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Reflections

Posted on September 24th, 2020 by

A blog post by JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. You can read more posts by Marvin here


We are in the season of the Jewish year when it is customary to reflect on our actions for good or ill in the twelve months prior. I find that this process is particularly intense for me this year, in part because of the impending conclusion of my eight+ years at JMM and my 32 years as a museum manager. While I am proud of many things I have helped enable my teams to accomplish, I am especially mindful of what I’ve failed in as a leader.

My personal reflections occur in the context of the very trying times we’re going through… I speak not only of the pandemic and its economic consequences but also the rising tides of antisemitism and race hatred. As it happens I attended webinars on both these topics at the end of August

For me, these discussions are really two sides of the same coin. The fight for human dignity embraces the struggle against prejudice towards both Jewish and Black people (as well as women, LGBTQ, immigrants and others who have been the objects of historic oppressions). In one instance our most important objective is to keep Anti-Jewish hatred from being normalized in the community around us; in the other, I would argue, the most important task is to address the vestiges of racial “othering” within our own tribe.

The difference is that while it is relatively easy for Jewish leaders to stand up and declare our own citizenship and humanity, to speak up for the fundamental humanity of our neighbors of color (both Jewish and non-Jewish) is fraught with complications.

1. It means acknowledging a certain degree of complicity both in historic events and contemporary disparities… it takes uncommon skill and courage to “correct” a major donor when they say that “Jewish slave owners were more kind to their slaves than gentiles” (I admit to failing this test).

2. It means threading the nuance between “racism” and “racist”… when a great friend of the Museum tells you that his wife is afraid to come with him to the Museum – but she’s no racist… it is finding a way to get them to understand that you don’t have to be a “racist” to hold prejudices which result in social harm (another test that I haven’t yet passed).

3. And perhaps, most difficult of all in our politically polarized world, it means being able to distinguish victim from victimizer. I think we all had similar visceral reactions to the President’s comments about Charlottesville… that there “were good people on both sides.” It wasn’t that we knew for a fact that no one carrying a tiki torch had cared for an elderly relative or rescued a stray cat or performed some other good deed. What we knew is that there was no moral equivalence between people trying to tear down Confederate monuments and those yelling “Jews will not replace us”. But what’s easy to spot in someone else’s house is harder to perceive in one’s own.

In recent weeks, I’ve heard the refrain with respect to antisemitism that “there are bad people on both sides.” Now I have no doubt that this is true, that there are purveyors of anti-Jewish hate on both the left and right. I don’t have access to an evil-meter to weigh the pronouncements of Steven Miller v. Louis Farrakhan. But I do know that though they both might echo slurs from the Protocols of Zion, the threat they pose to our community is not equivalent. One has enormous power and the levers of the state, the other is limited to the waxing and waning of his followers.

At this moment in time I think we should be able to distinguish between the type of rhetoric and lies that inspired the tragedies in Pittsburgh and Poway and the deplorable, but ultimately less damaging, insults in the remarks of a progressive Congresswoman. We should figure out a way to condemn both, but not condemn both equally. I am able to make a distinction between an officer (who is sworn to uphold the law and is armed at public expense) shooting a citizen in the back seven times, and an individual looting (stealing) under a cloak of social justice. Both are criminal acts, but the first also subverts the continuance of a democratic and civil society and merits more severe condemnation.

Genuine t’shuvah requires the penitent to undertake some concrete action to demonstrate the sincerity of their commitment to change. So, I share my “al Chet” about my lack of courage in difficult discussions in the spirit of someone who acknowledges the price of silence and commits to remaining silent no more.

In my view, the real test of our anti-racism efforts lies in convincing the majority of the community that racism and antisemitism are kindred problems, and that equalizing blame for either, undermines our efforts on both fronts.


We invite you to join us for our special partner series with Chizuk Amuno Congregation,Jews of Color, Jewish Institutions, and Jewish Community in the Age of Black Lives Matterwhich kicks off on October 18, 2020 at 4:00pm with Who We Are: Identity and Diversity in Our Jewish Community.


 

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Voter Education: How to Vote Right Now

Posted on September 17th, 2020 by

We’ve already talked a lot about voting in our Voter Education blog posts. We’ve covered voting rights in Maryland and how to educate yourself as a voter, providing resources so that you can make informed decisions and let your voice be heard. We’ve also talked about how to request a mail-in ballot and why mail-in ballots are just as accurate, and much more accessible, as voting at a polling place. As we get closer and closer to election day, we want to remind our community that voting makes you an Upstander. You are not standing by and acting passive during this time of extreme climate change, a global pandemic, and human rights violations. You have the right to choose who leads us during these crises, and what direction you want our world to move towards.

Of course,  as we’ve mentioned before, voter suppression is a real threat to many people, especially those who are people of color, living in poverty, or living in rural areas. Voter suppression is a huge issue that affects many and is a systemic issue that will take a huge amount of time and effort to fix. You can help fight this threat by helping others to register to vote, to request their mail-in ballots early, and to help them drop their ballots off to a polling center. You can also work with voter rights groups as they provide resources and volunteer to ensure that everyone accesses their right to vote. While these steps may seem small, they are still incredibly important.

As far as your own mail-in ballot goes, we encourage every Maryland voter to request their mail-in ballot today. In fact, right now, follow these steps to request your ballot:

1. Go to the Maryland Board of Elections webpage on mail-in voting.

2. Click on “How do I request a mail-in ballot?”

3. If you have your MD driver’s license or MVA-issued ID card, you can complete the form online using this link.

4. You can also complete and return one of the forms on the website, by mail, fax, or email. If you plan to fill out a form and mail it to your local board of elections, you should do that as soon as possible.

5. You can also go to your local board of elections to fill out and turn in a form. To find your local board of elections, you can visit this website.

Once you have filled out and returned the form, whether online, in the mail, or in person, you can check the status of your mail-in ballot by going to the Voter Lookup site. This site will ask you for your name, birthdate, and Zip Code, and then provide you with the status of your mail-in ballot application. This information is important for you to keep track of, so that you can plan accordingly.

When you do receive your mail-in ballot, follow the instructions on the ballot carefully. When you have finished completing the form, you can mail your ballot back.

However, because of the delays in the Postal Service at the moment, we strongly encourage you to hand deliver your ballot. You can do so by dropping it off at a voting location, a ballot drop off box, or your local board of elections. The mail-in voting webpage on the Maryland Board of Elections website will list these drop-off locations once the information is available. By hand delivering the ballot, you are ensuring that it will be counted in time for the election.

If that method is not available to you, however, you can still mail it. Just make sure your envelope is postmarked before November 3rd (election day). However, your ballot must be received by the local board of elections by November 13th, which is why we recommend you send it in the mail early or drop it off at a drop-off location.

Mail-in voting is safe, secure, and accurate. While these steps may seem like a lot, the Maryland Board of Elections website makes it as simple and easy as possible to request and receive your ballot. Even as the postal service faces changes and closures, both inside and outside of its control, voting by mail is an important tool for all voters in the US so that they can ensure that their voice is heard.


 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




We Need to Talk About Working Mothers

Posted on August 4th, 2020 by

A blog post by Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.


Regina Margareteen (center), co-founder of the Horwitz-Margareten Matzah Company, with her six children. Louis E. Schecter Collection, JMM 1974.21.9.

In the midst of this pandemic and quarantine and all that has accompanied them, we need to talk about working mothers.

[Steps onto soapbox]

There is no lack of evidence that the current reality is taking a huge toll on women, especially working moms. The Washington Post, the Today Show, the New York Times, and NBC News have all featured stories about the undue burden the “new normal” is placing on working moms.

As a working mom myself, I can tell you anecdotally, the struggle is real. I am working harder, both in my professional life and in my life as a parent, than I ever have. My situation is compounded by my husband being stationed overseas right now with the US Navy. On the other hand, I only have one kid. Still, it is rough out there, well, in here, right now.

Article, “A Study of Women at Work in War Time,” by Emily E. Lantz, June 11, 1918. Judge Jacob Moses Papers, JMM 1963.42.9.

Here’s the thing: even in the before times, I was fond of saying that we working moms are expected to work as if we didn’t have kids, and parent as if we didn’t have jobs. It was always an impossible ask, but now, in quarantine, when we’re doing it all simultaneously from our dining rooms, now we can’t even pretend.

I had thought maybe this new reality would push our culture toward a change. When all this started, I thought, “you know, maybe the silver lining will be a new attitude toward working parents—a new appreciation for all we go through and a better way to support each other.”

Friends, that is not what is happening.

At JMM, we send surveys after every program. Hearing from our participants helps us better serve you, our family of members and friends. Both validation and critique are valuable, as they allow us to do more of what’s working and/or improve what could be better. Let me reiterate: we appreciate constructive criticism. However, after one of JMM’s presentations in the past couple of weeks one of our participants had critique not of the content of the program, but of the circumstances of one of the presenters. They said:

“I really love children – it is my life’s work – but unless the young lady whose young child was playing in the background is a single mom who didn’t have anyone to watch her child, it would have been more professional if she would have had the child under supervision in another area.”

Now, the fact of the matter was the “young lady,” who is actually a professional adult, was flying solo with her two young children because her husband had been exposed to Coronavirus and they were trying to protect their children from possible exposure. But that doesn’t really matter. What I want to unpack here is the fact that this survey respondent, who claims to love children and have worked with them their whole life, somehow doesn’t recognize that 1) children’s voices carry and 2) if the very professional person on the screen has children’s voices in the background, it’s because SHE DOESN’T HAVE A CHOICE. And don’t even get me started on the ‘unless she’s a single mom who didn’t have anyone to watch her child’ comment. Because single moms are inherently unprofessional and therefore get a pass for seeming unprofessional? Is that why you bring that up?

(And I can’t help but wonder if it had been a man instead of a woman giving the presentation with an audible toddler in the background if the same participant might have thought “oh, what a great dad he is.”)

Helen Fogg (pockets & pressing) and Mary Johnson (pressing) at work at the Resisto Ties Company, 1988. JMM 1996.68.18.

Friends, the presentation was appropriately professional. The only thing I might have changed would have been to explicitly acknowledge the audible toddler, maybe even inviting the child to say hello. Because having children visible or audible is not unprofessional.

If having children genuinely diminishes professionalism, we need to stop shaming moms and work on changing our definition of professional. The whole notion that professional ≠ parent is a false binary. It. Is. Hurting. Us. We have got to break this harmful either/or. For the survival of our species and the advancement of our society, we must find a way to hold both/and. Both a parent and a professional. Both a loving mother and a dedicated manager. Both a caring parent and a valued employee. Both. And.

Sewing machine operators at work in the Aetna Shirt Company, c. 1950s. Photo by the Hughes Co., JMM 1992.42.4.

And so, I invite you to set an intention to open your thinking. Hold both/and in your mind and in your heart. And the next time you hear a professional mom (or dad)’s kid in the background of a Zoom call or a lecture or a client meeting, if you feel some irritation rising, maybe the words, “it would have been more professional if…,” try taking a deep breath. Remind yourself she or he is doing the best they can; that they are both/and, and that has to be okay. (In fact, sometimes it’s better than okay. When we allow children to be delightful diversions not annoying distractions, the world is better for the children and for us.) And if the parent is someone you actually know, I invite you to go one step further, and say, “how can I help?”

I know there isn’t much we can do for one another right now in this pandemic, but speaking only for myself, being truly seen and acknowledged would be a help.

[Steps off of soapbox]


 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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