JMM Insights: The Upstanders Initiative

Posted on September 20th, 2019 by

For more than three decades JMM’s exhibits have been providing curious visitors with meaningful experiences that inspire discussion, thought and further study.  Recently, as part of JMM’s evolution we’ve been exploring ways to take the next step – to turn memory into action. This exploration has led to a new partnership with The Associated’s Jewish Volunteer Connection. In this month’s edition of JMM Insights, Visitor Services Coordinator Talia Makowsky shares the first tangible benefits of that partnership. We hope it will inspire you to join in!


JMM loves volunteers. Of course, this includes the volunteers who work directly at our site, but our love of volunteers goes beyond just the individuals supporting us. With stories of amazing and hardworking people informing our mission at the Museum, we know how much of a difference a single individual can make. We also know how transforming volunteerism can be, when people work together towards a common goal. That’s why we’re sharing in Jewish Volunteer Connection’s (JVC) motto, in Living with Purpose, and partnering with them to create the Upstanders Initiative.

An upstander is the opposite of a bystander. An upstander sees a problem and works to solve it. We’re connecting the stories of our exhibits with JVC’s network of volunteer opportunities, to encourage our Museum community to become upstanders. Plus, when you participate in the Upstanders Program, you can be eligible for raffle drawings and even a free trip to the Museum!

In anticipation of our new exhibit, Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling and to celebrate JVC’s Season of Service, our focus is on the innovative ways that people have worked to recycle used materials, the immigrant stories that make up the scrap industry, and how people have worked to create more green spaces for community members to share.

One opportunity we’re carrying over from our past exhibits is sorting clothes for Sharp-Dressed Man. Sharp-Dressed Man works to empower men by providing them with recycled suits they can wear as they participate in job development. As we learned with our Fashion Statement exhibit, the way we dress can express a lot about us, our personalities, our favorite sports teams, our religion. This, of course, extends to the first impression in a job interview. As a well-worn saying goes, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” and Sharp-Dressed Man is doing just that in Baltimore and LA, for many low-income men.

Because Sharp-Dressed Man achieves their mission through recycling used clothing, we decided to feature it with our Scrap Yard exhibit. Not only is Sharp-Dressed Man helping people to reenter the workforce, but they’re also working to repurpose used materials to improve lives. It’s an excellent fit, and we’re pleased JVC brought this opportunity to our Museum visitors. To find out how to help, visit this link.

When thinking about coordinating a volunteer opportunity with Stitching History from the Holocaust, all of us were taken with Hedy Strnad’s story, as she tried and failed to escape the Holocaust. In order to pay tribute to her memory, we chose to feature ¡Adelante Latina!, which works with high school Latina girls as they overcome barriers toward their college careers. By providing these ambitious young women with a meal for the evening, you can help them focus on working towards their goals and their future.

Wanting to reflect the hardworking, immigrant stories found in Scrap Yard, we will continue to offer this opportunity. We invite you to honor those immigrant stories, which are so closely tied with Jewish experiences in the US, by helping to provide meals to these hardworking students. More information can be found here.

In addition to these continuing opportunities, we also have a few new ways to help that relate to our Scrap Yard exhibit.

The 6th Branch works with neighborhood leaders to transform vacant lots into community green centers. Their mission fits in well with our Scrap Yard exhibit, as they repurpose old lots into new spaces for people to enjoy the outdoors. By leveraging the leadership skills of military veterans, the 6th Branch is transforming Baltimore neighborhoods and bringing communities together.

Their story of empowerment and vision is an exciting addition to the opportunities we have already shared. To find out how to volunteer with the 6th Branch, which has hours four days a week, visit this link.

We are also pleased to feature Leveling the Playing Field, which gives underprivileged children the opportunity to enjoy the mental and physical benefits of youth sports participation. Through donations of used and excess sports equipment, Leveling the Playing Field helps sports programs become more accessible to more children. By saving on equipment costs, these programs can lower registration fees, expand their programs, and develop new ones.

Leveling the Playing Field needs volunteers to help sort donated items, practicing the same skills that scrap workers do as they try to figure out what what kind of value discarded items have as raw material. Learn these skills yourself by volunteering with them here.

Finally, to continue to theme of repurposing used materials, we want to feature Chana’s Clothing Sheds. CHANA offers a Jewish community response to the needs of people who experience abuse and other forms of interpersonal trauma. One of the ways they provide support is through clothing donations. The four sheds, located at Beth Tfiloh Congregation, Temple Oheb Shalom, the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, and the Weinberg Park Heights JCC, collect gently used clothing, shoes, linens, and stuffed animals.

Simply drop off items for donation in a tied plastic bag to any of these locations.

Join JMM and JVC in becoming Upstanders and help us support our Baltimore and Maryland communities. Every time you participate in an Upstanders Initiative program, you’re eligible for an entry in JVC’s monthly raffle. Once you volunteer in person with the Upstanders Initiative, you’ll also receive free admission to the Museum. We want to celebrate your hard work, and we hope that you join us in standing up for others and living with purpose!


Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights?
You can catch up here!


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