Every Family Has a Story to Tell

Posted on June 19th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!


When students from Annapolis Area Christian School visited this past May, they had a special guest visit with them. Students used their imagination and went back in time to 1941 where they met Ida Rehr, a Ukrainian immigrant who made the journey to Baltimore in 1913 and went on to work in the garment industry. Ida came to talk with the students about her experiences as a Jewish immigrant to the United States

Ida’s story is one of many stories about Jewish individuals immigrating to Baltimore that can be found in the collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Immigrant’s Trunk: Ida Rehr is performed by actress Katherine Lyons of one of the JMM’s Living History Performances. During this performance students are immersed in a real, first-person account bringing to life stories of immigration that they are learning about in the classroom.

Annapolis Area Christian School students meet Ida Rehr to hear about her journey.

A performance rich with content, Annapolis Area Christian School students were able to connections to their own lives. A personal favorite is when Ida shared her family heirlooms with the students.

Ida pulled two silver candlesticks from her trunk. She asked the students why did she choose these candlesticks above anything else she could have taken? Students chimed in with answers. Maybe she took them to sell if she needed money? Maybe because they provided light and warmth? Maybe to light on the holidays? Maybe to light for Sabbat dinner?

Ida lights the candle sticks that she brought with her.

Ida said that these candle sticks were in her family for a long time. They were an heirloom, passed down from generations. They were a reminder of her family.

Ida asked students, “What do you have in your house that has been passed down?”

Again, students’ hands shot up in the air with answers. Students told Ida about their great grandmother’s china, a uniform from World War II, a grandfather’s army canteen, family photographs, their grandmother’s recipes, silverware from a great-grandmother. A teacher even shared about their hutch that was their grandmother’s.

“Why not buy new furniture?” Ida asked, “Why do we save these things and take care of them and bring them when we move?”

“Because they are special,” responded a student.

“You know someone who had them before,” suggested another.

“To never forgot your family,” added another.

Ida shared that when she asked that question to another students, they had responded, “it is your legacy.” And when Ida asked what they meant by “legacy” the students said it was “a memory that you carry in your heart.”

Ida went on to share with students the menorah that her mother packed for her. She carried it all the way to America.

Students were able to ask Ida Rehr questions about her experiences.

In 1913, when Ida was seventeen years old, she decided to come to America. She left her family, her home, and her country to come. While it was not an easy trip, she was able to have a better life.

Ida’s story was brought to the Museum by her granddaughter. Everything in the story is real. Her granddaughter received an assignment at school to interview a family member. Over several visits, she interviewed Ida. Ida wrote down on notecards pieces of her story. The family made a scrapbook and included photographs. Like Ida’s story, the JMM houses numerous stories brought to us from family members.

Every family has a story to tell. Ida asked the students, “What might your family’s story be?”


Ida Rehr is portrayed by Katherine Lyons. 


Living History Program performances are available for schools, public and private events and can take place at the Museum or outside venues. The cost for the living history program is $300 plus mileage reimbursement at $0.50/mile. To schedule a Living History performance or to learn more, please contact Paige Woodhouse, School Program Coordinator, at pwoodhouse@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443.873.5167.


 

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Living History and Beyond!

Posted on April 14th, 2017 by

Over the past 14 years, the Jewish Museum of Maryland has developed significant expertise in the creation of compelling living history characters, along with a national reputation for excellence in this medium.  In consultation with a team of professional historians, script writers, directors and actors, we have created historical performances based on extensive research.  These performances illuminate key themes about American Jewish history in an accessible and personal manner.  These interactive  performances incorporate reproductions of artifacts, photographs, and documents from the JMM collections.

Our first four living history characters

The JMM has created five living history characters, Ida Rehr, a Ukrainian immigrant who worked in the garment industry; Saul Bernstein, a Lithuanian peddler who became a professional artist;  Bessie Bluefeld, a Russian immigrant who started a renowned catering business;  and Mendes I. Cohen, veteran of the Battle of Baltimore, businessman, and Jewish adventurer.  Our latest character is Henrietta Szold, daughter of Rabbi Benjamin Szold and born in Baltimore in 1860, who premiered in September, 2016.  All five characters have performed around the region for students and adult audiences alike.

Natalie Pilcher with students from Western High School

A few weeks ago, the Henrietta Szold Living History character performed at Western High School in Baltimore City.  The education staff contacted the administration at the school about the possibility of having a performance at the school. Henrietta Szold graduated from Western Female High School in 1877 and in 1901 she became the first president of the Western High Alumni. There is a plaque in the school’s library that bears Szold’s name.

At the school-wide assembly over 960 students and teachers were in attendance. Following the performance, the students asked many questions to the actress that portrays Henrietta, Natalie Pilcher. The students were especially interested in learning about how she prepared for the Henrietta Szold role, and how she teaches acting and performance to area students throughout Baltimore City.

Following the successful Henrietta Szold living performance at Western High School, we started to think about the impact that all of our living history characters and performances have had on the community over the years. We examined our attendance statistics from FY14 to the present, and were quite pleased to see the reach that our living history characters have had on the community. I am certain you will also be quite impressed!

Ida Rehr
Over the past 12 years, the actress Katherine Lyons has engaged school groups with her wonderful portrayal of Ukrainian immigrant Ida Rehr.  Since July 1, 2013 she has given 42 performances –to over 1864 audience members. (1,769 students/teachers and 95 attendees from adult groups)

Katherine Lyons as Ida Rehr

Mendes I. Cohen
Over the past 3 years, actor Grant Cloyd has engaged school and adult groups with his portrayal of Colonel Mendes I. Cohen.  Since July 1, 2013 he has given 20 performances as Mendes to over 890 audience members. (371 students/teachers and 519 attendees from adult groups)

Grant Cloyd as Colonel Mendes I. Cohen

Bessie Bluefeld
Over the past 4 years, actress Terry Nicholetti has engaged adult groups with her wonderful portrayal of Bessie Bluefeld.  Since July 1, 2013 she has given 10 performances. (437 adult audience members)

Terry Nicholetti as Bessie Bluefeld

Henrietta Szold
Over the past 7 months, actor Natalie Pilcher has engaged school and adult groups with her portrayal of Henrietta Szold.  Since her debut she has given 13 performances to 1,737 audience members. (1,447 students/teachers and 290 attendees from adult groups)

Natalie Pilcher as Henrietta Szold standing next to her namesake.

The Henrietta Szold Living History Character was made possible through the generous support of the Kolker-Saxon-Hallock Family Foundation, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Educational opportunities were made possible by the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund of The Associated.

With all of the numbers combined our living history characters have performed a total number of 85 performances, seen by 4,928 audience members throughout the region since July 2013! By the end of this school year, it is highly likely that our living history program we will reach more than 5,000 audience members and beyond!

Our Living History Program performances are available for schools, public and private events and can take place at the Museum or outside venues.  To schedule a Living History performance or to learn more, please contact Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator, ghumphrey@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443.873.5167.

~Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education

ileneA blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

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Hometown Heroes: The Henrietta Szold Story

Posted on August 19th, 2016 by

From Director of Education Ilene Dackman-Alon: 

JMM 1989.143.1

Have you ever noticed this bronze sculpture, sitting in the corner of the lobby near the entrance of the Museum? JMM 1989.143.1

The sculpture was made by Dina Lee Steiner, a Baltimorean and prominent artist whose works are in private and public collections throughout the world. Steiner and Stuart J. Cordage, gifted the work to the Museum in memory of the sculptor’s parents and brother: Ida, Maurice and Henry Steiner.

1989143001-2

The plaque reads: Henrietta Szold 1860-1945 born in Baltimore where she founded the first night school for immigrants; she gave the world Hadassah; and Youth Aliyah. 

Henrietta was the eldest daughter of Rabbi Benjamin Szold, the spiritual leader of Baltimore’s Temple Oheb Shalom. Throughout her life, Henrietta was committed to helping those who were in need.  Szold’s many contributions included establishing a night school in Baltimore for new immigrants and the creation of Hadassah, a national Zionist women’s organization devoted to improving health care in Palestine that is still in existence today.  She spent her later years living in Palestine where she was involved in the rescue of European Jewish children during World War II through her work with Youth Aliyah, an initiative that helped resettle and educate Jewish youth in Palestine.

Henrietta is mentioned in Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews And Medicine in America, which explores the American Jewish involvement with medicine from the late 19th century through the “golden age” of American medicine in the 20th century.

In 1909 Szold and her mother travelled to Palestine, which led to a life-changing experience that would bring a major change and direction in her life. Horrified by the lack of medical resources and treatment available to Jewish women and children, Szold became committed to improving the social welfare systems in Palestine.

Szold’s strong will and determination inspired thousands of American women to embrace Zionism and advocate for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.  Hundreds of women joined Daughters of Zion (which in 1912 became Hadassah) chapters throughout the country.

 Henrietta Szold with a class of nurses, December 21, 1921, Jerusalem. JMM 1989.79.24

Henrietta Szold with a class of nurses, December 21, 1921, Jerusalem. JMM 1989.79.24

Henrietta Szold’s story serves as a wonderful companion to the exhibit and provides additional interpretation about the role that American Jewish women played in improving healthcare in Palestine. 

We invite you to join us on Thursday evening, September 22nd, when JMM will debut the incredible story of a rabbi’s daughter who broke from the traditional roles of women during the 19th century, to help strengthen her people, at home and abroad.

An advocate for education, Zionism, and health care, Henrietta Szold was a champion of community organizing and Jewish engagement and our own “Hometown Heroine.  The Henrietta Szold Story will offer audience members a unique educational experience that will appeal to diverse audiences—including students and adult groups—from across the state and region.

Playwright Dale Jones and Making History Connections and actress Natalie Smith have embraced Szold’s own words and stories to tell the gripping tale of a hero whose tenacity and courage played a vital role in the expansion of social services, medical services and the founding of the state of Israel.

The Szold living history character is presented in conjunction with Beyond Chicken Soup:  Jews and Medicine in America.  Find out more at www.chickensoupexhibit.org.

Funding for the Henrietta Szold Living History project was provided by the Kolker-Saxon –Hallock Family Foundation, Inc.  supporting foundation of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

The educational program for the Henrietta Szold living History Project is funded through the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education of The Associated: Jewish  Community Federation of Baltimore.

For more information about the Henrietta Szold Living History project, contact JMM’s Director of Education, Ilene Dackman-Alon at idackmanalon@jewishmuseummd.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

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