Monday, September 29, 2008

Shana Tova- From Our Kitchen to Yours

So it may seem our blog is a little obsessed with food, but it is the holidays, so you'll have to forgive us. As promised, here is another one of my favorite recipes. This is the rugelach I have been making since Hebrew school. In fact the recipe is still on a "ditto" sheet that is torn, stained, and fading.

Enjoy and have a sweet new year. We will be back in the office and back on the blog on Thursday.


2 cups flour

1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks)

1/2 lb cream cheese

2 T cinnamon

6 T sugar

1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Combine flour, butter and cream cheese in a bowl until they form a dough you can pick up in a ball. Refrigerate overnight, or at least a couple of hours.

Roll out the dough on floured surface with floured rolling pin.

Mix cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.

Cut dough into triangular wedges like a pizza. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture on each wedge, top with walnuts, raisins, and chocolate. Roll up into a crescent shape starting with the wide side of triangle.

Top each roll with more cinnamon mixture. Bake at preheated 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Recipe from Joan Nathan's Sephardic Seder

We here at the Museum love Joan Nathan, the acclaimed "doyenne of Jewish-American food." So when I discovered this Rosh Hashanah recipe in the New York Times the other day, I thought it would be perfect to share it for the blog (not to mention, it reminded me of a blog from earlier this week about the Rosenblatt Forum). It describes an Iraqi dish of bitter Swiss chard, sweet beets, and beef in a sweet and sour sauce that has been served at Sephardic Rosh Hashanah seders for over 1,000 years . Not only does it sound delicious, but it's purple, which is just nifty, I think.

I also give this recipe as a sort of virtual Rosh Hashana gift to all of you--Betsy will be blogging on Monday, so this is my last entry of 5768. I wish you all a bright, sweet, and happy new year.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Have a Family History Success Story you’d Like to Share? Wants to Hear About It!

Over the next few months, and Museum of Jewish Heritage affiliate JewishGen are working together to share the personal successes that many have experienced in tracing their Jewish heritage. Their goal is to help the public realize, through these individual accounts, the reality of exploring Jewish genealogy and the many resources available to do so. Beyond that, their hope is that others can experience the thrill of discovering their own Jewish heritage. If you would like to share a story about your own defining moment piecing together your Jewish genealogy, they want to hear from you! is looking for vignettes (500 words or less) that describe your experience when you came across that amazing Jewish genealogy discovery or find. They are looking for details such as whom or what information you found; how you made the discovery; and why the discovery was important in your family. Please email your stories no later than Sept. 26th to Sara Black with

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Reviews Are Coming in: Woman of Letters

You may be wondering why I have been absent from the blog for a while. I have been very busy getting ready for the press preview of Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, which was held yesterday here at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. I'm happy, but not at all surprised, to report that the early reviews are really good. Click here to read the AP story.

But more importantly, it was wonderful to meet Denise Epstein, Irène's daughter, and to know that she was incredibly moved by the exhibit. Here is a lovely photo of her with our Deputy Director and exhibition curator, Ivy Barsky. As one of the writers who heard Denise speak yesterday said, "she radiated warmth and dignity." If you are not one of the lucky ticket holders who will hear her speak in person tonight (the event is sold out), don't worry. We hope to podcast some or all of the talk on our website soon. In the meantime, please check out the lovely website for the exhibit. And once you have visited, be sure to let us know what you think.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Security Measures of Presidential Proportions

If you have been down around the Museum in the past couple days, the scene to the right will look familiar. Battery Place starting at the Ritz-Carlton (directly across the street from MJH) is currently blocked to cars (the ones you see in the picture are cop cars) and barricades line the sidewalk. During certain times of the day, even pedestrians are asked to clear the area, re-routing their paths away from the street and sidewalk. Why, you ask? President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is a guest at the Ritz and is in New York for the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. Needless to say, extra security measures were deemed necessary. This should not effect your visit here at the Museum: in the worst case scenario, you will simply be asked to take the "scenic route" around by the water instead of straight along the sidewalk. However, I have not had an issue walking my usual way since the measures were set in place on Sunday. But it's just a good thing to keep in mind--you may want to allot for a little extra time. 
The Iranian president's stay in New York in 2007 garnered much criticism, protest, and controversy: particularly his appearance at Columbia University. In his article about Ahmadinejad's current stay in the States, Gabe Pressman of WNBC says:
[The city of New York] should extend [Ahmadinejad] an invitation to visit the Museum of the Jewish Heritage down at the Battery. This Museum tells the tragic story of the Holocaust, in stark terms. Ahmadinejad need go no further than the southern tip of Manhattan to see proof that there was the Holocaust he denies.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A sharkskin suit is made from neither shark nor skin: discuss!

So after finishing two books for book club, I needed something new. As a began sloughing through the mountains of books that have overtaken my apartment, I came across one I read last summer and was inspired to pick up once more. The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World is a memoir by journalist Lucette Lagnado. The piece tells her family's "riches to rags" stories from Cairo, to Paris, to New York in sumptuous, vivid, and graceful prose. Her father, Leon, is the memoir's "protagonist": his larger than life persona is tested in every possible way as he struggles to bring his wife and children into a land wherein they will not be persecuted for being Jewish.

Lucette will be among the speakers who will appear at this year's annual Rosenblatt Forum on November 16th. The topic of discussion is one clearly very close to her heart "Jews in Arab Lands."  Though Jews have lived in Arab lands for over 1,400 years, these communities are disappearing. This fascinating symposium will outline not only the shared history of these diverse cultures, but what can be gleaned from these events to inform us today. Panelists will exmaine Jewish exodus from Arab lands, Jews under Islamic rule, and whether or not these groups can overcome a turbulent past to achieve peaceful coexistence. Other speakers include Dr. Robert Satloff, Andre Aciman, and Resa Aslan.

(Oh, and if you're scratching your head over why someone would wear a leather suit in Egypt, click here to learn more about sharkskin: call me naive, but I did not realize it wasn't a straightforward name until I read the book...)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rock around the Block...

Looking for something to do this Sunday? Come to the Battery Park City Annual Block Party! I will be there along with some of my charming and block-party lovin' colleagues!

The festivities begin at 12 noon until 4 p.m. on Vesey Street and include:
-Kids and Teens Areas
-A Green Tent
-Flea Market--Seriously, who doesn't love a flea market?
-Pet Parade--Pets? Parades? I wonder if there will be pet high school marching bands, with little pet sized instruments and uniforms!
-Variety Show
-Karaoke, food, contests, prizes (including a Family Membership and gift filled tote bag from the Museum)and more!

Personally, I am most excited about the "Best Cupcake in BPC Bake Off." Though Betsy is the undisputed Museum baker (if we're good, maybe she'll post another recipe...), I make a pretty mean cupcake and plan to be a voracious and highly discerning judge...

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Coming Soon to a Gallery Near You...

Behold! Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française is taking shape! I just took a quick peek down in the galleries and am impressed by how well installation is going! The exhibition will open on Wednesday, September 24 and while the opening night program is sold out, don't worry! WOL will be on display for several months, so there's plenty of time to see it. In addition to the main exhibition, the Salon (located in the Rotunda gallery adjacent to the WOL exhibit) will serve as a space where visitors can flip through a virtual copy of  Némirovsky's now famous journal, or browse through an international collection of Suite Francaise. There are also a number of exciting programs that will be done in conjunction to this exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage...

Jews in Vichy France - Professors Michael Marrus and Robert O. Paxton will provide historical context for the time period in which Nemirovsky and other Jews of France lived during World War II on October 26.

Irène Némirovsky and the Jewish Question - Ruth Franklin of The New Republic, Harvard University professor Susan Suleiman, and others will discuss the complex author on December 8 .
The Life of Irène Némirovsky - Biographer Olivier Philipponat will discuss new research about the author's life with Deputy Director Ivy Barsky on Wednesday, November 12 at 12:30 p.m.
The Journal of Hélène Berr - Join us for the New York book launch of this French bestseller on Wednesday, November 19 at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tonight at MJH

Abby brought my attention to a very interesting article that can be found in today's New York Times about Catholic voters' faith influencing their political decisions. Early in the article, I came across this quote "People should straighten out their religious beliefs before they start making political decisions." Talk about timely: tonight, the Museum will present Religion and the 2008 Presidental Campaign, which the New York Observer has described as 'a juicy bitchfest about Sarah Palin'. Well, not quite-- the program will examine the boundaries between religion and government, politicians' use of religious language in marketing their initiatives, and the role of religion in the election. Moderated by On Faith's Sally Quinn (whom we know will have no problem speaking her mind...), the panel is made up of Rev. Dr. C Welton Gaddy (Interfaith Alliance), Charles C. Haynes (First Amendment Center), Susan Jacoby (author), and Rabbi David Sapperstein (Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism). We're so glad that, as an institution, we can provide a forum for these important issues.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You Heard it Here First

Culture vultures, history buffs, and Museum staff members should rest up now for the fall and winter. November and December will bring 17 public programs to Edmond J. Safra Hall and the intimate salon (that is part of the special exhibition Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française). I'm excited and tired just thinking about it.

The season opens with Music in Exile, a 5 day lecture and concert series featuring the extrordinary Artists of the Royal Conservatory that will honor the music of composers who fled or opposed the Nazi regime. Of special note is a music theater piece by Marc Neikrug called Through Roses, which will take place on November 13. Well known television, film, and theater actor Saul Rubinek (seen here) will star.

The Rosenblatt Forum will return this year on November 16 with some really interesting participants including Islamic scholar Reza Aslan. The topic is Jews Living in Arab Lands. Journalist Lucette Lagnado, author Andre Aciman, and Dr. Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy will offer their thoughts on the subject.

I could go on and on about the films, in-depth discussions about Irène Némirovsky, concerts, etc. But instead you can just click here and read all about our upcoming programs for yourself.

Monday, September 15, 2008

MJH and the Public: Happy Anniversary!

On September 15, 1997, the Museum of Jewish Heritage--A Living Memorial to the Holocaust opened its doors to the public for the first time. September 15 also marks the anniversary of the Nuremberg Laws, which stripped German Jews of their rights beginning 1935. We think it fitting that a Museum celebrating Jewish continuity in the face of epic struggle should open on that day, serving as a proud and defiant response to such unjust legislation.

Originally conceived in 1981 with Mayor Edward I. Koch's Task Force on the Holocaust, the Museum has come a long way indeed. Since opening its doors 11 years ago today, MJH has opened the Robert M. Morgenthau Wing (home to Edmond J. Safra Hall), Andy Goldsworthy's Memorial Garden of Stones, and incorporated JewishGen and the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oswiecim, Poland. The Museum has welcomed over a million visitors, including thousands of students through our educational programs. With the help of our incredible board, staff, volunteers, and courageous survivors and speakers, the Museum of Jewih Heritage has been able to spread its powerful and important message to the world:

Remember...Never forget
There is hope for your future...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Have a Musical Weekend!

This Sunday, from 1-6 p.m., the Museum will have a table at Battery Park's Family Music Festival Harmony on the Hudson in Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park. Some of the witty ladies of the Communications department (including yours truly) will be on hand: we'd love to meet you!

And speaking of witty ladies we'd all love to meet: singer/songwriter/glasses enthusiast Lisa Loeb will be performing! Other artists include... Tom Chapin and Friends, Ebony Hillbillies, Brady Rymer, and Double Dutch Divas.

As usual, the Museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.: there's definitely a lot to do downtown this Sunday!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11 Remembered

As announced, the following piece was written by Abby Spilka.

Seven years ago this morning I observed things out of my office window I never imagined a person could witness, let alone witness with intimate friends and colleagues while the world watched it all unfold on TV. Because my own 9/11 experience is inexorably linked with the Museum’s 9/11 experience, I asked to guest blog today.

I am the first to admit that in the days leading up to Sept. 11 I am irascible and irrational. I try not to read articles that are going to make me relive each and every moment of that day. And yet, while I am in my self-care mode, I will still be glued to some new television revelation on the National Geographic Channel or Discovery, watching those same fireballs and gasping as I did viewing them from our 25th floor offices on Lower Broadway.

I anticipate these reactions and I endure them. And though I experience them the same way every year, there is one other constant for me. I cannot imagine being anyplace else on this particular morning other than MJH. My work day begins in the following way. I place kosher comfort food (read Entenmann’s coffee cakes) in the two kitchens for the staff to enjoy when they get to work. I place a yahrzeit candle, an explanation of how and why the Museum remembers, and a photo of the Museum and WTC (the one you see above taken by Peter Goldberg in 2000) on a small table in the lobby of the entrance. I send e-mails to former staff, letting them know I am thinking of them, and wondering what it is like to be in a new office with strangers on the day that made us all blur the lines between professional and personal so many years ago. And I look for Frank Camporeale, our building engineer, to wish him a happy birthday.

The Museum’s 9/11 institutional experience is recorded in the cover story of the Sept/October 2002 issue of Museum News. In it we acknowledge that in the wake of Sept. 11 our roles as chroniclers of the Holocaust and 20th century Jewish experience changed. We were no longer just guardians of history; we were participants in history.

Some staff members gave testimony to the Columbia University September 11 Oral History Archives Project. My interviews were conducted in December 2001 and June 2002. I wondered how I could work at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and not bear witness. How could I work here and not believe in some modicum of hope for the future? Our Museum collection contains the last known physical objects of some Holocaust survivors. For some, it is only their memories we store. To know that this community survived the unimaginable made this experience bearable in some small way, and from them I drew strength.
On September 12, 2001, I called my friend Norbert, one of our dear Gallery Educators. Norbert survived 11 concentration camps, and hugs and kisses you like he hasn’t seen you in years, even if it has just been a few days. I called him that day because I needed clarity, I needed someone in my life to say, “You will get through this and you will come through it the other side.” When I called him, he was working in his garden. He was nurturing the earth and preparing it for a bountiful season. His commitment to the human race is unparalleled. His ability to see the good in people and to take joy in each day that life brings is something I try to emulate, if not in deed, in word.
According to Jewish tradition, the anniversary of a death is a day of reflection to remember what was lost. The observance of this day is called yahrzeit. Today we commemorate the September 11 attacks, which took place on 23 Elul in the Hebrew calendar.

The Museum’s proximity to the site of the tragedy, its identity as a downtown cultural institution, and its mission of remembrance compel us to reflect and remember with the community, our neighbors, and the nation.

As we think about those who lost their lives that day, we say to their families: Zai-kher tzaddik livrakha — may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.

And may we all go from strength to strength.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

9/11 Observance at the Museum

As we all know, tomorrow marks the 7th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. The Museum is located a stone's throw from the site where the Twin Towers once stood and, even now, a memorial has been set up in Battery Park to commemorate the day. Tomorrow, admission to MJH is free with suggested donation. This practice started on the first anniversary because we felt anyone downtown on that day was downtown for one reason, and we wanted to thank them.

Abby Spilka, Director of Communications, will be our guest blogger tomorrow. Abby has been with the Museum for 10 years and will offer her thoughts on this anniversary.

Recipe for a Sweet New Year

As we get closer to Rosh Hashanah, I wanted to share one of my favorite family recipes that always reminds me of the New Year and the fall.

Applesauce Loaf

1/2 cup softened butter (or kosher substitute)

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup applesauce

3/4 cup cranberries

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture. Beat applesauce into batter. Stir in cranberries. Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean from the center of the loaf. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on wire rack.


Please feel free to send us your favorite recipes, too.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Going through the news today, I found the most interesting article in the Jerusalem Post. It's about a foundation in Dothan, AL (awesomely enough touted as the "Peanut Capital of the World") which is offering Jewish families monetary compensation if they are willing to relocate and become involved in the synagogue there. The Blumberg Family Relocation Fund hopes to build a young, active Jewish community in an area in which the Jewish population is... well... not quite the size of New York's to put it delicately. (Not that there isn't an amazing, thriving Jewish community in the American South. In fact, in 2004, the Museum had an exhibit on the subject with the best title ever: Shalom Y'all.) Now, this article would be interesting in and of itself, but later, I visited a blog I frequent: This Day in Jewish History (it's great for procuring little tidbits you didn't know fascinated you) where I learned of some other timely Jewish settlement stories.

Today, in 1911, the first group of Jewish farmers arrived in Utah as part of the Piute Project, which sought to colonize southern part of the state. Today also marks the death of William the Conqueror who, as we all probably know, was not Jewish. However, under his reign and the reign of his son, groups of Jews not only settled in England but were encouraged by Norman rulers to advance trade and commerce in the country. In 2008, Jewish populations thrive in both locations. On September 9, 1850 California became the 33rd state. That year, there were already "enough Jewish settlers to hold Yom Kippur Services in San Francisco. By the end of the decade there were ten congregations in San Francisco and one in Sacramento. During this time there were two Jewish associate justices of the state court and at least one Jew was serving in the state legislature."

This last particular bit of trivia really drove home what I found so interesting about all these articles: that not only do you find Jewish communities in places you may not expect them but also a determination to continue traditions; succeed within the secular and religious communities; and grow as a people. As the holidays approach, many of our minds turn to time with family and home. For Jews throughout the centuries, home has, successfully, meant many different places indeed.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Holiday Hours

The new year (5769) is just around the corner (sundown on September 29th to be precise). Rosh Hashanah begins a month full of holidays on which the Museum will be closed. Please be sure to plan your visits here accordingly...
September 29: The Museum will close at 3 p.m.
September 30: Closed for Rosh Hashanah
October 1: Closed for Rosh Hashanah
October 8: The Museum will close at 3 p.m.
October 9: Closed for Yom Kippur
October 13: The Museum will close at 3 p.m.
October 14: Closed for Sukkot
October 15: Closed for Sukkot
October 20: The Museum will close at 3 p.m.
October 21: Closed for Shemini Atzeret
October 22: Closed for Simhat Torah

Friday, September 5, 2008

Keep Your Weekend Plans A Secret

Flipping through the news today, I came across this review for director Claude Miller's A Secret, now playing at IFC Center and The Paris Theater in New York City. (Don't worry all you non-New Yorkers: a national release is expected to follow!) A Secret tells the story of the Grimbert family who, before the war, were Grimberg. But even as the war ends and  a revival of French-Jewry is possible, the Grimberts continue to try to assimilate as Catholic, motivated by a dark secret that still hangs over the family six decades after the war.

Maybe it's because a film about Jews in France immediately made me think of our Némirovsky exhibit, or maybe it was the review's promise of flashbacks to the 40s (I cannot resist a good costume drama) but this film looks really fascinating and I thought I would share it with any of you who may not have weekend plans yet. Of course, the Museum has programs of its own in conjunction with Woman of Letters, including a special discussion entitled Jews in Vichy France with world-renown scholars Michael Marrus and Robert O. Paxton. I myself will be very interested to see this film and follow-up with this discussion. We're also planning a French film festival in January (more on that to come).

Thursday, September 4, 2008

We Saw Her von Furstenberg...

Last night, Bravo's Project Runway featured the Museum's favorite designer Diane von Furstenberg as a guest judge. Ms. von Furstenberg, whose mother was a Holocaust survivor, was the keynote speaker at MJH's 19th Annual Generation to Generation Dinner last year. The dinner brought together more than 400 people and raised nearly $600,000.

On last night's episode, the design challenge was to create a piece inspired by the spy film A Foreign Affair, starring Marlene Dietrich (with whom, coincidentally, I share a birthday). I think this challenge was perfect for von Furstenberg's style: her designs consistantly combine structure and precision with elegance, femininity and truly outstanding materials and patterns (take a peek at her Fall 2008 Look Book, so you can see just how). We won't give anything away, but Betsy's favorite contestant won the challenge with an chic spy ensemble.

Dr. Ruth gives Diane von Furstenberg's shoes a clean bill of health at the Generation to Generation dinner.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Up Close with Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy is the President of the Interfaith Alliance, an organization that champions religious freedom by respecting individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism and build common ground. He has graciously agreed to answer some pressing questions we had for him about Religion and the 2008 Presidential Campaign, which he will discuss (along with Washington Post reporter Sally Quinn, and a distinguished interfaith panel) at the Museum on September 17.

Betsy Aldredge: Why is it important to talk about the role of religion in public life?

Rev. Gaddy: People of faith expect their religious leaders to speak out on the great moral and political issues of our day. If we omit politics from the subjects to which we turn in those moments, people will assume either that politics is not important enough to be included in discussions of matters of faith or, worse still, that religion has nothing to say about politics. Truly great preaching —or any form of religious discourse —can no more ignore the great issues of the day than it can ignore the great texts and truths of the scriptures of the tradition within which it is done. Congregations look to their religious leaders for guidance – spiritual, moral, and otherwise – not manipulation on behalf of political organizations with a partisan agenda. Our nation can benefit from a recovery of a real, vital, and viable partnership between religion, politics, and government in which each treats the other realms with appreciation and respect without seeking to confuse them or join forces with them.

BA: Why is the separation of church and state so important to you, as a religious leader?

Rev. Gaddy:The Interfaith Alliance is made up of Americans from over 75 different faith traditions as well as many who do not have a faith tradition. Though we may appear to be different, we have one very important thing in common – in order for any of us to be free to practice our religious beliefs (or non-beliefs), the government must not enforce one set of religious principles in a diverse nation.

BA: What is the danger of a national religion?

BA: The Framers of the Constitution made it abundantly clear that America would be a secular nation in which every citizen would be free to practice their own beliefs, whether religious or not, and that the government would neither interfere with religion nor favor one religion over others or religion in general over other beliefs. This First Freedom was and is America’s greatest contribution to democracy and the struggle for freedom all over the world.

BA: It seems that religion is playing a big part of the presidential campaign. Why do you think that is? Has it changed from previous elections?

Rev. Gaddy: The Pew Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life have published a report that confirms my suspicions about the use of religion on the campaign trail. The study found that we are in the midst of an election for a Pastor-in-Chief rather than a Commander-in-Chief. An analysis of over 13,000 news stories from January 2007 through April 2008 revealed that religion is playing a disproportionate role in this election. Religion accounted for roughly ten percent of all stories that did not focus on political strategy or tactics. By comparison, foreign policy issues garnered 14 percent of these stories, and stories about race and gender only made up 11 percent. The problem is not that religion is being incorporated into the presidential campaign. Rather the problem is that religion is being used as a divisive tool instead of a unifying power. The candidates need be less concerned with appearing "holier than thou" and focus instead on explaining the role their values play in their political worldview. The media needs to stop asking irrelevant (and irreverent) questions about the candidates' religion and start asking the candidates to outline their views on the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. If we can nurture a more positive relationship between religion and politics, a survey result like this one would be encouraging rather than lamentable.

BA: What sort of questions should we be asking office seekers?

Rev. Gaddy: The Interfaith Alliance has published a list of five questions that Americans should be asking all of their political candidates. They are:
1. What role will your faith or values play in creating public policy or making appointments?
2. What are your views on the boundaries between religion and government?
3. What steps will you take to protect the rights of your constituents regardless of faith or belief?
4. How will you speak about your beliefs without making them just another political tool?
5. How will you balance the principles of your faith and your obligation to defend the Constitution, particularly if the two come into conflict?

BA: Do you think there is particular resonance in having this discussion at a Jewish institution devoted to remembering the Holocaust?

Rev. Gaddy: The only way America can pave a better future is if it understands the past. And the Museum of Jewish Heritage does an outstanding job of chronicling the past, so I am honored to be having this important discussion here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Much Ado about Wagner

It was announced today that the famous Bayreuth festival, created by Richard Wagner in 1876, has picked new directors from amongst the Wagner clan. Wagner's great-grandaughters Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier will take the reins.

It's well known that Wagner and and some of his family members had a long history of anti-Semitism. Wagner was Hitler's favorite composer and Hitler often visited Bayreuth and befriended the festival director at the time. Interestingly, one of the goals of the new directors is to figure out how to talk about Bayreuth's past Nazi ties.

One Wagner, who was not up for the position, has devoted his life to studying history and talking and writing about his own family's legacy. Determined to discuss this dark period, Gottfried Wagner (shown here in Vienna) has created something called the Post-Holocaust Dialogue Group. His book Twilight of the Wagners: The Unveiling of a Family's Legacy is fascinating. We are lucky to be welcoming him to the Museum of Jewish Heritage as part of our Music in Exile series this November. He will be coming in from Italy to talk about music that the Nazis deemed "degenerate."
As you may know, some people are crazy about Wagner's music. While it's not my cup of tea (give me Verdi or Mozart any day), if you are interested in knowing more about it, WNYC did a great job a couple years back on a series called The Ring and I: The Passion, the Myth, the Mania.