New at Esther’s Place: Snapshots of Jewish Baltimore Life from the Collection

Posted on October 26, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM Office Manager and Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg. For more posts from Jessica, click HERE.

One of my favorite things about working at Esther’s Place, the JMM Gift Shop, is that our products share the real and tangible stories of people from the region. I frequently speak with Gift Shop visitors who excitedly point out photographs from our books and exhibit catalogs that feature their families, businesses, and important life moments. We at JMM are enormously privileged to share in these connections and help tell these stories. Phrases heard in the Gift Shop include:

“Here’s a photo of my family sharing a holiday meal.”

“This photo shows my family’s old bakery.”

“Here’s me, with my two children, on vacation.”

The Gift Shop is not the only repository of photographs showing the ordinary and extraordinary moments of Jewish Baltimore and Maryland life. Many photos in the Shop’s books and catalogs originate from our collection, and highlights are frequently featured on our social media channels. Many images are available for viewing via our online collection.

Knowing the abundant affection for our historic images (among staff, volunteers, and visitors alike), we wanted to make some images available for visitors to take home or give as one-of-a-kind gifts. JMM images are often humorous, heartwarming, and unique to a moment, a place, a personality, and a time. They tell stories individually and collectively.

So we created three postcard sets: Upstanders, Athletes, and Pets. The three themes were a natural fit for our collection; the Baltimore Jewish community has been, from its earliest days, deeply engaged in civic and charitable endeavors, and recreational pursuits and animal companions have long been staples of Baltimore Jewish life.

Upstanders, Athletes, and Pets Postcard Sets of 7 are now available at Esther’s Place. Photo credit: Rachel Jablon.

The first challenge was sorting through the collection to find a range of photos for each set. As I explored the collection, I discovered Upstanders from many walks of life performing tasks or achieving distinctions including civic participation, community organizing, simple acts of kindness, and excellence in helping professions.

Sinai Nurses hold Harry Greenstein Nurse of the Year Awards: Mary Mead (left) and Esther Dubin (right), 1971. From the Collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, Sinai Nurses Collection. JMM 2010.020.193

The Athletes series was a joy to develop, allowing us to explore the many facets of athletic endeavor including competition, community, wellbeing, teamwork, play, travel, and mentorship. Our final product hopes to convey and celebrate the idea that the designation of athlete is lifelong and universal.

Robert Levine golfing, ca. 1920. From the Collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, Robert L. Weinberg Collection. JMM 1991.065.001.080c

After an iterative process involving our wonderful Archivist Lorie Rombro and Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church, we arrived at a final set of images and begun designing the postcards. During the design process, I became intrigued by the times, places, and experiences captured in the images and was delighted to learn that many of the answers I sought could be found among JMM’s wealth of blog posts, online collection records, and catalogs. Here are just a few of my discoveries (I encourage you to make your own by exploring our blog, online collection, and Esther’s Place exhibit catalog selection):

Associated Women’s Division G-Day planning for May 15, 1949. Mrs. Alfred L. Tuvin and Mrs. Jerome Snyder seated; Mrs. Maurice Kolker and Mrs. Meyer Eggnatz, standing are co-chairmen of the Teams Committee of the Women’s Division of the Jewish Welfare Fund. From the Collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Credit: Associated Jewish Charities Women’s Division. JMM 1995.142.022.026

Learn more about the Associated Women’s Division and their door-to-door G-Day campaign via this great blog post by former intern Ash Turner. Ash discusses Women’s Division fundraising campaigns, and shares ephemera and artwork from Women’s Division’s event and fundraising materials. These materials help bring to life the work of these upstanders—women who utilized their varied skills to organize for the community and who artistically depicted their fellow women organizers as strong, proud, and engaged. You can also read more and view additional collection items relating to the Women’s Division and G-Day campaign in this blog post by Archivist Lorie Rombro, which shares examples of humor and satire in the activism of the Women’s Division.

Perna Krick with two cats, 1958, Baltimore. From the Collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. JMM 1993.167.031ac

Learn more about the woman pictured with two cats, featured in our Pets series; she is Baltimore artist Perna Krick, wife of fellow local artist Reuben Kramer. In our Reuben Kramer: A Sculptor’s Life catalog (available in the Gift Shop), discover photos, artworks, and stories from the careers and lives of Krick and Kramer.

Our new postcard sets have arrived just in time for Photographer Appreciation Month this October. As part of our celebration of photography, we’ve also developed a special photo frame display at Esther’s Place. Our message? Memories make great art. So come on by to Esther’s Place and check out our new postcard sets and photo frame display (if you purchase a frame, you might even find a bonus postcard from the collection inside!). And stay tuned for #FrameitFriday, a new social media series celebrating photographs and photo frames!

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