Creating Specialty Tours

Last year, the JMM was approached by George Washington University requesting that the JMM be a host site for graduate students enrolled in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts program, the first program of its kind in the country.  Our museum would serve as a setting for graduate students to learn how Jewish museums provide experiential learning opportunities to our visitors, both students and adults.

Shoshana at work
Shoshana at work

We were very lucky to meet Shoshana Hirschhorn, a Michigan native, via Charlotte, North Carolina to DC/Baltimore.  Shoshana took the train from DC twice a week to the JMM for her internship.  Shoshana always comes to work with a smile on her face-awaiting the day’s new challenges.

Last Thursday was Shoshana’s last day of her internship with us at the JMM.  She is off to spend the summer at her second internship with Yeshiva University Museum.  We wish her well and look forward to her visit with us at the end of the summer!

-Ilene Dackman-Alon, Education Director

Working at a museum is an exciting experience where no two days are ever the same. The past eight months at the Jewish Museum of Maryland have been wonderful!

Coming to the Museum having been an elementary school teacher in a large urban school district and a Hebrew school teacher, I was curious to see how the JMM accommodated both of these groups of students. As an intern at the JMM, one of my primary responsibilities was to help with school groups and school programs. I helped to design education resources in connection with the exhibitions, Paul Simon: Words & Music and the Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews & Medicine in America. I also had the opportunity to help design two of the specialty tours of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. The first, the Sounds of the Synagogue tour, looked at the Synagogue in the context of the Paul Simon exhibition, focusing on music and sounds heard throughout the building’s life as both a synagogue and church.

Ilene puts on her "history detective" accessories for the Book, Bell, and Candle tour.
Ilene puts on her “history detective” accessories for the Book, Bell, and Candle tour.

The second tour came about in connection with MADE: In America and the naming of the Carroll Mansion as the 2016 All American House. I, along with another intern, other members of the Education Team, and Executive Director, Marvin Pinkert, researched and developed a concept for the tour to accompany the Lloyd Street Synagogue’s title as the All American Synagogue. This tour looks at the material culture of the building, including information about the designers, builders, and crafters involved in the construction of the building. The exciting twist is that this tour allows visitors to take on the role of “history detective” as certain mysteries remain regarding the specific items discussed on the tour. The lingering questions are ones we were unable to find answers to during the research phase, so they in turn became part of the experience. The visitors can help the Education Team think of different places to look or alternative ideas as well as come up with their own questions they would like answered.

The research behind this tour was extensive, searching through numerous newspaper articles and contacting specialists, while hitting multiple dead ends along the way. Curiosity propelled my search, which made things difficult when the idea was to leave the tour open ended came up. I still wanted to know – who brought the original Torah used by the congregants? What happened to the bell? What did the first Ner Tamid look like? Hopefully this curiosity for knowing the story behind the objects translates to the visitors and they too become interested in the origins of the parts that make up the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

A Clue Card
A Clue Card

The projects and programs I have worked on have shown me the power of education in museums and their ability to bring learning to life. The most rewarding part of my time at the Museum was the direct interactions with the children visiting the JMM on school field trips and helping to guide their educational experiences.

The greatest lessons I have learned here are the practical need for flexibility and the importance of connecting museum activities to classroom learning. Coursework from my program in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts at GW has supported me throughout this internship.

Blog post by education intern Shoshana Hirschhorn. To read more posts by and about interns, click HERE.

Education Interns jewish museum of maryland JMM Synagogue Stories Lloyd Street Synagogue

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