JMM Insights April 2014

Posted on April 18th, 2014 by

Above the Sea

Each year the Jewish Museum of Maryland offer a major presentation on immigration made possible through the generous support of Frank and Helen Risch.  Frank’s parents, Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch, sought refuge in Baltimore in 1937, fleeing the storm of Nazi persecution.

In the first seven years of this program, we have focused on the experience of emigration and exile in America, offering performances, stories and lectures on immigrant populations from the great wave of Eastern European Jews of the late 1890s to the most recent arrivals from around the globe.  This year we are offering insights into another way station of refuge, thousands of miles from our shores.  Shanghai, whose name literally means “above the sea” was high ground for thousands of Jews escaping from the same forces that brought the Risch family to Baltimore.

Mark Your Calendar!

Mark Your Calendar!

Helping us explore this topic is an exceptional expert, Rabbi Marvin Tokayer. Rabbi Tokayer previously served as United States Air Force Chaplain in Japan. Upon his discharge he returned to Tokyo to serve for eight years as rabbi for the Jewish community of Japan. In addition to numerous Japanese-language books and contributions to the Encyclopedia Judaica, Rabbi Tokayer is the author of The Fugu Plan, and co-author of the newly published Pepper, Silk and Ivory: Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East.

Additions for the "to be read" pile!

Additions for the “to be read” pile!

Rabbi Tokayer has entitled his talk:  “From Poverty to Culture: The Refugee Community in Shanghai During World War ll.” This will be a powerful evocation of how the 20,000 Jews of Shanghai struggled against impossible odds to not only survive, but thrive in this unexpected refuge. The program will be held Sunday, May 18th at 2:00pm and will take place at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, located 7401 Park Heights Ave, Baltimore, MD 21208.  The program is free to the public – so be sure to invite all your friends!

To coincide with the Risch Memorial Program we are putting together a small lobby display using materials from our collections, which will be on view during the month of May.   It turns out that Baltimore and the Jewish Museum of Maryland both have some strong connections to the Jews of Shanghai. You may have noticed the photograph used in this year’s Risch Memorial Program publicity, which pictures a couple sitting in a rickshaw. We would like to introduce you to that couple: Wilheim Kurz and Selma (Hirschfeld) Kurz. Wilheim and Selma were both Holocaust survivors. They met as refugees and theirs was the first Jewish wedding in the Shanghai Jewish colony!  They moved to Baltimore in 1947 and Wilheim was kind enough to bequeath his Jewish materials (including photographs and archival documents) to the Museum. We are hard at work transcribing an oral history done with Wilheim in 1979 and look forward to sharing more of Wilheim and Selma’s story with you as it is revealed.

Wilheim and Selma Kurz, 2004.43.4.

Wilheim and Selma Kurz, 2004.43.4.

We know there are more legacies of the Jewish Colony in Shanghai out there! We’ve identified at least two other individuals associated with the city who now reside in the metro area.  We encourage you to contact us with your stories and your materials. And if you know anyone who lived in Shanghai, we would love to invite them to the program – please send us their contact information. If you have any information to share, contact Trillion Attwood at /410-732-6400 x215.

Shanghai Ghetto in 1943

Shanghai Ghetto in 1943

If you’re interested in learning more about the Jewish Colony of Shanghai, there is actually a pretty good start at Wikipedia, but we know our JMM explorers will want to go further. If you are seeking a list of the numerous books and memoirs about the experience, including Rabbi Tokayer’s The Fugu Plan, you can find a great collected list here at the The Shanghai Jewish Tours website. If you happen to be traveling, you might want to stop by China’s Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum – last year they sent their “Jewish Refugees in Shanghai (1933-1941)” exhibit on a three city tour of the US.  There’s even a Chinese animated family film (and graphic novel) called A Jewish Girl in Shanghai – and you can rent a streaming copy here. 

Check the JMM website for an upcoming blog post on Jewish-Chinese connections and if you are looking for the lighter side of that connection – find a foursome and visit (or revisit) Project Mah Jongg.




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Posted on April 11th, 2014 by


Some of you may have been pleasantly surprised last Sunday morning as the JMM made its (very short) debut on national television with CBS Sunday Morning. You can view their “Mah Jongg Madness” piece online here. Pay close attention just before the 2:00 minute mark for our on-screen appearance! Successful marketing and publicity is a combination of hard work, inspiration and, honestly, luck. With CBS Sunday Morning and Project Mah Jongg, luck was certainly on our side, but it’s the hard work that’s brought us such a great crop of local publicity.

Leisure-class ladies playing a floating game of mah jongg, 1924. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Leisure-class ladies playing a floating game of mah jongg, 1924.
Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Many thanks go to Rochelle Eisenberg, the public relations manager we work with at The Associated. Her efforts on our behalf are unparalleled – maybe you saw us on the front page of The Baltimore Sun’s Arts & Entertainment section on Sunday (who can resist our pool-playing mah jongg mavens?). The lovely article by Mary Carole McCauley, which you can read here, wouldn’t have come about without Rochelle’s tireless work.

Perhaps you saw the wonderful cover story by Heather Norris in the Baltimore Jewish Times, which you can also read here. That story has been shared with the Washington Jewish Week and will be run in Pittsburgh’s Jewish Chronicle! The Baltimore Beacon also ran a lovely exhibit preview in March.

If that’s not enough Project Mah Jongg reading for you, Marvin has also written a great post on Mah Jongg and Cultural Adaptation, currently published on The Associated’s blog. UMBC, home of the exhibit’s sound designer, Tim Nohe, has also been calling attention to the exhibit. Then there’s the post over on AsAmNews, What’s a mah jong exhibit doing at a Jewish Museum? It seems lots of folks are just as excited as we are about Project Mah Jongg!

Our next Mah Jongg program is Sunday, April 20th: Family Game Day!

Our next Mah Jongg program is Sunday, April 20th: Family Game Day!

But we’re not resting on our laurels! Capitalizing on the interest in the exhibit we’ve arranged an aggressive marketing campaign. In the week leading up to the opening (and with some helpful bonus spots – thanks to our account agent over at WMAR), we ran ads on ABC2 morning programs to reach out to our local audience. And in addition to our normal membership mailing, we sent postcard invitations to the Jewish population of Northwest Baltimore and Owings Mills.

Now that the exhibit has opened we are keeping the momentum going. If you attend any upcoming shows at Centerstage, the Hippodrome, Everyman Theater or the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, keep an eye out for our ads in the program! And of course we are publicizing the exhibit and its related programming through our Facebook pages, twitter feed, website and emails like these – so be sure you’ve “liked” us and followed us and share our events and emails with anyone you think would enjoy Project Mah Jongg. And, in our opinion, everyone will enjoy this delightful exhibit!

Rachel KThis month’s Performance Counts was written by Rachel Kassman, Marketing Manager (and web maven!)



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Museum Matters: April 2014

Posted on April 7th, 2014 by


Last spring it was Zap! Pow! Bam!  This spring it is Crack! Dot! Bam! Project Mah Jongg is officially open for business.  Come down and let the beautiful 1920s games inspire you and then let yourself play.  What a great way to share a bit of Jewish cultural history with your friends and neighbors!  The exhibit will be open through June 26th.
(And guys… I am talking for a minute to just the guys here … Mah Jongg was originally played by Chinese MEN [and still is]… there couldn’t be a better time to reclaim our heritage and learn to play this game.  Anyone who wants to participate in an evening program for “Men Mastering Mahj” should contact Trillion Attwood at the e-mail account below.)


Upcoming Programs
Please note that unless otherwise noted, all programs take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland (15 Lloyd Street, Baltimore, MD 21202). For more information and to RSVP for specific programs, contact Trillion Attwood: (410) 732-6400 x215 / For more information on JMM events please visit

Late Night on Lloyd Street: Hungry for Charoset
Tuesday, April 8, 6:00 – 9:00pm

Our next Late Night on Lloyd Street!

Our next Late Night on Lloyd Street!

Time to get ready for Passover. Create, enjoy and devour charoset, the iconic holiday treat that is a signature element of the Seder plate and meal. Traditionally made with honey, apples, wine and walnuts- this tasty treat is sure to please and we encourage visitors to think beyond traditional ingredients (avocado, banana, and agave nectar, anyone?)  Participants will also design a spring-themed placemat to donate to Meals on Wheels.

Family Game Day
Sunday, April 20, 11:00am to 3:00pm
Program free with Museum admission

Fun for the whole family!

Fun for the whole family!

Join us for a fun day of gaming for the whole family! We will have a whole range of games waiting to be played suitable for any age. Play one of the old favorites or learn something new as a family.

In honor of our newest exhibition, Project Mah Jongg, staff will be on hand to teach the game to novices. For younger players, we will teach our slightly adapted version, still plenty of fun but not quite as confusing!  Feel free to bring the whole family or come on your own, as there will be opponents ready and waiting!

Beyond Dreidel: The Games We’ve Played 
Sunday, April 27, 1:00pm
Speaker: Marvin Pinkert, Executive Director, Jewish Museum of Maryland
Program free with Museum admission 

A dreidel from our own collections, 1996.062.004.

A dreidel from our own collections, 1996.062.004.

The die is cast.  In preparing to host Project Mah Jongg, JMM executive director and board game enthusiast, Marvin Pinkert has been investigating the bigger picture of Jewish involvement with games across at least four millennia.  See some of the surprising facts he has discovered about the Jews who played chess, bridge, and other table games.  Learn how Jewish promoters, packagers and salesmen created some of the most popular game trends of the last century.  Marvin promises new insights for game mavens and novices alike.

Lessons Learned, Lessons Shared
Yom Ha’Shoah Baltimore Jewish Council 2014 Holocaust Commemoration
Sunday, April 27, 5:00pm
Beth Tfiloh Congregation (Rosen Art Center), 3300 Old Court Road
Featuring Key Note Speaker, Menachem Rosensaft
For more information, contact 410-542-4850 or rsvp to

Save The Date

The Eight Annual Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program
From Poverty to Culture: The Refugee Community in Shanghai During World War II
Sunday, May 18, 2:00pm
Baltimore Hebrew Congregation
Admission is free



The Risch Memorial program is the largest and most important annual event in our calendar year.  Each year it focuses on a different aspect of the topic of immigration.  This year, as JMM looks at cultural ties between China and the Jewish Community through its Project Mah Jongg exhibit, we have invited a very special expert on the Jews of East Asia, Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, to be our featured speaker.  Rabbi Tokayer is the former chief rabbi of Tokyo and author of the Fugu Plan. You won’t want to miss this powerful evocation of how the 20,000 Jews of Shanghai struggled against impossible odds to not only survive, but thrive in this unexpected site of refuge.

More Programs
The JMM is pleased to share our campus with B’nai Israel Congregation. For additional information about B’nai Israel events and services for Shabbat, please visit  For more of this month’s events from BIYA, please visit or check out BIYA on facebook.

MATZA FACTORY: A Hands-On Matza-Baking Demonstration
Sunday, April 6 from 2:00-4:00 pm
B’nai Israel, 27 Lloyd St., 21202

Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland Meeting
Sunday, April 27, 1:00-3:00 pm
Harry and Jeanette Weinberg JCC, 5700 Park Heights Avenue
Tammy Hepps presents “Trees and Stories on” Program is free for JGSMD members and $5 for non-members. For more information, check out

Current exhibits


Get your very own Mah Jongg set!

Exhibits currently on display at the JMM include Project Mah Jongg (on display through June 29),Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East BaltimoreThe Synagogue Speaks!

Jews on the Move: Baltimore and the Suburban Exodus, 1945 – 1968 travels to Beth Israel Synagogue (3706 Crondall Lane, Owings Mills) where it will be on display March 31-April 11.

Hours and Tour Times
The JMM is open Sunday-Thursday, 10am – 5pm. We offer tours of our historic synagogues each day at 11:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00.

Get Involved
The JMM is looking for volunteers to help staff our front desk, work in the gift shop, and lead tours as docents. No prior knowledge or training is required. All that is needed is an interest in learning about the JMM, our historic sites, exhibits, and programs and a desire to share this knowledge with the public. All volunteers are provided with thorough training. If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer program, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen at 410.732.6400 x217

Revamped and revitalized, membership at the JMM is now better than ever – with new categories, benefits, and discounts to enrich every visit to the Museum for you and your friends and families.

All members receive our monthly e-newsletter, along with a 10% discount at the Museum store, free general admission to the Museum, free admission to all regular programs, attendance at exclusive member opening events and discounted weekday parking at the City-owned garage at 1001 E. Fayette Street. Your membership provides much needed funding for the many programs that we offer and we hope we can count on you for your continued support. Memberships can be purchase online! For more information about our membership program, please contact Sue Foard at (410) 732-6400 x220

Gift Shop

Pick up a Mah Jongg set of your very own!

Pick up a Mah Jongg set of your very own!

The Museum Shop is the place to shop for your favorite Mah Jongg must-have pieces…your game will be on-game!   These are only a SAMPLE of what you will find!  See you at the tables!

Esther Weiner, Museum Shop Manager, 410-732-6400, ext. 211 /

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