Reflections on Remembering Auschwitz

Posted on June 16th, 2017 by

This month’s Performance Counts comes from Deputy Director Deborah Cardin!

The exhibit is really wonderful!  As upsetting a subject as it is, you did a beautiful job of showing not just the history, but the memories and the humanity that followed.  The collages [in the Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project] are amazing!  (Visitor Comment)

School of the Cathedral

School of the Cathedral

During its three-month installation, Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity had a tremendous impact on our visitors, volunteers and staff. By focusing on Jewish life in Oswiecim (the town that became known as Auschwitz after German occupation in 1939), the construction of the camps on the town’s outskirts, what it means to commemorate sites like Auschwitz today and the diverse experiences of our local community of Holocaust survivors, we succeeded in shedding new light onto a familiar topic.

The Opening of Remembering Auschwitz

The Opening of Remembering Auschwitz, photo by Will Kirk.

With more than 3,400 visitors, including 800 school children and teachers, Remembering Auschwitz proved popular with visitors of diverse backgrounds. School groups from the Talmudical Academy, St. Mary Catholic School (Hagerstown), the Green Street Academy (Baltimore City) and partner schools, John Ruhrah and City Springs, among others, participated in exhibit tours and a follow up activity in which students worked together in groups to create collages based on what they saw in the exhibit. The positive feedback we received from teachers indicates that the exhibit served as a powerful educational tool.

Together We Remember

Together We Remember

Exhibit-related programs expounded on additional themes and attracted large audiences. We offered visitors opportunities to hear first-hand testimony from survivors of Auschwitz (Bluma Shapiro and Golda Kalib) as well as from scholars, artists, educators, filmmakers and even a former tour guide of the camp who reflected on how the interpretation of the Memorial at Auschwitz has evolved in the 70 years since its liberation. One particularly moving program, Together We Remember, invited audience members to recite the names of victims of worldwide atrocities – not just the Holocaust – in an effort to remind ourselves that the horrors of the Holocaust are still ongoing in other parts of the world. Surveys collected after each program reflected high visitor satisfaction with program content and format and included comments such as “This entire series [of programs] on the Holocaust was amazing – so important, especially for someone like me, a Holocaust survivor and child of survivors.”

IMPACT night at the JMM

IMPACT night at the JMM

We were delighted to host several groups during the exhibit’s run. An educator’s night, sponsored in partnership with the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) and the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University, attracted more than 40 teachers and administrators from local public, independent and parochial schools. More than 80 young adults gathered for an exhibit tour and reception sponsored by Impact and the BJC’s Holocaust Remembrance Commission. The event featured the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors who shared their grandparents’ stories with their peers. More recently we hosted a reunion of men who have participated in the Associated’s Chairman’s Mission to Israel and a board meeting of the Jewish National Fund. Each of these groups took the opportunity to participate in exhibit tours as part of their visit.

When What's Past is Prologue

When What’s Past is Prologue

The exhibit’s success was due, in part, to the publicity we received in the Baltimore Jewish Times and JMORE. Thanks to sponsorship from Maryland Humanities we were invited to record a promotional spot as part of its Humanities Connection on WYPR. In addition staff appeared on On The Record with Sheilah Kast to discuss the exhibit which provided tremendous exposure. Programs were also highlighted in the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post which helped attract visitors beyond our usual demographic.

Holocaust Memory Reconstruvtion participants.

Holocaust Memory Reconstruvtion participants.

Remembering Auschwitz marks an important milestone in the JMM’s ongoing commitment to serving as a center for Holocaust commemoration and education. Our reputation as a leader in the field of education has been enhanced through our annual Summer Teachers Institute as well as one-day workshops offered throughout the year, in partnership with the BJC. The Memory Reconstruction Project provided us with the opportunity to develop closer relationships with our local community of Holocaust survivors and their families as well as to forge partnerships with other organizations. As we continually heard from visitors, Remembering Auschwitz offered new information and perspectives while allowing opportunities for reflection and conversation on important topics. We look forward to continuing the dialog begun with visitors through future programs and exhibits.

We are grateful to our sponsors: The Herbert Bearman Foundation, The Charles Crane Family Foundation, Richard and Rosalee C. Davison Foundation, Larry Boltansky, Maryland Humanities, Klein Sandler Family Fund, Alvin and Louise Myerberg Family Foundation, Mirowski Family Foundation, Henry and Barbara Rosenbaum and John and Gloria Segall for making the success of Remembering Auschwitz possible.

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A Beautiful Day in Our Neighborhood

Posted on May 12th, 2017 by

Have you seen our sign?

Have you seen our sign?

I admit that when I first applied to work for the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I had no idea where “Jonestown” was. I wasn’t alone. Regular fans of JMM may remember the articles we saw in surrounding the unveiling of the Jonestown vision plan. Through the creation of that plan, we and our partners learned that many residents and business-owners in Jonestown didn’t know where Jonestown was. Not anymore.

Today, Jonestown (JMM’s neighborhood, bounded to the north by Orleans Street, the east by Central Ave, the west by Fallsway and the south by Pratt Street) is on the brink of a true renaissance.  This “Performance Counts” newsletter often regales you with numbers and metrics. This month, I am only thinking about one number: seven. It’s a number important in Jewish culture, and it happens to be the number, by my count, of significant improvements and developments—recent or forthcoming—in our changing neighborhood.

Breaking ground

Breaking ground

1. I recently had the privilege to attend the official groundbreaking for the new Ronald McDonald House, which will have an Aisquith address, but will fill the much of the block between Fayette and Baltimore Streets a stone’s throw to our northeast. The groundbreaking was educational and emotional for me, as I learned with some heartache about the hope and care that RMHC provides for children suffering from serious illness and their families.

Check out that snazzy entrance!

Check out that snazzy entrance!

2. Just west of the soon-to-be RMHC on Fayette, you’ll find a huge brick structure, painted with jaunty gray diagonal color blocks. This facility, the newly-opened UA House of Living Classrooms, provides support, smiles, activities and an inviting and safe place before and after school for neighborhood children and youth.

3. Also on Fayette, the National Aquarium is working on renovating a 50,000 sq foot property that will serve as an animal care and rescue facility. We understand from our colleagues at the Aquarium that the new space will allow them to properly quarantine and care for animals, and that they do have plans to make it available to visitors on a limited basis.

Hendler Creamery Corporation

Hendler Creamery Corporation

4. A little closer to the Museum, on Baltimore Street, the long-vacant and historic Hendler Ice Cream factory is soon to be converted into both retail and luxury apartments. The developer’s plans include nearly 300 apartments, two floors of parking, and 20,000 square feet of retail. (We have heard through the grapevine that the developers are hoping to incorporate several café-style restaurants in the retail portion. Needless to say, JMM staff is excited!)

The McKim Center

The McKim Center

5. The McKim Center, the Lloyd Street Synagogue’s older sister, will soon be situated right between the new Hendler Creamery development and the new Ronald McDonald House. Its new neighbors, recognizing the historic, cultural and emotional impact of this community anchor, are each planning to help improve the center’s immediate surrounds, with RMHC creating a new park and playground as a part of its plans and the Hendler project adding a façade clean-up and repair of the 184-year-old building.

The JEA

The JEA

6. Speaking of old buildings with Jewish history, the Helping Up Mission recently acquired the former home of the Jewish Educational Alliance (the precursor of the JCC) at 1216 E. Baltimore Street. (My colleagues blogged about their recent visit there.) Helping Up Mission has big plans for the site, which they plan to use to expand their residential work therapy services so that they can help women as well as men.

Helping Up Mission

Helping Up Mission

7. Helping Up Mission, in addition to being our neighbor, is also our tenant. In the middle of last year, they rented 5 Lloyd Street from the JMM. Per our agreement, they’ve done considerable work on the property as a part of their rent. They have been such good tenants at 5 Lloyd Street, that when they expressed interest in the property we own on Lombard Street, formerly Lenny’s Deli, we were eager to listen. As of this month, and until the end of November, Helping Up is renting the Lenny’s property. They’re doing a lot of work on it this month, getting it ready for their needs—to serve as their cafeteria for the residents of the mission while their own kitchen facilities are completely renovated. We are currently reviewing our options for the use of the site past November.

So what about the Jewish Museum of Maryland amid these seven key changes in Jonestown? Fear not, dear reader, we have plans that will make you proud! We are refining a vision for our future that will create a Center for Discourse and Discovery at JMM – with a special focus on Holocaust/genocide education in the 21st century, reposition the historic Lloyd Street Synagogue as a landmark of religious liberty, and add improved program and exhibit space to our main museum building.

These are exciting times! I hope to see you around the Museum and in the neighborhood soon!

Jonestown: Proudly we hail.

Jonestown: Proudly we hail.

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

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Living History and Beyond!

Posted on April 14th, 2017 by

Over the past 14 years, the Jewish Museum of Maryland has developed significant expertise in the creation of compelling living history characters, along with a national reputation for excellence in this medium.  In consultation with a team of professional historians, script writers, directors and actors, we have created historical performances based on extensive research.  These performances illuminate key themes about American Jewish history in an accessible and personal manner.  These interactive  performances incorporate reproductions of artifacts, photographs, and documents from the JMM collections.

Our first four living history characters

The JMM has created five living history characters, Ida Rehr, a Ukrainian immigrant who worked in the garment industry; Saul Bernstein, a Lithuanian peddler who became a professional artist;  Bessie Bluefeld, a Russian immigrant who started a renowned catering business;  and Mendes I. Cohen, veteran of the Battle of Baltimore, businessman, and Jewish adventurer.  Our latest character is Henrietta Szold, daughter of Rabbi Benjamin Szold and born in Baltimore in 1860, who premiered in September, 2016.  All five characters have performed around the region for students and adult audiences alike.

Natalie Pilcher with students from Western High School

A few weeks ago, the Henrietta Szold Living History character performed at Western High School in Baltimore City.  The education staff contacted the administration at the school about the possibility of having a performance at the school. Henrietta Szold graduated from Western Female High School in 1877 and in 1901 she became the first president of the Western High Alumni. There is a plaque in the school’s library that bears Szold’s name.

At the school-wide assembly over 960 students and teachers were in attendance. Following the performance, the students asked many questions to the actress that portrays Henrietta, Natalie Pilcher. The students were especially interested in learning about how she prepared for the Henrietta Szold role, and how she teaches acting and performance to area students throughout Baltimore City.

Following the successful Henrietta Szold living performance at Western High School, we started to think about the impact that all of our living history characters and performances have had on the community over the years. We examined our attendance statistics from FY14 to the present, and were quite pleased to see the reach that our living history characters have had on the community. I am certain you will also be quite impressed!

Ida Rehr
Over the past 12 years, the actress Katherine Lyons has engaged school groups with her wonderful portrayal of Ukrainian immigrant Ida Rehr.  Since July 1, 2013 she has given 42 performances –to over 1864 audience members. (1,769 students/teachers and 95 attendees from adult groups)

Katherine Lyons as Ida Rehr

Mendes I. Cohen
Over the past 3 years, actor Grant Cloyd has engaged school and adult groups with his portrayal of Colonel Mendes I. Cohen.  Since July 1, 2013 he has given 20 performances as Mendes to over 890 audience members. (371 students/teachers and 519 attendees from adult groups)

Grant Cloyd as Colonel Mendes I. Cohen

Bessie Bluefeld
Over the past 4 years, actress Terry Nicholetti has engaged adult groups with her wonderful portrayal of Bessie Bluefeld.  Since July 1, 2013 she has given 10 performances. (437 adult audience members)

Terry Nicholetti as Bessie Bluefeld

Henrietta Szold
Over the past 7 months, actor Natalie Pilcher has engaged school and adult groups with her portrayal of Henrietta Szold.  Since her debut she has given 13 performances to 1,737 audience members. (1,447 students/teachers and 290 attendees from adult groups)

Natalie Pilcher as Henrietta Szold standing next to her namesake.

The Henrietta Szold Living History Character was made possible through the generous support of the Kolker-Saxon-Hallock Family Foundation, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Educational opportunities were made possible by the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund of The Associated.

With all of the numbers combined our living history characters have performed a total number of 85 performances, seen by 4,928 audience members throughout the region since July 2013! By the end of this school year, it is highly likely that our living history program we will reach more than 5,000 audience members and beyond!

Our Living History Program performances are available for schools, public and private events and can take place at the Museum or outside venues.  To schedule a Living History performance or to learn more, please contact Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator, ghumphrey@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443.873.5167.

~Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education

ileneA blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

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