Tuesday, December 30, 2008

See you next year!

Since Betsy and I will both be out tomorrow, we wanted to wish all our readers a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2009!

Famous Holocaust Love Story Revealed to be a Hoax

Back in October, I posted about Herman and Roma Rosenblat, whose 60+ year romance that began in a German concentration camp was described by Oprah Winfrey as "the greatest love story" she had ever heard. Well, we are in good company: because Oprah was fooled and so were we.

As it turns out, Herman Rosenblat fabricated the story over 10 years ago. "Why did I do that and write the story with the girl and the apple," he said in a statement through his literary agent, "because I wanted to bring happiness to people, to remind them not to hate, but to love and tolerate all people. I brought good feelings to a lot of people, and I brought hope to many. My motivation was to make good in this world... In my dreams, Roma will always throw me an apple, but I now know it is only a dream." Berkley Books immediately canceled publication of Rosenblat's memoir, "Angel at the Fence," which was set to be released in February. A film version of the story is still in the works.

Our own Museum director, Dr. David Marwell was asked to comment on this story by CNN (story linked). "On the far extreme," he said, "something like this could give fuel to those who are in the business of denying that the Holocaust ever took place."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Testing Testing

I read a very interesting article in the New York Times today about replicating the famous Milgram study about the power of authority. Sadly, the results were very close to the original experiment, done in the 1960s, which proved that most people would obey authority figures. To get a bigger picture about what this means, I asked my favorite sociologist, (i.e. my husband) Marcus Aldredge, a PhD candidate in Sociology and a Sociology instructor at Iona College, to weigh in. I asked him to explain the cultural relevance, as he often talks about Milgram in his classes. This is what our guest blogger had to say:

Authority and the power of authority on human and group behavior is a recurring theme in the social sciences. This recent replication experiment by Jerry Berger, as stated in the New York Times article, was an attempt to test, by either replicating, revising or refuting the reliability of the results of this now legendary study conducted by Stanley Milgram in the early 1960s. Both validity and reliability of scientific results are important to any study's credence and continued relevance within the larger paradigm of scientific literature.

The rise of modern fascism, World War II, and the Holocaust ushered in a flurry of intellectual interest and social psychological research on these issues most notably: Kurt Lewin's studies on the power of different leadership styles, Solomon Ash's studies on conformity to group expectations, Philip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison experiment, and Milgram's experiments on the power of authority. Each was looking at similar issues of authority, conformity, and the power of the group and social setting on individual behaviors from slightly different angles, but they all shared a concern. This concern, for Americans, is sometimes difficult to reconcile given the cultural and political depth of our ideological individualism.

The United States since its inception has increasingly created a culture that paradoxically idealizes both conformity and individualism. Among many others, Alexis De Tocqueville in Democracy in America recognized the potentially problematic marriage of democracy (counter to a 'tyranny of the majority') and an ideology of individualism. Although we have to be careful not to induce social psychological findings to a culture en masse, these recent findings do provide a difficult reminder that social situations (and the roles assigned to different social positions) do have a power beyond and over the individual. This is especially germane and topical in light of recent events such as Abu Ghraib. With that in mind, I would recommend a mentor's recent book The Trials of Abu Ghraib. S.G Mestrovic provides a brilliant, but lamentably illuminating analysis of a pathological culture of 'anomie' (See Emile Durkheim) that was a far cry from a "few bad apples." In other words, authority played a significant role in fostering and maintaining an environment that became disastrous and dirranged for all involved.

With all this being said, the next possible step and research question may be to somehow discern how those who were screened out of Berger's study, with preexisting knowledge of Milgram's studies, would (re)act in such a situation with this 'knowledge' of the power of both authority and the situation. This should be our bigger concern.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Last Minute (and Bottom Dollar) Holiday Fun

With Hanukkah ending the begining of next week and 2008 ending on Friday, this is the last "holiday season" weekend we have until 2009. As we all know from the may reports of this being the worst retail year in decades, we're aware that everyone is still looking to save some money this season. With that in mind, Betsy and I have come up with some things one can do this holiday season for free!

Ice Skate in Bryant Park through January 25. The Pond features free admission ice skating, in addition to skate rentals, shows, special events, and activities. It's perfect for everything from a quick lunch-hour skate to a romantic date.

Looking at shop windows on 5th Avenue. I will admit: this year is the first I actual took the time to look, having dismissed it in years past as "tourist." I promise you I will be back next year. My personal favorites were those for Bergdorf Goodman (which has received mixed reviews for being "vague" or too high concept) while Betsy has preferred Henri Bendel in years past for their whimsy.

Free Saturdays at the Jewish Museum. Not to be confused with us, the Jewish Museum uptown is free to the public on Saturdays. If the windows at Bergdorf Goodman weren't trippy enough for you, you can gaze at the famously dream-like work of Chagall on display as part of their special exhibition Chagall and the Artists of the Russian-Jewish Theater, 1919-1949.
If you're a big Museum person, you can also attend free Wednesday nights at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Listen to church and temple choirs. New York church and temple choirs are unique--because the city is a cultural capital, many choirsters are far from amateurs. Professional singers, students who study at Julliard and other great music schools around the city, and retired singers join their local choruses, many of which give free performances, especially around the holidays. Check your neighborhood church and synagogue bulletins to see if there are any you can enjoy.

Grand Central Station Lights Show. Taking place every half hour in the main hall of Grand Central Terminal, this show is just fun and can even make surly commuters look up and smile for a couple minutes. When you're done, you can stick around for the Holiday Train Show to see model trains running through a beautiful holiday landscape that includes models of NYC landmarks.

Times Square on New Year's Eve. The ball drop in Times Square isn't just a New York tradition--it's a worldwide tradition. Now, according to my extensive scientific research, it is very, very cold in New York City in January. It is for this reason that I have abstained from this noble tradition in the past. However, we seem to be experiencing a bit of a warm snap, so, if you you don't mind the crowds, stop on by--it's the biggest free party you'll ever attend.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Never Again

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, humanity was faced with a terrible new word: genocide. Though the Shoah was not the first attempt to systematically and intentionally destroy a particular group, the atrocities committed in camps, ghettos, and victims' own homes prompted the world's political community to name it, define it, and prevent it from ever happening again. Unfortunately, as Darfur, the former Yugoslavia, and Rawanda show us, we still have some work to do.

A task force convened by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the U.S. Institute of Peace recommended in a 147-page report put out earlier this month that genocide prevention and response should be incorporated into U.S. military planning and training.

The report, penned by a committee co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, says the next U.S. president must “demonstrate at the outset that preventing genocide and mass atrocities is a national priority." In addition to the formation of a  Atrocities Prevention Committee, the report stresses that the U.S. must consider its military as a tool against genocide, particularly in regard to prevention.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage also believes that the leadership of the United States military is essential in preventing genocides in the future. The United States Service Academy Program is a dynamic three-week educational initiative in Poland created by the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation (AJCF) for a select group of cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Focusing on the Holocaust and related contemporary moral and ethical considerations, this  program provides an authentic learning experience for future military officers that extends beyond what they are taught in their Academy classrooms. These incredible men and women go on to become ambassadors of ethical behavior and responsibility to their peers.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Things to Do This Week

Growing up on the North Shore of Boston, there truly weren't many things to do on Christmas if you were Jewish. One of the other fabulous things about New York is that you have plenty of choices all week long.

While we are closing at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, I highly recommend JDub and Brooklyn Jews' 4th annual Jewltide Hanukkah Bash at Southpaw in Brooklyn. DeLeon and other indie bands will be playing to a post-Matzo Ball crowd. Donuts, gelt, and free CDs sweeten the deal.

More good news, unlike other previous years, we still have some tickets left for the Museum of Jewish Heritage's annual December 25 concerts featuring Joshua Nelson and his Kosher Gospel Choir, Frank London of the Klezmatics, and Gospel great Cissy Houston. Another bonus: these concerts are perfect for the whole family including the most persnickety grandparents and kids. Plus, they are in the afternoon, so you have plenty of time to recover from the previous evening's activities....

Happy Hanukkah to all!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Films Humbug?

Snowy days like today inspire many to go see a holiday flick. Sadly, they can't all be as good as It's a Wonderful Life. However, A.O. Scott's review of 7 Pounds in the New York Times today is almost as fun as going to the movies (it made Abby laugh out loud on the train this morning), but, buyer beware. He doesn't really recommend the film.

It might be worth Netflixing though, if you like things that are so terrible that they are actually amusing. Does anyone remember USA Up All Night? It was where B-grade films like Cannibal Women in the Avacado Jungle of Death and Return of the Killer Tomatoes ended up.

If you like your movies a little more highbrow, you'll want to check out our public program schedule for January and February. Our French film series consists of interesting films made by thoughtful directors. No jellyfish were harmed in the making of the films.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Big Birthday Year

It should be an interesting bicentennial year. On February 12, the country will celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. If you are in Washington, be sure to stop by the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition about the president. (Read the New York Times review).

While a ton has been written about Lincoln's administration and legacy, one bicentennial baby that has gotten short shrift, in our opinion, is Felix Mendelssohn. Why is this the case? Well, according to The Mendelssohn Project, a non-profit devoted to resurrecting the composer's music,"The brightly shining Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy firmament was almost totally eclipsed by the creeping nightmare of anti-Semitism, intolerance and ignorance shortly after the composer's death in the mid-19th century."

Intriguing, right? There is much more to the story. (Check out TMP website and Norman Lebrecht's article that came out yesterday). Better yet, the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Mendelssohn Project will be co-presenting a concert chock-full of world premieres. Mendelssohn: Lost Treasures and the Wagner Supression will be performed on January 28. Performers include the Shanghai Quartet and pianists Orion Weiss and Anna Polonsky. This is sure to be one of our hot tickets this season, so buy your ticket in advance.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One Potato, Two Potatoes

While the winter is cold and dark, the season has a few silver linings. One is witnessing the first real snowfall, which the Communications gang did yesterday from the Museum of Jewish Heritage's board room. The board room is shaped like the bow of a ship, so we were surrounded by windows on three sides. It was just magical, like we were inside a snow globe. (Remind me of this in February when I ask if we can open a museum in the Bahamas).

The other lovely thing about winter is Hanukkah, and with Hanukkah comes the best excuse to eat fried carbs. A new book by Jayne Cohen called Jewish Holiday Cooking was recently written up in the New Jersey Jewish Standard. It had some good tips in it and some recipes for off-the-beaten-path latkes including Scallion Latkes and Chickpea Latkes. While I may have to try one of these soon, my personal favorite recipe is from Everyday Italian . To make them Parve, skip the parmesean.

If you are on South Beach or Atkins and are still reading, may I suggest celebrating the season with festive music. Joshua Nelson and his Kosher Gospel Choir will be joined by Cissy Houston and Frank London on December 25 for a joyous and fat-free concert.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reasons to Love New York Part II

New York magazine (one of my very favorites) recently released their much anticipated 4th annual  Reasons to Love New York issue. This sparked a discussion in the Communications "pod" (of cubicles) and inspired us to ask around the Museum of Jewish Heritage and come up with our own reasons we love New York.

Public Transportation: Okay, we all complain about MTA. I have, in fact, complained about MTA on this very blog. However, where else in the world can you get anywhere you want 24 hours a day 7 days a week? From the Museum, I am within walking distance from the 1,2,3,4,5,A,E,R,W trains and several bus routes, which means that I can easily get pretty much anywhere.

"Everything comes to New York." -Joshua Kenney, Assistant Visitor Services Manager Art exhibitions, concerts, conferences, conventions, and pretty much anything else you can imagine eventually winds up in New York at some point. How many times have you seen a movie preview and gotten really excited for it only to hear at the end of the commercial "Showing in select cities!" Well, if you're not in New York or Los Angeles, you're probably out of luck. The Museum itself has recently been quite the hub for film premieres and screenings: Golden Globe nominee Defiance had several screenings in Edmond J. Safra Hall and, just last week Good premiered there as well.

Neighborhoods: I can think of few other places in the world that have as many sub cities as New York - Battery Park City, Alphabet City, Harlem, Washington Heights, Park Slope, The Village (East and West), Chelsea, Jackson Heights, Long Island City... the list goes on and on. Each street in each of these neighborhoods has its own energy, history, culture, and reputation. Exploring these neighborhoods and finding your favorite nooks ad crannies of each is a quintessential New York experience.

"There's a surprise around every corner" -Paula Mingo, Visitor Services It is perfectly possible to turn a corner and just stumble upon a huge street fair, a newly opened restaurant, or unique boutique. New York is a city of discovery: one is constantly finding new things to fall in love with. You put 8 million people in a small space, you're bound to find a bunch of them doing some interesting things...

"You can see a Broadway show on a Tuesday night." - Irene Resenly, Assistant Educator of Museum Internships A single street in New York has become synonamous with live entertainment around the world. Live theater in New York is an aspiration for millions: whether it be seeing a show or being in one. The best part about theater in the city, I think, is that it's not just limited to Broadway-- from the world-famous Apollo Theater uptown to Edmond J. Safra Hall, you can catch incredible performances all over New York.

"You can hear five languages before 9 a.m." -Me This is something I adore about New York: it is truly a world city. The Museum's Core Exhibition talks a lot about the immigrant experience and how Jews brought their languages and cultures with them wherever they went. The hundreds upon hundreds of cultures that make an appearance in New York have left their mark on its art, culture, industry, and...
"Food!" -Keika Shimmyo, Marketing Coordinator It's true. This was the most common answer I received when I asked staff members for a reason to love New York. And who can blame them? There are few other places where you can walk down a single street and have your choice of sushi, falafel, pasta, barbeque, or pad thai. Even the Museums have great food!

And, finally...
"Once you've lived in New York, everything else is just camping out." -Betsy (quoting her mom's neighbor)

Monday, December 15, 2008

In Defense of Pigeons...

Many people, including a great number of New Yorkers, hate pigeons. They are called "rats with wings," "diseased," and "dirty." Perhaps I am in the minority when I say I love these little birds: they have a silly way of walking and are shaped kind of like footballs, which amuses me; they are completely fearless; and they seem to have a real sense of purpose. One person who agreed with me was Richard Topus, who died last week at the age of 84. His obituary in the New York Times inspired this blog.
The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Richard was born in Brooklyn in 1924.Growing up, he fell in love with the local sport of choice--pigeon racing. Though his parents would not allow him to keep pigeons of his own, Topus learned how to handle the birds from some neighborhood men, two of whom had been pigeoneers in World War I. With technological advances such as the telephone and telegraphs, many thought the day of the carrier pigeon relating important messages over enemy lines was over: not so (I'll bet those naysayers were in the "We hate pigeons" camp, too.) While technology has its benefits, it has its drawbacks as well: phonelines can be taped, radio signals can be intercepted or even triangulated to determine the sender's location. Flying up to a mile a minute, pigeons were able to go places human messengers could not, and quickly.
Because of his training on Brooklyn rooftops, Richard was able to serve his country by teaching others how to use pigeons to relay messages in Europe and in the Pacific theater. After the war, Richard got his Masters in Marketing and worked for Friendship Food Products. Their mascot? You guessed it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pod People

This week the Museum of Jewish Heritage presented a really interesting program entitled Irène Némirovsky and The Jewish question.

Ruth Franklin, an editor at The New Republic; Susan Suleiman, professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University; and Maurice Samuels, professor of French at Yale University left no stone unturned as they tackled some really tough questions posed by Gabriel Sanders from Nextbook.

Normally, we would say that "you had to be there." But in this case, we invite you to listen to the podcast of the program, and, of course, to come see Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, the exhibition that inspired this and many of our other programs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Your Second Chance for Inheritance

On December 1, the Museum held a screening of the powerful new documentary Inheritance, which tells the story of Monika Hertwig, the daughter of mass murderer Amon Goeth, and her emotional meeting with Helen Jonas, who was enslaved by Goeth and who is one of the few living eyewitnesses to his unspeakable brutality. This screening, which was followed by a conversation with director James Moll, Hertwig, and Jonas, was a sold-out event. The film, produced by PBS's P.O.V. series, premiered last night at 9 p.m.

If you missed the screening and were unable to catch the premiere, or if you just want to see it again, Inheritance is available online from now until January 4. I know what you're thinking "That's great, but I also really wanted to see the post-screening interview." P.O.V. has got you covered.

The whole site is definitely worth exploring, including special gallery featuring haunting images of the Plazow forced labor camp. Museum director David Mawell will be providing commentary to accompany these images in the future, so be sure to check back.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Meet the Neighbors

This post is from Abby, our guest blogger. The image is of the future plans for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

On February 4 we will be co-sponsoring a program with the National September 11 Memorial and Museum . The program, called Regarding the Pain of Others, will look at representations of atrocity and how people react or fail to react to them. It promises to be a powerful program and another opportunity to explore the relationship between tragedy, memory, and contemporary society.

We met with colleagues from the 9/11 Museum yesterday at their offices. We discussed outreach for the program, how to generate an audience, what resources could be shared, and we talked about the state of culture downtown. I am pleased to have them as neighbors and colleagues. Creating a memorial and museum to commemorate such acts of unadulterated evil when so little time has passed since those events is a monumental undertaking that by its nature has to be fluid.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage opened in 1997, the USHMM opened in 1993, 50 years after the end of the war, but the idea of a memorial in Israel was under consideration when World War II was still being fought. According to the Yad Vashem website, it was first proposed in September 1942 at a board meeting of the Jewish National Fund by Mordecai Shenhavi, a member of Kibbutz Mishmar ha-Emek. He proposed creating a memorial to the Holocaust and to Jews who fought in the allied armies. The first buildings at Yad Vashem opened to the public in 1957.

Regardless of whether or not distance from an event is necessary or even preferable before plunging into the memorialization process is not my argument to make. As a person who viewed much of 2001 through 2006 through the prism of 9/11 I absolutely see the necessity to create a memorial and a museum now. And as a professional who works at a Holocaust memorial and museum I see the wisdom of allowing intervening years to inform the process. Of course the world is a different place and no one would allow 50 years to pass before honoring a tragedy of such dimension.

The offices of the 9/11 Museum are across the street from the World Trade Center site. They are perched, along with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, on the 20th floor of a skyscraper and when our meeting concluded we were invited to walk over to the floor to ceiling windows and look down on the site. I had been to many meetings at LMDC in the months and years just after 2001 and at that time the area was a giant grave site. It could not be confused for anything else. But yesterday, seeing the steel for the museum in place, the outline of the Freedom Tower, and of course the bustling movement of construction equipment and materials being moved down the ramp, it was a transformed space. One does not see all of this progress from ground level, the true expanse of the work can only be seen from the offices of the LMDC and the 9/11 Museum. And that is probably fine – the work happening on the site is daily evidence of what the future will bring, and hope for the future is certainly what inspires both organizations to do our work each and every day.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Shopping: Museum Style

And it is upon us: the one time of year when shopping is completely guilt-free. Hanukkah starts December 21 this year-- so you all have about two weeks...

I will be accomplishing some of my holiday shopping at the Pickman Museum Shop, conveniantly located four floors down from my desk in the Museum lobby. The Shop offers a wide variety of Judaica, jewelry, books and music, and toys for children, as well as gifts related to the Museum’s educational mission.

Not to be outdone by the marvels of big internet shopping boutiques, you can make your Shop purchases online. Remember, Members receive a 15% discount on Museum publications and other items and Patron members receive 20%. If you are ordering online, just be sure to email Warren to have this discount applied.

Even though I am supposed to be shopping for other people, rest assured I will linger in my favorite section of the store, because, really, who doesn't like sparkly things designed by Michal Negrin? Should I fall prey to said sparklies, selfishly buying for myself, I shall soothe my guilt with the knowledge that proceeds from merchandise sold through the shop benefit the Museum and its educational programs. So, really, it's still a mitzvah, right?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Black Dogs in Mississippi

Happy Monday, readers!

And speaking of reading, the Museum is holding its staff book club this Thursday. The December pick is a personal favorite of mine: Ian McEwan's Black Dogs. I first encountered this gem in a college course called "Art of the Novella" and thought its themes of memory and WWII Europe would be perfect for discussion. It is among the lesser known of McEwan's works (Atonement is probably his most famous) and among his shortest-- it's only 149 pages.

Film club will not be held until January, but we recently chose Ghosts of Mississippi. Based on a true story, the film follows the murder trial of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Whoopi Goldberg plays Evers' widow, who allies with District Attorney Bobby DeLaughters (Alec Baldwin) to bring Bryon De La Beckwith (James Woods) to justice after 30 years and two hung juries.

Read Black Dogs? Seen Ghosts of Mississippi? Have an opinion? Let us know what you think via blog comments.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Back to Science Class

Okay, so usually I avoid the science section of the newspaper. It just reminds me of my worst subject in high school--chemistry. However, "Gene Test Shows Spain's Jewish and Muslim Mix," in today's science section of the New York Times is fascinating. Apparently, researchers now believe that 20 percent of the population of the Iberian Peninsula has Sephardic Jewish genes (and 11 percent has Muslim DNA). This is new evidence of the mass conversion of Jews and Muslims in 15th and 16th century Spain. We will probably never know how many more Jews chose to leave.
Read the article for all the scientific details and for more evidence visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage. On display in our Core Exhibition is an original letter from Ferdinand and Isabella ordering the expulsion of the Jews.
It will be interesting to see what else scientists and historians can figure out about this period by working together.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

This One's On Us...

Breaking News: the United States is in a recession. You heard it here first.
Okay, so you probably (definitely) didn't hear it here first, but still, the economy, and in many cases, our wallets, have seen happier days. Holiday shopping and end of year expenses make this a particularly tight season for a lot of people, so, understandably, spending money on our own entertainment and outings takes a back seat.
But, as it has been for about five years now, every Wednesday, from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m., the Museum and all its exhibitions are free to the public with suggested donation. That includes the Core Exhibition, Woman of Letters, Andy Goldsworthy's Garden of Stones, the Pickman Museum Shop, the Heritage Café (until 7 p.m.), and our latest exhibition The Shooting of Jews in Ukraine: Holocaust by Bullets.
Oh no, thank you for coming...
The real winners, though, are the Museum members, for whom admission is free every day. Members also receive invitations to exclusive events, guided tour opportunities, discounts in the Museum shop and Heritage café, a subscription to the Museum’s newsletter, discounted or free admission to programs in Edmond J. Safra Hall, guest passes for friends and family, and much more. It's a really great, cost-effective, tax-deductible investment and, of course, allows the Museum to continue its mission of remembrance. To learn more about becoming a Museum member, call our good friend Joe at 646.437.4334 or email membership@mjhnyc.org.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not Quite Kermit...

When I first heard about Fabrik: The Legend of M. Rabinowitz, the puppet drama that will be performed at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on Sunday, December 7th, I had never heard anything like it. I grew up on Muppets and though these endearing Henson creations can certainly touch upon serious issues (Sesame Street has tackled everything from death, to pregnancy and childbirth, to AIDS) they are still, like most puppets, aimed primarily at children. While Fabrik is a "puppet show" in the strictest sense, it's not what comes to mind; it's serious theater aimed at ages 12 and up and exmaines the life of a man who faced oppression, anti-Semitism, and death. Not exactly Fraggle Rock material. I did not think I would hear of such a performance any time soon.
So when I saw Monday's New York Times, I was very surprised to read about another drama that utilizes puppets: The Very Sad Story of Ethel & Julius, Lovers and Spyes, and About Their Untymelie End While Sitting in a Small Room at the Correctional Facility in Ossining New York (say that three times fast). A cast of 10 live actors, several teddy bears who are manipulated to depict the Rosenbergs’ two young sons and Ethel’s brothers, and two Rosenberg look-alike marionettes in twin electric chairs bring the infamous and still controversial trial and execution to the stage. The show, to quote the Times "is fundamentally about manipulation. Someone is always pulling the strings, whether the actors are real people or puppets."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Podcast of Sold Out Program

If you were one of the many people who were not able to obtain tickets to Father Patrick Desbois' sold-out discussion of his investigations and discoveries related to the fate of Jews in Ukraine, be sure to check out the podcast of the program on the Museum of Jewish Heritage's website.

While we will try to add more and more podcasts in the future, the best way to experience one of our public programs is to attend them in person. Our best advice is to buy tickets as soon as you hear about a program that interests you. The early bird gets the tickets, unlike the several people who called me yesterday afternoon looking for tickets to last night's film screening. We hate disappointing potential audience members, so please keep in mind that many of our programs sell out well in advance. If you have any questions about how many tickets we have left for a certain program, call the box office at 646.437.4202.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Online Collection Cometh

This post is from our guest blogger, Allison, who handles new media for our Education Department. I apologize for not crediting her yesterday.

More than 1,000 visitors from around the world have visited the Museum’s Online Collection since it launched on our website last month. The idea for the Online Collection began about a decade ago when Trustee Judah Gribetz suggested that we post the Museum’s collection online allowing anyone anywhere to experience our artifacts, which include objects that have been on constant rotation in the Museum and the treasures that we have never had the opportunity to display. Over time the idea of the Online Collection has expanded. For example, we know that visitors to the Museum want to know more about the people who have donated artifacts to the Museum. To meet this need, we made it easy to see other objects donated by the same family as well as other objects that reflect similar themes. This capability is only one part of the online viewing experience. Visitors to the online collection can also zoom into the images of our artifacts which makes it easier to read the fine print on a Ketubbah (marriage contract) or see the embroidery on a Chuppah (wedding canopy) used in countless wedding ceremonies at Displaced Persons camps after the war.

The Online Collection is an ongoing work-in-progress. We are continuously adding new artifact descriptions written by Museum staff, new artifacts, and new images. As the website continues to grow we hope that you will contribute feedback on how you use the website, what new features you want to see us implement and what changes would make it even easier for you to use the website. In the future we would like to add new functionality which may include the ability for visitors to send e-cards to friends or the opportunity for teachers to make a slideshow of artifacts to show their class. Click here to browse the Collection.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Holocaust on Film

The front of the arts section of the New York Times last Sunday featured a story by A.O. Scott called Never Forget. You're Reminded about the growing "trend" of Holocaust films. Perhaps I am too close to the subject matter of Holocaust remembrance because I work at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, but I was quite perturbed by the article which suggests that the Holocaust is now just another film genre like westerns and that we don't need so many films about the subject.

This is just my personal opinon, but I think there are many important reasons to continue to make films about the Holocaust. One is that survivors are dying every day. While we live in New York where there are many survivors who speak about their experiences to students and a museum devoted to teaching about the Holocaust, these films reach places that do not have either of these resources. And if they inspire people to learn about the Holocaust when they leave the theater, how is that a bad thing?

There are many other strong arguments for continuing to make and watch films about the Holocaust that I could go into, but I'd rather know what you think.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Get Out Those 2009 Calendars...Again

A couple days ago, I gave everyone something to look forward to in the year to come. Did you think that was it? Oh no--the Museum of Jewish Heritage has even more programs to keep you busy in 2009...


On the 7th, we will hold a tribute to poet and Holocaust survivor Paul Celan in a multimedia presentation called Barbez: Force of Light. Spoken word poetry, video, and music (recently released by Tzadik) come together for a truly unique performance.

The following Sunday, the 11th, the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company and actress/vocalist Bente Kahan will perform The Legacy Project: Echoes. Dorfman and Kahan, both children of survivors, honor their Eastern European Jewish heritage in this dance/live music/theater piece. This also marks the Museum's first dance performance--as a total ballet nerd, I'm pretty excited.

The last program in January (the 28th) is also musical: a newly discovered piece by renowned composer Felix Mendelssohn. In a very Bill and Ted way to look at history, Mendelssohn is probably best known for being "that guy who wrote the wedding march." Unfortunately, after his death at the age of 38, Mendelssohn's reputation was maligned by the notoriously anti-Semitic composer Richard Wagner and his work was later banned by the Nazis. We're so happy to revive this talented composer's music and legacy.

On the 11th, New York Times columnist Randy Cohen will be at the Museum to discuss his unique job: answering questions on ethical dilemmas. This could be your chance to pose your own ethical issue!

Throughout history, images of nature have been infused in Jewish choral music. On the 22nd, join choirs from around the country as they perform songs in Hebrew, Ladino, Yiddish, and English for Images of Nature in Jewish Choral Music.

The January/February programs end on the 25th, when a prestigious panel of writers, academics, and artists will come together to discuss photography as a means of provoking compassion or horror with Regarding the Pain of Others. Can images of artocities engender compassion or disent? Or does their ubiquity merely elicit a shudder before they are forgotten?

Tickets are not yet available for these programs, but I will certainly keep you up to date as to when they are. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Holocaust by Bullets Now Open

Today marked the opening of the Museum's latest exhibition The Shooting of Jews in Ukraine: Holocaust by Bullets. Between 1941 and 1944, almost 1.5 million Jews were murdered when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Most were shot by mobile killing units consisting of German SS, army, police, and local collaborators. This exhibition presents the evidence, both physical and testimonial, gathered by Catholic priest Father Patrick Desbois and his team from Yahad-In Unum. Interviews with Ukrainian bystanders and witnesses, together with photographs, artifacts, and text panels tell the chilling story of men, women, and children who were summarily executed near the places they lived, with their neighbors watching.

Created by the Mémorial de la Shoah, Paris last year, this exhibit is being presented for the first time in the United States and is the first exhibition that focuses on the Holocaust in Ukraine. Father Desbois spoke to a full house last night in Edmond J. Safra Hall. Meeting him at this morning's press breakfast was a real honor. Listening to him speak, you can hear how passionate he is in his mission to speak on behalf of victims whose tragic stories have not left the towns where they lived (and died) over 60 years ago. As he mentioned today, gathering testimony from those who know their fates and saw what happened is a "race against time." Many of the witnesses are elderly and have never told what they witnessed simply because no one had ever asked.

Holocaust by Bullets will be on display at the Museum until February 16.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jordana Waliszewski: Lipper Superstar

We're always proud of the incredible work of our Lippers. By speaking to middle and high school classrooms, these interns make a real impact in the lives of hundreds of kids throughout the Northeast. For some, hearing the Lipper speak is their first introduction to learning about the Holocaust or Jewish heritage.

One intern who has made an incredible impact on the community both here at the Museum and in her homestate of New Jersey is Jordana Waliszewski, a recent graduate of the International Studies major at Ramapo College. She brings a unique perspective to the program—she is a non-Jewish Pole who grew up 15 kilometers from Auschwitz. Her multiple trips to the death camp as a pre-teen motivated her not only to learn more, but to participate in the Lipper program in order to educate others. “All the other interns had preconceived notions about Polish people,” she said. “I was so happy to show them another side: young people who want to make a change.”

Recently, Jodana's unique story was presented in the Bergen Record. Click here to read the full article.

Jordana's determination to learn from this dark chapter in her country's history is a sentiment reflected in the upcoming film Inheritence, which is part of the PBS Point of View (POV) series. Inheritence is the story of Monika Hertwig, the daughter of mass murderer Amon Goeth, and documents Monika's return to Poland and her connection with Helen Jonas, a survivor who lived as a prisoner under Goeth's roof for nearly two years. While the screening of this film at the Museum is completely sold-out, you can still see it for yourselves on PBS on December 10th at 9 p.m., so set your TiVos. Check here for local listings.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Perfect Storm?

Sometimes it seems that Jamie is the "Page 6" editor of the blog. She tends to blog about fun, gossipy, items while I tend to write about more serious hard-hitting stories. You'll have to forgive me because today is no exception.

I am utterly dismayed to read that by many accounts hate crimes are on the rise since the election. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups and crimes says that hundreds of bias incidents have taken place in the last few weeks (seen here: their map of active hate groups from 2007). Their director calls it a "Perfect Storm" because of the unemployment rate, the election, and the rise in immigration. As someone who works at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, it is hard not to think about another time in history when there was a financial crisis and the disenfranchised were looking for scapegoats.

Luckily, that's why we are here. To remind, to remember, and to educate. Bring family, friends, and especially students to the Museum to take a tour or to hear Holocaust survivors speak about their experiences.

And if you witness a hate crime or evidence of a hate group forming, report it to the police, the ADL, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Young Friends Hanukkah Party: We'd Love You to MaccaBEe There

Hanukkah begins this year on December 21st-- time to start thinking of some plans! I'm sure many of our readers are planning a day with their families, maybe a day with their friends. But maybe you don't have plans or (gasp) aren't planning to do anything at all! Unacceptable!

On Thursday, December 18th (okay, not yet technically Hanukkah, but we like to get a head-start on things over here), join the Young Friends of the Museum as they hold their 8th Annual Hanukkah Celebration at the Museum. In addition to cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a panoramic view of New York Harbor, the evening, co-chaired by Joshua Garay, Jonathan More, and Danielle Sarna, will include entertainment a raffle with a chance to win beautiful Lyric and Iridesse jewelry, premium seats at Knicks and Rangers Games, a Christian Lacroix purse and much more.

Advance tickets are $75 for members and $95 for non-members. As a special holiday offer, Young Friends Membership and a Hanukkah Celebration ticket may be purchased together for $125. All tickets are an additional $10 at the door, so why not go ahead and just purchase them here and now?

For more information, including sponsorship opportunities, contact Rachel, my pal over the cubicle wall.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Japanese Americans During World War II

I'd like to introduce our guest blogger, Keika, who was kind enough to write down her thoughts about a really interesting program she attended over the weekend.

When I was in my high school history class, I used to sink into my chair whenever the topic of Japan in World War II would come up. The Japanese government committed unimaginable atrocities in that period of history. As a second generation Japanese-American, how could I ever be proud of my heritage?

Some of that burden was lifted this weekend when I learned about another aspect of WWII history – the Japanese-American experience. This past Saturday, I had the rare opportunity to attend a program organized by the Japanese American Citizen’s League (New York Division). The program brought together Japanese immigrants (first generation Japanese) and Japanese-Americans (second to third generation) in the tri-state area for a screening of a documentary, which aired in 1994, called “Japanese American Soldiers: For Whom Did They Fight For?” and a panel discussion including Japanese-American veterans who fought in WWII and victims of the Japanese internment camps.

I learned that although most Japanese-Americans were forced into camps in the early 1940s, many second generation Japanese-Americans enlisted in the U.S. Army and became part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT). I know that it must have been difficult for them to fight when they knew that their families were being forcibly interned in camps by their own nation, yet they fought with loyalty and courage. I read in a New York Times article that the 442nd RCT suffered some of the greatest casualties during WWII, but they also became one of the most decorated units, totaling in about 18,000 individual awards. Another interesting thing I learned from the documentary is that scouts from the 522nd battalion (a part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team) were among the first Allied troops to liberate Dachau concentration camp (80% of the prisoners of whom were Jewish). For many years, this was not public knowledge.

This documentary made me think of one of the Museum of Jewish Heritage's past special exhibitions, Ours to Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War , which is now a traveling exhibition. Although both are from very different cultures, Japanese American and Jewish American soldiers share something – both fought for a nation that they loved and were proud of. I realized how important it is for each of us to learn about and be proud of our heritage and to learn about the shared history of different cultures.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Next year in... the Museum!

"So how far out do you guys plan all the fabulous programs that go on in Edmond J. Safra Hall?" I imagine you all ask this question daily. (Okay, I'm sure you don't. Humor me.) The truth is it takes months of planning to get everything together for you. The result is, of course, thought-provoking and artistically diverse presentations, such as yesterday's sold-out Rosenblatt Forum or last week's classical concerts, Music in Exile.

We are currently working on the production of our January-February calendar right now. I figured the first people to hear about some upcoming programs should be our loyal blog readers. Here are some of the programs you can expect in 2009*...

Public Programs that further explore themes and context of the ongoing Woman of Letters exhibit with a series of French films curated by Prof. Dudley Andrew of Yale. Films include David Golder, Les Jeux Interdits, Lacombe, Lucien, and Monsieur Klein. Special guests will present the context of these compelling movies and follow-up with post-screening Q&A sessions.

A program entitled Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Freedom Riders will be held in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Author Eric Etheridge and Freedom Riders Al Gordon, Joan Pleune, and Hezekia Watkins will discuss the spring and summer of 1961 and the hundreds of people (many Jewish) who converged on Jackson, Mississippi to challenge state segregation laws. This event will also include performances by Neshama Carlebach and the Green Pastures Baptist Choir.
In February, the Yuval Ron Ensemble will present The Lost Soul of Spain: Music and Dance of the Sephardic Jews. Featuring Hebrew and Ladino songs from Morocco, Andalusia, Bosnia, and Israel, this concert will be performed for the King of Morocco at the 2009 International Sacred Music of Fez. So the Museum presentation is actually a rare opportunity to see this before the King does! See: we treat you like royalty!

*More details will, of course, follow as the dates draw nearer!

Friday, November 14, 2008

When a Bestseller Comes Too Late

There is an interesting story on NPR called The Making of a Posthumous Bestseller. It focuses on Stieg Larsson's mystery The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, which has created a lot of buzz, but too late for the author to enjoy his success. While NPR is most interested in how the publisher faces the challenges of promoting the work of an author who is no longer alive, the story puts me in mind of Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française.

We learned this week at a Salon discussion with Olivier Philipponat, one of Irène's biographers, that she planned on working on Suite Française from 1941 through 1945. For those who have read her posthumous work, I am sure that like me you had many questions about how it would continue and end (even if you have read the notes and outlines in her manuscript which is on display at the museum both physically and digitally).

One question that came up at the Salon talk was why there were no Jews in Suite Française. While I had assumed that it was because Irène and her family were the only Jews in Issy, where she was writing, and that she wrote in great detail about what she saw, Olivier Philipponat suggested that it would be too dangerous to write about Jews in that time and that no one would publish a work about Jews in war-time France.

We can only wonder about what she would have written and how she would have revised had she lived through 1945 and beyond. Luckily, we will have more insight into her writing and her life in coming years. Philipponat's book will be translated into English, as will many of Irène's earlier works. In the meantime, be sure to visit the exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and listen to her daughter, Denise Epstein, via podcast on our site.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gone But Not Forgotten

We were saddened this morning to read of the passing of the Reverend Abraham L. Woods Jr., a leader of the Civil Rights movement. A friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. (and one of the men standing behind him during his "I Had A Dream" speech), Rev. Woods fought for equality his entire life: from organizing voter registration drives in Alabama in the 1950s to protesting continued segregation of country clubs as late as the 1990s. He only just retired as the Birmingham chapter president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 2006 at 78 years old.

One of his 18 grandchildren shared with The New York Times  that Rev. Woods was moved to see America elect its first African American president saying, “If I could wake up Martin, Coretta, Rosa...I would tell them that my son Barack made it.”

Historically, the participation of the Jewish community in the Civil Rights movement has been significant. In March of next year, the Museum will examine the relationship between the black and Jewish communities in  From Swastika to Jim Crow. This exhibit will tell the story of how Jewish academics, fleeing persecution in Europe in the 1930s, found positions at the historically black colleges and universities in the Jim Crow south.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Music in Exile: Reviewed!

Today, you will find a review of the Museum's ongoing classical music series Music in Exile in The New York Times. (We may have mentioned it once or twice...) We're very pleased with Allan Kozinn's review. The series runs through Thursday, so if you haven't, come down and tell us what you think.

Remembering Veterans, The Next Day

The following is from special guest blogger Abby Spilka.

Yesterday was Veterans Day. When our exhibition Ours To Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War was open to the public, we invited veterans to visit the Museum for free on Veterans Day. The exhibition was open from Nov. 11, 2003 through Dec. 31, 2006, and during those years we welcomed a few hundred veterans on Nov. 11. Yesterday, a veteran came to the Museum and asked if admission was free for him for the day.

I was distracted by a few different projects when this question was posed to me. Technically, the answer was no. I explained that it hadn't been free since we closed Ours To Fight For almost two years ago. While this is relevant history, it was not helpful or friendly information for the visitor. I will discuss the possibility of making Veterans Day free for veterans in perpetuity, especially as we continue to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the course of my life I strive to be an empathetic person, but I failed in that role yesterday. I could have been more considerate, I could have spoken to the man myself. Most of all I regret that I did not take the time to thank him for his service to the country or for visiting MJH on this day of remembrance.
I vow to do better.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Father the Spy

"I know less about my father in many respects than you know about your fifth-grade teacher," says Robin Oggins in a recent New York Times article. He is not speaking in poetically angsty or Freudian terms. Robin's father, Isaiah "Cy" Oggins (pictured), was a Soviet spy whose missions took him from Paris, to Berlin and Manchuria to Moscow. Ultimately, his loyalty to Communism was betrayed; he was sentenced to 8 years in an arctic gulag and murdered in 1947.

Cy's story is now the subject of The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin's Secret Service by Andrew Meier, who worked with Robin Oggins to uncover the long-hidden truth about what really happened. Robin was ambivalent at first "When you've got what other people might regard as a secret you kind of evaluate: do you want to find out the truth at the expense of having the secret out there, or do you want to put the lid back on it as it has been all these years?" But his historian's nature as well as his longing to learn more about his father, urged him forward.

Andrew Meier will discuss this incredible story on Wednesday, December 3 at the Museum.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Overheard at the Concert

Yesterday afternoon, the Music in Exile series opened at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. The ARC ensemble was so good that one audience member was overheard saying that the concert was "like listening to a Picasso painting." A local reporter said that after the concert she ran out and bought the ensemble's Grammy nominated album, On the Threshold of Hope: The Chamber Music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, and has listened to it already. But don't take our word for it. The series continues through Thursday. Hope to see you there.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

A beautiful story comes to us today from the Cincinnati Enquirer about a rare klezmer violin. This violin- with an inlaid, mother of pearl star of David-is one of the few of its kind that survived the Holocaust and one of 16 restored by Tel Aviv violin master Amnon Weinstein. These instruments will will be heard for the first time in the United States and for one of the first times since the war in a program to commemorate 70 years since Kristallnacht in Ohio. As a Museum, we are obviously very aware of the power an object has to convey all too human stories. The things we keep, especially those we intend to survive ourselves, give us a glimpse into the life of the owner: his or her values, traditions, culture, and personality. To quote a great film: we are just passing through history, but this is history.

This moving story made me think of the Museum's upcoming classical music series Music in Exile. These concerts and lectures explore the works and context of composers who fled Germany during the 1930s and those who stayed behind, resisted the Third Reich and became "internal exiles." As with the klezmer violins, many of the performances at the Museum will be the first of these works in modern times. To be able to bring back these incredible works and to remember those who suffered and struggled to create art in a time of such sorrow is truly an honor. The series will begin this Sunday, November 9 at 2:30 p.m. and continues until Thursday, November 13. For more information on the series, the performers, and tickets, click the link above.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Is it Just Us?

Now that the election is over, we have time to catch up on other news. There is a very moving story in the Telegraph about Hélène Berr, whose rediscovered journal is now an international besteller (we'll be having the NYC book launch here on November 19, which will include a discussion with her niece. Join us!). I think it is wonderful to have such a compelling and well-written narrative of occupied France available, but I can't help but be a little put off by the moniker of "the French Anne Frank," as some people are calling her (not the publishers, read more about her on their site).

The reasons why Anne Frank and Hélène Berr's accounts are so important and moving are that they were unique individuals, not prototypes. Their thoughts, along with survivor testimony, helps us to understand that six million is more than just a number. Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, fathers, brothers, and friends were lost. Shouldn't we stop using Anne Frank as an adjective and a marketing tool?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An Interview with Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan is an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions. A fellow at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy and Middle East Analyst for CBS News, Aslan is the author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam and How to Win a Cosmic War, which will be released in April 2009. Aslan was gracious enough to answer some of my questions about Jews living in Islamic lands. He will appear at the Museum's annual Rosenblatt Forum on Sunday, November 16th.

Jamie Kenney (JK): In 1945, there were approximately 800,000 Jews living in communities throughout the Arab world. Today, there are fewer than 7,000. What do you predict the future holds for these communities?

Reza Aslan (RA): It depends on whether you are talking about the Arab world or the Middle East. The largest Jewish community in the Middle East lives in Iran and quite comfortable, as a matter of fact. Most Iranian Jews would say their national and religious identities coexist in a comfortable way. The future demographics in that region in regard to Jewish populations, however, will look more like Israel and Palestine: there’s this polarity right now and until that conflict can be settled in a way that seems just to both sides, it’s hard to see how these things will improve. It’s the elephant in the room that has to be dealt with. But to see these two communities as intrinsically at odds as a result of centuries old religious hatred is false. It’s historically inaccurate. What we see as Anti-Semitism in the Arab world is borrowed from Europe. It’s a result of the same processes of nationalism that has led to conflict and war that we have seen between ethnic and cultural groups around the world. What is happening between Jews and Muslims is part of the same phenomenon between India and Pakistan, in the former Yugoslavia, and between Pakistan and Bangladesh. It’s a conflict of identity more so than religion… [though] religion is part of one’s identity, so it’s inseparable.

JK: What should Muslims and Jews know about one another?

RA: They are the same people. They come from the same people, they have the so many historical, mythical, cultural, and religious commonalities. What we think of as Islam today was so much openly absorbed from Judaism—unapologetically. So many of those commonalities have been brushed aside and replaced with conflicting conceptions of nationalism and this 20th century identity formation.
JK: Your book No god but God talks about Islamic Reformation--young people worldwide “reinterpreting” Islam. Does this offer new opportunities for Muslims and Jews?

RA: By definition, if you are taking away authority from where it has rested for centuries, you are promoting innovation. But because there isn’t a single centralize authority, you have a cacophony of voices, and some are going to be louder than others. There’s no value judgment in this, it’s inevitable. How one figures out which voices are going to dominate and what the future may hold depends not just on the actions of young Muslims themselves, but the social context in which they live. Right now, for instance, the war on terror has really taken away the voice of the more moderate movements within the Muslim world. It’s hard to talk about democracy when democracy means chaos and hypocrisy. Western powers have a far greater role to play in the future of Islam, but not in the way they have had. The west has no role in Islam’s internal changes, but it has a role in the platform and addressing its grievances.

JK: You work with a great group called Abraham’s Vision; could you talk a little bit about that?

RA: So many groups try to bring Muslims and Jews together, particularly with young people. [These groups] try to create a sense of unity and cooperation. What is unique about what we do is take these people and put them in intentionally uncomfortable situations. Rather than go to Jerusalem we go to Bosnia, to show where these kinds of conflicts and sentiments can lead. It’s incredibly moving for these kids. The second part of this is the community programs where we do after school-programs [across the country] at Jewish schools to teach about Islam and Muslim schools to teach about Judaism. It's a great program.

JK: What issues will you address at the Rosenblatt Forum?

RA: Part of what I am going to talk about is to delve a little bit deeper into the historical relationship and even the mythic relationship between these two people. What we have been witnessing in the past half century is an exception to the historical rule, and there is a hope that as the political situation becomes clearer and people become more comfortable with it those relationships can revert to a place of cooperation.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Don't think about an Elephant or a Donkey

Our staff is trying to focus on work today and not on the election. It's no easy task. We voted (have you?) and now all we can do is wait for the results.

In the meantime, here are some things to look forward to after the election, regardless of the outcome.

Kate Winslet is starring in the film version of The Reader, a fantastic book by Bernhard Schlink about a former SS guard who is on trial for war crimes. It is a case of art imitating art as Winslet had a guest appearance on the show Extras as herself. In the episode she was doing a WWII film so that she could win an Oscar. We wish her luck in that pursuit. The film opens December 10.

On a related note, we will be showing a documentary about a real woman who had to come to terms with her family's history. Inheritance is the story of Monika Hertwig, the daughter of Nazi leader Amon Goeth. We will screen it on December 1. Monika, the director, and Helen Jonas, a Holocaust survivor who was enslaved under Goeth's roof, will discuss the film after the screening. And the best part is that the screening is free (reservations strongly suggested). Now that is something both parties can get behind.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Indignant Jellyfish

To keep our lovely blog readers abreast of what's going on with the staff, I thought I would let you know about our Book and Film Club picks for this month. Please feel free to read and watch and "join" us through blog comments.

The Book Club (which meets on November 13) is reading Indignation, the latest book from Philip Roth. It is the story of Marcus Messner, a straight-A kosher butcher's son from Newark, New Jersey. The threat of Marcus being drafted to Korea looms large over the lives of the Messners: so much so that Marcus' father goes literally insane with worry, driving his son to Ohio to escape his controlling grasp. At the conservative Winesburg College, Marcus encounters people and experiences unlike those of his Jewish community in New Jersey. From the provocative Olivia Hutton, to the tradition-oriented Dean of Students, the characters (and Marcus' perception of them) paint a very vivid picture of a specific time and place in America.

The Film Club will meet on November 25 has picked Jellyfish for this month's movie of choice.Jellyfish got rave reviews at the 2007 Israeli Film Festival. It follows the story of three women in Tel Aviv: Batya, a waitress at weddings and a mute child who seemingly emerges out of the sea; Keren, a bride whose wedding Batya worked at; and Joy, a Filipino domestic, who stuggles to communicate with her employer.

Read or seen either of them? Let us know what you think. If you haven't, it's not too late! Read, watch, and give us your opinion!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hubble Bubble Pardoned From Trouble

It's Halloween and, consequently, one of my favorite days of the year. There are some things that have become inexorably linked to this holiday: candy, costumes, watching It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and, of course, witches.

Modern culture has really taken the witch in interesting places. From the evil Wicked Witch of the West in the original Wizard of Oz to the Not-Really-Wicked-But-Misunderstood Witch of the West Elphaba in the book and play Wicked, it is clear that witches can take on any number of personas. Today, witches can be good, bad, cutesy, goofy, and cunning. But not so long ago, the term "witch" was not taken so lightly.

Here at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, we often talk about scapegoating. If one looks at the history of the witch, this term comes to the fore pretty quickly. In Europe, between approximately 1480 and 1700, between 40,000 and 100,000 women and men were put to death on the charge of witchcraft. Accusations often arose as a result of an unexplained natural phenomenon--such as a failed crop or sick livestock-- or simply out of the malicious desire to seek revenge on another person.

Today, campaigners will petition Justice Secretary Jack Straw to posthumously pardon the 2,400 women and men wrongfully put to death for witchcraft in England and Scotland before the Witchcraft Act put an end to the practice in 1735. (Read full article here.) These campaigners follow the example of Swiss groups who successfully urged the government to pardon Anna Goeldi, the last woman in Europe on record to be put to death for witchcraft in 1782. While such pardons are, of course, entirely symbolic, I think this gesture is an important one. Not only does it officially clear the names of innocent victims, but makes a stand against scapegoating and lets everyone know that this injustice has no place in today's society.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Odds and Ends

Okay, this time we mean it. The last few programs at the Museum have sold out. We don't want you, our loyal blog readers, to miss out.

Pretend we have the money for a Fandango-like television ad with a catchy tune and some paper-bag puppets that would remind you to buy your tickets ahead of time.

If you didn't make it to last night's Soulfarm and Moshav Band concert, you missed more than a high-energy jamfest, you missed what my colleague, Keika, called "a Museum of Jewish Heritage first," an audience member stage diving into a mosh pit. We don't recommend trying this at home, or at the Museum. Security guards stopped it before anyone could get hurt.

Our next program is the opening performance of our Music in Exile concert and lecture series on November 9. We can't promise (or condone) stage diving, but the music will be extraordinary.

In the meantime, we recommend Nextbook's new pop-culture take on the weekly Torah portion, Blessed Week Ever by Liel Liebovitz.