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JMM Insights: An Invitation Backstage

Posted on June 12th, 2020 by

On Monday I entered the Museum for the first time since March 17th. The experience reminded me of Prince Phillip entering Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Everything, including the mess on my desk, seemed frozen in time.

Although every room was silent, I remembered the echoes of the hundreds of students and their families who attended the opening reception of the My Family Story project, the rapturous applause at a public program, the laughter of volunteers gathered in the lunchroom . . . I am confident that all these sounds and more will be heard again here. But now is a time for patience.

While we wait, I’m inviting you behind the scenes of JMM.

Usually, our job is to make each exhibit seem effortless, appearing in the gallery as if by magic. Like Harry Houdini we try to make the impossible seem simple. Unlike Houdini, however, who never revealed his secrets, JMM is willing to show you the tricks of the trade.



We invite our membership to vote on the FY2021 Board of Trustees Officers and Nominees. This year’s voting will take place through an online ballot. Voting will close at 11:59pm on Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

Questions? Contact Tracey Dorfmann at



In this edition of JMM Insights, we invite you to take a peek behind the curtain in a few different ways:

What does it take to create an exhibit? In this special live stream event we’re partnering with the Jewish Museum Milwaukee to give you a behind-the-scenes, expert look at all the parts of creating a museum exhibit that happen before the doors open.

Join us for Backstage: The Making of Exhibits on June 18th!

Hungry for more insider info on exhibits at JMM? Here’s a few of our favorite blog posts:

Creating an Exhibit Logo

Working with Fragile Objects

Getting Ready for Travel

Installing the Exhibits:

Passages Through the Fire

Cinema Judaica (plus some last minute Finishing Touches)

The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen

America’s first superstar, Harry Houdini, is a figure shrouded in myth and legend. As we like to say, Houdini wasn’t born – he was invented.

On June 25th, we invite you to join David London, magician, performer, and curator of Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini, for a special live stream performance of our Harry Houdini Living History Character. From humble beginnings to a global sensation, follow along as Jewish immigrant Erik Weisz creates the man known as Houdini.

And for the ultimate behind-the-scenes experience: become part of an exhibit!

As our JMM family already knows, we’re committed to collecting, preserving, and sharing stories from our communities in all our exhibits, programs, and digital endeavors. From your COVID-19 experiences to your wedding stories to your opinions, we’re always hoping you’ll share with us.

Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit is no different! Inspired by the Personal Preference Kits packed by astronauts traveling to the International Space Station, we are inviting all kids (and their favorite adults) to ponder traveling to space. 

Using this downloadable template, work with your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, and friends to create a unique artwork by drawing, painting, taking photos, or creating a collage to creatively respond to the question: “What would you bring with you to space?”  Send us their contribution to be featured in the Jews and Space exhibit!

For inspiration, here’s a few fantastic entries we’ve already received!

Left: Tucker, Age 7 – Tucker wanted to bring things from his bedroom that would make him feel comfortable. He chose his blanket and pillow, stuffed dog, Spiderman alarm clock, and slippers. With the help of his mom, Tucker took a photo with his items. He cut and glued shapes to make the sky for his rocket ship.

Center: Aliceanna, Age 4 – Aliceanna chose to bring her favorite noodles, swirly noodles; a beautiful dancing dress because she likes to be fancy; and a glue stick. She also packed her best friend Monsieur Croc and the bear, Aloysius, “to keep Monsieur Croc company.” She (with a little help from her mom) used glue, construction paper, and crayons.

Right: Azreal, Age 10 – “I would want to bring my blanket and my stuffed animal to keep me comfortable. I would bring my camera, diary, and music player.” Azreal used lot of materials in creating her packing list. She used markers, glitter, yarn, paint, and pencil.

And, just for fun, we think you’ll love these two behind-the-scenes videos:

Drawing on Tradition: The Book of Esther from Jewish Museum of Maryland on Vimeo.


Sunday, June 14, 2020
at 2:00pm EST

We’re teaming up with 60 museums and cultural institutions around the world to present a free program celebrating resilience, resistance, and hope.

More info here.

Sunday, June 14, 2020
at 3:30pm EST

Honor and learn about refugees and immigrants ahead of World Refugee Day 2020 through world music, story time, and other activities. This program is best suited to children ages 3 to 8.

Register for this Live Stream Event here!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020
at 7:00pm EST

Join us for a special Covid 19 inspired writing workshop where we will come together to record our experiences for future generations.

Register for this Live Stream Event here!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020
at 5:30pm EST

Reflect on an unprecedented year and enjoy secial appearances by Barry Levinson, Marc Platt, Governor Larry Hogan, Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Chris Van Hollen, HaZamir Baltimore and more.

More info here.


Remember – Members of the Museum get their membership discount by using promo code “member” at checkout.

Don’t see something you’re interested in at the online shop? Contact Shop Manager Chris Sniezek at and let us know.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Insights: Searching for Social Justice

Posted on June 5th, 2020 by

Yahrzeit candle, c. 1935. JMM 1991.122.1; Remembrance pin. JMM 2002.111.5; Yom Hashoah candle, c.1960-2009. JMM 2009.40.4533.

We all wish it was over – the Pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 people, a disproportionate number of whom are black or brown or poor; the Economic Slump that has put 40 million people out of work, again, disproportionately affecting people of color and those who can least afford to be out of work; and now the Uprisings that tear at the fabric of nearly every American city. We all know that it is not over, and we know that no amount of “wishing” will end them.

This week JMM takes some tiny steps toward looking past the Pandemic, readying for a partial reopening later this summer. We’re doing our best to keep a small segment of Baltimore’s tourist industry viable. But we know that full restoration of both the Museum’s operations and the local economy won’t be possible until a vaccine is available, and our guests can feel comfortable gathering in large groups again.

But what is true for the Pandemic and the Economic Slump unfortunately does not apply to the Uprisings. There is no vaccine on the horizon to address the systemic racism that has plagued this nation for four hundred years. There is no medicine to ameliorate the impact of racial disparities on nearly every aspect of our society. The only “cure” that is possible is to really listen to the voices of others, and to ask ourselves what would an upstander do to address this existential challenge for our community.

I need to confess that back in the pre-COVID period, when we made the decision to host the photo exhibit Gray In Black and White, I was mistaken on two counts. First, I had thought it would be physically displayed in our lobby during the fifth anniversary, something the virus made impossible. Second, and certainly something I now regret, I thought of it as marking an event in our past. I lost sight of the fact that the root causes of the Uprising weren’t over. Our attention had been deflected by other conflicts and tragedies, but as our guests at the second live program we presented in conjunction with the project (a program that aired just three days before George Floyd lost his life while in police custody), little has changed in our society since the death of Freddie Gray.

This week we invite our readers to reflect on both the online exhibit and accompanying live programs. What role are we willing to play as individuals and as influencers on our communities to help support real change?

One hundred and fifty-nine years ago, Rabbi Einhorn of Baltimore’s Har Sinai wrote of his colleagues who endorsed the position of the Confederacy from their pulpits: “who are these rabbis who thank G-d each morning for their deliverance from Egypt and in the evening sanction slavery from the highest pulpit”.

If “never again” is a meaningful phrase, surely it does not apply to Jews alone.  How can we look away from Freddie Gray and George Floyd or the many others who have died unnecessarily in the hands of those who had a duty to protect them and not imagine our own parents or grandparents in a different time and place.



The Jewish communities of Maryland are no strangers to the search for social justice.

Ten years ago, we published a special, double-length edition of Generations Magazineexploring issues from labor activism to Rabbis and slavery on the eve of the Civil War, from Freedom Riders to ethical housing practices.

Five years ago, JMM hosted a small pop-up exhibit in response to the Baltimore Uprising called In Every Generation

And in the past five years, we have explored social and racial justice on our blog, including this week’s post from Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker, exploring Jewish connections and obligations for racial justice. 

This year we marked the anniversary with our exhibit Gray in Black and White, highlighting the photography of J.M. Giordano taken during the Uprising, along with a curatorial statement from photographer Devin Allen and an introduction from Evan Serpick, former City Paper editor and current communications director of the Open Society Institute-Baltimore.

This year’s exhibit also included two live programs produced in partnership with the Reginald F. Lewis Museum with support from the Open Society Institute-Baltimore (delivered virtually of course).

We’ve made recordings of both these programs available:

Uprising + 5: A Conversation with J.M. Giordano and Devin Allen –

Follow Giordano’s work documenting current events here.

Follow Allen’s work documenting current events here.  

Uprising + 5: Activists, a Discussion with Tawanda Jones, Megan Jenny, and Lisa Snowden-McCray

Follow Tawanda Jones’ work here

Follow Megan Kenny’s work here

Follow Lisa Snowden-McCray’s work here

We’ve also put together a selection of activities for families to explore being Upstanders together with their kids.

But these are only starting points – to quote our statement on the death of George Floyd, police brutality, and the continued struggle to fight inequality, inequity, and injustice on our lives:

We urge all of our fellow Americans, regardless of race, to take a hard look around them—and within their own hearts and minds—at the evidence of inequality and inequity. We must educate ourselves. We must listen, truly listen, to the voices of people who don’t look or live or worship as we do. We must commit to being upstanders, not bystanders. We will only change the story if we change ourselves.

In that light, we direct your attention to just a few of the many organizations doing the important work here in Baltimore and encourage you to seek out more voices to listen to and learn from:

Open Society Institute-Baltimore

Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle

SURJ Baltimore

Jews United for Justice


with Bambi Galore
Sunday, June 7, 2020
at 3:30pm EST

Listen to stories, sing songs, and join in activities that celebrate acceptance and inclusivity. This program is open to all, and the activities are perfect for children ages 3-8.

Register for this Live Stream Event here!

Monday, June 8 at 7:00pm
through Wednesday, June 10
at 7:00pm EST

Intrigue, tragedy, reconciliation, love, and death – After Munich is more than the story of the 1972 Munich Olympics and the terrible events that unfolded.

Buy Virtual Tickets Now

Presented in partnership with the 32nd Annual William and Irene Weinberg Family Baltimore Jewish Film Festival.

Thursday, June 11, 2020
at 7:00pm EST

Join award-winning journalist Libby Copeland and author of The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We Are as she shares her work on the stunning implications of home DNA testing and the discovering of lost heritages.

Register for this Live Stream Event here!

Sunday, June 14, 2020
at 3:30pm EST

Honor and learn about refugees and immigrants ahead of World Refugee Day 2020 through world music, story time, and other activities. This program is best suited to children ages 3 to 8.

Register for this Live Stream Event here!


Humans have always had the need to explore.

Prehistoric people may have stood at the mouth of a cave and gathered their courage to explore the inside. Perhaps they wondered what was over the next hill or on the other side of a mountain. People might have looked up to the skies and wondered about exploring places beyond what their eyes could see.

Join us in exploration and create your own travel journal!


Remember – Members of the Museum get their membership discount
by using promo code “member” at checkout.

Don’t see something you’re interested in at the online shop? Contact Shop Manager Chris Sniezek at and let us know.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Insights: What We’re Reading

Posted on May 29th, 2020 by

A little light reading on deck during a Friedenwald family trip to Amsterdam, Holland, and Switzerland, 1923. JMM 1984.23.594.

Whether on your night table or in your hammock or on the beach (six feet apart from other beachgoers); whether it’s e-reader, hardcover, or paperback; there has never been a better time to exercise your mind by reading. Our library at JMM may be closed but our ever-expanding selection of ideas for reading is open for the summer season.



This week, we’re sharing an extended “What We’re Reading” with our JMM family –if you have an appetite to expand your knowledge or merely a taste is for a story to escape into, we think you’ll find some great suggestions here from staff and volunteers.

We also wanted to share two resources that any reader needs to know about – the first is Bookshop is a way to purchase books online while supporting your local independent bookstores, which is perfect for stocking up on your pandemic reading! In Baltimore alone you can choose to support Greedy Reads, Red Emma’s Booksellers, Station North Books, or The Ivy Bookshop through your Bookshop purchases.

The second is a browser app called Library Extension. When installed on your browser, whenever you look up a book on Amazon, it will tell you if there is a copy available at your local library (both physical copies AND digital copies – including audiobooks)! This may be one of the best technological innovations of our times – we love supporting libraries and stretching our book-buying dollars.

Below you’ll find all kinds of reading suggestions – some of us had a lot to say, so make sure to click through the “read mores” to see the entire post! Be sure to let us know what your reading – how do you find new books, or choose which old favorites to pick up? And don’t forget – you can also purchase books from Esther’s Place, find some new reading material and support JMM at the same time (and members – make sure to apply the code “member” at checkout to get your 10% discount).

Talia Makowsky: I grew up escaping into fantasy novels.

Reading about extraordinary people in fantastical lands was always a safe place to retreat when the real world was a little too real for me. And so, it’s no surprise that I’ve returned to some of my favorites during this time, while I’m staying home as much as possible. Having these fantasy novels to immerse myself in have been like opening a door out of quarantine, even just for a little bit. I encourage you to check out a fantasy novel, or at least a fiction novel set in a place you haven’t visited before, to get the feeling of escape for a moment. Here are some of my favorites. READ MORE.

Tracey: Over the long weekend I ditched it all — high-brow lit, non-fiction explorations of the natural world, memoirs, and historical fiction.  I escaped into classic fantasy, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was the perfect respite from the world of Covid-19.

First of all, it reminded me of my first reading of these books at age 16.  And I relished in the opportunity to briefly inhabit a world where goblins and dragons, wizards, hobbits, giant flying eagles, elves, and dwarves, and yes, even mankind are learning how to live together in some kind of delicate balance.  It was reassuring to immerse myself in a place where good and evil have clear distinctions. My mind was able to wander through landscapes that ranged from enchanting to desolate and sometimes downright frightening.  If you have never read Tolkien but love fantasy, give it a try. It might interest you to know that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were contemporaries and were part of a literary group in London called the Inklings. If ever there was a good time for great fantasy read, it is now.

Chris: I’ve been re-reading the book Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust. While all books by Faust are excellent pieces, this is probably one of her best written and widely acclaimed books on Civil War history. Faust leads the reader into a world in chaos as aristocratic society across the South is upturned in 1861 and daftly shows how high-class Southern women navigated the crisis of war. Focusing on the home front rather than the military front means Faust is able to thoroughly parse through thousands upon thousands of letters, memoirs, and diary excerpts to create the image of a society in change. READ MORE.

Marisa: Ever since the release of the final episode of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars television show earlier this month, it has been non-stop Star Wars content in my home.

Re-watching the movies (check), re-watching The Mandalorian (check), eagerly waiting for updates on the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi television show (check). There’s been a lot of watching involved, so I decided to turn to a different medium this week – graphic novels. READ MORE.

Marvin: I do most of my reading for work.  As you might suspect this means most of my reading is non-fiction.  Recently though there was an exception.  In preparing for my talk on our upcoming exhibit, Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit, I was inspired to read Wandering Stars, a collection of science fiction stories about Jews in space written by Jewish authors here on Earth.  The thirteen stories that editor Jack Dann selected for this volume include both stars of the scifi world such as Isaac Asimov and Robet Silverberg as well as authors better known for work in other genres (e.g. Isaac Bashevis Singer and Bernard Malamud).  My personal favorite was William Tenn’s “On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi” … a story that takes a novel look at questions of Jewish identity.

Joanna: A few people I know are having difficulty settling in to read anything these last few weeks (months, now), finding it hard to focus long enough to get into a book. I’m not having that trouble, thankfully, but I’m not diving into the high-tone literary novels I panic-borrowed before the brick-and-mortar library closed; nor am I taking this as an opportunity to work through the non-fiction books that have been waiting patiently in my TBR pile. While I’ve enjoyed a few e-book mysteries and such from the library, I’ve mostly been rereading old favorites from my shelves at home. Even if something bad happens in these stories – and sometimes it’s been long enough that I’ve forgotten that something bad happens – I already know that the ending will come out right, and I don’t have to think too hard or invest too much of my scattered energy on a convoluted plot or tormented characters. READ MORE.

Trillion: I decided to revisit a couple of favorites during the last few weeks starting with Atonement by Ian McEwan.

I have been a fan of the author for years and this is likely my favorite of his novels. The book is essentially about one family and the way in which a child’s misunderstanding of what she is seeing can have a far-reaching impact. The book is mainly set in England during the 1930s and 1940s, though as you might guess it does also feature wartime France. If you aren’t a fan of reading, the book was also adapted into a film starring Kiera Knightly, James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan. In terms of movie adaptations, it is one of the better ones. One particularly memorable scene shows Dunkirk during World War II.

Laura: One of my favorite pastimes over the past several months has been reading. I recently finished Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. The book tells the story of Eleanor, an intelligent, yet odd woman, who is satisfied with her routines and with being alone. Over the course of the novel, she begins to realize that she isn’t happy with the solitary isolating life she feels she has deserved. I really enjoyed the mix of humorous, heartwarming, and heartbreaking moments and the overall theme of the importance of connection.

Tracie: I am currently making my way through DeRay McKesson’s On The Other Side of Freedom. It is a beautifully written account of one activist’s experiences agitating for police reform and anti-racist changes for both policy and culture. It doesn’t hurt that he is a fellow Baltimorean.

Last weekend I read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane in one sitting. It was a delicious escape into a spooky and ultimately redemptive universe. I’m also dipping my toes into Gregory Hays’ new translation of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. It is truly fascinating to read words so old. Though if I am fully honest with you, I have to admit that regardless of the time of day, when I read this text, it almost always ends with me sleeping.

Check out more of Tracie’s book reviews here, here, and here.

Ayana: I’m currently reading Curtis Jackson’s Hustle harder, Hustle Smarter.

Paige: During a visit to D.C. with my sister in the winter of 2017, we stopped by the Renwick Gallery to see the exhibit Murder is her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. The Nutshells, crafted miniature crime scenes created by Frances Glessner Lee in the 1940s/50s, are still used as teaching tools at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore. The exhibit put us in the shoes of an investigator (magnifying glasses and all) to see if we could decipher what took place in these doll-house sized crime scenes. The two of us still talk about this exhibit. So, what does this exhibit have to do with what I’ve been reading lately? READ MORE.

Sue: The new Dabl TV station has a very nice program called Escape to the Country, set in the United Kingdon. It features two people looking to move to the countryside.  They are shown three properties that maybe fit what they are looking for.  The third property is a mystery home that the reality people think might pique their interest. The show also features amazing scenery and local craftsman.

Rachel: Y’all – it’s time to come clean: I’m a reader.

I read a lot. From daily blogs (like Ask a Manager, Captain Awkward, Wardrobe Oxygen, and The Financial Diet) to various museum blogs (like Leadership Matters and Collen Dilenschneider) to many random articles posted by friends, family, and colleagues on social media. Frankly, I have a problem when it comes to reading – but especially when it comes to books. READ MORE.

Lorie: Like most of us I am getting tired of cooking and my normal recipes are boring me. I am lucky to have a wonderful cookbook collection because my aunt, Renee Comet, is a food photographer and gives me copies of her incredible books. I decided to try some recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks, The New Jewish Table by Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray, owners of Equinox Restaurant in Washington, DC. What I love about this cookbook, besides the fact that all the recipes I have tried are wonderful, is how it is organized. The table of contents is by season and then divided into brunch, starters, lunch, dinners, sides and desserts and they also include Jewish holiday menus. I have tried a few new Spring recipes and will be heading in to summer but my family’s favorite is the roasted chicken with rosemary and lemon. I’m finding I have to change ingredients a bit just to fit what I have at home, but the cookbooks are inspiring me to try something different and learn something new.

Wendy: I found that during the past year or so, one of my favorite books that I have been going back to often is called “Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen” by Miri Rothkovitz.  Yes, it is a cookbook.  It is filled with traditional Jewish cooking recipes with modern twists. I have yet to find a recipe in it that hasn’t been a winner with my family.

Wendy, who serves as JMM’s volunteer coordinator, has also been collecting a great list of recommendations from our volunteer core. They’ve got some great suggestions for your reading, watching, and listening pleasure!


Sunday, May 31, 2020 at 3:30pm

Join us for a unique program where we will explore the stories in our collection and create stories about what is happening today through writing, drawing, and photography. This program is designed for participants aged five to ten.

Register for this Live Stream Event here!

with Bambi Galore
Sunday, June 7, 2020 at 3:30pm

Listen to stories, sing songs, and join in activities that celebrate acceptance and inclusivity. This program is open to all, and the activities are perfect for children ages 3-8.

Register for this Live Stream Event here!

Monday, June 8 at 7:00pm through Wednesday, June 10 at 7:00pm

Intrigue, tragedy, reconciliation, love, and death – After Munich is more than the story of the 1972 Munich Olympics and the terrible events that unfolded. This documentary looks through the eyes of four women forever changed by that day – an athlete, a widow, a high-level Mossad agent, and a reluctant assassin.

Buy Virtual Tickets Now

Presented in partnership with the 32nd Annual William and Irene Weinberg Family Baltimore Jewish Film Festival.


This week we’re highlighting two Wondernaut activities in honor of Shavuot – Write a Review and Design a Sci-Fi Book Cover. We can’t wait to hear about the awesome books you read and the ones you come up with in your head!


New In Shop: Choose Your Color!
Remember – Members of the Museum get their membership discount
by using promo code “member” at checkout.

Don’t see something you’re interested in at the online shop? Contact Shop Manager Chris Sniezek at and let us know.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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