Volunteer Spotlight on Harold Toppall!

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

Make sure to say hi to Harold at the front desk!

Harold Toppall joined the Jewish Museum of Maryland volunteer corps in November.  His friendliness and attention to details have proven to be wonderful assets for our museum.  His background is working for the IRS in the tax exempt organization area.  When he heard about the volunteer opportunities at JMM, a tax exempt organization, he considered it a good fit. He now volunteers at the front desk, enjoying meeting people, having conversations with them and learning where they come from.

Since Harold enjoys working with numbers, he also fills his volunteer time entering volunteer hours and compiling responses to visitor’s questionnaires into the computer.  After retiring from IRS, Harold prepared tax returns in the private sector for several years and then operated his own tax return preparation business for four years.

Harold enjoys reading mysteries and suspense thrillers and has travelled extensively with his wife, Marcia.  He hails originally from Albany, NY, and has lived in Buffalo, NY, Newark and Old Bridge, NJ, and Silver Spring, MD.  He came to Maryland in 1979 and to Pikesville in 2003.  His daughter and son and their families live in Maryland and Virginia.  We are very thankful that Harold moved to the Baltimore area and chose to donate his time and efforts to the JMM!


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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.

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Volunteer Spotlight on: Ted Cornblatt!

Posted on January 11th, 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.

Ted Cornblatt is one of JMM’s newest volunteers and a semi-retired attorney who specializes in litigation, primary workman’s comp.  When he cut back on his work schedule, he was looking for something meaningful to do.  Since he loves history, and especially Jewish history, volunteering at the Jewish Museum of Maryland was a natural fit.

Ted Cornblatt

Fortunately for us, Ted has been a docent for our historic synagogues since September 2017.  He feels great about his volunteer experience at JMM, finding it exciting to see the way people love going through the synagogues and the “wow” aspect.  And he enjoys meeting people from such diverse regions such as Argentina and Singapore to Gaithersburg, Columbia, and Baltimore.  The times when he is waiting for a tour to start, Ted says it is nice to sit in the museum library and look through the books that peak his curiosity.

Ted is married and proud of his 8 grandchildren, ranging in age from 6 months to 28 years old.  We are so glad that Ted has joined the JMM volunteer family!

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