Museum Matters, July 2015: The Price of Success

Posted on July 3rd, 2015 by

It’s New Years…again.  At JMM we typically mark three New Years – the Jewish New Year in September, the secular New Years in January and the fiscal New Years on the 1st of July.  On this July New Years we don’t blow the shofar or pull out our noisemakers, but we do think deeply about what we have accomplished and the challenges ahead.

This has been a great year for innovative exhibits (Electrified Pickle, A-Mazing Mendes Cohen), community engagement (Historic Jonestown visioning project, Beth T’filoh-Beit Hatfutsot partnership) and public/private fundraising (Beyond Chicken Soup).  Next year we are not only delivering two marquee exhibits (Paul Simon: Words and Music and the aforementioned Beyond Chicken Soup), but also new synagogue tours, a new neighborhood festival and additional family-oriented programs.

Those are the accomplishments that grab the headlines.  However, equally important work is happening behind the scenes.  We are strengthening our intern program and providing opportunities through the city’s YouthWorks program for young people from the city.  Our crew of volunteers is making our archives more accessible with finding aids and digitization.  We are upgrading our computer hardware and introducing a museum-wide project management software tool.  These bits of infrastructure improvement are essential to our success.

To keep our organization moving forward we need a broad spectrum of support:  our partnership with The Associated, grants from public agencies and private foundations, income from endowment, growth in membership and support from visitors who receive our services.  Over the past three years we have taken steps to increase support in the first three categories.  This year, our focus is on membership and admissions.

The JMM has not changed its admission fees since 2004.  The undiscounted fee for one adult admission has been $8 – but there are so many forms of discounts, for seniors, for children, free evening events, free to city school groups, buy-one-get-one-free days, etc. that the average price of admission is closer to $3.

Starting today, we will be raising our adult admission price to $10.  We will continue to offer discounts for seniors, children, AAA and more.  Most critically, we will maintain our policy of being free to city school groups and we will be introducing a special discount package to family events this fall.  Our goal is to maintain access for all, while also making sure that our visitors are full participants in the keeping JMM a thriving institution.

Adult – $10

Senior (65+) – $8

Student (13 and over) -$6

Child (4 to 12) – $4

Non-public school (as part of school group) – $2

Public school (as part of school group) – FREE

Children under 4 – FREE

Member – FREE

With guest pass – FREE


Upcoming programs

*Reminder: The Museum offices will be closed on Friday, July 3, 2015 in observance of the holiday.

All programs take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland unless otherwise noted. Please contact Trillion Attwood at / 410-732-6400 x215 with any questions or for more information.


Cinema Judaica: Members opening reception

Thursday, July 2, 6:00 p.m.

Free for Museum members

Cinema Judaica is Open!

Cinema Judaica is Open!

We invite Museum members to join us for the opening reception of Cinema Judaica. Take the opportunity to explore the exhibit in the company of Ken Sutak, author of Cinema Judaica: The War Years, 1939-1949 prior to his presentation The Great Debate, 1939—1941: How Harry Warner, Ernst Toller, and Alvin York Helped Win “The Great Debate” for American Interventionists.

Cocktails and light kosher refreshments will be served.


The Great Debate, 1939—1941: How Harry Warner, Ernst Toller, and Alvin York Helped Win “The Great Debate” for American Interventionists

Thursday, July 2nd, 7:00 p.m.

Speaker: Ken Sutak, author and curator

Included with Museum Admission

Curator Ken Sutak

Curator Ken Sutak

Ken Sutak, author of Cinema Judaica: The War Years, will explore how three unexpected men influenced the outcome World War II. Harry Warner, president of Warner Bros, Ernst Toller émigré Prussian-Jewish playwright and Alvin York, the immortal Sergeant York of WW I fame, who later became the most important interventionist spokesperson during “The Great Debate.” These three men were in the forefront of those who managed to change popular American opinion regarding World War II and help prepare the country for war.


Flickering Treasures

Sunday, July 12, 1:00 p.m.

Speaker: Amy Davis

Included with Museum Admission

Photo by Amy Davis.

Photo by Amy Davis.

Celebrate the golden age of movie-going with Baltimore photographer and author Amy Davis as she presents photographs from her upcoming book, Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters. Her talk will explore the integral role of Jews in Baltimore cinema, as theater owners, operators and moviegoers. The collection of vintage and new photographs in Flickering Treasures tells a fresh story of Baltimore through the cultural prism of film exhibition. Participants will be invited to travel back in time to share reminiscences of their own favorite movie houses.

Photojournalist Amy Davis has garnered many national awards since joining the staff of The Baltimore Sun in 1987. Her fine art training from The Cooper Union informs her documentary approach. Her photographic work has been exhibited at The Brooklyn Museum, and is in the collection of the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York.

Creative Alliance, a lively non-profit arts organization based in the Patterson Theatre in Highlandtown, is the fiscal sponsor for Flickering Treasures.



Auschwitz 70 Years Later: What Have We Learned?

August 3, 8:30am-3:30pm: Jewish Museum of Maryland

August 4, 7:30am-4:30pm: US Holocaust Memorial Museum (transportation provided)

August 5, 8:30am-3:30pm: Goucher College Hillel

$25 registration fee

To register or for more information, contact Deborah Cardin, 410-732-6400 x236 /

Co-sponsors: Baltimore Jewish Council and the Maryland State Department of Education

Join us for our annual Summer Teachers Institute that explores the significance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz through scholarly lectures, survivor testimony and master teacher presentations.


Sundays in August are double features at JMM – lectures by day and related films at night.  Make a day of it, come down to the JMM for the lecture, then grab a bite to eat and come back for the movie. Enjoy a short walk to Little Italy or Harbor East with their selections of great restaurants, or bring a picnic that you are welcome to enjoy in our outdoor courtyard or our slightly cooler lobby.

Join us, rain or shine, for this exciting series. Screenings will take place in the parking lot directly in front of the museum. There is still plenty of free street parking available. In the event of inclement weather, screenings will be moved to inside the JMM. The lectures are included with admission and the films are free.

Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator:” Fighting Fascism with a Movie

Sunday, August 9th at 3:00 p.m.

Dr. David Ward, University of Pittsburgh

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin was the most important film maker in Hollywood, when he decided to parody Adolph Hitler in The Great Dictator.  Little did he know that he was entering into the most controversial chapter of his life, a controversy that would eventually drive him from the United States.

Dr. Ward graduated from Hanover College in southern Indiana and holds an MA and PhD from the University of Tulsa.  He has taught film and Literature in both Oklahoma and Pennsylvania for over 40 years and is now happily retired.


JMM Features: The Great Dictator

Sunday, August 9, 8:00 p.m.

Location: Parking lot across the street from the JMM entrance



In connection with our latest exhibit Cinema Judaica we bring you JMM Features, a series of free movie screenings. Our first movie is The Great Dictator, a Charlie Chaplin classic featured in Cinema Judaica. Dictator Adenoid Hynkel tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber tries to avoid persecution from Hynkel’s regime.


Drawing Fievel and Friends


Sunday, August 16, 3:00 p.m.

Included with museum admission

Even more fun than a lecture … get ready for the movie by drawing your own scenes of Jewish cartoon characters.


JMM Features: American Tail

Sunday, August 16, 5:30 p.m.

Location: JMM orientation space



Second in our movie series is American Tail. This classic animation follows the story of Fievel, who while emigrating to the United States, as a young Russian mouse, gets separated from his family and must relocate them while trying to survive in a new country. Featuring Dom DeLuise, Christopher Plummer and Nehemiah Persoff, directed by Don Bluth.


Jewish Movies 101

Sunday, August 23, 3:00 p.m.

Dr. Greg Metcalf, University of Maryland

Included with Museum Admission

Greg Metcalf is an artist and a scholar who teaches film, television, literature, modern art history, cultural history, and their relationship to each other at the University of Maryland and the Maryland Institute College of Art. He is the author of The DVD Novel: How The Way We Watch Television Changed the Television (2012).


JMM Features: Gentleman’s Agreement

Sunday, August 23, 8:00 p.m.

Location: Parking lot across the street from the JMM entrance


Gentleman's Agreement OS, NM

Join us for the last feature in our movie series. First released in 1947, Gentleman’s Agreement follows a reporter (Gregory Peck) who pretends to be Jewish in order to cover a story on anti-Semitism, and personally discovers the true depths of bigotry and hatred. Based on Laura Hobson’s novel of the same name. Also featuring Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield and Celeste Holm, directed by Elia Kazan.


Jewish Mad Men: Advertising and the Design of the American Jewish Experience 1939-1971

Sunday, August 31, 3:00 p.m.

Dr. Kerri Steinberg, Otis College or Art and Design

Included with Museum Admission


In a commercial society advertising can provide a fascinating insight into social values. Dr. Steinberg’s talk explores how advertising in the 1950s and 60s shed light on the social position of Jewish Americans.

More Programs

The JMM is pleased to share our campus with B’nai Israel Congregation. For additional information about B’nai Israel events and services for Shabbat, please visit  For more of this month’s events from BIYA, please visit or check out BIYA on facebook.

Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland July Meeting    

Sunday, July 19, 1:30pm, Beth El Congregation (8181 Park Heights Avenue)

Jewish Genealogy – How to Start, Where to Look, What’s Available

Speaker: Lara Diamond

The program is free for paid members and $5 for non-members. Refreshments will be available. Go to for more information.


Exhibits currently on display include Cinema Judaica (on display through September 6, 2015), Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore, and The Synagogue Speaks!

Hours and Tour Times

The JMM is open Sunday-Thursday, 10am – 5pm.

Combination tours of the 1845 Lloyd Street Synagogue and the 1876 Synagogue Building now home to B’nai Israel are offered: Sunday through Thursday at 11:00am, 1:00pm and 2:00pm.  We offer tours focused on the Lloyd Street Synagogue, Sunday through Thursday at 3:00pm and on Sunday at 4:00pm.

 Get Involved

The JMM is looking for volunteers to help staff our front desk, work in the gift shop, and lead tours as docents. No prior knowledge or training is required. All that is needed is an interest in learning about the JMM, our historic sites, exhibits, and programs and a desire to share this knowledge with the public. All volunteers are provided with thorough training. If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer program, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen at 410.732.6400 x217 or


Revamped and revitalized, membership at the JMM is now better than ever – with new categories, benefits, and discounts to enrich every visit to the Museum for you and your friends and families.

All members receive our monthly e-newsletter, along with a 10% discount at the Museum store, free general admission to the Museum, free admission to all regular programs, attendance at exclusive member opening events and discounted weekday parking at the City-owned garage at 1001 E. Fayette Street.

Your membership provides much needed funding for the many programs that we offer and we hope we can count on you for your continued support. Memberships can be purchased online! For more information about our membership program, please contact Sue Foard at (410) 732-6400 x220 or

JMM Museum Shop

CINEMA JUDAICA!  It ‘s here! The JMM Museum Shop is ready with your favorite DVDs from 1939 to 1945 and even later!  Grab your bag of popcorn, pick up one of your favorite films from the JMM Museum Shop, such as Gentleman’s Agreement, Samson and Delilah, Exodus, Ten Commandments and of course, Fiddler on the Roof!  We’ve got them all for you, but not the popcorn, you are on your own with the snacks!

DVD covers

And for your reading pleasure, pick up a copy of Ken Sutak’s, CINEMA JUDAICA:  The War Years, 1939-1945, the catalog for this great exhibition.  You will be glad that you did.

Exhibit Catalog Cover

Exhibit Catalog Cover

Every purchase made in the JMM Museum Shop supports the mission and programs of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

JMM Members receive a 10% discount on all purchases.

For further information, please call Esther Weiner, Museum Shop Manager, 410-732-6400, ext. 211 or email:














Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Insights, June 2015: Farewell to Mendes

Posted on June 19th, 2015 by

As the nation celebrated Flag Day this past Sunday, the JMM made one last connection to the life of Jewish Baltimorean extraordinaire, Mendes Cohen, through activities and a talk with conservator Michelle Pagan that explored one of the most iconic objects on display in the exhibit, the flag that Mendes.  Mendes created the flag in 1832 as he sailed up the Nile River proudly displaying his love for his country. This event marked the culmination of our ten month celebration of the life and times of Mendes Cohen and his family. We were thrilled by the positive response we received from visitors, many of whom expressed their surprise at never having heard of Mendes before, as well as their delight in finally ”meeting” this amazing man.

The following is a summary of exhibit highlights:

Accolades – Coverage of the exhibit on WYPR and MPT, as well as in articles in the Jewish Times, the Forward and Humanities (the magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities), helped spread the message encouraging people to come and discover the story of Mendes Cohen. It was hard to top the Forward’s review which encouraged readers to “Forget the National Aquarium: The Cohen exhibit – along with the museum’s permanent exhibit, “Voices of Lombard Street” makes the Jewish Museum of Maryland a must visit for tourists to Baltimore.” To cap things off, the JMM was a recipient of the 2015 Leadership in History Awards Winners for The A-mazing Mendes Cohen by the American Association of State and Local History.

On the cover of the Baltimore Jewish Times

On the cover of the Baltimore Jewish Times

PartnershipsThe A-mazing Mendes Cohen is an example of a model collaborative project and was brought to fruition through several important partnerships. We opened the exhibit during weekend festivities celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore which gave us the opportunity to partner with several local agencies and to be part of such anniversary events as the commemoration of the Battle of Bladensburg and the Defenders Day Celebration at North Point.

Mendes at Bladensburg

Mendes at Bladensburg

The Maryland Historical Society, as the repository of the bulk of the Cohen family papers, was vital to the exhibit’s success. We are so grateful to Burt Kummerow, president of MHS and his staff, for granting us access to their rich collections of material and to lending us such important documents such as the firman that Mendes received from the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire allowing him entry into Palestine and his travel diary.

Travel Firman, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society.

Travel Firman, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society.

As we began planning the exhibit, JMM executive director Marvin Pinkert had a brainstorm that proved transformational.  He reached out to Kelly Fernandi of Minotaur Mazes and the notion of capturing the twists and turns of Mendes’s life through a physical maze design was born. Kelly became an enthusiastic member of the Mendes Cohen Fan Club and contributed not only to the exhibit design but also to content and image research. Thanks to weekly meetings (by phone as Kelly is based in Seattle) we enjoyed a high degree of collaboration with our designer whose strong vision for the exhibit helped shape its final outcome.

New Findings – Each new exhibition involves extensive research in the JMM’s archives and collections as well as at other repositories. While we thought we knew a lot about Mendes Cohen and had previously created an educational resource kit exploring his connections to 19th century Palestine as well as published an article in Generations, our knowledge about Mendes and his family continued to expand as we uncovered new information through many different sources. Thanks to the painstaking efforts of researcher, Joseph Abel, Ph.D, who transcribed the bulk of the letters that Mendes wrote home from abroad, we were able to place Mendes at many seminal 19th century events including the student revolts in Paris, the coronation of a new king in England and the installation of a new Pope in Rome.

A couple of very special visitors made it to the last day of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen!

A couple of very special visitors made it to the last day of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen!

The most wonderful new piece of research was unveiled at our penultimate program, an exploration of the Cohen Family Tree. The exhibit claims that there are no known descendants of Israel and Judith Cohen. Genealogist Dick Goldman decided to challenge this assertion and was able to find new branches of the family descended from Alan Cohen III who changed his name to Clarke (hence, our difficulty in finding relatives) after he converted to Catholicism. Alan’s grandson Ronald Brown was one of our very last visitors to the exhibit on Sunday.

The Ghost of Mendes Cohen – The exhibit served as inspiration for the development of the JMM’s newest living history character, none other than Mendes himself, who comes back from the grave to revisit select moments from his incredible life. After debuting performances during many of the War of 1812 commemorative events that took place last summer, Grant Cloyd, the actor who portrays Mendes, has been busy visiting schools, synagogues and other venues. We look forward to continuing to offer performances even beyond the duration of the exhibit.

Grant Cloyd as Mendes

Grant Cloyd as Mendes

Education – More than 300 teachers and 2100 students participated in field trips and living history performances in conjunction with The A-mazing Mendes Cohen. Students from local public, private, parochial along with Jewish day and congregational schools visited the JMM.  We also had student groups visit from the outlying counties, including Howard, Montgomery, Prince Georges, and Anne Arundel County. Students visited from Forest Hills, New York and Philadelphia,  and also came from Ashkelon, Israel – Baltimore ‘s Sister City in Israel.

JMM educators created a rich array of educational resources including archival exploration activities (giving students the opportunity to explore primary sources related to his life), puzzle making games and scavenger hunts. Because Mendes’s life connected with so many important worldwide events, we were able to tie in school visits and resources with a wide array of curricular objectives.

The Gunpowder Challenge

The Powder Magazine Challenge

All of the students loved the interactives in the exhibit- especially the powder magazine and the world map stringing activity.  Students loved racing against the clock to ensure that the magazine did not explode.  Students loved learning where Cohen travelled and learned names of countries and cities throughout Europe and the Middle East.  Students also loved hearing about Cohen’s journal entry of July 4, 1832, documenting his travels on the Nile River, hoisting the flag made by Cohen’s Egyptian crew. Students also thought that it was “very cool” to see the actual flag that was hoisted on Cohen’s ship as well as  some of the Egyptian antiquities that Cohen brought back to Baltimore.

Mendes' hand-made flag, 1832

Mendes’ hand-made flag, 1832

Programs – The JMM held a record number of public programs this year and many of them were inspired by the life experiences of Mendes. Through panel discussions, scholarly and author talks, performances and family workshops, we explored such topics and themes as the War of 1812, 19th century travel, Egyptology, the fight to pass the Jew Bill, textile conservation and genealogy.

Hieroglyphs from our hands-on Egyptology Family Day.

Hieroglyphs from our hands-on Egyptology Family Day.

We were especially pleased with our Mitzvah Day program, inspired by Mendes’ attempts to piece together his identity, we made puzzles for children spending the holidays in The Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai Hospital. It was a wonderful day that saw families work together to create something really special. In total we made enough for all of the children visiting the hospital over the holiday period.

Senator Ben Cardin address the Annual Meeting crowd inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Photo by Will Kirk.

Senator Ben Cardin address the Annual Meeting crowd inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Photo by Will Kirk.

This year our Annual Meeting was also inspired by Mendes, specifically his time spent in office. We were honored to welcome Senator Ben Cardin to the museum to be our keynote speaker. A surprising success was our Sephardic Lecture Series, inspired by Mendes’ own heritage. We had two great programs exploring Sephardic history and Ladino.

During the course of the exhibit we started to record some of our programs, if you missed one of the lectures above check our website, you may still have a chance to explore a little more of Mendes Cohen’s life.

The maze is packed and out the door, the flag and jacket are back in our vaults – Mendes, like Elvis, has left the building – but the legacy is still with us.  As a team, we had so much fun with this project.  Don’t be surprised if Mendes and his siblings join us again in a future project.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

A Heady Brew: Magna Carta, Whiskey and Jewish History

Posted on June 15th, 2015 by

I know that everyone has today marked on their calendars as a birthday – probably not your birthday – but the birthday of Magna Carta.  It turns 800 years old today.  Now the reason it’s on my calendar is that for 11 years I was the steward of the only extant copy of Magna Carta in North America – the copy on display at the National Archives.

Magna Carta, 1297.   On display in the new David M. Rubenstein Gallery. Presented courtesy of David M. Rubenstein.

Magna Carta, 1297. On display in the new David M. Rubenstein Gallery. Presented courtesy of David M. Rubenstein.

Next Sunday I will be offering a free tour of the National Archives at 2pm as part of our Schnapps with Pops program.  We are headed to the “Spirited Republic” exhibit – the latest changing exhibit at the National Archives and the inspiration for our JMM program.  But given this important birthday, we’ll also be taking a side trip to see Magna Carta.

On view at the National Archives

On view at the National Archives

Magna Carta on display at the National Archives is in fact just 718 years old.  It was not signed or sealed by King John but rather by his grandson King Edward I.  So what makes it special?  Well, Magna Carta (Archives trivia – never supposed to write “the” Magna Carta, because it is a Latin name and bears no article) was not a singular act.  John put his seal on Magna Carta under threat at Runnymede and from the time the ink dried, John and his successors looked for ways to annul, rescind and evade it.  In this long series of royal pledges and revocations – the 1297 Magna Carta stands out because Edward agreed to an additional clause that enrolled Magna Carta in the statutes of England, settling the question of whether this was the permanent law of the land.

And the Jewish connection?  Ask yourself “why did the kings keep issuing Magna Carta if they had little interest in conceding absolute royal power?”  The fundamental answer is that they needed money and agreeing to a power-sharing formula with the barons was a way to stimulate their assent to new taxes.  The original strategy of the Norman kings to finance their rule of their new Anglo-Saxon domain was to bring over Jewish merchants.  In addition to developing the English economy, Jews were trusted agents of the monarchy – since their very presence in the country was at the sufferance of the king, the Norman rulers could count on their loyalty.

This helps explain Clause 10 in the 1215 Magna Carta.  It is a clause which relieves the baronial families of having to pay interest to Jews after the death of a baron.  Limiting the financial dealings of England’s Jews was seen as part of curbing the powers of the king.

When we put Magna Carta back on display in 2011, several reporters asked me if the absence of Clause 10 in the 1297 Magna Carta was indicative of a change in attitude towards Jews.  The answer was unfortunately, “no”, the clause is missing from this Magna Carta, because Edward saw fit to expel all Jews from the country in 1290 and therefore could not agree to regulate a trade that – at least on paper – had ceased to exist.

"Famous whiskey insurrection in Pennsylvania", an illustration from Our first century: being a popular descriptive portraiture of the one hundred great and memorable events of perpetual interest in the history of our country by R. M. Devens (Springfield, Mass, 1882). Image courtesy of the New York Public Library via

“Famous whiskey insurrection in Pennsylvania”, an illustration from Our first century: being a popular descriptive portraiture of the one hundred great and memorable events of perpetual interest in the history of our country by R. M. Devens (Springfield, Mass, 1882). Image courtesy of the New York Public Library via

And what about the whiskey connection?  Well, “Spirited Republic” is dedicated to the story of the federal government and alcohol, and most of that story is about how the federal government would support itself.  The very first American insurrection, more than 60 years before the Civil War, is the Whiskey Rebellion – a pitched battle over the tax on alcohol.  In the post-Civil War era, as much as 40% of the federal government’s income rested on liquor excise taxes.  This is why the advocates of prohibition helped push through the 16th amendment establishing an income tax before advancing the 18th amendment banning the sale of alcohol.  The exhibit contains several documents from Jewish distillers before, during and after prohibition.

So I could frame the connections between Magna Carta, whiskey and Jewish history as being all about the struggle for human liberty… or we could agree that it is all about one of life’s two certainties – taxes.

See you on Sunday!

See you on Sunday!

If you are interested in taking Sunday’s tour, it is free but you must RSVP to Trillion ( by Wednesday so that we can give the National Archives a final count on attendance.


Marvin PinkertA blog post by Museum Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

« Previous PageNext Page »