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:///

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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Commodore John Rodgers Middle School

Posted on December 21st, 2011 by

A blog post by Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Last year Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, the JMM’s Education & Program Coordinator and I began a long-term museum-school partnership with Commodore John Rodgers Middle School (http:/// in Butchers Hill. I love this partnership for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons I love this project is that unlike most of my work as a museum educator, here I get to work with the students at CJR on a continual basis. One of my major roles as the Community Outreach Coordinator is to teach school groups off-site. However, it is rare that I get to see a school group more than once in the same year. I know that Elena will agree with me when I write that our CJR partnership has been one of the most challenging and rewarding projects we have worked on this year. Last week we had a meeting with the middle school social studies teachers to talk about our progress with the students and to create a game plan for moving forward. During our conversation we ended up discussing a few students who had dramatically improved from the 7th to 8th grade. It really is an amazing thing to see a student’s progress over time and I’d like to think that the JMM has had some positive influence over them.

The goal of the JMM-CJR partnership has always been to create large-scale projects with the students based around the exhibits currently being displayed at the JMM. This decision was based upon the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult for teachers to bring their students to visit the museum, even if the museum is right around the corner. Instead it is our role to bring the museum to the students. Last year we were lucky to have artist Loring Cornish and his exhibit, “In Each Others Shoes.” It came naturally that our final project that year was a large-scale mosaic that is now permanently displayed in the school. Loring was a big supporter of the project and worked with the students several times over the course of the partnership.

Loring Cornish and a CJR student installing the large scale mosaic created by CJR middle school students.

This year we are working on a project related to our “Chosen Food” exhibition. Although Elena and I would have loved to turn our CJR students into Jewish Farmers we scaled back our project and decided to create a cookbook with them instead. Each week we have been working with the students to teach them about healthy eating, food traditions and culture, and oral history and memory. Over the course of several months the students have been thinking about their own food cultures and traditions such as their favorite food on Thanksgiving or a meal that their grandmother cooks for them. We asked the students to interview a family member or friend about a recipe that is important to them. The final product will be a CJR middle school cookbook that will consist of the recipes they collected and the stories and memories that support them. We will also provide healthy recipes, Jewish recipes (what middle school student doesn’t want the recipe for gefilte fish?) and some recipes from our own families.

Trying out some yoga moves.

This is where you come in. I’d like to invite you to contribute your family recipes and stories to our collection. Our cookbook is focusing on family recipes in general, but will also have a focus on ethnic and cultural food as well as healthy eating. If you would like to contribute a family recipe and story, we certainly encourage you to. Please email me at rbinning@jewishmusuemmd.orgto provide a recipe or if you would like more information.

Students get a taste of fresh pomegranate.

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The Mikveh Excavation Continues

Posted on December 16th, 2010 by

A blog post by archivist Jennifer Vess.

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It’s been a few weeks since my last report on the most recent round of mikveh excavations, and a lot has happened.  Archaeologists have been in the Lloyd Street Synagogue clearing, digging, and sifting through the dirt (and mud).

After removing the dirt from the excavation site these archaeology students have to sift through it to find small objects like nails and pottery fragments.

This archaeology student is digging in the area that we now know to be the 1845 mikveh.

The archaeologists have uncovered more than just the mikveh. This picture shows the base of a defunct chimney from the 1860 expansion of the synagogue.

Archaeologist making measured drawings of the site. The lower right corner shows the area where the 1845 mikveh was located.

Under all of the dirt you can just make out a piece of wood recently uncovered in the mikveh excavation.

Last week the excitement surrounding the dig began to increase.  First, we hit water.  A few of the museum staff had a moment of panic when they heard water – imagining a gushing flood (like Old Faithful maybe), but that wasn’t the case.  The archaeologists had been digging down into an area they believed to be the 1845 mikveh itself, and had reached the water table – essentially they had standing water.  While we were spared the trials of gushing and flowing water, this did mean that the deeper the archaeologists dug the more water they would encounter.  In order to continue the investigation they have been pumping water out as they go.

This picture shows the first signs of water in the excavation. The archaeologists had been expecting it. The deeper they dug the more mud they encountered -- water couldn't be far behind.

Pumping water out of the excavation

But far more exciting than encountering water (at least to me) was discovering nineteenth century pottery and bottle fragments.  Some of the pieces have markings that can help us identify their use and age.  They most likely ended up in the mikveh when it was filled in before Baltimore Hebrew Congregation expanded the Lloyd Street Synagogue in 1860.

Pottery and bottle fragments

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We have a few more days of excavations left, then the archaeologists will work on a report that includes all of their discoveries.  Look for at least one more blog post before it’s all wrapped up.

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