Volunteer Spotlight on: Sylvia Nudler!

Posted on April 25th, 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 Sue Foard at sfoard@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443-873-5162! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

As a girl, Sylvia Nudler used to dream of working in museums, but her life initially took a different path.

For a number of years, she was employed by Sheppard Pratt at their Education Center and Conference Center. She then became the Chief Operating Officer for the Council for Quality and Leadership (CQL), an international organization that sets standards for services for people with disabilities. Sylvia related that this organization had employees all over the country that worked from their homes; much earlier than today’s normal acceptance of telecommuting. Upon retirement from CQL in 2013, she was finally able to fulfill her dream by joining the volunteer team at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Sylvia’s current project at the Museum is typing and organizing translations of German letters from the 1930s and 40s.

She finds it fascinating how on some letters, the paper is rotated in order to add sentences in the margins and in other letters space is left at the bottom for another family member to add a message. From when Sylvia began volunteering at the JMM in 2014 until recently, she has worked on hundreds of photographs in the collection.  She has written descriptions of them including who the people are that are pictured, where the photos were taken and the subject matter so that the photos can be found by different data searches.  Some of the photos were taken as early as the late 1800’s.

She calls herself an arm-chair traveler as she has sorted through the many photos that were travel-related. One photo that came to her mind was of a nanny, a baby carriage and the grandmother on a ship.

Another was of Baltimorean Harry Greenstein in Mexico photographed with Trotsky, Diego Rivera, and Frida Kahlo. The men were already identified, and Sylvia was able to add Frida’s name to the list.  (JMM 1971.20.55)

But Sylvia is not just an arm-chair traveler.  She has already visited all 7 continents and 48 countries.  Her goal, to see 50 countries, will be reached this spring when she travels to Croatia, Bosnia and other countries that previously made up Yugoslavia.

Sylvia began her international travel at age 3 ½ when she moved to Baltimore.  She was born in Wels, Austria at a displaced persons’ camp.  Her parents, who were both originally from Poland, met at the camp.  When they moved to Baltimore, they developed an extended “family” with other immigrants to stand in for the family that was lost in Europe.

Sylvia stays pretty busy in retirement.  In addition to her work at the JMM and her traveling, she also finds time to volunteer for several other organizations – the Maryland Association of Nonprofits and the House of Ruth.  She recently added ushering at Everyman Theatre to her calendar.  Whew!

Sylvia is one of our many appreciated volunteers at the JMM.  We are grateful for her time, her expertise, and her friendship.

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From Baltimore to Morocco

Posted on January 18th, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM volunteer and board member Lola Hahn.

Morocco is often described as a country of allure, mystery and beauty and we had the good fortune to spend 13 adventurous days, traveling 1,500 miles visiting cities & villages, experiencing the frenetic atmosphere in the souks (marketplaces), admiring different landscapes, taking in spectacular views of gorges & mountains, lush oases, valleys and of course, the dunes of the Sahara.

All of this was even more pleasurable as our late November weather was as mild as Baltimore in May/June. The roses were in bloom in the Riads (traditional house or palace with an interior garden; currently used as a guesthouse) and the flowers still exuded their intoxicating scent!

A very important element of Morocco’s beauty is its unique architecture.

Elaborate geometric patterns, ornamental Islamic calligraphy and colorful ceramic-tile mosaics.

Open courtyards with lavish gardens can be found at the center of most buildings and several of our hotels were fashioned in this manner.  They were created as places of privacy and relaxation.

Moroccan food offers flavorful combinations and aromatic spices which make even the most basic dishes insanely amazing. The best traditional Moroccan food is served at home, and 20 of us experienced it first hand as guests of a family in their beautiful home in Fez (the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities).

Native products included in our meal and especially important in Moroccan cooking were lemons, olives, figs, dates and almonds. We saw these products growing in different places on our trip along with other home-grown fruits and vegetables that included oranges, melons, tomatoes, and potatoes.

A major highlight for our escorted group of 20, was being transported in four-wheel drive Jeeps through the desert to an overnight camp in the Sahara. After a one hour ride by camel, we arrived in time to observe a full sunset as days in Morocco do not fade gradually.

I was mesmerized by the velvet blue night which followed the sunset seamlessly. Once the moon had risen, our private camp was surrounded by numerous brightly shining stars.

Various Moroccan cities consist of Jewish Heritage sites where we found a synagogue, a cemetery, and the Mellah (preserved Jewish quarter in an old walled area) and other sacred places. These sites are either UNESCO Heritage sites and/or protected by the King and the Moroccan government. Although there is a small population of Jews currently living in Morocco (approximately 2,000), the history of the Jews go back to pre-Christian times, when they took part in trade expeditions across the coast of Morocco. Since the Arab-Islamic colonization of Morocco from the 7th Century, Jews & Muslims had coexisted peacefully in Morocco. Jews were favored by Moroccan Arabs for their business acumen.

Towards the end of our trip, we stayed in Essouira, an Atlantic seaport (formerly known as Mogador) in western Morocco.

My husband & I visited a renovated synagogue and two Jewish cemeteries. Although there is no longer a Jewish community there, the synagogue is used when there are Jewish groups visiting Essouira. A large area of the Mellah is currently under renovation and preservation with the goal to ensure the site remain fully intact as an integral part of Morocco’s living cultural heritage. At the end of the 15th century, the Sultan had invited 10 prominent Jewish families from the key commercial centers of Morocco to settle in Mogador. These families were largely descendants of those expelled from Andalusia (Spain) and had gained a strong reputation for their skills as merchants. By the start of the 19th century, the majority of the population of Essouira was Jewish and there was as many as 40 synagogues-some private while others were community centers of worship.  Mogador was unique in that Jews, Muslims and Christians lived side-by-side up until the mid-1950s.

Visiting Morocco is truly an adventure not to be missed. The history and geography has created enormous variety in the country.  There is so much to experience from the friendly people, flavorful food, beautiful landscapes, colorful architecture and a strong cultural heritage.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

From Baltimore to Iraq to India

Posted on December 27th, 2017 by

A blog post from JMM Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. To read more posts from Wendy, click here.

I recently traveled with my husband to India.  It was an adventure into a culture and way of life that was fascinating.  But what surprised me was the connection between the current exhibit at Jewish Museum of Maryland and my recent travels to India.

The David Sassoon Library and Reading Room

In the Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage exhibit there is a facsmile of business correspondence of the Sassoon family.  The memory of this was trigger when I saw a sign on a building in Mumbai “David Sassoon Library and Reading Room.”  I remembered that David Sassoon was a Baghdadi Jew who moved to what was once called Bombay and established an international trading business in the mid-1800’s.  What I have learned since, is that he remained an observant Jew and built 2 synagogues in the Bombay area.

David Sassoon (seated) and his sons Elias David, Albert (Abdallah) & Sassoon David. Via.

Just a few blocks from the Sassoon library I visited a synagogue called Keneseth Eliyahoo.  It was built by Davis Sassoon’s grandson in 1884 when there was a huge Baghdadi Jewish community living in the area.  Upon looking up the synagogue on the internet, I found that when the Keneseth Eliyahoo recently dedicated a new Torah, a representative of the Midrash Ben Ish Hai, a New York synagogue/school, spoke at the dedication.

Interior, Kenesseth Eliyahu Synagogue. Photo by Reuben Strayer. Via.

The name “Ben Ish Hai” triggered another memory.  In the Iraqi Heritage exhibit there is a 1906 religious guidebook for women written by Yosef Hayin ben Elijah al-Hakam, also known as Ben Ish Hai.  Ben Ish Hai was an international known and respected rabbi whose name and teachings and Baghdadi traditions are expounded at the New York Midrash Ben Ish Hai.

Who knew that a trip to India would illustrate to me that, as the final panel in the Iraqi Jewish Heritage exhibit states, “Iraqi Jewish life continues as a vibrant tradition in Iraqi Jewish communities worldwide.”

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