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Wanna See Batman?

Posted on February 1st, 2013 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus. Opening photographs by Will Kirk.

At one of my brother’s birthday parties as a little kid, my parents hired a magician/comedian.  He would stand in front of a crowd of 4 or 5 year olds and say, “Wanna see Batman?!?” and when they roared “YEAH!!!” he would respond, “Well, he’s not here.”  My brother and I thought it was hysterical (what do you want?  We were 3 and 5).

Last Thursday I learned just how un-funny the punch line to this joke can be, because Batman, who I had hired to come to the ZAP! POW! BAM! opening, was not going to be there.  For completely understandable reasons, our Batman had to leave town at the last minute leaving us, well, in need of a hero to save the day.

So, I did what any rational person would do – I sent out the Bat Signal.  The Bat Signal, as you probably know, is a searchlight that casts the shape of a bat into the night sky.  It is used by the folks over at the Gotham City Police Station when they need to summon the Caped Crusader.  I climbed up onto the roof of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, positioned the searchlight somewhere over the Inner Harbor, and hoped that a Batman or at least maybe a Raven, would answer my call.

Alright, maybe this is not exactly what happened.  For one thing, this moment of crisis came in the middle of the day, when it is doubtful anyone would have been able to see anything reflecting on the sky.  Instead I went to social media and to friends and fortunately to one friend’s theater list-serve with this request:

Be Batman for a day!

Needed: The Batman

The Jewish Museum of Maryland is looking for one person to portray Batman for two hours on Sunday, January 27th from 11 – 1pm.

Must be:


Average build

5’10 or taller

Familiar with Batman character

Enthusiastic and willing to pose in pictures and talk with young children 

And wouldn’t you know it, we got a response.  And then another, and another and another.  In fact my phone was ringing off the hook and emails poured in all day.  It was a miracle of epic proportions.  Turns out, lots of people would jump at the chance to be a superhero for a day.

People sent pictures of themselves in Batman costumes, describing their lifelong love of the Dark Knight.  We had people who had been extras in Batman movies, dressed up as Batman for Comic-Con, as well as serious actors who boasted their experience with stage combat and their solid knowledge of The World’s Greatest Detective!

But fortunately one Batman stood out from the crowd.  He sent a picture of himself portraying Batman last summer at Six Flags Amusement Park.  He was THE REAL BATMAN!!!  He even still had his professional costume.  I won’t identify him by name, just know that he definitely saved the day.

When Batman arrived at 11am at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the children (many in costumes themselves) were delighted.  They wanted to see Batman… and he was HERE!

JMM Staff with their Hero!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Esther Fest!!

Posted on December 7th, 2012 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus. Photos by Will Kirk.

“If you’ve got latkes, sour cream and applesauce, of course it’s gonna be great!”  – Esther Weiner

These are the words I overheard Esther use to describe the success of last night’s Esther Fest program.  But, of course all of us present know what made Esther Fest the place to be last night… our very own Esther Weiner, gift shop manager, latke chef extraordinaire and all around amazing person.  Billed as “the most hilarious human on earth,” Esther, whose repertoire of jokes included classics about the Catskills and Borscht Belt as well as anecdotes from her own life, never disappoints.  Even her husband, Morty, told a joke!  It was certainly a family affair – Esther had the whole room smiling and laughing as she and her granddaughters fried up delicious latkes in honor of Chanukah.

This year as part of a fun twist, Esther invited audience participation, giving prizes to the Brews & Schmooze young adult audience members who shared Chanukah memories or could recount the facts of the epic battle commemorated during the holiday.  Prizes included dreidels, chocolate gelt, and a car mezuzah.  Car mezuzahs (available for purchase in the JMM gift shop) are just like the traditional mezuzahs affixed to doorposts, except they contain the traveler’s prayer and can be anchored to the inside of a car.  And, as Esther informed us, they have saved her from many a close call.  The grand prize winner was Jennie Gates Beckman for her rendition of the song, “I am a Latke.”

If you missed the program, you can catch a recording of Esther making latkes with WYPR’s Aaron Hankin tonight at 7:40pm and tomorrow, December 8th at 1:40pm.  As promised last night, below you will find the recipe for Esther’s famous latkes:

Potato Latkes

4 medium potatoes, peeled, slice 1 potato in quarters lengthwise, cut 3 in cubes for your processor, keep in cold water


1 medium sweet onion – cut up

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp sugar (if potatoes taste slightly bitter)

3 tblsp flour

Vegetable oil for frying


Grate one potato with the grater blade in food processor, put in bowl, put the cubed potatoes in processor and whirl with cutting blade until just chopped, not too fine.  Repeat until all the potatoes are grated.  If watery, place potatoes in strainer and then in your mixing bowl.

Put eggs and onion in blender; whirl to combine, do not leave pieces of onion intact.  Add to that potatoes in the bowl.

Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, baking soda and flour to thicken the batter slightly.

Heat oil in large skillet (or two smaller ones) until a drop of water tells you that oil is hot enough, it will bounce around the oil.  Drop and drag one tblsp potato mixture for each pancake.  The “dragging” with your spoon will leave little “strings” of potato to crisp and make the latkes a little thinner.

Fry crisp and golden brown on all sides.

Wishing you a happy Chanukah from everyone here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Tasting and Telling Stories at Two Museums

Posted on November 28th, 2012 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus.

We sat around the table together eating delicious foods, telling stories of family and friends, and laughing.  No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving.  One week before families and friends sat down to turkey and stuffing, the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum invited Baltimoreans to come together and share a meal and some stories with friends and strangers alike.  Sabbath Tables was a program that was made possible by the Maryland State Arts Council Maryland Traditions program.  It looked at the common thread and unique elements of the Jewish and African American Sabbath meal traditions.

On November 18th, over 80 participants broke bread together at the JMM, enjoying slices of challah, cups of grape juice, and steaming bowls of matzah ball soup (no kidding, the whole Museum smelled like my grandma’s house).  As attendees took seats at tables next to people they may never have met before, Mary Zajac, an expert in foodways and the Food Editor for Style Magazine, discussed the meaning of a day of rest and how it is set apart from the rest of the week.  She facilitated conversations about the memories and stories we all have surrounding Shabbat, Sabbath, or just family dinners.

Then we all headed by foot the few blocks from the JMM to the RFLM with a few stops along the way to discuss the neighborhood.  Arriving at the Lewis, we were ushered into their beautiful theater space.  The food was delicious – sweet tea, fried chicken, string beans, macaroni and cheese, cornbread – a feast.  Encouraged to sit with different people than we sat with at the JMM, everyone got settled around large round tables.  Storyteller Diane Macklin delighted us with memories of her Sunday dinners as a child.  Then participants at each table shared their stories.

It was an afternoon that warmed our souls and brought back memories and stories.  For me and my family it motivated a new tradition at our Thanksgiving table.  We decided to include recipes from members of our family who are no longer with us or who no longer are able to cook their most beloved recipes.  My mother shared her mother’s meat blintz recipe (modified with turkey in place of ground beef for the holiday), and I recreated my great grandmother’s chocolate cake according to the memories of my mother.  Thanks to the MSAC, the Lewis Museum, Mary Zajac and Diane Macklin and to everyone else who actively participated and made our Sabbath Tables program such a success.  I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving.

Don’t miss Esther Fest, on Thursday, December 6th.  As part of our Brews & Schmooze series, our very own Esther Weiner will be cookin’ up latkes and telling stories and jokes.  Come taste the latkes, enjoy our bar (by donation), and meet lots of interesting people.  The event will be at the JMM from 6-9pm, and it is free, so bring a friend or two!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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