Mapping Jewish Community – A Hopkins Mini-Course

Posted on January 13th, 2014 by

Back in late November, I received an intriguing email from a history Phd candidate from Johns Hopkins University. She and another history grad student were putting together a mini course for JHU’s intercession, in which undergraduate students can take 3-week courses in a wide variety of topics that they wouldn’t necessarily get to explore in the normal semester. This particular mini course was to be about mapping Jewish community in Baltimore—and what better place to start then the Jewish Museum of Maryland?

New facade!

The JMM

The three of us and Ilene Dackman-Alon met to discuss the scope of the course and to see where we could help out.  It was ultimately decided that the class would have their first meeting here at the museum, where they would tour the synagogues and exhibits, and later on, back in their classroom, our living history character, Ida Rehr (played by Katherine Lyons), would come visit them.

Cover of the Voices of Lombard Street brochure

Voices of Lombard Street

Last Tuesday, the class arrived, eager to learn about the roots of Jewish Baltimore. Before beginning the tour, they took turns introducing themselves and explaining why they had signed up for the course. Many of the students came from mixed backgrounds—one Jewish parent—and so were curious about the history and culture from which they came. When the instructors—the grad students—introduced themselves, they talked about how their identities weren’t shaped just by their religion, but also by where in the country they grew up. One, who grew up in Viriginia, said she felt that she had the very specific identity of being a Southern Jew, while the other, who grew up in New York City, related strongly to the cultural identity of being a New York Jew. Listening to this conversation, Ilene and I couldn’t help but wish that the Chosen Food exhibit were still here!

LSS by Jono David

LSS by Jono David

The students enjoyed seeing the two historic synagogues and learning about the migration of the Jewish community within Baltimore. It’s great to see so many people who are interested in learning about the Jewish American experience and identity and that the JMM is viewed as an invaluable resource for schools of all kinds!

abby krolik copyA blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts by Abby, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Dr. Ruth Finkelstein: a Pioneer in Women’s Health

Posted on July 9th, 2013 by

Clare RobbinsA blog post from Collections Intern Clare Robbins. Clare works with senior collections manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts by Clare and other JMM interns, click here.

This summer I’ve had a wonderful time working with Jobi in the Collections Department at the JMM.  I’ve worked on a variety of projects including processing the 2012-2013 collections, creating a condition report notebook for the “Voices of Lombard Street” exhibit, and even writing the catalogue numbers on surface of several objects.

After practicing writing 1984.16.1 for thirty minutes, I finally wrote it on the bottle.

After practicing writing 1984.16.1 for thirty minutes, I finally wrote it on the bottle.

Last week, I started transcribing an oral history with Dr. Ruth Finkelstein that will be used in the upcoming “Jews, Health and Healing” exhibit.  Dr. Finkelstein was a Baltimorean obstetrician and gynecologist beginning in the late 1930s through the 1980s who worked for better health care and family planning for women.   Listening to Dr. Finkelstein discuss her experiences has definitely been one of the highlights from my summer.  While I haven’t finished the interview, I thought I would share what I have found so far.

I’m busy transcribing Dr. Ruth Finkelstein’s interview.

I’m busy transcribing Dr. Ruth Finkelstein’s interview.

Dr. Finkelstein grew up in New York City with her parents and four siblings. Her father decided early in her life that she would become a doctor.  When she was twelve years old, Finkelstein’s father wrote to the Johns Hopkins Medical School for a catalogue that outlined how to get into medical school and she planned her life accordingly.  After finishing high school, she attended Johns Hopkins for both undergraduate and medical school.

In medical school, Finkelstein worked and lived at the first birth control clinic in Baltimore, officially called the Bureau for Contraceptive Advice because, as Finkelstein recalls, “birth control was a dirty word.”  Dr. Bessie Moses, a Baltimorean gynecologist, (you can read more about Dr. Moses here and here) opened this clinic on Broadway after she was denied space in the hospital.  Moses used the first floor as a birth control clinic and rented the upstairs to medical students.  While it was not illegal to open a privately funded birth control clinic at this time, Finkelstein recounted  the difficulties that early gynecologist like herself and Dr. Moses faced.  The Comstock law deemed birth control to be pornographic, thus making it illegal to import diaphragms (the only form of birth control at the time) from Europe.  Margaret Sanger, an early birth control activist and nurse, smuggled the diaphragms into the United States and distributed them to Moses.  Further, the only way a woman could go to the clinic was if she was referred by her physicians.  Women, however, were only referred if they had a heart, lung, or kidney disease.

Finkelstein also discussed the difficulties female doctors experienced in the early twentieth century.  Not only was Finkelstein the only Jewish woman at Johns Hopkins Medical School, she was also the only woman from her undergraduate class to pursue medicine.  As a doctor, she found that her opinion was not respected by her male colleagues.  The male doctors, she described, were “belittling” and overall dismissive of her opinions and diagnoses.  Because of these attitudes, Finkelstein could only work with a small group of physicians.

Despite the many hardships Finkelstein faced, she worked in the largely male-dominated medical field as an obstetrician and gynecologist in order to help women.  The best way that I can conclude this post is with a short quotations from Dr. Ruth Finkelstein describing her basic philosophy.  “I’m a champion of the underdog. I’m a softy. My philosophy is to help people, I guess.”

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Moving Out

Posted on October 18th, 2012 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

On October 17, 2012, the JMM opened our newest original exhibition, Jews on the Move: Baltimore and the Suburban Exodus, 1945 – 1968. Exploring a seminal period in American Jewish history – the exodus of Jews from urban centers to newly established suburbs – Jews on the Move interprets the motivations and factors that led to Jewish settlement in the Northwest suburbs of Baltimore County in the post-war years.

 

Irene Siegel with children, 1959

In the years following WWII, Baltimore Jews, like so many other Americans, left behind close-knit urban neighborhoods in pursuit of the “American dream.” Within the span of a single generation, the Jewish community swiftly reconfigured itself and experienced a fascinating social, economic and cultural transformation. Jews on the Move explores the local angle of a national story of suburbanization through the eyes of developers, real estate agents, community institutions and organizations, synagogues, and of course the families who helped establish the suburbs of Northwest Baltimore.

Gilbert and Leslie Polt, c.1960

Louise’s Pizza, Liberty Road, 1963

Park Heights JCC, Jewish institutions followed the exodus out of the city. The opening of a suburban JCC on Park Heights Avenue in 1960 – in addition to the move of synagogues – helped families recreate Jewish enclaves in the suburbs.

What makes this exhibit project especially exciting is an innovative collaboration that resulted in its creation.  Jews On The Move was developed through a partnership between the JMM and The Johns Hopkins University (JHU). With generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The JHU Program in Museums and Society partners with local museums to take undergraduate students out of the classroom and give them hands-on museum experience. The JMM was delighted to be invited to participate in this program, and in the spring of 2012, staff and consultants from the JMM taught a course at JHU that involved students in the creation of “Jews on the Move.”

Because of our partnership with JHU, the exhibit opened on its Homewood Campus. In order to prepare for the opening, on Wednesday morning, several JMM staff members in addition to exhibit designer, Ken Falk, installed the panel exhibition in Hodson Hall. The exhibit consists of vinyl banners that are attached to collapsing metal poles that connect to one another making it easy to transport and install.

Exhibit designer Ken Falk unrolling the exhibit banners

JHU faculty member Elizabeth Rodini watches as Karen Falk and student Molly Martell raise the exhibit panels

At the exhibit opening on Wednesday pm, Katherine S. Newman, James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, welcomed guests. JHU students who participated in the course talked about their experience in researching and designing the exhibit. Guests mingled, enjoying refreshments and an opportunity to view the exhibit and share their own reminiscences of their family’s move to the suburbs.

Jews on the Move has been designed as a traveling exhibit and is available at no charge to hosting institutions. If you are interested in hosting this exhibit, contact Rachel Cylus at (410) 732-6400 x215 / rcylus@jewishmuseummmd.org. Also, be sure to check out the exhibit website www.jewsonthemove.org where you can send in your own suburban stories and photos.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Next Page »