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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Appreciating Our Volunteers

Posted on August 10th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes from Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis (who is, herself, a volunteer). To read more posts from Wendy, click here.

Have you interacted with a JMM volunteer? If you’ve ever visited the Jewish Museum of Maryland, then you probably have! They might have been the friendly greeter at the front desk, the helpful shop assistance at Esther’s Place or the docent leading a tour of the historic synagogues (or all three!).

There have been 53 of us dedicated volunteers this past year, supplementing the work of the Museum’s 11 full-time staff members, along with an additional 35 volunteer Board Members. Some of us only volunteer a few times a month, while others are at the JMM two days a week (like me!).  Whether it’s a two-hour shift or a six-hour shift, the time volunteers are able to share with the JMM is incredibly helpful and appreciated. Volunteers are absolutely critical to the success of the Museum.

Nine of those 53 volunteers have been stationed at the front desk, clocking in a total of 744 hours this year.  These front desk volunteers make sure our visitors receive a warm welcome, but they do much more than that! These volunteers serve as fonts of information about all the services that the Museum offers, including making sure our visitors know about tour times, current and upcoming exhibitions, and public programs. Plus, they help collect demographic data from our visitors and make sure we maintain an accurate count of Museum visitors each day.

Eleven of those 53 volunteers have assisted in the wonderful Museum gift shop, Esther’s Place, clocking in 285 hours this year.  Not only do these volunteers interact with visitors processing sales, but they helped conduct our annual shop inventory, design merchandise displays and help keep the shop looking clean and inviting.

Nineteen of the 53 volunteers have served as docents, clocking in 905 hours this year as they lead visitors through the two historic synagogues on the JMM campus and on group tours of the Museum’s exhibits.  Our docents share their knowledge and passion for local Jewish history with our visitors. They also become experts at customizing their tours depending upon the background and age of that day’s visitors.

But our volunteers aren’t limited to just the “front of the house.”  11 volunteers spend their time working with the extensive collections at the JMM, particularly with our archives, cataloging, summarizing, translating, and digitizing.  This time-consuming work improves intellectual access to the Museum’s varied collections. This group of volunteers clocked in a grand total of 1,874 hours this year, more than any other group of JMM volunteers!

While there is no way to truly show how much we love our volunteers, the JMM does try to demonstrate our gratitude for all their wonderful contributions. This year there have been multiple field trips to other museums as well as special discounts at Esther’s Place. But the highlight of the year is definitely the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner.

On the evening of July 29th, all of our volunteers were invited to a celebratory dinner held here at the Museum. In addition to the delicious food, we were entertained by David London, the superb curator of the current exhibit Inescapable, The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini.  Using his story telling and magician skills, David portrayed Harry Houdini, bringing the magic and mystery of Houdini to life.

If you want to be among the “appreciated” next year, call or email me or Sue Foard to make an appointment to learn more about how to join our team of JMMers.

Wendy Davis

Sue Foard

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