Volunteer Spotlight on Barbara Cohen!

Posted on February 2nd, 2015 by

Barbara Cohen volunteers as both a Front Desk Receptionist and Docent at the JMM.  She grew up not far from the Museum, less than 2 miles to the west and likes to think of it as her return to the inner city.

Hard at work!

Hard at work!

When asked to share some interesting facts about her, the first reply was that she has a wonderful family.  She is a widow, mother of 3 sons and daughters-in-law, and grandmother of 7. She spent a career in education, over 60 years as a teacher.  She always loved teaching and began teaching the children in her South Baltimore neighborhood when she was only 10 years old.  While in high school, she worked in the office at the Board of Jewish Education and at 15 years of age, they asked her to do some substitute teaching and tutoring for students in afternoon Hebrew schools. She trained in General Education in college and began her adult teaching career as a 5th grade teacher in Prince Georges County, MD.  In addition, while her husband was in graduate school, and recognized he was too busy to handle a 2nd job, she took over his hours as an afternoon Hebrew school teacher.  While raising her young children, she began teaching Judaics in their Jewish Day School.  The family moved to Israel and while there, she had already been teaching English to neighbors when the principal of the local school asked her to teach English as an after-school activity.  She taught all levels of students in what felt like a one-room schoolhouse, since students didn’t receive instruction in English as part of the school curriculum until 5th grade. When she returned to Baltimore she worked at Krieger Schechter Day School as a first grade teacher and Principal of Lower School Judaics.

Barbara Cohen

Barbara Cohen

In her last year prior to retirement at Krieger Schecther Day School she saw and advertisement placed by the JMM for Educators.  She replied and offered to volunteer as such.  She also volunteers at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in the family waiting room where people wait for loved ones who are in surgery. She is responsible for keeping them updated during the entire surgery process.  She volunteers at Millbrook Elementary as a tutor in the 2nd grade in both reading and math.  She also volunteers on the Chizuk Amuno team at Our Daily Bread serving meals to those in need.

Her favorite engagement with visitors to the JMM is with those from church groups and city public schools.  She notes that since the members of the church groups possess an interest in religious life although not Judaism, they present interesting questions.  She recalls an incident when explaining the background of the Torah scrolls in the Lloyd Street Synagogue to Baltimore city school students.  One child asked if she thought any of the Tuskegee Airmen had helped the Jewish people.  She was charmed by the connection he made between his own culture and identity and others.

Barbara volunteers at the JMM because she likes keeping busy and busy she is.  She especially enjoys meeting interesting people and providing a service.  We gladly accept her donation of time and appreciate that we are included on her list that is so full of activity.

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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Handwriting Samples

Posted on January 23rd, 2015 by

Today, January 23rd, is John Hancock’s birthday – and thus, it is also National Handwriting Day.  Handwriting is near and dear to the hearts of archivists, historians, and curators because we encounter examples of it nearly every day, from centuries-old documents to modern collections folders hand-labeled in pencil.

A sample of archival folders, each labeled by a different JMM staff member or volunteer.

A sample of archival folders, each labeled by a different JMM staff member or volunteer.

However, as computers and tablets and smartphones become more and more prevalent in U.S. culture, the art of penmanship has been dropped from some schools’ course schedules. Educators debate the pros and cons of skipping the cursive lessons, while grandparents bemoan the fact that little Emily and Mason can’t read their birthday cards unless they’re written in print.

From my point of view, the problem with not being able to write in cursive is that then you can’t easily read it. Perhaps the upcoming generation of historians – and, in the more immediate sense, upcoming summers of student interns – will have trouble reading a legal document written in clear, careful Copperplate, let alone something written in a more hurried or idiosyncratic hand.  Yes, deciphering someone’s individual writing style takes time and practice (there’s nothing quite like the revelation that the 19thcentury diary author, whose tiny smudged entries you’ve been struggling with for hours, never crossed her t’s).  It helps, though, if you’re at least familiar with the underlying structure of the writing: two bumps is an n, three bumps is an m, that swoopy thing in the front is a T, etcetera.

Diaries, journals, cookbooks, letters, legal documents, bills, photograph captions, business records, and more: handwritten information is everywhere in our archives.  So, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I urge everyone to brush up on – or start learning – penmanship skills.  Historians of the future need you!  And in celebration of National Handwriting Day, I offer a few examples from our collections.  See if the partial transcriptions included here match what you can decipher . . . then go home and handwrite someone a letter.

Donated by Paul and Rita Gordon.  1995.104.030

Donated by Paul and Rita Gordon. 1995.104.030

Studying the history of organizations and businesses can require a willingness to immerse yourself in the handwriting of the past.  Here’s a page of meeting minutes for the first meeting of the Frederick Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, written by Recording Secretary Mrs. Leo Weinberg. It begins: “March 23rd 1921. Realizing that ‘In union there is strength’ and appreciating the necessity for co-operative and harmonious action, The Jewish Women of Frederick met Wednesday March 23rd 1921 on the second floor of the Masonic Temple for the purpose of organizing The Frederick Section, Council of Jewish Women.”

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.1

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.1

Written on a scrap of cardboard from a larger container, this handwritten note commemorates an apparently epic games party near Eutaw Place, Baltimore: “Progressive whist given at the new home of Mrs. Hennie Strouse, 1628 Madison Ave., October 20, 1907.” It’s signed by attendees including Morton Emanuel Hecht, Rosalyn W. Sawyer, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Mann, “Kid” Nusbaum, Phil Rose, and Sadie, Helen, and Joseph Ulman.

Donated by Rose Kushner. 1985.62.2

Donated by Rose Kushner. 1985.62.2

Midwife Lena Barber of Baltimore kept records of all the births she attended, making handwritten notes in pre-printed journals such as this volume from 1892-93. Here are two records from February 1892: on the lefthand page is male baby born to Anna and Louis Glaubenfeld, and on the right is a female baby born to Hana and Samuel Block. Interestingly, comparison of the writing on various pages – such as the two pages pictured here – shows several different writing styles throughout the book, indicating that more than one person was helping Barber keep track of things. Sometimes, a handwritten document reveals more than just the information that’s written down.

Donated by Mrs. Samuel Block.  1971.20.260

Donated by Mrs. Samuel Block. 1971.20.260

It isn’t only paper collections that require some handwriting knowledge; photographs are frequently captioned by hand.  This image of Harry Greenstein (seated in the center) surrounded by well-wishers has this handwritten note on the front: “With affectionate greetings on my 30th Anniversary as Executive Director of Associated Jewish Charities, 5/1/1958, [signed] Harry Greenstein.”

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.2

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.2

In 1865, Isaac Strouse of Baltimore went to Europe. During his travels he kept a journal, written in pencil in a leather-bound, pocket-sized blank book.  The page shown here begins, “I have spend [sic] my time up in [Dek?] from 1/2 after 6 to 8 in walking about & conversation & now I am in the smoking salon …” …and here’s where my handwriting-deciphering skills fail me; I’m not sure about that “Dek.”  (Brackets indicate a word the transcriber is unsure about.) A full reading of the surrounding pages will likely provide some hints, but in the meantime, do any blog readers have any ideas what that word says or means?

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.

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Volunteering Makes the Perfect New Year’s Resolution

Posted on January 5th, 2015 by

Welcoming a new year offers a wonderful opportunity to make new choices and take new chances in life. Whether you reflect proudly on your many accomplishments in the past year or you can’t wait to turn a new page and look toward the future, the new calendar year is an opportunity to do the things that might have been on your back burner. If you’ve been thinking about volunteering for years or have been contemplating your resolutions for the New Year, consider volunteering in 2015!

new years resolution pic

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

Volunteering makes the perfect New Year’s Resolution because it creates a trifecta of great outcomes. Volunteerism has countless benefits to the community and also to the health and happiness of individuals who commit to volunteering.

Here are just a few reasons to sign up to volunteer today:

1. Volunteering has been linked with increased levels of happiness and decreased depression. A recent Huffington Post Article, Volunteering Could Boost Happiness, Decrease Depression And Help You Live Longer: Study, written by Sara Kondrath, PhD, outlines new research into the topic of volunteerism, health, and happiness.

2. People who volunteer report physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study reveals key benefits of volunteering that make a positive impact on people’s health including feeling better mentally, physically, and emotionally.

3. Volunteers help create and support healthy communities.

Volunteering can easily become one of those back burner activities. The type of activity that always seems like a nice thing to do, but loses steam when it comes to reaching out and signing up.

Make volunteering a reality this year. Many organizations have made it easier than ever to find opportunities and sign up online. Visit http://jewishmuseummd.org/get-involved/volunteering/ to find out more about our volunteer opportunities and to sign up to become a volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

There has never been a better time to commit to volunteering in the New Year. Help us at the JMM, to promote our mission and to help yourself.


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 and sharing insights on volunteerism. 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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