Posted on April 3rd, 2017 by Rachel
Margie Simon has been a volunteer docent at the Jewish Museum of Maryland since March. She retired in June 2016 from Baltimore County Public Schools. She was a librarian at Perry Hall High School for 16 years. Prior to that, she worked at Goucher College for 10 years and at the University of Maryland Health Sciences Library for 12 years. She now works part-time as a librarian at the Community College of Baltimore County at the Dundalk campus. She is chair of the Gemilut Hasadim committee at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, and vice chair of the Yom Hashoah Remembrance Commission.
Margie with a school group in “Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity”
Margie has been helping with school groups at the JMM during the current Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust and Humanity exhibit. In her years at Perry Hall, she became involved in the school’s Holocaust education effort and took advantage of many of the wonderful workshops and training sessions offered by the JMM. She wanted to “pay back” the JMM for all of the education she had received by sharing her knowledge about the Holocaust as a docent for this exhibit. She finds it exciting watching the students react to the model of Auschwitz. She believes we are so lucky to have the model because it makes what otherwise would be a room of blue prints come alive for students. We at the JMM also feel lucky to have Margie as a docent. She has been very effective at imparting her passion and knowledge of the Holocaust to students from around Maryland. We hope that she decides to stay involved at the museum after the exhibit closes!
Post by Visitor Services Coordinator Graham Humphrey. Every month we highlight one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, send an email to Sue Foard at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 443-973-5162! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.
Posted on July 11th, 2016 by Rachel
Ernie Silversmith, volunteer docent
Ernie Silversmith has been a volunteer docent at the JMM for 15 years. In looking through our collection records, I discovered that the Museum had completed a memoir of him a few years ago. In that memoir, I learned that Ernie was born in Nuremberg, Germany and he started school in 1936 at an all-Jewish school. The German part of his education ended on Kristallnacht when his parents decided it would be safer to leave the country. In 1939, Ernie and his sister took a train to Holland and then a boat to England where they stayed with their aunt and uncle until their parents could join them a few months later. After the war started, the family left on a banana boat to Jamaica in order to avoid the German U-boats in the north Atlantic. They caught a luxury liner to New York and rented a room in Washington Heights. In fact, we have a copy of his US certificate of citizenship from 1946 in our archives.
US Certificate of Citizenship 1946, Ernest Silversmith. JMM 2012.046
They then moved to Tacoma, Washington before finally settling in the Baltimore area. Ernie taught chemistry for 50 years at Morgan State University. In looking around online, I found an article about him in the Baltimore Sun where I discovered that he was a beloved professor and also won many awards for his teaching.
In 2001, Ernie decided to become a docent at the JMM because he found that giving tours is a form of teaching, which he had done for his whole career. He is proud to be Jewish and gets excited watching the reactions of people on his tour and answering their many interesting questions. He aims to awaken their excitement about Jewish Baltimore and enjoys telling the story about our two historic synagogues.
Ernie begins a synagogue tour.
He has been happily married 63 years and gets much pleasure from his four children and eight grandchildren.
While I have only known Ernie for the past year, I have found him to be a very dedicated volunteer with a kind and gentle soul. I always look forward to seeing him on Sundays and hope that he will continue to volunteer at our museum for many years to come.
Post by Visitor Services Coordinator Graham Humphrey. Every month we highlight one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, send an email to Sue Foard at email@example.com or call 410-732-6402 x220! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.
Posted on May 2nd, 2016 by Rachel
Volunteer Docent, Harvey Karch was born and raised in Baltimore. He first lived above the family grocery store in Dundalk, next migrated northwest to Forest Park, then onward to Park Heights. After college, he moved to Montgomery County – he currently lives in Rockville. Harvey always had an interest in the Lloyd Street Synagogue since it was the shul where his grandfather davened (prayed). His grandfather was from Volhynia , as was his friend, the president of Shomrei Mishmeres HaKodesh, Tobias Miller. Harvey’s father, Leonard Karch, became a Bar Mitzvah at the Lloyd Street Synagogue on a snowy day in January 1936. He told the story of the weather being so bad, that after services they simply went back to their East Baltimore Street home where people ate kichel, drank whiskey and said “Mazel tov!” And that was that – no big celebration like children today have come to know. When Harvey graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Liberal Arts, he was hired by Social Security. They trained him to be a computer programmer. He worked his way up the ladder, and after 38 years retired as the Chief Information Officer at an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. He admits that the key to his success was perseverance.
The impetus to Harvey volunteering at the JMM was two trips he took as a visitor, in 2001. On the first visit, he joined his synagogue chaverah from Potomac. He was inspired to attend because of the family connection. The second time he came was with a program offered jointly through B’nai Brith and the Knight’s of Columbus. They visited the historic synagogues then went for dinner in Little Italy. Quite honestly, Harvey did not love the tours. He went into the Museum Shop and bought Isaac M. Fein’s The History of Baltimore Jewry from 1773-1920 – The Making of An American Jewish Community. After reading it, he made an appointment with the Education Director, Deborah Cardin, and discussed becoming a docent. When she explained that the Isaac Fein book is what our Docents use for training, he was recruited. Harvey had actually taken classes at Hebrew High School, part of the former Baltimore Hebrew College, with Isaac Fein in the early 1960’s. He was well on his way to understanding the Baltimore Jewish Community and it’s history, and became a Docent in no time. In addition to volunteering at the JMM, Harvey delivers Meals on Wheels in Montgomery County and enjoys taking classes in Jewish Studies and History at the University of Maryland.
Beyond volunteering as a Docent at the JMM, Harvey also works on the “Cemetery Project” with former JMM Historian, Deb Weiner. Harvey had searched the Jewish Genealogical Society database for his parents’ records, with no success. They are buried in the United Hebrew Cemetery on Washington Boulevard. It is currently associated with Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Congregation, and run by W.S. Tegeler Monument Company, but they only maintained paper records as of 2012. So, twice a month, for three years now, Harvey and Deb have gone to the cemetery, taken information off of 3” x 5” cards and entered it onto a spreadsheet. They began with the letter “A,” have completed 90% of the records, and once it is complete, the information will be uploaded onto the JMM website, for universal use. It is quite an accomplishment, for which a lot of people will be grateful. True to “Smalltimore” form, Harvey learned that the man running the cemetery now is a cousin of his father.
Harvey says he continues to feel the family connection every time he walks into the Lloyd Street Synagogue even though his grandfather passed away over 50 years ago. And, he enjoys meeting the visitors who go on his synagogue tours. He was once giving a tour to a woman and her grandson, who happened to be wearing a Dundalk High School sweatshirt. Harvey mentioned that he used to live there, above a store in the St. Helena area. The woman asked if it was Stone’s Market or Karch’s? He was tickled that she remembered it from when she was a young girl. He also remembers the time had two priests on his tour. One was an historian who wanted to show the younger priest the building because it had once been used as a church. When Harvey explained that the Star of David stained glass window survived, in tact, during the years it was a church, the priest agreed that it was part of their heritage too. Then, when the 3 men entered B’nai Israel and Harvey asked them to put on yarmulkes, the older priest picked up a red one, handed it to the younger priest and said, “Congratulations on your promotion!” A fun time can always be found at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and we appreciate that Harvey continues to share his precious volunteer hours with us, to enable such.
A blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. Every month she will be highlighting one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, drop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.