It was December 2019 and after 30 years of working as an attorney—most recently as Vice President and General Counsel at the University of Maryland Global Campus—Maureen David was ready to retire.
She had a grandchild with whom she wanted to spend special time, as well as a bucket list of interesting places to travel. And of course, for this former librarian, there were plenty of books to read.
Two months later, after a trip to Egypt with her husband—the first in a long list of bucket trip adventures – the pandemic hit. She suddenly realized life doesn’t always go as planned. But that didn’t deter her.
When things opened up, she found herself spending more time with her three daughters and three grandchildren (two were born during the pandemic). She volunteered extensively, often incorporating her passion for learning, books and libraries.
She became President of the Baltimore County Board of Library Trustees and Chair of the Board of the Macks Center for Jewish Education.
And it was after that position that she was approached with the opportunity to become the Chair of The Associated’s New Jewish Library*. It was a chance to take what she called the community’s “best secret,” and work with its Executive Director Jessica Fink, to transform it into a vibrant community hub.
Although Maureen David says she’s an open book, here are 10 things to know about her.
An avid reader as a young child, she became drawn to the All of a Kind Family series by Sidney Taylor. The books, which focus on the lives of a Jewish family growing up in New York at the turn of the 20th century, became favorites. “I loved the concept of Shabbat—the way the family always got together every week and lived Judaism.”
Later, while attending Catholic High School, she completed an independent study on Judaism. She managed to pass Hebrew in college, studied with a Rabbi in Lexington, MA, converted in 1980, and continued to become an adult Bat Mitzvah and lifelong Jewish learner.
She was an undergraduate, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations. He was a graduate student in the government department. The two met at the Center for Science and International Affairs where Maureen was a work-study student in the library. The rest is history.
Following his post-doctorate, Steven was looking for a job. There was an opening at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. “I was 22 at the time and I started to panic that I would get married and live in the middle of nowhere. Most of the women were older and didn’t work. It was before many women had careers. I thought, ‘I’m not ready for this.’ Fortunately, the next year, Steven received offers in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and we ended up moving to Baltimore.” Steven was an Assistant Professor in the Johns Hopkins University political science department and Maureen was a law librarian.
When she first moved to Baltimore, Maureen worked as the law librarian at Whiteford, Taylor and Preston. She decided to get her law degree and ended up having two of her three daughters while finishing her J.D. She jokingly laughs that Sarah, who is currently Deputy State Prosecutor in Maryland, came out loving law. “We always joke that she was paying more attention than me.”
Julia became a nurse practitioner and Katie is an assistant professor of Russian history. All of us love to read and share the latest from our favorite authors.
With a collection of over 16,0000 multimedia, books, Judaica and curricular materials, the library, says Maureen, is not just for educators or students. It has an incredible collection of Jewish titles, contemporary Jewish literature, Israeli novels and Hebrew language books “When my book group was reading Homesick by Israeli author Eskol Nevo, I couldn’t find it in the public library. The New Jewish Library however, had a copy.”
In recent years, public libraries, she explains, have become community hubs. She envisions the same thing for the New Jewish Library. She sees the library becoming a space for learning, for author talks and other community events and a place where people can meet, even be tutored in a private room. There will be room to support other Associated and community agencies—such as a Na’aleh leadership collection.
Her recommendations are extensive, but she managed to narrow it down by focusing on Israeli authors. A few favorites: Three Floors Up by Eskol Nevo, The Best Place on Earth by Ayelet Tsabari and The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi (now a Netflix series).
As for children’s favorites, two picture books her grandkids like are Goodnight Bubbala by Sheryl Haft and Challah! by Ellen Kahan Zager. And of course, anything PJ Library.
Her late mother used to think her favorite author, Debbie Macomber, and her daughter looked a lot alike. Take a look.
When her daughters were at Pikesville High School, she got up early to bake cookies or brownies before she went to work every day. That way, she said, they’d have something to eat when they got home.
Yet her culinary fame soon grew beyond the household. When the track team would practice outside, they would make a daily detour to her house. Just for a quick nosh.
*Name is temporary
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