It’s why she’s spent the last 12 years as a docent for the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM), sharing her knowledge and insights with visitors from around the world.
Each week, Robyn, who first learned about the museum from her professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, leads several tours of the museum’s exhibits, as well as Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel. The synagogues, which are part of the JMM, were built in 1845 and 1876, respectively. The Lloyd Street Synagogue is the third oldest standing synagogue in the United States.
Over the years, Robyn met many tourists – some from Baltimore and others from places as far away as Alaska, Europe and South Africa – who put the JMM specifically on their itineraries when they visited the city.
Through it all, she recalls so many moving stories of the impact the museum had on them.
In particular, she never forgot a Russian Jewish woman who came with an older woman, who appeared to be her grandmother.
“When I took the two into the Lloyd Street Synagogue,” says Robyn, “I remember tears began to well up in the older woman’s eyes. She was Jewish and had never been to a synagogue before. You could tell how moved she was by being here.”
There also was a gentleman from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam who wanted to learn about the museum’s education programs. He was interested in how the JMM integrated the common core curriculum into their programs, hoping to bring that knowledge back to his nonprofit.
Many of the visitors from Maryland are not Jewish, says Robyn, and yet they are very interested in Jewish customs. They often want to learn about Shabbat, Kashrut, mezzuzot and other rituals of Judaism.
Robyn’s volunteer commitment even goes beyond giving tours. Over the years, she’s established a Salon program, collected oral histories of Maryland Jews and represents the JMM on Capitol Hill at Museum Advocacy Day.
“I think it’s important to learn about diverse communities and the contributions these communities made to the larger society,” she says. “The Jewish Museum plays an integral role in communicating both Jewish customs and Jewish contributions to Maryland to those who come to visit.”
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