Purim-pouri!

Posted on March 8th, 2019 by

Museum Matters:March 2019


March is the time of year when our programming becomes truly eclectic. In the next 30 days we will feature both a mid-week film and a multi-media performance for the final weekend of the Jewish refugees and Shanghai exhibit, the great student projects at our annual My Family Story presentation, a rhyming workshop based on a children’s book, Sephardi musical traditions plus films about Israeli baseball players and a Jewish strongman. Talk about a big Megillah!

No matter how you roll the dice to select your day(s) to visit, you are bound to find an exciting new experience at JMM this March. And remember – museum membership includes free admission to our programs. Now is the perfect time to become a member (if you aren’t yet part of the family). We can’t wait to see you here.

~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.

MARCH

Sunday, March 10, 2019 at 1:00pm

Kreplach & Dim Sum
Speaker: Cantor Robyn Helzner
Buy Tickets Now

Sunday, March 17, 2019 at 1pm

And There Was Evening And There Was Morning
Presenters: Harriet Helfand, author & Ellen Kahan Zager, author and illustrator
Buy Tickets Now

Sunday, March 24, 2019 at 1:00pm

Sephardic Art Song: A Musical Legacy of the Sephardic Diaspora
Presenters: Lori Şen and Jeremy Lyons
Buy Tickets Now

Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at 6:30pm

Maryland Premiere
Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel
Buy Tickets Now

Sunday, March 31, 2019 at 3:00pm

Baltimore Premiere
The Mighty Atom
Speaker: Steven Greenstein, filmmaker
Buy Tickets Now

April

Sunday, April 7, 2019 at 1:00pm

Behind the Seams: Weaving a Story of Loss and Discovery
Speaker: Molly Dubin, Jewish Museum Milwaukee
Buy Tickets Now

Thursday, April 11, 2019 at 7:00pm

Connected Threads
Members-Only Reception*
Speaker: Joanna Church, Fashion Statement curator
Reserve Your Seats

Mark the openings of our newest exhibits, Stitching History from the Holocaust and Fashion Statement with an interactive wine and cheese reception. (dietary laws observed)

*Not yet a member? Join now!*


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


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.


Esther’s Place

This March at Esther’s Place we’re all about identity, stories, and fun! Find your perfect Purim noisemaker, costume idea or accessory, or gift basket inspiration from among our selection of toys, books, and Purim-themed items. March is also National Reading Month and National Craft Month so don’t forget to celebrate by exploring our children and adult books, and craft items such as “decorate your own” mezuzahs and tzedakah boxes.

 

 

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All about identity at Esther’s Place this Purim

Posted on February 28th, 2019 by

A blog post by JMM Office Manager and Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg. For more posts from Jessica, click HERE.


When envisioning our 2019 Esther’s Place Purim celebration within the programming year ahead, it occurred to me that Purim (March 20 – 21 this year) is a celebration of identity and story—two themes that resonate across our upcoming exhibits and programs.

Last year, Purim was new to me so I wrote about our Esther’s Place noisemakers (or groggers), intended to drown out the name of villain Haman during the reading of the Book of Esther of Megillah. This year, I’m keen to learn about the creative, personal aspects of the holiday—the costumes, the lessons, the big themes—and how these fit into our work at JMM.

Storytelling is an evergreen theme at JMM and Esther’s Place. And March is National Reading Month—a fine time to stop by Esther’s Place Shop and explore our selection of engaging titles featuring characters ranging from the mischievous “Five Little Gefiltes” to the tenacious suffragists of Elaine Weiss’s The Woman’s Hour.

Celebrate National Reading Month this March at Esther’s Place at JMM.

Stories captivate our hearts and imaginations because they often contain struggles and triumphs, heroes and villains, honorable and wicked intentions, bravery, loyalty, secrecy, sacrifice, and difficult decisions. They can comfort and inspire, distract and entertain, and allow audiences to safely try on new ideas and identities. For young children, storytelling through dramatic play fosters understanding of the world and themselves.

The Purim story takes place in ancient Persia where a Jewish woman named Esther is chosen against her will as Queen to the King Ahasuerus. Mordecai, a Jewish man who raised Esther, angers Ahasuerus’s Prime Minister Haman by refusing to bow before him, and Haman responds by plotting a violent revenge against the Jewish people. Esther bravely exposes her Jewish identity and successfully appeals to the King, saving her people.

The Purim story abounds with concealed identities, dramatic revelations, and miracles disguised as ordinary events. And in keeping with the theme of hiding, children and adults often celebrate Purim by wearing costumes and concealing their identities as Esther did.

Costumes offer new, temporary identities but still reveal truths about the wearer. In April, we’ll explore how we telegraph our identities through fashion and clothing with new exhibit Fashion Statement. What are some of your favorite Purim costumes from years past and what did they reveal (or hide) about you?

I remember learning in elementary school that good stories typically feature a dramatic complication followed by a satisfying resolution. Purim seems to be a holiday celebrating this triumphant resolution. In reality, we might be at the beginning of a story, or perhaps in the middle—but once a year for those who observe, the chance comes to make noise; don new identities; and celebrate victory, diversity, and strong women (yes!).

Here are just some of the fun items available at Esther’s Place this Purim, perfect for dramatizing the Purim story, and engaging the young Purim revelers in your lives.

We offer numerous identity-inspired items that make excellent Purim host gifts. Celebrate a shared identity with our funny custom Jewish Baltimore souvenirs or delightful Mah-jongg products, including key rings with your favorite tiles! We also have a great selection of cookbooks and other thoughtful items to provide inspiration for Purim gift baskets.

And our selection of children’s books and toys offer great inspiration for costumes!

I wish all who celebrate Purim a joyful holiday that is also creative, inclusive, playful, and surprising. And make sure to stop by and ask our staff and volunteers for their National Reading Month recommendations this March!

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Performing Community Part 2

Posted on March 29th, 2018 by

Article by Avi Y. Decter, former JMM executive director, with Erin L. Titter, former JMM archivist. Originally published in Generations – 2003: Entertaining Maryland. To order a print copy of the magazine, see details here.

Part II: A Long History

Missed the beginning? Start here.

Community performances have a long history in Baltimore, both within the Jewish community and beyond. Documentation of these performances is, however, relatively thin. In the Jewish contact, we know of programs, events, and presentations dating back to at least the late 19th century, but photographic evidence discovered so far carries the story only from the 1910s to the present.

“Biblical Pageant” – Sculptor Ephraim Keyser seated center, wearing a fez. JMM 1995.77.3

One of the earliest photos we have depicts a “Biblical Pageant” at the Maryland Institute around 1913, presumably a program organized by sculptor Ephraim Keyser, then a faculty member at the Institute. But the precise occasion, content, and audience remain obscure.

Members of the Clinton Club, including Shackman Katz, Bertram Oppenheim, Harold Miller, and Emil Rosenthal, c. 1921. JMM 1988.79.19

Jewish social clubs, such as the Clinton Club, organized by middle-class young men and women of German Jewish descent, are known to have produced a variety of entertainments including a burlesque on The   Merchant of Venice. Lester Levy reports in an unpublished memoir that during the 1920s the Junior Assembly, an offshoot of the venerable Harmony Club, created a playlet on Mah Jongg, which at the time was enjoying a craze throughout the country. In this show, Reuben Oppenheimer wrote the lyrics to a number titled “The Only Possible Place”: “You go out to dine and you’re feeling fine/ your tux’s a perfect fit. You meet a friend and you gallantly bend/ and you feel a terrible split/ A rip, rip, rip, a devastating rip/ You’re in an awful case. As you grab for a char, you can feel the cold air/ In the only possible place!” This kind of self-spoofing, like nicknames, simultaneously amuses and reinforces group identity.[1]

Hanukkah play featuring students at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, 1972. JMM 1992.108.53

Inadvertent entertainment is a frequent by-product of a common form of community performance – the school play, which parents and grandparents typically attend with mixed feelings of anticipation and dread. School plays, like other community performances, run the gamut. Some are staged by students, others by teachers, parents, and other amateur volunteers, and still others by professional performers. Plays in Hebrew and those on traditional Jewish themes like the Purim story are usually direct (and often didactic) in delivering their moral messages about the virtues of being Jewish and leading a committed Jewish life. For many years, The Associated Players presented a puppet show for children about “the squirrel who would not share.” The theme of philanthropic giving was pronounced and obvious.[2]

HIAS Purim party at Baltimore Hebrew University, 1992, with Rosalie Hollner as Queen Esther. JMM 1995.114.121

Children performing in a Hebrew play at the Jewish Community Center, 305 W. Monument Street, n.d, JMM 1995.98.40

Other kinds of performance assert the importance and persistence of Jewish identity within pluralist, polyglot America. In the Bicentennial year 1976, for instance, the Jewish community was invited to present the essentials of “Jewish American” life at a festival staged at the Inner Harbor. The vehicle chosen for dramatizing the vitality of Maryland Jewish life was “Café Tel Aviv,” where performances of Israeli song and dance celebrated a primary theme of Jewish history and tradition – Zion as the Jewish homeland. In an earlier generation, performances in Yiddish by groups like the Yiddish Folk Theater served a similar function, maintaining continuity with Jewish culture in Europe.

Israeli folksingers at Café Tel Aviv, Jewish American Festival, Baltimore, 1976. JMM 1992.205.56

Within the Jewish community, particular organizations promote the interests of sub-groups, communities within the community, as it were. Congregations, for instance, promote their special position and group solidarity through various kinds of performance. Chizuk Amuno Congregation, long a leading Conservative synagogue in Baltimore, has sponsored numerous performances over the years. Beginning in 1931, the Chizuk Amuno Brotherhood presented an annual play at the Maryland Theatre. Most productions were community theater at its purest, with scripts by local amateurs. The 1933 production, in contract, featured a Broadway hit from 1930 (Mendel, Inc.), written by David Freedman, a writer for noted comedian Eddie Cantor.

Murray Slatkin and Selma Berkow are shown in an episode of the “Eutaw Place Scandals,” a musical revue written by Fred Katzner, which will be presented at the Maryland Theatre by members of Chizuk Amuno congregation, March 1935. JMM 1984.12.5

In 1971, on the occasion of the congregation’s 101st annual meeting, “The Chizuk Amuno Theatre” presented The Building Bug, a farce in one act. In this spoof of the congregation’s long history of dedicating a new synagogue every generation (1876, 1895, 1922, and 1958), Chizuk Amuno celebrated its own vitality and growth. One of several musical numbers went like this:

Contractor, contractor,

Build us a Shule

A Chapel that’s cool

A hip swimming pool

We want Beth Tfiloh and Beth El to drool

So build us a perfect shule![3] 

On another occasion, Chizuk Amuno feted its long-time cantor, Adolph (Abba) Weisgal. A cast of middle-aged men who had studied for their Bar Mitzvah ceremonies with the cantor performed in a musical revue, replete with canes and lapel buttons announcing them as “Adolph’s Boys.” Entertainments such as these mobilized the congregation while boosting morale.

Continue to Part III: Popular Entertainment

 

[1] JMM MS 77 Lester Levy Family Papers, Lester Levy’s Memoirs, n.d., Box 6, Folder 213.

[2] Telephone interview with Carole Sibel, August 13, 2002.

[3] Lyrics for The Building Bug were based on the book by Stanley I. Minch and written by Ronald Israel, Stanley I. Minch, Jerry Cohen, and Gwen Cohen. Courtesy of the Chizuk Amuno Congregational Archives and Congregational Archivist Jan Schein.

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