Our Favorite Esther’s Place Stories

Posted on October 12th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts is from Office Manager and Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg. To read more posts from Jessica, click here. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here.


At Esther’s Place, we hope to provide that personal touch to your JMM experience—the opportunity to slow down and reflect on the exhibits and tour and find special items to take home with you so that you might continue that spark of curiosity with a great book, treasure that moment of connection with a personal memento, or relate a favorite story to a loved one via the perfect gift.

After starting 9 months ago as JMM’s Shop Assistant, it has been my great pleasure to get to know the stories that make a JMM experience meaningful and the products that capture our visitors’ imaginations—or even just make them laugh. So I was delighted to write this month’s Performance Counts and to take a deep dive into the Gift Shop to discover our visitors’ favorite Esther’s Place stories and how we at JMM been evolving and growing to meet these needs.

What stories have been shared or suggested, requested, or unexpectedly beloved this year in the Gift Shop by our valued visitors? To answer that question, let’s look at some of the top sellers (by quantity) from the previous Jewish calendar year!

In the past year, we’ve held many book talks, making for an especially engaging and edifying year of stories, ranging from beloved tales of Jewish Baltimore to the cultural contributions of Jewish punk music to the intriguing career of Harry Houdini. Our top-selling title for the year is new Jewish Baltimore history book, On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore (by Eric Goldstein and Deborah Weiner) with an impressive 72 copies sold since the book’s release in April.

Our next best seller, at 40 copies, is our favorite quirky Judaism primer, Did Jew Know by Emily Stone. The suggestion to carry Did Jew Know in the Gift Shop came to us from volunteer docent Howard Davidov—just one example of the valuable contributions our volunteers make to the stories of Esther’s Place. In third place on our bestsellers list is the charmingly-illustrated children’s book, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley; with 34 copies sold, I’m delighted to know we are collectively uplifting Jewish women’s stories and sharing them with younger generations.

While performing inventory this year, I became deeply acquainted with our Gift Shop’s astounding supply of JMM catalogs and publications—a treasure trove of knowledge, research, and uniquely-JMM stories, photos, and ephemera. It came as no surprise that our best-selling JMM publication was Voices of Lombard Street—a truly evergreen story that so many of you have chosen to take home, share, and re-visit through this beautiful catalog. We sold 29 copies in the past year.

In April 2018, we developed a special display and social media campaign around our many whimsical mugs and our staff’s collective love of coffee and tea. The display is titled But First Coffee (or #ButFirstCoffee), and the social media campaign utilizes the hashtag #MugShotMonday—a Monday social media tradition. To date, we’ve shared 19 #MugShotMonday posts on Twitter and Instagram (and many on Facebook too), each one involving artful arrangements and heartfelt tributes to the caffeinated beverage.

This year, we also worked particularly hard to respond to a frequent request we had been hearing in the Gift Shop—the request for custom Maryland or Baltimore Jewish products. After introducing our line of See America products featuring the Lloyd Street Synagogue in January, we developed the humorous and uniquely-Baltimore mugs and magnets pictured here. 

Our most popular product so far is the “Oy Vey Seasoning” magnet with 51 sold, each one helping to share the story of German Jewish refugee Gustav Brunn’s Old Bay Seasoning invention and its famous Baltimore origins. Later this month, we expect to welcome our latest custom offering into the Gift Shop—postcard sets featuring Upstanders, Athletes, and Pets from the Collection of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

While many of our bestsellers were easy to predict, several products delighted us this year with their unexpectedly warm reception. The most striking was our selection of magic tricks, merchandised in connection with our exhibit Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini (currently on display). From the exhibit opening on June 24 through to Rosh Hashanah 2018, we sold 82 individual magic tricks and 24 magic trick sets—and no doubt contributed to countless home magic shows and budding magicians.

Many of you ordered Esther’s Place merchandise from afar, and we were delighted to send our products and stories as far as California, Arizona, and even Germany this year. To place phone orders and have products shipped to you, please call us at Esther’s Place at 443-873-5179 or email jkonigsberg@jewishmuseummd.org.

We look forward to another year of unforgettable stories, products that make us smile, and the invaluable input of our valued visitors, volunteers, and Esther’s Place customers.

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Vendor Spotlight: Artist Nancy Patz

Posted on September 27th, 2018 by

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

As my September blog contribution, I’m delighted to feature a longtime Gift Shop vendor and JMM collaborator: Baltimore artist, illustrator, and children’s book author Nancy Patz. Many of Nancy’s popular children’s books are available at Esther’s Place Gift Shop, including To Annabella Pelican from Thomas Hippopotamus, Sarah Bear & Sweet Sidney and her newest offering, The Elephant with a Knot in His Trunk, written with Dr. Stuart Sheer.

Patz is a Baltimore native who went to Forest Park and Goucher before graduating from Stanford University. Her paintings and drawings have been featured in exhibits at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the Peale Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art and numerous galleries, and she often speaks to school groups and teachers on the art of the picture book. Patz is the mother of two wonderful daughters and six “absolutely terrific” grandchildren.

Patz with copies of her latest children’s book, The Elephant with a Knot in His Trunk, written with Dr. Stuart Sheer. Elephant is available for sale at Esther’s Place.

I suggested a few questions that Nancy might respond to, and she eagerly accepted the opportunity to share about her current project, an exhibit about memory and loss soon to be displayed as a part of Reimagine End of Life—a weeklong, community-driven program in New York City exploring questions about life and death. These events will be held October 27 to November 3, 2018.

Nancy’s current project has its roots in a 2010 Jewish Museum of Maryland exhibition called Nancy Patz: Her Inward Eye.

Nancy shared:

“Now, eight years later, paintings, drawings, and poems from the section called Remembering My Mother have been brought up from my basement, unwrapped, re-curated, re-wrapped and will be exhibited in New York in October.

My mother, Fanny Jonas Patz, died of cancer in 1947. She was 41. It took me almost 50 years to begin to write and paint her back into my life. I wrote poems about her. I drew her portrait from old photographs, painting in different mediums and different styles. Sometimes I wrote poems on the drawings. Sometimes I drew drawings on the poems.

I cherished this sad, happy, bittersweet experience, and I returned to it again and again for more than 15 years, as I re-imagined my mother and the part she played in my early life. My new exhibit, now called All About My Mother, is one of more than 250 events in which collaborators will explore the subject of death and celebrate life from many perspectives.

Mother and Me: Strathmore Ave. by Nancy Patz, from her upcoming show All About My Mother.

On the evening of October 31, Rabbi Elana Zaiman and I will walk through my exhibit, discussing with each other and with visitors Remembering the Dead and the Living: Sharing Their Stories and Ours. (FYI, Rabbi Zaiman is the daughter of Rabbi Joel and Ann Zaiman – a lovely unexpected Baltimore connection!)

It pleases me deeply that this meaningful part of my original JMM exhibit will be seen again. The moment also gives me a chance to lift my glass once more in praise of JMM’s former Associate Director Anita Kassof, former Curator Karen Falk, Director of Learning and Visitor Experience Ilene Dackman-Alon, former Deputy Director Deborah Cardin, and the rest of the incredible JMM Team for their expertise in creating that original exhibit years ago.”

Thank you so much to Nancy for sharing this update. Nancy Patz’s children’s books are a staple at Esther’s Place, where we love their themes of friendship, adventure, acceptance, and self-discovery as well as their memorable illustrations. We also carry two adult books by Patz—18 Stones (co-authored by Susan L. Roth) and Who Was the Woman Who Wore the Hat? Both offer thought-provoking and poignantly imagined Holocaust stories that address themes of connection and loss.

Stop by Esther’s Place today and pick up a Nancy Patz book! Each one is a vibrant celebration of storytelling and the creative place where imagination and memory meet. Patz’s books make a perfect gift for a loved one—young or old.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Volunteer Spotlight on Robin Kaplan!

Posted on September 12th, 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 wdavis@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443-873-5168! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.


Why do people volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland? Robin Kaplan, a volunteer in the JMM’s gift shop Esther’s Place has great reasons. She was attracted to JMM because it gave her the opportunity to have things to do after retirement, to talk with people, to help out.

Robin has found the people at the JMM to be nice and the staff helpful, friendly and patient. When asked what gets her excited about volunteering at JMM, she responded that she likes to see the people and there is creative and appealing new merchandise in Esther’s Place each time she comes. Pictured is Robin creating merchandise displays for the new Rosh Hashanah stock.

According to Robin, one of the benefits of interacting with museum guests in the shop is learning new things. Robin had the idea of purchasing some magic tricks which were added the to the shop’s inventory to augment the current Houdini exhibit. She was hoping to perform the tricks to entertain her children during a family gathering but she had a problem. She didn’t know how! Luckily a set of grandparents and their 3 grandsons who viewed the Houdini exhibit, came into the shop. After noticing magic tricks, the college age grandson proceeded to demonstrate the tricks for his grandparents and in the process, Robin was able to learn how to be a magician.

Sharing time with the JMM is a family thing; Robin’s husband, Abe Kronsberg volunteers on special projects and is a member of the JMM Board.

Robin also volunteers with Experience Corps, an organization sponsored by AARP and Americorps. The organization assigns volunteers to Pre-K to 3rd grade classrooms in under-performing schools where they work with students on improving their literacy skills. For the past 3 years she was assigned to City Springs Elementary School, right down the street from the museum. This year she will be at Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle School. She spends about 10 hours a week with the kids. In addition, Robin tutors one afternoon a week for Living Classrooms.

Furthermore, Robin loves to travel. She recently returned from a cruise to Bermuda with her family. She said that the trip was fun, but the company was even better. In a number of months, Robin and her husband Abe will be going to New Zealand and Australia, places she has always wanted to visit. Abe has never been to Israel, so that is definitely on their bucket list.

Prior to volunteering, Robin was a lawyer for the Social Security Administration for 40 years. She worked mostly in the General Counsel’s office providing legal opinions and on cases in which people sue for disability benefit. Her last position was as executive secretary to the Social Security commissioner who oversaw the entire agency.

Robin is the proud mother of two sons. Her oldest recently moved back to Baltimore with his wife – they are living in Patterson Park. The other son lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and Robin’s “incredible” granddaughter.

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