Monday, October 25, 2010

You don’t have to be Jewish to love the Jewish Museum of Maryland!

A blog post by Simone Ellin, marketing director.

People of a certain age will recall that famous commercial for Levy’s rye bread. As Marketing and Public Relations Director at the JMM, it’s part of my job to let people know that the Museum is here for everyone. It’s not always so easy though. In general, ethnic specific Museums have their work cut out for them. A quick internet search for the phrase “ethnic-specific museums and challenges” yields a great deal of information about this issue. One of the first documents to appear online is the abstract for Dr. Rosa M. Cabrera’s study, “Beyond Dust, Memory and Preservation: Roles of Ethnic Museums in Shaping Community Ethnic Identities”, (University of Illinois at Chicago, 2008.) Cabrera’s study also addresses another challenge that museums, (especially history museums,) face in attracting visitors.

Dr. Cabrera writes, “This study challenges the common perception that ethnic museums and centers are dusty, gloomy and trapped in the past. It proposes that they have the potential to impact individual and community identity because they are well positioned to understand and address their community's specific needs and challenges. They are able to engage not only multiple voices from their own community, but also broader constituencies in an intercultural dialogue because these organizations are viewed as trusted guardians and transmitters of cultural knowledge, as well as neutral meeting places. Having the capacity to engage multiple voices is a significant asset because individual and community identity are shaped and transformed by a range of voices and sociopolitical realities that extend beyond their community. It is through this dialogic process that communities seek positive recognition in order to advance a range of community goals; and, in this process, ethnicity takes shape and is given meaning.”

The JMM is constantly looking for ways to bring diverse communities together through our exhibitions and programs. Shows like Voices of Lombard Street, The Synagogue Speaks and our newest, A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II & the Jewish People are all concerned with the way Jews interact with people from diverse ethnicities and religions. Programs like Catholicism/Judaism 101 on Nov. 18, and One Text: Two Traditions: Three Conversations: An Interfaith Text Study,and our school immigration project at Patterson High School, all speak to the importance of bringing people together to explore our differences and commonalities. This coming Wednesday, staff members from the Catholic Review, a media sponsor of the Blessing exhibition, will hold a reception and board meeting here at the JMM. Later in the month, we will also host staff from exhibition sponsor, Catholic Charities. We celebrate the way in which A Blessing to One Another has resulted in new relationships, and brought many new visitors to the JMM. We are honored to host these groups at the JMM, and look forward to being a gathering place for people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds.

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