Journey with JMM

Posted on October 20th, 2017 by

JMM Insights: October 2017 

A blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

Students explore Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage

Students explore Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage

JMM exhibits and programs often transport our visitors to another time and place, whether to mid 19th century Palestine in The Amazing Mendes Cohen, pre-Holocaust Poland in Remembering Auschwitz, or one of our recent lectures in conjunction with Just Married! “Sephardic Weddings: Traditions of Yesterday and Today.” We are pleased to carry on this tradition with our newest exhibition, Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage which opened this past Sunday to a crowd of 100+ visitors, including a special student group from Oheb Shalom.

Created by the National Archives and Records Administration, with generous support from the U.S. Department of State, the exhibit documents the long and rich history of Jewish life in Iraq which flourished for hundreds of year, beginning with the Babylonian exile through the middle of the 20th century. Evidence of this long history is on view in the exhibit through such artifacts as a Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793, and a Haggadah from 1902. Records including school primers and business correspondence testify to the community’s strong presence up until the mid-20th century when Jews faced increasing antisemitism in connection with the rise of the Nazis in Europe. In the aftermath of World War II and the creation of the State of Israel, most of the Jewish community emigrated and today, only five Jews remain.

A case of books preserved by the National Archives.

A case of books preserved by the National Archives.

While the artifacts on display tell a fascinating narrative of a once storied community, the story of how the exhibit came into being is equally remarkable. During the Gulf War in 2003, American troops entered a bombed building that had housed Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services. They found, in the basement under four feet of water, thousands of books and documents relating to the Jewish community of Iraq that had been gathered by the secret police. Thanks to the efforts of the National Archives, a team of conservation experts flew out to Iraq to assess the damage and to make recommendations for how best to preserve the material.

What a great audience for our opening day speaker!

What a great audience for our opening day speaker!

We were pleased to welcome Doris Hamburg, former Director of Preservation Programs at the National Archives as our opening speaker on Sunday. Ms. Hamburg spoke about the challenging conditions she and her colleagues faced as they tried to save these documents while operating in the midst of a war zone. Despite the many obstacles they encountered, they were able to ship more than 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents to the US where conservation and preservation efforts continued as well as the creation of a traveling exhibit. JMM is proud to be the 6th stop on its national tour.

Discovery and Recovery remains on view through January 18, 2018. We invite you to take advantage of the many companion programs that will take place the next few months to learn more about the rich history of Iraq’s Jewish community through food, dance, art, film and personal testimony of former Iraqi residents.

 

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Volunteer Spotlight on Margie Simon!

Posted on April 3rd, 2017 by

Margie Simon has been a volunteer docent at the Jewish Museum of Maryland since March. She retired in June 2016 from Baltimore County Public Schools. She was a librarian at Perry Hall High School for 16 years. Prior to that, she worked at Goucher College for 10 years and at the University of Maryland Health Sciences Library for 12 years. She now works part-time as a librarian at the Community College of Baltimore County at the Dundalk campus. She is chair of the Gemilut Hasadim committee at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, and vice chair of the Yom Hashoah Remembrance Commission.

Margie with a school group in "Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity"

Margie with a school group in “Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity”

Margie has been helping with school groups at the JMM during the current Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust and Humanity exhibit.  In her years at Perry Hall, she became involved in the school’s Holocaust education effort and took advantage of many of the wonderful workshops and training sessions offered by the JMM.  She wanted to “pay back” the JMM for all of the education she had received by sharing her knowledge about the Holocaust as a docent for this exhibit.  She finds it exciting watching the students react to the model of Auschwitz.  She believes we are so lucky to have the model because it makes what otherwise would be a room of blue prints come alive for students. We at the JMM also feel lucky to have Margie as a docent. She has been very effective at imparting her passion and knowledge of the Holocaust to students from around Maryland. We hope that she decides to stay involved at the museum after the exhibit closes!

GrahamPost by Visitor Services Coordinator Graham Humphrey. Every month we highlight one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, send an email to Sue Foard at sfoard@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443-973-5162! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

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November at the JMM

Posted on December 3rd, 2010 by

I just finished compiling stats for November 2010 at the JMM. Every month, I tally our on-site attendance with separate categories dedicated to walk-in visitors, adult group members, schools, special events, and rentals. I am now in my 9th year as “keeper of the stats” and it is interesting to compare and contrast the ebb and flow of visitation over the years as we try and track trends and determine the various factors (weather, season, new exhibitions, popular programs, etc.) that seem to encourage higher numbers of visitors. School groups, in particular, are a special area of interest. As we work to promote our programs and resources to even larger numbers of school groups, I always pay particular attention to our monthly totals in an effort to discern how we can continue to grow our program.

November was a banner month for school groups. During the month, we served 834 students, teachers, and chaperons (as compared to just over 400 last November). One of the most influential factors driving school group visitation during the month was our installation of the exhibition, A Blessing To One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People. While many groups booked visits to see this exhibition – and we also saw the number of walk-in visitors rise – Catholic schools, in particular, demonstrated a high level of interest in bringing groups to see the exhibition. During November alone, we served 606 students, teachers, and chaperons from Catholic schools and universities.

One of the challenges in serving such large number of student groups is the limited space within the gallery housing A Blessing To One Another. As many of our docents have pointed out, ideal group sizes for a guided exhibition tour is 15 or fewer and yet, the average size group of students is larger than 50. It, therefore, becomes necessary to break the classes into smaller groups and rotate each group through various stations. This also necessitates bringing on additional volunteer docents and staff to help facilitate.

On November 16, 75 students from The Catholic High School, an all-girls school in Baltimore City, visited for a half-day trip. The large number of students necessitated some creative thinking as to how we could break them into smaller groups and facilitate meaningful activities with each group. We decided to split them into four groups. Two groups were combined for an Introduction to Judaism program in the Lloyd Street Synagogue (which can accommodate larger numbers of students) where students learned about Jewish history, traditions, and customs. This station proved to be a terrific complement to the Blessing To One Another exhibition where students could ask questions and probe the significance of Jewish ritual items.

Catholic HS girls participating in an Introduction to Judaism program led by JMM docent Lois Fekete

Catholic HS girls participating in an Introduction to Judaism program led by JMM docent Lois Fekete

The other two groups were split between A Blessing To One Another and The Synagogue Speaks! exhibition that explores the histories of the three different congregational groups (including a Lithuanian Catholic church) that occupied the Lloyd Street Synagogue at different times in history. The Synagogue Speaks! station included hands-on interactive activities that encouraged students to work together in teams and to solve mysteries of how the building changed over time.

Catholic HS students creating watercolors in The Synagogue Speaks!

Catholic HS students creating watercolors in The Synagogue Speaks!

The program culminated with a presentation by Holocaust survivor Rachel Bodner who shared her personal experiences of life before, during, and after the Holocaust.

Catholic HS students listening to Holocaust survivor, Rachel Bodner

Catholic HS students listening to Holocaust survivor, Rachel Bodner

Through these various activities and presentations, students received an intensive learning experience that touched on many aspects of their classroom lessons. One of the teachers from The Catholic High School shared his feedback about the field trip with JMM staff: “Thank you so much for helping to plan our experience at the museum. My students had an amazing experience and are still talking about it today. I cannot express how grateful I am for the museum, you, your staff, the volunteers, and the wonderful programs that you have available. The other faculty members and myself were discussing how we can incorporate the museum into our curriculum to make it a yearly event.”

The next day, we received a visit by a joint group of students visiting from St. Frances Academy and Shoshana S. Cardin High School. This interfaith gathering of students of Jewish and Catholic faiths was inspired by the Blessing To One Another exhibition. Students were split into small mixed groups and toured the exhibition with the assistance of worksheets looking for examples of how Pope John Paul II worked towards building positive relationships between Jews and Catholics throughout his life. As I walked through the exhibit asking students if they needed assistance finding answers to worksheet questions, I kept hearing from students that they were equally interested in getting to know their peers from the other school and they were conversing about mutual interest in sports, music, etc. I took this as a sign that the program was successful!

Again, we received positive feedback about the field trip from both teachers and students. “I just wanted to thank you for the experience yesterday.  It proved to be a wonderful example of Judeo-Christian camaraderie and dialogue.  I thought it went great, and my students were genuinely interested throughout the visit.  I could not even get anyone to admit to liking one part of the day over the other, they said again and again, that it was great from beginning to end.”

While we are always pleased to serve high numbers of students and teachers, we are even more concerned with the quality of the programs. Feedback that we receive through teacher and student surveys (such as the comments shared above) provides guidance as we plan new programs and activities. We are grateful to all of the JMM staff and volunteer docents who provided such superior service for school groups this month and look forward to developing new tours, resources, and activities in the months ahead.

While it was an exhausting month, comments from students such as this St. Frances Academy student, truly make it all worthwhile!

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