A Volunteer Abroad

Posted on June 10th, 2015 by

My husband Bob just checked off one of the items on his bucket list – a trip to Morocco, a country in the northwest corner of Africa.  Lucky me went with him.  We had a fantastic time in Morocco seeing the various terrains from the fertile coastal plains, to the snow-capped mountains to the dunes of the Sahara.  And the people we met were just as varied from college educated professionals to those with no formal education; western dressed to totally covered by jallaba and scarf; living in spacious multi-floor homes to a tent in the desert.  And almost everywhere we went, we heard about the Jews who used to live there.

Wendy and Bob in Rabat, looking over at Sale.

Wendy and Bob in Rabat, looking over at Sale.

In every corner of Morocco, we heard about the Jews that moved there with the Muslims after expulsion from Spain in1492.  But, we also learned that the majority of Jews left the country between the 1950s and 1970s.   The various local guides we had all commented that the Jews wanted to move to Israel and that the Jews have always been welcome in Morocco.  But, the ultimate truth is that the non–African Arab states were putting considerable pressure on the African countries to ostracize their Jews. In spite of the pressure, we were told that there has always been a Jewish advisor to the king, even today; and, it is very common for those that have moved away to return with their children for visits and to check on their property that is rented to others.  We saw remnants of their lives sold in shops – yads, menorahs, mezuzahs, carved doors, traditional wedding rings, tefillin, jewelry, books, sections of Torah…. I found the sale of these objects and the fact that the Jews felt a need to leave an area that had been their home for hundreds of years very disturbing.

Wendy introduces herself to her ride.

Wendy introduces herself to her ride.

As we walked through the old Jewish quarters in the medinas (the walled cities) called mellahs we noticed streets with Jewish names.  We noticed telltale scars of long gone mezuzahs on doorposts and the occasional plaque marking the location of a closed synagogue.  Most of the remaining Moroccan Jews, just like the Baltimorean Jews, have moved out of the old cities into the newer sections of town.  In the old mellah in Marrakesh, we did find an active synagogue that was established in 1492 according to the plaque on the wall.  Unlike Baltimore’s B’nai Israel, there isn’t a renewal of younger congregants to replace those that are mostly elderly and are dying off.

Lazama Synagogue Mellah Marrakech

Lazama Synagogue Mellah Marrakech

Contrary to what I heard before our trip, my husband and I felt comfortable traveling openly as Jews.  It was obvious by the new Judaica (mezuzahs, hanukiahs, kiddish cups) for sale in shops and the way we were treated by the local retail salesmen and others with whom we engaged in conversation, that Jewish tourists are welcome.

Wendy DavisA blog post by volunteer Wendy Davis, JMM Docent. To read more posts by and about JMM volunteers click HERE.

 

 

 

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Volunteer Spotlight on: Laurie Weitz, Front Desk!

Posted on June 1st, 2015 by

Laurie Weitz has been volunteering as a Front Desk Receptionist at the JMM for 2 years.  She knew Volunteer Coordinator, Ilene Cohen through Hadassah and the Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation of the Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, who convinced her of the need for more JMM volunteers.  It was not a hard sell, she lives in Federal Hill and likes to support downtown institutions and she had recently enjoyed a Hadassah sponsored trip to the Museum.

Laurie Weitz

Laurie Weitz

In the past Laurie has run businesses and worked at various salaried jobs but she is most proud of being a professional and passionate volunteer.  She appreciates knowing that she is making a difference in the lives of others.  Outside of her volunteer work, she enjoys being active and in particular likes to swim, hike, bike, snow ski, and walk.  She also enjoys traveling. Her favorite destination used to be France but now she ranks Spain, South America and Israel at the top of her list.  She also loved a recent trip to Budapest, Prague and Vienna.  She has visited many of the U.S. National Parks and intends to visit more.

She has been very happy volunteering at the JMM.  She commented on how great James McVay, our security guard is (he works closely with the Front Desk Receptionist).  She particularly enjoys the people she meets at the Museum, especially the student groups and the senior groups. She likes seeing how interested they are in learning about the history of Jews in Maryland.  She shared a recent instance when someone learned about corned beef and potato latkes on tour and then wanted to try them out for themselves (she suggested one of the nearby delicatessens). Her “stand-out” experience was with a group of Asian visitors who were in Baltimore for a wedding.  They barely spoke English but she convinced them to go on the tour of our historic synagogues.  They enjoyed the tour so much that they made it a point to come back and report to Laurie how good it was.  She also thinks that our exhibits are “fabulous” and really enjoyed Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture and American Jewish Identity and Project Mah Jongg.

Laurie has been very happy with her volunteer experience at the JMM and looks forward to continuing. We look forward to having her as a member of our volunteer corps for a good long while and hope she will convince some of her friends to do so as well.

ilene cohenA blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. The first Monday(ish) of 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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Once Upon a Time…09.12.2014

Posted on May 19th, 2015 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church at 410.732.6400 x236 or email jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

 

2002107100Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  September 12, 2014

PastPerfect Accession #:  2002.107.100

Status:  Partially Identified! Leisure Lounge volunteer facilitating a discussion n.d. The gentleman in front, with his hands folded in his lap, is Nathan Caplan (d. 1975). It is thought that this picture shows an English class for Russian immigrants at the Jewish Community Center.

Special Thanks To: Selma Sherman

 

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