Vendor Spotlight: Seven Questions with Author Mark Carp

Posted on November 19th, 2018 by

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

“Reality is what we make it,” Mark Carp in Naomi’s “AMERICAN” FAMILY.

November is National Novel Writing Month and in celebration, we are delighted to feature Esther’s Place vendor and long-time JMM Member: Baltimore author Mark Carp. Carp has authored numerous novels that explore the complexities of individuals, relationships, and societies, and frequently take place in historical settings. Carp has written seven books (including six novels) and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and an MS degree from Johns Hopkins University.

I recently met Mark Carp when he delivered his newest novel to the Gift Shop, a book titled Mr. Show Business.

The book tells the story of former TV star Jackie Goldheart and his last chance at stardom via an unexpected family connection; this latest book follows another recent publication, Naomi’s “AMERICAN” FAMILY, which tells of two Jewish teenagers and their vast ambitions when they immigrate to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Other Carp titles found at Esther’s Place include The End of Hell, The Extraordinary Times of Ordinary People, Abraham: The Last Jew, and Segalvitz.

Local novelist Mark Carp.

I was intrigued to learn more about this Baltimore writer who enjoys turning his creative insight and lens onto Jewish culture and experience, and so I posed to him seven questions. Below is what I learned.

My first question to Carp was about his creative process. Carp shared that he gets up at 5am to write. He explained further: “The process starts with a germ of an idea and then I let my instincts, formed from experience and/or research, take over. In my writing, I try to hold nothing back. I believe the writer must be unafraid and have the integrity of his beliefs.” In response to my question about his current projects, Carp explained he is working on two novellas to be published together and which, “reflect the social, political and philosophical climate of today.”

The Baltimore and Maryland Jewish communities inspire Carp’s work primarily through his personal experience. He said, “I’m a product of this environment and my nurturing and experience seems to be prevalent in my work.”

I also asked for a little-known fact about Carp’s creative process. His fact: he doesn’t believe in fate, yet believes he was fated to write The End of Hell, a World War II novel about two Jewish soldiers who are among the liberators of Dachau. The End of Hell is available for sale at Esther’s Place.

Carp’s favorite stories, in his own words, are those where “there are inherent conflicts which must be overcome, though there are seldom perfect solutions.” He added, “I have often been inspired by stories where the real-life characters, because of their wisdom, have prevailed in spite of incalculable odds.” In response to my question about how his books are best enjoyed, Carp told me, “Read with care and think about the meaning of the stories.”

 For my final question, I asked Carp to share a favorite JMM experience. He shared three—including two exhibits and a public program: “the Voices of Lombard Street exhibition, the World War II exhibition [Ours to Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War] and a talk on Louis Brandeis.”

In addition to diving into a Mark Carp book, celebrate Novel Writing Month at Esther’s Place with two more novels recently featured at our public programs. On November 13, we held a book took with author Georgia Hunter, exploring her bestselling novel, We Were the Lucky Ones, and earlier this year, in July, we held an author program with Victoria Kelly, author of Mrs. Houdini: A Novel. Copies of both books are available at Esther’s Place.

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New at Esther’s Place: Snapshots of Jewish Baltimore Life from the Collection

Posted on October 26th, 2018 by

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

One of my favorite things about working at Esther’s Place, the JMM Gift Shop, is that our products share the real and tangible stories of people from the region. I frequently speak with Gift Shop visitors who excitedly point out photographs from our books and exhibit catalogs that feature their families, businesses, and important life moments. We at JMM are enormously privileged to share in these connections and help tell these stories. Phrases heard in the Gift Shop include:

“Here’s a photo of my family sharing a holiday meal.”

“This photo shows my family’s old bakery.”

“Here’s me, with my two children, on vacation.”

The Gift Shop is not the only repository of photographs showing the ordinary and extraordinary moments of Jewish Baltimore and Maryland life. Many photos in the Shop’s books and catalogs originate from our collection, and highlights are frequently featured on our social media channels. Many images are available for viewing via our online collection.

Knowing the abundant affection for our historic images (among staff, volunteers, and visitors alike), we wanted to make some images available for visitors to take home or give as one-of-a-kind gifts. JMM images are often humorous, heartwarming, and unique to a moment, a place, a personality, and a time. They tell stories individually and collectively.

So we created three postcard sets: Upstanders, Athletes, and Pets. The three themes were a natural fit for our collection; the Baltimore Jewish community has been, from its earliest days, deeply engaged in civic and charitable endeavors, and recreational pursuits and animal companions have long been staples of Baltimore Jewish life.

Upstanders, Athletes, and Pets Postcard Sets of 7 are now available at Esther’s Place. Photo credit: Rachel Jablon.

The first challenge was sorting through the collection to find a range of photos for each set. As I explored the collection, I discovered Upstanders from many walks of life performing tasks or achieving distinctions including civic participation, community organizing, simple acts of kindness, and excellence in helping professions.

Sinai Nurses hold Harry Greenstein Nurse of the Year Awards: Mary Mead (left) and Esther Dubin (right), 1971. From the Collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, Sinai Nurses Collection. JMM 2010.020.193

The Athletes series was a joy to develop, allowing us to explore the many facets of athletic endeavor including competition, community, wellbeing, teamwork, play, travel, and mentorship. Our final product hopes to convey and celebrate the idea that the designation of athlete is lifelong and universal.

Robert Levine golfing, ca. 1920. From the Collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, Robert L. Weinberg Collection. JMM 1991.065.001.080c

After an iterative process involving our wonderful Archivist Lorie Rombro and Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church, we arrived at a final set of images and begun designing the postcards. During the design process, I became intrigued by the times, places, and experiences captured in the images and was delighted to learn that many of the answers I sought could be found among JMM’s wealth of blog posts, online collection records, and catalogs. Here are just a few of my discoveries (I encourage you to make your own by exploring our blog, online collection, and Esther’s Place exhibit catalog selection):

Associated Women’s Division G-Day planning for May 15, 1949. Mrs. Alfred L. Tuvin and Mrs. Jerome Snyder seated; Mrs. Maurice Kolker and Mrs. Meyer Eggnatz, standing are co-chairmen of the Teams Committee of the Women’s Division of the Jewish Welfare Fund. From the Collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Credit: Associated Jewish Charities Women’s Division. JMM 1995.142.022.026

Learn more about the Associated Women’s Division and their door-to-door G-Day campaign via this great blog post by former intern Ash Turner. Ash discusses Women’s Division fundraising campaigns, and shares ephemera and artwork from Women’s Division’s event and fundraising materials. These materials help bring to life the work of these upstanders—women who utilized their varied skills to organize for the community and who artistically depicted their fellow women organizers as strong, proud, and engaged. You can also read more and view additional collection items relating to the Women’s Division and G-Day campaign in this blog post by Archivist Lorie Rombro, which shares examples of humor and satire in the activism of the Women’s Division.

Perna Krick with two cats, 1958, Baltimore. From the Collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. JMM 1993.167.031ac

Learn more about the woman pictured with two cats, featured in our Pets series; she is Baltimore artist Perna Krick, wife of fellow local artist Reuben Kramer. In our Reuben Kramer: A Sculptor’s Life catalog (available in the Gift Shop), discover photos, artworks, and stories from the careers and lives of Krick and Kramer.

Our new postcard sets have arrived just in time for Photographer Appreciation Month this October. As part of our celebration of photography, we’ve also developed a special photo frame display at Esther’s Place. Our message? Memories make great art. So come on by to Esther’s Place and check out our new postcard sets and photo frame display (if you purchase a frame, you might even find a bonus postcard from the collection inside!). And stay tuned for #FrameitFriday, a new social media series celebrating photographs and photo frames!

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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

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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