JMM Insights: You’ve Got Mail

Communicating Across the Globe

Envelope addressed to Richard Goodman, 3401 Carlisle Ave., Baltimore, MD. JMM 1991.169.2b.
This month has been all about reaching out across the waters and connecting with our communities across the globe. The final program in our Museums Across the Seas program is coming up fast, so be sure to register for Calling Australia Home with the Jewish Museum of Australia on Thursday, August 27th at 7pm ASAP.

In case you missed them, or want to share with others, we also now have available recordings of both American History Through a Baltimore Lens with Marvin Pinkert and South African Jewry: Before, During, After with Gavin Morris of the South African Jewish Museum available on our website!

Zoom (and other live streaming platforms) have been invaluable in breaking past boundaries of geography – but our ability to reach out to those far away has a longer history.

For this week’s JMM Insights, we’re looking at mail! Paper communications let us reach out not just across the space between us, as we send postcards to friends and greeting cards to loved ones (and maybe even the occasional romantic letter to a partner), but also across time. Our archives are full of letters, postcards, and photocards sent back and forth across oceans and continents, letting us explore the stories and lives of the past today. We’re sharing just a few of them from our collections and encourage you to explore more in our online database.

As a bonus, we’ve also put together a few mail-related activities for everyone to enjoy at the end of this missive, so make sure you scroll all the way through!

V-mail from Alvin Simon, written to his aunt, Lillian Simon, in Baltimore, June 15, 1943. JMM 2008.44.1.

V-mail, short for “Victory mail,” was a special mail system used during World War II to communicate with American soldiers stationed abroad. Letters would be reviewed, censored for sensitive war-time information, copied to film and then printed at the original destination.

Learn more about V-mail at the National Postal Museum and the National World War 2 Museum.

We’re not sure who sent this c.1900 color postcard of the Admiralty at St. Petersburg, printed in Russian and French, nor what the handwritten message in Russian on the reverse says, but clearly it meant something to the receiver! JMM 1994.72.12.
This old-school selfie that artist Reuben Kramer sent his parents while studying abroad in Venice in 1931 could have been sent by any college student today. I love his exhortation to “dear mother and father” to hang on to this smiling photo postcard! JMM 1994.89.73.
Historically, postcards meant you didn’t even have to wait to get home to make others jealous of your fabulous vacation! This souvenir postcard, featuring a group of camels outside the Great Pyramid of Cheops, was sent from Louis Krause to Dr. Harry Friedenwald, himself an inveterate traveler. JMM 1984.23.1058.
Have you heard the phrase “Smalltimore”? Many of us use it to point out how often we run into others from Baltimore wherever we go. The message on this postcard picturing Ahad Haam Street in Tel Aviv, sent to Harry and Evelyn Kirson, is the perfect encapsulation of that sentiment. JMM 1988.162.13b.

“Dear Evylyn & Harry: We have enjoyed every country we have visited. At present we are in Jerusalem. Met a couple from Baltimore by name of Silberman, who knows you and your brother. Lovingly, Jeannie & Isidor Lauer”

We always enjoy getting mail here at the Museum, and we bet your face lights up when you find a letter in the mailbox too! Below are some fun activities you and your families might enjoy.

>Write a letter to the Amazing Mendes Cohen – he’ll even write you back!

>Send a thank you card to someone you consider a hero in this Wondernauts activity.

>Be an Upstander and join Jewish Volunteer Connection in writing notes of support and encouragement to those who have been isolated by current circumstances.

Here are some other suggestions for putting pen to paper:

>Write a letter to the editor of your newspaper of choice – here’s the info for writing to the Baltimore Sun and the Jewish Times.

>Check out the Ivy Bookshop’s Young Pen Pals program.

>Share joy and support across the county with More Love Letters.

>Reach out to your government representatives about issues you care about – you can find your reps and contact info here.

One more incredibly important way to communicate through the mail? Vote!

Have you requested your mail-in ballot yet? JMM is joining with The Associated and the Baltimore Jewish Council to encourage everyone in the community to go online and take the quick step of requesting your mail-in ballot now.

Voting by mail has been proven time and time again to be a secure and reliable way of voting, and given the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is also the safest way to vote.

Request your mail-in ballot at or text VBM to 77788.

From custom postcards to Lloyd Street Synagogue greeting cards, we’ve got some options for sending your messages out into the world! 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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