Monday, August 18, 2014

New Sign Language Tours at the Museum

This fall, the Museum is pleased to launch the new ASL @ MJH series for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing visitors, which will take place one Wednesday a month at 6 p.m. starting on October 22.

The evenings will begin with light refreshments, followed by free, private gallery tours and programs. These tours will be offered in American Sign Language and led by Museum Educators who are Deaf. Special events for ASL @ MJH will be interpreted by certified ASL interpreters.

Elizabeth Edelstein, our Director of Education, said, “Deaf Museum Educators began studying the Museum’s content this spring, learning how to lead tours of the Core Exhibition in American Sign Language.  We hope that our tours and monthly programs will allow members of the ASL community to fully experience what the Museum has to offer. We very much look forward to working with the ASL community on programming at the Museum.”

The series will start on October 22 with an introduction to the Museum’s exhibitions. On November 19, the tour will examine artifacts related to Jewish heritage. On December 10, there will be a curator’s tour of Against the Odds: American Jews and the Rescue of Europe’s Refugees, which will be interpreted by a certified ASL interpreter. 

Future dates and topics will be announced soon. Visit this link for the most up-to-date information. ASL @ MJH is free but pre-registration is required.  To register for October 22, please click here.

Due to space constraints, sign language students are not permitted. 

ASL @ MJH is made possible by a generous gift from Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany: Rabbi Israel Miller Fund for Shoah Research, Documentation and Education.

Image of the Core Exhibition by David Paler.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Celebrating Latin American Jewish Cuisine

Latin American Jewish cuisine is heating up restaurants and kitchens throughout the Americas. On Sunday, September 14 at 2:30 p.m., James Beard nominated cookbook author Jayne Cohen will lead a lively discussion about the mouthwatering food and the journey of the cuisine from early Sephardic influences to the current Jewish food landscape at the Museum. Some of the cuisine’s most influential food mavens will gather to discuss their take on the exciting blend of influences. The panel will feature: chefs Sam Gorenstein and Leticia Moreinos Schwartz; food writer Susan Schmidt; and anthropologist Ruth Behar.
A reception featuring tasty Latin desserts will follow.
To whet your appetite, we thought we'd share the delicious recipe below. Purchase tickets to the event here.

Brazilian Crème Caramel

(Pudim de Leite)

From Leticia Moreinos Schwartz

Almost every cuisine has its version of flan, but what makes the Brazilian take so special is the use of sweetened condensed milk, lending a smooth, silky and velvety texture to the dish. Another difference is that this recipe is prepared in a blender or food processor. I’ve added a bit of heavy cream and extra yolks to expand upon this velvety texture that I like so much.

Beloved by all Brazilians for special occasions, this pudding is perfect for Yom Kippur break-the-fast and other dairy menus, as well as a treat for drop-in guests during the fall holidays. You can prepare the dessert up to 5 days ahead of time and only invert it the day you are serving.


Serves 6 to 8


For the caramel:

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons water


For the flan:

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 2/3 cup whole milk

½ cup heavy cream

3 large eggs

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Equipment: Round cake mold, 8 inches wide and 2 inches deep (or 4 individual ramekins)


To make the caramel: 

  1. Place the sugar and water in a clean heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook the sugar over high heat without stirring, until it turns into an amber-colored caramel, about 5 minutes.
  2. Pour the caramel into the cake mold and swirl it around making sure the caramel evenly covers the whole bottom of the pan. You don’t want to have any concentrated lumps of caramel in any part of the pan. Be advised that the caramel will continue to cook once it’s off the heat, so work fast.  Set the pan aside.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F.


To make the flan:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the flan in a blender or (ideally) a food processor, until smooth.
  2. Carefully and slowly pour it into the prepared caramel pan. Transfer the caramel pan to a large roasting pan and fill it with warm water so that it comes half ways up the sides of the pan. Carefully transfer the roasting pan to the center of the oven and bake until the custard is set, about 45 to 55 minutes.
  3.  Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Transfer the custard pan to a wire rack. Let it cool at room temperature then refrigerate for at least 4 hours. It’s important to invert the flan only when it is chilled completely, otherwise it might break.
  4. When ready to serve, run a smooth knife around the inside of the cake pan. Place a large rimmed serving platter on top of the cake pan, and holding the pans together with both hands, quickly invert the flan onto the platter. Hold the pans so for at least 1 minute to make sure all the juices of the caramel fall onto the platter.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Understanding the Power of Artifacts

In preparation for my departure from the Museum of Jewish Heritage, I was going through a drawer of photographs. Back in the olden days, the press office sent out prints of our artifacts, before e-mailing a JPG was an option. I asked Erica Blumenfeld, senior registrar and manager of traveling exhibitions, and Jen Roberts, associate registrar, to look at the array of images to see if they needed them for any reason.

One of the photographs was of Heinrich Himmler’s annotated copy of “Mein Kampf.” My first assignment as PR Manager was setting up an appointment for a New York Post reporter to come and examine the artifact and talk about how it came to the Museum (it was donated anonymously). I think it was my second day at work. When I mentioned that this was the first artifact I knew personally, Erica and Jen revealed that the book was the first artifact that they each encountered in their MJH careers as well.

There are 25,000 objects in the collection. Our start dates were separated by 10 years. This seemed beyond coincidence so I asked them to share their experiences.

Erica’s first encounter with “Mein Kampf” took place within her first month here. An author wanted information about the book and Erica had to look for the portions requested. She says at first it was a book and then as she was going through it, its character changed. It wasn’t just any book. It was a charged object that belonged to one of the most despicable human beings who ever lived and it was “a shocking realization to hold in my hands the same object he held in his hands.”

Jen Roberts started at the Museum July 14, 2008 and on July 16 Jen was asked to scan pages of “Mein Kampf.” She asked Erica some technical questions and then she was left alone with the book. She says she felt overwhelmed by the weight of what it meant to work here. It was the first time Jen handled an object, any object, in an official capacity as a Museum employee. “You’re interacting with these items on a very intimate level. As registrars, we are ingrained to have a certain type of reverence for objects. When this book is your first object you understand the seriousness of the subject matter of this Museum.” The pages of the book, which is on display on the second floor, are flipped every few months, so Jen still interacts with the book on a regular basis.

Erica and Jen tweet about matters registrarial. Follow them on Twitter @MJHReg for more behind-the-scenes glimpses of our collection. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Changing of the Guard

After 32 years serving as Museum Chairman, Robert M. Morgenthau took on a new title, that of Chairman Emeritus, when he stepped down as Chairman at the June 19 Annual Meeting of the Board. Bruce C. Ratner has been named the new Museum Chairman.

Mr. Morgenthau has served as Chairman of the Board since 1982, one year after Mayor Koch created a Task Force to determine what kind of Holocaust memorial was needed in New York City.

Mr. Morgenthau said, “I’m so honored to have been part of the Museum’s creation and its ongoing vitality, and look forward to remaining involved for many years to come. I’m also thrilled that the Board has elected Bruce Ratner as Chairman. Bruce has long been a friend to me and the Museum. And most important, his vision for the Museum as an institution that teaches about 20th- and 21st-century Jewish history and the Holocaust in a way that is meaningful to a larger community is critical to the Museum’s commitment to the principles of education and social justice within the Jewish community and beyond.”

Under Mr. Morgenthau’s leadership, the Museum has experienced incredible growth and reach over three decades. The original building opened to the public in 1997, and the wing that bears his name opened in 2003, tripling the square feet of the institution and increasing the innovative programming offered.

Of his many accomplishments, there is one that shines as a tribute to an entire generation. His was the vision behind the award-winning exhibition Ours To Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War.
Just as Holocaust survivors did not begin to tell their stories until decades after the war ended, veterans, too, were unable to articulate fully the memories that dwelled deep within.

As with survivors, these memories become more precious as they become more scarce, and these experiences needed to be documented. The result was an extraordinary archive of memory, courage, and history. Mr. Morgenthau, a Navy veteran himself, wanted the world to know that Jews, on the battlefront and on the home front, came together to “rid the world of a monstrous evil.”

While Mr. Morgenthau became the voice for his generation of veterans, he was also the voice of resolute determination for New York City. At the reopening of the Museum after the September 11 attacks, he announced that construction would begin on the new wing in a matter of weeks, and in a single moment demonstrated not only his commitment to the future, but his unequaled leadership in a time of complete uncertainty.

The role of Chairman Emeritus was created for Mr. Morgenthau to recognize his long-standing and invaluable service to, and lasting impact on, the Museum. Museum Director Dr. David G. Marwell said, “Robert Morgenthau had a clear vision for the Museum from the very start and helped shape it into an important educational institution, and a vital place of memory. It was Bob’s belief that the Museum should not only relate the tragic history of the Holocaust, but should also celebrate Jewish life by exploring its variety and richness. He succeeded in creating an institution that has earned its place in the cultural landscape of New York City and its reputation as a crucial stop for all who believe that we must understand the past in order to navigate the future.”

Mr. Ratner said, “The Museum of Jewish Heritage, the building and the programs, will long stand as a monument to how the Morgenthau family has worked endlessly on behalf of the Jewish people — before and after the Holocaust. I strongly believe that Bob’s sense of justice and the power of the law are derived directly from his involvement with these issues.”

Mr. Ratner, who has served on the Board of Trustees since 1996, co-chaired the Building Committee with Peter Kalikow, and his firm, Forest City Ratner (FCR), provided pro bono construction project management for the Museum’s expansion in 2003. As the Chairman of the Brooklyn Academy of Music from 1992 until 2001, he drew on his background as a developer and created a vibrant cultural district in the neighborhood of the immensely popular arts institution. Given the economic and construction boom currently taking place in Lower Manhattan with the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, 1 World Trade Center, and the development of Brookfield Place, this neighborhood is undergoing its own rebirth, and Mr. Ratner’s understanding of how culture drives the economy will only enhance the image of the Museum in this redesigned downtown.

As Executive Chairman of FCR, one of the largest urban real estate developers in the country, he has, over the last 25 years, developed 44 ground-up projects in the New York City area. He is the majority owner and developer of Barclays Center Arena, home of the Brooklyn Nets, the first major professional sports team to call Brooklyn home since the Dodgers left in 1957.

Mr. Ratner has been a forthright and generous supporter of the Museum, funding general operations and special exhibitions including Against the Odds: American Jews and the Rescue of Europe’s Refugees, 1933–1941, and was the co-honoree at the 2008 Heritage Dinner, when he announced from the stage, “The Museum is the most important philanthropy with which I am involved.” Mr. Ratner grew up in a Jewish home, the son of immigrants, whose family bore the scars of the Holocaust. After the war, Bruce’s mother committed herself to resettling survivors, finding homes for them and helping to create community for these newcomers. “Some of the survivors looked at my parents as their family, the kids were like our cousins. My mother most of all would remind us to Never Forget,” recalls Mr. Ratner.

Mr. Ratner currently serves on a number of boards, including Weill Cornell Medical College and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the Columbia University School of Law. He is the father of two daughters, Lizzy, a writer, and Rebbie, a filmmaker, has one grandson, Elias, and is married to Dr. Pamela Lipkin.

ABOVE LEFT: Museum Director Dr. David G. Marwell, Robert M. Morgenthau, and Trustee Judah Gribetz. ABOVE RIGHT: Bruce Ratner accepts the Heritage Award at the 2008 Heritage Dinner.
Photos by Melanie Einzig.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Rudolf Kasztner: Hero or Villain?

1944 was a monumental year in Hungarian history;you have probably noticed a number of 70th anniversary commemorations this year. The efforts of one man in particular stand out. Rudolf Kasztner was a Hungarian Jew who negotiated with Adolf Eichmann to bring more than 1,6000 Hungarian Jews to safety by putting them on a train to Switzerland. It came to be known as Kasztner’s Train. Some viewed him as a hero; others as a traitor. After he moved to Israel, he was tried and convicted as “The Man who Sold His Soul to the Devil.” He was assassinated in 1957.

Director/Producer/Writer Gaylen Ross made a documentary about Kasztner in 2008. It is a documentary full of intrigue that illustrates that the line between hero and villain is often blurred. There are interviews with family and foe alike, including conversations with the assassin who broke his silence and revealed the plot that resulted in his killing Kasztner.

On June 30, this 2 DVD set will be available to the public on and the Killing Kasztner website. If you purchase the DVD on the Killing Kasztner website, and use code MJH, you will receive a 15% discount. There are more than three hours of bonus features including interviews with Kasztner survivors, and other key players who figure prominently in the story.

Learn much more about Kasztner and the film on the movie website

Monday, June 23, 2014

Close Encounters of the Spielberg Kind: A Free Summer Film Series Launches This Week

This blog comes to us from Gabriel Sanders, who loves a good summer film.

It probably goes without saying that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest filmmakers of our time — or all time. But even Spielberg’s biggest fans can lose sight of just how long and varied his career has been. Our free film series, held in the beautiful and air-conditioned Edmond J. Safra Theater, is designed to help drive this point home.

We'll kick things off with Harrison Ford’s first turn as the swashbuckling archaeologist Indiana Jones, in the 1981 blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark (June 25). Set in 1936, the film follows Indy as he tries to track down the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do.

From there, we move forward eight years to 1944, the Normandy landings, and Saving Private Ryan (July 2). After opening with what is considered one of the greatest battle scenes in cinema history, the film follows a group of U.S. soldiers behind enemy lines to retrieve a stranded paratrooper.

We’ll then time travel from World War II history to the realm of prehistory and the dinosaurs of Spielberg’s 1993 sci-fi thriller Jurassic Park (July 9). On July 16, we turn to the historical drama Amistad, the story of a slave-ship mutiny that became a Supreme Court case and key moment in the fight for abolition.

We then look to the stars and the UFOs of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (July 23).

As we near the mournful holy day of Tisha B’Av, we’ll screen Spielberg’s Holocaust epic, Schindler’s List (July 30).

During early August, amid the period affectionately known as Shark Week, we’ll screen Jaws (August 6). This screening is co-sponsored by the Young Friends of the Museum.

And finally, to wrap things up, we look back to outer space and head home with E.T. (August 13). Our High School Apprentices are co-sponsors of this film.

Movies will screen at 6:30 P.M. every Wednesday from June 25 through August 13. Fabulous raffle prizes will be given away at each screening.

The Museum’s public programs are made possible through a generous gift from Mrs. Lily Safra.

Image: Copyright Paramount Pictures