Jewish Marylanders, Both Born and Made, Breaking Barriers in History

Posted on September 27th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!


What is a barrier? Barriers can be physical – a material that blocks or inhibits movement. Barriers can be natural – such as oceans, rivers, or mountains. They can be immaterial – ideas, laws, or attitudes. The 2020 National History Day theme is “Breaking Barriers in History.”

National History Day, a non-profit that “creates opportunities for teachers and students to engage in historical research” (National History Day 2020 Themebook, pg. 4). This program begins in the Fall as students select their topic and begin researching. The program culminates with students presenting their work in original papers, exhibits, performances, websites, or documentaries and entering in local, regional, and potentially the national competition hosted at the University of Maryland at College Park.

This year, students in Baltimore and across the country will be researching individuals, communities, organizations, engineering and technologies, medicines, legislations, and more throughout history that have broken barriers.

JMM’s exhibits and collections tell stories of Jewish Maryland. This includes a variety of stories of individuals or communities breaking barriers. The Maryland Jewish community has produced many leaders who have made lasting contributions on a local, regional, national, and international scale. Issues range from labor relations and civil rights to helping the vulnerable to refugee resettlement to eliminating poverty, and much more. Below are three examples to get you started!


Henrietta Szold

Henrietta Szold was a Jewish Marylander whose leadership and ingenuity helped improve the lives of people in the United States and Israel.  JMM 1992.242.7.4.7.

Born in Baltimore in 1860 to Jewish immigrants Benjamin and Sophie Schaar Szold, Henrietta would spend her young adult life in Baltimore, teaching at her alma mater, Western Female High School. In the 1870s, Henrietta and her father would go to the Baltimore docks to greet new Jewish immigrants, mostly arriving from Eastern Europe and Russia. In 1889, Szold worked with the Isaac Baer Levinsohn Literary Society to form a night school for these immigrants to teach them English and American history.

In 1907, Henrietta joined the organization in which she would truly make her mark. Szold joined the Hadassah Study Circle, a Zionist women’s organization. Two years later, she traveled to Palestine with her mother. Horrified by the lack of medical supplies, Henrietta returned home determined to improve the conditions there. She founded the Hadassah organization to raise money to send nurses to Palestine. While serving as Hadassah’s president, she also became involved with the American Zionist Medical Unit, and later helped establish the Rothschild-Hadassah Hospital in Palestine and the Hadassah School of Nursing. Eight years later, Szold retired from Hadassah, but continued her work in Israel, serving as an elected official on the Yishuv’s National Council.

With the rise of Nazi power in Germany in 1933, she became the director of yet another organization, Youth Aliyah. She oversaw the resettlement and training of 11,000 refugee Jewish children for life in Palestine. On February 13th, 1945 Szold died at the age of eighty-five in the hospital that she helped build.

Inspire your students with the true story of Henrietta Szold through JMM dramatic living history performance. Performances can take place in your classroom. We are happy to provide a school discounted rate of $100 for the performance. Book Henrietta Szold today.


The Jew Bill

With the passage of An Act Concerning Religion, or the Toleration Act, in 1649, Maryland Jews and other non-Christians lost the ability to serve in municipal or state office, join the military, or practice law. However, there were very few Jews in Maryland at that time. Not until the late 1700s did Jewish families begin to appear in the growing port city of Baltimore.

When it was ratified in 1776, the Maryland State Constitution stated “No other test or qualification ought to be required on admission to any office of trust or profit than such oath of support and fidelity to the State … and a declaration of belief in Christian religion.” Even after the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791, the State of Maryland did not change its practices as the provisions of the First Amendment were considered to apply only to the Federal government.

In 1779, Solomon Etting, a prominent Jew in Baltimore, petitioned to have the state constitution amended to end discrimination of Jews. The Jews of Maryland did not sit idly by. They actively petitioned the legislature in 1824 for the bill’s passage. They wrote to editors in local and national newspapers, which began to run editorials in favor of the Jew Bill. Many people were offended to learn that such religious discrimination still existed in the government, nearly fifty years after the Constitution was established.

Thomas Kennedy of Hagerstown took up the cause of Maryland’s Jewish community.

State delegate Thomas Kennedy, a representative from Hagerstown, took up the cause of Maryland’s Jewish community in 1818. When he started the fight, he had never met someone Jewish, but he believed fiercely in religious freedom. He introduced “An Act for the relief of the Jews of Maryland,” also known as “The Jew Bill.” With heavy opposition from the anti-immigrant wing of the Federalist Party, his bill failed year after year. Kennedy continued pressing for the Bill even at the risk of his political career. In 1823 he was defeated for re-election by Benjamin Galloway running on a “Christian Ticket.” Two years later he was reelected to office as an independent and helped secure enough votes for the passing of the Jew Bill in 1826.

The Cover of “The Jew Bill” from JMM’s collection. JMM 1987.82.1.

Though the Jew Bill extended rights to Jews, other religious minorities would have to wait until 1867 for all religious requirements to be extinguished from the constitution.

Explore the JMM’s collection online for more primary and second sources about the Jew Bill here.

Experience a past program on the Jew Bill here.


Morris Schapiro & Boston Metals Company

For over 200 years, discarded metals, rags, paper, and animal hides have provided economic opportunities for immigrants and native-born Americans who collected, stored, brokered, and sold them – scrappers. The work was grueling, scrappers were stigmatized, and the industry was criticized as a source of social and environmental ills. Still, generations of individuals and families gravitated toward the work—including many Jewish scrappers. Our upcoming exhibit, Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling, shares stories of Jewish families who broke barriers – overcoming socio-economic barriers and stereotypes – while building one of America’s largest industries and innovating technologies and processes within it.

On such story is that of Morris Schapiro who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 16, on the S.S. Pennsylvania. He traveled in steerage and was seasick nearly the entire journey, during which he was pickpocketed, which left him with 25 cents to his name when he landed. Though several of his cousins were already in the business in Baltimore, Schapiro struck out on his own Within a week, he had made over $100 – a fortune at the time and more than he had ever possessed. Schapiro immediately established the Boston Iron and Metal Company, collecting scrap metal from blacksmiths, machine shops, and chemical companies.

Boston Metals Company in Baltimore.

By the 1920s, Boston Metals Company had moved from a small warehouse in Fells Point to a large, waterfront yard breaking down Navy and civilian ships. In 1919 the S.S. Pennsylvania was seized by the U.S. Navy and renamed the USS Nansemond. It was put up for scrap in 1924. Schapiro identified the vessel as the very same one that brought him to United States on that dreadful journey. He bought and scrapped the ship at his Boston Metals Company in Baltimore. The fortune that Schapiro eventually built through scrap led him to other enterprises, including whiskey distilling, a “near beer” brewery during Prohibition, and the Laurel Park Racetrack in Laurel, MD.


Interested in more stories of the individuals, companies, and communities behind the scrap industry? Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling is on display October 27, 2019 to April 26, 2020. Bring your students to explore the stories of immigrant families who built the scrap industry in America.

JMM’s staff are huge supporters of National History Day and can often be found volunteering in Baltimore at school competitions and as judges at the City, State, and National Competitions. Let us take our support a step further. Our exhibits and educational programs can support your students as they practice critical inquiry and historical research – examining primary and secondary sources. We are delighted to provide complimentary admission and a complimentary bus for any Maryland Public School visiting the Museum.

Learn more about our education programs here.

Book a visit with your class today here.


 

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It’s All in the Numbers: The Magical Secrets of JMM’s Education Department

Posted on September 13th, 2019 by


Performance Counts: September 2019

For this month’s edition of Performance Counts, the Education Department shares an inside look at the many students and teachers JMM has engaged with throughout the past year. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here.


The Education Department at JMM works to link area public, private, and Jewish schools to our education programs. For our student visitors, we connect our permanent and temporary exhibits and the historic synagogues to themes of immigration and world religions.

We typically see between 4,000 and 6,000 students and teachers in our onsite and offsite education programs. This past year, the Education Department connected with over 10,000 students, teachers, and chaperones from area schools. We are confident that we had such a MAGICAL year due to the HUGE success of the exhibit, Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini.

In addition to our education program for our original exhibit on Houdini, we developed programs for Jewish Refugees and Shanghai, and Stitching History from the Holocaust & Fashion Statement (not to mention new programs for our permanent exhibits and synagogue). Here is a snapshot of who JMM engaged through educational programing this past year:


During the seven months the Houdini exhibit was on display (June 2018 to January 2019), we worked with 1842 students, teachers, and chaperones at the JMM for education programs in connection to the exhibit.

Houdini On-Site Numbers

>Public Schools – We had 24 visits from 14 different schools over the run of the exhibit.

>Jewish Schools –We had 9 visits from groups coming from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Howard County, DC, and Kunklestown, PA.

>Private/Other – We had 362 visitors from 8 universities, camps and private schools in the area visit the exhibit.

We worked with the curator/magician David London to develop a living history character to complement the Houdini exhibit. This living history performance was very popular and Harry Houdini performed for over 2400 students and teachers at area schools.

Houdini Offsite Numbers

>Public Schools – 1119 students and teachers from 6 area schools in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County.

>Jewish Schools – 1104 students and teachers from 8 area Jewish camps and schools.

>Private/Other – 200 campers from Camp B’more.

The Harry Houdini living history performance’s success was not limited to area schools. During the run of the exhibit, the living history character saw nearly 3200 people as part of a school, adult group, or public program. Following the exhibit, the character performed to over 1100 people at schools and synagogues. To date, we are receiving bookings for the upcoming school year.


Following the Houdini exhibit, we looked to the east and brought a travelling exhibit from Shanghai to JMM. While Jewish Refugees and Shanghai was here for only 6 weeks, we engaged with a number of area schools through educational programs.

Jewish Refugees and Shanghai On-Site Numbers

>Jewish Schools – We worked with one area Jewish school in connection to students learning in the classroom.

>Private/Other – We saw 233 students and teachers from area 8 separate universities and private schools.  Students visited from the Howard County Chinese School, Sidwell Friends, and Washington Wu Ying Public Charter School from the DC area.

Jewish Refugees and Shanghai also gave us the opportunity to provide a professional development opportunity for teachers.

We piloted the Winter Teachers Institute, where area teachers took part in a two-day learning opportunity in Holocaust education. Highlights included a visit to the People’s Republic of China Embassy in DC and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Teachers also participated in a full day of learning at JMM where they studied the plight of refugees during — and after — WWII and the reaction of the United States to the refugee situation.


In spring, we borrowed the powerful exhibit Stitching History from the Holocaust from the Jewish Museum Milwaukee. The exhibit depicts the moving story of the Strnads and their attempt to flee Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Hedy Strnad tried to use her skills as a fashion designer to come to the United Stated. Our collections staff curated the beautiful exhibit Fashion Statement to complement the show. The exhibit allows visitors to think about the many ways that clothing signals one’s identity or group with which they want to identify.

Stitching History from the Holocaust & Fashion Statement Onsite Numbers

>Public Schools – 447 students and teachers from 10 different schools in Baltimore City

>Jewish Schools – 117 students from 4 groups.

>Private Schools – 213 students from 7 local private schools, universities and camps.


Back to School

Since the beginning of our new fiscal year (July 1, 2019), we have already engaged with 820 students, teachers, and chaperones from public, Jewish, and private schools and camps. As students and teachers returned to their classrooms this September, our education team is looking ahead to an exciting 2019-2020 school year.

Our team is looking to strengthen existing relationships and make new connections this year. 3500 new education brochures have been sent out to educators across Maryland. This brochure shares the variety of programs JMM offers on topics such as Baltimore history, immigration, Judaism, primary sources, and Holocaust Education.

2 new education programs are being developed for our upcoming special exhibit Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling opening on October 27, 2019 – one for elementary and one for middle school and above. Through hands-on activities, students will explore one of America’s largest industries, its innovative technology, and stories of the immigrant families that built it.

2 new Homeschool Days have been developed to support families seeking specialized, engaging experiences.

The Education Department is looking forward to another magical year as we strive to create experiences for students that will enrich their classroom learning, ignite their curiosity, and foster personal connections.


Questions about our Education Programs?
Contact School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse
at pwoodhouse@jewishmuseummd.org / 443-873-5167.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland




How do we know what we know?

Posted on August 5th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!


How do we know what we know?

This is a big question. It’s bigger than big. It’s enormous.

So how do you tackle a question like that? A conference seems like a logical place to start. In July, the Visitor Studies Association (VSA) hosted its annual conference in Detroit Michigan titled “Ways of Knowing.” This question, “How do we know what we know?” was the question that the keynote speaker, Dr. Katrina Bledsoe, opened the conference with before diving into contemporary thoughts in the field of evaluation.

Conferences are exciting places. They harvest intriguing questions and ignite new ideas. They are a place to share success stories and struggles that happened along the way. They are places for learning. While I couldn’t attend The VSA conference in person, thanks to a new green initiative by the VSA, I attended their first-ever virtual conference. Like all conferences, there was more discussed than could possibly be written about in one blog post.

What is the Visitor Studies Association? As described on their website, VSA is “a membership organization dedicated to understanding and enhancing learning experiences in informal settings through research, evaluation, and dialogue.” So, what are informal learning settings? That’s us, JMM. Along with other museums, nature centers, historic sites, visitor centers, and zoos.

To learn from other organizations about their applications of evaluation, you have to learn about the projects they evaluated. I heard from lots of organizations that have recently undertaken interesting projects (Along with the great ways they are using evaluation to learn from them). Here’s are two examples:

“Studying Touch as a Way of Knowing in the Art Exhibition” researched how touch can be a method of interpretation for visitors interacting with artwork, specifically sculpture. The project monitored visitors’ encounters (through video recording) with artwork in the exhibit Evighetens Form (Eternity’s Form) by the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo, Norway (2016 – 2019). This project added to previous research on multi-sensory meaning-making processes. Listening to the findings of their study, I particularly enjoyed an unexpected outcome they had – visitors would going beyond gentle touching of the sculptures at times and knock on the sculptures for solidity, determining the material, and the sound that was produced.

Dr. Navaz DBhavnagri from Wayne State University spoke about “Using Museums to Promote Cultural Identity Among Yemeni Students.” This project explored how museums are places that can promote and enhance cultural identity. Working with Muslim Yemeni immigrant and refugee students across multiple visits to the Detroit Institute of Arts, as well as pre-visit and post-visit sessions, students were encouraged to make connections and express their cultural identity. Before visiting the Museum, students did a self-report on what they know and what they wanted to know. Visits to the Museum progressed with different activities. First, they went and took pictures throughout the exhibit writing comments back in the classroom about their photos and how they connected to what they took pictures of. This visit introduced students to the museum environment. Their second visit was a scavenger hunt to encourage more focused engagement with the exhibit. Their third visit encouraged them to select an object to sketch. This object needed to relate to their cultural identity. They needed to think about why they chose that object. What special meaning did it have? How was it connected to their cultural identity? This resulted in a more complex reflection and the students creating an intersection between their personal life and their cultural identity. After each visit, students would debrief their experience. They created art projects that integrated their knowledge. They considered what they learned and what new questions they have now. During this year-long projects, these students were also learning English, so translators were critical to assisting the project. At the end of the project, students presented their object and story to other students and teachers outside of their class – sharing not only their cultural identity, but their new language skills. All the materials produced through the project (photos taken with comments, collages, sketches, reflections, and presentations) were used to evaluate the project. Students moved beyond seeing the objects as “just old” to how they overlap with their own lives.

The Detroit Institute of Art has a strong collection of Arts of the Ancient Middle East and Arts of the Islamic World that students explored during their visits.

While each speaker highlighted a specific project, throughout the entire conference the theme of equity was present. How do we promote equitable evaluation? Equity, in the simplest of definitions, means fair access. Each person has access regardless of economic resources or personal traits. Every person has the right to be given equal treatment by the system.

Evaluation is often thought of as being objective. But we need to consider the ways our methodologies are shaped by underlying values. We need to consider different cultural and historical views. We need to make our research findings accessible. While measuring if the goals of a project are being met, we need to consider if the project developed in a culturally responsive way? Whose reality are we representing? Whose voice? Whose experiences?

The Detroit Zoo wanted to engage with audiences that weren’t coming to the zoo (even when offered free admission). They wanted to work with individuals who found themselves homeless and therefore needed to think about the barriers that were preventing people from visiting. When speaking about their project and evaluation, they said that evaluation for their team at the Detroit Zoo means continuously asking, “are we valuable? What is valuable about what we are doing?” The team constantly looks at communities in their neighborhood and asking who are the voices that they don’t reach and what do those communities need?

So, how do we know what we know?

We evaluate. And this takes many forms at JMM. Evaluation is not a one-size-fits-all tool. Especially when thinking about how to be equitable during the process. For the big picture, we want to make sure that what we are doing is valuable. That all our exhibits and programs reflect our mission. We seek to learn about our impact and the quality of experience we offer.

Evaluation can come to us informally through conversations, emails, and phone calls. For projects, (whether it is a public program, school group, or exhibit) we try to make evaluation part of the process.

Intern Hannah spoke with visitors about their experiences in Fashion Statement recently.

Recently, JMM’s Visitor Services Coordinator, Talia, shared how our FY2019 visitor numbers are one way that we evaluate our success. We also evaluate using surveys after public programs, or post-it notes with school groups and by observation. This summer our interns have been conducting surveys for our Fashion Statement exhibit. We are interested to see if visitors are making connections to the learning objectives we set out for the exhibit. Or, as I mentioned previously, what unexpected outcomes we may find.

So when our interns and staff are in the orientation space with clipboards asking if you would take a few minutes to fill out a form, or chat with them about your experiences, it is not just to collect data that will sit on a shelf with a checkmark beside it. It is because we genuinely want to know about you, what brought you here, how you did (or did not) connect with our exhibits. Your answers inform our decisions. We learn from them. They help us find ways so that you, the visitor, can “find yourself here.”

Conferences are inspiring. I am positive that the things I learned will trickle into projects at JMM. You can read the abstracts from all the VSA conference sessions here.


 

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