Posted on October 21st, 2016 by Rachel
No Tricks, Just Treats!
I am always on the hunt for other worldly spirits and was looking for a new location to explore. Do you have any suggestions?
The Ghost Busters
While we have not heard of our Museum campus being haunted, I would encourage you to take one of our regularly scheduled tours of our two historic synagogues, Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel, to learn about the different congregations that worshipped there as well as to admire the beautiful architecture. On the tour, you will also be able to appreciate the building in a whole new light (with fewer dark shadows) as we have recently completed some improvements to the Lloyd Street Synagogue. We have repaired missing lamps, installed new carpeting, cleaned the cushions for the pew seats, and repainted areas that suffered scars and scuffs from wear. There is also a new mezuzah affixed to the doorpost of the synagogue. While we did not find any ghosts, we did uncover a beautiful spiritual place.
A spruced up synagogue!
In my travels around the world, I overheard you have a wonderful exhibit on Jews and Medicine. Could you tell me a bit more about it?
Yes, we are in the last ninety days of the Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America exhibit, as the exhibit closes on January, 16, 2017! Inside the exhibit, you’ll journey through the worlds of health in the mid-20th century, from med school to the doctor’s office, hospital, lab and pharmacy-and even a trip to the gym. You will also view rarely seen historic manuscripts, experience hands-on encounters with medicine and ethics, and examine the links between traditions and contemporary practices. You may also learn some surprising facts in the exhibit. For instance, did you know that in the 20th century, Jewish nurses were expected both to learn to serve tea properly AND to sing Christmas carols! Or that in the 19th century, anyone who could afford to pay tuition could attend medical school (a high school diploma was not even needed). If you would like to find out more, please visit our website. We hope you will visit soon, and maybe you can even bring a friend or two!
Come explore Beyond Chicken Soup!
I am the headmaster of a wizarding school and a student of mine told me that he flew into your Museum last month to see the world premiere of Henrietta Szold’s performance. Can you tell me more about Henrietta and how can I arrange the actress to perform at my school?
We launched our newest living history character, Henrietta Szold, last month to rave reviews. Henrietta Szold, was the daughter of a rabbi who broke with the traditional role of women to become a champion of Jewish engagement. Her tenacity and courage played a vital role in the expansion of social services, medical services and the founding of the state of Israel.
Natalie Pilcher Smith as Henrietta
Henrietta is eager to begin performing at schools, senior centers, synagogues and other organizations. Please contact me at 443-873-5167 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your visit. The cost is $300 plus mileage per performance, but we also offer subsides for schools. If you are at the Museum you may also try and spot the bust and plaque of Henrietta!
I’m normally pretty busy this time of year, but a few of my friends are asking of things to do in the area. I usually go drinking on Halloween itself, but do you have anything to get me in the mood the day before?
We have planned our ghoulish stuff for pre-Halloween, Sunday, Oct. 30th (which is also our Free Fall Day, freaky, right?) Our special lecture will be “Collecting, Preserving and Exhibiting: Exploring the Collections of the Nation’s Medical Museum”. You never know what lurks in their basement. When you are in the Museum, check out our shop where we have some medically themed merchandise, some of which might make nice gifts for Dr. Moreau or Dr. Frankenstein or other similarly disposed physicians on your Halloween treat list.
Some perfectly spooky options for this Halloween!
For more creepy fun you can also stay connected to the JMM by visiting our social media pages where we are featuring the hashtag #PageFrights, which is a month long social media celebration of Halloween. And if you need a break from the radio’s endless repetition of Monster Mash – we have something for you too: The ShowTime Singers will also be offering a free after hours concert at 5pm where they will be performing songs that audiences can easily relate to – and perhaps even sing along with – like Broadway tunes, patriotic numbers and even a little rock and roll.
Posted on May 27th, 2016 by Rachel
Last year, the JMM was approached by George Washington University requesting that the JMM be a host site for graduate students enrolled in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts program, the first program of its kind in the country. Our museum would serve as a setting for graduate students to learn how Jewish museums provide experiential learning opportunities to our visitors, both students and adults.
Shoshana at work
We were very lucky to meet Shoshana Hirschhorn, a Michigan native, via Charlotte, North Carolina to DC/Baltimore. Shoshana took the train from DC twice a week to the JMM for her internship. Shoshana always comes to work with a smile on her face-awaiting the day’s new challenges.
Last Thursday was Shoshana’s last day of her internship with us at the JMM. She is off to spend the summer at her second internship with Yeshiva University Museum. We wish her well and look forward to her visit with us at the end of the summer!
-Ilene Dackman-Alon, Education Director
Working at a museum is an exciting experience where no two days are ever the same. The past eight months at the Jewish Museum of Maryland have been wonderful!
Coming to the Museum having been an elementary school teacher in a large urban school district and a Hebrew school teacher, I was curious to see how the JMM accommodated both of these groups of students. As an intern at the JMM, one of my primary responsibilities was to help with school groups and school programs. I helped to design education resources in connection with the exhibitions, Paul Simon: Words & Music and the Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews & Medicine in America. I also had the opportunity to help design two of the specialty tours of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. The first, the Sounds of the Synagogue tour, looked at the Synagogue in the context of the Paul Simon exhibition, focusing on music and sounds heard throughout the building’s life as both a synagogue and church.
Ilene puts on her “history detective” accessories for the Book, Bell, and Candle tour.
The second tour came about in connection with MADE: In America and the naming of the Carroll Mansion as the 2016 All American House. I, along with another intern, other members of the Education Team, and Executive Director, Marvin Pinkert, researched and developed a concept for the tour to accompany the Lloyd Street Synagogue’s title as the All American Synagogue. This tour looks at the material culture of the building, including information about the designers, builders, and crafters involved in the construction of the building. The exciting twist is that this tour allows visitors to take on the role of “history detective” as certain mysteries remain regarding the specific items discussed on the tour. The lingering questions are ones we were unable to find answers to during the research phase, so they in turn became part of the experience. The visitors can help the Education Team think of different places to look or alternative ideas as well as come up with their own questions they would like answered.
The research behind this tour was extensive, searching through numerous newspaper articles and contacting specialists, while hitting multiple dead ends along the way. Curiosity propelled my search, which made things difficult when the idea was to leave the tour open ended came up. I still wanted to know – who brought the original Torah used by the congregants? What happened to the bell? What did the first Ner Tamid look like? Hopefully this curiosity for knowing the story behind the objects translates to the visitors and they too become interested in the origins of the parts that make up the Lloyd Street Synagogue.
A Clue Card
The projects and programs I have worked on have shown me the power of education in museums and their ability to bring learning to life. The most rewarding part of my time at the Museum was the direct interactions with the children visiting the JMM on school field trips and helping to guide their educational experiences.
The greatest lessons I have learned here are the practical need for flexibility and the importance of connecting museum activities to classroom learning. Coursework from my program in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts at GW has supported me throughout this internship.
Blog post by education intern Shoshana Hirschhorn. To read more posts by and about interns, click HERE.
Posted on May 23rd, 2016 by Rachel
While being a Navy wife can have its ups and downs, last week was a definite up. Chief Petty Officer Guy-Decker had temporary duty orders that sent him to the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii.
He was to be busy with some super-secret operations of which we mere mortals may not know. To support his world-saving activities, the US Navy provided a plane ticket, a hotel room in Waikiki, a rental car and a per diem food allowance. What can I say? I tagged along.
I found Hawai’i to be among the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I had my breath taken away by the beauty of the landscape more times than I can count. I also found it to be instructive in ways I could never have anticipated.
There’s no denying the natural beauty.
On my second full day on the island, I decided to take in some history. My husband had the rental car with him on the Naval station, so I hopped a city bus into downtown Honolulu. My destination was the Iolani Palace. This magnificent residence, completed in 1882 is the only royal residence on American soil.
The front of Iolani Palace.
Taking a tour of an historic building, how could I not think of the LSS? I first noted the cool lanyard-encased iPods the palace handed all of the visitors. Along with a set of headphones, this device allowed me to take a self-directed tour of the building.
But the content of the tour is what really affected my thinking.
As I entered the ornate building, my feet clad in the provided booties to protect the floors, the helpful guide in my headset pointed out the etched glass windows, imported from France, the inlaid wood with hardwoods imported from Italy, the fine china, imported from England. “What the Heck!” I thought. “He had so many amazing natural resources right here in Hawai’i. Why did King Kalakaua use all of that European stuff?”
Just as I was disdaining this 19th-century royal, my iPod guide invited me to stand at what was the front door in 1882 and imagine myself a visiting dignitary from Europe. Look at the grand staircase and up at the electric lights. Electric lights, my digital host, pointed out, in 1882—before either the White House or Buckingham Palace could boast of electricity.
And looking at those literal light bulbs, the proverbial one lit above my head.
I apologized to his majesty Kalakaua in my mind. “I get it! You had to prove that Hawaiians were not ‘savages.’ You had to prove to the white Europeans who coveted your land that you were equals.”
And immediately I thought of our beloved Lloyd Street Synagogue, with its imposing columns. As you would learn if you were to take our All American Synagogue, Bell, Book and Candle tour, the synagogue was designed by non-Jewish architect, Robert Cary Long, Jr., a professionally-trained architect who was known for designing beautiful churches.
I’ve sometimes wondered that this church-building non-Jew was the architect of choice. But of course, Baltimore’s Jewish community also felt the need to prove they were not “savages.” When LSS was completed, it was fewer than 20 years after Maryland’s “Jew Bill” passed, allowing non-Christian (or at least Jewish) individuals to enjoy the same rights as Christian citizens. And only 15 years earlier, in 1830, the governor had had to intervene against obstructionist lawmakers to allow the congregation to officially incorporate.
In the case of the 19th-century Hawaiians, as with the Jewish community of Baltimore about 40 years prior, they were working to prove themselves to be not just as “civilized,” as the Europeans and their Christian neighbors, but twice as “civilized.”
The difference between the two communities is that the Baltimore Jewish community more-or-less succeeded; the Hawaiians’ story is more complicated. King Kalakaua’s successor, his sister, Queen Lili’uokalani (notably, the composer of possibly the most famous Hawaiian song, “Alaho Oe”) was deposed by a coalition of “Hawaiian-born citizens of American parents, naturalized citizens and foreign nationals” (i.e. no Hawaiian natives) with the support of the American Minister to Hawaii. Two years later, after a defeated uprising in her defense, Lili’oukalani was imprisoned in her own Iolani Palace by her opponents. It wasn’t long before the islands were formally annexed by the United States.
Perhaps because of my Lloyd Street Synagogue-Iolani Palace epiphany earlier in the week, when we attended one of the many luaus that take place every night, I felt the sense that I was in a place I didn’t really belong. I was keenly aware that the version of the culture I was viewing was caricaturized and then commodified for my benefit.
The luau dancers
I kept imagining what the Jewish equivalent of a luau might be. As our host on the bus ride to the beach-location taught us words in Hawaiian (“’aloha’ means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’ It also means ‘love’”), I started to imagine the “oneg” party we might throw for tourists. “’Shalom’ means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’ It also means ‘peace.’” I imagined the costumed dancers doing the horah; the giant pots of cholent and chicken soup and mounds of challah loaves.
My imagination replaced the dancing hula dolls intended for dashboards with davening yeshivah boys, and it made me a little nauseated. I felt in my bones how one-dimensional the Judaism of this tourist party would be. My beloved, rich, thick, complicated religion/culture/ethnicity reduced to slogans and bobble heads.
Can you imagine Yeshiva boys instead?
And yet, even (especially?) in its caricaturized, commodified form, the Hawaiian picture is so pretty, so pleasant. I couldn’t resist getting a selfie with the smiling hula dancers who waited by the hotel bus for just that purpose.
Smiling with the dancers
A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.