Remembering One of Our Own

Posted on August 2nd, 2019 by

If you’ve been around JMM for a few years, you may have met Michael McCoy in our hallways or galleries.

Mike was the JMM custodian from January 2016 through January 2018, when a medical condition forced him to take a leave of absence. It is with deep sadness that I report Mike passed away on Monday, July 29, 2019. He was 52.

Mike was a soft-spoken gem of a man. He was fastidious and kind. He took pride in his work and almost immediately displayed a fierce sense of ownership over the Museum and our visitors’ experience. In his two years here, he innovated several new processes to improve communications for set up for programming, and he took on jobs great and small without complaint. (The closest he ever came to complaining was when he painted my office, and he told me that next time I shouldn’t call him, he would call me.) He kept us all in a clean and safe environment, and he did it with a smile.

In other words, Michael McCoy was a mensch. He was a coworker and a friend. I am grateful to have known him. He will be missed.

~Tracie Guy-Decker, JMM Deputy Director

Viewing / Visitation at the Joseph H Brown, Jr. Funeral Home, 2140 N Fulton Avenue, Baltimore, MD from 1 – 5 pm. 

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Random Acts of Kindness

Posted on November 7th, 2018 by

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

It’s hard to believe that 10 days ago, there was a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in American history. As a response, millions of Jews worldwide along with people of all faiths pledged to #ShowUpForShabbat this past weekend in solidarity with Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, sending a resounding message that love triumphs over hate.

I have been touched by the interactions that I have had with many people over the past 10 days as a response to the tragic event. I have observed so many random acts of kindness. People have gone out of their ways to show support and to renounce hatred of any kind. I have received emails from non-Jewish colleagues expressing their support and concern. I have heard stories that synagogues in our community have received random bouquets of flowers with notes of support, care and prayers for the Jewish community.

On Halloween, we had 4th and 5th graders from the Peace Academy at the Oneness-Family School in Montgomery County visit the JMM. Some students even came dressed in the Halloween costumes! The students were studying Judaism and immigration history in school. Their visit included a tour of the historic synagogues and guided activities through the Voices of Lombard Street and the Houdini exhibits.

As the students got back on the bus, the teacher handed our volunteer docent, Lois Fekete, a handful of cards that the students had created in school. As adults, we sometimes forget about how events affect children.

I must say that I was blown away by these cards.

Once again, random acts of kindness- this time from the mouths of 10 and 11-year-olds.

This Wednesday, November 7th, our community will come together at Moses Montefiore Synagogue to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, also known as “The Night of Broken Glass.” On the evening of November 9, 1938, violent anti-Jewish demonstrations broke out across Germany, Austria, and areas of Czechoslovakia. Over the next two days, violent mobs provoked by antisemitic incitement by Nazi officials, destroyed hundreds of synagogues, and burned and desecrated thousands of Jewish religious artifacts.

The recent attack in Pittsburgh illustrates that anti-semitism and events such as Kristallnacht are not simply facts referred to in history books but are prevalent in our world today. It is the hope that this program will educate about the dangers of bigotry and open the hearts and minds of people. We need to continue to do random acts of kindness to our fellow man. By coming together as a community, we find comfort as we gather “to remember” and to “stand up” to ensure that antisemitism has no place in our world.

 

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Thanking Gil Marks

Posted on December 10th, 2014 by

I never met him, but I and the JMM owe a great debt to the late rabbi and historian of Jewish food Gil Marks, who died on December 5. Marks’ magnum opus, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food was published in 2010 and became an enormously important reference for our 2011 exhibition, Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture, and American Jewish Identity.  It’s a remarkable work with entries for dishes from Jewish communities around the world, and for the Jewish meanings of foods one would never think of as “Jewish.” His entry on “Challah,” for example, explains the meaning and origins of the name of our delicious Sabbath bread, and describes the sort of loaf it actually referred to in the time of the Jewish Kingdom. He also has an entry on “Salt.” The book also contains recipes and detailed instructions for several of his entries. I have given it as a gift to several of my foodie friends, and I consult my own copy frequently. I highly recommend it as an irreplaceable resource and a fun read.

Recently published remembrances, (links to two good posts: http://blogs.forward.com/the-jew-and-the-carrot/210409/gil-marks-jewish-food-scholar-dies-at-/  and http://tabletmag.com/scroll/187460/remembering-a-jewish-food-giant )of Rabbi Marks note that even greater than his knowledge of Jewish food and its importance to Jewish culture and identity was his enthusiasm and generosity in sharing his knowledge and work with all who asked. The JMM experienced this generosity first-hand when in 2012 he allowed us to post the recipes for cholent and cholent kugel on our Chosen Food blog. With gratitude for his generosity and sorrow at his loss, here is an excerpt from that post.

 

I decided to try a cholent made “the right way,” turning for instruction to Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food  http://www.gilmarks.com/. Here I found not only the recipe, but the fascinating history of this very Jewish food.

Two Jewish girls carrying pots of food for the Sabbath, Chicago. October 20, 1903. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

Two Jewish girls carrying pots of food for the Sabbath, Chicago. October 20, 1903. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

Cholent (also called schalet), based on the slow cooked stews (hamin, from the Hebrew word meaning “hot”) of the Mizrachi and Sephardi Jews, reached the Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe in the 12th or 13th century, via Spain and France. The word cholent may be derived from the Old French word for warm (chald/chalt) or it may come more directly from the Spanish escallento, also meaning warm. It became the custom for the homemakers of Europe to bring their pots of stew, lids sealed with flour paste to ensure against non-kosher taint, to the local bakery where the coals were banked to remain hot during Shabbat—a custom followed in Europe until the Shoah, and also brought by immigrants to the United States.

Cholent ingredients

Cholent ingredients

 I arranged the ingredients in the pot, following the order specified in Marks’ recipe. I had a little trouble with “water to cover,” since my pot was very full. (In fact, it boiled over during the cooking, leaving me with a major post-Shabbat cleaning project.) Don’t skip the hour long simmer Marks recommends. The cholent must go hot into the oven.

Cooking in the pot.

Cooking in the pot.

Two teaspoons of salt seemed like a lot to me, but it turns out to be just right. And don’t make the recipe at all if you don’t like the flavor of bay leaves. This ingredient is absolutely essential!

I topped the cholent with Marks’ cholent kugel, rolled into a long log that extended down the center of the cholent, from one end of the pot to the other. When I lifted the heavy lid the next day, I found the loaf flattened into an oval, but it was a beautiful brick red-brown from the paprika. It was surprisingly delicious, if somewhat solid.

How was the cholent? The beans and barley were not only cooked through, they almost lost definition. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth soft, and the seasonings were just on the edge of overcooked. I would have liked a little more gravy; don’t lose yours over the side of the pot!

Recipes (courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, by Gil Marks)

Ashkenazic Sabbath Stew (Cholent)

6 to 8 servings

1 ½ pounds beef or veal marrow bones

About 2 cups any combination mixed dried navy, lima, pink, pinto, and kidney beans

3 medium yellow onions, sliced

2 to 3 cloves garlic, whole or minced

6 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

3 pounds beef flanken, brisket, or chuck roast

¾ to 1 cup barley

2 to 3 bay leaves

About 2 teaspoons table salt or 4 teaspoons kosher salt

About 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

About 2 quarts water

1. In the order given, place the bones, beans, onions, garlic, potatoes, beef, barley, bay leaves, salt and pepper in a large, heavy pot. Add enough water to cover.

2. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, skimming the froth from the surface, until the beans are nearly soft, about 1 hour.

3. Add more water if necessary. Tightly cover, place on a blech (a thin sheet of metal placed over the range top and knobs) over low heat, or in a 225° F oven, and cook overnight. Serve warm.

Cholent Kugel

4 to 6 servings

5 thick slices challah or 2 large rolls, torn into small pieces

1 ½ cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour

¼ cup vegetable oil or schmaltz

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 to 3 teaspoons paprika

About 1 teaspoon table salt or 2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground white or black pepper

In a medium bowl, soak the challah in water until soft but not mushy, about 2 minutes. Drain and squeeze out the excess moisture. Place in a medium bowl and mash until smooth. Add the flour, oil, egg, paprika, salt, and pepper, adding more flour if too loose; the mixture should be able to hold its shape. Form into a log and place it on top of hot cholent [before placing the cholent into the oven].

 karenA blog post by Curator Karen Falk. To read more posts from Karen click HERE.

 

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