So Much More Than a Number

Posted on July 12th, 2019 by

I asked the newest member of our team to write this month’s edition of Performance Counts. In her post, Visitor Services Coordinator Talia Makowsky, not only shares our phenomenal FY19 visitor numbers, but illustrates one of the reasons for our success- the incredibly dedicated and thoughtful staff we have assembled. ~Marvin. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts from Talia, click here.


For some people, summer means a break a from school, or a chance to hit the beach, or chowing down at a cookout. For me, this summer has been full of learning all about the Jewish Museum, and the numbers that keep us operational and successful.

At first glance, the statistics part of my role, as Visitor Services Coordinator, doesn’t seem so exciting. I have to keep track of how many people visit each day, how many go on tours, how many come in a group and so on. It’s a part of my job that may not seem all that appealing, but in my six months at JMM, I have come to appreciate the significance of every check mark I’ve recorded.

Each number is a person who chose to spend their time and their money engaging in our stories. One number is someone learning about the history of Jonestown, where they may have lived all these years but never knew about the immigrant community. Another number is someone stepping into a synagogue for the first time. Many of the numbers are school children, engaging with their learning in a new way.

These numbers are more than just how many people walked through our doors. They’re the experiences people had at our Museum. They’re people who’ve come for the first time, or are coming back again and again, because they feel that our stories are worth supporting, sharing, and learning. Please join me in celebrating these numbers and appreciating every person who chose us as their storyteller this year.

We had plenty of unique stories to tell this year, including the stories from our Jewish Refugees and Shanghai exhibit.

If you’re not familiar with how we keep track of our statistics, here’s a quick overview.  These numbers come from our past fiscal year, July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. This is Fiscal Year 2019, or FY19. And it was one of the biggest ones we’ve had at our Museum.This last year we had over 15,000 people visit the Museum! This number represents the total onsite visitors, or the total amount of people who stepped foot onto our campus. This number exceeds our previous fiscal year, which was over 10,800 people. In fact, this number beats out our records going back to at least  FY11, the earliest year when we have a comparable method of counting.  We believe this may be the biggest year on record for the Jewish Museum’s onsite visitors, which includes general attendance, school groups, adult groups, public programs, rentals, and teacher trainings/workshops.

One of the reasons why we had such a magical year was because of our Houdini exhibit, which was open from June 2018 through January 2019. However, the momentum from Houdini didn’t leave when the exhibit did, to travel around. Our other exhibits this year, Jewish Refugees in Shanghai, My Family Story, and Fashion Statement and Stitching History from the Holocaust continued to attract visitors, with 5,890 people marked for general admission.

We loved showing off our style with our Fashion Statement exhibit, on view until September 15th!

We had 3,553 students and educators join us for those exhibits, as well as for our general education programming. This included visits to the Houdini exhibit, our Intro to Judaism program, and much more. With our Jewish Refugees in Shanghai exhibit, we were able to reach out to a whole new audience of learners, some of whom were studying Chinese, and could read both the English and Chinese sides of the exhibit panels!

Our educators love working with students to teach them about Jewish history in Maryland and beyond. Most of time, we end up learning from the students too!

The kids weren’t the only ones who had some fun learning in our Museum. We had 1,034 people visit in adult groups as well this year. These groups had a chance to find a connection not only with the Museum, but with their friends as well. Our adult groups experienced magic, laughter, and learning in our exhibits and tours, and we look forward to welcoming them back in the new fiscal year.Along with those exhibits, we had exciting programs to entice and educate our visitors. With over 50 public programs, we had a wide range of topics and activities to entice the 3,776 people who attended them! With programs ranging from book talks to seances, bake-offs to Sephardic musical performances, we had plenty of things to do last year. Of course, the fun doesn’t stop just because it’s hot out! We already have programs planned through November, so make sure to keep an eye on our Events page!

We had a grand and spooky time last Halloween, with our Houdini Séance. We hope to continue having fun with you all this year! – Photo courtesy of Will Kirk.

With so many things to do and exhibits to see at the Museum, it’s no surprise that we’re attracting people from all over. While 17% of our visitors’ hail from nearby Baltimore City and Baltimore county, this year we had 116 people visit us from other countries. These countries included Singapore, New Zealand, Poland, the UK, France, and Canada, showing us that our Museum is a destination worth traveling for in any direction!These amazing numbers this year represent more than just the success of our marketing, program planning, and outreach. These numbers are the thousands of people who have chosen to visit our Museum to listen to the stories we collect and share with our audience. Each number is a person thinking more deeply about history, whether their own Jewish history or a new culture they’ve never encountered before. Each number is someone opening their mind and their heart to our community, here in Jonestown, and we’re honored by every single one.

Thank you to everyone who visited this past fiscal year, to make FY19 a success. Please continue attending our programs, checking out our exhibits, and supporting us as members, so that we can keep sharing these incredible stories.

~Talia


Not yet a member – or know someone who you think should join the family? Share this link and help grow the family today!


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Reading with Talia: Looking for Me

Posted on May 23rd, 2019 by

Our Visitor Services Coordinator, Talia Makowsky, is highlighting books currently available in our shop, Esther’s Place. Today’s featured book is Looking for Me in this Great Big Family by Betsy R. Rosenthal. To read more posts from Talia, click here.


In the book Looking for Me in this Great Big Family, Edith Paul is trying to figure out who she is. As a young girl growing up in Depression-era Baltimore, it’s hard enough for Edith to learn what kind of person she wants to become. To make it more complicated, Edith has a big family. There are twelve children, to be exact. With six boys and six girls, Edith is stuck right in the middle of them all.

Situated in the midst of all these different personalities, Edith writes poems to help express how she feels about her family, the good and the bad. The book, based on true stories from the author’s mother, is a collection of these lyrical poems. The poems in the book are all from the perspective of Edith over the course of a year, as she laments the ending of summer, stands up to the school bully, and tries her best to take care of her younger siblings.

This sweet book is an easy and honest read, perfect to share with your family!

Rosenthal’s writing is personable and honest. These poems feel authentic, especially since they are based on true stories. In addition, Edith shares her emotions freely with us, even if she’s feeling upset with her family members or with her situation in life. She doesn’t shy away from these moments of frustration, admitting that she’s gotten angry when her little brothers and sisters don’t listen to her. Edith also openly shows us her desire to figure out who she is, in her great big family. She compares herself to her older siblings, revealing what she admires about them or what she dislikes. She also imagines the life of her friends, especially the ones who don’t have as many brothers and sisters. Edith wonders what it would be like to not have to share the bed with her sisters, or to have brand-new shoes instead of hand-me-downs.

Despite her complaints, Edith’s family is the central part of her life. We can see this, as she’s incredibly conflicted when she finds out the history of how her Bubby came to America without her mother. Edith decides to avoid her in order to punish Bubby Etta. But Edith’s promise to not talk to her Bubby becomes harder as she misses stopping by on her way home from school, especially wanting the special treats her Bubby makes just for her.

This theme of family, and all the complications involved in loving her family, is a big part of what Edith tries to figure out, as she figures out herself. She likes being known as the “good little mother”, helping out with chores and younger siblings. However, she questions whether she deserves this title when she gets mad at her younger sister over a misunderstanding. Edith’s feelings come to a head when she loses a member of her family. Her reactions to this moment underscore how difficult it is to manage the stress of everyday life when normalcy is lost. However, this situation leads Edith to find new ways to connect with her family, and even help her to figure out who she wants to become.

This book is a thoughtful and easy read, making it a perfect gift for younger folk around the ages of 10 – 12. It’s also a great glimpse into the history of Baltimore, especially in a neighborhood like Jonestown, with the unique perspective of Edith leading the way. It even features photos of the real Edith Paul, as Betsy Rosenthal recounts what it was like to collect these stories. I found it easy to relate to Edith, even with our own differences, as she shares her desire for belonging and identity. I recommend it to anyone, older or younger, who’s interested in an honest and caring voice, of a girl trying to understand the world and how she fits in.

Come check out this, and many more books, in our Museum gift shop! We often have new additions to our collection.


Interested in picking up the book today? Stop by Esther’s Place, the gift shop at the Jewish Museum. We have it ready for you to grab or to gift to someone else!


 

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Meet Talia Makowsky!

Posted on March 18th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM Visitor Services Coordinator Talia Makowsky!


As I settle into greeting visitors, scheduling groups, and listening to chickens cluck from the Lombard Street exhibit, I’m learning more about the Jewish community in Baltimore and about the community involved with The Jewish Museum itself. It’s exciting to be a part of a new family of dedicated staff, volunteers, members, and visitors who all have their own connections to the stories of the Museum. I hope to encourage these moments of connection, as I learn the role of Visitor Services Coordinator. (But don’t worry! Paige Woodhouse will still be around to help. She is transitioning to the role of School Program Coordinator).

My work experience in the past has been driven by my own commitment to community and education. As I was growing up, my mother was a Jewish educator and I assisted at the religious schools she ran, eventually becoming a classroom teacher  Whenever I had the chance to create my own lesson plans, I always dived head-first into story-based activities, wanting to find creative ways to connect the students with their heritage and culture.

I love getting to know our volunteers, especially front desk volunteers like Betsy Kahn!

As I got older my interest in the complex nature of culture and identity grew stronger, and I looked for work and education in diverse places. I ended up in Baltimore because I went to school at Goucher College and I fell in love with this quirky, complicated city. I knew that my passion for community building and education could serve Baltimoreans well, and so I stayed in the area, eager to find work at an educational nonprofit.

I ended up joining as an AmeriCorps member at Reading Partners. Reading Partners is a literacy program that mobilizes volunteers to work one-on-one with Baltimore City elementary children on their reading skills. I gained a tremendous amount of patience and compassion through this position. It also solidified my love for community service and my dedication to the Baltimore community.

One thing was missing though- my personal connection to my Jewish identity. I hadn’t explored much of Baltimore’s Jewish community when I first arrived in the area, but had been wanting to find out more about this city that I call home. That’s how I ended up here, at the museum. I knew as soon as I started exploring the website, that this was a place that combined my desire for community service, my love of education, and my connections to my culture that I want to learn more about.

I’ll be at the front desk, ready to answer any of your questions!

I hope that you can all help me to learn more about the Jewish Baltimore community as well as my new role. Keep sharing your stories, questions, and especially your patience as I step into the position. I’ll be at the front desk to help you with anything!

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