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The Ten Best Things about Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling

Posted on October 18th, 2019 by

JMM Insights: October 2019 comes traight from the top – JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert shares his highlights behind our newest exhibit, Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling, which opens on Sunday, October 27, 2019! Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!

I started working on our Scrap Yard exhibit more than four years ago. It opens to the public in just 10 days, so I think my excitement is understandable. But in case you’re still looking for a reason to get pumped, I thought I would share a few features that might perk your interest.

1. This is the first national traveling exhibit on the American scrap industry, an industry that came of age on the shoulders of immigrant junk peddlers of the early 20th century, grew into technologically sophisticated scrap businesses by the middle of the century and entered into global recycling in the decades preceding the millennium. It’s the story of the transformation of the families who transformed waste into useful raw material.

2. Based on an informal survey, if you are Jewish, I’ll bet you either had a relative in the scrap business or knew people who dealt with scrap. In 1930, Forbes magazine estimated that 90% of scrap dealers in America were Jewish.

3. If you or someone in your family is into BIG stuff, this exhibit is for you. We’ve got scale. Drone footage of a contemporary scrap metal yard, vintage film of ship breaking after WWI, and you can even view infrared footage of cars being swallowed whole by a shredder.

4. Speaking of scale, have you ever wondered if you’re worth your weight in gold? How about copper? This is just one more of the interactive elements that test your metal. You can also feel what it was like for peddlers to carry around a 30 lb. bag of metal or see how much strength it takes to compress a small bale of water bottles.

5. Relive a few of the most memorable moments of scrap in the movies and on TV. Remember Sanford and Son? What about the iconic car crushing scene from Goldfinger? There is also a listening station for scrap themed songs. Who knew?

6. If you like your history from primary sources, you can listen in on the true adventures of real scrap dealers at our oral history kiosks (at least they told us the adventures are true!); or explore photos in our aptly named scrapbook: or maybe encounter a profiled dealer like Morris Schapiro or Louis B. Mayer or my dad… more about that in my family biography program on January 10.

7. And that’s just one of a dozen programs lined up to accompany the exhibit. Starting with a “making of” Scrap Yard presentation by curator Zachary Levine, our plans not only include lectures by scrap historians (yes, there are experts in the history of scrap) but also family days and environmental action opportunities and on Mitzvah Day, the Disney film wall-E.

8. There are, as you might expect, some wonderful artifacts in the exhibit too: a dirt bike, disassembled into its component materials, a classic International Business Machines punch clock circa 1920 (when Watson was the name of the company’s president, not its chess program), and a board game about the virtues of scrap drives in WWII called “Get into the Scrap.”

9. Our education team was inspired to create a game of our own to use the dynamics of the scrap business to teach market economics to visiting school groups especially at the middle school and high school levels. For more information about this program and our science activities for elementary schools contact Ilene Dackman-Alon at

10. Last, but not least, I hope you’ll be excited to see one of the largest credit panels in JMM history – ok, I know this doesn’t sound as cool as the first nine, but trust me, there is a very special feeling to a project put together by a whole community – both those whose lives revolved around the industry and those who were interested in exploring a novel experience. I thank them all.

Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling is made possible, in part, through the support of our generous donors: Institute for Museum and Library Services; National Endowment For The Humanities; Boston Metals Co. in Memory of Morris Schapiro; The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries; David Berg Foundation; Baltimore Scrap: David, Larry, Ken, and Joe Simon; Liebherr; The Gershowitz Family and Gershow Recycling; Integrated Shredder Technology.

Additional support provided by: Diamond State Recycling Corporation; Arnold and Joyce Fruman; The Sandy Shapiro Charitable Fund; Sue and Jerry Kline; Deborah Zager, in loving memory of my father, Sammy Kahan, founder of Ansam Metals Corporation; Ray Aizen, Maryland Core, Inc.; Pinkert Family Foundation; Melvin A. Lipsitz Family Foundation; J. Solotken & Company; Ellen Kahan Zager and Jack Zager Philanthropic Fund; Robin Wiener and Roger Nehrer; Davis Industries; Howard Fields, in memory of my Pinkert grandad and uncles; ScrapWare Corporation; Atlantic Recycling Group; Dan Pinkert and Freddi Greenberg; Brian Shine, Manitoba Corporation; Kripke Enterprises; Neal Shapiro; Dale and Betsey Pinkert.


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Looking Back at 2018

Posted on December 14th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes from Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts by Tracie, click here.

For this final Performance Counts of the year, we’ve decided to cast our eyes backward at the amazing programs and exhibits of 2018. The staff asked me to share with you the top 10 events of the year. I know which were my favorites, and I also asked my colleagues to share with me their favorite event of the year, so that I could compile our list.

In response to my question, Marvin wrote, “This question is like asking me to pick my favorite child… except even tougher.  After all, I only have two children, but I have more than 60 wonderful programs to choose from.” Nevertheless, he did choose one (stay tuned for which).

And so, with a promise to Anna and Alan that I’ll never ask their dad to choose his favorite child, below you’ll find the top 10 JMM highlights of the past year, in chronological order.

With my best wishes for 2019,


1. February 25, 2018: Monkey Business

For this Maryland premiere film screening, 39 visitors experienced the entertaining and endearing treatment (in a mixture of live action and animation) of the story of Margaret and H.A. Rey, the creators of Curious George.

After the movie, we had a Skype Q&A spanning 6,915 miles between us and the film’s equally charming filmmaker, Ema Ryan Yamazaki. Yamazaki, a Japanese-American filmmaker, delighted us with stories of growing up in Japan with Curious George, and let us in on the fact that she was skyping from the bathroom of her hotel room in Seoul so as not to wake her sleeping husband (they were there covering the Olympics).

2. March 22, 2018: Morrell Park: Projected

This event was the culmination of a months-long project that saw JMM educators, professional storytellers and Hopkins film students working with eighth graders at Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School. The 32 middle-schoolers learned about storytelling and filmmaking techniques in order to tell their own stories.

Though many of the young people had to be convinced their stories were worth telling, those that were screened at the JMM (after red carpet treatment for the young filmmakers) brought most of the 130 people in the audience to tears. (The exercise also led to one session presentation at the conference of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums).

3. April 10, 2018: Book Launch: On Middle Ground

A decade in the making, the new book on the history of Jewish Baltimore, commissioned by JMM and published by Johns Hopkins University Press, was officially released in April. To celebrate, we threw a big party, and invited Jewish Baltimore’s  preeminent storyteller, Gil Sandler, to share remarks. Gil did not disappoint, eliciting knowing nods, surprised looks and laughter from a sold-out crowd of 79.

Though Gil is always a tough act to follow, On Middle Ground co-author and long-time friend to JMM, Deb Weiner, did just that with aplomb. Her illustrated presentation was both informative and entertaining—enough to convince 46 people to purchase the book that night!

4. April 26, 2018: The Book of Joseph

The readings and conversations on April 26 were the cherry on top of a productive collaboration between the JMM, Everyman Theatre, and Richard Hollander, author of Every Day Lasts A Year (from which the play The Book of Joseph was adapted). Eighty-nine visitors got a sneak peek at the stage play, which had not yet been performed at Everyman.

At the same time, through our lobby exhibit featuring the suitcase and two dozen letters, passports and other documents that generated the book and play, visitors got a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Hollander family story.

5. May 17, 2019: Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Across the Generations

This public conversation between two authors who have written very different books about the iconic RBG left the audience of 116 attendees feeling as though they knew the Justice (and the authors) a little better. This was Development Director Tracey Dorfmann’s top event. Of it she wrote, “Having the authors engage each other in the interrogative process was fascinating and effective.  Learning how an adult biographer and a children’s book author approached telling this story kept the audience enthralled.”

6. June 24, 2018: The Magic of Jonestown Festival and Inescapable opening

We opened our most recent original exhibit with an over-the-top spectacle that included a strait jacket escape (suspended from a 65 foot crane!), stilt walkers, face-painters, and booths from 14 local cultural institutions. Among the 400+ people who came to the festival, we saw our Jonestown neighbors, members of the Jewish community from around the city and region, and other city residents and visitors. 288 people visited the Museum that day and 103 of them visited one or both of our historic synagogues. It was a moment when the JMM truly showed what it can mean to be a community connector.

*Bonus* July 29, 2018: The Volunteer Appreciation Dinner

Since it wasn’t a public or members’ program, it isn’t in the official top ten, but the annual thank-you event for our volunteers was a highlight of at least one staff member’s 2018.

Sue Foard, Membership and Volunteer Coordinator writes of the event “The celebration included entertainment by David London performing the living history character, Harry Houdini, always a hit. A delicious dinner catered by Catering by Yaffa, short speeches of the accomplishments over the year and door prizes made for fun, good food and fellowship had by all.”

7. August 23, 2018: Operation Finale

In an unusual program for us, we partnered with BJC and CJE to present a pre-release screening of a major motion picture at the Landmark Theatre in Harbor East. The sold-out show hosted 185 moviegoers.

Because it was a JMM program, we weren’t content to simply watch a movie, and instead brought in a historian formerly of the US Holocaust Memorial and Museum. I was honored to facilitate the conversation with him after the movie, about which one of our visitors wrote “Loved that you clarified fiction vs fact. Loved that there was audience participation. Thanks for a wonderful evening.”

8. October 28, 2018: Houdini’s Magical Halloween

In this family day, we hosted 3 magicians and a lockpicker, 10 all-day craft activities, and 5 special workshops. Over 140 people came through the museum at all different ages.

About the day, Jessica Konigsberg, Shop Assistant and Office Manager, said “I’m generally very partial to programs that have a strong family-friendly component, but I especially enjoyed Family Day because the Esther’s Place Shop was involved in selling Svengali card trick kits and lockpicking sets to complement the Card Trick and Lockpicking Workshops offered throughout the day’s activities. Many groups came into the Shop after taking part in these workshops and eagerly shared their experiences and their successes. Many were delighted to invest in further card sets, or some, in their own lockpicking set to continue the spark of excitement from the workshop.”

9. November 11, 2018: Veteran’s Day: The Jewish Legion

If you’ve read this far, perhaps it is because you must know Marvin’s favorite event from the past year. This was it. Archivist Lorie Rombro presented to 45 visitors. About the exhibit and presentation Marvin said “It illustrated a piece of Maryland’s Jewish history that is still not widely known.  It showcased the strengths of the Museum, both in terms of the talents of my colleagues and the rich resources of our collections.  The program made me very proud to be part of the JMM team.”

Marvin’s sentiments were echoed by those of Joanna Church, Director of Collections and Exhibits: “The combination of lecture and exhibition was a chance for us to share a little-known story and highlight our collections, on an important day – the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I – that added a layer of commemoration and meaning to our usual activities.  Since the audience included family members of several Legionnaires, it was an opportunity to make connections between the history in our storage spaces and Maryland’s modern community.  Lorie’s presentation was engaging and entertaining, and very much made the point that our work here is both academically vigorous and, well, fun; we love making those discoveries and connections that can be found in our archives and collections.”

10. December 2, 2018: The Great Jewish Bake-Off

The third installment of our annual cooking competition, the bake-off was both delicious and a lot of fun. From the winning challah bread that was, in my humble opinion, the Platonic ideal of challah, to the Asian-fusion inspired Chinese scallion pancake challah to the highly snackable potato and mustard knishes to the Overall Championship babka, it was a truly tasty event. There were 16 total entries, 2 judges, 6 trophies awarded, and 102 tasters present.

About the event, Rachel Kassman, our Development and Marketing Manager had this to say: “As a more behind-the-scenes staff member I don’t get a chance to attend most of our public programs, but this was one I couldn’t resist – The Great Jewish Bake Off! Getting to not just attend such a delicious event but participate as a contestant myself made this a stand out program. From tasting all the other competitors entries (challahs and babkas and knishes, oh my!) to watching the judges put on their serious faces and making the tough choices, it was a fantastic day. Plus nothing beats watching adorable children hang out at craft tables making their own beeswax candles in between sneaking just one more cookie from the tasting table.”

December 25th at JMM

Join us on Tuesday, December 25th for Mitzvah Day
and an afternoon screening of Houdini: The Mini-Series.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Great Lessons from Humble Places

Posted on March 24th, 2017 by

Have you noticed our obsession with top ten lists?  Our tendency to pay attention to something when it’s the first, or the newest, or the largest?

Museums have a long pedigree in displaying the rare and exceptional, but there is an inherent distortion of history in an exclusive focus on the “most important.”  In the 21st century, in an era of shared authority between visitor and curator, we need to re-learn the art of elevating the ordinary – of making the lives of everyday folks as compelling as the extraordinary.

On the recent trip to the Council of American Jewish Museums conference in Massachusetts, I found two institutions doing just that.  Neither would describe itself as a “museum” per se, but both are worthy of a visit.

Entering Vilna Shul

Entering Vilna Shul

The first was the Vilna Shul in Boston.  Built in 1919, the Vilna Shul (or as its original sign says in a Boston accent – the “Vilner Congregation”) is not the oldest, nor the largest, nor the most beautiful religious space by any stretch of the imagination.  It is rather the last remaining synagogue of the great wave of Eastern European migration to Boston’s West End (out of twenty or more than once were there).  Like our own Lloyd Street Synagogue the Vilna Shul was rescued from a city plan to tear it down and put in a parking lot.

Vilna's stained glass window

Vilna’s stained glass window

The architecture is a pastiche – a little Georgian, a little Romanesque, a little Eastern European folk.  It’s most notable feature is its huge stained glass Star of David, unambiguously facing the street.  The interior has some elements in common with LSS, including chandeliers purchased from a neighboring church.  But also some things I would never associate with a synagogue of this period – huge skylights, and in lieu of a balcony, a women’s section set up like a raked theater.  The Shul has literally pealed back the layers of paint to reveal its historic stenciling.



There is no golden age of the Vilna Shul.  As our guide pointed out, even by the time this was built, the Jewish community had begun to move elsewhere.  Yet this humble congregation offers a glimpse into Jewish immigrant life that is every bit as important and interesting as the most magnificent temple designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Yiddish Book Center

The Yiddish Book Center

The second non-museum on my “must visit” list is the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. Walking up to the building, the architecture already builds expectations – after all, how many American buildings are designed to resemble a shtetl?  The Yiddish Book Center takes “humble” to a whole new level… it’s logo is a goat, the same goat that we celebrate in Had Gadya each Passover, the gentle goat of the Yiddish lullaby Oyfn Pripetchik.  The exhibits do not exist in great galleries but rather mostly meander through the stacks of thousands of books.

Sharing one of the Yiddish newspapers in the collection.

Sharing one of the Yiddish newspapers in the collection.


The exhibits and tours don’t try to claim that Yiddish is the most influential language – noting that only 39,000 books were printed in Yiddish in the century in which Yiddish books were being printed.  Instead the focus is on the history embedded in the language.  A Yiddish linotype machine and cases of type are used to illustrate the intersection of technology and language.  A giant story book encasing a video screen connects themes in Yiddish literature to contemporary movies and plays.

Check out that address

Check out that address

Perhaps most intriguing they have a crate on display.  There is nothing terribly special about the crate except the shipped-from address.  The shipped-from address is Zimbabwe and suddenly the crate becomes a vehicle for telling the incredible story of books that escaped with their owner from Lithuania to Shanghai before the Holocaust and from Shanghai to Zimbabwe after WWII and from Zimbabwe to Amherst, MA in the 1990s (with duplicates returned to the Jewish community in Lithuania).  An otherwise ordinary crate turns into a ride through modern Jewish history.

What a fun "madlibs" style interactive!

What a fun “madlibs” style interactive!

It’s definitely worth the extra mile if you find yourself in New England.  If it provides an incentive, know that it is on my “top ten” list of Jewish sites to visit, and I say that in all humility.

MarvinBlog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

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