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Volunteer Opportunities
in partnership with
Jewish Volunteer Connection

Volunteer Spotlight on Fran Banks!

Posted on October 3rd, 2018 by

Post by Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. Periodically we highlight one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, send an email to Wendy at or call 443-873-5168! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

Fran Banks’ face lights up when she explains what she does as a volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Her current project is entering information about engagements and weddings announcements from the Jewish Times into the museum database.  She started with issues from 1928 and has progressed to the Second World War years.  Being a Baltimore native, she is familiar with many of the families mentioned in the Jewish Times and most weeks she reads announcements about people she knows personally.  The first week Fran worked on this project, she read an engagement announcement about her aunt and it was written by Fran’s grandparents.  What an engaging way to begin a project!

Of course, as one reads these various announcements, you can’t help but also read the ads adjacent to them.  Fran recalled seeing an advertisement for a venue “the Community Hall” noting soup to nuts meals for $1.25 per person.

The first project Fran worked on at JMM, about two years ago, was entering data from birth announcements kept by area midwives.  She found it interesting that the announcements also included the father’s occupation.  Fran was able to track how the father’s occupation changed as each family grew.  For example, one father was listed as a buttonhole maker when his first son was born, but by the 5th child, he was listed as a master tailor!  First–born sons usually had a name noted, but later-born children within the same family were frequently listed as boy 4, girl 7, etc.

Fran looked specifically at JMM for volunteer opportunities because she wanted to do something totally different than what she did for work. She stated, “I love seeing where small pieces of history fit into a larger picture, so what I’m doing suits me just fine. And I know that I’m entering data that someone will eventually use to find family, friends or get a sense of the Baltimore community.”

Before her 2013 retirement, Fran was an emergency room nurse at Sinai Hospital for 20 years and then she worked for the Baltimore County Department of Aging.  The Department of Aging job entailed home visits, identifying services and / or specific modifications needed to maintain people safely in their homes or to determine if an assistive living facility would be more appropriate.  Fran was amazed by many people she met and how well they were able to deal with issues related to aging and illness.

In addition to volunteering one day a week at JMM, Fran is engaged in many other activities.  She has been taking courses at CCBC on art history and English, is involved in weekly Torah study and a book group.  She is active in her synagogue, Temple Oheb Shalom. She keeps her hands busy doing needle crafts and she is one of the on-line citizen typists for the U.S. Archives.  She transcribed some records on Lee Harvey Oswald and Alger Hiss.  Additionally, she travels to Philadelphia with her husband as often as possible to visit with her son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Volunteers Record 10,000th Birth!

Posted on October 22nd, 2014 by

The JMM library is always humming with activity. Each month researchers schedule appointments to meet with JMM staff and volunteers to explore our manuscript and photograph collections or to learn more about their family’s history. Sometimes, our education staff uses the library for archival exploration activities in which kids gather around tables to view authentic primary sources –newspaper articles, letters, photographs, scrapbooks and more – relating to such topics as synagogues in Maryland, immigration history, and African-American and Jewish relations. In addition to those who come to use our library for research purposes, on any given day of the week the library also plays host to JMM volunteers who perform invaluable tasks that help ensure our collections are accessible to researchers.

If you visit the library on Tuesdays and Thursdays you will see two dedicated JMM volunteers, Vera Kestenberg and Marty Buckman, typing away at one of our computers.

Marty & Vera

Marty & Vera

Each week they comb through volumes of The Jewish Times (the JMM owns copies of every edition, including the early ones that can be accessed through microfilm) searching for birth announcements.

Birth announcement in the pages of the JT - lucky number 10,000!

Birth announcement in the pages of the JT – lucky number 10,000!

They then careful transcribe each announcement into an excel spreadsheet creating a comprehensive database of birth records that has become a valuable genealogical resource.

Information included in the database includes the child’s first and last name, date of birth, names of both parents, place of birth (including hospital and city/state) as well as which edition of the JT contains the announcement. The database can be accessed from the JMM website along with many other resources such as burial listings at many local Jewish cemeteries.

I was thrilled to learn that after several years of work on this project, Vera and Marty recently crossed a major milestone as they added the 10,000th name to the database! Mazel Tov to both on this incredible accomplishment!

To learn more about Vera and Marty as well as many other talented and dedicated JMM volunteers, be sure to check our volunteer coordinator, Ilene Cohen’s monthly volunteer profile. 

deborahA blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland