Jewish Museum of Maryland reopens to in-person visitors

The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s “Voices of Lombard Street” exhibit
The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s “Voices of Lombard Street” exhibit (Jesse Berman)

On a bright and crisp Oct. 17, after more than nine long months of being closed to most in-person visitors, the Jewish Museum of Maryland swung open its doors and welcomed the public back to its halls.

Sol Davis, executive director of JMM, explained that the decision to reopen now was based on factors that included the guidance of public health officials, as well as on the practices of other museums in the field.

Davis viewed JMM as being one of the more cautious museums in regards to COVID-19 precautions, citing its reduced hours, capacity limitations and how it has encouraged visitors to register in advance so the museum can more easily prepare for capacity flows.

Davis noted that the Oct. 17 opening was the first day the museum was open to the public since the beginning of his tenure in January of this year, as he made the decision to close the building to the public on his first day on the job, he said. During the last few months of 2020, prior to Davis’ arrival, the museum had been open with a “very restricted time and capacity schedule,” he said.

There had been discussions about possibly reopening the museum by this past summer, Davis said, and in fact JMM had some limited openings for members only during the summer months. However, the rise of the delta variant ultimately halted those plans.

Currently, a number of social distancing measures are in place at JMM, including masking requirements, Davis said. On vaccination requirements, though, he referred to that as “an evolving conversation at this point.” While not currently a requirement, he anticipated “that we’ll have some vaccination requirement in place in the future.”

Reopening day visitor David London expressed his appreciation for the museum being open to the public.

“I saw that today [the museum] was reopening,” London said. “I’ve previously worked with the Jewish Museum, and so when I heard and saw that the museum was reopening today, I decided it was a beautiful now-fall morning, and it would be great to be here for the grand reopening.”

London explained that he had previously worked as a guest curator at JMM for their exhibit on Harry Houdini in 2018.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s “Voices of Lombard Street” exhibit
The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s “Voices of Lombard Street” exhibit (Jesse Berman)

To those interested in visiting, Davis recommended checking out the museum’s “Voices of Lombard Street” exhibit, which strives to tell the story of Baltimore’s Jonestown neighborhood and its once- thriving Jewish community. Additionally, the museum’s lobby has an assortment of recent acquisitions available for viewing, while tours of the Lloyd Street Synagogue and of B’nai Israel have been restarted.

Davis said the next exhibition, “A Fence Around the Torah: Safety and Unsafety in Jewish Life,” will open Nov. 21. It will include poetry, sculptures, paintings and video installations from artists across the country, representing a range of experiences and perspectives on safety and unsafety in Jewish life.

“We really hope, with this exhibition, to expand the conversation about safety and unsafety, which seems reflexively and understandably to go towards security, securing our communal spaces,” Davis said. “And so we’re expanding the conversation to consider other aspects of safety, including sort of emotional, psychological safety and beyond.”

Overall, Davis was excited for the museum’s reopening to the public after all this time.

“It feels wonderful, it feels somewhat celebratory,” he said. “It’s a destination kind of museum. People want to come here to see the exhibits, to see these powerful synagogue buildings and experience them in ways that are difficult to translate into the digital. So it’s a wonderful moment.”

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