Posted on January 7th, 2015 by Rachel
The fantastic and thoughtful questions about Mendes and his life continue to pour in through our little question box at the end of the exhibit. Some of the questions have even stumped our Mendes experts!
Without further ado, I present our best answers to your burning questions about the Amazing Mendes Cohen…
1) To how many places in total did he travel?
This is a very tricky question to answer! First of all, if we are talking about countries, a world map from the 1830s looks very different from a world map today. Second, we don’t have all of his travel journals, so we can’t know for sure exactly how many cities he visited. Going by modern day national borders, and looking just at the travel journal we do have, Mendes visited 10 countries, but this is not a complete count.
2) What did he die of?
We don’t know exactly what Mendes died of, but he lived a long life and was suffering from blindness towards the end of his life.
Entrance to the Cohen Family Plot at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Cemetery, 2100 Belair Road.
3) What drove Mendes to do all the things he did?
From what we can tell, Mendes was driven by a sense of adventure and a desire to experience new things. He was also driven by his deep belief in American democratic principles and seeing how his beliefs contrasted with the ways that people lived in other parts of the world.
Sailing Down the Nile
4) Where was Mendes Cohen’s bar mitzvah held?
Great question! Mendes turned 13 shortly after moving to Baltimore. There were no formal synagogues in Baltimore at this time, so he most likely would have celebrated the occasion at his home.
Even celebrities have Bar Mitzvah parties!
5) One of the travel documents on display is written in Russian, but the map doesn’t show him going to Russia. Where did he go that he needed a Russian travel document?
We have travel permits and customs documents that would put Mendes in Russian cities such as Odessa and St. Petersburg during the summer of 1833. However, we do not have all of his travel journals, so we don’t have much detail about his journeys in that region. Our map is based upon the travel journal that we do have, which is why Russia is not included.
European Russia 1833: Stieler, via.
6) Are the current movie-making Cohen’s related?
Perhaps you mean the Coen brothers? Apparently there are about 100,000 people currently living in the United States with the last name “Cohen,” so I doubt that Mendes is related. We are also pretty certain (though not 100% certain) that there are no living descendants of his family tree.
The Coen Brothers
What questions were still burning in your mind when you got to the end of the maze?
Let us know!
Posted on December 24th, 2014 by Rachel
We’ve collected the questions our visitors have submitted to the question box at the end of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit. We hope these answers satisfy your curiosity!
1. Even though he did not marry, did Mendes Cohen have an active social life?
Mendes certainly attended many social events both at home in Baltimore and during his travels abroad. We don’t have any evidence that Mendes “dated” anyone beyond a single reference to going out with a young woman he met in Europe whom he mentioned in a letter home.
2. What was his middle name?
His middle initial I is for Israel which was his father’s name. His other brothers had the same middle name.
3. Why did he go to all these places?
Mendes traveled to some places for business (including London and France where he conducted business with the Rothschilds), other places to meet family (Bristol, England), but for the most part, he visited places because of an interest in what was happening (e.g. the student revolts in Paris) or a sense of adventure (Egypt). His visit to Palestine was motivated by a fascination with exploring places that he had learned about through his studies of the Bible.
4. Did he have kids?
He did not have any children.
5. What languages did Mendes speak besides English and Hebrew?
We know from references in his letters that Mendes had some command of French and German and possibly Italian, but we don’t know how fluent he was in any of them. We are also unsure of how Mendes communicated when he traveled through the Ottoman Empire. Did he use a translator exclusively? Did he pick up some Turkish or Arabic?
6. How many people survived in the shipwreck?
Everyone survived the shipwreck that he mentions in his letter to his mother.
What questions were still burning in your mind when you got to the end of the maze?
Let us know!
Posted on December 19th, 2014 by Rachel
Our “Dear Abby” feature gives us a chance to answer commonly asked questions about how to get the most satisfaction out of your JMM visit. These questions are often asked of our Visitor Services Manager, Abby Krolik, thus, the name! (Any resemblance to a syndicated feature with a similar name is purely coincidental.)
1) Dear Abby,
Time flies so fast, and I’ve just realized that winter break is right around the corner! I love my kids, but the thought of having all three of them home at once, with nothing to do, for a week and a half, fills me with dread. What can I do with them to keep them from each other’s throats and to keep me from tearing my hair out? Oy vey! There’s only so many times in a row that I can watch Frozen before “Let It Go” becomes permanently stuck in my head.
Please, please, please tell me that the JMM is open during the holidays!
Avoiding Cabin Fever
Dear Cabin Fever,
We will be open for much of the holiday season, but with a few exceptions to allow our staff to enjoy some time with their families. We will be open at our regular hours except for New Year’s Day, when we will be closed completely, and we will have early closings December 24th (closing at 3pm), December 25th (closing at 4pm), and December 31st (closing at 3pm).
As always, there is something to do here at the JMM for all ages! Kids and the young at heart have delighted in the maze in The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit (while the adults at heart enjoy the content), and the Voices of Lombard Street and The Synagogue Speaks exhibits have several hands-on portions. In addition to our interactive exhibits, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on our programs calendar, which you can find on our website, on Facebook, and on many local online calendars (such as The Baltimore Sun and The Jewish Times). We strive to have programming for all ages, from lectures for adults, to the rocking Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights concert we had for kids just a couple of weeks ago!
We’ve got you covered this winter break (and every school break) when it comes to entertaining your family!
2) Dear Abby,
I’m the kind of man who thrives on staying busy—especially if it’s a task that will bring a smile to a kid’s face. I’m a real sucker for a kid’s big, toothy grin. Right now, I’ve got a great job in a factory up north that’s going through its annual crunch time this season. I love it! The only problem is that our only day off from work is Dec. 25, when everything is closed. And I know what you’re going to say—why don’t you go see a movie and have some Chinese food? Those are always open on Christmas Day. But like I said, I enjoy being busy, and watching a movie or devouring chicken lo mein doesn’t count as busy in my book.
I happen to be pretty close to my boss, so I was telling him about my problem, and he told me that he and the missus often come to your museum on Dec. 25 because you’re one of the few places open, and that you guys always have a great program. It sounds like a good idea to me, but I thought I’d check in and see what exactly you guys are doing that day.
Your Friend from the Great North
Dear Great North,
It’s always nice to hear that someone had such a good time at our museum that they recommended us to a friend. Please tell your boss that we would really appreciate it if he and his wife could leave us a review on our TripAdvisor page. You should do write one too, once you’ve come to visit us!
We do have a fantastic program planned for December 25th, a.k.a “Mitzvah Day.” We are collaborating with Jewish Volunteer Connection to participate in the city-wide Mitzvah Day program. From 10:00am to 1:00pm, we will be decorating puzzles and putting together fun gift packages for children who have to stay in Sinai Hospital over the holidays. Sounds like a perfect fit for you!
If you’re wondering why puzzles, it’s because of our current special exhibition, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen. Mendes Cohen spent much of his life trying to piece together his complex identity, much like putting together a puzzle. And who doesn’t love puzzles, anyway?
Then, at 1:00pm, our renowned local historian, Gil Sandler, will further explore the topic of identity building in his talk, Becoming American in Jewish Baltimore. He will share the story of how many early Jewish Baltimoreans got their start.
It should be a great day, and we would love for you to join us!
See you on the 25th!
3) Dear Abby,
I’m from out of town, but my son lives in Baltimore, and I’ll be visiting him during Chanukah. Since you work at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, you must know everything there is to know about Jewish Baltimore! The first and most important thing I must know is …where is the best place to go for Chanukah shopping? I still have several people left on my holiday gift list—which brings me to my next question. My husband is a dreidel enthusiast. He collects dreidels of all kinds. I’d like to buy one for him to add to his collection, but every time I see some in the stores, I realize he has at least one of each kind there. I need to find him a unique dreidel. Is there some kind of dreidel emporium in Baltimore?
The next important thing I need to know is…which is the best deli in Baltimore? Is it Attman’s, Lenny’s, or Weiss’s?
Dear Mrs. Dreideleh,
I see you have your priorities straight! I’m more than happy to answer your questions—and the first one in particular. It just so happens that the best place in Baltimore to go to for all of your Chanukah shopping needs is…the JMM! We are currently having a Chanukah Madness sale, which means that everything in the shop that is Chanukah related is 25% off until the end of December.
Joseph’s Coat Menorah
Do you need a menorah in the shape of a trolley car? We’ve got it! Do you need Chanukah candles? We’ve got it! Do you need more gelt than you can possibly eat in a life time? We’ve got it! We also, of course, have our usual array of Jewish books, art, games, and jewelry that are perfect for that special someone on your holiday gift list.
Safed Candles from Israel
Which brings me to your second question: do we have a supply of not-your-everyday dreidels? Of course we do! We have metallic dreidels, wooden dreidels, and we have plastic dreidels that you can fill with candy. We also have a whole case full of decorative dreidels that come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. I couldn’t possibly describe them all, so you’ll just have to come down here yourself to take a look.
And while you’re down here, you can sample the three delis of Corned Beef Row and decide for yourself which one is best.
4) Dear Abby,
I hate winter. I hate the snow and the slush and the cold winds. I especially hate driving in this weather—people are just crazy when the weather turns bad! The whole season makes me wish I were a bear with lots of fur and nice warm cave to hibernate in. But if I can’t sleep the season away, I might as well keep myself entertained, and I do enjoy the exhibits and programs that you have at the JMM.
However, the last thing I want to do is battle the elements and idiotic drivers to get to the museum only to discover that it has closed because of the weather. How do I find out ahead of time whether the museum has decided to close or open late (or close early)?
Waiting for Spring
Dear Waiting for Spring,
I’m glad you asked that question because it’s a very important one. There are times when the weather outside is frightful and we do have to close the museum. The first place you can always check for this kind of information is our website: www.jewishmuseummd.org . If we have plans to close the building, it will be posted on the middle of the front page. We try to make sure we’ve posted our decision by 9am so that you can make plans accordingly. If it’s a weekday, our policy for the first day of any weather event is to go along with whatever the Baltimore City Schools are doing. After the first day, however, we make the decision ourselves based on the conditions of the roads and on the ability of the folks who clear the sidewalk and secure the building to make it to Lloyd Street.
We’re a hardy group, so we try not to close unless it is really necessary!