Shabsi's Judaica Center is more than just a popular site for Jewish supplies and gifts.
It's also the product of Shabsi Schneider's life-changing decision.
"This was a lifetime dream of mine," said Schneider, who opened the store 19 years ago on Clarks Lane in Baltimore. "As the (Jewish) community grew, I decided to take the plunge. I call this 'my midlife crisis.' "
The store has been at 6830 Reisterstown Road for the past 18 years and has become quite successful for the self-proclaimed book lover.
Schneider, a Park Heights resident who was 42 when he opened the store, now bills it as "one of the largest Jewish books stores in the country, in terms of size (of the store) and the size of the books collection."
It's second only to those in New York City, he said.
Store manager Helene Field has been with the store for 17 years, almost since it opened.
There are a variety of menorah candles, thousands of Hebrew and Jewish books and cookbooks—not including those in a warehouse; as well as a large selection of music CDs for adults and children.
There's other Judaica as well, including dreidels and seder plates.
The newest section of the store is for children, and includes numerous books and wall-to-wall toys. That's a draw for many customers, especially for Chanukah, Field said.
There's a special to keep the customers coming in throughout Chanukah. Ending Dec. 28 is the special on Clics—sets of plastic, snap-together building blocks, Schneider said.
- A 600-piece Clics set for $49 (regularly $75)
- A 1,000-piece set for $79 (regularly $109)
Schneider couldn't help but migrate from the children's area to the books. There, he pointed out some popular ones, good for holiday gifts:
- The Gift of Rest, by U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman
- The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, by Yehuda Avner
- Out of the Depths: The Story of a Child of Buchenwald, by Israel Meir Lau, former chief rabbi of Israel, and a Buchenwald concentration camp survivor.
But it's not all about gifts. His store's influence also reaches into education, supplying some books to private schools in the Pikesville/ Baltimore area. Those schools include , and Bais Yakov and Bnos Yisroel schools for girls.
Among the stacks is where this personable store owner and proprietor seems most comfortable.
"That's because I love the books," he said.
And when he speaks about his life-changing move into Judaica and books nearly 20 years ago, there's pride in the voice of this father of four and grandfather 'of many.'
"I thought: 'If I'm gonna do something else, I need to do it now,' " he said.