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Volunteer Opportunities
in partnership with
Jewish Volunteer Connection


Listening Better, Hearing More: Assisted Listening Devices at the Jewish Museum of Maryland

Posted on November 25th, 2019 by

From Visitor Services Coordinator Talia Makowsky. To read more posts from Talia, click here.


If you’re an avid museum goer you’ve probably encountered something similar. A small device that hangs around the neck with headphones attached. Maybe you type a number and a narration plays, explaining a painting. It might have helped enhance a live program. A tour guide might have used it to amplify their voice to the group of people following them. Many cultural sites have some kind of device to help their guests to hear the content they’re trying to communicate.

The Jewish Museum is pleased to announce that we have similar devices as well! Our assistive listening devices, or ALDs will transmit a leader’s voice to anyone wearing a corresponding device. This can be used on our public tours, during private group tours of the neighborhood, or even in public programs. We know that one challenge of our current lecture space is the way noise resonates, and we want to make all of our Museum programs more accessible. That’s why we’re happy to share this announcement and give you some information about how these devices work.

It’s fun to try out new technology!

These devices are designed to support people with hearing loss or who are hard-of-hearing. However, they can be used by any guest who chooses to wear the device and headphones. Using the devices on a tour enhances a visitor’s focus, allows the docent to speak without yelling, and makes it easier for a group leader to communicate when there’s other guests around.

During a tour, the docent will wear the leader unit, which will communicate through the guests’ devices. The units use a mobile connection, instead of radio channels, so a tour would not be interrupted by any local communication. The devices also allow guests to hear the tour guide over ambient noise, such as cars when we do neighborhood walking tours.

These devices work great with a large group. We can accommodate up to 30 people at one time!

Our units come with over-the-ear headphones that have built in microphones. This way guests can not only hear the leader as they give a tour, but by pressing a button, can ask questions that the whole group can hear. In addition, the units are compatible with most current headphones and earbuds, so guests can choose to use their own for comfort. Just make sure you ask the docent how to speak into the device microphone when you have any questions!

These devices allow groups to have great discussions while on tour.

Along with enhancing our tour experience, these devices will be available for reservation at our public programs soon. By connecting directly to our A/V system, guests will be able to hear the lecture or presentation more clearly, even with our regular lobby echo. Our Program staff are currently setting up all the equipment and will announce they will be available for reservation soon. If you want more information about how the devices will with public programs, contact Laura Grant, our Program Assistant. You can reach her at (443) 873-5169 or lgrant@jewishmuseummd.org

We hope that these devices will support more of our guests engaging in our stories. Our program and education staff, as well as our volunteers, have been working hard to master this new technology to make it available to you.

Our docents have dedicated their time to learn the devices in order to provide them to our guests.

If you’re interested in using these devices during a public tour, simply contact me, the Visitor Services Coordinator at (443) 873-5164 or tmakowsky@jewishmuseummd.org. I can reserve these devices, as well as help you book a group visit. If you have any additional questions about the units or about our accessibility, please reach out. This is just one step to help make the Museum more inclusive and more accessible, and we’re always looking to improve our visitors’ experience.

I’m so pleased to find new ways to increase our accessibility. Please reach out if there are other ways I can help you share our stories!


 

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Volunteers Visit the Green Mount Cemetery

Posted on October 16th, 2019 by

A blog post from JMM Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. To read more posts from Wendy, click here.


Growing up on Baltimore, I had heard about the Green Mount Cemetery but for whatever reason, had never gotten there. I finally did – along with 18 other JMM volunteers.

On a beautiful Friday morning in September, we drove through the Tudor/Gothic-styled and imposing entrance gate designed by Robert Cary Long, Jr. Yes, he IS the same man who was the architect for the Lloyd Street Synagogue!

Once in the cemetery, we went on a walking tour with Wayne Schaumburg, a wonderful teacher and storyteller.

We learned that when the cemetery was developed in 1838, it was located outside the city limits on property called “Green Mount” previously owned by the merchant Robert Oliver (hence the name of nearby Oliver Street). The cemetery was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe II as a rural garden cemetery, with winding paths and gardens. Did you know that the original rural garden cemetery was in Paris – the Pere Lachaise? The first rural garden cemetery in the United States was Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts, established 7 years prior to Green Mount Cemetery.  These cemeteries were such beautiful locations that many spent time picnicking there. They were also early prototypes for large urban parks like Central Park in NYC and Druid Hill Park in Baltimore.

Green Mount Cemetery is well known for the list of who are buried there – the infamous and the famous.

The most infamous is John Wilkes Booth, who is buried in an unmarked grave in his family’s plot. There were many more famous people interned there, from US senators and congressmen to Maryland governors to Civil War officers from both the Union and the Confederate armies. The names we easily recognized were Betsey Patterson Bonaparte (Once married to Joseph Bonaparte, but Napoleon wanted his brother to marry royalty, so they divorced. Betsey was rewarded with a stipend, making her the richest woman in Baltimore.), A.S. Abell, founder of the Baltimore Sun Paper (in a beautifully carved sarcophagus), Johns Hopkins, Mary Elizabeth Garrett, who funded the Johns Hopkins University Medical School with the stipulation that women would be admitted on the same basis as men, Henry Walters, Enoch Pratt, and Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin.

One of the most interesting graves stones was modern, marking the grave of the founder of the Ouji board – Elijah J. Bond. The Ouji Board pattern was placed on the reverse side of the marker.  

When I originally spoke with Wayne, he did not know of any Jews buried in the cemetery. But as fate would have it, five days before our tour he learned of Levi Collmus, the second Bohemian Jew in Maryland. Levi Collmus arrived in Baltimore from Prague in 1806 and was a defender at Ft. McHenry along with five other Jews in 1814. He was a member of the minyan that petitioned the Maryland legislature for a charter that would permit them to establish a synagogue. As a result of those efforts, Nidhei Israel/Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, the builder of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, was incorporated. There is a record dated Oct.6th, 1846 of Levi Collmus paying $50 for seats in the “New Synagogue.”

Levi Collmus was also a founder and treasurer of the United Hebrew Benevolent Society of Baltimore in 1834. According to Isaac M. Fein, the organization was Baltimore’s first non-synagogue Jewish organization.  A note from the Collmus family mentioned that Levi Collmus married a Quaker, Frances Ann Williams “because there were no Hebrew girls to marry” in 1812.

Another family note states he was buried “according to the full Orthodox Ritual.” His descendants are buried in the family plot with him.

We JMM volunteers agreed that we had a fascinating fall morning learning about who’s who in Baltimore history and about one of the founders of the Baltimore Jewish community. Now I can check visiting the Green Mount Cemetery off my bucket list, BUT I want to go back to further explore this urban garden!


 

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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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