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JMM Insights: The Wonders of Space in Maryland

Posted on July 31st, 2020 by

This week’s JMM Insights, the last in our space-focused series celebrating the anniversary of the first moon landing, is all about Maryland.

Did you know the Space Telescope Science Institute was established in Baltimore? This community-focused science center was instrumental in the creation and launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.

You might be surprised to discover just how many Maryland connections there are to the exploration, discovery, and research of space. From the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt to the International Latitude Observatory in Gaithersburg, Marylanders are committed to the Wonders of Space!

Image: The Hubble Space Telescope, with Earth in the background, in a photo taken by the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on May 19, 2009. Courtesy of NASA. 

In case you missed it or want to share the experience with friends and family, here’s the recording of last week’s dive into all the questions, big and small, about How to Be Jewish in Space.

In case you missed it or want to share the experience with friends and family, here’s the recording of last week’s dive into all the questions, big and small, about How to Be Jewish in Space. And we’ll have the recording for last night’s ultimate behind-the-scenes event with Tracie Guy-Decker and Trillion Attwood up soon!

Most importantly: Keep your eyes on the calendar for the official opening of Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit! This exciting exhibit will open for public visitation in September. We can’t wait to see you.

For this week’s hands-on feature, we want to build on your role as Citizen Scientists!

First, ask yourself: Why Do We Explore? Create your own explorer’s journal to capture your observations and adventures discovering the world and skies around you.

Then try the highlighted activities below focused on our own Maryland skies:

Bonus: Learn about space probes in this video from National Geographic, then try your hand at designing a probe of your own!

Exhibit Sneak Peek:

Don Engel and Marianne Cheportes were married in Baltimore on June 12, 2011.

“My wife and I (being physicists) made our ketubah together using deep space imagery. Our ketubah has an infinity in the foreground which the constellation Orion inside it and has the Orion nebula in the background. It’s tri-lingual because my wife is a Sephardic Jew from France, so we have English, French, and the traditional Aramaic.”

Ketubah, 2011. On loan from Don and Marianne Engel. JMM L2020.6.1.

A Name to Know:

“The Mother of Hubble,” astronomer Nancy Grace Roman (1925-2018), has strong Maryland ties: not only did she live in the DC suburbs as an adult, but she also attended Baltimore’s Western High School, graduating in 1943.

Roman was the first woman executive at NASA, serving as Chief of Astronomy in NASA’s Office of Space Science at Goddard, among other positions during her long career.

LEGO version of Nancy Grace Roman, with the Hubble Telescope and an image of a planetary nebula, 2017. On loan from the Church family. JMM L2020.3.2.


Celebrate Maryland and Baltimore with a new book or some custom swag! All purchases help support the Museum.

Don’t see something you’re interested in at the online shop? Contact Shop Manager Chris Sniezek at and let us know.


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JMM Insights: Looking to the Stars

Posted on July 24th, 2020 by

Science fiction, science fact – this week’s JMM Insights looks back (and up) to the history of Judaism and astronomy!

Historically, the role of religious institutions in education meant science and religion were often intertwined. In particular, because Judaism uses a lunar calendar to determine important dates like holidays, being able to observe the skies (and understand what is being seen) made astronomy an important part of Jewish religious practice.

Image: Illustration from Helek Rishon Mi-Sefer Ha-‘olamot, O, Ma’aseh Toviyah, Toviyah Kats Vinits’ah: Bi-defus Bragadin, Venice, 1707. Collections of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Make sure to mark your calendar for next week’s insider sneak-peek at the exhibit with JMM’s own Tracie Guy-Decker and Trillion Attwood.

In case you missed it, or want to share the experience with friends and family, you should check out the recording of last week’s fascinating talk about Jewish thinking on extraterrestrial life (aka: Aliens!). And we’ll have the recording of last night’s How to Be Jewish in Space  up soon!

For this week’s hands-on feature, we invite you and your family to become Citizen Scientists!

Mapping Historic Skies is an online collaboration between the Adler Planetarium’s Collections department and the Adler-Zooniverse team. With this project you will be helping real researchers learn more about a collection of historic constellation imagery!

More great family activities for learning about the skies:

Constellations Across Cultures

Create Your Own Constellation

Making Milestones: Jewish Contributions to Space

*NEW* Star Notes – help transcribe the groundbreaking work of early women astronomers.

Bonus: Spend a little time exploring the wonderous images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. You can even find a specific image taken on your birthday!

Exhibit Sneak Peek:

Mendes Cohen (the nephew of the more famous Mendes I. Cohen of Baltimore) used this 50-year Jewish calendar book to track important family dates.

In the Jewish tradition of yahrzeit, mourners light candles on the anniversaries of the deaths of loved ones – and just like holidays, those anniversaries follow the lunar or Hebrew calendar.

A Jewish Calendar for Fifty Years, Jacques J. Lyons and Abraham de Sola. Montreal: John Lovell, 1854. Gift of Hymen Saye. JMM 1988.196.1.

A Name to Know:

This illustration is from the “Book of the Shape of the Earth,” by Abraham bar-Hiyya Savasorda.

Bar-Hiyya was a Catalan Jewish astronomer (and mathematician and philosopher) born in the late 11th century. He is believed to have made the earliest introduction of Arabic algebra to Christian Europe. He was also a pioneer in using the Hebrew language for scientific purposes. You can view a digitized version of this manuscript here!

Sefer Tsurat Ha-arets by Abraham bar-Hiyya Savasorda. Offenbach: Bi-defus Bona Fentura de-lo Nai, 480 [1720]. Collections of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.


Astronomy helps us determine the exact time of sundown for Shabbat observance!

Consider updating your Shabbat table with new candlesticks or a kiddush cup. All Esther’s Place purchases help support the Museum.

Don’t see something you’re interested in at the online shop? Contact Shop Manager Chris Sniezek at and let us know.


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JMM Insights: Up in Space

Posted on July 17th, 2020 by

In last week’s JMM Insights, we looked at science fiction – this week, it’s science fact! Did you know, out of the roughly 550 people who have left the atmosphere in the history of space travel, more than a dozen Jewish astronauts have flown into space?

Jewish astronauts have headed into space in the earliest days of space programs, include Boris Volynov, who flew on Soyuz 5 frm the USSR despite a “do not send Jews into space” directive from the Soviet Central Committee!

Image: (l-r) Russian Cosmonaut Boris Volynov, American Astronaut Judith Resnik, Israeli Astronaut Ilan Ramon. All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After last night’s Are We Alone and Does It Matter? program with Rabbi Dr. Eli Yoggev, you will know that you won’t want to miss the Rabbi’s second program next week!

On Thursday, July 23 at 7:00pm, he’s talking How to Be Jewish in Space. How does one observe the Sabbath if, while in orbit, the sun rises and sets every ninety minutes? Is astronaut food kosher? Is it safe to eat matzah in zero-gravity? How DO you observe Jewish traditions in space? Join us as we take on these questions and more.

In case you missed this week’s Become a Wondernaut program, we’re repeating this special live stream program on Wednesday, July 22 at 3:30pm!

We hope families will join us to explore the challenges of space travel and what astronauts have chosen to take into orbit to remind them of home. We can’t wait to see what pieces of art kids create to share their own choices about what they would bring to space! Remember – we’ll be including many of these art pieces in the Jews in Space exhibit. More info here.

And, of course, we’ve got some perfectly-themed Wondernauts activities for all ages, including:

Design a Mission Patch

Inventions Inspired by Space

What Will You Eat in Space?

*NEW* Active Astronauts

Looking for even more “In Space” activities?

Check out NASA’s Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut program!

Exhibit Sneak Peek!

On October 18, 2019, astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir conducted the first all-woman spacewalk, replacing a battery charge/discharge unit on the exterior of the International Space Station. Meir, born in Maine to a Swedish mother and an Israeli father, was participating in her first spacewalk.

First All-Women Spacewalk Commemorative Patch designed by Lynn and Tim Gagnon, 2019. Museum purchase. JMM K2020.1.2

A Name to Know:

Last week we talked about the creation of Spock’s Vulcan salute. This gesture has become recognized around the world.

Maryland-born astronaut Terry Virts shared this photo of himself performing the salute from orbit on the International Space Station as a tribute to actor Leonard Nimoy (who originated the character of Spock). Nimoy died on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. Boston, Massachusetts, Nimoy’s hometown, can be seen through the window.

Image courtesy of NASA. 


Doesn’t this Emilie Shapiro jewelry line remind you of gorgeous space photos? Support JMM and an independent artisan with your purchase today!

Don’t see something you’re interested in at the online shop? Contact Shop Manager Chris Sniezek at and let us know.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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