This Sunday we welcomed Dr. Betsy Bryan of Johns Hopkins University to the JMM to offer a little more insight into Mendes Cohen’s collection of antiquities. Dr. Bryan’s fascinating presentation discussed both the collection as a whole and the way in which it represents ancient Egyptian funerary beliefs.
The collection, originally consisting of nearly 700 objects, formed the basis of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, and was donated shortly after Mendes’ death by his nephew also named Mendes Cohen. Most of the pieces were acquired during his time in modern Luxor during his three month voyage down the Nile.
Dr. Bryan explained that the ancient Egyptians believed the afterlife to be similar to life, as such requiring many of the same possessions. These requirements ranged from the body, hence the need for mummification, to smaller items such as cosmetic containers, jewelry and food. Some items such as jewelry provided a dual function having protective powers, often associated with the preservation of the body.
Selections from Mendes’ archaeological collection.
The talk predominantly focused upon standards within wealthier members of the community especially Tutankhamun. However there was a particularly interesting discussion regarding ordinary members of society and the simpler grave goods that can be found in their burials based upon Dr. Bryans current work in Egypt.
Please enjoy this recording of Dr. Brayns presentation and share with friends and family!
A blog post by Programs Manager Trillion Attwood. To read more posts from Trillion click HERE.
Despite the wintry weather, we were pleased to welcome Dr. Rafael Medoff, the founding director of The David Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, to speak at the JMM this past Sunday. His talk focused on Maryland’s Jew Bill and explored how American Jews came to achieve full political equality in the United States. As Dr. Medoff explained, before there was a finalized federal constitution, the original 13 colonies had to have their own system of governance, which established the connection between one’s religious faith and the right to hold public office come. As each state enacted it’s constitution in 1776, each had to consider and articulate the qualification to hold public office. Many states, including Maryland, required an affirmation of one’s Christian faith in order to hold public office and enjoy other civic opportunities. The purpose, however, was not to exclude Jews, rather to affirm the Christian spirit of the new country but, consequently, it had the effect of excluding people. Critical turning point came after the Federal Constitution and northwest ordinance were enacted in 1787, which allowed the principle of full equality without Christian affirmation to be enshrined. However, the road to remedying the conflicting federal and state previsions was lengthy and complex and had a lasting impact on both local and global politics. It is this complex journey of the Jew Bill that sits at the heart of Dr. Medoff’s talk.
We are happy to invite you to listen and enjoy and even share this talk with friends and family!
We hope you will join us for our next talk on Sunday, March 29th at 1pm, where we’ll welcome Dr. Betsy Bryan of Johns Hopkins University. She will be speaking on 19th century Egyptology and the collection of Mendes Cohen!
This past Sunday we warmly welcomed Dr. Adriana Brodsky of Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, to speak on Ladino as part of our Sephardic Lecture Series. Her presentation traced the origins of the language and explored both the oral and written traditions. Ladino is truly a fascinating language; as someone who knew nothing about the language and its history, I found Dr. Brodsky’s presentation incredibly informative!
Quite the crowd turned out.
Also known as Judeo-Spanish, Ladino is the spoken and written Hispanic language of Jews of Spanish origin. Interestingly, Ladino was originally just the language of a Spanish province and was not considered a Jewish language until the expulsion from Spain in 1492. After the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal, they continued to speak Ladino in the communities and countries to which they emigrated. As a result, the Ladino grammatical structure and vocabulary closely align with 14th and 15th century Spanish. However, as Jewish immigrants became immersed in their new communities their native language began to change and evolve. Dr. Brodsky explained that while some Jews emigrated to countries such as England and Italy (in relatively close proximity to Spain) and were able to maintain their language, other Jews moved to Sephardi communities deep in the Ottoman Empire where their language began to borrow and embrace new words from Arabic, Greek, Turkish and French.
Map of Judeo-Spanish emigration.
Dr. Brodsky also explained that a large part of the Ladino language is linguistic traditions such as proverbs and sayings, such as:
A gran’ a grano, hinche la gayina el papo (One seed at a time, a hen fills its craw.)
Antes ke te kases, mira lo ke hazes… (Watch what we do before you get married.)
Kon esos polvos se hizieron estos lodos. (That dust brought, or made, this mud.)
Dime kon kien fueres i direte kien eres (Tell me who you go around with and I’ll tell you who you are.)
In addition to proverbs and sayings, music was also an important part of the Ladino oral tradition. In order to illuminate it’s influence, Dr. Brodsky shared we all sang a wonderful rendition of Adio Kerida:
As the talk came to a close, we had the opportunity explore the written tradition and to decode a bit of Ladino. It was interesting to learn that most of the time, Ladino can be written in using three different methods: Rashi script, Square script or Solitro script (a cursive method of writing letters) (see below).
Rashi script, Square script and Solitro script
Following Dr. Brodsky’s talk, we hosted community workshop lead by Zachary Paul Levine, Curator at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. The JHSGW is currently in the process of planning their new regional Jewish museum (projected opening 2020) and its core exhibition. As part of that process, they are turning to the community for thoughts on which objects and themes should be included and explored more deeply. Before moving into an introduction to the institution and its vision for the future, Dr. Levine had us all go around and place post-its on images of our favorite objects displayed on posters around the room. After introducing the JHSGW, Dr. Levine told us the story behind each of the objects displayed. However, he presented them in thematic sets and it was up to the audience to determine if they felt that the object fit into its current category. Overall, the workshop got us thinking, talking, and sharing ideas for this new project.
This workshop was one of the first events in our series of community programs. We have several upcoming programs that showcase community collaborations and accomplishments. Later this month, February 23, 2015 – March 8, 2015, we’ll be hosting “The Girl’s Photography Project” exhibit sponsored by CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. in partnership with Wide Angle Media. In 2014, 15 African American and Orthodox Jewish girls ages 10-14 participated in a series of workshops that enabled them to learn about each other’s perspectives living in their northwest Baltimore City community. They learned to use a camera, take quality photos and most importantly, got to know one another while gaining an understanding of each other’s life experiences. The photos in this exhibit feature their viewpoints and are truly one of a kind. We invite everyone to join us for the reception on March 1at 1pm!
A Sneak Peek at “My Family Story” objects.
Later in March JMM celebrates Jewish family history with another special exhibit. Over the past few months, the JMM has worked with middle school students from Beth Tfiloh on an exciting and creative education program, My Family Story. In this inspiring program, students work with museum staff to investigate their family roots and discover deeper connections to larger issues of American Jewish history, community, Jewish identity and Israel. Their exploration culminates in an artistic expression that creatively represents their family’s history. We are greatly looking forward to showcasing all of the students’ work and invite you to join us for a reception on the evening of March 12th at 7pm.
A blog post by Carolyn Bevans, Museum Educator and Programs Associate. To read more posts from Carolyn, click HERE.