Celebrate Upstanders at Esther’s Place!

Posted on April 27th, 2018 by

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

At Esther’s Place (JMM’s Gift Shop), we love “upstanders” (defined by Oxford Dictionary as “a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause,” commonly understood as the opposite of “bystander”). At Esther’s Place, we celebrate courageous civic engagement in everything from books about daring rescues and escapes during the Holocaust to our beautiful and inspiring See America products that recognize the beginnings of the Jewish community in Baltimore and the strength of those who worked to build, organize, and fight for equal rights for the Baltimore Jewish community.

From the exhibit: “The Constitution is a sacred document…Over the years, we have tried to make it more and more inclusive. We cannot turn back.” -John Lewis, 2006

So naturally, we were excited to celebrate JMM’s latest exhibit, Amending America, in the Gift Shop. We absolutely love our new civics titles that tell important stories of real-life upstanders such as Clara Lemlich, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Here are some of our favorites alongside some of the direct connections to the Amending America exhibit:

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist – by Cynthia Levinson, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

This children’s title tells the story of Audrey Faye Hendricks who, as a nine-year-old, spoke out against Birmingham’s segregation laws, joined the pickets and was ultimately arrested and sent to jail.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark – by Debbie Levy, Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley.

This children’s book is a delightful history of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s long history of speaking her mind, using her voice, and dissenting to the discrimination and prejudice she faced as a Jewish woman seeking to make her mark in the legal world. Our upcoming Annual Meeting on May 17 will be a larger exploration of Justice Ginsburg’s life and accomplishments as we hear from I Dissent author Debbie Levy and Mary Hartnett, co-author of My Own Words. Sign up to attend the program here.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 – by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

This children’s title chronicles the achievements of Ukrainian immigrant Clara Lemlich, addressing topics such as activism, labor rights, safe working conditions, immigration, women’s rights, and education.

This book and others can also be enjoyed in our Amending America reading corner, located in the exhibit itself.

From the exhibit: “A government is invigorated when each of us is willing to participate in shaping the future of this nation.” -Barbara Jordon, 1976

As you’re browsing our great selection of civics titles, don’t forget to check out our gorgeous children’s book about the Lloyd Street Synagogue, The Synagogue Speaks by Anita Kassof, illustrated by Jonathon Scott Fuqua.

This children’s book tells the story of the Lloyd Street Synagogue from the perspective of the synagogue itself—as it grew and moved through its career as founding Baltimore synagogue for the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, to St. John the Baptist Lithuanian Catholic Church, to synagogue for the Shomrei Mishmeres Ha Kodesh congregation, all the way to museum and educational site. Charmingly, the upstanders in this story are the many individuals who acted to keep the Synagogue building alive for the communities that it would shelter and support.

We’ve got so many great titles on display!

Our next book talk, on May 3, also celebrates upstanders as it features the story of America’s efforts to save European Jews during the Holocaust, as told by Rebecca Erbelding’s new book, Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America’s Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe.

Learn more and sign up to attend the program hereAnd don’t worry, we’ll have copies of this one in the shop for you too!

Finally, for many upstanders, coffee and sustenance are essential.

So please, visit the Gift Shop and be inspired by the civics titles available, then check out our “But first, coffee” display, where you can find a huge selection of beautiful, whimsical, and commemorative mugs (some heavily discounted!) to help kick start your civic aspirations.

 

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Seeing Differently: Ezra Jack Keats

Posted on April 19th, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM’s Director of Development, Tracey E. Dorfmann. To read more posts from Tracey, click here.

I am grateful to be the mother of a talented children’s illustrator.  Among the many things I have learned from my daughter is to consider children’s illustration as a high form of art. There were many wonderful picture books that my daughter Hannah and I shared together when she was little.  Now I look at these books and their illustrators in a different way and see how they fit into the pantheon of children’s publishing.

As the adage goes “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This is certainly true for the American writer-illustrator, Ezra Jack Keats.

The child of Jewish immigrants, Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz was born March 11, 1916. He grew up in the “East NY” which was the Jewish Quarter of Brooklyn. As an early 20th-century Jewish child Keats grew up in harsh and impoverished circumstances in an era of great anti-Semitism. In interviews, he recalls “feeling invisible” as a child. His gift of artistic expression became his coping mechanism in his rough and dreary neighborhood.

Always a prolific artist, he painted and drew on any surface, that he could. He was also known to have a modest and caring temperament.  The experience of making images on so many different kinds of surfaces may be how he came to back collage techniques later in his artistic life.

For many of us, we have come to know of him through his Caldecott Award-winning story The Snowy Day, the story of a small boy enjoying the magic and transformative power of snow on an urban landscape. This book broke the “color barrier in children’s mainstream publishing.”

It was the first picture book to depict a black child as the main character of a story. The tale focuses on the enchanting aspects of a snowy urban neighborhood rather the color of the child’s skin. Yet for so many children this was the first time they could see themselves depicted in a storybook.

As a mature artist-illustrator, he wanted to uplift all children because he knew from experience that they often recede from view in the unforgiving urban landscape.  “His art is bold and speaks the universal truths of children.” Author Anita Silvey observed that “Keats could think like a child but paint and make images as an artist with a social conscience.”

Though Keats never had children of his own, there are millions of children around the world who claim him as their own.

If you are interested in finding out more about this wonderful illustrator there are many books about his art and his life or enjoy this YouTube video from a 2012 exhibition of his work presented by the Jewish Museum in NY  and check out this Ezra Keats website.

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