Amazing Partnerships at the JMM!

Posted on June 18th, 2014 by

Partnerships are something that we take seriously at the JMM and many of our programs and initiatives are conducted in collaboration with other institutions. We frequently work with other museums to develop and promote programs and we belong to such networks as the Greater Baltimore History Alliance ( and the Council of American Jewish Museums ( which foster collaboration among member organizations.

Our next major original exhibition, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, takes the concept of partnerships to new heights.

Opening September 14th - but you can start following Mendes and his travels now on Facebook!

Opening September 14th – but you can start following Mendes and his travels now on Facebook!

We are developing the exhibition as a joint project with the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS). As the MdHS is the custodian of many important artifacts and documents relating to Mendes Cohen, including the dozens of letters he wrote home during his travels, this partnership is truly a win/win for both organizations.

The JMM is incredibly grateful to the Burt Kummerow, director of MHS, and his staff for all of their assistance with this project. Jobi Zink and I recently had the great pleasure of meeting with Eben Dennis (job title) who showed us many of the artifacts we are hoping to display in the exhibit.

Travel Firman, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society.

Travel Firman, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society.

After spending so much time looking at reproductions of such objects as the firman that Mendes received from the Ottoman Empire which granted him the right to officially visit Palestine as a tourist (becoming the first American to receive such an honor), I was blown away by seeing the actual piece of paper with its Arabic script. The size of the document is hard to conceive especially when thinking about the pocket sized nature of today’s travel documents. Mendes wrote about his pride in receiving this document and in a letter published by a Baltimore paper in 1831, he wrote, ““I have just received my Firman . It is very full and explicit, to give me aid, supply my wants, &c, through my travels. It is written . . . on a sheet of paper about two feet and a half square [original italics] the size of the paper constituting, in some measure, its importance. . . . When it is presented to a Turk, he respects it by bowing, putting forward his head, and kissing the Sultan’s signature at the top of the paper. This necessary document I have received very promptly from Constantinople, an evidence of the dispatch given to our affairs there by our new Charge. It is, I believe, the first American Firman which has been issued, our countrymen heretofore having been obliged to procure them through the English Ambassador.”

Although The A-mazing Mendes Cohen does not open at the JMM until September 14, 2014, for those who cannot wait until then to learn more about this fascinating individual be sure to check out MdHS’s current exhibit In Full Glory Reflected: Maryland During the War of 1812.The exhibit includes such wonderful artifacts as the epaulets and hat that Mendes took to wearing many years after his participation in the War of 1812.


Mendes’ epaulets

Mendes' hat

Mendes’ hat

deborahA blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah, click here. To read more posts about Mendes Cohen, click here.


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Get Your Stamps!

Posted on July 15th, 2013 by

 Baltimore National Heritage Area War of 1812 Bicentennial Passport Kick-off!

 Did you know the Jewish Museum of Maryland wants to stamp your passport? Your 1812 Bicentennial Passport that is! Come on by, see the exhibits and get a very special stamp created just for this fun (and educational) program happening all over the city. Check out the press release below for more details!

1812 Passport


1812 Bicentennial Passport and Commemorative Coin Program

June 18, 2013 (Baltimore, Md.) —The Baltimore National Heritage Area officially launched its 1812 Bicentennial Passport and Commemorative Coin Program at the Maryland Historical Society with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and fifth-grade students from the Patterson Park Public Charter School.

The Passport and Coin Program invites visitors and residents to explore all of the 1812 sites, attractions, programs, and events as Baltimore and the state of Maryland commemorate the War of 1812 Bicentennial. Participation in the program is free.

“We are very pleased to offer this program in partnership with our heritage sites and attractions to students and the general public,” said Jeffrey Buchheit, executive director of the Baltimore National Heritage Area. “It benefits everyone. It’s an exciting way for residents and visitors to explore our city’s history and it helps drive visitation to our city’s historic sites.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake presented fifth-grade students from Patterson Park Public Charter School with commemorative coins at the kick-off event. The students successfully completed a year-long course of study on the history surrounding the War of 1812, visiting sites and attractions during their journey. The Mayor also thanked the program’s funder, The Dorothy L. and Henry A. Rosenberg, Jr. Foundation, by presenting Mr. Henry A. Rosenberg, Jr. with an honorary commemorative coin.

To receive a commemorative coin, participants must acquire 10 unique stamps in their passport from participating sites and participating events.  A full list of sites and programs can be found at Of the 10 stamps, four are mandatory in order to receive a commemorative coin: Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, Maryland Historical Society, and the Inner Harbor Visitor Center. Participants can then choose from a list of other sites and programs in order to complete their passport. Instructions for receiving a commemorative coin can be found at and

The mission of the Baltimore National Heritage Area is to promote, preserve, and enhance Baltimore’s historic and cultural legacy and natural resources for current and future generations.  For more information regarding the 1812 Bicentennial Passport program, visit  Visit for more information about the Baltimore National Heritage Area. 

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A Peek at Jewish Baltimore’s Civil War History

Posted on June 28th, 2013 by

Todd NessonA blog post by Exhibitions Intern Todd Nesson. Todd is working with Karen Falk on our upcoming exhibition Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. You can read more posts by Todd and other interns here.

“Just imagine Maryland seceding from the new confederacy (I hope she will never join it), Baltimore from the counties, they in turn from each other, Old Town from West End, Fells Point from Federal Hill, and then from each other. What a pretty State of Anarchy does this principle inaugurate.”

-Aaron Friedenwald, 1861


Aaron Friedenwald was expressing his sentiments to his largely pro-Southern family when he wrote the above quote. At the time, Aaron had been traveling in Europe to continue his medical education. He was shocked to learn of the outbreak of hostilities between the Union and the Confederacy and urged his family to recognize what he saw as the folly of the Confederate cause. Aaron’s arguments failed to sway his family and following the Pratt Street Riots, Isaac Friedenwald, one of Aaron’s brothers, went off to fight for the Confederate armies while the rest of his family continued to support the Southern Cause.

Isaac Friedenwald

Isaac Friedenwald

Following the riots, Baltimore found itself placed under martial law. The State Legislature was disbanded to ensure no votes of secession could take place and the guns of Fort McHenry and Federal Hill were pointed inward at the city to ensure its compliance. Just as Aaron recognized the strong Confederate leanings of his family, the Federal Government saw the strong Confederate leanings of Baltimore and provided their poignant reason for not revolting.

Image courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

Image courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

As noted, the Jewish population in Baltimore (and across the country) was not immune to the division gripping the country. Sometimes these divisions led to rather public arguments between members of the Jewish community. One in particular involved Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. The congregation found itself increasingly in the limelight due to its bombastic, pro-abolitionist and pro-Union Rabbi, David Einhorn. Einhorn would use his newspaper, Sinai, and his pulpit to counter the arguments of Pro-slavery clergy in the Jewish community. These pro-slavery clergy included Rabbi Raphall of New York and Rabbi Illowy of Baltimore. Following the Pratt Street Riots, Einhorn fled Baltimore to Philadelphia due to the strong possibility that he would be attacked for his pro-Northern views. Once there he would continue his support of the Union and abolitionist causes. Following the war, he headed to New York City became the Rabbi for Congregation Adath Israel.

Rabbi David Einhorn

Rabbi David Einhorn

Some Baltimore Jews, such as Leopold Blumenberg would put their prior military training at service of their new country. Blumenberg immigrated to Baltimore in 1854 after leaving the Prussian Army. At the time he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant but was unable to progress further due to the rampant anti-semitism in the Prussian army. When hostilities broke out, Blumenberg volunteered with the 5th Maryland Regiment and rose to the rank of Major. At the battle of Antietam he was wounded in the leg and given an honorable discharge along with an appointment as Provost Marshal of the second Maryland District.

General Leopold Blumenberg.

General Leopold Blumenberg.

Jews were found on both sides of the conflict during the Civil War, taking up the Blue and the Grey for reasons similar to those of their non-Jewish neighbors. The fires of war would help to forge and shape the Jews of America through politics and warfare, both at home and on the battlefield. Baltimore, due to its location on the dividing line between the Union and Confederacy found itself providing a turbulent atmosphere in which many Jews were forced to decide where they stood on the pressing matters of secession, slavery, and the future of the country that they had traveled so far to become a part of.

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