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.

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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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Funding Education at the JMM

Posted on January 20th, 2012 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

Each year, the JMM serves thousands of students and teachers through field trips to our historic synagogues and exhibitions and off-site activities including living history performances, museum-school partnership projects, and student storytelling.

Students participating in an Introduction to Judaism program in the historic Lloyd Street Synagogue

Many of these programs are offered at no cost to schools, evidence of our commitment to providing access to all schools and not just those with access to funds for cultural enrichment. We are able to do so thanks to the support of many generous donors who recognize the value of JMM educational programs.

Student installing mosaic tile as part of our partnership project with Commodore John Rodgers Elementary and Middle School

One source of funding that is critical to our ability to offer free field trips is the State of Maryland through the State Aided Educational Institutions (SAI) program that is facilitated by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). Recognizing the importance that museums and cultural organizations play in educating Maryland students, MSDE awards grants annually to organizations that are vetted rigorously to ensure that they meet a high set of standards and that they offer informal educational experiences that cannot be replicated in the classroom. Since 2006, the JMM has been a member of this group of SAI approved institutions in such esteemed company as the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, the National Aquarium, the Chesapeake Maritime Museum, and the Baltimore Symphony. A full list of SAI organizations can be found at: http:///www.marylandpublicschools.org/NR/rdonlyres/1E937A4D-CC9F-41CA-99F3-452B5961300F/17401/WEBSITE_SAI_DESCRIPTIONS_0F_38_SAIsrev_072208.pdf.

In addition to submitting an annual application, a mid-year report, and a final report complete with attendance statistics for Maryland public school visitations, an important component of the SAI application process is testifying in front of both the Maryland State Senate and House of Delegates during the annual legislative session. Each of the 38 institutions that receives funding through the SAI program submits written testimony and also sends a representative to Annapolis to provide oral testimony on the program’s behalf. Although the day is long and often times stressful, it is also an amazing opportunity to advocate on behalf of the JMM to the legislators who sit on the committees responsible for approving the SAI budget. Having the chance to listen to the testimony of each of the other SAI organizations is also a privilege as it affords us the opportunity to learn from one another about the wonderful work taking place at institutions across the state.

Despite the fact that the continuing state budget crisis has resulting in a substantial decrease in funding to the SAI program (the program’s funding has been cut by more than 50% in the past four years), support from the state helps leverage additional funds from foundations and individuals that provide critical assistance as we work towards expanding our reach in Maryland public schools. We are most appreciative of the support of MSDE and the Maryland State Legislature for its commitment to providing Maryland public school students access to cultural enrichment.

Kindergarten students visiting Voices of Lombard Street exhibit.

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