Spring Exhibits and Holocaust Programming: Remembering the Holocaust at the JMM

Posted on January 18th, 2019 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights is from Director of Learning and Visitor Experience  Ilene Dackman-Alon and Program Manager Trillion Attwood. Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


Later this month, the JMM will offer a series of Holocaust-related exhibits and programs. This series will offer glimpses into the personal stories of both loss and survival, inviting our visitors to reflect on the deep and lasting impact of the events on the Holocaust on individual lives and the world in which we live today.

The series begins on January 27th, the day designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations. The date marks the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and is set aside as a day to remember and honor the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the millions of other victims of Nazism. It is a day to remind the world of the lessons of the Holocaust and a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice.

At 1pm join us for the first of two annual Sadie B. Feldman Family Lectures – Refugees and America: Past, Present and Future with speakers Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS and Anne Richard, former Assistant Secretary of State under the Obama Administration. This timely conversation will examine immigration in America, past, present and future through a historic lens.

On Wednesday night, January 30th at 6:30 pm we will present the second Sadie B. Feldman Family Lecture. Jack Sacco will be discussing his book, Where the Birds Never Sing: The True Story of the 92nd Signal Battalion and the Liberation of Dachau. Participants will hear the harrowing, at times horrifying, and ultimately triumphant tale of an American GI in World War II as seen through the eyes of the author’s father, Joe Sacco — a farm boy from Alabama who landed at Omaha Beach, fought his way through Europe, and liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau.

Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini closes on January 21st. In February, we will kick-off our winter/spring exhibition calendar with the first of two upcoming Exhibits that tell the stories of people seeking escape from the atrocities that followed Hitler and the Nazi regime’s rise to power.

Opening on February 3rd the JMM welcomes Jewish Refugees and Shanghai created by the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. The exhibit weaves together the stories of more than two dozen individuals who lived in the Shanghai Jewish ghetto. Shanghai became the temporary home to more than 20,000 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and Poland during World War II. The exhibit is on display through March 10th.

As a complement to the Shanghai exhibit, we are launching the First Winter Teachers Institute in partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools. The two-day professional development opportunity will be held February 10th & 17th. The first day includes a visit to the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C., and a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to see the exhibition, Americans and the Holocaust. The second day will be held at the JMM, where participants will learn best practices and educational resources from dedicated scholars and educators. Baltimore City teachers will receive AU credit for participation upon completion of an implementation plan.

For more information about the Winter Teachers Institute, please do not hesitate to contact Ilene Dackman-Alon via email idackmanalon@jewishmuseummd.org.

We are celebrating the exhibit with a Special Members-Only Preview on Saturday, February 2nd with an evening celebrating the cultural exchange of the Shanghai Jewish ghetto. Enjoy Chinese Lion dancers and a String Trio playing Viennese music from a selection of Jewish composers. This is certain to be a special evening, if you haven’t yet reserved your seats, we recommend you do today, places are limited.

On Opening Day of Jewish Refugees in Shanghai from 11am until 3pm, visitors can try their hand creating a selection of crafts inspired for the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Pig! This is a perfect activity for the whole family right before Super Bowl kickoff.

Throughout the exhibit run, we have a series of fascinating lectures. On Sunday, February 10th we welcome Dr. Meredith Oyen for her presentation A Little Vienna in Shanghai. The following week we are joined by Dr. Kathryn Hellerstein, University of Pennsylvania for her presentation China Through Yiddish Eyes, an exciting exploration of Jewish life in China during the interwar period.

The following Sunday, February 24th we welcome local survivor Yvonne Daniel, the child of Jewish German parents who fled to Shanghai following Nazi persecution. On March 3rd, Sara Halpern will explore the experiences of Jewish families, with a focus on the youngest members, as she presents, In Their Own Words as Jewish Refugees.

We are pleased to present two films in connection with the exhibit. The Maryland premiere of Above the Drowning Seas, on February 21st recounts the story of Ho Feng Shan, the Chinese Consul in Vienna who defied his own government and braved the Gestapo to issue visas to Jewish refugees. On March 7th, Minyan in Kaifeng celebrates the ancient Jewish Chinese community. Finally, on March 10th we close the exhibit with Cantor Robyn Helzner and her unforgettable presentation Kreplach & Dim Sum. Audience members will be treated to lively stories, vibrant photos, video, and enchanting music as we celebrate the extraordinary presence of Jews in China.

On April 7th, the JMM welcomes Stitching History Through the Holocaust, on loan to us from the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee (the other JMM!). The exhibit invites visitors into the story of Paul and Hedy Strnad, trapped in Prague as the Nazis close in. Desperate to get out of Prague and in fear of their own lives, the couple send Hedy’s fashion-forward designs to their cousins in Milwaukee. Paul and Hedy perished during the Holocaust, but their memory lives on in this exhibit that includes the letters, sketches and the dresses that were recreated from Hedy’s drawings.

Concurrent with Stitching History Through the Holocaust, our staff has been busy putting together an original exhibit, Fashion Statement – that explores the messages embedded and sometime embroidered into the clothing that we wear.

Our education department has been developing activities and interactives that will encourage our audiences to connect with the people and the stories of the clothing displayed in the two Exhibits. Our goals are two-fold: we hope these activities will help our visitors to be empowered to remember the Holocaust but also investigate ways clothing can convey social status, political messages and religious expression.

We are developing an exciting schedule of programs to include lectures, movie screenings, and testimonies from 1st and 2nd generation survivors to help us better understand the experiences of those who lived through the Holocaust.

The challenging stories you will hear in the coming months through our exhibits and programs are not easy, but they are compelling, fascinating, and necessary.

We hope we see you soon. Together we can learn from our shared past to ensure the health, safety, and wholeness of the world of today and tomorrow.

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Fostering Empathy and Understanding at the JMM

Posted on November 30th, 2016 by

In this time of divisive politics and hateful language, I would like to highlight a few of the educational programs at the JMM in the past few month that I believe encourage dialogue and foster empathy and understanding. I would also like to share a few thoughts about how the Museum community as a whole can respond to our recent election.

I have always found the JMM to be a very welcoming and inclusive place that also aims to encourage dialogue on contemporary issues. In our mission, we strive to be a site of discourse and discovery, where individuals and groups are encouraged to draw connections to “events and trends in American History, to contemporary life, and to our hopes and aspirations for the future.” JMM Mission and Vision

Vanguard students in the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Vanguard students in the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Through our education programs, we strive to teach students about Jewish culture and traditions as well as work to find connections with their own stories and heritages.  Last month, a class of English as a Second Language students, including several refugees from Syria, visited from Vanguard Collegiate Middle School. We also had middle school students from Baltimore International Academy visit earlier this month.  I have been lucky enough to facilitate education programs in our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit for several of these schools. I have found it very rewarding sharing the stories of Baltimore’s Jewish immigrants to a younger generation of immigrants.

Lessons of the Shoah

Lessons of the Shoah

Earlier this month, about 275 students and 25 teachers participated in Lessons of the Shoah, a high school interfaith program, this year held at John Carroll High School. The theme of this year’s program was No Asylum: the Plight of the Refugees. One of the goals of this program is to use the Holocaust as a starting point to promote tolerance, understanding and respect among students of diverse backgrounds. From all accounts, it sounded like a powerful program which included film screenings, musical selections, hearing from a Holocaust survivor and discussions about current refugee issues.

ICJS Teacher Workshop

ICJS Teacher Workshop

I also attended a teachers workshop a few weeks ago called Jewish and Muslim Refugees: Connecting the Past to the Present where we watched the film “Lives Lost: Lives Found” about Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees, 1933-1945, took part in a gallery walk activity to raise awareness of Islamophobia and heard from an Iraqi Muslim refugee currently living in Baltimore.

Teachers work in groups at the ICJS workshop, hosted at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Teachers work in groups at the ICJS workshop, hosted at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

While I am very proud of the work we do at the JMM, I was also glad to read that other Museums have recently reaffirmed their their roles as safe and open spaces. Laura Lott, the President of the American Alliance of Museums, also offered insightful comments in response to the election. She wrote that “Our institutions are uniquely positioned to listen, learn, and educate; to give historical context; and to foster empathy and inclusion by sharing the stories and perspectives of all people.” To sum up, museums are more important than ever now and I believe they can play a role in helping the nation heal and move forward by serving as safe spaces to have difficult conversations. Museums can model a kinder, emphatic and tolerant society. If you would like to promote the work Museums do everyday, I would encourage you to participate in Museum Advocacy Day on Feb. 27-28 in Washington D.C.

GrahamA blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.

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