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.
Posted on May 4th, 2016 by Rachel
As an educator at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, my job has different facets. I give tours about the Lloyd Street Synagogue and the Jonestown neighborhood to school groups, I help create content for new exhibitions, make flyers and promotional material, and one of my favorite things, crafting. Gluing, cutting, stenciling, folding, coloring, and designing are some of the things that went into our All American Synagogue craft.
On May 1, 2016 the All American Synagogue was the first program of many to denote how different parts of the third oldest synagogue in the United States had aspects of it made in America. The All American Synagogue is in association with MADE: In America and Carroll Mansion, this years’ All American Home. The Education team brainstormed collectively as to what we could create to celebrate our All American Synagogue, the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Out of a shoebox, a jewelry box, paper, felt, stencils, and photographs printed on labels, became a diorama of a synagogue.
Examples of synagogues the Education team created
A lot of effort was put into creating this craft and I could not have done it without the entire Education team. Pinterest did not offer a pre-made solution so we needed to create our own. Thank you to our Programs Manager, Trillion Attwood who created the triangle pediment that went on top of our ark. Our Education Director, Ilene Dackman-Alon who found a photograph of what the murals on the ceiling of the Lloyd Street Synagogue used to look like. The photographs that I took of the stained glass windows, the Hebrew writing on the pediment, and the bricks needed to be printed and cut. Thank you to our interns, Shoshana and Leah who helped me with this task.
The Education Staff cutting out the different aspects of the synagogue
All of our hard work and effort was worth it this past Sunday. It was great to see families at the museum creating their own synagogues. Everybody has a different way of viewing and creating art and I believe these synagogues that our visitors created will be a long lasting memory of their time spent at the Jewish Museum of Maryland! We hope more visitors will come see our other programs associated with the All American Synagogue. On Sunday, May 29, 2016 we are having a block party called Welcome to Jonestown and on Sunday, June 26, 2016 we are having a part lecture/workshop called A Glimpse into the World of Sofer. Bell, Book, and Candle is our specialty tour that will occur every Sunday at 3 pm. Come be a history detective and we hope to see you there!
Some examples of some of the synagogues our visitors created
A blog post by Museum Educator Kelly Suredam. To read more posts by Kelly click HERE.
Posted on April 15th, 2016 by Rachel
Starting May 1st!
From May 1 to July 10, 2016, our Historic Jonestown neighbor, the Carroll Mansion will be transformed into a showcase for some of the most innovative manufacturers and craftsmen in Baltimore and across the nation. The Mansion has been designated the “All American House” by the MADE: In America organization. To celebrate, the city invited other historic sites to participate in presenting “Baltimore’s American Treasures.” We couldn’t resist recognizing our own Lloyd Street Synagogue as the “All American Synagogue.”
Built in 1845, the Lloyd Street Synagogue is the third oldest Jewish house of worship still standing in the United States. The building was designed by Robert Cary Long Jr., a prominent architect of churches during that time. Nearly every component of the original building along with the 1860 renovation and addition were the result of American craft and manufacturers.
For several months a great team of interns and staff have been scouring through records and photos related to the material culture of the building and its contents. By “material culture” we mean the physical evidence of a culture; and the interpretation of objects and the social context in which they were made and employed.
Article on re-dedication of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, 1905
Our research included Baltimore City Directories from 1843-1845; newspapers, congregational minutes, Maryland Historical Society archives, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Archives, and the JMM’s own thorough research files, etc. The building has had such an extensive history, serving first as a traditional synagogue founded by German immigrants, and transformed later into a congregation that embraced reform traditions. The building was later sold to a Lithuanian Catholic Church and years later sold again to immigrants from Eastern Europe that transformed the building into a thriving center for Jewish tradition in East Baltimore. Each of the congregations used local manufacturers and craftsmen to build and design many of the elements featured in the buildings like the Holy Ark, the organ, and the pews.
Bell illustration by Jonathon Scott Fuqua
We’ve come up with many fresh insights, but found ourselves still struggling with a few unanswered questions. Where did the original torah scroll come from, what happened to the church’s bell, and how did we get conflicting stories of how the current chandeliers were acquired? We decided that the best way to resolve these mysteries was to “crowdsource” the clues. And that has led to the idea of putting together – “The Book, Bell and Candle Mystery” experience, a tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue with an interactive twist. Part of the Book, Bell and Candle Mystery, will be to share with you the new stories and clues we’ve uncovered about the ritual objects used in the building. But part will also be to get your input on unanswered questions that we still have pertaining to the objects, so we can crack the mysteries.