JMM Insights, December 2013

Posted on December 20th, 2013 by

Top JMM News Stories of 2013

 In this month’s JMM Insight we look back at 2013.  The staff was invited to nominate their favorite stories of the last twelve months.  Our countdown for 2013 includes many events you will remember and perhaps a few that will still be “news” to you.


12. Genealogy Society Renews its Links

After disbanding several years ago, the JMM welcomed the news of the reorganization of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland. With a large membership of individuals passionate about family history, the JMM looks forward to partnering with the JGSM in the year ahead as we work together to make even more of our genealogical sources accessible to the public.



11. Wonder Woman Sells Out

Move over Batman.  The top selling superhero product in the Museum Store during the run of Zap, Pow, Bam was the Wonder Woman tote bag.  Esther had to re-order these twice – eventually selling 120 bags.  It was part of a banner year for store revenue, over $6000 in the last six months.


photo by Will Kirk

10. AAM Conferees Discover JMM

In May Baltimore became the center of the museum world as our city was inundated with Museum professionals from across the country (and even the globe) who arrived for the annual conference of the American Alliance of Museums. The JMM was thrilled to be among a select group of local institutions invited to serve as an evening reception site for conferees and even more so by the response of our colleagues to the joint event – Heroes: Real and Imagined – that we threw in partnership with the Lewis Museum. Attendees had a wonderful time schmoozing as they toured our exhibits and synagogues (Zap! Pow! Bam! was a huge hit), created superhero masks and sampled hero sandwiches and specialty cocktails.



9.  Volunteer Launches Outreach to the Visually Impaired

Docent Robyn Hughes launched several important initiatives this past year to advance JMM’s accessibility. Robyn had the brilliant idea to create a twin vision comic book (a book that incorporates Braille text overlaid on the print) that was displayed in Zap! Pow! Bam! She then invited members of our community with visual impairments to visit and enjoy the JMM through tours that emphasized touch and verbal description. But this was only the beginning for Robyn, who also created another twin vision books out of the JMM’s Synagogue Speaks! children’s book and worked to develop a partnership with the Maryland School for the Blind. Robyn has served as a wonderful ambassador on behalf of the JMM and we appreciate her continuing efforts to promote the JMM to this important constituency.



8. New York Times Finds Nostalgia in Baltimore

In April, Jennifer Moses made the Jewish Museum of Maryland and her historic family ties to B’nai Israel a part of a feature story in the travel section of the New York Times.  The article was circulated across Baltimore by New York relatives with notes that said “did you see this?” Ever since April, visitors have mentioned this article, when asked “where did you hear about JMM?”  However, “word-of-mouth” continues to top our list of referrals, so keep talking about us!



7. “1861 Tour” Offers New View of Lloyd Street Synagogue

How can a one hundred seventy year old building become a “new” attraction?  With the opening of Passages Through the Fire:  Jews and the Civil War we started to offer our first daily specialty tours at the Lloyd Street Synagogue.  The tours immerse visitors in the early struggles of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and they recreate Baltimore rabbis’ debate over slavery.  They also encourage a second look at some of the details of the synagogue (e.g. the tzedakah box built into the pillar), that might otherwise go unnoticed.



6. IMLS Lends a Healing Hand

We received a big boost for our big project this September.  The Institute for Museum and Library Services awarded a competitive $150,000 grant for our fall 2015 exhibit on Jews and medicine.  This was quickly followed by a lead gift from the Herbert Bearman Foundation for The Herbert Bearman Foundation Presents:  Jews, Health and Healing.  Significant support for the project also came in from LifeBridge Health, Johns Hopkins University and CareFirst.  We are still seeking additional partners for this groundbreaking exploration of the intersection between Jewish culture and the healing sciences.



5. Clark Kent Finally Gets a Bar Mitzvah Party

A super boy became a man at our summer celebration of this important milestone in Clark Kent’s life. The festivities included a visit by Superman who danced the hora with guests, enjoyed sampling a hero-sized cake, and because no Bar Mitzvah celebration would be complete without this tradition, participated in a candle lighting ceremony honoring the special people in his life.



4. “You Gave Me Back My Grandmother”

Beloved Baltimore doyenne and caterer extraordinaire, Bessie Bluefeld was brought to life as the newest member of our Leo V. Berger Immigrant’s Trunk roster. Thanks to the combined talents of script writer Jonathon Scott Fuqua, director and producer Harriet Lynn, and actor Terry Nicholetti, we were able to create a performance that explored many of the dramatic moments in Bessie’s life from her arrival in Baltimore as a new bride fresh off the boat from Russia, to her determination to save the family from financial ruin after a bad business deal. At the performance premiere we were delighted to welcome members of the Bluefeld family and received perhaps the highest form of praise from one of her grandsons who thanked us for introducing us to the grandmother he never knew.



3. City Springs Students Get to Know Us

JMM educational programs have a long history of providing high quality enrichment services for students of all backgrounds and from all over the state. So it seemed only natural to reach out to the school that is quite literally in our own backyard, City Springs Elementary and Middle School. After many conversations and meetings with school administrators and teachers, we created a series of tours and programs designed to accommodate each grade and were thrilled to welcome every student from the school this fall. Our goal is to develop a partnership with both students and teachers so that they view the JMM as their museum, a place to return to with family and friends.



2. JMM Walk-In Visits Run Way Ahead

We will end 2013 with at least a 1/3 increase in overall visitors, but the gain in “walk-in” visitors is truly impressive.  A “walk-in” visit is our technical designation for what many of us would call a “family visit”.  It consists of one or more individuals who come to the museum just to see the museum – not part of a group, or a school or a special tour or program.  In the first eight months of the year, “walk-in” visits at JMM were up 140% over the prior year.  We attribute this rather dramatic change to: a) expanded hours, b) improved marketing (including some of our first radio and tv ads), and c) compelling exhibits and programs.  With four special projects in 2014 – Civil War, Mah Jongg, Electrified Pickle (Tech Fair)and the A-Mazing Mendes Cohen (Maze Exhibit) – we intend to keep up the momentum



1. It’s Official:  We’re Accredited AGAIN

We’ve held off making the formal announcement until this newsletter… but we are overjoyed to share the news that the American Alliance of Museums has (re)accredited the Jewish Museum of Maryland for another ten years.  There are just three museums in Baltimore to be awarded accreditation by the Alliance (The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Museum and us).  In making the award the Accreditation Commission stated in part “…the museum continues to meet National Standards and Best Practices for U.S. Museums and remains a member of the community of institutions that have chosen to hold themselves publicly accountable to excellence.  Through a rigorous process of self-assessment and review by its peers, the museum has shown itself to be a good steward of the resources held in public trust and committed to a philosophy of continual institutional growth.”


Here’s to our “continual institutional growth” in 2014, L’chaim and Happy New Year.



Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Performance Counts: December 2013

Posted on December 13th, 2013 by


In a November 26 article in the Jewish Times I was quoted as saying that at a small museum “you have to spend more energy making sure you’re on the map.”  We are using this issue of Performance Counts to update you on some of our efforts to make ourselves better known.

Speaking of Maps

3047_002Last month the Greater Baltimore History Alliance published a new map of historical sites in metro Baltimore and it’s just the latest tool for visitor’s to navigate the region’s rich historic landscape.  Historic Jonestown has its own block of color on the map (we think the color is Raven’s purple) reflecting the density of historic attractions within a five block radius.  We are dues-paying members of the Greater Baltimore History Alliance (GBHA) and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA) not just because we have a place in their geography, but because our regular meetings with other Baltimore cultural institutions inspire partnerships and collaborations.  At one GBHA meeting this summer, JMM entered into a conversation with the National Electronics Museum (at first you might think this the ultimate “odd couple”).  But now a joint project is emerging next summer to bring a community tech and engineering fair to JMM, a show that combines some great artifacts in our collection (sewing machines, typewriters etc.) with hand-on DIY tech activities for the whole family.  We are also part of BNHA (the Baltimore National Heritage Area) which recently developed a conceptual planning “map” for this federally recognized district.  This interpretive plan for the Heritage Area opens up the road to eventual project funding for JMM.  From our perspective, this is a wonderful development – so many aspects of the interpretive plan – “defining America’s identity”, documenting the “immigrants influx”, securing “religious freedom” overlap with our core mission.

Circulator Map

One map of increased importance to us as our attendance grows is Baltimore’s Circulator map.  We noticed this last summer an up-tick in people reporting that they reached our doors by free bus rather than by car.  It is a significant asset to not only be on the Circulator map – but to be a named location on the route.  Thousands of people each day first here about us when the audio recording on the bus calls out: “next stop, Jewish Museum of Maryland”.

A “Map” for Donors

Of course, it’s not just visitors that need to find us.  We need to get into the philanthropic map of the community as well.  This mainly involves developing the network of contacts that allow us to make our case to those who share a passion for our mission.  A lot of this effort is centered on personal contact.  But to back up that personal contact we’ve really needed materials that describe the museum.  In the last month we had a major advance on this front.  Working with the design team at the firm of Gallagher and Associates (a pro bono contribution to JMM), we have created a new generation of collateral material that matches the new vision the Board approved in fall 2012.

3048_001The theme of this collateral material is “{Find Yourself Here}” – a message about inclusion and community that speaks to the soul of the institution.  The first step in our effort was to create a descriptive brochure about JMM as a place of Discovery, Discourse, and Documentation and as a Destination for thousands of visitors.  The descriptive piece also has a matching folder – our old plain purple folders may have described our football loyalties, but didn’t really say much about the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

The next step will be creating single page sheets on upcoming opportunities for funding that match the brochure and folder, and finally a video clip that can be embedded in a Power Point presentation or inserted in the folder.

We expect to have a presentation of our case that reflects the true quality of the underlying museum and that’s the place where we want to be on the “map.”

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Museum Matters – December 2013

Posted on December 13th, 2013 by

Museum Matters
December 2013

I know you spent the weekend wondering “where is last Friday’s Museum Matters?”  We had a small production glitch,  Thanksgivukkah seemed to create a warp in the space/time continuum, but now we are back on track.

What You Might Have Missed

Three out of the last five Sundays have had programs related to Passages through the Fire:  Jews and the Civil War. We kicked off November’s theme of women in the Civil War, with a presentation by Dr. Lauren Strauss on Yankee Bubbes and Kosher Southern Belles.
A week later we held a living history performance portraying Clara Barton. The character was developed by Maryland Historical Society and performed by Britt Olsen-Ecker. It was an excellent performance charting Clara’s adult life, which enhanced our understanding of a women’s role during the Civil War.

Sunday December 1st was our Civil War Photography Family Day, with a lecture by Ross Kelbaugh. The family activities were enjoyed by all especially the cyanotype paper and stereoscope making. The lecture by Ross Kelbaugh was also fascinating, as he talked about early photographic techniques and photography in Baltimore. Did you know that during the Civil War there were fifty photographic studios in Baltimore? Ross also shared his research about Jewish photographers who were in Baltimore during the war, including the Bendann brothers, a pair of Southern sympathizers who managed to earn quite a reputation during the war.

Unfortunately the talk scheduled for today with Barbara Franco, Founding Executive Director of the newly-opened Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum has been postponed due to inclement weather. The talk will be rescheduled, so you have not missed out. Barbara’s talk will explore how the religious foment, innovation and change wrought by the Second Great Awakening influenced thinking about moral issues of war and slavery, and how Americans of all faiths who met at Gettysburg grappled not only with life and death, but with divergent ideas of faith and freedom that would shape the nation’s future.

In the past month we have also held two Late Night on Lloyd Street events. In November we couldn’t resist the opportunity to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. To celebrate, we threw a Gettysburg-themed night which included a group reading of the address. Inspired by Lincoln’s ability to write so succinctly attendees were challenged with rewriting three other presidential addresses, all delivered in Baltimore, as Tweets. The task proved difficult but fun. See the results on our Facebook page.
Our second Late Night on Lloyd Street in celebration of the last night of Chanukah was our annual Estherfest. As in previous years there was a demonstration of latke preparation and joke telling by Esther Weiner the museum’s gift shop manager. This was followed by a serious amount of latke consumption, as Esther made more than 350 latkes! It was a wonderful night, and the hot apple cider with a drop of rum helped keep us warm.

But December is not over yet!

BUS TOUR: Civil War Sites of Baltimore
Sunday, December 15
Bus departs at 9:00am from the Jewish Museum of Maryland (doors open 8:30am)
Led by Maryland Civil war expert Daniel Carroll Toomey
Cost: $48 / $40 for members


Join the cavalry! (we’ll provide the “horse”)

Learn about Baltimore’s Civil War history first hand with this exclusive bus tour led by prominent Maryland historian and author Daniel Carroll Toomey. We will explore both well-known and forgotten Baltimore sites and discover the ways in which this war has been memorialized in our “Monument City.” The tour will include stops at the JMM and the Maryland Historical Society for guided tours of two special Civil War exhibits.

Daniel Carroll Toomey is the author of several books on Maryland and the Civil War and is currently the Guest Curator at the B&O Railroad Museum.

Tickets for this exclusive, one-time bus tour are $48 a person ($40 for members), which includes entrance to both museums and kosher lunch. Seats are limited, so book your ticket early!

A Rabbi at Gettysburg: Chaplain Ferdinand Sarner, German Jews, and the Civil War
Speaker Rabbi Joseph S. Topek
Sunday, December 22, 2:00pm
Program Free with Museum Admission

Did you know there were no Jewish Chaplains in the American Military before the Civil War? The establishment of a Jewish military chaplaincy was a significant accomplishment for the nascent American Jewish community during the Civil War.  Ferdinand Sarner was the only rabbi to serve as a regimental chaplain on the battlefield.  Rabbi Joseph S. Topek’s exciting talk will explore Rabbi Sarner’s unusual career as well as look at chaplaincy within the context of German Jewish participation in the Civil War.

Rabbi Joseph S. Topek is Director of the Hillel Foundation for Jewish Life at Stony Brook University and Jewish Chaplain in the University Interfaith Center, of which he is also the Chairman.  He is also the Jewish Chaplain at the Long Island State Veterans Home in the Stony Brook University Medical Center.

Mitzvahs and Monuments: Remembering Our Veterans at the Jewish Museum of Maryland!
Wednesday December 25, 10am to 2pm

Against the Odds: America, the Monuments Men, and Saving Jewish and European Cultural Heritage
Wednesday, December 25, 1:00pm
Speaker Micheal Kurtz

Both Programs Free with Museum Admission

Community Mitzvah Day, a concept supported by the Jewish Volunteer Connection, is coming to JMM this December 25th.  This is an opportunity for you and your family to spend a part of the day giving back to our community.  Our focus this year is inspired by our new exhibit Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War.  Throughout the morning, you can help us create gift packages for veterans in Baltimore’s VA Medical Center that we will deliver that afternoon.

We will be collecting the following items for the gift packages: long distance phone cards, playing cards, word search books, new socks, knitted hats and gloves. Items can be dropped off through December 25 at the JMM’s front desk.

At 1pm our focus turns to the “monuments men,” the extraordinary story of a WWII platoon assigned to rescuing the world’s art treasures stolen by the Nazis—soon to be a major motion picture!  To offer insights you will never hear in the movie theater, we have invited Dr. Michael Kurtz of the University of Maryland to talk about his book Against the Odds: America, the Monuments Men and Saving Jewish and European Cultural Heritage.

In the long saga of cultural looting and destruction, the Nazi war on the Jewish and European cultural heritage was unprecedented in its ideological ferocity and brutal effectiveness.  Yet, in the midst of the destruction wrought by the Nazis, a band of men and women serving in the U.S. military during World War II, known as the Monuments Men, fought a valiant struggle to preserve what could be saved and to restore precious objects to devastated communities.  This presentation will explore why the Nazis sought to obliterate the cultural heritage of the Jewish people and others who were considered “inferior races.”  Front and center will be the work of the Monuments Men, and others in the Jewish community, who fought to counter Nazi depredations and the successes they achieved.  From the 1930’s through today, the story of cultural restoration continues!

Michael J. Kurtz serves as a Visiting Professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies. He worked for 37 years as professional archivist, manager, and senior executive at the National Archives and Records Administration.  Dr. Kurtz has published extensively in the areas of American history and archival management, including America and the Return of Nazi Contraband and The Allied Struggle over Cultural Restitution, 1942-1947.
Join us for a day of service given and service remembered.

This program is co-sponsored by B’nai Israel Congregation, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, the Baltimore VA Medical Center and Jewish Volunteer Connection.
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

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.

BIYA’s B-more Shabbat
Friday, December 20, 6:30-10:00pm
B’nai Israel, 27 Lloyd Street
That’s right, be more with BIYA!  Because what is Shabbat without friends and community?
Join us for Friday night services and dinner on the 3rd Friday of every month.
Services start at 6:30pm.  Dinner follows.
Cost is $8.00 per person.  RSVPs required to
This program is funded in part by a grant from The Louise D. & Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education through its Jewish Education Enhancement Project.

Exhibits currently on display at the JMM include Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore, The Synagogue Speaks! and Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War on display through February, 27, 2014.

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. We are delighted to announce the debut of a new themed “1861 Tour” of the Lloyd Street Synagogue that focuses on Baltimore’s Jewish community during the Civil War. This tour is offered Sunday-Thursday at 3:00pm (in place of the regular tour).
Please note that the JMM will close early at 3:00 pm on Tues. December 29 and that we will be closed on Wednesday, January 1 and

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 or

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 or

Gift Shop
Hot off the Press…Get your copy of the catalog companion to Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War which includes thought provoking essays by our colleagues who created the exhibit at Yeshiva University Museum and the American Jewish Historical Society. The cost of the catalog is $25 but as always, members receive a 10% discount. For more information and to purchase your copy, call Esther Weiner, gift shop manager, at (410) 732-6400 x211 or email her at

Through the end of December we are offering a special promotion…25% of all Chanukah merchandise! It’s not too early to stock up for next year!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

« Previous PageNext Page »