Collaboration is Key at Esther’s Place

Posted on June 11th, 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 comments from Gift Shop visitors is the observation that the Shop is ever-changing and dynamic with something new to see whether you visit once a year or once a month. I take pride in this feedback because there is much behind-the-scenes work that goes into our changing displays and merchandise.

Much of this effort is led by JMM’s Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker, who works hard to develop new custom products, meet with vendors, and develop creative merchandising ideas such as our “But First, Coffee” sale. But so much of the day-to-day rearranging and creative merchandising is done by our wonderful Esther’s Place volunteers. They are the ones who help me create new displays, and tackle daunting organizational projects such as fixing inventory issues and re-arranging boxes and merchandise in shop storage.

In honor of JMM’s upcoming annual volunteer appreciation event, I couldn’t resist sharing some of our Shop volunteers’ projects and achievements. Here are some of the highlights:

New Non-Kosher Mezuzah Scrolls

Long-time Esther’s Place volunteer Maxine Cohen recently took on the re-design of our free, non-kosher, mezuzah scrolls.

Maxine designed a computer template that could be easily printed double-sided so that both sides of the parchment are featured. She also came up with the idea to print the scrolls on yellow, parchment-style paper—giving them a more authentic, nicer look. These scrolls are also smaller and fit better into our smaller mezuzot. (Note, we also offer beautiful kosher parchments for $36.)

New and Changing Displays

In addition to our new scrolls, we also have many new mezuzot in the Gift Shop and volunteer Robin Kaplan has played an integral roll in merchandising these new items. Whatever your price point and personal tastes, I’m sure we can find the perfect mezuzah for you and this is all thanks to the volunteers who help me keep up with the constant flow of new inventory.

Volunteer Laraine Fisher also helped merchandise this display, adding our new selection of tallit clips, while former volunteer Doreen Eisenberg lent a hand to our display of anodized mezuzot.

Robin also helped develop our Shavuot display a few weeks ago, somehow maximizing the small amount of shop real estate available (no easy feat!) during this busy time when our Amending America exhibit merchandise was also on display.

Robin also merchandised our new supply of greeting cards.

Public Programs

Volunteer Rachel Jablon ran the Gift Shop during one of our busiest public programs of the year so far: the launch of new book On Middle Ground. At that program we sold over 40 copies of the book. Also, Rachel frequently gives the most detailed and thoughtful explanations of the various books and Judaica on sale for our inquiring customers.

Shop Administration

Volunteers Laraine Fisher and Jacob Davenport help with much of the attention to detail and day-to-day organization of Esther’s Place—everything from refining shop systems and inventories and managing records to keeping our display supplies organized and accessible to both myself and our program/education staff.

Laraine also recently updated our children’s reading corner to feature our book titles for little artists and makers.

At Esther’s Place, we are here to share in your excitement and discovery as you experience the Museum, to help spark your curiosity in Judaism and Jewish history, and to help you find beautiful and special mementos of your visit. I simply could not work towards these goals without the Esther’s Place volunteers – thank you!

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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 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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Volunteer Spotlight on Jacob Davenport!

Posted on March 5th, 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 or call 443-873-5162! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland was very fortunate when Jacob Davenport applied for a volunteer position.  When Jacob moved from Syracuse to Baltimore this past January, he started volunteering once a week in the gift shop and is making a transition to also volunteering at the front desk.  What has impressed him are the nice people with whom he interacts.

And he impresses us with his quiet demeaner, thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and willingness to help in any way possible.

Jacob studied history in college.  Most of his courses focused on national histories and he wanted to explore an area he hadn’t learned about.  He wanted a sense of local history. That is what initiated his reaching out to JMM.   In between his volunteer responsibilities, in addition to taking tours of the historic synagogues, he explored the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit which gave him a detailed sense of what the Lombard Street community has been and of the individual lives.

In June, Jacob will start his master’s program in liberal arts at St. John’s College in Annapolis. He wants to continue volunteering at JMM, but he might have to reduce his time to only twice a month.  To support his desire to become a writer, Jacob hopes to continue his education at Sarah Lawrence College. We at the JMM look forward to seeing his work in print!


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