Finding the Light

Posted on November 2nd, 2018 by

Museum Matters: November 2018

It has been a very dark week for the Jewish community all across America.  We join all our colleagues in the Associated system in mourning the horrendous loss of lives in Pittsburgh. We condemn the vile hatred that instigated this act and we are inspired by the empathy of our neighbors (the first two people to reach out to me with condolences to our community were Zubair Ansari of the Islamic Society of Baltimore and Dwight Warren of the McKim Center).

As individuals and organizations, all of us are struggling with how we respond to these events.  JMM made the determination that we would not let madmen or thugs deter us from fulfilling our mission. Last Sunday, we went ahead with our plans for Houdini family day… because we felt that people needed a feeling of connection more than ever. 144 attendees came. We are donating all of the admission fees for that day to HIAS, as a small gesture that murder does not produce rewards.  Last night we held the 91st official Houdini séance and the room was filled to capacity.

At the same time, we know that your safety is paramount. We are working with the Associated and the Baltimore Police Department to enhance our security. I want to publicly thank the BPD for being so responsive to our request for additional coverage at public events after hours.

We are counting on your willingness to join us in our outstanding programs in the month to come, as together we seek to find the light that will bind our wounds and help us fight back the darkness.

~Marvin


Upcoming programs
All programs take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland unless otherwise noted. Please contact our Programs Manager at tattwood@jewishmuseummd.org / 443-873-5177 with any questions or for more information.


NOVEMBER

Talk and Film!

Houdini in Hollywood and The Grim Game
Sunday, November 4, 2018 at 1:00pm
Reserve Seats Now

JMM 1998.35.12.13 (crop)

Veteran’s Day: The Jewish Legion
Sunday, November 11, 2018 at 1:00pm
Reserve Seats Now

Now a New York Times best seller!

We Were the Lucky Ones
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at 7:00pm
Reserve Seats Now

Part of the 2018 Festival of Jewish Literature!

The Eddie Cantor Story
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at 7:00pm
Reserve Seats Now

Includes chocolate tasting and book signing!

History of the Jews and Chocolate
Sunday, November 18, 2018 at 1:00pm
Reserve Seats Now

>>View the full JMM calendar of events here.<<


Esther’s Place

Join us at Esther’s Place as we celebrate the joys of the upcoming holiday of Chanukah. Discover Macubby our featured Macca Bean, dreidels perfect for play or display, Chanukah candles in numerous colors and styles, menorahs as unique as your holiday celebrations, and new products that make special gifts. From November 8 to November 11, visit us at the Strathmore Museum Shop Holiday Market for these items and more.


Also of Interest
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 bnaiisraelcongregation.org.  For more of this month’s events from BIYA, please visit biyabaltimore.org or check out BIYA on Facebook.

#ShowUpForShabbat
Saturday, November 3, 2018
Services begin at 9:30am

B’nai Israel: The Downtown Synagogue invites all for services this coming Saturday morning as part of a national effort to #ShowUpForShabbat as an act defiance against anti-Semitism and of solidarity with Pittsburgh. More info.

Bluegrass on the Bimah:

Dry Branch Fire Squad

Sunday, November 25, 2018 at 4:30pm
More info and tickets here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




My First Seance

Posted on November 1st, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM Marketing Manager Rachel Kassman. To read more posts from Rachel, click here.

Last night the Jewish Museum of Maryland played host to the 91st Official Houdini Séance. It was definitely an evening to remember. In case you weren’t able to join us (or follow along with our live tweeting of the event, #HoudiniSéance2018), I thought I’d share a little of the experience with you – this was my first séance and I didn’t know what to expect!

First, a little history on the séance, courtesy of the directors William Radner and Thomas Boldt:

“Harry Houdini died at Grace Hospital in Detroit on Halloween 1926 from complications of acute appendicitis. He had told his wife, Bessie Houdini—and close friend, confidant and mentalist Joe Dunninger—that if he died, he would make every effort to communicate with the living and established a secret code to guarantee proof if indeed he was successful. Every year since his death, an official séance was held to see if he could come across the veil and prove the spiritual afterlife existed.

Final Houdini séance in 1936. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

After 10 years, Bess Houdini declared the séance efforts over; however, Houdini’s brother Hardeen took up the torch and continued the tradition for many more years. There was never a sign from Houdini. When Hardeen passed away, his protégé and magic collector, Sidney Radner, was directed to continue the séance and did so every year until his death at 91 years of age in 2011. He was accompanied by his good friend Tom Boldt for many years in this endeavor. Now Sid’s son, Bill Radner, along with Tom, continue the tradition.”

The evening began with food, drinks (including one of our signature “magical” cocktails, mixed and served by yours truly!), and a pair of roving magicians who demonstrated a variety of card tricks and rope escapes for members of the audience. My favorite part of the evening was the presentations by our Houdini experts!

Here, Houdini collector Ken Trombley shows off a piece from his collection – a 1925 telegram to the Associated Press debunking a slate-writing medium.

“Can the living speak to the dead?” Collector Arthur Moses shares about Houdini’s deep desire to contact loved ones on the other side, referencing a pair of programs produced by Houdini. Both Ken and Arthur emphasized that while Houdini sincerely hoped to speak with those who had passed on, he was equally fierce in debunking those he felt were preying on the grieving and naïve.

Houdini in Handcuffs: expert Fred Pittella’s interest was born from reading “The Man Who Walked Through Walls.” In the age before internet, researching Houdini and handcuffs involved a lot of foot work – Fred found many of the pieces he used to learn about handcuffs and locking mechanisms hunting through flea markets and thrift stores. He shared that Houdini’s handcuffs (and handcuffs of the time in general) were more massive and complicated than those in use today!

As part of his “challenges,” Houdini asked to keep any handcuffs he escaped from! This allowed him to build up a large collection for both study and use in his performances. He also created his own sets of handcuffs for his challenges – 5 different ones in fact, including a “Russian” handcuff, a “Hungarian” handcuff, and the most famous “Mirror” handcuff.

His worst nightmare, losing the title of King of Handcuffs, loomed large when was presented with a pair of doctored handcuffs – they had been stuffed with buckshot, rendering the locking mechanism unusable. The handcuffs could be closed, but could not be opened, even with the key.

Houdini had to be cut out of them – in future, he required all challenge cuffs to be demonstrated to both close AND open before placing them on his wrists. Fortunately, Houdini’s reputation as King of Handcuffs survived this incident, and reports of the time seemed to side with him, calling the event a “cruel trick.”

Why is the Séance held on Halloween? It’s the day Houdini died. Bill Radner, séance director, told us that Houdini was not expected to survive that long by medical professionals, but he held out because he wanted to make it to the 31st.

Bill also presented about the official “Séance Handcuffs.” To have a real séance, you need to have an item from the person you are trying to contact. This pair of handcuffs was used at the first séance in 1948 – Houdini said he would open them from beyond the grave. These handcuffs were considered “unpickable” and are unlike any handcuff you’ll see today – they are the “mirror” design.

The above is a photo of the actual “Séance Handcuffs” used in the séance, but we have a fantastic selection of other handcuffs, keys, lock picks, and other escape tools used by Houdini on display in Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini.

But one of the coolest items shared this evening might be Houdini’s adjustable key! He made molds of the keys for challenge cuffs and use this adjustable key to match it. This object, shared by Bill, is the only known adjustable key used by Houdini.

Finally, the “Inner Circle” (those serving as participants in the séance) and the medium took their seats around the table. We were lucky enough to be joined by Debbie Hardeen, Houdini’s own great-grandniece – this was her first time participating in the Official Houdini Séance!

Alas, Houdini did not make contact with us this year, but we did have fun trying. And no night dedicated to Houdini can end without some seriously magical entertainment! Harley Newman, escape artist, performed a lively act to close out the night.

We were thrilled to host this fantastic group of Houdini experts and enthusiasts – here we’ve got the whole crew posed inside our Inescapable exhibit. Good luck next year!

I, Harry, and the JMM hope you all had a wonderful Halloween and come visit us soon.

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Houdini’s Magical Halloween Family Day: Making Memories!

Posted on October 31st, 2018 by

A blog post by Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

The JMM welcomed lots of folks to Houdini’s Magical Halloween Family Day this past Sunday.  Our visitors had a magical time learning about Harry Houdini and trying to imagine the world through his eyes!  Our education team provided a well-rounded experience for our guests- we saw lots of smiles as our visitors of all ages participated in so many activities from magic shows, living history performances of Harry Houdini, marvelous crafts and delicious treats, along with workshops featuring lock-picking and card tricks!   Here are some highlights from the day!

Students and families from the Interfaith Families Project from the DC area visited us first thing in the morning.  These boys were doing some creative cooking at the dinner table inside the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit!

David London dazzled audiences young and old sharing the story of how Ehrich Weiss transformed himself to become the legendary Harry Houdini!

The Houdini inspired crafts allowed our visitors to make connections to Harry Houdini in very special ways! This gentleman was winding up the propeller to his airplane.  Did you know that Harry Houdini was the first person to fly an airplane in Australia?

JMM Development Director Tracey Dorfmann was having a great time manning a craft station.

This little guy was casting some spells complete with his new hat and magic wand.

I think that best part of the day was the way the event brought people from all over the city the Museum, many of who have never been to the JMM before!  One of my favorite moments of the day was meeting Evan Bernard Drachman, the great-grandson to Rabbi Bernard Drachman, the rabbi that helped Harry Houdini become a Bar Mitzvah at the age of 16!  Rabbi Drachman was one of the leaders of Orthodox Judaism in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Do you see the family resemblance?

The Houdini Family Day was made possible, in part by the generous funding of the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education.

Come on down to the JMM to make your own memories!

Be sure to check out our website for some of the upcoming JMM public programs taking place in November and December!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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