JMM Insights: It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Posted on May 20th, 2016 by

Jonestown horizontal 4C

WELCOME!

On May 29 we’re putting out the welcome mat as six of greater Jonestown’s well established historic and cultural attractions celebrate the arrival of three brand new facilities planned over the next few years.  We hope you’ll join JMM, the Carroll Museums, Zion Church of Baltimore, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, Port Discovery, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, and B’Nai Israel: The Downtown Synagogue, in saying “welcome!” to our future neighbors.

We thought it might be a good idea to share the backstory behind this event.  Most of you will recall that last October we facilitated the development of the Jonestown Vision Plan and the launch of the new Jonestown brand identity.  In the months since, we’ve continued to work closely with the community and Historic Jonestown Inc. (HJI), led by Lindsay Thompson and Joe Cronyn on ways to put our ambitious goals into practice.

HJI is in the process of organizing itself into affinity groups, bringing together the neighborhood’s social service organizations, its religious institutions, its hospitality industry and its historic/cultural organizations to work on parts of the plan that are a natural fit with each group.  Our historic/cultural group has been concentrating on events and programs.  We felt very fortunate to be included in the Carroll Mansion’s current partnership in support of the All American House and we are studying other two-way and three-way collaborations to bring life to the streets of Jonestown, including tentative plans for a plein air art experience on surrounding streets later this summer.

Meanwhile we’ve had some terrific news about institutions bringing new activity and energy to our immediate vicinity.  Just a block away from the Lloyd Street Synagogue, Ronald McDonald House is well on its way to starting construction on a new facility.  The new Ronald McDonald House, which will be built at 1200 E. Baltimore Street, will reflect a commitment to incorporate best practices into all of its programs and services. The new house is intended to fulfill an institutional goal of establishing Baltimore as providing not only quality pediatric care but the most effective and compassionate family-centered care in the world.  Amenities included in the design of the new house were carefully selected through input from staff, volunteers and families. The new House will serve approximately 55 families daily and 2,200 families a year.  We intend to extend outreach to both volunteers and families. The coming of the new facility will also mean upgrades for the adjacent McKim Park.

And just a block away from the park, at 1100 E. Fayette Street, Kevin Plank and Under Armour have provided more than $6 million in support for a new recreation center, scheduled to open later this year.  The new center will be operated by Living Classrooms.  Jonestown’s cultural institutions are exploring ways to engage youth at the new center in our ongoing programs.

Go just a few blocks further down Fayette  Street and you’ll come to 901, announced last January as the new site for the National Aquarium’s animal care and rescue center.  Preparations are beginning now for an anticipated 2018 opening.  The Aquarium hopes to provide some public access to this behind-the-scenes space.  Jonestown has been welcoming new immigrants for more than 200 years – now we’ll have new arrivals with fins and tails as well.

Welcome to the New Neighbors!

Welcome to the New Neighbors!

It seemed like a great time to bring these new institutions into the Jonestown family.  From 1pm to 4pm we’ll have family activities for every taste.  Art projects, craft work, storytelling from Port Discovery and our new friends at the National Aquarium are bringing with a bearded dragon… just in case you’ve never seen a real dragon, or at least a real dragon with a beard. Admission to the Museum and to all the activities is free.

Happy birthday Mr. Jones!

Happy birthday Mr. Jones!

Speaking of every taste, there will also be birthday cake.  Whose birthday you ask?  Well Jonestown, of course.  On June 15, 1641, David Jones built his home by the falls that bear his name (not to mention the expressway they put on top of it).  So we’ve decided to jump the gun just a little and pull out the 355th birthday cake at our Jonestown celebration.  It seems a fitting way to mark a milestone for Baltimore’s oldest neighborhood and newest destination:  Jonestown – proudly we hail.

~Marvin Pinkert

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It’s Moses in a Landslide

Posted on April 25th, 2016 by

There are those occasions when the secular and Jewish calendars converge in an unusual harmony.  We all remember “Thanksgivukkah” and this year features the equally rare “Hanuyearsikkah”.  But this month my thoughts go to an exceptional April convergence.  Let me start with a question:

Q: When was the first time you could cast a vote for a Jewish candidate in a US presidential primary?

A: 40 years ago, in 1976, and the candidate was Gov. Milton Shapp

Milton Shapp

Milton Shapp

Well, of course, that’s if you lived in Massachusetts, Illinois or Shapp’s home state of Pennsylvania.  By the time the primary calendar turned to Maryland in late May, Shapp had dropped out, after taking less than 5% of the vote in his home state.  Another early favorite in the election season with strong ties to the Jewish community, Scoop Jackson, had also pulled out after the Pennsylvania primary.  In fact, out of the 16 candidates who had entered the Democratic race only a handful remained by the time voting took place here.  The winner, by a wide margin, was Jerry Brown.  But Brown and the ABC (“anyone but Carter”) campaign started too late to stop Carter’s momentum.  We may not have voted for the eventual Democratic nominee and president, but Maryland holds the distinction of being one of three states to vote for the only 1976 candidate who is still in public office forty years later.

So what makes this Maryland primary night different than all other Maryland presidential primary nights?  Well, by my count it is the first time that Passover and presidential primary elections have converged in this state.  From the 1960’s through 1984, Maryland Primary Day was in May, too late for Passover.  From 1988 through 2008 Primary Day moved around between mid-February and early March, too early for Passover… even in 2012 when it was pushed back to late March it was still too early to overlap that year.

But this year the match between the Jewish festival of freedom and the secular exercise of liberty is “just right.”

Now Moses did not need to run in a primary, this didn’t mean he was immune to politics.

One of the earliest references I could find to political selection was in the Parsha Yitro in the Book of Exodus.  In that section, Moses in the wilderness is overwhelmed by the burden of adjudicating every dispute in the community.  He gets advice from his father-in-law Jethro (the first political consultant?) that he should appoint a system of judges to handle lesser cases.  Jethro goes on to tell Moses “But you shall choose out of the entire nation men of substance, G-d fearers, men of truth, who hate monetary gain, and you shall appoint over them [Israel] leaders over thousands, leaders over hundreds, leaders over fifties, and leaders over tens.”

I make no claim to Biblical scholarship, but I find it interesting that the subject of the appointment of judges comes one chapter ahead of the delivery of laws on Mt. Sinai.  This sequence – officials first, laws second – suggests to me an awareness that even the most noble and principled law can be perverted by unjust or corrupted men.

Today each of us plays a bit of the role played by Moses in selecting leaders for our community.  The scale may be different, but as we go to the polls to choose a leader for the three hundred millions, I think Jethro’s advice about seeking people of substance, humility, honesty and financial integrity still applies.  Let’s follow the example of Moses and choose wisely.

MarvinA blog post by JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




JMM Joins City’s Celebration of American Design and Manufacture

Posted on April 6th, 2016 by

Last year, the organization MADE: In America designated the Carroll Mansion as its “All American House” for 2016.  From April 23 to July 7, 2016 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 city expanded the celebration by inviting partner organizations in what it’s calling the “Baltimore’s American Treasures” event.

The Carroll Mansion, 2016's "All-American House"

The Carroll Mansion, 2016’s “All-American House”

Located just a few blocks away from the Carroll Mansion in Baltimore’s oldest neighborhood, Historic Jonestown, is the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM).  To play our part in the celebration we’re hosting special events in recognition of the Lloyd Street Synagogue as a truly 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 church architect of the era.  Nearly every component of the original building and its 1860 renovation were the result of American craft and manufacture from the stenciling to the wooden pews to the stained glass Star of David.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

The museum has spent the winter researching the material history of the building – which switched hands multiple times, serving first as a traditional German synagogue, then as a reformed temple, later it became a Lithuanian Catholic Church and finally a Russian Orthodox shul.  Each iteration brought new design elements into the building, holy arks and altars, mezuzot and an organ.  We’ve sifted through the records to identify some of the most interesting stories of how this site was designed and built to serve the needs of successive waves of immigrants.

The oldest extant photo of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Courtesy of the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection, JMM 1997.71.1

The oldest extant photo of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Courtesy of the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection, JMM 1997.71.1

Not every story has been easy to trace.  Where did the synagogues first Torah scroll come from?  What was the origin of the church’s bells and where did they go when the church was sold?  How did church chandeliers end up hanging from the ceiling of an Orthodox synagogue?  Questions like these led to the idea of our “Book, Bell and Candle Mystery Experience” (offered each Sunday from May 1 through July 7 at 3pm).  Our expert history sleuth will transport you into the shoes of a researcher on the trail of holy artifacts.  Made in America? Or lovingly imported?  Only one thing is certain – “it belongs in a museum” – the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Chandalier inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue

Chandelier inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue

We’ve set three Sundays aside for activities related to design work for the whole family.  On May 1 our focus is on crafts related to the building itself.  It includes a closer look at the stained glass windows and the art behind them.  On May 29, our “Welcome to Jonestown” free family day will feature crafts related to music in the synagogue.  Finally, on June 26, we will offer demonstrations of specialized skills required to manufacture the artifacts of the synagogue – from a sofer  (scribe) illustrating Hebrew calligraphy to a blacksmith making fencework.

Leaded glass window. East wall. Over ark. Lloyd Street Synagogue- Baltimore. restored 1964. IA 1024.

Leaded glass window. East wall. Over ark. Lloyd Street Synagogue- Baltimore. restored 1964. IA 1024.

Come see how the Lloyd Street Synagogue and its congregations fit into the fabric of America’s material culture.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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