How Do I Connect?

Posted on March 1st, 2018 by

A blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

This week, I, along with a few staff members travelled back and forth to Washington D.C. to attend the CAJM (Council for American Jewish Museums) 2018 Annual Conference. The conference was a three-day event, designed to give professionals working in Jewish cultural organizations and institutions the opportunity to learn best practices in the museum field, visit museums and meet and schmooze with new and old friends. The conference is still fresh in my brain, so I wanted to share some thoughts. One of the main takeaways that I like to think about at conferences is: how do I connect with the speakers and places that we visit?

Day One started off with a downtown walking tour led by our friends from the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. We learned about the first synagogue building built in 1876 in our Nation’s Capital, Adas Israel; and learned about the congregation’s eventual move to the suburbs.

The original building is currently on stilts in the middle of a busy intersection in downtown DC; waiting to go on its final journey to the future campus of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.

After the walking tour, we went to where the conference was being held inside Adas Israel’s second synagogue building, now known as Sixth & I. The building has gone through numerous transformations from a Conservative synagogue, an African Methodist Episcopal Church to a hub for both synagogue and community space.

Sixth & I has a reputation in that they provide a space for impactful and provocative programs spanning different Jewish cultural traditions.

I found the history of the building to be similar to the history of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

I was happy to see so many old friends and colleagues at CAJM – and at one point I counted 10 people that I knew that had an association with the JMM at some point during their professional careers.

Day Two was held at The Wilson Center where the keynote speaker was Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Deputy Director of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. She spoke eloquently about our responsibilities as museum professionals as we tell the story of our culture and heritage.

She quoted Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.” How is that for a takeaway!

I participated in Talking Circles on specific topics of Israel and Audience Engagement. These activities allowed us to share what we do in our instituitions and hopefully gives other inspiration and ideas to take back to their own institutions.

Day Three was held at the USHMM – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The day started off with a guided tour of the museum, something that I had never done before. I have been to the museum many times but always went through the galleries by myself. As we walked along the corridors with the docent, I looked down and I noticed the cobblestones and then I read a sign that indicated that the stones were part of the cobblestones of the streets inside the Warsaw Ghetto. 

I literally had chills going down my spine.

Our final visit was to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

I was amazed at the beauty of the building on the outside.

I was so excited to go inside and was blown away by the exhibits and the information presented on the inside.  My experience inside those walls was incredible. I found myself going through waves of emotions, and finding many commonalities in our shared experiences, both the Jewish and the African American experience.

Our last stop was the museum shop, and once again, I found another connection to our shared experiences.

When our son Guy was a baby, he received a book called More, More, More by Vera B. Williams and there is a short chapter in the book called Little Guy.

I was transported back to reading the book to our son when he was a baby, and how 23 years later he has grown to be such an incredible person. I was very happy that I found this small piece of my own story inside the museum.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




My visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau

Posted on February 24th, 2017 by

As we will be opening Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust and Humanity on March 5th, it made me think of my visit a few years ago to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. While I had learned about the Holocaust from an early age and had visited many Holocaust memorials and museums, nothing could prepare me for visiting the site where 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives, including nearly 1 million Jews.

The entrance to Auschwitz Birkenau

The entrance to Auschwitz Birkenau Concentration Camp

The day started in Krakow where I awoke early to take a bus through the Polish countryside to the town of Oswiecim, now known better by its German name of Auschwitz. I began by passing under the infamous sign “Arbeit Mach Frei”, translated as “work makes you free.” I first spent time in Auschwitz 1 which was the main camp and was where the Nazis carried out the first experiments at using Zyklon B to put people to death. It was also where the camp commandant’s office and most of the SS offices were located.

Guard house and barracks in Auschwitz 1

Guard house and barracks in Auschwitz 1

I stood in the courtyard where the SS conducted executions by shootings. In the museum, I saw haunting exhibits of victim’s belongings such as worn shoes, glasses and abandoned luggage. There were also rooms of empty poison gas containers and human hair. One particularly affecting room was full of children’s clothing.

Cattle car and train tracks

Cattle car and train tracks

I then proceeded to Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau, which was where millions died in the gas chambers. I was struck by the scale of the complex which seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. The camp was surrounded by miles of barbed wire fencing and guard towers. I found Birkenau to be a more meditative space, generally free from the tour groups in the crowded barracks. I walked along the train tracks to a sole cattle car which once carried victims to the camps. I stood in silence inside one of the remaining gas chambers. I also paid my respects at the ruins of crematoria and pits which were filled with human ashes. The prisoner barracks were damp with not much light coming through and had what seemed like hundreds of wooden bunks inside.

A visible reminder of the people now gone

A visible reminder of the people now gone

Throughout my visit, I felt a sense of numbness, shock and grief. I returned to Krakow feeling empty inside and unable to comprehend how humanity could be capable of such evil. Although this was an emotional day, I am glad I visited because I believe it is important to see first-hard the evidence of the concentration camps.

Schindler's office and enamelware made by the factory workers.

Schindler’s office and enamelware made by the factory workers.

The next day I visited Oskar Schindler’s enamelware factory, which tells the inspiring story of how Schindler saved over a thousand Jews from the camps. While the day before I had witnessed the worst of humanity, the next day my faith in humanity was slightly renewed.

My Holocaust journey did not end in Poland. After I returned to the states, I returned to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where I learned more background on the Shoah. I also discovered great resources on their website on how individuals can take steps to fight against anti-Semitism in their own communities. Even if you are not able to travel to Auschwitz, I encourage everyone to visit their local Holocaust Museum and to stand up against genocide that may be happening around the world. Like many of you, I await with anticipation our Remembering Auschwitz exhibit and look forward to attending many of the upcoming programs ranging from presentations by Holocaust survivors to artist insights and musical performances.

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

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Performance Counts: Ten Years of the Summer Teachers Institute

Posted on September 16th, 2016 by

If you ask the education department at the JMM, they will tell you that the end of the summer is officially over after the Summer Teachers Institute (STI) takes place in early August.  For the past 10 years, the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Baltimore Jewish Council have partnered in planning this annual event. We just finished up another successful program, Holocaust Remembrance Through the Arts, the 10th Annual Summer Teachers Institute in early August.

A lot of planning goes into this program each year.  While initially conceived in 2006 as a two day program, our annual Summer Teachers Institute has expanded to encompass three full days. The planning staff from the JMM and BJC meets throughout the year to conceptualize and develop the program.  It takes quite a bit of phone calls and meetings to organize this event. This year the program took place at Beth El Congregation, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the JMM.

Summer Teachers Institute 2016

This year’s program with 43 people in attendance was one of our largest in recent years.  While we did engage repeat participants, the majority of registrants (29) were first time attendees. We appreciated having the opportunity to introduce the JMM to so many educators, many of whom indicated an interest in returning with their students.

The following is a breakdown of attendance:

19 public schools (14 Baltimore City, 3 Baltimore County, 1 Harford County, 1 Frederick County)

7 Catholic school

1 Independent school

3 college professors (Towson)

2 retired Baltimore City teachers

1 homeschool teacher

4 Jewish congregational school

2 students (1 college, 1 middle school who attended with her mother)

4 community leaders (including two JMM volunteers)

Total: 43 participants

The Summer Teacher’s Institute has been such an important education initiative and professional development opportunity for educators over the past 10 years and it is interesting to see just how this program has impacted teachers and the community over the past ten years.

Total Number of Teachers Participating in STI for the past 10 years – 429

Total Number of Presenters Participating in STI for the past 10 years – 86

Total Number of Teachers Teaching in Public School Programs over the span 10 years – 220

Total number of Teachers who Teach in Parochial Schools over the span of 10 years – 64 (50- archdiocese; 14-Jewish)

Total Number of non-k-12 educators who attended the program in the past 10 years – 145  (Including university professionals, agencies, funders, private schools, homeschools etc.)

Summer Teachers Institute 2010

A further breakdown of teachers by district:

Archdiocese – 50

Jewish Schools – 14

Baltimore City – 102

Baltimore County – 46
Harford County – 21

Howard County – 10

Frederick County – 8

Carroll County -15

Garrett County -1

Cecil – 2

Prince Georges County 7

Montgomery – 2

Calvert County – 1

Anne Arundel County -5

Summer Teachers Institute 2006

A closer look over the past 10 years indicates that we have partnered with many agencies and organizations to ensure the success of this important program including:

Claims Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

AEGON

Robert H. & Ryda Levi Center for Community Relations

Center for Jewish Education

Jewish Community Center

Red Cross of Central Maryland

Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University 

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation  

Chizuk Amuno

Beth Tfiloh

Centropa

Anti-Defamation League

Hillel at Goucher College

The Shoah Foundation

Beth El Congregation

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Maryland State Department of Education

Echoes & Reflections

The Jan Karski Foundation

We are especially grateful to our program sponsors, Judy and Jerry Macks and the Klein Sandler Family Fund for their sustained generosity and support of this important education initiative.Evaluation of the Summer Teacher’s Institute is crucial and every year we ask teachers for their feedback.Many teachers receive continuing education credits through MSDE through written reflections outlining how they will incorporate workshop content into their lessons. A review of these reflections provides a window for understanding its impact on participants in terms of increasing their confidence in teaching the Holocaust and other challenging topics as well as on their own personal growth. In the words of one participant:

“So many stories go untold. We have such a responsibility to share these stories, these people, with this generation. I am so grateful for the work done to restore these memories and tireless effort to prevent future genocide. I only hope my effort of partnership through education helps that cause.”

Summer Teachers Institute 2015

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Next Page »