New Faces and New Spaces

Posted on January 11th, 2019 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes from Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts by Tracie, click here.

This January, as we say goodbye to Harry Houdini, I thought we should also take a few moments to say hello to some of the newer members of the JMM team and to acknowledge the new(ish) roles some of our number are enjoying.

The newest member of our staff, Emma Glaser, is not entirely new to the JMM. Emma Glaser (pronounced GLAZE-er) interned with the JMM Education Department in the summer of 2014. Emma graduated from Smith College, and completed graduate work at the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies at SUNY Oneonta. In addition to her time with us in 2014, Emma interned at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Emma started as the Program Assistant back in September. In that role, she is helping to plan and execute events and programs for students and adults. She masterfully guided JMM’s mitzvah day celebration to fruition, and has been an important addition to the JMM team. If you haven’t yet had a chance to meet Emma, please say hello next time you’re in the building.

Emma’s position, Program Assistant, was made possible by the promotion of our Program Manager, Trillion Attwood. Trillion has been skillfully orchestrating our top-notch programming since 2013, though Trillion didn’t always want to be an event planner. With degrees in Egyptology, Trillion, like so many among us, is a tried-and-true Museum professional.

When, in this fiscal year, we wanted to create a new position, Curatorial Assistant, to provide additional skills and support to the collections and exhibits team, we saw an opportunity to serve the Museum’s needs while providing more and different challenges for Trillion to use her skills. As of this fiscal year, Trillion is both Program Manager AND Curatorial Assistant. While her colleagues (guilty!) often forget which hat she is wearing on which day, Trillion has been splitting her time 50/50 between event planning and collections and exhibit management. She even has two email addresses!

Speaking of promotions, we recently were delighted to offer a brand new position to a very capable member of our staff. If you’ve visited the JMM in the past year, you’ve met Paige Woodhouse. Paige has been our exceedingly talented Visitor Services Coordinator since October of 2017. In that time she has worked wonders in cleaning up our procedures and our communications channels. Everything she does she does with an air of professionalism and cheerfulness that is noticed by her colleagues and her customers alike.

When, through the generosity of the Cohen Opportunity Fund of the late Suzanne Cohen (z’’l), JMM was able to create a new School Program Coordinator position, Paige decided to apply. Though she had some stiff competition from a number of highly-qualified candidates, Paige was offered and accepted the position – a promotion – and will transition into those duties as soon as we are able to find a successor for her in the Visitor Services position.

This is an exciting time at JMM. In addition to our future evolution, which will have a much more visible manifestation in bricks and sticks, we are already growing and adapting. Welcoming new staff–and new responsibilities for existing staff–is an important part of the organization’s progress.

Please say hello to Emma and “Mazel tov” to Paige and Trillion next time you’re in the building. And please stay in touch. These are exciting times in Jonestown. You don’t want to miss it!

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Looking Back at 2018

Posted on December 14th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes from Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts by Tracie, click here.

For this final Performance Counts of the year, we’ve decided to cast our eyes backward at the amazing programs and exhibits of 2018. The staff asked me to share with you the top 10 events of the year. I know which were my favorites, and I also asked my colleagues to share with me their favorite event of the year, so that I could compile our list.

In response to my question, Marvin wrote, “This question is like asking me to pick my favorite child… except even tougher.  After all, I only have two children, but I have more than 60 wonderful programs to choose from.” Nevertheless, he did choose one (stay tuned for which).

And so, with a promise to Anna and Alan that I’ll never ask their dad to choose his favorite child, below you’ll find the top 10 JMM highlights of the past year, in chronological order.

With my best wishes for 2019,


1. February 25, 2018: Monkey Business

For this Maryland premiere film screening, 39 visitors experienced the entertaining and endearing treatment (in a mixture of live action and animation) of the story of Margaret and H.A. Rey, the creators of Curious George.

After the movie, we had a Skype Q&A spanning 6,915 miles between us and the film’s equally charming filmmaker, Ema Ryan Yamazaki. Yamazaki, a Japanese-American filmmaker, delighted us with stories of growing up in Japan with Curious George, and let us in on the fact that she was skyping from the bathroom of her hotel room in Seoul so as not to wake her sleeping husband (they were there covering the Olympics).

2. March 22, 2018: Morrell Park: Projected

This event was the culmination of a months-long project that saw JMM educators, professional storytellers and Hopkins film students working with eighth graders at Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School. The 32 middle-schoolers learned about storytelling and filmmaking techniques in order to tell their own stories.

Though many of the young people had to be convinced their stories were worth telling, those that were screened at the JMM (after red carpet treatment for the young filmmakers) brought most of the 130 people in the audience to tears. (The exercise also led to one session presentation at the conference of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums).

3. April 10, 2018: Book Launch: On Middle Ground

A decade in the making, the new book on the history of Jewish Baltimore, commissioned by JMM and published by Johns Hopkins University Press, was officially released in April. To celebrate, we threw a big party, and invited Jewish Baltimore’s  preeminent storyteller, Gil Sandler, to share remarks. Gil did not disappoint, eliciting knowing nods, surprised looks and laughter from a sold-out crowd of 79.

Though Gil is always a tough act to follow, On Middle Ground co-author and long-time friend to JMM, Deb Weiner, did just that with aplomb. Her illustrated presentation was both informative and entertaining—enough to convince 46 people to purchase the book that night!

4. April 26, 2018: The Book of Joseph

The readings and conversations on April 26 were the cherry on top of a productive collaboration between the JMM, Everyman Theatre, and Richard Hollander, author of Every Day Lasts A Year (from which the play The Book of Joseph was adapted). Eighty-nine visitors got a sneak peek at the stage play, which had not yet been performed at Everyman.

At the same time, through our lobby exhibit featuring the suitcase and two dozen letters, passports and other documents that generated the book and play, visitors got a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Hollander family story.

5. May 17, 2019: Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Across the Generations

This public conversation between two authors who have written very different books about the iconic RBG left the audience of 116 attendees feeling as though they knew the Justice (and the authors) a little better. This was Development Director Tracey Dorfmann’s top event. Of it she wrote, “Having the authors engage each other in the interrogative process was fascinating and effective.  Learning how an adult biographer and a children’s book author approached telling this story kept the audience enthralled.”

6. June 24, 2018: The Magic of Jonestown Festival and Inescapable opening

We opened our most recent original exhibit with an over-the-top spectacle that included a strait jacket escape (suspended from a 65 foot crane!), stilt walkers, face-painters, and booths from 14 local cultural institutions. Among the 400+ people who came to the festival, we saw our Jonestown neighbors, members of the Jewish community from around the city and region, and other city residents and visitors. 288 people visited the Museum that day and 103 of them visited one or both of our historic synagogues. It was a moment when the JMM truly showed what it can mean to be a community connector.

*Bonus* July 29, 2018: The Volunteer Appreciation Dinner

Since it wasn’t a public or members’ program, it isn’t in the official top ten, but the annual thank-you event for our volunteers was a highlight of at least one staff member’s 2018.

Sue Foard, Membership and Volunteer Coordinator writes of the event “The celebration included entertainment by David London performing the living history character, Harry Houdini, always a hit. A delicious dinner catered by Catering by Yaffa, short speeches of the accomplishments over the year and door prizes made for fun, good food and fellowship had by all.”

7. August 23, 2018: Operation Finale

In an unusual program for us, we partnered with BJC and CJE to present a pre-release screening of a major motion picture at the Landmark Theatre in Harbor East. The sold-out show hosted 185 moviegoers.

Because it was a JMM program, we weren’t content to simply watch a movie, and instead brought in a historian formerly of the US Holocaust Memorial and Museum. I was honored to facilitate the conversation with him after the movie, about which one of our visitors wrote “Loved that you clarified fiction vs fact. Loved that there was audience participation. Thanks for a wonderful evening.”

8. October 28, 2018: Houdini’s Magical Halloween

In this family day, we hosted 3 magicians and a lockpicker, 10 all-day craft activities, and 5 special workshops. Over 140 people came through the museum at all different ages.

About the day, Jessica Konigsberg, Shop Assistant and Office Manager, said “I’m generally very partial to programs that have a strong family-friendly component, but I especially enjoyed Family Day because the Esther’s Place Shop was involved in selling Svengali card trick kits and lockpicking sets to complement the Card Trick and Lockpicking Workshops offered throughout the day’s activities. Many groups came into the Shop after taking part in these workshops and eagerly shared their experiences and their successes. Many were delighted to invest in further card sets, or some, in their own lockpicking set to continue the spark of excitement from the workshop.”

9. November 11, 2018: Veteran’s Day: The Jewish Legion

If you’ve read this far, perhaps it is because you must know Marvin’s favorite event from the past year. This was it. Archivist Lorie Rombro presented to 45 visitors. About the exhibit and presentation Marvin said “It illustrated a piece of Maryland’s Jewish history that is still not widely known.  It showcased the strengths of the Museum, both in terms of the talents of my colleagues and the rich resources of our collections.  The program made me very proud to be part of the JMM team.”

Marvin’s sentiments were echoed by those of Joanna Church, Director of Collections and Exhibits: “The combination of lecture and exhibition was a chance for us to share a little-known story and highlight our collections, on an important day – the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I – that added a layer of commemoration and meaning to our usual activities.  Since the audience included family members of several Legionnaires, it was an opportunity to make connections between the history in our storage spaces and Maryland’s modern community.  Lorie’s presentation was engaging and entertaining, and very much made the point that our work here is both academically vigorous and, well, fun; we love making those discoveries and connections that can be found in our archives and collections.”

10. December 2, 2018: The Great Jewish Bake-Off

The third installment of our annual cooking competition, the bake-off was both delicious and a lot of fun. From the winning challah bread that was, in my humble opinion, the Platonic ideal of challah, to the Asian-fusion inspired Chinese scallion pancake challah to the highly snackable potato and mustard knishes to the Overall Championship babka, it was a truly tasty event. There were 16 total entries, 2 judges, 6 trophies awarded, and 102 tasters present.

About the event, Rachel Kassman, our Development and Marketing Manager had this to say: “As a more behind-the-scenes staff member I don’t get a chance to attend most of our public programs, but this was one I couldn’t resist – The Great Jewish Bake Off! Getting to not just attend such a delicious event but participate as a contestant myself made this a stand out program. From tasting all the other competitors entries (challahs and babkas and knishes, oh my!) to watching the judges put on their serious faces and making the tough choices, it was a fantastic day. Plus nothing beats watching adorable children hang out at craft tables making their own beeswax candles in between sneaking just one more cookie from the tasting table.”

December 25th at JMM

Join us on Tuesday, December 25th for Mitzvah Day
and an afternoon screening of Houdini: The Mini-Series.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Small, But Mighty

Posted on November 9th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts is from Marketing Manager Rachel Kassman. To read more posts from Rachel, click here. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here.

What can you do in less than 60 square feet of vertical space? Turns out, quite a lot.

By now, I’m sure you’ve all spent countless hours exploring our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit in the Shoshana S. and Jerome Cardin Exhibition Gallery, touring our two historic synagogues and sharing Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini, located in the Samson, Rosetta and Sadie B. Feldman Exhibition Gallery, with your friends and family (if not, what are you waiting for? Plan your visit now!). Today I want to turn your attention to a slightly more diminutive – but no less exciting – space: the lobby niche.

Measuring just 80 inches wide and 107 inches tall at its peak, this small space can pack a powerful punch (though we do cheat and get an extra few feet with those side walls!). We have used this space to expand on stories presented in the larger exhibit galleries, as we did for Paul Simon: Words and Music with Marvin’s exhibit An American Tune, which explored Jewish connections to folk rock; and for Inescapable, with A Little Magic from the Collections, highlighting both new and old accessions in the Museum collections with a particularly magical bent. In February we’ll be preparing the space to accompany the Jewish Refugees in Shanghai exhibit, on loan from the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.

The size and flexibility of this space also makes it perfect for displays tied to special events and programs. Most recently you may remember seeing The Book of Joseph: Giving Voice to the Hollander Family, which was on display in conjunction with the play’s run at Everyman Theatre. In 2016, during the run of Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America, we were lucky enough to host a special luncheon for the alumnae of the Sinai Nursing program and used the niche for a display of Sinai nurse-related material from our collections.

We have also created displays on the Jews of Shanghai for the 2014 Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program on Immigration;  a feature on artist Saul Bernstein when we debuted the updated and recast living history character; and Raise Your Glass, highlighting items from the collections to compliment a Father’s Day program on the Jewish heritage of American whiskey.

Our newest lobby display, which will be on view starting this Sunday, November 11th, is a companion to our special Veteran’s Day program on the Jewish Legion. Generously supported by a gift from the Carole and Hanan Sibel Family Foundation, this display will highlight the various Jewish Legion-related materials in our collections, which will be further discussed at 1:00pm by our archivist Lorie Rombro.

We have also used this space to give our interns a chance to apply their skills and share what they’ve learned over the course of their internship. Most recently we had Just Desserts: Baking and Jewish Identity, created by 2018 summer intern Cara Bennet. 2015 summer intern Falicia Eddy created Recognizing and Responding to Injustice, which focused on using the Holocaust as a teaching tool to combat intolerance as a companion to our annual Summer Teachers Institute.

This space is not the only small gem we can use to tell special stories outside the bounds of our major exhibit offerings (although it is the most consistently filled). In the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue there is a single case that has been used to explore Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, and Shavuot using materials from our collections and is often curated by interns or museum educators.

In the Anne Adalman Goodwin Memorial Library you can often find a small case featuring an item from the collection – perhaps a special menorah around Hanukkah, a Seder plate around Passover, or a funky clock that caught Joanna’s eye down in the stacks this past May.  During the final week of our Just Married! Wedding Stories of Jewish Maryland exhibit, we expanded a little farther into the library to share some special wedding “extras” that we just couldn’t bear not to share, like vintage wedding shoes and additional dresses from the collections.

These small spaces, and others, allow us to be experimental, responsive, and creative. In 2014 we created a tribute to actress Vivienne Shub in light of her passing. In 2015, in response to the unrest and uprising in Baltimore we created In Every Generation, exploring materials in the collections related to protest, public campaigning, and activism in the community.

So keep your eyes on our niches, on our cases tucked in to cozy corners, on those inspiring blank walls – you never know what new stories will pop up!

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