Click here to hear his “exit interview” on WNYC.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Click here to hear his “exit interview” on WNYC.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
· 1999: Expansion plans for new wing announced.
· 2000: David G. Marwell joins the staff as our fearless director; we welcome the 100,000th student visitor; Oprah Winfrey interviews Elie Wiesel here for November issue of “O.”
· 2001: Museum begins building its new wing November 26, making it the first new construction project to begin downtown post-9/11.
· 2002: To Life: 36 Stories of Memory and Hope, the Museum’s first publication, is published by Bulfinch; Yahrzeit: September 11 Observed opens.
· 2003: JewishGen becomes an affiliate of the Museum; Robert Morgenthau Wing opens on September 15.
· 2004: Ours To Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War is named the grand-prize winner of the Excellence in Exhibition Competition by the AAM.
· 2005: Claude Lanzmann, director of epic film Shoah, joins us to present his film.
· 2006: - The Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oswiecim, Poland gives the Museum a global presence; world premiere of Shostakovich’s “Babi Yar” for two pianos is performed by Misha and Cipa Dichter.
· 2007: Museum introduces Darfur workshop teaching students about genocide; we open our first bi-lingual exhibition; we celebrate 10 years of serving the public and welcome the 1 millionth visitor.
· 2008: Daring to Resist: Jewish Defiance in the Holocaust is honored by the AAM.
· 2009: The Keeping History Center opens, integrating state-of-the-art technology and our phenomenal view.
You must have your own highlights of the past 10 years. Post your comments and reminisce with us.
(Photo by David Sundberg, 1999)
Monday, December 28, 2009
Another great way to learn about African American heritage this week is through a visit to our Museum’s exhibition Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges. We’re open all week (except Saturday), including New Year’s Day.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Last night marked the first Hanukkah party hosted by President Obama and the First Lady. There were a lot of stories about how the White House kitchen was koshered for the occasion, the size of the invitation list, was it smaller or larger than in past administrations, and frankly a lot of material that could only be manufactured in the nation’s capital. What interested me, however, was the menorah that was lit at the party. It came from our colleagues at The Jewish Museum in Prague. The menorah was loaned on the basis of a request from First Lady Michelle Obama, who visited Prague’s Jewish Town (the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Old-New Synagogue and Pinkas Synagogue) in April during an official visit to Prague by President Barack Obama.
According to the museum’s press release, the menorah dates from 1873, and is the work of the Viennese silversmith Cyril Schillberger; it was originally most likely dedicated to the congregation in Prostějov. Like other Judaica stolen from Jewish communities and sent to Prague by the Nazis, this menorah was miraculously saved and put in the Jewish Museum’s collection.
On Wednesday night, it was lit by the children of Scott Moran, Commander of the U.S. Navy who is stationed in Iraq, and their mom, Allison Buckholtz. No word on dreidel winnings or amount of latkes consumed.
Note: The White House Hanukkah candle-lighting was not open to the press, but official photos were released soon after. This one is taken by Samantha Appleton.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Being able to enjoy wine at dinner in a restaurant and not having to worry about driving home.
Even the average New Yorker knows some Yiddish.
Mom and Pop stores can still survive and even thrive here despite the big chain stores.
Monday, December 14, 2009
They are born into the tribe. It is important that the tribe’s history is passed on from generation to generation (L’dor V’dor). They become a (wolf) man at the same time they come of age. That is when they are responsible for their families and their community (much like a bar mitzvah). Finally, the werewolves believe in bashert. Werewolves “imprint” once they meet their soul mate, the person they are meant to be with forever.
Friday, December 11, 2009
If you’d rather stay warm and toasty inside, I can highly recommend my favorite latke recipe. Yes, it is true that they are actually not from a famous Jewish cook, or even from my grandmother (who preferred to make frozen latkes, I don’t know why). Interestingly, these delicious Parmesan, basil potato pancakes are from the kitchen of Giada De Laurentis. Apparently she was a private chef for a Jewish family and created the recipe for them one Hanukkah. While my Hanukkahs are always dairy events (bring on the sour cream!), you can eliminate the Parmesan and still make a tasty dish with the garlic, basil, and onion.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
She also dispensed advice about how busy, overworked, and preoccupied couples can still make time for sex. “Put all of your worries in a box and leave them outside the bedroom. They will still be there when you’re done. No one is going to take them.” There were clinical questions, humorous questions, questions about size, and questions about the effectiveness of toys the names of which I can’t even type without blushing, although Jamie was able to ask the question with nary a titter.
Dr. Ruth weaved Torah into her responses about sexuality, and left no one to guess how she felt about circumcised penises. She kept the tone light and informative. Of all the sexual organs and sexual responses discussed last night, the brain was talked about almost as much as orgasms.
For those few questions that Jamie and Peter didn’t get to ask, you should know that Dr. Ruth took all the questions with her for possible inclusion in future books. She just signed three new contracts at the Frankfurt Book Fair and she has a new iPhone App, called the iRuth.
Dr. Ruth signed books last night and left at about 8:30. I left shortly thereafter. I often bring work home, and I have to say that last night my husband didn’t object to my bringing work home at all.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Notify NYC provides timely, accurate information that can make a world of difference in an emergency. The system allows the City to deliver important information about emergencies and City services affecting New Yorkers at home, at work, and in the community. The program was piloted in Lower Manhattan and three other communities, and has now expanded citywide. It will come as no surprise that I have been a subscriber since the beginning. Going through my voluminous e-mail over the past few months, I have received notifications about car fires, military flyovers, emergency response exercises, film productions, and road repairs. I did notice that these alerts have come more frequently, especially since the Boeing 747, sometimes called Air Force One, buzzed our little corner of the world in April.
This service provides subscribers with real-time information about emergencies throughout the five boroughs. You can specify the zip codes that interest you most, like your home zip code and your office zip code, as well as the zip code of your mom, sister, boyfriend, bff…essentially the zip codes of people you worry about and who worry about you; you can register for a maximum of five zip codes. Register for free online or by calling 311 to start receiving your e-mails, text messages, or recorded phone calls.
You’ll be glad you did.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
My grandmother did come in to give testimony before the students left for Poland. They asked her embarrassing questions about me when I was little but one of them also asked her a question I’d never asked. He asked what drove her to survive. She said to him that she wanted to survive to tell her father, whom she’d been separated from, that she tried to stay with her mother, who went towards death on the ramp at Auschwitz, while she went towards life. I’d never heard her say that before. That was the first of many times that these students reminded me that what I do with them teaches me about myself and my history, too.
If you ask these cadets and midshipmen about the destroyed heritage they have seen, they will tell of synagogues with grass growing in them, of remnants of prayers written on the walls for Jews too poor to buy a prayer book, of headstones righted and cemetery paths swept clean by their hands. This is their inheritance now, too.
From my own perspective, because this is both my work and also deeply personal to me, working with these students is the continuity my grandmother lost. I can’t rebuild her past, but I can help instill it in the minds of my students and make sure that when they have the opportunity to help put an end to an injustice, they remember the sight of the burning Darfuri home from our workshop on Darfur, and what our world community hasn’t done to stop it; they remember the testimony from the Czech Jew who saw her grandfather get taken away; they remember the fact that my grandma wanted to survive to tell her father she tried. This is how we continue our history, our traditions: we teach them.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
In honor of Thanksgiving, I’d like to share one that I found very touching.
Andrew Hartmann: “When I got into sixth grade, the walls were plastered with what I know now as pumpkins and turkeys and pilgrim hats. I had no idea what that was. I remembered saying something like, ‘Vat is this?’ When Thanksgiving was explained to me, and I choke up at this every time, I couldn’t believe it. The concept of a national holiday being of a spiritual nature, not connected with any religion, but spiritual nevertheless and not connected with any battles or revolutions or any dictator’s birthday or overthrows. The idea blew my mind and I was only 12 years old. I couldn’t believe it and to this day Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. “
On behalf of the Museum, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. We are truly grateful for all our visitors, supporters, volunteers, staff members, and leadership.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
We’re especially excited to be able to offer a special Martin Luther King Day concert featuring the Afro-Semitic Experience on January 17. Ticket holders are invited to take a tour of the exhibit at 1 p.m. or visit the exhibit at their own leisure on that day. Check our website soon for tickets and more information.
Speaking of giving thanks, I just wanted to thank Jamie for her service to the Communications department over the past 2 ½ years. She has been a dedicated colleague and a good friend. We wish her the best of luck as she moves across the hall to the Education department where she will be coordinating our internship programs. Mazel Tov!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
When she was 14, my grandmother was living in the Budapest ghetto and, on a snowy day in 1944, all women were told to report to the train station to be sent to work camps – camps that were thought to be a better quality of life than the ghetto. When they arrived, something changed. They ordered all girls 13 and younger to go back to the ghetto, everyone else had to board the trains. Mothers were forced to abandon their infants there at the station. The other citizens of Budapest went on about their business, walking by this active inhumanity because of hatred, because of fear, because of pure ignorance. My grandmother amidst all of the chaos chose to lie about her age so that instead of boarding the train, she could save one of the infants by taking the child back with her to the ghetto. My grandmother’s decision on that day to put someone else’s needs above her own is the reason that she survived. It is incredible to think that one choice, one split-second action led to survival, to marrying my grandfather – another survivor of the Holocaust, to children, grandchildren, and a rich family history.
A few years ago I went to Budapest with my grandma. We visited the apartment where she grew up, the area that became the ghetto, and that same train station where she changed the course of her life and that of my family. And I understood that knowing your own family’s stories isn't enough. All of us – our lives, our families – are caught up in this terrible wave of history. And if we never learn – and can't understand what happened – then how can we understand ourselves?
It was in Budapest that I realized that actually being where history took place was quite different than hearing the story. And that’s why, upon returning, I decided to become a member of the Young Friends: because the Museum does for so many people what Budapest did for me – it gives remembrance a concrete form. By supporting and raising awareness of the Museum, the Young Friends pursues its goal to spread knowledge of the Holocaust to those who need it most: our youth.
Because it is one thing to say that an event like the Holocaust must never happen again, but it is quite another to make an imprint on the lives of others to ensure that they know why an event like this must not ever take place again.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Q: Bishop Grigoris Balakian is your great uncle. How did you come to find out about him and his memoir?
Peter Balakian: Growing up, I knew he was a bishop in the Armenian church. He was spoken of occasionally by my father and aunts. Although they mentioned some books he wrote about the Armenian church, no one ever mentioned this great memoir. And what’s odd is that both my aunts were literary critics and my father was also a serious student of history, but they didn’t mention this book. I know the subject of the fate of the Armenians in 1915 traumatized them, and so all was silence when it came to this subject. I wrote about my discovery of my great uncle in a chapter of my own memoir, Black Dog of Fate. So my memoir led to my finding his memoir. It’s become a sort of dialogue both within the family and about this history.
Q: How has your uncle come to life for you?
PB: I had no idea my uncle was such a dynamic leader and prominent intellectual of his generation. Armenian Golgotha brings to life the extraordinary creativity, wit, humanity and compassion this young Armenian clergyman exhibited in the face of overwhelming odds. His ability to negotiate with Turkish perpetrators and still provide sustenance to his emaciated group of fellow deportees is remarkable. And throughout the story he remains humble and focused on helping others. As a clergyman, he’s anguished both by the human suffering he is witnessing and by the destruction of his culture, the culture of which he is a guardian and protector.
Q: What kind of contribution does Armenian Golgotha make to our understanding of the Armenian Genocide?
PB: It’s an essential text. There is no text about the Genocide that’s as rich, layered and complex as this. It brings us closer to the century’s first genocide than any other first-person account that I know of. Balakian was one of the famous 250 Armenian cultural leaders who were arrested on the night of April 14, 1915 at the very start of the genocide. He survived nearly four years on deportation marches and witnessed things that few survivors have described.
Q:What does Balakian’s memoir show us about this event as an act of genocide?
PB: Readers will find that Armenian Golgotha corroborates what most of the scholarship has shown. The deportations and massacres of the Armenians were planned by the central government; he shows us how the Turkish government used surveillance, created blacklists to arrest the cultural leaders, created killing squads, created false provocations in order to arrest Armenians, and so on.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
On Saturday, a perfectly crisp autumn day made for ceremonial splendor, my husband and I attended the commissioning of the USS New York.
As you may have read, the USS New York contains 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center in its hull. Its motto is “Strength Forged Through Sacrifice. Never Forget.” Many speakers, and there were many, spoke reverently of the souls lost on Sept. 11 and how their spirits are embedded in this ship. What you may not remember is that the steel was melted in a foundry in Amite, LA and the ship was built at Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans, part of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilders. The head of NGS said, “This ship was born of two separate tragedies that bonded us: Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina.” Working on this ship aided in the personal recoveries of the men and women in Louisiana, many of them displaced by Katrina. Building this ship gave them a purpose.
“Man our ship and bring her to life.” It is tradition to proclaim these words at a commissioning, and Dorothy England, the Sponsor of the USS New York, performed her duty admirably (that one’s for you, Betsy): A proud “Aye, aye ma’am!” was the response from the Executive Officer and before we knew it, 363 men and women “manned” their stations and the US Naval Band North East played “Anchors Aweigh.” It was a very emotional moment. I sat next to the mother of one of the crew and she shared with me that a year ago at this time her son was a golf pro. He joined the Navy, and after he finished basic training, Commander Curt Jones called him and talked for an hour. That was the job interview and clearly it worked out just fine for her son, Ben. The commander’s uncle was sitting a few seats over from me.
Commander Jones, a native of Binghamton, graduated from MIT in 1989 with a BA in philosophy and received his commission through the Navy ROTC. He received a master’s degree in National Security Affairs at Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA. He spoke lovingly about his crew, but what I found so moving was his understanding of how his ship is a symbol for the people of New York and New Orleans, and what Sept. 11 means, especially to New Yorkers. As we say at my house—he gets it. When he got his commission, he received a copy of a letter written by Fire Captain Gormley on Sept. 15, 2001, and in it he named the 12 men from Engine 40/Ladder 35 who were listed as missing, and therefore not yet relieved of duty. Commander Jones read the letter aloud on Saturday, and as he read the names of those firefighters you could hear a pin drop.
Following the speeches, we toured the ship and talked with the very young crew. Thinking of this ship and its crew gives me a new perspective on Veterans Day, a day when we think of grizzled men telling stories of camaraderie and courage while fighting on foreign shores. It is hard to imagine this young crew of the USS New York assembling in 40 or 50 years to reminisce about the commissioning of their ship and all they have seen. But it is my fervent wish that they return to this city again and again —all 363 of them— safe and sound and out of harm’s way. Of course, unlike veterans of previous generations, their experiences will be archived on their blog, Twitter, and Facebook.
*Assistant Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley read this Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem on Saturday. Come to think of it, he might have it memorized. He is the Assistant Secretary of the Navy after all.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
About a week ago, a particular conductor made my morning commute a little brighter. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “I want you to know that I’ve looked into my crystal ball and it has told me that the Yankees are going to win the World Series in game six. So that’s plenty of time to plan the parade for Friday. Just remember, you heard it here first.”
Yesterday morning, the same conductor made another announcement: “Last week I told you that the Yankees would win and look at that! My crystal ball never lies. Everyone enjoy the parade! And now, for tonight’s winning lotto numbers… oops! It just fell and broke. Sorry.”
Lotto win or no, it was good news*. If you could not be at this “prophesied” parade this morning (which began on Battery Place just a block or so from the Museum), take a look at some photos of MJH staff members cheering on their team. We thought the sign was a nice touch!
*I have been asked to issue the following disclaimer: This blog does not reflect the opinions of all MJH employees… especially certain Red Sox fans whose names may or may not be Betsy.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
A champion of Ladino, Yasmin Levy draws from the rich and evocative Judeo-Spanish heritage, performing classics and new works inspired by this tradition. Much of this tradition was discovered by her father, the musicologist Yitzhak Levy. It’s fitting how these tunes remain passed from one family member to another as they were hundreds of years ago.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
We’re thrilled to launch the new spiffy website for The Morgenthaus: A Legacy of Service, which opens to the public on November 16. Be sure to check out the film trailer, artifact exploration, and information about organizations looking for volunteers. There is also a family tree and much more. As one of the themes of the exhibition is public service, we’re very interested in what you are doing to help your community. Let us know and we may use your quote in the online exhibition.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Tickets are available by clicking here or by calling the Museum box office at 646.437.4202. Order ASAP as they’re going fast.
To tide you over, please enjoy some music of his latest album Within My Walls.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Do you enjoy watching Top Chef, but think there is way too much pork involved? Are you famous for a particular, tantalizingly delicious kosher recipe? Do you smile coyly when people compliment said dish? Do you never let on that it’s actually quite simple and prepared in one hour or less? Does that recipe include Manischewitz Ready To Serve broth? If so, send it in! Five rising chefs will be sent to New York for a live Cook-Off showdown. Enter through January 31, 2010; finalists will be chosen in February leading up to the March finale in New York City.
And, as a personal favor to any hopefuls reading the blog, if anyone wants to do a couple of test runs before sending their recipes to Manischewitz, I offer my services as an official “Delicious Dish Taste Tester. ”
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
All visitors are encouraged to bring their own canned goods to donate.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
A while back, we blogged about the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia taking votes on the first 18 luminaries inducted into its Only in America Gallery. Recently, the results of this vote were revealed.
And they are...
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Leonard Bernstein (pictured... can you tell he was one of my votes?)
Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Isaac Mayer Wise
Golda Meir (She immigrated from Kiev to Milwaukee in 1906, and lived there for 15 years before leaving for Palestine)
As museum director and CEO Michael Rosenzweig points out, it is interesting to note that many of these people were born outside of the United States, emphasizing the importance of the immigrant narrative in American Jewry. The gallery will be part of the museum's core exhibition when it opens on Independence Mall in 2010. And don’t worry, if one of your favorites didn’t make the “Top 18”, the museum says it will choose a different group of 18 Jewish Americans to be featured in the exhibit in the future.