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Fashion Statement: Students as Storytellers Part 2

Posted on April 11th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!

(This is Part 2 of a two-part blog post about the latest education programs offered at the Jewish Museum of Maryland for our special exhibits: Stitching History from the Holocaust and Fashion Statement. Missed Part 1? You can check it out here.)

At the Jewish Museum of Maryland, we are stories tellers. We are also storyfinders, storykeepers, and storyprotectors. We are finding new stories all the time. Our current special exhibit, Fashion Statement, is composed of items of clothing that tell stories about their wearers.

During their recent visit, students from John Ruhrah Elementary Middle School had the opportunity to become storytellers. Thinking critically and creatively, they worked in small groups to create stories about the clothing items on display in Fashion Statement.

Students from John Ruhrah’s 7th grade work together to complete their puzzle.

Piecing together a puzzle is like piecing together the story of an object. As each new fact is discovered, another piece of the puzzle falls into place, eventually revealing the whole picture. The 6th to 8th-grade students started with a puzzle. Working together as a team, they completed the puzzle to reveal an item of clothing from the exhibit.

Students made observations about their item of clothing in the exhibit.

After locating their item in the exhibit, students made observations about it. Taking their cue from Nancy Patz’ book “Who Was the Woman Who Wore the Hat?” students asked questions that a researcher would ask when trying to learn more about an object in a Museum. What is the clothing item? What material, or materials, is it made of? Who wore it? Why do you think someone would wear this specific item? Why was it chosen to be on display by the Museum?

Students used their observations and questions about their object to write stories.

Then, mimicking the rhythmic lyrics of Nancy Patz’ book, students worked together to complete fill-in-the-blank stories for their items. Who was the person who wore the (blank) coat? What was she like? Was she (Blank)?

Students thought about what questions they would want to ask the owner of the item. They came up with questions like: “Why did you put your name on it? Why this color? Where was it made? Was it comfortable?”

Taking an active role as the storyteller, students were empowered to think about what clothing represents. In the case of Stitching History from the Holocaust (see Part 1), clothing was a means for survival and representative of a talent lost to the world. In Fashion Statement, clothing is a way to express your identity.

At the end of the visit, students considered: What can we learn about people through their clothing? What can’t we learn about people from their clothing? What does clothing mean to you?

I encourage you to think about these questions as you visit Fashion Statement and explore how Jewish Marylanders, and all human beings, use clothing as one of the ways we assert who we are.

Thank you to the 6th to 8th-graders at John Ruhrah Elementary Middle School for visiting the Jewish Museum of Maryland this spring. If you are interested in bringing your school, summer camp, or group, please contact Paige Woodhouse, School Program Coordinator, at or 443-873-5167.

Not all stories fit on a label in an exhibit. Looking to learn more about some of the items on display? Check out some “extras” here.


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Stitching History from the Holocaust: Students as Storytellers Part 1

Posted on April 10th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!

(This is Part 1 of a two-part blog post about the latest education programs offered at the Jewish Museum of Maryland for our special exhibits: Stitching History from the Holocaust and Fashion Statement. You can check out part two tomorrow!)

At the Jewish Museum of Maryland, we are stories tellers. We are also storyfinders, storykeepers, and storyprotectors.

We are thrilled to share the poignant story found in Stitching History from the Holocaust on loan to us from the Jewish Museum Milwaukee. This exhibit brings to life the dress designs by Hedy Strnad, who perished in the Holocaust. In doing so, the exhibit aims for visitors to see that each victim of the Holocaust has their own story that deserves to be remembered.

When students from John Ruhrah Elementary Middle School visited this week, they did not just hear the story of Hedy Strnad but took a behind-the-scenes look at how this story came to be.

Many stories begin with a question, a discovery, or someone’s desire to know something more. In the case of Stitching History from the Holocaust, the story began with the discovery by Burton Strnad of a red envelope containing a handwritten letter, a black and white photograph, and eight dress designs. Burton Strnad gave these items to the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee, who then began to piece together the story behind the couple in the photography, Hedy and Paul Strnad.

6th-grade students from John Ruhrah taking a close look at the dresses on display in Stitching History from the Holocaust, on loan to us from the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee.

Sometimes stories don’t begin with just one question. They begin with lots of questions. Students stepped into the shoes of Burton Strnad and the staff at the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee. Imagining they made this discovery, students pondered what would they want to know about these items and the people that they belonged to? Students came up with the questions: Who were the people in the photograph? What did they do? What happened to them? Where did they come from? Are they related to me? How did the letter get there? Who made the dress designs?

Students thought about how they would find the answers to their questions. They could talk to family members, search on the internet, go to the library or a museum. All great ideas (especially the Museum suggestion).

Hedy and Paul’s story is told using dresses that were fabricated from the designs found by Burton Strnad. Students discussed how the dresses represent a family’s attempt for survival. They represent a profession. A talent. An individual. They are a memorial for someone’s talent and potential that was lost because of the Holocaust. They allow Hedy and Paul’s story to live on and pass from generation to generation.

The story of Hedy and Paul is still being uncovered by the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee. As new pieces of information are discovered, the Museum is able to fill in the blanks. Students considered what else they wonder about the dresses and the Strnad family. Students asked: How did Hedy and Paul die? How old was Hedy? Are there any traces of her dress shop? Are there other designs or photos? How long did it take to make the dresses?

Students working with JMM Educator Marisa to think about what they would still like to know after learning about Hedy and Paul Strnad.

Exhibits are three-dimensional storytelling environments that you can move through and interact with. Unlike the paperbound novels that students are reading in class, an exhibit immerses them in the narrative. The dresses on display in Stitching History from the Holocaust do just that. They bring to life the Strnad family’s story and allowed students a behind-the-scenes exploration of how Museum’s tell important stories. Finally, the exhibit and the dresses don’t answer all the questions, but left students inspired to find out more.

Find out how students created their own stories about clothing items on display in the JMM-original exhibit Fashion Statement, in the next blog post, Fashion Statement: Students as Storytellers Part 2 (publishing on April 11, 2019).


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Judging My Family Story

Posted on March 21st, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

Make sure to stop in by March 25th, it’s your last chance to see these amazing projects!

This was my first experience working with the My Family Story project, an amazing program done with Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.

As the projects came in to the Museum it was amazing to see the creativity and thoughtfulness that each child put into their piece.

I was even more amazed by the work when the curator statements where added, revealing the carefully researched stories behind each piece of art.

It was a great honor to be asked to judge the event, along with members of the JMM Board of Trustees, and JMM volunteers.

Each judge was given a group of projects to look at and to view them in turns of aesthetics, creativity, depth of research and Jewish peoplehood. This helped allow me to focus on the projects – otherwise I might not have been able to decide! Every project told an incredible story of a family’s journey and I was impressed by all the work that was done.

Each judge then presented their top projects, which were discussed and reviewed by all the judges.

All the finalists were amazing and it was truly a difficult decision to get down to the final two for the Beth Tfiloh group. One of the projects I selected as a “top two” was chosen as a winner! Erela I.’s piece was beautifully done, and her curator’s statement truly showed the thoughtfulness and research that went into the work.

The Winning Projects from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School:

Erela I. ’22, A Light Surrounded by Persecution

Erela’s “Curator Statement:”

My Family Story display shows my family’s heritage of religious Jews who lived in Iran. In my project I have a black surface with a collage of images of Persian Jews, Arabic writing, and the persecution of Jews in Iran. The collage represents the environment that both of my parents grew up in. One filled with hate and bad opinions towards all Jews. My family was surrounded by this threat of danger all throughout their lives in Iran until they immigrated to the US in 1984 and 1992. In the center of my project is a figure shaped like an open house. This represents my family’s safe haven in a habitat of darkness. Set up inside of the house is a setting of a Shabbat night dinner table with lit candles a family saying Kiddush. These moments in Iran, in this event, represents the light that being Jewish brought to my family.

Maya T. ’22, 1801 West Mosher Street

Maya’s “Curator Statement:”

This representation of my family story depicts the grocery store that my great-grandparents owned when they moved to the U.S after surviving the Holocaust. My grocery store is made in a wooden box. Inside, there are four parts to the store. The fridge, resembling the frigid weather that my great-grandparents had to endure in the DP camps, and the shelves, with bread and crackers, resembling the only food that my great-grandparents were given. Then I made a fruit stand, with six different fruits with significance to six million Jews killed and the differences between each person and his story. Lastly, the tiles on the floor represent the silver dollars used to pay for the groceries at my great-grandparents’ grocery store. These silver dollars are very important to me because my great-grandmother saved those dollars and gives them to me and my brother when we lose teeth. Finally, on the outside of my box, I have created a collage of pictures with me and my great-grandmother because I am so fortunate to be able to know her and her amazing story. One of the lessons I can learn from my great-grandmother is independence. Even at 93, my great-grandmother makes the holiday meals for all of our family. I can also feel connected to her by the silver dollars that she gave me. I keep these silver dollars safe, and plan on giving them to my great-grandchildren, and telling them my great-grandparents’ story, in hopes of instilling their values in future generations, when the time will come.

I can’t wait to see what comes next year!

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