where I am pursuing my B.A./M.A. in History, with an eye toward law school down the line. I have come all the way from my hometown of Seattle, WA, to spend my summer interning at the Jewish Museum of Maryland!

My internship at the JMM  focuses on researching an exciting new exhibition, slated to open in August 2014. Though not officially named, the exhibition will spotlight the life of Mendes I. Cohen, one of Baltimore’s most fascinating Jewish characters. Part ‘Forrest Gump,’ part ‘Indiana Jones,’ Mendes Cohen defended Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, helped run his family’s successful banking business, and traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East. Most significantly, Mendes was the first American-Jew to experience the land of Israel in the 1830s. I look forward to bringing this wonderful project to life during my time at the JMM this summer and invite you to visit when our exhibition opens!IMG_2605

Erin Pruhs:

Erin PruhsI’m from a suburb of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. I received my undergraduate degree in Anthropology/Archaeology at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.  In the fall, I will be starting my second year of the masters program at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. I am in the Masters of Science Anthropology degree program focusing on Midwest late prehistoric archaeology, specifically dealing with ceramic analysis.  I am also in the Certificate in Museum Studies program that is held at the Milwaukee Public Museum and instructed by museum staff. My career goals right after college would be to work as an archaeologist for a few years in the field and then working in collections at a natural history museum.

I am working on the archaeological collection from the Lloyd Street Synagogue excavation.  I have been going through the various bags of artifacts and photographing the objects and attaching the images to the records in Past Perfect.

IMG_2287Elaine Hall:

Elaine HallI was born and raised in Gaithersburg, Maryland but lived in Catonsville for four years while attending the University of Maryland Baltimore County. At UMBC I completed a BS in Biological Science and a BA in Cultural Anthropology. This fall I will begin my Master of Public Health at the University of Maryland, College Park. I have a lot of interests in Public Health ranging from education to policy and from health access problems to sexual health- and I’m not quite sure what direction I will be taking yet.

I was drawn to the Jewish Museum of Maryland this summer because of the Jewish Health and Healing project. It has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, a good combination of my history in biology and anthropology and my future in public health. We are in the beginning stages of research and planning for this exhibit. It has been really fun to get to put to use the knowledge I have gained in school and to get a look into how much really goes into the planning of an exhibit.

IMG_2288Todd Nesson:

Todd Nesson

My name is Todd Nesson and I was born and raised in Owings Mills, MD. I am currently pursuing my MA in History at UMBC where my thesis work is focusing on Jewish organized crime in America.

As an intern at the JMM, I have been conducting research for the upcoming exhibit Passages through Fire: Jews and the Civil War, which is coming from the Yeshiva University Museum in October. The focus of my work has been on adding a Maryland twist to the story and demonstrating the war’s impact on Baltimore and Maryland Jewry along with their varied responses to the war and its attendant issues.


Intern Orientation 06.03.2013 324Trillion Attwood

Trillion Bremen

I am English and recently moved here, having married my American husband. I went to school back in England where I studied at the University of Liverpool getting a BA and MA in Egyptology and an MA in Museum studies at University of Leicester. I am looking to develop a career in museums, not necessarily with a focus on Egyptology, possibly in education or collections.

Within the museum sector one area that I am really interested in is the way in which museums can cater for older people. I had my first American experience in this area last week, when we visited the JCC for a session on gefilte fish. It was an excellent session, led by Ilene Dackman-Alon, almost every person present was able to contribute in some way with a story about gefilte fish. It seemed like everyone enjoyed the day, I know I had a fantastic time and learnt loads.

IMG_2226Marissa Walker

Marissa WalkerHi there! I’m Marissa Walker, an education and programs intern. I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, but moved to the greater Baltimore area to attend Goucher College. At Goucher, I was a dance performance and English writing double major. After graduating, I moved back to Cincinnati for a year and a half, where I attended the University of Cincinnati for a year in order to obtain an Adult ESL graduate level teaching certificate. I have always been interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the area of museums, and felt this internship would be an excellent way for me to narrow down which area sparks my interest. In addition to furthering my education, I am also ambitious in the performance world, hoping to continue my career as an aerial circus performer and dancer on a professional level.

It’s hard for me to choose one thing I have learned so far during my time at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, as I already feel I have gained so much knowledge across the board. Working on revamping and creating supplemental educational materials for the current and upcoming exhibits has been very educational for me as a developer. I have also loved beginning to work with all the social media we are using for outreach in an educational context. I find that aspect of museum programming and marketing to be fascinating.

IMG_2508Clare Robbins 

Clare RobbinsHi everyone! My name is Clare Robbins, and this summer I am interning with the Collections Department at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  I am from Murfreesoboro, Tennessee, and earned my bachelor’s in history from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  I am currently working on my master’s in public history at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  After I graduate, I would like to work in a museum world and pursue a career in collections management.

So far this summer, I processed some of the objects from the 2012-2013 donations.  This proved to not only been a great learning experience but also quite enjoyable.  I loved learning the story behind various objects like a rope that a nursing student at Sinai Hospital used to keep her keys on when working in the psychiatric wing in the 1950s.  I even liked finding a place for all the objects in collection storage rooms as it was a great way to explore the rest of the objects in JMM’s collections.

IMG_2258Kathleen Morrison

Kathleen MorrisonMy name is Kathleen Morrison. I was born in Washington DC, moved to Frederick, MD when I was three, and was raised there. Last year, my parents and I moved to Baltimore to take advantage of the richer cultural life in the city. This May, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in Southern Maryland with a Bachelor of the Arts in History. I’m not sure what I want to do yet, but I love history and I know I want to have a career where I can work with it every day. Whether that means preservation, writing, or education, I don’t know. Hopefully my future holds a mix of all three.

So far, I’ve been cataloging papers donated last year. Many of them are very interesting and provide an insight to not only daily Jewish life in Maryland, but also daily life around the middle of the century. One of the most interesting papers I’ve come across is a sadly anti-Semitic, anti-African American housing deed, which stipulates that the sale to the new owners is only valid as long as they never rent,r sell, or house Jews or African-Americans on the property. How the original owner intended to enforce this is unknown, but it’s a reminder of how much things have changed for the better today.


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