“Voices of Lombard Street”—Come See It!

Posted on May 29th, 2013 by

debA blog post by Dr. Deb Weiner.

Our core exhibition “Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore” has been on display in our Cardin Gallery since 2007. But I have a sneaking suspicion that not everyone in Baltimore has seen it. Right? So here’s a quick blast from the “Voices” comment book, with rave reviews from recent visitors. Don’t they make you want to come on down?

“Wonderful exhibit, so realistic and moving. As a new resident of Baltimore, it offered me a vibrant and informational view of Baltimore history.”

“Wonderful exhibit, compelling to read! Love the interactive scavenger hunt, even as a 30-year-old.”

1988.226.4a  Courtesy of the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection.

1988.226.4a Courtesy of the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection.

“I really ‘experienced’ the conditions immigrants lived in when they moved to America. I relate maybe because I myself am an immigrant.”

From a young person: “I loved it because you could do stuff with your hands and brain.”

I found this a bit hard to believe, but… “Drove all the way from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to see this and was not disappointed. Very well done.”

It’s always nice to get kudos from museum colleagues. A staff member of the Skirball museum (Los Angeles) wrote, “Very well done. I love how you used the oral histories to tell the story with the curatorial authority as only one voice. The mix of perspectives shines through and you didn’t hide the difficult stories, such as brothels and discrimination. Bravo!”

Couldn’t resist passing along this comment from a MICA student: “Absolutely loved this exhibit. The Maryland Historical Society could really use this as an example of a great exhibit on Baltimore history. Very dynamic.”



… As this is my last week at the museum, I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful volunteers, my fellow JMM staff members, and other colleagues around Baltimore and beyond for a great eleven years. I’ve enjoyed working here immensely. See you around!



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Anatomy of a Family Circle Celebration

Posted on December 28th, 2012 by

A blog post by Barry S. Lever, Special Projects Consultant


The Baltimore Sun’s Maryland News section on Monday December 17, 2012, featured a half page article, “Hailing 100 years in America.” by Julie Scharper.

This story outlined how the original members of the Hankin Family arrived in Charm City in October 1912.  Personally, I delighted in the festivities so creatively and elegantly organized by my cousins as well as the Baltimore Sun feature article detailing the gathering.

Abram, and his new bride, Bessie Gorelick Hankin, along with Abe’s younger brother, Sam were the advance party of what is now a remarkable 6th generation family proudly tracing its lineage to those eight siblings and their parents,  Chaim and Surha Hankin.

Bessie, Abraham, and Sam

As Abe and Bessie’s eldest grandchild I had the good fortune to personally know all of the elder Hankin siblings, as well as their parents, Suhra and Chaim.  It is a personal delight to share those stories with my many cousins who were never privileged to know them. Behind the scenes the Jewish Museum of Maryland played a significant role for that Hankin Family 100th Anniversary Celebration.

As the largest regional Jewish Museum in the United States part of its mission is to collect and preserve the material and intellectual record of the Jewish experience in Maryland.

Sam Hankin’s grandson, Harvey Golomb, a Colorado cousin came to visit Baltimore and used the JMM‘s voluminous collection and expert staff to search the immigration records, photo images and oral histories.  From these and other sources he assembled a unique memoir, The Hankin Family: Journeys to America, making it available to the entire family.

Hankin Family Memoir

In gratitude for the Museum’s assistance, the Hankin Family Circle (HFC) donated a copy of this memoir to the JMM‘s collection accompanied by a copy of the minutes of the first meeting of the  Hankin Family Circle in April 1947.  In addition to the incredible archives and artifacts housed at the JMM’s Herbert Bearman Campus, the Museum is currently displaying a highly acclaimed exhibition, The Voices of Lombard Street.

This exhibition features many of the scenes that Abe, Bessie and Sam Hankin would have encountered when they stepped off the gangplank of the North German Lloyd Vessel, S.S. Main which docked that day at Locust point in the shadow of Fort McHenry.

JMM 1991.24.3

The JMM’s staff of docents looks forward to greeting you when you arrive to visit that exhibition and enjoy retracing what it was like to land on these shores as my immigrant family did on October 24, 1912.

On behalf of The Jewish Museum of Maryland I wish all of our members, website and on-site visitors, a Healthy, Happy and Peaceful 2013.

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The Birth of an Exhibition…

Posted on April 29th, 2011 by

What was Lombard Street like in the early 1900s? When did Jews establish communities in Cumberland and Frederick? How do we memorialize loved ones who are no longer with us? Why do some Orthodox Jewish women cover their hair? This is just a sampling of the kinds of question the Museum’s exhibitions seek to answer. So how do we come up with the ideas for all the exhibitions we create?

The answers are as varied as our exhibitions.

Voices of Lombard Street

Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore (2007), our exhibition about the old Jewish neighborhood, was inspired by residential redevelopment around the Museum. Back in 2000, the public housing hi-rises were imploded and replaced with new townhouses suggestive of the old row houses that lined the neighborhood’s streets in its heyday. We thought it might be a good time to explore how the area has evolved over the years.

We Call This Place Home

We’ve also looked beyond Baltimore. We Call This Place Home: Jewish Life in America’s Small Towns (2002) was a topic suggested by a Museum trustee from Frederick, who encouraged us to explore Jewish life outside Baltimore’s borders. The result was an exhibition that not only traveled to venues around the state, but also helped us build our collections of photographs and artifacts depicting Jewish life in small towns.

The Other Promised Land

Some of our exhibitions are suggested by our more junior colleagues: Over lunch one day in about 2000, an intern from Beth Tfiloh Day School started musing about what Jews do when they go on vacation. The result? The Other Promised Land: Vacationing, Identity, and the Jewish American Dream, a major exhibition that opened in 2005 in Chicago, came back home to Baltimore, and then traveled to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.

Intimacy. Image. Identity.

Intimacy. Image. Identity, which also opened in 2005, featured a series of photographs by intern Zoë Reznick, who shot the images as an undergraduate project. Her photographs explored the practice, among many Orthodox women, of covering their hair when they marry. Zoë wrote that her inspiration was to “examine the personal, material, and social implications of a tradition . . . and to capture the fine textures of scarves, the shapes of hats, the peculiarity and glamour of wigs.”

Nancy Patz: Her Inward Eye

Then there’s our more recent exhibition, Her Inward Eye (2010), which brought together three suites of work by local artist Nancy Patz. The germ of that exhibition was a conversation I shared with Nancy, Curator Karen Falk, and Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. One morning, we sat in Nancy’s lovely, sunny studio discussing “18 Stones” a series of drawings and poems imaging Dutch Jewish lives before the Holocaust. Nancy told us that the works were traveling to Holocaust Museum Houston and asked if we’d like to host the show at the JMM before it headed out west. Unfortunately, the grouping was too big for our lobby and too small for one of our galleries. Then inspiration struck: Why not combine “18 Stones” with two other series of Nancy’s work? Like “18 Stones,” her illustrations from “Who Was the Woman Who Wore the Hat” were inspired by the tragedy of the Holocaust and explored the realm of imagined memory. The two series naturally complemented a group of works Nancy had created about her mother, who died prematurely. The portraits of her mother evoked a relationship re-imagined and reclaimed. Together, the three series examine the meanings of memory and imagination, exploring their role in the creative process.

Some of our farthest reaching exhibitions have the humblest beginnings. Our former curator, Melissa Martens, once observed that every time the staff got together, we seemed to talk about food. She figured that any topic that engaged us all that fully had to be worth an exhibition. The result of Melissa’s observation is Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture, and American Jewish Identity, opening here this fall and then traveling nationally. Chosen Food will be a vibrant, interactive exhibition that uncovers and interprets the many meanings of Jewish food. It’s a new way of looking at the old adage: You are what you eat!

Most recently, I’ve been thinking about developing an exhibition about nostalgia. The idea for the exhibition grew from a simple premise: Our visitors want to see themselves in our exhibitions, so why not give the people what they want? Obviously, nostalgia has some negative connotations—for many historians, it’s a “dirty word”—but it also has its place in history exhibitions. I want not only to display objects of nostalgia but also to plumb the meaning of the term and tell people something about individual and collective memory, constructed memory, longing, and their place in historical discourse. Plus, the material culture of nostalgia is practically endless. Just think of all the Superman lunchboxes, Sandy Koufax baseball cards, and Pimlico Restaurant menus we can display—all that, with an Allan Sherman record playing in the background.


A blog post by Associate Director Anita Kassof.

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