A Trip to the Naval Academy with the JMM

Posted on August 27th, 2012 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus.

This year’s Salon Series – a three part summer partnership between the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Myerberg Senior Center – ended with a bus trip to the Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  We were shown around by our docent, David Hoffberger, and the current Jewish Chaplain, Rabbi Joshua Sherwin.

Exterior of the Uriah P. Levy Chapel

The Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy is called the Uriah P. Levy Chapel, named for America’s first Jewish Commodore.  Uriah P. Levy was born in Philadelphia in 1792 to a family with German and Portuguese origins.  At the age of ten he left home and went to sea, returning at age 12 to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah.  He was later an apprentice to a sailor.  When the war of 1812 broke out, Levy volunteered, and due to his years of experience at sea, Levy was able to rise immediately to the position of commodore (note: the US Navy no longer has the position of commodore.  The equivalent today is an admiral).  Levy eventually attained the rank of captain.  He was known for his stance opposing corporal punishment and was outspoken about banning flogging from naval punishment.  After refusing to punish a young sailor using flogging, Levy was court-martialed and dismissed from service.  The decision was later overturned by President Tyler.  Levy was proud of his Jewish heritage and addressed issues of anti-Jewish sentiment that he saw taking place in the Navy at the time.

Volunteer Docent, David Hoffberger, speaks to our group in the Jewish Chapel

Levy had a lifelong respect for Thomas Jefferson, who he considered sympathetic to issues of religious tolerance.  Levy purchased Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, and he and his family maintained the site until the 1920s (though Levy himself died in 1762).  Levy also commissioned a statue of Jefferson which stands in the rotunda in the U.S. Capitol.

Midshipmen!

Although the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Chapel was built in 2005, Jewish students have attended the academy since its early days.  Until 1972 it was mandated that students attend a weekly worship service on Sundays.  Jewish students and other students whose religious affiliations did not align with the chapels available on campus, were still required to attend.  In 1937 Jewish students persuaded the academy to allow them to attend a Jewish service at Kneseth Israel Synagogue, the only congregation in Annapolis, if that congregation would agree to have a special service on Sundays.  The Naval Academy permitted them to begin attending these special services in 1938, and as one of our bus trip attendees and JMM volunteers, Bobbie Horwitz, recalled from her childhood in Annapolis, attending the special service on Sundays and preparing food for the Naval Academy students was a big deal for the small community.

In keeping with the traditions of the Naval Academy, the group of students called themselves the “Jewish Church Party,” although they were eventually renamed the Jewish Midshipmen’s Club.   Kneseth Israel eventually moved out of the Annapolis city center, making it too far for the students to walk on Sundays, and even though compulsory attendance of religious services came to an end, Jewish students continued to look for a way to have services and social events.  Over the next few decades the Jewish Midshipmen’s Club (JMC) made us of storage spaces and the All Faiths Chapel.

In 1994 the Friends of the Jewish Chapel was founded to give support to the JMC , and in 1999 they began to plan and raise funds for the Uriah P. Levy Chapel.  It was dedicated in September 2005 and has provided a space for services, programs, and small exhibits related.

The Chapel looks like a boat!

During our visit over fifty attendees from the JMM and the Myerberg Center visited the chapel, which is built to look like the inside of a ship.  The aisle leading up to the bima is an optical illusion to look as though one is ascending.

Rabbi Sherwin discusses his work as Naval Academy Chaplain

As a special treat at the end of our visit, Jewish Chaplain, Rabbi Joshua Sherwin spoke to our group about his work at the Naval Academy.  Chaplains serve at a post for three years, and he recently became the 10th Jewish Chaplain to serve at the Naval Academy.  Only eight rabbis are active in the Naval Academy, Marines and Coast Guard.  Jewish and other minority groups are what is known as LDHD – Low Density, High Demand, which means that at any base in the world there is likely to be a at least one Jewish person on active duty.  So, the chaplains take turns visiting different parts of the world at holidays.  Rabbi Sherwin has been to Afghanistan several times for this reason.  In his work at the Naval Academy he, like all chaplains, serves all students, not just Jewish students.  The Jewish Chapel also serves all students, not just Jewish students.  The balcony of the chapel is always open so that students can come spend some quiet time there whenever they want.

Look for more bus trips with the JMM coming soon!

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Using Collections To Engage Students

Posted on June 20th, 2012 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

What makes the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s educational activities unique? Having access to such a rich collection of material culture representing the history of Maryland Jews allows us to give students hands-on opportunities for learning. Thanks to the wonderful teamwork between members of our education and collections staff and their creative approach to educational programming, we are able to provide students and teachers with opportunities to encounter and engage with authentic primary materials – including our historic synagogues, oral history interviews, photographs, documents, and artifacts – that create memorable learning experiences and reach students across the spectrum of learning styles.

Students visiting the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

The following are samples of the innovative ways in which JMM collections are integrated into educational resources:

–Archival Exploration: Teachers interested in having students conduct research into our rich collections of primary sources can make arrangements for students to visit our library where they can examine an array of primary sources on specific topics. We have several thematic programs that can be pulled for classes including Jewish involvement in the Civil War (and local rabbinic responses to slavery), neighborhood history, Jewish and African-American relations (with stations set up for students to explore issues of discrimination, stereotyping, and the Civil Rights movement), early Jewish settlement in Maryland, and Maryland Jews involved in the establishment of Israel. Students work together as a group to explore the materials at their station using a worksheet as their guide.  They often wear archival gloves so that they can handle authentic documents and photographs. At the conclusion of the program, students share what they have learned with the rest of the class.

Students participating in an archival exploration program.

Some of the materials we are able to provide access to include such impressive documents as an original copy of the Jew Bill, the 1926 legislation that gave Maryland Jews full rights as citizens of the state;

Pages from the Jew Bill.

a newspaper from 1800 with ads from Jewish merchants (as well as reward notices for runaway slaves);

American and Daily Advertiser, 1800.

and a letter written from Henrietta Szold sharing her insightful impressions from an 1909 visit to Palestine.

Handwritten letter from Henrietta Szold written to Judge Mayer Sulzberger, 1995.206..

–History Kits: In an effort to offer resources that cover the full spectrum of Maryland Jewish history beyond what is covered through exhibition and synagogue tours, we have created educational resources on key themes such as early Jewish settlement in Maryland, immigration;

Students exploring Immigrant’s Trunk photos.

the experiences of German Jewish Refugees in Baltimore (based on a 2004 exhibition);

Jewish refugee Max Knisbacher who enlisted in the US Army, with the only two surviving members of his family in Paris in 1945.

contemporary Jewish life along Park Heights Avenue; and the contributions of Maryland Jews to the establishment of Israel. Each history kit is available for teacher use in the classroom or as part of an on-site field trip. Kits contain reproductions of primary sources, lesson plans, background information, and activities such as games

Game board for Are We There Yet? from our Paving Our Way history kit that explores the experience of early Jewish settlers in Maryland.

and art projects. In an effort to make these resources widely accessible, they are available at no charge and can be downloaded from the JMM website. (To access and download JMM educational resources, check out http:///www.jewishmuseummd.org/educational-programs)

–Living History Performances: one example of the innovative way in which the JMM delivers educational content is demonstrated through our living history characters that are part of our Immigrant’s Trunk resource kit. We added the living history component after we had developed trunks exploring the lives of two actual immigrants – Ida Rehr and Saul Bernstein – who settled in Baltimore in the early 20th century. Teachers have the option of scheduling a performance in conjunction with a trunk rental whereby an actor accompanies the trunk to their classroom. As part of the performance, actors unpack the trunk and use its contents – reproductions of photographs, documents, and artifacts from our collections – to illustrate dramatic moments from their life stories.

Katherine Lyons performing as Ida Rehr.

This is among our most popular educational activity and performances are scheduled frequently for diverse audiences, not just student groups.

For more information about JMM educational programs, contact Ilene Dackman-Alon, 410-732-6400 x214 / idackmanalon@jewishmuseummd.org. To schedule a school program or field trip, contact Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, 410-732-6400 x229 / erosemondhoerr@jewishmuseummd.org.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




A Synagogue’s Move to the Suburbs: The Beginning of the Future

Posted on May 14th, 2012 by

A blog post by Molly Martell, Johns HopkinsUniversity, Class of 2015

This semester I was able to take a course through Johns Hopkins and the Jewish Museum of Maryland called “Staging Suburbia” in which we, as students, helped the curatorial team at the JMM take a closer look at the move of Baltimore’s Jewish population from the city to the suburbs in the 1950’s and 60’s. At one point in the course, I was to interact with some of the museum’s collections. It was then that I found this “Beginning of the Future” pin in the JMM’s database.

 

2002.111.003

With the information on the pin as my starting point, I began trying to figure out what happened on May 3rd of an unknown year, hoping it would somehow fit into the story of the migration of Jewish families, businesses, and places of worship to the suburbs during the 1950’s and 60’s. After thoroughly searching the web and the museum’s archives, I was still no closer to finding out what event the pin was tied to. It wasn’t until I started reading through Jan Bernhardt’s On Three Pillars: The History of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 1871-1996, that I was finally able to uncover the history of this little pin.

On January 20th, 1952, Chizuk Amuno began promoting theme of “Toward New Horizons for Chizuk Amuno” (Bernhardt 249). They enacted plans enacted to move the synagogue to suburbs. By October of that year, Chizuk Amuno was able to put down a deposit on a71-acre plot of land on Stevenson road.

Despite the progress that was made on the synagogue’s move to the suburbs, “Excitement surrounding the relocation plans was put aside in January 1953, as Milton Fleischer decided to step down from the presidency of the synagogue after serving as an officer for 55 years- 31 of them as president” (Bernhardt 252).

Plans for the synagogue’s move was overshadowed by the president’s retirement and for five months, the synagogue focused more heavily on welcoming the 8th president, Isaac Potts, to Chizuk Amuno’s congregation.

To re-engage interest and support in the relocation project, “a ‘Festival of Synagogue Music,’ coordinated by Bernice Kolodny, was held on May 3rd, 1953 and featured renownNew York cantor Arthur Wolfson as soloist. Dr. Hugo Wolfson conducted a choir of 75 voices and an orchestra of 40 musicians in 3 works by French-Jewish composer Darius Milhand. The concert attracted citywide attention as more that 1,200 listeners crowded into the sanctuary” (Bernhardt 253). The “Beginning of the Future” pin was most likely used as part of the festivities this day in 1953.

The little pin represents Chizuk Amuno’s goal to relocate to the suburbs, despite losing its president of 31 years. It conveys a message of hope and would have most likely been used in conjunction with the music festival to raise money for the new synagogue and spread the word of its new suburban branch. The move to the suburbs was cyclical in many instances- Jewish families and businesses would move to suburbs as synagogues began to move, and more synagogues began to move as families and businesses began to choose the suburbs over the city as well. 

Chizuk Amuno’s move from Lloyd Street to Stevenson Road mirrors not only the desires of Baltimore Jews of this time to become a part of suburban life but also the larger American ideal of the time- to embrace the future and strive for a life determined by oneself.

Ground was broken for the new synagogue three years later.

1991.007.022 Chizuk Amuno School groundbreaking, October 1956.

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