Performance Counts: JMM Board of Trustees FY2017

Posted on June 17th, 2016 by

 

At the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s Annual Meeting on Tuesday evening, we reflected on this past year’s successes (and there were so many good things to celebrate), gave our members a taste of some of the exciting events taking place in the year ahead and conducted one of the most important items of business of the year, the election of trustees and officers to the JMM Board of Trustees for FY 17.

Each year, our nominating committee convenes several times to discuss board recruitment and we are most grateful to the members of this committee, under the leadership of JMM past president, Ira Papel, for the many hours they put into their thoughtful deliberations.

Ira Papel takes the stage. Photo by Jim Berger.

Ira Papel takes the stage. Photo by Jim Berger.

We are delighted to announce the results of Tuesday’s board election which included the re-election of all of our officers:

Duke Zimmerman – President

Robert Keehn – Vice President

Toby Gordon – Vice President

Saralynn Glass – Vice President

Bruce Hoffberger – Treasurer

Arnold Fruman – Secretary

Trustees elected to a three-year term include:

Sheldon Bearman

Dr. Neri Cohen

Roberta Greenstein

Nancy Kutler

Suzanne Levin-Lapides

Len Weinberg

We are especially thrilled to invite five new members to our board including Dr. Neri Cohen, Nancy Kutler, Suzanne Levin-Lapides and Presidential appointees, Claire Tesh and Jeffrey Katz. Lee Rosenberg returns to our board as a presidential appointee.

A selection of our wonderful trustees! Photo by Jim Berger.

A selection of our wonderful trustees! Photo by Jim Berger.

Our elected board members bring a diversity of skills and experience to the JMM including marketing, real estate development, program development, fundraising and community relations. They also help us extend our reach into important constituencies and geographic areas such as Howard County and young families living downtown. We enthusiastically welcome our new board members and look forward to working with them, as well as all our returning board members, in the year ahead.

Of course, the Annual Meeting also presents us with the opportunity to thank and extend our deepest appreciation to those whose terms are ending. This year Robert Keehn, speaking on behalf of the Board, paid tribute to departing members, each of whom has contributed so much to our institution.

Robert Keehn sings the praises of our departing trustees. Photo by Jim Berger.

Robert Keehn sings the praises of our departing trustees. Photo by Jim Berger.

Jennie Gates Beckman – Jennie served as a member of our board for three years and provided much valuable guidance as a member of our marketing committee. We were so sorry to say goodbye to Jennie and her family who have recently moved to Nebraska.

Beth Blauer – Beth chaired our marketing committee for several years and also played an important role advocating on behalf of the JMM with our state legislators in Annapolis.

Irene Russel – As a member of the JMM board for six years, Irene has provided valuable input on our collections committee. An avid mah jongg player, Irene was a terrific resource when we hosted the mah jongg exhibit.

Aimee Adashek – Thanks to her day job at the Baltimore Office of Promotions, Aimee has been a strong advocate on behalf of the JMM in Baltimore’s arts community. We are grateful to Aimee for her two years of service.

Jay Goldscher – As chair of the JMM’s Marketing Committee, Jay took a leading role in helping the JMM raise our visibility through a variety of new initiatives. Jay also served as a Museum ambassador helping spread the word about our exhibits and programs to fellow Howard County residents.

Patti Neumann – As a board member this past year, Patti, too, provided much needed support on our marketing committee, and helped us increase our social media presence.

Barbara Katz – It is truly not possible to acknowledge all of Barbara’s many contributions to the JMM these many years. A past board president, Barbara has filled just about every important role. We were so delighted when Barbara rejoined our board in an active capacity several years ago and we have greatly benefited from her renewed engagement and support. While we take comfort in knowing that her legacy lives on with the election of her son Jeffrey to our board, there is no replacing Barbara.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to our board members, past and present, who work tirelessly on our behalf for all their work developing policies, overseeing our finances, raising much needed funds, providing counsel and promoting JMM events, exhibitions and membership within our community.

 

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Small Improvements, Big Impact: Reshaping the JMM Visitor Experience

Posted on May 12th, 2016 by

Performance Counts May 2016

Many years ago I heard a joke: A very creative man, Moshe, was asked by his more run-of-the-mill friend, Joe, what Joe might do to help him be more like Moshe. Moshe replied, “sometimes, the smallest change makes a big difference in the way that you see the world. Try putting your pants on each morning with the other leg first. It will adjust your whole outlook on things.”

Joe thought Moshe might be crazy, but he tried it anyway. The next time he saw Moshe, he heartily thanked him, “I tried it, I put my pants on left leg first now, and since I started, I’ve been able to come up with creative solutions to problems that once seemed intractable.”

“That’s great!” said Moshe, “but what happened to your face?” referring to the large bruises on Joe’s cheeks and eyes.

“I fall on my face every morning, because I’m putting my pants on the wrong leg first.”

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For whatever reason, and despite the punchline, that joke has really stayed with me. Mostly, I guess, because I believe it to be true: small changes, when they’re the right changes, can lead to big differences in individuals, organizations and cultures.

Some fresh, new landscaping.

Some fresh, new landscaping.

Since I started at the JMM about a year ago, we’ve begun collecting small changes:

*We started accepting credit cards at the front desk, so that our visitors don’t need to interrupt their entry experience to pay with card.

*We’ve moved more shop merchandise into the lobby, and have re-organized what’s in the shop, grouping items by theme, allowing us to make the shop experience also educational.

*Our front doors now feature handicap accessible paddles and power-assist opens.

*We brought in a company to power-wash the scaling from the portico that marks our entrance, and we re-landscaped the beds right out front.

*We’ve worked to stabilize the projector in our orientation space so that it no longer wobbles with the HVAC system’s operation.

*We retired the old Tzedakah box into our Institutional Archives, and had fabricated a new acrylic collection box that allows visitors to see others’ donation and encourages greater giving (the money collected this way has markedly increased!).

Our nifty new donations box.

Our nifty new donations box.

And we’re not done! In the coming weeks and months you can expect to see:

*A new phone system (it’s being installed this week) that will allow direct dial to all JMM staffers

*A new software package that will streamline the visitor entry transaction, and will allow us to better understand our visitors – who they are, where they come from, when they visit, etc.

*A facelift for our public bathrooms, including new lighting, sinks and mirrors

*A refresh of our lobby and orientation space, including fresh paint, new furniture and improved donor recognition panels

Taken together, as we move forward into fiscal year 2017 and beyond, these small changes are really starting to add up to positive developments at the JMM. I hope that you’ll agree, and will join me in celebrating the changes we’ve already made and share with me your ideas about how we can improve the visitor experience at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Tracie Guy-DeckerA blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

 

 

 

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Accessibility at the JMM

Posted on April 8th, 2016 by

Creating a welcoming museum environment that takes into account visitor needs is an important ongoing goal at the JMM. Whether this means developing exhibition educational resources for school group visitors or offering programs designed to facilitate conversation among visitors of different religious or cultural backgrounds, we take pride in our ability to serve diverse audiences. Providing access for visitors with physical disabilities has always been a Museum priority and in recent months, our staff has taken steps to improve our services in this area.

Recognizing the need to consider the entire spectrum of accessibility issues, this past October, we hired Ingrid Kanics of Kanics Inclusive Design Services to conduct an accessibility audit of the JMM’s public spaces including both of our historic synagogues, galleries, restrooms and library. As part of her survey, she measured door openings, made use of a wheelchair to navigate spaces and considered all aspects of the visitor experience.

Improved signage

Improved signage

Ingrid then drafted a report with recommendations that she shared with Museum staff. We were pleased to note that our Museum facility scored high in many areas. Having recently added a push button option to open our front doors provides easier access for visitors with limited mobility. Many of Ingrid’s recommendations related to signage and our staff has already produced larger signs to help visitors identify public restrooms. At her suggestion, we have created a checklist of items for our visitor services staff to check on a regular basis to ensure, for example, that the mechanical doors are functioning properly and that doors and hallways are kept clear of debris that can pose tripping hazards. Other improvements, based on Ingrid’s recommendations, are slated soon for implementation and include adding covers to drain pipes underneath restroom sinks to avoid burn risks for individuals in wheelchairs and smoothing out the transition strips between the lobby and coat room/restroom area to make for easier navigation for wheelchair users.

Thanks to the contributions of docent, Robyn Hughes, for several years, the JMM has worked to improve our services for visitors who are blind or visually impaired. Robyn helps us create Braille text for flyers, exhibition text and programs (we have both Braille and large print exhibition text for Beyond Chicken Soup available at our front desk) as well as create tours and programs designed specifically for visitors with visual impairments including camp groups from the Maryland School for the Blind who regularly visit.

Large Print Brochure

Large Print Brochure

A priority for this coming year is to improve services for visitors who are deaf or have hearing impairments. While we currently make sure that all exhibit videos are captioned and hire sign language interpreters upon request, we do not currently have the ability to offer accommodations for visitors at public programs who have difficulty hearing speakers or presentations. Our staff recently met with representatives from a company that manufacturers assisted listening devices and learned about how this system can improve sound in our orientation space for program participants. We intend on purchasing a system in the upcoming year that would enable visitors to borrow a receiver from the front desk with an over the ear headphone that would amplify sound in our lobby. The same system could also be used by visitors participating in guided tours of our historic synagogues.

The biggest challenge we face for visitors with physical disabilities is the lack of an easy solution for gaining access to our historic synagogues. Many years ago we created a video tour of the synagogues that is available for visitors to view in our lobby as a programmatic equivalent for those unable to climb the buildings’ stairs. We have also started to video simulcast programs that take place in the Lloyd Street Synagogue for visitors to watch in our orientation space. Of course, we recognize that these steps are not enough, and we are exploring different ways for creating access through ramps and possibly an elevator. B’nai Israel is in the process of adding a chair lift to aid congregants (and Museum visitors) in gaining access to its main sanctuary. And we remain committed to continuing to investigate potential solutions for improving accessibility to the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

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