Friday, November 6, 2009

New Feature: JMM Weekly Report 11.06.09

JMM Weekly Report
From the Desk of Avi Decter, Executive Director
November 6, 2009
Dear Friends,

This has been an eventful, productive week at the Museum. On Sunday, the JMM welcomed the Baltimore Chapter of Brandeis Women for a private program with noted scholar Dr. Melvin Urofsky, who has just published Louis D. Brandeis: A Life. Following his morning lecture, Dr. Urofsky spoke at a public program and book-signing. On Monday, the Lloyd Street Synagogue Steering Committee, chaired by JMM Trustee Lee Rosenberg, held its final Phase 2 progress meeting, marking the conclusion of our $1 million restoration project. Also on Monday, we held our quarterly Board meeting, with a lively discussion about budgets. On Tuesday, the Museum sponsored the Herbert and Irma Risch Memorial Program at Patterson Park Charter School (more below). And so on. Here are some other highlights of the week that was:

GIFTS: I am delighted to report that the Herbert Bearman Foundation (Drs. Sheldon and Arlene Bearman, Trustees) have committed $18,000 to support the re-dedication of Lloyd Street Synagogue, the kick-off event in our 50th Anniversary programming, and to provide General Operating Support. We are very appreciative of the Bearman Family's continuing generous support and encouragement.

PROGRAMS: On Monday and Tuesday, the JMM hosted patrons Frank and Helen Risch during their recent visit to Baltimore. On Monday, the Risches participated in a class at Patterson High School and met with the students who are sharing the stories of their journeys to America with other students. The JMM is working with storyteller Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff and intern Tamara Filipovic on this educational initiative. On Tuesday, three student storytellers from Somalia, Uzbekistan, and Togo shared their stories of immigration at an assembly of 160 students and 30 invited guests at Patterson Park Charter School, one of the JMM's Museum-School partners. The Herbert B. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program Coming to America - Then and Now featured Student Immigration Stories and a presentation of the Leo V. Berger Immigrant's Trunk. The Risch Memorial Program is funded through the generous support of the Frank & Helen Risch Philanthropic Fund at THE ASSOCIATED. This was a wonderful event

The Museum's October 29th program at the Park Heights JCC, Finding Refuge: The Holocaust and Latin America, was an enlightening and enjoyable program. The group of 43 participants, who included Holocaust survivors, area teachers, members of the Baltimore Jewish Council's Hispanic Dialogue, and the Latino Providers Network, listened intently as speaker Christina Chavarria from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) explained Latin America's unique role in Holocaust history: notoriously sheltering fleeing Nazi criminals and, more significantly, accepting Jewish refugees from Hitler's Europe. Jewish refugees and their lives in Latin America represent a new focus by the USHMM. As a result of this gathering, Christina was also able to collect family names, contributing to the USHMM's research and Registry of Survivors. A follow up program, featuring a trip to the USHMM, is planned for spring 2010. The program was moderated by Lois Rosenfeld of The American Jewish Committee.

On Friday, the JCC and JMM partnered for a Tot Shabbat Program geared for downtown families of very young children. Participants listened to a Shabbat Story, sang and danced to Shabbat songs and finished the morning with juice and challah for snack. These Tot Shabbat programs are part of the JCC's program, "JCC Beyond the Borders" funded by the The Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education. Also on Friday, B'nai Israel Young Adults will hold a Shabbat dinner in our lobby.

COLLECTIONS: The oral history archive of the Museum received a gift of two hours of tapes about Ner Israel Yeshiva in the 1970's when it was located on Garrison Boulevard. The interview of Jonathan Zylberman, a former Ner Israel student, was conducted and recorded by JMM special Project Consultant Dr. Barry S. Lever.

Collections volunteer Debbie Farthing photographed all of the cases, bases, vitrines, and platforms in the Museum. These images have been added to the database to further assist us in tracking our exhibition display materials. The collections staff held a lively meeting on Wednesday to discuss the library collecting policy. On Thursday the collections staff discussed their budget with Susan Press. Both meetings were very helpful and have made us more aware of how we can improve our collections spending and oversight.

EDUCATION: On Tuesday, Mother Mary Lange (Baltimore City Catholic School) brought around 35 middle school students to tour the Museum and listen to survivor Vera Kestenberg discuss her life in Hungary. On Thursday, Running Brook Elementary (Howard County Public School) brought 46 3rd graders to listen to the Leo V. Berger Immigrant's Trunk and tour the Museum. At a Wednesday session, seventh grade students at Chizuk Amuno's Kreiger-Schecter Day School, engaged Dr. Barry S. Lever, JMM Special Project Consultant, in an oral history interview to develop skills necessary to conduct successful oral histories of their own family members.

The Education Department met with JMM docents to discuss plans for the upcoming Synagogue Speaks exhibition in the Lloyd Street Synagogue. We also discussed ways of improving current tours for adult and student groups. Many thanks to Ilene Cohen for arranging the meeting and for our dedicated volunteer docents who attended.

STAFF ACTIVITIES: Thursday, Jobi Zink led a training session on Past Perfect for Mindy Glaser McShane, Heather Besch, and Jessica Levine. Jobi also began posting advertisements for winter and spring interns this week and interviewed one candidate.

Anita Kassof and Deb Weiner are completing the exhibition script for our new Core Exhibition, The Synagogue Speaks. Curator Karen Falk has been working on our Jewish foodways show, our projected Judaica exhibition, and a retrospective exhibition of work by artist Nancy Patz. Program Director Ilene Dackman-Alon with Harriet Lynn to discuss programming for the 50th anniversary year of the JMM. Deb Weiner, Rachel Kassman, and I reviewed layouts for our next issue of Generations magazine, and I sent in my final edits for a book review that will appear in American Jewish History.

All in all, a very exciting week for the Museum and the communities we serve. Best wishes for a peaceful Sabbath and lovely fall weekend to one and all.


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