Olive Oil Master Class at the JMM!

Posted on December 26th, 2014 by


Last Thursday evening was Olive fun at the JMM. We hosted a DIY Olive Oil workshop led by Pearlstone Center farms. The night started off with light refreshments. We then had a rather theatrical explanation of the life of an olive tree – their resilience and strength in the face of harsh weather conditions.  We also learned that Israel is home to some of the oldest olive trees in the world, dating back several hundreds of years.

Pitting Olives

Pitting Olives

We then moved into the messy and fun process of pitting the olives, which involved rolling them with highly technical equipment – a wooden stick – until the flesh separated from the pit. During this process, many participants discovered that un-cured olives are rather bitter and taste awful. After the pitting process, the flesh was collected and dumped into a large press in the middle of the room. Did you know that 5 lbs of olives only yields approximately .75 oz of oil? That means an average 51 oz bottle of oil requires 340 lbs of olives!

Olive Pressing

Olive Pressing

We also learned about a more modern method of exacting the oil via a centrifuge. We explored the physics of this method by grabbing a partner and spinning quickly in a circle together to mimic how a centrifuge spins the olive liquid swiftly until the oil separates from the pulp. We then moved into making our own herb infused olive oils using fresh sage and rosemary from Pearlstone’s farm. As museumgoers were crafting, Laura retold the story of Hanukah and reiterated the importance of oil during the season. All and all, the evening was a blast!


Showing off rosemary-infused olive oil


A blog post by Carolyn Bevans, Museum Educator and Programs Associate. To read more posts from Carolyn, click HERE. 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Chosen Food – A Year in Review

Posted on December 21st, 2012 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

The end of the month is quickly approaching which means many things – my kids are counting down the minutes to winter break; I’m getting awfully tired of Christmas music; and everyone at the Museum is scrambling to meet end of the year deadlines. The end of December also signals one more important event – the closing of Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture, and American Jewish Identity. This original JMM exhibition which opened in October 2011 has proven quite popular with visitors and staff and has inspired a variety of food-related conversations, blog posts, partnerships, and programs. It has truly been a year filled with food, food, and more food!

Here in no particular order are some of the highlights of this past year’s exhibition-related activities:

Iron Chef Passover

In 2011 we launched a new program initiative supported by the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education designed to attract young adults to the JMM for evening programs featuring speakers, exhibit tours, hands-on demonstrations, and workshops. We couldn’t have picked a better time to begin this program series as we themed many of our programs on the topics of food, gardening, and sustainability. Based on the popular Food Network show, we held two Iron Chef competitions (in celebration of Passover and Sukkot). Here we see a team participating in the Iron Chef Passover competition working to incorporate horseradish (the secret ingredient) into their dishes. One of the evening’s winning dishes was a surprisingly delicious horseradish ice cream.


The JMM’s own amazing Esther Weiner hosted EstherFest! a celebration of Chanukah complete with latke making, joke telling, and story sharing. This program proved so popular, we repeated it again this year. Esther’s fame has traveled wide and far and she has been featured on WYPR’s The Signal. We cannot understand why Esther does not have her own cooking show on the Food Network!

Joe Regenstein – Everything You Wanted to Know about Kosher and Halal

Chosen Food highlights the ways in which Jewish food traditions have absorbed the customs of other ethnic and religious groups as well as the extent to which Jewish food culture has impacted mainstream American culture. We continued to explore these cross cultural comparisons through many programs. One program featured Dr. Joseph Regenstein, Professor of Food Science at Cornell University and head of the Kosher and Halal Initiative, who facilitated a fascinating discussion about the similarities and differences between kosher and halal dietary regulations.

Michael Twitty/Kosher Soul

What do you get when you mix Jewish and African American culinary traditions? Kosher Soul, a program featuring culinary historian, Michael Twitty, who demonstrated how he has incorporated his adopted Jewish faith into traditional African American recipes. The results were such tasty dishes as black bean hummus, collard green pastrami soul rolls, and sesame hamantaschen. Audience members loved tasting his dishes.

Knish 101

participants sampling knishes

So many Jewish delicacies to explore in such a short period of time. Knish lover, Laura Silver, provided a fact-filled lecture about the history of knishes followed by a sampling of many of Baltimore’s best home-made and store bought versions.

Chosen Food travels to the White House

Not all of our related programs took place on-site. In April we were invited to travel to DC to participate in a Passover program at the White House. Cookbook author Joan Nathan and White House pastry chef Bill Yosses led a hands-on cooking demonstration of traditional Passover dishes while JMM staff members Karen Falk and Rachel Cylus shared holiday stories.

Food-related programming also proved popular with families. This summer, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Hendler Creamery (a Jewish-owned ice cream company that was located just across the street from the JMM on Baltimore Street), we held several ice cream making (and eating) programs.

Celebrating the connection between Jews and Chinese food and games was the theme of our 2011 annual Christmas Day program, Chanukah, Christmas, and Everything Chinese. Thanks to the assistance of Lois Madow of the American Mah – Jongg Association we were able to provide mah jongg lessons for our visitors along with crafts, games, and tasty Chinese food sampling.

Join us again this year as we continue to celebrate the Jewish/Chinese connection at Dragons and Dreidels on Tues. December 25. [More info can be found at http:///www.jewishmuseummd.org/event/dragons-and-dreidels-%E2%80%93-christmas-day-jmm-special-guest-jennifer-8-lee or call Rachel Cylus at (410) 732-6400 x214]

City Springs school children visiting the exhibit

The exhibit proved popular with audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Thanks to the efforts of our education staff, we developed a range of activities for visiting school groups to enhance their tours through the exhibit with art projects, scavenger hunts, and small group discussions.

Chosen Food also served as inspiration for a year-long partnership project with students from nearby Commodore Rodgers Elementary/Middle School. Students toured the exhibit and then met regularly with JMM staff to gather family recipes and create a classroom cookbook. This year’s partnership project involves the creation of a school community garden.

JMM staff members learning about Jewish agricultural practices

One of our most rewarding partnerships has been with the staff at Kayam Farms at the Pearlstone Center. In addition to facilitating several Brews and Schmooze programs (and supplying the secret ingredient at our Iron Chef Sukkot competition), JMM education staff participated in two workshops at Pearlstone Center where we learned about traditional Jewish farming practices and how to lead related activities for school groups. In this photo you see us participating in an activity designed to teach children about the importance of poly-culture agriculture as opposed to mono-culture. Our group split into two teams, one representing pests and the other crops. As you can see, Elena and I had a great time pretending to be pests!

lining up for gefilte fish corn dogs at GefilteFest

Our culminating event took place this past October as we celebrated perhaps the most Jewish of Jewish foods at GefilteFest. Activities included fish themed activities, specialty tours of the exhibit, snacks, and a gefilte fish making competition featuring Liz Alpern of Gefilteria in Brooklyn; Dave Whaley, first cook at the Four Seasons; and the JMM’s own Susan Press. Believe it or not but top honors went to Chef Whaley’s deep fried gefilte fish corn dog!

Amazingly, this list is not at all comprehensive and only covers a sampling of what we offered this year. Other programs explored borscht making, pie making, bee keeping, canning demonstrations, and more.

If you still have not made it down to visit Chosen Food, do not despair. You still have time…but not much. The exhibit’s last day is Sunday, December 30. It then travels to Atlanta where it will be on view at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.

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Welcome to Jewish Baltimore!

Posted on August 17th, 2011 by

By Amy Smith, Administrative & Development Coordinator

When I arrived at the Pearlstone Conference & Retreat Center for the Darrell D. Friedman Institute’s JPRO Day, it was reminiscent of my first day at summer camp, ropes course and all.  I’m not much of an outdoors person, so I was thankful that the day’s workshops would be inside the comfort of a conference room.  Upon entering the main building, there was a registration table where a volunteer handed me a registration packet and a name tag that said, “Amy Smith, Jewish Museum of Maryland.”

I proceeded upstairs to the Library, where I attended an orientation breakfast for professionals who were new to Jewish Baltimore.  DFI’s Executive Director, Cindy Goldstein, welcomed all the newcomers to the Baltimore Jewish community and explained the variety of resources available.  As I noted all the upcoming professional development workshops I wanted to attend, what struck me was the variety of people participating in this day long workshop.  Though we were all represented different Associated agencies with different goals, there was a sense that we were all connected to one community.

This theme manifested itself in various ways throughout my day, starting with Associated President Marc B. Terrill’s keynote speech, which underlined that now was a critical moment for Jewish communal professionals.  Throughout the day, I had the opportunity to meet and work with colleagues from a range of Jewish organizations in Baltimore, including Har Sinai Congregation, Beth Am Synagogue, the Towson University and University of Maryland at College Park Hillels, Jewish Community Services, and CHAI, just to name a few.  I attended workshops on building your professional career, led by Ronnie Green, Career Counselor at JCS; expressing your core values in your daily work, given by Deborah Grayson Riegel; and relationship-based engagement, which was led by Graham Hoffman of the International Hillel Center.

Even more so than the workshops, lunch provided an unusual opportunity to interact with Jewish professionals I normally would not get to meet.  My lunch table was comprised of mainly young professionals from the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Volunteer Connection, though I had the opportunity to chat with a young woman who was about my age who worked at the Associated.  We found that we had much in common – we were both newlyweds who had recently started new jobs and joined synagogues, though she and her husband identified as Orthodox, while Tom and I joined Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, a Reform synagogue.  Though we grew up in very different backgrounds, we were able to connect by sharing stories about our families.

What I found myself rehashing later that evening and throughout the week was a lesson on the importance of sincere humility.  Rabbi Miriam Cotzin Burg, Director of Jewish Educational Engagement at the Center for Jewish Education, led participants in a text study that forced us to self-reflect on what makes us qualified to do our jobs.  The moral of the story was that it is precisely the questioning of abilities that makes you a good leader.

I found this message to be especially poignant for the Jewish Museum of Maryland because we recently finished the American Association of Museums Re-Accreditation Self-Study.  This rigorous application forced us to reflect on, question, and evaluate what we do not only as a history museum, but also as an institution dedicated to preserving, studying, and teaching our audience about the history of Jewish Baltimore.

It was such a great experience that next year I might even be convinced to try the ropes course at the Pearlstone.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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