Performance Counts December 2014: Top 10 Programs of 2014!

Posted on December 12th, 2014 by

2014 has been a busy year at the museum. In total, we have seen presented four different exhibits over the course of the last twelve months (Passages Through the Fire:  Jews and the American Civil WarProject Mah JonggElectrified Pickle and The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen).  This rich menu of offerings stimulated some great ranging from serious lectures to cotillions and concerts – on topics from Abe Lincoln to zombies.  I’ve asked Trillion Attwood to take a look back and give us a quick review of our ten top programs of the last year.  Just in case you missed a few, here are the highlights.

~Marvin
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Thanks, Marvin.  We had so much fun with the program schedule this year that it was hard to pick out just 10 (we actually presented/will present more than 60 programs in 2014).  Here are my choices.  How many of these do you recall?

1. Kaddish For Lincoln with Harold Holzer
The Sadie B. Feldman Family Lecture
Sunday, February 23rd

We invited Harold Holzer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the JMM to deliver his talk Kaddish For Lincoln. The talk was a fascinating exploration of how the Jewish community mourned the passing of the 16th president and how his connection with the Jewish community passed into legend.  Prof. Holzer, a nationally respected Lincoln scholar, offered new insights on why this unlikely self-educated man became the beloved “Father Abraham” to so many American Jews.

2. The Jews of Shanghai with Rabbi Marvin Tokayer
The Eighth Annual Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program on Immigration 
Sunday, May 18th 

The Eighth Annual Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program on Immigration focused on the plight of European refugees in China in WWII.  Rabbi Marvin Tokayer provided incredibly vivid descriptions of what life was like for thousands of people living in limbo in a land with few shared customs and culture.  He kept the large audience at Baltimore Hebrew Synagogue on the edge of its seat. We were especially excited to welcome a number of former Jewish Shanghai residents to the event.


3. The Future of American Jewry with Professor Leonard Saxe
Annual Meeting 
Sunday, June 1st

The Annual Meeting, when we welcome our new board members and thank those who are leaving, is always an important event in our programs calendar. This year we also welcomed to the museum Professor Leonard Saxe of Brandeis University to present his keynote lecture The Future of American Jewry, which is based upon the recent findings by the Pew Report. This fascinating talk presented a much more optimistic view than anticipated by many based upon the initial report findings.

4. Annual Volunteer appreciation event featuring Our Volunteers
Friday, June 6th

Each year, we hold a number of events for our volunteers, and this year our volunteer appreciation lunch was held at the National Electronics Museum. We all had an opportunity to explore the museum that would be our partner institution for the then upcoming exhibit The Electrified Pickle. We were taken on a guided tour by Alice Donahue, the Assistant Director, who was able to highlight some of the most important parts of the collection.  I know that some of you may be thinking I’m cheating a bit to put this on the list, because only volunteers could attend this great event – and you are not a volunteer.  Well give us a call and we can fix that!

5. Mah Jongg: More than Just a Game of Chance with Dr. Robert Mintz
Sunday, June 8th

Project Mah Jongg brought a new audience to the Museum. We were surrounded by the sounds of tiles clicking for three months, and some of us even managed to learn the game ourselves. Our most popular program in connection with the exhibit was the presentation by Dr. Robert Mintz of the Walters Art Museum. Dr. Mintz discussed the art of the game and the significance and history of the images on those tiny tiles.  Even the most experienced Mah Jongg aficionados found new details about the design and history of the game that they had never thought to ask.

6. Imagine This! featuring Jennifer George (Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter) and a team of robots
Sunday, August 3rd

For five weeks over the summer we featured a different tech related theme each week as part of The Electrified Pickle.  I learned so much on each of these Sundays and we had such great volunteers from the Jewish tech community that it was hard to pick just one.  But I believe I have a special passion for Imagine This!, in which we explored the world of tomorrow. The museum was overrun with robots of all shapes and sizes, including one that was able to play giant Jenga with our visitors!
On the same day, we were also very excited to welcome Jennifer George to speak about her grandfather, Rube Goldberg,  and some of his crazy inventions.  The talk had some of the funniest bits we put on all year, thanks to Mr. Goldberg’s marvelous cartoons and some of the videos that professionals and amateurs made in homage to his art.

7. Where are all the Jewish Zombies with Prof. Arnold Blumberg 
Free Fall Baltimore
Sunday, October 26th

We participated again this year in Free Fall Baltimore. It has been a great success in the past, and this year proved no different. As with previous years, we saw plenty of new faces which is always a great sign. We invited Arnold T. Blumberg to speak, and he  delivered a great talk titled Where are all the Jewish Zombies?  The focus was on the story of the “golem” through its many twists and turns in Jewish history.  We couldn’t resist the opportunity for a little horror so close to Halloween!

8. Profiles in American Jewish Courage with Dr. Gary Zola
Synagogue Night 
Thursday, November 6th 

It was a very significant night for us when we marked the 50th Anniversary of the re-dedication of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. This special event was attended by lay and religious leaders from our local community. We were honored to welcome Dr. Gary Zola, Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives, to present his keynote lecture, Profiles in American Jewish Courage.  Dr. Zola tied his stories of three exceptionally brave activists of the 19th and 20th century to their contemporaries here in Baltimore.

9. Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights 
Sunday, December 7th

Our most successful family program of the year was this past Sunday, when we welcomed Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights to the museum for a Chanukah concert. Families had a wonderful time singing along and dancing. Freeze Dance proved to be one of the most popular songs of the entire concert, getting everyone up on their feet!
The performance was part of our Downtown Dollar Day program which, in total, drew 190 people to the museum in just one day!

10. Early Jewish Baltimore with Gil Sandler
Mitzvah Day
Thursday, December 25th  

So far we have had a great year with some wonderful programs, but we are not finished yet! We still have several great programs left, including our Jewish Book Festival on Sunday, December 14th and Mitzvah Day on Thursday, December 25th. We are especially excited to be welcoming back to the museum noted local historian Gil Sandler on December 25th.
This has been a great year to be at the museum, and I have had a wonderful time planning such a range of events. I hope you enjoyed attending them and are looking forward to another year of great programs!

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Performance Counts: November 2014

Posted on November 14th, 2014 by

Reflections on Finance

susanThis week’s edition of Performance Counts has been written by Susan Press, our Vice President for Administration and Finance. After seven years of working at the JMM, where she has headed up all finance-related duties in addition to oversight of development, marketing, gift shop, facilities maintenance and human resources, Susan will be leaving us at the end of the month. She is taking a new position at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine at the Department of Biomedical Engineering as Senior Administrative Manager. Thanks to Susan’s impressive efforts these past seven years, she leaves the Museum with a solid infrastructure of financial and accounting systems, not to mention several years of clean audits. She has provided leadership in many areas and she will be missed by everyone. We wish Susan all the best in her new position.

~Marvin

The finance department here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland is responsible for all the budgeting, accounting and financial reporting of the institution. We record all accounts payable and receivable, payroll and all other financial elements. We then review the results of the organization by department and as a whole, compare results to our budgeted goals to determine our financial position. This allows management to make informed business decisions and run the organization effectively.

Every year brings with it a new set of challenges and goals. Last year we were able to plan for a balanced budget and we were pleased to report that we met all our goals. This year we have also planned for a balanced budget but the challenges ahead are even greater than in the last cycle. We have been working hard on growing attendance and thereby increasing both our program and shop income. This year’s budget includes a very aggressive development goal on top of the generous allocation and subsidized services provided to us by the Associated.

A review of our first quarter financials shows that we are currently running close to budget. We have currently raised approximately 60% of our development goal for the year (when funds carried forward are put into the mix). However, the remaining 40% will be a much tougher road, since much of our annual sources of revenue, including the Board Leadership Campaign, is heavily weighted towards the first quarter.

Expenses to date contain two small anomalies.   Due to employee and benefits changes, our salary and benefits line is currently $20,000 under budget projection. However, the A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit ran over budget by approximately $10,000.

We know that our donors and members want their investments in JMM to be spent wisely and so we will continue to monitor our income and expenses throughout the year, making adjustments as necessary to achieve our program and financial objectives.

 

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Performance Counts, September 2014

Posted on September 19th, 2014 by

Baltimore Embraces its 19th Century Heritage

The good news is “we won.”

You probably noticed that there was some commotion this weekend about events that took place two centuries ago.  Beyond the Blue Angels, the rockets red glare and the Spanish galleon, there was a genuine embrace of the relatively tiny group of defenders who made sure that the flag and the nation was still there.

We are intensely proud of having been a part of the Star Spangled Celebration week, a chance for us to remind the public of the long roots of the Jewish community in this city and this state.  Of course, JMM’s focus was on one particular defender: the truly amazing Mendes Cohen.

Collections Manager Joanna Church and Assistant Director Deborah Cardin install Mendes' newly conserved jacket.

Collections Manager Joanna Church and Assistant Director Deborah Cardin install Mendes’ newly conserved jacket.

Installation of the maze was completed on September 7th.  We had a sneak preview for donors, members of the 1845 Society and the Lloyd Street League, and members of the board of our partners, the Maryland Historical Society on September 9th.  Feedback was extremely positive as reflected in notes we received after the event:

We were totally impressed with the A-mazing Mendes exhibition and appreciated the amount of research, talent, and work that went into the project.

Your exhibit is absolutely wonderful and a great tribute to Mr. Cohen. Of course Mendes is good story material. What a fun concept and I am recommending you to my whole staff.

‘The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen’ exhibit turned out really great! Fantastic Preview last night! Can’t wait to return and stroll “The A-Mazing… “ more slowly and a chance to absorb much more of its rich history.

Enjoying a few drinks at the Amazing Cocktail Hour sneak preview party.

Enjoying a few drinks at the Amazing Cocktail Hour sneak preview party.

This past Sunday was a very busy day for our living history actor.  Unlike the real Mendes Cohen who overslept on September 14 and had to run to his assignment at the fort, our “ghost” of Mendes started his day bright and early at Super Sunday.  As Mendes was one of the early members of the Hebrew Benevolent Society (a precursor of The Associated), we thought it was important Mendes participate in this annual effort to raise funds to serve the Jewish community in Baltimore and around the globe.

Mendes takes a few calls at Super Sunday!

Mendes takes a few calls at Super Sunday!

The next stop was the Creative Alliance’s “Hampstead Hill Festival”, marking the land battle that helped save the city.  Mendes not only gave a full performance (battling unexpectedly fierce winds) but also participated in an 1814 fashion show.  After Hampstead Hill, we made a brief stop at the Inner Harbor greeting guests to the Greater Baltimore History Alliance booth.

Mendes takes his bow to the applause of former JMM president Barbara Katz and the rest of the audience.

Mendes takes his bow to the applause of former JMM president Barbara Katz and the rest of the audience.

Mendes returned to JMM for a wonderful members’ opening.  The program included greetings from Debs Weinberg and Barbara Katz, Mendes’ short-version 1812 performance and a panel comprised of some of the creative and historical experts who made the exhibit and living history character a reality.

Part of the evening's panel.

Part of the evening’s panel.

If you missed this great opening week, you can still be a full participant in the Mendes Cohen celebration.  We are still busy recruiting volunteers for our stint as part of the Maryland Public Television fund drive on Sunday, September 28 from 5pm to 8pm.  Your willingness to volunteer a few hours at MPT will guarantee us on air access to an important audience.  For more details contact Rachel Kassman at rkassman@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x225. 

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