Enquiring Minds Want to Know…

Posted on October 30th, 2014 by

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) Mendes’ father was born in Germany, yet his family founded a Sephardic congregation in Baltimore. Was Mendes’ mother Sephardic? Is that the explanation, or is there another reason?

This is a question that stumped the exhibit team for quite a bit of time. We had always been under the assumption that both of Mendes’ parents were Ashkenazi. However, when it was brought to our attention that his mother was from Bristol, England, we conducted some research and learned that there was a substantial Sephardi community there. While we aren’t 100% sure, it is likely that his mother was Sephardi which would have provided motivation for the family’s involvement in the congregation.


2) What was his Hebrew name?

The seal of Mendes Cohen, 1980.3.1

The seal of Mendes Cohen, 1980.3.1

We learned that Mendes’ Hebrew name was Menachem bar Asher Avraham ha Cohain by translating the Hebrew inscription on his seal.


3) Did Mendes Cohen know Uriah P. Levy?

Not as far as we know. But you can learn more about this Civil War figure by checking out his wikipedia page!

Uriah Phillips Levy

Uriah Phillips Levy


4) Did he like Europe or Asia better?

You can take a hands-on approach to mapping Mendes' journeys in the exhibit!

You can take a hands-on approach to mapping Mendes’ journeys in the exhibit!

I’m not sure he ever answers this directly, but Mendes definitely took pride in the fact that he was one of the few American tourists to travel in parts of Asia (as opposed to Europe which was a more common tourist destination) and relished the adventures that he had in Egypt and Palestine.


5) Why does Mendes wear a turban in his portrait?

The original painting, located at the Maryland Historical Society.

The original painting, located at the Maryland Historical Society.

One of the most exciting things about this portrait is that the JMM actually owns the jacket he is wearing, and it is displayed in the exhibit in the section that explores his journeys to Egypt and Palestine. We believe that Mendes most likely purchased the jacket while traveling in Turkey. It is certainly not something that someone would wear every day but instead would have been worn for special ceremonial purposes. Turbans, such as the one Mendes is also wearing in the portrait, were customarily worn by men in the Middle East. We can learn a lot by a portrait sitter by the clothing that he or she chooses to wear. By wearing the jacket and turban in this portrait, Mendes wants to be seen as an adventurer and a world traveler.


 What questions were still burning in your mind when you got to the end of the maze?

Let us know!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Museum Matters: September 2014

Posted on September 5th, 2014 by

Museum Matters

September 2014


This week everyone pitched in to hang the maze for our new exhibit.  Each day’s package delivery contained a new set of delights, exhibit brochures, flyers and postcards;  maze toys that Esther had purchased for the store; new energy-efficient lights for the exhibit gallery – it was like Hanukkah in September.

Deborah and Ilene hard at work!

Deborah and Ilene hard at work!

Even those of us that have been living with the exhibit for the last eighteen months are “amazed” to see it coming together so swiftly now.  If you are a JMM member, you’ll want to put the evening of September 14th on your calendar – not only to see the exhibit but to see what’s behind the exhibit. The exhibit continues until next Flag Day (June 14, 2015), so you have plenty of time to tell your friends about it.

The only thing better than seeing the gallery come to life, would be seeing you in it.



Upcoming Programs

Please note that unless otherwise noted, all programs take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland (15 Lloyd Street, Baltimore, MD 21202). For more information and to RSVP for specific programs, contact Trillion Attwood: (410) 732-6400 x215 / tattwood@jewishmuseummd.org. For more information on JMM events please visit www.jewishmuseummd.org.


MC_Exhibit Assets_v2Public Opening, The A-mazing Mendes Cohen

Sunday, September 14, 10am-5pm

Included with Museum Admission 

Join us on the opening day of our latest exhibit! Explore the story of Mendes Cohen through our new, innovative exhibit developed in partnership with the Maryland Historical Society. On opening day we will have some great family activities available, so you can take a bit of Mendes home with you!


Members Opening: The Making of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen

Sunday, September 14, 5:00pm

Free for Members

Just for members of the Jewish Museum of Maryland and members of our partner, The Maryland Historical Society, we will have a special insider’s evening at the maze.  This will be a chance to not only meet our living history character and explore the exhibit, but also to hear from the creative voices who turned a little-known 19th century soldier, businessman and adventurer into a physical experience.  Our panel of experts will delve into the decisions that drove the development of the maze and character—and reveal some of the stories and anecdotes that had to be sent to the “cutting room floor.”  It’s a chance to go behind the scenes of the exhibit process for people who love museums.


photo of common defense edit 1Citizen Stand: Battle for Baltimore 1814

Sunday, September 21st, 1pm

Performed by Baltimore School for the Arts

Included with Museum Admission

Help us welcome BSA to the JMM for a performance of their latest student production, Citizen Stand: Battle for Baltimore 1814. Students have worked with Maryland Historical Society and National Park Service to develop three short plays about the battle that led to the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.  The plays explore different experiences for Baltimoreans in the lead up to war. One play is especially important to us as there is a character not dissimilar from Mendes Cohen.


MPT Pledge Night

Sunday, September 28th 

Support JMM and public television on the same night! – we have been invited to participate in an upcoming MPT pledge night on Sunday, September 28th . We have been asked to bring 10 to 15 volunteers to MPT studios in Owings Mills. The volunteers simply need to answer the phones when people call to pledge to the station during the reprise of The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama. In return for this service we will have the opportunity to make a live pitch for the Mendes Cohen exhibit. This is in addition to the fact that our promotional fifteen second spots will also run that evening. MPT has said that it will provide kosher meals for all our callers.

For more details (and to sign up) contact Rachel Kassman (rkassman@jewishmuseummd.org) and join in on the fun.


_RWK4001Premium Members Salon: Mendes Cohen

Sunday, October 5, 5:00pm

Free for Living History Circle and above members

This year’s Members Salon will feature a performance of our latest living history character Mendes Cohen, performed by Grant Cloyd. Learn more about this fascinating character as he recounts some of his most fascinating anecdotes, including his experience as a defender at Fort McHenry and his time as a world traveler. Mendes was known in later life to stop passers-by to recount these fascinating stories, now is your chance for history to come to life!

This event is open to our Living History Circle members and above. Light refreshments will be served.


fullgloryIn Full Glory Reflected

Sunday, October 19th, 1pm

Author Burt Kummerow

Included with Museum Admission

We are pleased to be welcoming to the JMM, Burt Kummerow , the director of the Maryland Historical Society, our partner institution for The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen. Mr. Kummerow, an expert on Maryland history, will be talking about his book In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake. The book uncovers its gripping stories of devastating raids, heroic defense, gallant privateers, fugitive slaves, and threatened lands.


the-golem-aka-der-golem-wie-er-in-die-welt-kam-1920Free Fall Baltimore

The Golem: A Horrific Hero with Feet of Clay

Sunday, October 26th, 1pm

Speaker Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg


These days, you don’t have to wait for Halloween to find horror—and especially the living dead—in every corner of pop culture. But where are the Jewish zombies? The mythical golem is an artificially constructed, supernaturally animated, liminal being caught between life and death. Jewish folklore often features this creature in stories of injustice and vengeance. Tales of the golem provide a vital link between the more familiar global legends of the living dead and a Jewish tradition that mingles horror with heroism; it’s time for the golem to get a little respect.


Arnold T. Blumberg teaches courses in zombies in popular media (Univ. of Baltimore) and comic book literature (UMBC).


_RWK3797Mendes Cohen Living History Performance

Sunday, November 16th, 1pm

Actor Grant Cloyd

Included with Museum Admission 

See history come alive with this performance of our newest Living History character, Mendes Cohen. Mendes, the focus of our newest exhibit, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, developed in partnership with the Maryland Historical Society, is possibly the most fascinating Baltimorean you have never heard of! Learn more about this fascinating character as he recounts some of his most captivating anecdotes, including his experience as a defender at Fort McHenry and his time as a world traveler.


More Programs

The JMM is pleased to share our campus with B’nai Israel Congregation. For additional information about B’nai Israel events and services for Shabbat, please visit bnaiisraelcongregation.org.  For more of this month’s events from BIYA, please visit biyabaltimore.org or check out BIYA on facebook. www.facebook.com/groups/biyabaltimore

The next meeting of the JGSMD will be held on Sunday, September 28, 2014, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., at the Pikesville Library’s meeting room, 1301 Reisterstown Rd, in Baltimore. The program will be presented by James Schollian, George Harmon, and John Graves of the Hampstead Family History Center. Their presentation will give a brief background of the LDS Church’s worldwide efforts to document, digitize, and index available records essential to family history research (including Jewish records). The program is free for paid members and $5 for non-members (applied to membership fee when a visitor joins JGSMD) after their first meeting. Refreshments will be available. Please check our web site at www.jgsmd.org for late updates and for the time, location, and program of future meetings.



Exhibits currently on display include Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore, The Synagogue Speaks! We are delighted to announce the opening of The A-mazing Mendes Cohen on September 14 (on display through June 14, 2015).


Hours and Tour Times

The JMM is open Sunday-Thursday, 10am – 5pm. We offer tours of our historic synagogues each day at 11:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00.

Please note we are closed for Rosh Hashanah on Thursday and Friday, September 25 and 26.

Get Involved

The JMM is looking for volunteers to help staff our front desk, work in the gift shop, and lead tours as docents. No prior knowledge or training is required. All that is needed is an interest in learning about the JMM, our historic sites, exhibits, and programs and a desire to share this knowledge with the public. All volunteers are provided with thorough training. If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer program, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen at 410.732.6400 x217 or icohen@jewishmuseummd.org.



Revamped and revitalized, membership at the JMM is now better than ever – with new categories, benefits, and discounts to enrich every visit to the Museum for you and your friends and families.

All members receive our monthly e-newsletter, along with a 10% discount at the Museum store, free general admission to the Museum, free admission to all regular programs, attendance at exclusive member opening events and discounted weekday parking at the City-owned garage at 1001 E. Fayette Street.

Your membership provides much needed funding for the many programs that we offer and we hope we can count on you for your continued support. Memberships can be purchased online! http://jewishmuseummd.org/get-involved/museum-membership/ For more information about our membership program, please contact Sue Foard at (410) 732-6400 x220 or sfoard@jewishmuseummd.org.


Gift Shop

The definitely A-mazing Mendes Cohen, has made his mark on the Museum Shop, cast an eye on our A-mazing Mendes Cohen mugs!


Get your very own Mendes Mug!

Keep thinking mazes..our Amaze game and the Laser Amaze, a #1 Best Seller, not to mention the Gravity Maze!  Games that will both amaze and delight you.


Train your mind with the gravity maze!

The Museum Shop is ready for your holiday shopping, we have made reductions on some best-sellers, come and visit the shop. Remember that all purchases benefit the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and your membership in the JMM entitles you to a 10% discount in our A-mazing Shop!

For information, call Esther Weiner, Museum Shop Manager, 410-732-6400, ext. 211 or email at eweiner@jewishmuseummd.org.



Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Meeting Mendes

Posted on August 27th, 2014 by

Our "real life" Mendes Cohen!

Our “real life” Mendes Cohen!

Thursday was the dress rehearsal.  I thought I would be immune to the effects of the performance.  After all, I already knew the Mendes Cohen story.  And I also knew that underneath Maggie Mason’s handsome costumes there was a fine actor, Grant Cloyd.  Yet from the moment Mendes came into the room brandishing his cane I was transfixed.  In the next thirty minutes “our” Mendes captured the spirit of the extraordinary soldier, businessman and adventurer who lies at the heart of our new maze exhibit.

Grant-as-Mendes leads the crowd in a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner!

Grant-as-Mendes leads the crowd in a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner!

There is an old joke in a Herb Gardner play about someone “getting the voices just right” for Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.  It is truly impossible to capture the true sound of even the most famous speakers who lived in the era before sound recording.  For someone like Mendes Cohen, who was not a public speaker, there is no record of any kind of his style, accent or intonation.  But our script writer, Scott Fuqua, drawing on Mendes’ letters and journals, produced a 19th century patter that truly mirrors our character’s own vocabulary and diction.  The fact that Mendes comes across as so plausible is a credit to the talents of Scott, Grant and Baltimore’s premier living history director, Harriet Lynn.

Flat Mendes poses with actor Grant Cloyd, director Harriet Lynn, and writer Scott Fuqua after Thursday's performance.

Flat Mendes poses with actor Grant Cloyd, director Harriet Lynn, and writer Scott Fuqua after Thursday’s performance.

Thursday was just the warm up.  This last weekend I accompanied Mendes on a trip to Bladensburg.  They marked (I think “celebrate” would be the wrong word) the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bladensburg, the ignominious defeat and rout that led to the burning of Washington.  In 1814, Mendes had seriously considered joining a unit that came to the defense of Bladensburg, but wisely decided that his talents would be better used at Fort McHenry.  So our journey to the re-enactment was actually Mendes’ first trip to this Prince Georges County town.  We were warmly received despite the rainy weather.

Mendes meets Facebook friend Ranger Abbi Wicklein-Bayne at the Battle of Bladensburg Commemoration.

Mendes meets Facebook friend Ranger Abbi Wicklein-Bayne at the Battle of Bladensburg Commemoration.

This is, of course, just the beginning of travels for our newly revived “ghost” of Mendes – for our younger readers I think I need to point out that ghosts were what people believed in before zombies (a lot cleaner).  Next Sunday, Mendes travels to North Point for the bicentennial ceremonies there.  This will also be the first full performance of Scott and Harriet’s play.  On the 14th we have Mendes hopping – opening the morning with a stop at The Associated’s Super Sunday (after all Mendes was a leading Baltimore Jewish philanthropist in his time) followed by walk-arounds at bicentennial events at Patterson Park and the Inner Harbor.  He will finish his day with a mini-performance at our exclusive members’ opening event on Sunday night.  If you are in the top three categories of membership (the Living History Circle, the Lloyd Street League and the 1845 Society) you will be invited back for the full play at its JMM premiere on October 5th – so wouldn’t this be a great time to upgrade your membership.

Mendes sports a caftan and shares his journey down the Nile.

Mendes sports a caftan and shares his journey down the Nile.

Finally, I want to offer special thanks to those who are enabling this success.  These include the Maryland Heritage Authority and Maryland Humanities Council for their specific grants for the Mendes Cohen character.  And the exceptional work of education director, Ilene Dackman-Alon in shepherding the living history project from the beginning.

The Mendes road tour will continue throughout the year.  To schedule a Mendes Cohen performance for your school or organization please contact Abby Krolik, akrolik@jewishmuseummd.org or 410-732-6400 x234.

Marvin PinkertA blog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts related to Mendes Cohen click HERE. To read more posts by Marvin click HERE.


The Mendes Cohen Living History project was made possible in part by a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Maryland Humanities Council. This project has been financed in part with State Funds from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, an instrumentality of the State of Maryland. However, the contents and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.

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Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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