Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jordana Reisman Stone – Commemoration Speech for Annual Gathering of Remembrance, 5/1/2016

Photo by Melanie Einzig
Good afternoon. My name is Jordana Stone.  I am honored to be here today, speaking to this room of Holocaust survivors and their families.  All 4 of my grandparents were Holocaust survivors; but sadly, none of them are alive today.   I do not have a clear recollection of when I first learned about the horror and tragedy of my grandparents’ young lives in Europe.  I recall hearing terrifying stories throughout my childhood, of the catastrophic events that shaped their lives.

I regret that I never spoke directly to my nana about her life story.  Growing up, I was very close with her.  She was the best babysitter, always playing games with us, singing, and cooking.  We had so much fun together.  She often cried as she told me that I looked like her father, or how she missed her childhood cat, Tune.  I never asked her to tell me more because I did not want to make her cry.  I learned about her past from my mother and aunt, and in even more detail watching her video testimony.  My mother told me that Nana thought I was too young to hear the stories, and by the time I was old enough, she was sick with Alzheimer’s disease and unable to tell them.  

My Nana, Henny Durmashkin Gurko, came from a musical family in Vilna, Poland.  Her father was the director of the Great Synagogue's choir.  Her sister and brother were pianists, her brother was the only Jew and youngest conductor of the Vilna Symphony Orchestra, and she herself was a singer.  When her family was taken to the Vilna ghetto, her brother convinced workers who were able to leave, to smuggle in a piano, piece by piece, over the course of many days, and put it back together inside the ghetto.  He established an orchestra and choir within the ghetto, where my nana sang.  Originally they played for other Jews in the ghetto, but eventually the Nazis learned of their great orchestra and came to listen.  After the ghetto was liquidated, my nana’s family was separated.  She and her sister were sent to a series of concentration camps, and ended up at Dachau where they lived for two years before they were liberated by the American army.  They later learned that their brother was killed just hours before liberation.  They were the only two family members to survive.

After they were liberated, she and her sister went to St. Otilien DP camp, and became members of the Ex-Concentration Camp Orchestra.  They traveled to many DP camps to entertain Holocaust survivors.  One of my nana’s proudest moments was when the Ex-Concentration camp orchestra was conducted by Leonard Bernstein, while he was on a tour of Europe.  In 1949, she met my grandfather on the boat coming to America. They eventually settled in New Jersey where they had three children, my mother, her sister, and her brother, and 6 grandchildren.  For all of us, music, piano playing and singing, are still a great part of our family traditions.

For the past ten years I worked as a math teacher at a high school in Harlem. I heard that my math students were learning about the Holocaust and World War II in history class, and reading Elie Wiesel’s Night in English class.  I helped their English teacher to bring 3rd generation speakers into our school to tell their grandparents’ stories.  My students were spellbound and in shock as they listened to the horrific stories.  Afterwards, during a question and answer period, my students asked simple questions like “Why didn’t the Jews just run away, or revolt against the Germans?” To me, their questions showed that they had never thought about the events of the Holocaust on a personal level, or thought about the victims as individuals, even though they had studied it before.  When it came time for the 3g speakers to leave, the students continued to ask questions, so I offered to stay and answer them.  I told them that I was Jewish and that all four of my grandparents were Holocaust survivors.  I also shared the story with them about when my nana, her sister Fanny, and their mother were on line at a concentration camp. At the head of the line stood a Nazi guard who decided who would live and who would die.  Nana and her sister rubbed rouge on their mother’s cheeks, to make her look younger and healthier, but at the end of the line their mother was torn from them, and they never saw her again. As I spoke, I began to cry. My students were stunned into silence.

That unforgettable day reaffirmed to me the importance of knowing and telling my grandparents’ stories.  It showed me how crucial it is for students to hear personal Holocaust Survivor’s stories from current and future generations.  My students had been learning about the Holocaust in history class throughout their education, but I know that day of learning the stories from living people had a lasting impact for many of them as it did for me.   Several of them even went on to become volunteers at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.  These stories have so much more power, beyond what books alone can teach, when they are heard first hand.

After that experience, I joined the Young Friends of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, where I found many other people like me, who saw the importance of remembering the Holocaust and discussing it.  They felt, like me, that it is our duty to honor our grandparents’ legacy and tell our families’ histories.  I will make sure that my daughter, Leah Henny, who I named after my nana, will know her family history and the importance of sharing our story. My baby Leah is already so musical; as soon as she hears music, she stops what she is doing and starts dancing. I want to promise all the survivors here today, and those who are not with us, your stories will never be forgotten, and your important legacy will live on.  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Fashion Has No Age Limit

The fashion industry is often portrayed as a youth-orientated world run by the youngest innovators and icons. Photographer Ari Seth Cohen showcases another perspective capturing ladies aged sixty and over. His blog, Advanced Style, has attracted a large following of viewers who are fascinated by the eccentric and unique personalities. In 2014, seven of the women regularly featured were profiled for the documentary of the same name, which is available on Netflix, iTunes, and DVD.

As a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, it is unassigned homework to read articles and watch documentaries about anything going on in the industry, so I was I attracted to this documentary when I saw it on Netflix. While watching it, I was immediately inspired. The women proved that fashion doesn’t have an age limit and that getting older is not something you should be scared of, but something you should embrace. They emphasized the importance of being unique and standing out from the crowd. Fashion isn’t just about following the trends and looking like everyone else; it’s about being individual and expressing yourself with clothes.

One of the women who especially caught my attention was Tziporah Salamon, a NYC style icon. Over many years, Tziporah, nicknamed “Tzippy”, has built an impressive collection of vintage clothing, costume jewelry, and accessories. She views fashion as an art form and expresses herself every day, never leaving the house without a complete outfit. She has a strong presence on social media, with 2,000 friends on Facebook and over 19,000 on Instagram. Her website, tziporahsalamon.com, features hundreds of pictures showcasing her unique style.

Tziporah embraces her heritage and celebrates the lives of her parents, recognizing their hard work and strength. Her parents were Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust and fled to Israel where she was born. They later relocated to New York City. Her parents worked in the garment industry – her father as a tailor and her mother as a dressmaker.

Recognizing that she had a story and talent that other people were interested in, she started hosting live events such as “Tziporah’s Stories (With Clothes!)” and “Art of Dressing”. During these events, she stresses style and individuality while teaching fashion as an art form.

Tziporah will perform her autobiographical, one-woman show, The Fabric of My Life, at the Museum on Wednesday, May 11 at 7 P.M., telling the story of her life with pictures and, of course, clothing. Admission is $15, $12 for students with valid ID, and free for members.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A School Play

Courtesy of the Cuba Family Archives for Southern Jewish History at The Breman Museum
Last year, I bought a ticket to my cousin’s upcoming play Parade at Syracuse University. I had never heard of it and, judging by the title, it sounded cheerful and fun, just like a parade would be. As it turns out, I could not be more wrong. To give you a very brief synopsis, Parade depicts the historical events about the murder of a thirteen-year-old girl and the subsequent trial, and ultimate lynching, of a Jewish man named Leo Frank who was accused of her murder.

I was fascinated by this true story so I went home to do some research. There are so many significant and scandalous elements that are part of this history – child labor laws, the Ku Klux Klan, racial prejudices, yellow journalism, anti-Semitism – the list goes on and on. It’s no surprise that the media so heavily covered this story at the time and why it is still of tremendous interest today. I can’t help but think what Netflix would have done with this story if it had been around to make Leo Frank the subject of “Making a Murderer.”

Fast forward to January 2016 and I had just started working at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. I learned that one of my first tasks was to start promoting an upcoming exhibition, Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited. Thanks to my cousin, I was prepared.  Coincidence, luck, fate, call it what you will. If you get an opportunity to see your cousin’s play, you should go. You never know what you might learn.

To learn more about the exhibition, visit our website:

If you would like to learn how the history of Leo Frank was transformed into the Tony-winning musical Parade, watch this video:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

In Honor of Black History Month - A Display about African Americans in a Nazi Internment Camp, 1943

Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, Gift of Jerome and Carolyn Mahrer
In honor of Black History Month, the Museum is presenting a display in the main lobby about African Americans in a Nazi internment camp for foreign nationals in Tittmoning, Germany. Inmates included African Americans who were living in Europe, many because of their careers as athletes, performers, or musicians.

The foreign prisoners in this internment camp were treated very differently than prisoners of a concentration camp. They were given regular food rations and did not have to work. At Tittmoning, the YMCA even donated a piano.

In 1999, Jerome and Carolyn Maher donated to the Museum an album of caricatures inside a folder created from a Red Cross package. Jerome received these drawings when he was an inmate in Tittmoning. The drawings feature prisoners and guards sketched by fellow prisoner Max Brandel, who ultimately went on to a career at MAD magazine. The inmates autographed the drawings for Jerry (Jerome), who was the youngest inmate and as such the camp “mascot.” The album gives a glimpse into the dynamics of the internment camp.

The African Americans included in the album are:
·        Johnny Mitchell, a musician from Baltimore who was arrested in Amsterdam and during his internment, together with pianist Freddy Johnson, taught young Jerry Maher to play the accordion;
·         Oscar Mathis, a Georgia native who was a wrestler or boxer and was living in Prague when he was arrested;
·         Jack Taylor, a boxer who fought many famous fighters including Max Schmeling;
·         Kemal Abdel Rahman Berry, a Kansas City native and well-known wrestler who was living in Prague with his European wife and their son when he was arrested;
·         William Walker, described as a “medicine man” (a type of performer with a traveling show); and
·         Freddy Johnson, an American pianist who worked as Coleman Hawkins’ pianist and backed Marlene Dietrich on one recording; he was arrested in Amsterdam along with his wife and two daughters.

While we know some information about these men, much remains unknown. Occasionally our research breakthroughs come from visitors saying “I know that person!” or “Hey, that’s me!” We hope when you see this display you will let us know if you have any information to share. Email us at communications@mjhnyc.org.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Learning about Toronto’s Hot Jewish Cuisine

Enjoy a Recipe to Make at Home

Some of the most delicious Jewish cuisine being cooked up in Toronto will be featured this coming Sunday, November 15, at the Museum.

Eating Jewish in Canada begins with cookbook author Jayne Cohen in conversation with chef and owner Anthony Rose of Fat Pasha and Rose & Sons, Ruthie Ladovsky of the legendary United Bakers Dairy restaurant, food personality Bonnie Stern, and author Michael Wex.

This annual food program honors the Museum’s late Gallery Educator Marilyn Feingold.

Following the mouthwatering panel, nosh on some signature dishes, such as popped on the spot popcorn seasoned with za’atar, warm hummus with braised chickpeas served in a pita cup, roasted cauliflower with tahini, schkug and pomegranate molasses, quintessential split pea soup, cheese blintzes, fried-on-site falafel with assorted fresh toppings, shakshouka, sabich, apricot rugelach, Nutella babka bread pudding with a maple drizzle, Canadian butter tarts – and last but not least, –  a signature spiced lemonade – all catered by our friends at Beth Torah Caterers (Glatt Kosher).

You won’t want to miss out as we dish on the haimishe and hip cuisine straight from our neighbors to the north. Reserve your tickets here, and whet your appetite this week by whipping up a batch of Bonnie Stern’s Butter Tart Squares.

Bonnie Stern's Butter Tart Squares
From Bonnie Stern's Essentials of Home Cooking 
by Bonnie Stern (Random House Canada, 2003)

Bonnie writes: "These delicious squares are much easier to make than butter tarts, and you can have just a little piece and not feel guilty. Unless, of course, you have another little piece. And another."

Yield: Makes 25 squares

1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, cut in cubes

1/4 cup (50 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) corn syrup
2 eggs
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) baking powder
4 teaspoons (20 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) raisins, optional

1. To prepare pastry, combine flour and sugar in a bowl or food processor. Cut in butter until it is in tiny bits.

2. Press flour mixture evenly into bottom of a lightly buttered and parchment-lined 8-inch (2 L) square baking dish, letting paper hang slightly over two sides of pan. Bake in a preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.

3. Meanwhile, to prepare filling, in a bowl or food processor, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in corn syrup and eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla.

4. In a small bowl, combine baking powder and flour. Stir into filling.

5. Sprinkle raisins, if using, over pastry base. Spread filling over raisins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until set. Cool. Loosen edges of pastry and lift out of pan. Cut into squares.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Upcoming at the Museum of Jewish Heritage

This blog comes from Esther Moerdler, our college intern in the Communications Department.
David Krakauer in "The Big Picture," photo credit Melanie Einzig

There are many great programs coming up in September and October at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – here are just a few highlights we would like to share with you:

The Museum will screen two films in tandem with our exhibition Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945. The first is Different from the Others, a silent film from 1919 in which two male musicians fall in love. This film sought to expose the injustices of Germany’s anti-gay laws. Banned at the time of its release and later burned by the Nazis, Different from the Others is one of the few sympathetic portrayals of homosexuals from this era of cinema. This groundbreaking film will be shown on September 10 at 7 P.M. Later in September, join us for a 15th anniversary screening of Paragraph 175. This documentary tells the story of how gay men and lesbians went from being a part of a vibrant subculture of artists and intellectuals in Germany to being systematically persecuted under the Nazi regime. Both films include free admission for ticketholders to Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945 prior to the screening.

From October 25 – November 1, the Museum will host a Polish film series, The Unknown Holocaust: Recent Polish Films. The fall of communism ushered in a new era of candid and artistically accomplished Polish filmmaking about the Holocaust. This week-long series presents features, documentaries, and short films rarely seen in the United States. Discussions with experts follow the screenings. The all-access pass will allow you to see any or even all of the films for only $15, $12 for Members. For a complete listing of the films and accompanying discussions, click here.

On September 9 at 7 P.M., eminent historian Timothy Snyder of Yale University will speak about his new book Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, which chronicles the humanitarian risks we face in the 21st century in the context of the history of the Holocaust.

Popular podcast Person Place Thing is also making its way to the Museum. Randy Cohen will host a live-recording of the podcast as he interviews clarinetist David Krakauer on Wednesday, October 7 at 7 P.M. We’re keen to find out what person, place, and thing are meaningful to this great musician. 

On October 21 author Roger Cohen will discuss his new book The Girl from Human Street. Cohen traces his family history across continents and reveals vital patterns of struggle and resilience. Tickets are $12; free for Members. 

Grammy-nominated clarinetist David Krakauer will return to the Museum for a limited engagement of his vibrant concert The Big Picture. In this cinematic concert, Krakauer adds his contemporary style to beloved songs from films ranging from Funny Girl and Fiddler on the Roof to Sophie's Choice and The Pianist.

To buy tickets and for more up-to-date information on programs, please visit our calendar page. We hope to see you!  

Friday, July 31, 2015

MJH at the Disability Pride Parade

This blog is from Yael Friedman, Museum Educator.

On Sunday, July 12, Shu, one of our High School Apprentices, and I participated in New York City’s first annual Disability Pride Parade in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We marched with the Museum Access Consortium (MAC) from Madison Square Park to Union Square Park. Representatives from more than 10 cultural institutions joined the MAC contingent.

Despite the heat, there was a tremendous showing at the parade. It was remarkable to see the enthusiasm and determination of thousands of parade participants, many of whom are disabled. The NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities ensured accommodations for people with different types of disabilities. Many signs addressed challenges that people with disabilities face in their everyday life and the desire to be treated equally. For example, one sign stated "Treat me the way you want to be treated." Not only was this a celebration, it was an educational experience for those unfamiliar with the needs and perspectives of people with disabilities.

During the parade, I held the MAC banner as Shu ran up and down the street giving out Museum flyers and our calendar of events. MAC participants chanted “museums for all” as we made our way down Broadway. Shu cheerfully engaged with all of the supporters lined up alongside the parade and introduced them to the Museum. She reflected that, “Many people said thank you back, which was probably a courteous gesture in others' eyes, but to me, it really meant my work had an impact on them. I had long conversations with a few people on the sidewalk and in the parade. The onlookers were so pleased that people with disabilities are better accommodated in public spaces now than they were 25 years ago, before the ADA. I was also impressed by such advances in society. It was moving to share my happiness with them and be part of this historical moment.”

The Museum has worked with the American Sign Language (ASL) community over the past year, and it has been very successful. We consistently have a large showing at events and have been fortunate to work with three deaf Museum Educators who lead tours in ASL and Russian Sign Language for deaf visitors. Our focus this year is on expanding our programs for people with visual impairments.

A new season of programs for the ASL community will begin in the fall. Bookmark our ASL programs page and check back in September for new ASL events.