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Turning Oy Vey into JOY VEY: Esther’s Place

Posted on November 15th, 2019 by

In this month’s Performance Counts Rachel Kassman takes the measure of a holiday market and introduces two new shopping opportunities for Baltimore. To read more posts from Rachel, click here.


Performance Counts: November 2019

Whether it’s finding the perfect symbol to celebrate a bar mitzvah, showing your love on an anniversary or trying to put a smile on the face of all your nieces, nephews, baby cousins, and kids at the holidays, we all know the trials and tribulations of gift shopping. That’s where Esther’s Place, the JMM shop comes in. From treating yourself to getting ready for the holidays, here at the Museum we try to make Esther’s Place a one-stop shop to reduce stress and make shopping easy and fun.

With the weather turning chilly and our thoughts turning to the dancing lights of hanukkiah, we’ve officially entered the holiday shopping season – this year Esther’s Place is participating in three separate special events! This past weekend, from November 7-10, Esther’s Place set up shop at the annual Museum Shop Holiday Market at the Mansion at Strathmore. This was our fourth year participating in the Holiday Market and once again was a highly successful endeavor. We sold over $7,800 worth of merchandise, and perhaps even more importantly, we spoke to dozens of folks who were excited to learn about the Museum, taking brochures and program guides home to plan their visits.

Fun fact: The most popular item sold was Hanukkah candles (56 boxes), with Hamsas coming in second in the single item-type category with 39 sold. Our custom Oy Vey Old Bay magnets where the top-selling single item sold at 36! As usual, Mah Jongg merchandise proved popular with 54 Mah Jongg-related items sold over the four days.

This Sunday, November 17, Esther’s Place will be appearing as a special pop-up at the Owings Mills JCC from 10am – 3pm. This is our first solo pop-up, so if you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and say hi to JMM Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker, who will be on hand to help you find the ideal gifts for all your loved ones. We’ll also have plenty of Hanukkah candles in a variety of colors, styles, and materials on hand.

On Sunday, December 1, Esther’s Place has another first – we’re participating in Museum Store Sunday. Developed by the Museum Store Association, Museum Store Sunday is a way to bring attention to the importance and impact of museum shops. Shopping at Esther’s Place supports the mission and programs of JMM, making our exhibits, talks, education programs, and tours possible. It’s shopping you can feel good about!

(Most of the) Year in Review:

Books continue to top our “Best Seller” list – unsurprising at a museum, after all! The top 10 selling books since January 1, 2019 are an interesting mix of perennial favorites and special event books:

Stitching History from the Holocaust exhibit catalog (a whopping 46 copies!)

President Carter: The White House Years by Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, our 2019 Annual Meeting Keynote speaker

And There Was Evening and There Was Morning by Ellen Kahan Zager and Harriet Cohen Helfand – in addition to the book, we have art prints of Ellen’s illustrations for sale in Esther’s Place!

Houdini: Art and Magic by Brooke Kamin Rapaport

Big Little Book of Jewish Wit and Wisdom by Sally Ann Berk

Voices of Lombard Street exhibit catalog

Did Jew Know? by Emily Stone

On Middle Ground by Deborah Weiner and Eric Goldstein

Glimpses of Jewish Baltimore by the late Gil Sandler

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley – you may remember Debbie as half of our 2018 Annual Meeting Keynote speakers!

Our most popular children’s items are the cuddly Macca Beans Collectables (my personal favorite is Gefilte, the fat blue fish) and the matzoh ball stress balls (not just good for kids!) at 53 and 32 pieces respectively. Sadly, it looks like the Macca Beans are no longer being produced, so once we’ve sold out of our current stock, that’s it!

Perhaps most exciting for me are our custom JMM products. We introduced our “Oy Vey,” “Shalom Hon!,” and “Smalltimore” magnets and mugs over the summer in 2018 and they have proved as popular as we hoped. “Oy Vey” is the clear winner, with 136 magnets, 45 coffee mugs, and 37 camp mugs sold this year – I’m glad our homage to Maryland’s love of Old Bay is bringing a smile to so many people.

Remember, Esther’s Place is always open during the Museum’s regular hours – you can stop in or call 443-873-5179 with any questions! Let us help you make your gift shopping stress free and help us by supporting the Museum with your purchases.

P.S. Special props to Board Member and regular front-desk volunteer Roberta Greenstein for her brilliant suggestion of Turn Oy Vey into Joy Vey as we brainstormed what to call our Esther’s Place pop-up!


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Something old and something new: Adventures in shop inventory!

Posted on July 4th, 2019 by

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


The annual shop inventory at Esther’s Place is a daunting task. Though we’re a relatively small operation, our stock is extensive. We’ve got books, toys, games, souvenirs, homewares, art, jewelry, and Judaica in every size, style, and price point—so the individual inventory items are quite numerous.

It’s a big job. But it’s also fun and edifying, and the best possible chance for busy staff and volunteers to slow down and get to know the inventory in a deeper way.

We conducted our inventory count over June 12 and June 13 with the invaluable assistance of five wonderful summer interns and two brave and seasoned Shop volunteers. And since we counted more efficiently this year (thanks Google Sheets!), we had a little energy left at the end to share some of our discoveries and new inspirations for the coming fiscal year.

My favorite discovery, buried deep inside the box of custom JMM postcards, was a postcard I’d never seen featuring a photograph of 1963 East Lombard Street by John McGrain. Up to that point, I had been unaware we had a postcard showcasing our beloved historic Lombard Street (the subject of permanent exhibit Voices of Lombard Street), and naturally the newly discovered postcard now occupies a prime spot at the counter!

While counting and searching inventory items on the inventory worksheet, some of the more descriptive and whimsical inventory names caught our eyes and made us smile. Featured below from left to right are the “spider bullet” mezuzah, swiss cheese mezuzah, chimes mezuzah, and waterfall Kiddush cup and candle holders.

A new term, “jacquard,” also caught my attention during the count and led me to a deeper appreciation of some of our artisan items. The Shop features two “jacquard specks” scarves and a hamsa hanging described as “royal jacquard.” Jacquard, I learned, is a complex, raised weave made on a special loom invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard. Florals, such as the image depicted on our Royal Jacquard Hamsa, are popular jacquard designs. Learn more about textile arts on July 14 during a hands-on workshop with shop-featured silk painting artist Diane Tuckman. More details on the workshop here.

The count also got us quite excited about some of our new merchandise, including car mezuzahs (a returning favorite), and shofar necklaces (a brand-new inventory item).

The yearly inventory also serves as a great reminder of interesting and handy products that haven’t been featured recently, or that our customers might not always remember we have.

Two examples are our gift enclosure cards (only $0.75 or $0.95 each and the perfect accompaniment to your gift purchase) and some of our older local history reads by valued community members, including A Life Worth Living by Ralph A. Brunn and Uncommon Threads by Philip Kahn, Jr.

Thank you to all JMM team members who gave their energy and attention to our inventory count. Visitors, stop by Esther’s Place to welcome in the new fiscal year and discover inventory items old, new, and newly “re-discovered”!

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Reading with Talia: Looking for Me

Posted on May 23rd, 2019 by

Our Visitor Services Coordinator, Talia Makowsky, is highlighting books currently available in our shop, Esther’s Place. Today’s featured book is Looking for Me in this Great Big Family by Betsy R. Rosenthal. To read more posts from Talia, click here.


In the book Looking for Me in this Great Big Family, Edith Paul is trying to figure out who she is. As a young girl growing up in Depression-era Baltimore, it’s hard enough for Edith to learn what kind of person she wants to become. To make it more complicated, Edith has a big family. There are twelve children, to be exact. With six boys and six girls, Edith is stuck right in the middle of them all.

Situated in the midst of all these different personalities, Edith writes poems to help express how she feels about her family, the good and the bad. The book, based on true stories from the author’s mother, is a collection of these lyrical poems. The poems in the book are all from the perspective of Edith over the course of a year, as she laments the ending of summer, stands up to the school bully, and tries her best to take care of her younger siblings.

This sweet book is an easy and honest read, perfect to share with your family!

Rosenthal’s writing is personable and honest. These poems feel authentic, especially since they are based on true stories. In addition, Edith shares her emotions freely with us, even if she’s feeling upset with her family members or with her situation in life. She doesn’t shy away from these moments of frustration, admitting that she’s gotten angry when her little brothers and sisters don’t listen to her. Edith also openly shows us her desire to figure out who she is, in her great big family. She compares herself to her older siblings, revealing what she admires about them or what she dislikes. She also imagines the life of her friends, especially the ones who don’t have as many brothers and sisters. Edith wonders what it would be like to not have to share the bed with her sisters, or to have brand-new shoes instead of hand-me-downs.

Despite her complaints, Edith’s family is the central part of her life. We can see this, as she’s incredibly conflicted when she finds out the history of how her Bubby came to America without her mother. Edith decides to avoid her in order to punish Bubby Etta. But Edith’s promise to not talk to her Bubby becomes harder as she misses stopping by on her way home from school, especially wanting the special treats her Bubby makes just for her.

This theme of family, and all the complications involved in loving her family, is a big part of what Edith tries to figure out, as she figures out herself. She likes being known as the “good little mother”, helping out with chores and younger siblings. However, she questions whether she deserves this title when she gets mad at her younger sister over a misunderstanding. Edith’s feelings come to a head when she loses a member of her family. Her reactions to this moment underscore how difficult it is to manage the stress of everyday life when normalcy is lost. However, this situation leads Edith to find new ways to connect with her family, and even help her to figure out who she wants to become.

This book is a thoughtful and easy read, making it a perfect gift for younger folk around the ages of 10 – 12. It’s also a great glimpse into the history of Baltimore, especially in a neighborhood like Jonestown, with the unique perspective of Edith leading the way. It even features photos of the real Edith Paul, as Betsy Rosenthal recounts what it was like to collect these stories. I found it easy to relate to Edith, even with our own differences, as she shares her desire for belonging and identity. I recommend it to anyone, older or younger, who’s interested in an honest and caring voice, of a girl trying to understand the world and how she fits in.

Come check out this, and many more books, in our Museum gift shop! We often have new additions to our collection.


Interested in picking up the book today? Stop by Esther’s Place, the gift shop at the Jewish Museum. We have it ready for you to grab or to gift to someone else!


 

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