Volunteer Spotlight on: Ira Askin
Ira Askin has been a volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland since 1992. He works in the library and is also a member of the Board of Directors, having served as President from 1996 – 1999. He actually began working in the basement of the Museum, before the Goodwin Library and Robert L. Weinberg Family History Center was completed inn 1996. He remembers the space having no windows. He began working on a large accumulation of printed materials that had never been processed, found in boxes marked “UP” for un-processed. Previously, they had been housed next to the furnace, in what was then Baltimore Hebrew College. He started with miscellaneous papers, identified the contents, and put them into folders. Once this was completed, Finding Aides would be prepared and the marking on the outside of the box would be changed to “PB” for processed box. Shortly after he began, he joined the Board of Directors and then became the President. The construction of the Library had begun prior to his term but he had the fortunate timing of presiding over the dedication. He still sits on the Board and attends meetings and voices his opinions. He says, “With age comes privilege” and enjoys remaining involved with many aspects of the JMM. Ira’s current volunteer job is maintaining the Vertical Files. These files contain papers of material interest to Jews in Maryland that are not quite important enough to become accessioned into the Museum Collections. It includes mostly newspaper articles that are divided among Subject, Biographical, and Synagogue files. He clips the materials from newspapers and individuals in the community send in items also.
Ira volunteers in the community because he feels like he is a lucky person, that his life was blessed by being born into a comfortable family. He grew up a member of a strong family unit, his brother was 8 years his senior and his sister was 5 years his junior. He felt that his parents were able to do their best for each child since their ages were spread so far apart. Ira had an excellent education in Baltimore public schools and attended Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, he was drafted and spent 3 years in the U.S. Army, 2 years stateside and 1 year overseas. He worked in the Finance Department during that time. Upon his return to Baltimore he says he “fell into” his father’s wholesale business that sold hosiery and underwear. The business closed in 1986. Ira was married to his wife Myra for 68 years and one of their favorite activities was traveling, they especially loved cruises.
As a young adult, Ira participated in the Associated’s Young Leadership program and he has remained an active participant in the Jewish Community ever since. He was an observer at the Board of Jewish Education, on the board of Jewish Family Services, a member of the Board of Directors and President at Beth El Congregation (his father-in-law was a founding member), and more. He also volunteered as an unpaid staff member for the International Visitors Center in Baltimore for 2 years. It was an organization based out of Washington, DC. He was responsible for arranging the international visitors agendas and accommodations while they visited Baltimore.
Ira likes to volunteer at the JMM because it keeps him busy and fulfills his need to give back to the community. We appreciate all that he has contributed to the Museum for many, many years, to and what he will continue to accomplish in the future.
A 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.