Explore the Civil War You Never Knew

Posted on October 18th, 2013 by

Nearly 200 people joined us at the JMM this past weekend (Oct. 12 and 13) to celebrate the opening of Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. The exhibit comes to us from the American Jewish Historical Society and Yeshiva University Museum and has been enhanced by the JMM to include artifacts and stories that reflect the role of Maryland Jews in the war.

The exhibit sheds light on both how the Jewish community (which numbered 150,000 in 1860) participated in the war as well as how the war impacted the community.

Here are some of the opening event highlights:

guests in gallery

guests in gallery

At Saturday evening’s members’ preview, guests enjoyed viewing the fascinating artifacts on display especially those that told local stories. It was fun hearing the chatter in the gallery as people constantly exclaimed how surprised they were to learn about the extent of Jewish involvement in the war effort.

Guest using the stereoscope viewer

Guest using the stereoscope viewer

The JMM installation featured several new activity stations. Here a guest explores the section of the exhibit on Civil War era photography by testing out a stereoscope viewer.

2nd South Carolina String Band

2nd South Carolina String Band

With their authentic period costumes and instruments, music of the Second South Carolina String Band gave the lobby a Civil War-era feel.

Karen leading tour

Karen leading tour

JMM curator Karen Falk led two filled-to-capacity exhibit tours where she shared stories about individual artifacts and stories on display.

Marvin leading tour

Marvin leading tour

JMM executive director Marvin Pinkert premiered our new 1861 themed tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue for guests at Saturday’s event. This tour takes visitors back in time to the 1860s as they explore what Jewish life was like in Baltimore at this time as well as the important role that the Lloyd Street Synagogue (then Baltimore Hebrew Congregation) played in the debate on slavery. This new tour will be given daily (Sun-Thurs) at 3pm.

BSA student

BSA student

We are so grateful to the two students from the Baltimore School for the Arts who attended the event in period costume. It was especially fun watching Amelia navigate tight corners in her hoop dress. Thank goodness fashion trends have changed!

guests viewing objects in case

guests viewing objects in case

Our member’s preview was followed by a successful opening to the public on Sunday. We were delighted to see many people – both longtime friends to the JMM and first time visitors – take in the exhibit. Many people brought their children who enjoyed playing with the exhibit’s activity stations.

visitor talking to re-enactor

visitor talking to re-enactor

On Sunday, we were privileged to have two Civil War re-enactors attend in authentic soldier uniforms. Guests enjoyed having the opportunity to speak with them as they learned about their uniforms’ details and items of significance.

Jonathan Karp

Jonathan Karp

Jonathan Karp, former director of the American Jewish Historical Society and one of the exhibit’s project directors, provided fascinating insights on the development of the exhibit and shared some of his favorite stories with our guests.

Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War is on display at the Jewish Museum of Maryland through February 28, 2014. We hope you will stop by for a visit.

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts by Deborah, click here. All photos by Will Kirk.

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Wanna See Batman?

Posted on February 1st, 2013 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus. Opening photographs by Will Kirk.

At one of my brother’s birthday parties as a little kid, my parents hired a magician/comedian.  He would stand in front of a crowd of 4 or 5 year olds and say, “Wanna see Batman?!?” and when they roared “YEAH!!!” he would respond, “Well, he’s not here.”  My brother and I thought it was hysterical (what do you want?  We were 3 and 5).

Last Thursday I learned just how un-funny the punch line to this joke can be, because Batman, who I had hired to come to the ZAP! POW! BAM! opening, was not going to be there.  For completely understandable reasons, our Batman had to leave town at the last minute leaving us, well, in need of a hero to save the day.

So, I did what any rational person would do – I sent out the Bat Signal.  The Bat Signal, as you probably know, is a searchlight that casts the shape of a bat into the night sky.  It is used by the folks over at the Gotham City Police Station when they need to summon the Caped Crusader.  I climbed up onto the roof of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, positioned the searchlight somewhere over the Inner Harbor, and hoped that a Batman or at least maybe a Raven, would answer my call.

Alright, maybe this is not exactly what happened.  For one thing, this moment of crisis came in the middle of the day, when it is doubtful anyone would have been able to see anything reflecting on the sky.  Instead I went to social media and to friends and fortunately to one friend’s theater list-serve with this request:

Be Batman for a day!

Needed: The Batman

The Jewish Museum of Maryland is looking for one person to portray Batman for two hours on Sunday, January 27th from 11 – 1pm.

Must be:


Average build

5’10 or taller

Familiar with Batman character

Enthusiastic and willing to pose in pictures and talk with young children 

And wouldn’t you know it, we got a response.  And then another, and another and another.  In fact my phone was ringing off the hook and emails poured in all day.  It was a miracle of epic proportions.  Turns out, lots of people would jump at the chance to be a superhero for a day.

People sent pictures of themselves in Batman costumes, describing their lifelong love of the Dark Knight.  We had people who had been extras in Batman movies, dressed up as Batman for Comic-Con, as well as serious actors who boasted their experience with stage combat and their solid knowledge of The World’s Greatest Detective!

But fortunately one Batman stood out from the crowd.  He sent a picture of himself portraying Batman last summer at Six Flags Amusement Park.  He was THE REAL BATMAN!!!  He even still had his professional costume.  I won’t identify him by name, just know that he definitely saved the day.

When Batman arrived at 11am at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the children (many in costumes themselves) were delighted.  They wanted to see Batman… and he was HERE!

JMM Staff with their Hero!

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Time to get SUPER at the JMM!

Posted on January 9th, 2013 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus.

It has been one year since I began working at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and in that year I have learned a lot about… food.  Basically if I described my job to most people it would sound like I work in a food museum or some type of community restaurant.  We have organized taste tests, food demos, cooking competitions, programs about the history of foods and food traditions – all in all it has been a delicious year.

But just as all good meals must come to an end (generally with some kind of tasty dessert), so must all good exhibits.  And now it’s time to switch gears from working in a food museum to working in a Superhero museum.  Lucky me!

Step one of working in a Superhero Museum – Read up on superheroes.  Ok, maybe I needed some help with this one (nods to Rachel Kassman, and her comic book library).

Step two – Talk to superhero experts.  To successfully complete this task, several of us took a field trip to Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (GEM), located just across the inner harbor from the JMM at 301 West Camden Street.  GEM was started by Steve Geppi, a local entrepreneur and comic book aficionado.  He is also a comic book publisher and distributor.  Basically everything you could ever hope to learn about comic books is located within the walls of GEM, not to mention all types of other pop culture memorabilia, and a hall of fame of local Baltimore heroes.  (Fun fact: I learned that the flat bottom ice cream cone was invented in Baltimore.  See, I am still preoccupied with food facts!)  The docent at GEM was kind enough to show us around the museum and put me in touch with the museum’s curator Andy Hershberger who put me in touch with the former curator, Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg.

Dr. Blumberg is – get this – a professor of comic books and zombies (seriously, he teaches courses on these subjects at UMBC and University of Baltimore. Amazing!)

Step three – Contact a real live superhero.  It’s not every day that you make a phone call at work and the person on the other line answers, “Hello, Batman speaking.”  But that is truly what happened when I phoned Lenny Robinson (oh no, first rule of superheroes has been breached – never discuss the superhero’s real world alter ego).  Robinson is a Baltimorean who visits charities, hospitals, and other events around the country as the Caped Crusader himself.

With the JMM’s transformation into the Jewish Museum of All Things Superheroes nearly complete, we invite you to get in on the fun (particularly steps 2 and 3 of becoming a Superhero Museum)  In just a few weeks we will open the exhibit ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938 – 1950, and everyone is invited!  We will be holding two opening events.  On Saturday, January 26th from 7-9pm, we will have an exclusive members-only preview event of ZAP! POW! BAM!  Meet Dr. Blumberg and hear from him all about the history of comic books and how they have informed his life’s work.  If you want to attend this event, but you are not yet a member, never fear, Sue Foard our membership coordinator is here to save the day!!!  You can contact her at sfoard@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6400 ext. 220.

At the public opening on Sunday, January 27th, the exhibit will be open from 10am – 5pm.  From 11am – 1pm you can meet BATMAN (in his Batmobile, weather permitting)!  This event is free for members and free for kids in superhero costumes.  The event is included in the cost of admission for all other attendees.

We have lots of exciting programs planned for this spring, and we hope to see you here at the JMM to be super with us.

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