Volunteer Spotlight on Fran Banks!

Posted on October 3rd, 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 Wendy at wdavis@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443-873-5168! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.


Fran Banks’ face lights up when she explains what she does as a volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Her current project is entering information about engagements and weddings announcements from the Jewish Times into the museum database.  She started with issues from 1928 and has progressed to the Second World War years.  Being a Baltimore native, she is familiar with many of the families mentioned in the Jewish Times and most weeks she reads announcements about people she knows personally.  The first week Fran worked on this project, she read an engagement announcement about her aunt and it was written by Fran’s grandparents.  What an engaging way to begin a project!

Of course, as one reads these various announcements, you can’t help but also read the ads adjacent to them.  Fran recalled seeing an advertisement for a venue “the Community Hall” noting soup to nuts meals for $1.25 per person.

The first project Fran worked on at JMM, about two years ago, was entering data from birth announcements kept by area midwives.  She found it interesting that the announcements also included the father’s occupation.  Fran was able to track how the father’s occupation changed as each family grew.  For example, one father was listed as a buttonhole maker when his first son was born, but by the 5th child, he was listed as a master tailor!  First–born sons usually had a name noted, but later-born children within the same family were frequently listed as boy 4, girl 7, etc.

Fran looked specifically at JMM for volunteer opportunities because she wanted to do something totally different than what she did for work. She stated, “I love seeing where small pieces of history fit into a larger picture, so what I’m doing suits me just fine. And I know that I’m entering data that someone will eventually use to find family, friends or get a sense of the Baltimore community.”

Before her 2013 retirement, Fran was an emergency room nurse at Sinai Hospital for 20 years and then she worked for the Baltimore County Department of Aging.  The Department of Aging job entailed home visits, identifying services and / or specific modifications needed to maintain people safely in their homes or to determine if an assistive living facility would be more appropriate.  Fran was amazed by many people she met and how well they were able to deal with issues related to aging and illness.

In addition to volunteering one day a week at JMM, Fran is engaged in many other activities.  She has been taking courses at CCBC on art history and English, is involved in weekly Torah study and a book group.  She is active in her synagogue, Temple Oheb Shalom. She keeps her hands busy doing needle crafts and she is one of the on-line citizen typists for the U.S. Archives.  She transcribed some records on Lee Harvey Oswald and Alger Hiss.  Additionally, she travels to Philadelphia with her husband as often as possible to visit with her son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

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Volunteer Spotlight on Robin Kaplan!

Posted on September 12th, 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 Wendy at wdavis@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443-873-5168! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.


Why do people volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland? Robin Kaplan, a volunteer in the JMM’s gift shop Esther’s Place has great reasons. She was attracted to JMM because it gave her the opportunity to have things to do after retirement, to talk with people, to help out.

Robin has found the people at the JMM to be nice and the staff helpful, friendly and patient. When asked what gets her excited about volunteering at JMM, she responded that she likes to see the people and there is creative and appealing new merchandise in Esther’s Place each time she comes. Pictured is Robin creating merchandise displays for the new Rosh Hashanah stock.

According to Robin, one of the benefits of interacting with museum guests in the shop is learning new things. Robin had the idea of purchasing some magic tricks which were added the to the shop’s inventory to augment the current Houdini exhibit. She was hoping to perform the tricks to entertain her children during a family gathering but she had a problem. She didn’t know how! Luckily a set of grandparents and their 3 grandsons who viewed the Houdini exhibit, came into the shop. After noticing magic tricks, the college age grandson proceeded to demonstrate the tricks for his grandparents and in the process, Robin was able to learn how to be a magician.

Sharing time with the JMM is a family thing; Robin’s husband, Abe Kronsberg volunteers on special projects and is a member of the JMM Board.

Robin also volunteers with Experience Corps, an organization sponsored by AARP and Americorps. The organization assigns volunteers to Pre-K to 3rd grade classrooms in under-performing schools where they work with students on improving their literacy skills. For the past 3 years she was assigned to City Springs Elementary School, right down the street from the museum. This year she will be at Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle School. She spends about 10 hours a week with the kids. In addition, Robin tutors one afternoon a week for Living Classrooms.

Furthermore, Robin loves to travel. She recently returned from a cruise to Bermuda with her family. She said that the trip was fun, but the company was even better. In a number of months, Robin and her husband Abe will be going to New Zealand and Australia, places she has always wanted to visit. Abe has never been to Israel, so that is definitely on their bucket list.

Prior to volunteering, Robin was a lawyer for the Social Security Administration for 40 years. She worked mostly in the General Counsel’s office providing legal opinions and on cases in which people sue for disability benefit. Her last position was as executive secretary to the Social Security commissioner who oversaw the entire agency.

Robin is the proud mother of two sons. Her oldest recently moved back to Baltimore with his wife – they are living in Patterson Park. The other son lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and Robin’s “incredible” granddaughter.

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Volunteer Spotlight on Rachel Jablon!

Posted on August 15th, 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 Wendy at wdavis@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443-873-5168! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.


If you have visited the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s gift shop “Esther’s Place” on Sunday, you have probably met Rachel Jablon.  She has been volunteering in the museum’s gift shop since February.  She loves being in an environment that deals with Jewish identity and Baltimore.  She likes answering questions, especially Jewish identity questions posed by our visitors.  With a background in Jewish studies, Rachel is well equipped with the answers to most of the questions.  When the visitors are locals and they find out that Rachel is from this area, the questions most asked of her are, “Who are your parents?” “And which temple do you belong to?”

A favorite moment in the shop occurred when Rachel saw two teenagers looking at the dreidels.  She told them the Hanukah story, then worried that what she told was too long and too much, but one of the teenagers said that was just what she wanted.  It definitely increased the girl’s appreciation of what she saw.

When asked why volunteer at JMM, Rachel said it was for selfish reasons.  She wanted to volunteer at a place that she wished she went to more.  The Baltimore culture and history exhibited by the JMM are important to her.  She also gets ideas for Judaica in her home.

Rachel currently works in human resources for the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks.  She manages the employment and payroll for thousands of employees who run activities at rec centers and parks, like classes, sports, programs for children and adults with special needs, and animal husbandry.

When Rachel is not at work or at the JMM, she reads a lot of Holocaust literature.  She said that it is an amazing look at human nature.  Among her favorites are Chris Bohjalian’s “Skeletons at the Feast” and Cynthia Ozick’s “The Shawl”.  She balances the heavier topics  with popular books such as Julia Dahl’s Rebekah Roberts series and Jewish family histories.”

We are thankful that Rachel shares her enthusiasm and her expansive knowledge of Judaism to the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

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