What’s in (and on) a Seder Plate? JMM Staff Share Esther’s Place Favorites

Posted on March 23rd, 2018 by

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

During Passover, the Seder plate is, for many, the symbolic heart of both the meal and the ritual, carrying five or six items that help tell key parts of the Passover story: karpas (often parsley), charoset (sweet fruit), maror (often horseradish), zeroa (roast lamb shankbone), and beitzah (egg). Some Seder plates also contain a second bitter herb known as chazeret. And some plates may also hold an orange or other contemporary addition that conveys a social justice message and recognizes the contributions of specific members of the community, including gay and lesbian and women members of the Jewish community.

At Esther’s Place, we strive to carry Seder plates in a wide variety of styles and price points, including glass plates, ceramic plates, and even a unique and beautiful “folding” Seder plate.

The Seder plate is often a piece of great beauty, pride, and personal meaning within the home. And in honor of this, a small group of JMM staff picked out their favorite Seder plates on sale at the JMM Gift Shop, Esther’s Place, and shared a few thoughts on why they love their chosen plate and/or how they would incorporate the plate into their own Passover celebrations. Here are their selections and stories.

Tracie Guy-Decker, Deputy Director:

The Futura Seder Plate by Jonathan Adler is not only my favorite one in the Gift Shop, it is also the actual Seder plate used by my family. I first saw the plate in an internet ad, which took me to the website of the Jewish Museum Shop (the New York museum). I fell in love instantly with the plate’s mid-century aesthetic, particularly the central atomic-looking figure—and promptly bought the plate first for myself. Then I figured out how to buy it for Esther’s Place. In fact, this plate is the reason that Esther’s Place carries Jonathan Adler products (which include other beautiful and unusual Judaica and tabletop items). The plate goes with my family’s Sputnik-style dining room light fixture and mid-century-style table, perfectly complementing our dining room—both in terms of style and ritual.

Lindsey Davis, Interim Program Manager:

I love metallic and shine, so when my eye caught the Seder Plate on Pedestal by Israel Giftware Designs I knew I had found my favorite. There’s something harmonious about the mix of silver, gold, and bronze. These metals are typically isolated from one another, and I loved the risk of the designer to put them adjacent to one another and result in something so beautiful. I think the design is reflective of my own Seder table, where there always seems to be an added guest, someone new, a friend stopping by, and an extra chair being pulled up at last minute. Regardless of how fragmented all the pieces may be, they make sense together—similar to this Seder plate.

Jessica Konigsberg, Office Manager & Shop Assistant:

My favorite Seder plate is our Porcelain Tree of Life Seder Plate because it is most reminiscent of the Seder plates that my husband and I have used during each Passover we’ve shared together. To clarify, until recently, my husband and I had never owned a real Seder plate. Each year, my creative, resourceful husband makes us a disposable Seder plate using a white paper plate and colorful print-outs from the internet—one for each of the six items to be displayed on the plate. The Tree of Life Seder Plate reminds me of the bright, friendly illustrations that have come to characterize our humble Seder plates. I also love the Tree of Life imagery and symbolism generally; in particular, the idea of trees representing humanity and human aspiration resonates with me and seems to fit well with the meaning of Passover.

Tracey Dorfmann, Director of Development:

This Seder plate appeals to me because the spring motif was executed through beautiful craftsmanship. I love the combination of metalsmithing styles and patinas.

Marvin Pinkert, Executive Director:

I chose the KidKraft Passover Set. I particularly liked the two-piece afikomen. At my Seder, I’ll be saying “Next year in Jerusalem” and then out of hearing range of my son and daughter, “…maybe, the year after that a grandchild to share this afikomen with?”

The Passover holiday, which remembers the story of the Jewish people’s salvation from slavery in Egypt, is one of liberation, and the Seder is often, fittingly, a reflection of personal expression. We hope you’ll stop by Esther’s Place to experience some of this beauty and self-expression through our many beautiful and distinctive Seder plates and other table accompaniments, including Elijah’s Cups and Miriam’s Cups (the latter is a Seder addition honoring women), salt water dishes, horseradish dishes and more. How does your Passover table tell the story of the holiday and of your household and loved ones? We would love to hear.

And as you prepare for the upcoming holiday, don’t forget to check out our online collection database to enjoy the many special Seder plates in our Museum collection. Click here to explore the collection. If you stop in to the JMM library in the next couple of weeks, you can get a closer look at one of those Seder plates!

This olive wood Seder plate was brought to Baltimore from Palestine in 1909 by Sophie Szold. Gift of Jastrow Levin, JMM 1988.141.1

 

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National Reading Month at Esther’s Place:

Posted on March 14th, 2018 by

Memoirs of a Jewish Baltimore childhood, courageous acts of rescue and escape, trailblazing women, and more!

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

March is National Reading Month—a  celebration of the joy and importance of reading—and a great opportunity to explore some of the many great titles that we carry at the JMM Gift Shop, Esther’s Place, titles exploring topics ranging from Baltimore local and Jewish history, to Women’s Studies, to Holocaust Studies, as well as reference and general interest. We also carry several beautiful and engaging fiction titles for children that feature themes we celebrate at Esther’s Place such as memory, imagination, and of course, friendship and family in its many forms.

If you haven’t visited in a few months, you’ll find many new and exciting books perfect for gift giving or your personal library. At Esther’s Place, we truly have something for everyone—whether your tastes are historical, poignant, challenging, educational—or whimsical and fun.

One of our newest Baltimore Jewish history title is My Shtetl Baltimore by Eli W. Schlossberg. After reading just the first few lyrical chapters of this book, I was completely immersed in Mr. Schlossberg’s childhood world.

The book reads like a personal love letter to Baltimore and the tight-knit Jewish Orthodox community that made Baltimore feel like home for the author. The book feels like a joyful and nostalgic celebration of Baltimore Jewish life and I look forward to continuing through Mr. Schlossberg’s compilation of fond reminiscences of his upbringing and family in 1950s and 1960s Baltimore.

After journeying through Mr. Schlossberg’s memoirs, celebrate Women’s History Month (also this month) with a copy of Phoebe’s Fantasy: The Story of a Mafia Insider Who Helped Rescue Jazz. Phoebe Jacobs was a prominent publicist and fixer for many of the country’s pre-eminent African-American jazz musicians, including Baltimore’s own Eubie Blake. Jacobs uplifted both the artists and the industry of jazz through her ingenuity, singlemindedness, and empathy; according to author Hugh Wyatt, “she lived and dreamed jazz; [the] musicians were her heroines and heroes.” Pick up your copy to learn more.

After your vivid visit into the world of Phoebe Jacobs and the jazz industry, go on an epic journey of escape and rescue with Margret and H.A. Rey, creators of the beloved children’s book character Curious George.

The Reys were German Jews who fled Paris in 1940 on bicycle, taking with them their children’s book manuscripts. Though technically a young reader publication, The Journey that Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden, illustrated by Allan Drummond (currently available at Esther’s Place) is a simple, beautiful, and captivating telling of the Reys’ story that effortlessly appeals to readers of all ages. Plus, it’s only $7.99 and filled with illustrations and reproductions of historic photos and documents. As I’m writing this post, we are down to our final copy of this popular title, but don’t worry, we’ll be ordering more soon!

As you continue your historical journey, consider spending time in the dangerous and heroic world of Jan Karski with paperback, Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust. We added this book to our Shop offerings as an accompaniment to the current (ending this month) temporary exhibit highlighting diplomats recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Though Karski’s story is not one of the nine featured in the exhibit by Yad Vashem, his story has a local significance because he spent his later years teaching at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and is well remembered for his teaching work. His earlier years (and the subject of the book) were spent working for the Polish underground movement and undertaking heroic missions to alert the world to the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Themes of survival and memory also abound in many of our other book offerings, such as Memories of Survival by Esther Nisenthal Krinitz and Bernice Steinhardt. This book is popular at Esther’s Place, likely due to its moving illustrations of embroidered panels and deeply personal story of author Esther’s Krinitz’s experiences during the Holocaust.

Also known for their beautiful illustrations are our many children’s titles by Baltimore-based author and illustrator Nancy Patz such as Babies Can’t Eat Kimchee (by Patz and Susan L. Roth)—a story about transition, anticipation, and imagination…when a baby sister comes along.

To create your own visual memories, pick up one or more of our new Story Lines books: Amazing Mom, Grandma is a Superhero, and Grandpa is Magical (we’ll soon have one that celebrates Dad too, but it’s currently on back order).

These books contain engaging stories with blank pages for the owner or gift giver to add accompanying illustrations (or even clippings and additional captions as one creative visitor suggested).

Another great option for recording your treasured memories is our new holiday find: No Seder Without You: Passover Past and Future by Joan Goldstein Parker (due into Esther’s Place very soon), which includes, in addition to the illustrations and author’s childhood memories, several blank pages for the owner to journal their own Passover Seder experiences.

If any of these books sound like your perfect National Reading Month project or gift, don’t delay in heading over to Esther’s Place to grab your copy. The books are available until sold—though of course—if you (our valued reading community) love the books we’ll absolutely order more. The books of Esther’s Place are vehicles of memory—both for remembering and elevating the many untold stories—and for finding, connecting, and recording your own.

And don’t forget to keep up to date on our upcoming book signings, including the release of new JMM book On Middle Ground in April, via our Events page.

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New Year for Trees, New Job—and lots to learn!

Posted on January 25th, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM Office Manager and Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg.

On the very first workday of the new calendar year, I began my position as Office Manager and Shop Assistant at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. In addition to supporting the visitor experience and working with the JMM’s Board of Trustees, I am also charged with operating the Museum Gift Shop, Esther’s Place (named for Esther Weiner who served as the shop’s manager for 23 years).

Showing off my favorite tree-themed item currently in Esther’s Place!

I’m especially delighted to take on the Gift Shop due to my own family background and eagerness to learn more about Jewish history and culture. While I married into a Jewish family three years ago after dating my now-husband for several years prior to that, my knowledge of Jewish traditions remains quite limited in many areas. The favorite holiday in my household of two is Passover; my husband and I celebrate this holiday every year without fail and love to welcome our friends into the traditions and rituals. Though I’ve celebrated a few other Jewish holidays over the years, I’m far less familiar with the relatively smaller holidays and so I’m excited to begin learning more so that I can help the Gift Shop reflect and uplift these occasions for our visitors.

Fittingly, my first holiday/shop challenge is the upcoming celebration of Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year for Trees. And fortunately, we have many beautiful items in the shop that honor and celebrate trees and help to highlight the different themes that the holiday evokes: environmentalism, agriculture, ecology, and more.

Just a few of the many tree-themed items in Esther’s Place.

According to my research (and for those who are unfamiliar as I was), Tu B’Shvat, or the beginning of a new year for trees (originally an accounting for tithes), is celebrated on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat (in 2018, the holiday begins at sundown on January 30 and ends the evening of January 31). Tu B’Shvat may be celebrated with a seder in which participants enjoy dishes featuring the seven fruits of Israel (pomegranates, dates, barley, figs, olives, grapes, and wheat); dried fruit, nuts, grains, and vegetarian or vegan dishes served in environmentally-friendly ways are also common. Tu B’Shvat represents an opportunity for reflection, conversation, and sometimes even action and activism around issues such as conservation, sustainability, personal growth and renewal, and our relationship with the land and physical world.

Some of the dried fruits and nuts commonly eaten to celebrate Tu B’Shvat. via.

In addition to items celebrating trees and the natural world in general, Esther’s Place’s Tu B’Shvat display will also incorporate newly available products from metal artist Michael Aram. According to Aram’s website, his products are designed to inspire ritual and ceremony—making them beautiful additions to a contemplative Tu B’Shvat table or celebration. Appropriately, several of our Aram products feature pomegranates, one of the seven fruits of Israel. Examples include a pomegranate mini-pot and pomegranate “catch all” dish. Other nature-inspired Judaica by Aram also feature prominently in the Gift Shop.

Pomegranate mini-pot, catch all, and kosher menorah by Michael Aram.

Botanical Leaf frame and menorah by Michael Aram.

We hope you’ll stop by on January 31 to visit the Gift Shop and share your own Tu B’Shvat stories ranging from personal observances to family traditions and environmental projects or goals. Tell us about your favorite Tu B’Shvat recipes while finding the perfect tableware to beautify your Tu B’Shvat table. What better way to look forward to warmer, brighter weather than by stopping by to experience all the Museum and synagogues have to offer, and enjoying our Tu B’Shvat Gift Shop display? And if you can’t make it to the museum, explore Tu B’Shvat photos and other artifacts in our online collection such as this brightly-constructed paper tree and sign from the Yeshivat Rambam collection.

Tree planting certificate for a tree planted in honor of Sarah Lesser by the Pioneer Women in appreciation of her work for the Child Rescue Fund, n.d. JMM 1970.9.22

I look forward to celebrating my first Tu B’Shvat as well as the beginnings of what I hope will be a fruitful time at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and Esther’s Place.

 

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