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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Performance Counts: Strathmore’ Museum Shop Around

Posted on November 11th, 2016 by

This month’s Performance Counts is by Tracie Guy-Decker, Associate Director of Projects, Planning and Finance and Manager of Esther’s Place, the JMM Museum Shop.

The JMM Shop

The JMM Shop

Those of us who have strong affiliations with and affinity for an individual museum—whether as staff, volunteer or visitors—like to believe that our museum is one-of-a-kind. In our minds and hearts, it is a snowflake, truly unique and special. And we’re not wrong. Every museum is unique and special in its own way. It is also—whether intentionally or not—part of an international franchise with a recognized brand.

Museum shops enjoy a similar umbrella brand in many consumers’ minds. As a part of their museum experience, shoppers visit museum stores to take home a part of what they saw and learned. As a stand-alone brand, the Museum Store is known for uncommon and interesting finds. It is a destination for the discerning shopper and especially as we start to approach December, for the gift-giver in search of the perfect item.

One of our sister-franchisees, Strathmore, has been capitalizing on the strength of the Museum Store umbrella brand for more than a quarter century with their annual Museum Shop Around.

The Strathmore Mansion

The Strathmore Mansion

This four-day event brings together loads of special-snowflake shopping experiences under one roof. And though this is their 27th year doing it, they’ve never done it quite like they will in 2016: this year, Esther’s Place: The JMM Shop will have a space!

You can support JMM—and all of the wonderful participating museums—by coming by Strathmore between Thursday, November 10 and Sunday, November 13. There’s a small entry fee to get in (much like a craft show), but that gets you access to 18 different museum stores, all in one trip!

The Strathmore Museum Shop Around was introduced to JMM staff by our colleague Joanna Church, who participated with a previous employer (another sister franchisee). Joanna, Devan and I have had a great time selecting just the right products to take with us. We’ve done our best to select key highlights that will excite, entertain and tempt our customers—whether they are shopping for loved ones or themselves!

This event is a great opportunity for us to find new customers and sales for Esther’s Place. Just as importantly, it helps us to gain exposure and visibility for JMM to a group of people who may or may not know we exist.

Setting up "Esther's Place" at Strathmore Mansion

Setting up “Esther’s Place” at Strathmore Mansion

Our products for sale at Strathmore will include fine Judaica from designers like Michael Aram and Jonathan Adler. We will also feature home goods, children’s gifts, jewelry, books and tchotchkies. In fact, if you come by JMM this weekend, you may notice that Esther’s Place seems to have a little less of a selection than usual—we want to make sure we make you proud in Rockville!

Other Museums who will be represented include the National Archives Foundation, International Spy Museum, Just Imagine!, The Shop at Imagination Station, National Geographic and the White House Historical Association (another first-time attendee). See the full list of participating museum stores here.

Whether you’re interested in doing some Chanukah (or Christmas) shopping or just want to see what’s available, I highly recommend making the drive. Most participating shops offer a discount while they’re at Strathmore (we will be offering 10% off), and there are raffle prizes and other fun add-ons. Look for us on the second floor when you get to the mansion!

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

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Generations 2005-2006: Telling Time: Stories and Storytellers in Honor of Gil Sandler

Posted on November 6th, 2016 by

Generations 2005-2006: Telling Time: Stories and Storytellers in Honor of Gil Sandler

Table of Contents:

Introduction by Avi Y. Decter and Deborah R. Weiner

The Bard of Baltimore: An Interview with Gilbert Sandler

“The Dispersed of Judah”: A Speech on the Jew Bill, 1825 by John S. Tyson, Esq.

The Publisher Departs: The Rabbi as “Black Republican” by Rabbi David Einhorn

Three Bloody Days: Letters from the Bialystock Pogrom, 1906 by Chaim Goldberg

A Smelkinson’s Eye View of the World:Place, Memory, and Stories of an East Baltimore Childhood by Deborah R. Weiner

The Married Bachelor by Ethel Rubinstein Berman

The Great Escape: A True Story of Jewish Intrigue in Baltimore, circa 1930 by Gedaliah Cohen

Israel Bonds, Kosher Chickens, and the FBI by Harry Diamond

Photo Gallery: Every Picture Tells a Story by Jobi Zink

Dad’s Store, 1920-1968 by Hilda Perl Goodwin

Starting Out by Irene Siegel

Marching for Soviet Jewry by Shoshana S. Cardin

Divided Lives: A Generation of Baltimore Jewish Women Tell Their Tales by Pamela S. Nadell

Hand-Made Haggadot: The Zaben Family Haggadah

Chronology: Telling Time: A Century of Maryland Historical Writing

Field Notes: Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust by Louis D. Levine

Review: Gil Sandler: An Appreciation by Michael Olesker

Cost: $10

To order a print copy of Generations 2007-2008, please contact Esther’s Place, the JMM Museum Shop at 443-873-5179 or email Devan Southerland, Museum Shop Assistant at

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