Jewish Museum of Maryland Launches Zine to Connect With Community

Jewish Museum of Maryland zine cover
The Jewish Museum of Maryland zine cover for the month of Av (Art by Naomi Weintraub)

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Eastern European Jews operated a handful of small printing businesses, publishing pamphlets and books in Yiddish, despite ongoing censorship laws.

In the 1970s, self-published zines grew popular in punk communities in the U.S. and the U.K., as a way to defy the elite printing industry and quickly produce and disseminate news and art.

Today, the Jewish Museum of Maryland is drawing on the do-it-yourself publishing tradition and creating a zine of its own. The first JMM zine was published last month, and the second issue will be released at the end of August. The monthly zine features community-created content, as well as blog posts, newsletters and materials from its collections.

The zine is a way for the museum to connect with the community while its space is closed to the public for renovations.

“Our department is really trying to find ways to keep our museum audience engaged with what we are doing and also to grow that audience,” said Mark Gunnery, JMM’s director of communications and content.

The first issue of the zine muses on the month of Av. It includes a “Reclaiming Tu B’Av” comic from a 2022 JMM Tu B’Av event by Naomi Rose Weintraub, artist and JMM communications and public art coordinator; a transcript of an excerpt of the museum’s “Disloyal” podcast hosted by Gunnery and Weintraub; and other pieces.

The cover of the zine is a photo of Stony Run by Weintraub, meant to reflect the late summer lushness of Av. The zine is a way to mark Jewish time.

“Part of my goal was to kind of have each cover reflect not only symbols around the holidays, or ideas that come up with each month, but also the natural world around us,” Weintraub said.

The second issue of the zine will center on the month of Elul, representing new beginnings, and will include more diversity in its pieces, such as a kreplach recipe from the museum newsletter’s archives. The museum has an open call for community submissions.

Zines are a unique medium of community engagement, Weintraub explained, because they are quick to put together and have no consistent format, allowing for diverse input and content.

“It allows for just a little more fluidity and dynamic content that we can bring to people. … It opens up a lot of avenues for us to engage the Jewish community and just the Maryland community in general, not just Jewish people,” Weintraub said.

The zine is one part of a multipronged approach JMM is taking to increase community engagement while the museum space is closed. The museum has the Lombard and Lloyd Little Library on its campus with copies of the zine, offsite events and virtual programming. JMM is digitizing its old journal “Generations.”

“We have really amazing stuff and are looking for ways to present it to our audiences in new ways,” Gunnery said.

Increasing community interactions with museums is part of an effort to make museums in general more accessible and relevant.

“Our executive director, Sol Davis, he talks a lot about the idea of participatory museum practices,” Gunnery said.

The goal of unique outreach programs and nontraditional publications is “trying to build avenues for two-way experiences where it’s not just the museum saying, ‘This is what you should understand culture to be,’ but having a little bit more back and forth,” Gunnery added.

These changes are also being made within JMM. Exhibit features such as the Story Booth — which allows visitors to “talk back” to the exhibit, ask questions and share thoughts — were developed to increase participation.

The renovated JMM will have an experimental gallery and an audio-visual center where Gunnery and Weintraub will record the “Disloyal” podcast and where the museum will host local bands for Tiny Desk Concert-esque performances and recordings.

In addition to telling stories of the past, it’s also the job of museums to blend history with culture and understand that history is being made today, Gunnery said.

“We would like to see museums go where they can both be a space of cultural production … and also figure out ways for it to be a community resource,” he said.

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