By Rachael Binning
Jewish Museum of Maryland
Do you know about Brews & Schmooze?
Although the Jewish Museum of Maryland at the Herbert Bearman Campus is known for many things, it’s not historically regarded as being a popular destination for young adults. When I started my job as Community Outreach Coordinator at the JMM a year ago I was really impressed by the excellent exhibitions and the beautiful historic synagogues surrounding the museum. However, I also understood why many young adults were finding it difficult to visit the museum. I did not think that the museum’s downtown location was as much of a deterrence as was its limited open hours and lack of programming directed towards young adults. Soon that was all to change.
At our first Brews & Schmooze event artist Loring Cornish gave guests a tour of his work.
Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, our Education and Programs Coordinator, and I knew that the JMM could be a destination and hangout for young adults if we made the museum more welcoming and inviting for repeat visitors. Each year the museum hosts “Purim Pandemonium” a party that attracts over 150 people. Elena and I thought to ourselves, “If these people are coming to the museum for Purim, why aren’t they coming out the rest of the year?” With this in mind we applied and received grant funding from The Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education. With these funds we created a young adult series in partnership with the Moishe House called “Brews & Schmooze.” The goal of the series is to encourage Jewish and non-Jewish young adults to engage with the museum and each other on a continual basis. We want people to know that the JMM is more than a onetime destination.
The giant crab cutout was a very big hit at our second event, “Oy Bay! Celebrating Baltimore’s Favorite Spice.” Since July we have opened up the museum from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month for young adults and the general public to enter the museum for free, enjoy free programming, and socialize. Our first program, “Piecing a Path: A Night with Loring Cornish,” celebrated our current exhibition at the time, “In Each Other’s Shoes.” Guests got to hear Loring speak about his artwork while eating, drinking and listening to live music. In August, we had an event celebrating Old Bay, which included lots of Old Bay flavored treats. Last month we learned about bee keeping and honey with Kayam Farm.
The road to getting young adults to our museum has not always been easy. At our first Brews & Schmooze event in July it started pouring rain right after the band started to play outside. I’m happy to report that all of the band’s equipment did survive. Our third Brews & Schmooze event took place during the Baltimore Grand Prix, which made it very difficult for our loyal followers to even get to the museum. Despite these challenges, we have persevered and are looking forward to hosting many more first-Thursday events.
A new generation of JMM fans!
On October 6, we are hosting our fourth Brews & Schmooze, called “Eastern Lights: Sephardic Traditions.” We will be making Moroccan lanterns, eating Middle Eastern food and learning about Sephardic Judaism. We have several other amazing events planned (can you sense my enthusiasm?!) in the next few months, including my favorite, cooking latkes with Esther Weiner, our shop manager and the Bubbie I never had. I assure you that cooking, eating, and laughing with Esther is an opportunity not to be missed.
I’m really proud of our museum’s effort to bring in young adults. As a young adult myself, I think it’s important that our museum be welcoming to both the young and old, as well as newcomers and old timers. Please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the museum’s website to find out about our young adult initiative and to learn about all of our great programs and exhibits.