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Voter Education: Museum Advocacy

Posted on May 29th, 2020 by

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot is today, and it’s considered the date that the Israelites received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. Traditionally, this holiday is spent eating delicious dairy-based foods, like cheesecakes and blintzes, and studying together as a community. Some people even hold all-night study sessions, as they read medieval poetry and the Book of Ruth.

Here at JMM, we deeply value the power of sharing stories with the community. We want our stories to inspire learning, growth, and inspiration. We’re doing our best to offer these stories virtually, through programs and digital tours for adults and classrooms, but it’s hard to not be able to welcome you all to celebrate these stories and holidays together. As we look towards the future, we want to ensure that we can continue to offer the opportunities to learn from each other and to do so, we need your support.

Many Jewish communities host all-night study sessions on Shavuot. This year, many groups are hosting these sessions online. In this image, three young, Jewish men sit a table, studying together.

Building on your advocacy skills from last week’s blog post, we ask for your help in protecting museums and other similar cultural institutions. This uncertain time has placed a strain on all community services, including museums. As our JMM community knows, museums are an essential place for everyone. They provide the opportunity to learn about people different from our own, inspiring compassion and empathy. Museums collect and preserve history, allowing us to reflect on the past and imagine a better future. Museums are hubs of culture, education, financial growth, and togetherness, and we need you to share the necessity of their existence.

First of all, learn more about the essential nature of museums through these reports on Museum & Public Opinion and Museums as Economic Engines. Let these reports just be the start of your learning into how museums have a huge, positive impact on their community and on the nation.

The American Alliance of Museums, or AAM, has tons of resources on how to support and advocate for museums across the country.

Then, visit the American Alliance of Museums’ website on museum advocacy to find resources like advocacy ideas, videos to share, form letters to send to legislators, and social media packs to help you spread the word that museums need to be protected.

There are lots of ways to help: calling and emailing your representatives, writing op-eds, and sharing the information on your social media to encourage others to participate.

Help us to save American museums so that we can still offer programs, school groups can still visit, and we can continue to preserve and share stories for everyone.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Revelation and Tragedy: Shavuot 5776/2016

Posted on June 14th, 2016 by

Last year for Shavuot, I wrote this blog post for my friends and former employers at the Simon Family JCC in Virginia Beach, VA. It gave me the opportunity to learn and ruminate on the affiliation of dairy with this spring-time festival. I came to the conclusion that eating dairy-based food on Shavuot (the festival on which we celebrate our reception of the Torah from God), is a form of extended, embodied metaphor. The Torah is like milk. It is God-given, pure, nutritious. It is complete as it is. But, like milk, when humans turn their attention to the Torah, we create amazing, delicious things—things that are of the God-given ingredients, but also more than.

Image via.

Image via.

This year for Shavuot, for the first time, I attended the “sunrise” Shavuot service at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, the congregational successor of the original Lloyd Street congregation (I put sunrise in quotes because the service begin at 8 AM). The service took place in a small courtyard, fully enclosed by the 1950s synagogue building and its adjacent school. In what can only be described as perfect weather, the assembled prayed and sang. Together, we heard chanted the portion of the Torah that contains the ten commandments.

One of the many awe-inducing moments of this holiday observance was the physical means by which the sacred scroll was supported to allow the cantor to read from it. There was no shulhan—no table—in the improvised courtyard-chapel. Instead, four pre-selected congregants held the scroll aloft and open. Each person held one of the massive handles, they supported its weight and held it at the right angle to allow the cantor to access the appropriate place in the scroll.

As I listened to the ancient words, a light breeze brushed my skin. The sun warmed my face. I looked into the blue sky to see a bird gliding high above, witness to our celebration of revelation.  I took in the view of my fellow congregants supporting the physical words so that the cantor could give them voice. The scroll was open facing me, so that I could see the letters on the parchment. Suddenly I was reminded of my conclusions from last year’s festival—Shavuot is not about a one-way monologue from God to humans; it is a celebration of the collaboration between God and humanity.

Even as I stood in awe in a synagogue courtyard and knew the truth of the importance of the divine-human collaboration, 900 miles away, more than 50 people lay dead and more than 50 others wounded by hate made human. I didn’t know it then, but my moment of transcendence was concurrent to the aftermath of violence aimed at people because of who they love, how they love. Because of who they are.

As I work to comprehend, I have no answers, only the same question—a very old question—on permanent repeat: how can both of these things be true at the same time?

And then a voice from my childhood surfaced on social media. Someone quoted my beloved Mr. Rogers, as they pointed to the more than $350,000 that had already been raised to support the victims of the Orlando terrorist attack and their families: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

A small piece of wisdom

A small piece of wisdom

I thought again of the four Torah-holders, the helpers, God’s helpers. And I knew that they are only a metaphor for the help we all give—or withhold—from the divine every day. When we support one another, when we are helpers, we do God’s work. We take what God provides, emotions, reason, intellect, empathy, physical strength, logic, fortitude, vulnerability, compassion, and we turn them into amazing, delicious things. But we must not forget that by our actions and our choices, the ingredients can also be spoiled, made rancid. We can be made rancid. Both can be true at the same time.

I admit that I still do not comprehend.


#OrlandoUnited: How to Donate to Help Victims of the Orlando Nightclub Shooting

Donate Blood via the Red Cross

Resources for the Baltimore and Central Maryland LGBT+ Community

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland