Volunteer Spotlight on Ernie Silversmith!

Posted on July 11th, 2016 by

Ernie Silversmith, volunteer docent

Ernie Silversmith, volunteer docent

Ernie Silversmith has been a volunteer docent at the JMM for 15 years. In looking through our collection records,  I discovered that the Museum had completed a memoir of him a few years ago. In that memoir, I learned that Ernie was born in Nuremberg, Germany and he started school in 1936 at an all-Jewish school. The German part of his education ended on Kristallnacht when his parents decided it would be safer to leave the country. In 1939, Ernie and his sister took a train to Holland and then a boat to England where they stayed with their aunt and uncle until their parents could join them a few months later.  After the war started, the family left on a banana boat to Jamaica in order to avoid the German U-boats in the north Atlantic. They caught a luxury liner to New York and rented a room in Washington Heights. In fact, we have a copy of his US certificate of citizenship from 1946 in our archives.

US Certificate of Citizenship 1946, Ernest Silversmith. JMM 2012.046

US Certificate of Citizenship 1946, Ernest Silversmith. JMM 2012.046

They then moved to Tacoma, Washington before finally settling in the Baltimore area. Ernie taught chemistry for 50 years at Morgan State University. In looking around online, I found an article about him in the Baltimore Sun where I discovered that he was a beloved professor and also won many awards for his teaching.

In 2001, Ernie decided to become a docent at the JMM because he found that giving tours is a form of teaching, which he had done for his whole career. He is proud to be Jewish and gets excited watching the reactions of people on his tour and answering their many interesting questions. He aims to awaken their excitement about Jewish Baltimore and enjoys telling the story about our two historic synagogues.

Ernie begins a synagogue tour.

Ernie begins a synagogue tour.

He has been happily married 63 years and gets much pleasure from his four children and eight grandchildren.

While I have only known Ernie for the past year, I have found him to be a very dedicated volunteer with a kind and gentle soul. I always look forward to seeing him on Sundays and hope that he will continue to volunteer at our museum for many years to come.

GrahamPost by Visitor Services Coordinator Graham Humphrey. Every month 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 410-732-6402 x220! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

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Volunteer Spotlight on: Harvey Karch, docent

Posted on May 2nd, 2016 by

Volunteer Docent, Harvey Karch was born and raised in Baltimore.  He first lived above the family grocery store in Dundalk, next migrated northwest to Forest Park, then onward to Park Heights.  After college, he moved to Montgomery County – he currently lives in Rockville.  Harvey always had an interest in the Lloyd Street Synagogue since it was the shul where his grandfather davened (prayed).  His grandfather was from Volhynia , as was his friend, the president of Shomrei Mishmeres HaKodesh, Tobias Miller. Harvey’s father, Leonard Karch, became a Bar Mitzvah at the Lloyd Street Synagogue on a snowy day in January 1936. He told the story of the weather being so bad, that after services they simply went back to their East Baltimore Street home where people ate kichel, drank whiskey and said “Mazel tov!” And that was that – no big celebration like children today have come to know. When Harvey graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Liberal Arts, he was hired by Social Security. They trained him to be a computer programmer. He worked his way up the ladder, and after 38 years retired as the Chief Information Officer at an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.  He admits that the key to his success was perseverance.

Harvey Karch

Harvey Karch

The impetus to Harvey volunteering at the JMM was two trips he took as a visitor, in 2001. On the first visit, he joined his synagogue chaverah from Potomac. He was inspired to attend because of the family connection. The second time he came was with a program offered jointly through B’nai Brith and the Knight’s of Columbus.  They visited the historic synagogues then went for dinner in Little Italy.  Quite honestly, Harvey did not love the tours.  He went into the Museum Shop and bought Isaac M. Fein’s The History of Baltimore Jewry from 1773-1920 – The Making of An American Jewish Community. After reading it, he made an appointment with the Education Director, Deborah Cardin, and discussed becoming a docent.  When she explained that the Isaac Fein book is what our Docents use for training, he was recruited. Harvey had actually taken classes at Hebrew High School, part of the former Baltimore Hebrew College, with Isaac Fein in the early 1960’s. He was well on his way to understanding the Baltimore Jewish Community and it’s history, and became a Docent in no time. In addition to volunteering at the JMM, Harvey delivers Meals on Wheels in Montgomery County and enjoys taking classes in Jewish Studies and History at the University of Maryland.

Beyond volunteering as a Docent at the JMM, Harvey also works on the “Cemetery Project” with former JMM Historian, Deb Weiner.  Harvey had searched the Jewish Genealogical Society database for his parents’ records, with no success.  They are buried in the United Hebrew Cemetery on Washington Boulevard. It is currently associated with Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Congregation, and run by W.S. Tegeler Monument Company, but they only maintained paper records as of 2012.  So, twice a month, for three years now, Harvey and Deb have gone to the cemetery, taken information off of 3” x 5” cards and entered it onto a spreadsheet.  They began with the letter “A,” have completed 90% of the records, and once it is complete, the information will be uploaded onto the JMM website, for universal use.  It is quite an accomplishment, for which a lot of people will be grateful.  True to “Smalltimore” form, Harvey learned that the man running the cemetery now is a cousin of his father.

Harvey says he continues to feel the family connection every time he walks into the Lloyd Street Synagogue even though his grandfather passed away over 50 years ago.  And, he enjoys meeting the visitors who go on his synagogue tours.  He was once giving a tour to a woman and her grandson, who happened to be wearing a Dundalk High School sweatshirt.  Harvey mentioned that he used to live there, above a store in the St. Helena area. The woman asked if it was Stone’s Market or Karch’s? He was tickled that she remembered it from when she was a young girl.  He also remembers the time had two priests on his tour.  One was an historian who wanted to show the younger priest the building because it had once been used as a church. When Harvey explained that the Star of David stained glass window survived, in tact, during the years it was a church, the priest agreed that it was part of their heritage too.  Then, when the 3 men entered B’nai Israel and Harvey asked them to put on yarmulkes, the older priest picked up a red one, handed it to the younger priest and said, “Congratulations on your promotion!” A fun time can always be found at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and we appreciate that Harvey continues to share his precious volunteer hours with us, to enable such.

ilene cohenA blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. Every month she will be highlighting one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, drop her an email at icohen@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

 

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Volunteer Spotlight on Sydney Gross!

Posted on March 7th, 2016 by

Hard at work at the front desk!

Hard at work at the front desk!

Sydney Gross volunteers at the JMM at the Front Desk and in the Shop.  She is new to our volunteer corps but has always found a way to fit volunteering into her busy life.  From an early age, her parents instilled in her, the importance of giving back to one’s community. While growing up she made lasagna for bereaved families and for the nearby homeless shelter, she participated in outdoor cleanup efforts, she used her Spanish language skills to assist community members in filling out assistance forms which qualified them for free warehouse goods, and also as a 1st grade teacher in a local Sunday school in her native North Carolina.

Sydney works full time as the Volunteer Coordinator for Caring Carroll which strives to enable older, frail, isolated and disabled senior citizens in Carroll County to remain living independently.  In this AmeriCorps position she recruits, trains, and manages volunteers.  AmeriCorps members themselves are recruited, trained and positioned in communities to meet critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. The organization places thousands of young adults into intensive service positions where they learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop an appreciation for citizenship.  Sydney moved to Baltimore upon graduation with a Bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies, from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, to be with her fiancé Ben, who teaches Mathematics at Stevenson University.

In her spare time, Sydney enjoys knitting, reading, and being outdoors – in particular camping and running. She runs half marathons and endeavors to race in each of the 50 states. So far she has completed nine races in seven different states. Her next race is later this month and takes place in Alabama.

Sydney is new to Baltimore. She found out about the Jewish Museum of Maryland through a complimentary annual membership offered through Shalom Baltimore, a program of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, which welcomes newcomers to the Baltimore Jewish community.  She and Ben are enjoying exploring Baltimore and the surrounding areas, especially the restaurants which, as a vegetarian, can sometimes present a challenge.   We are certainly glad that Sydney chose to explore the Jewish Museum of Maryland and that volunteering with us fit in to her new life in Baltimore. We welcome Sydney and other volunteers to be part of the JMM.  Please visit jewishmuseummd.org for more information on volunteering with us.

ilene cohenA blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. Every month she will be highlighting one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, drop her an email at icohen@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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