Creating Specialty Tours

Posted on May 27th, 2016 by

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

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.

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

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 in jewish museum of maryland




Shalom + Aloha = Shaloha OR What Hawai’i taught me about the Lloyd Street Synagogue

Posted on May 23rd, 2016 by

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.

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.

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.

How cool!

How cool!

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.

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.

QueenLiluokalanis' dress

QueenLiluokalani’s dress

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

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?

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

Smiling with the dancers

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

 

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Shoebox Synagogues

Posted on May 4th, 2016 by

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

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

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

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 in jewish museum of maryland




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