Thursday, May 28, 2009

Let the Sunshine In

Back in August, filmmaker Dulce Fernandes contacted me about the Museum’s unique roof. As I have reported before, it is covered with hundreds of solar panels and while we cannot run exclusively on solar power, we're very proud to be among the institutions that support this technology as it continues to grow and improve. Dulce asked if it would be possible to come and film the panels and speak to David Marwell about how the Museum’s mission of building a better future is so compatible with environmentalism.

There were some challenges in filming and production, the most significant of which was security: we were filming on the roof the same week the UN was in session. While the UN building is about 50 blocks uptown, diplomats were staying at the Ritz Carlton across the way and the street and rooftops (including the Museum’s at some points) were swarming with police and Secret Service agents. (And no, I’m not divulging top secret information by telling you this. They were highly visible all week.)

In spite of certain challenges, the film was completed, edited, and is now available online. We hope people will see this and realize that utilizing alternative energy sources is not only possible but increasingly necessary.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The New South Ferry Station

This is from our frequent guest blogger, Abby. If the blog were Saturday Night Live, she would be our Steve Martin or Justin Timberlake.

Ever since the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust first opened in 1997, we have directed visitors to take, among other trains, the 1 to South Ferry. Getting out there necessitated being in the first five cars, because the entire train did not platform in the station. All that has changed, my friends. You probably read about the new South Ferry station opening earlier this spring. And yes, there were articles a plenty about how the edge of the platform and the width of the train were not compatible. But I am here to tell you that this station is worthy of a visit and its own blog post.

The new South Ferry station has been under construction since I can remember. As the earth was being excavated, artifacts from 1700s-era Battery Wall were unearthed. Some of these artifacts are actually on display in the station. It is also the site of some pretty wonderful permanent art created by Doug and Mike Stern. The piece that caught my eye was a stainless steel gate that reminded me of laser paper cuttings. I was also astounded by how bright and airy it looks. In fact, for a moment, I thought I had been transported to Paris. Just for a moment. And, it has a centralized cooling system, meaning riders won’t faint from the heat on the platform.

But perhaps the most helpful for visitors, neighbors, and colleagues is that you can now transfer from the 1 to the R/W at Whitehall by just moseying down the hall. It is also the first new subway station opened since 1989, when my beloved F train expanded to Roosevelt Island and Queensbridge. For all the mishegas stirred up by the MTA, I am pleased to write something nice about them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Milk and Honey

As a Jewish vegetarian, one of my favorite holidays of the year (culinary-wise) is Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Israelites. As if the Torah were not enough, every year we get to enjoy delicious dairy dishes (mmm, blintzes!) that some say remind us of the promise of Israel--the land of milk and honey. Others say that dairy meals are eaten to commemorate that our ancestors had just received the Torah and did not have separate meat and dairy dishes yet. I'm sure my more learned colleagues have yet another explanation, too. Either way, I am happy to share a recipe that I will be making in honor of the holiday.

This very easy recipe for cheese, pear, and honey paninis comes from Everyday Italian, one of my favorite cooking shows. It can easily be adapted to use soft kosher cheese instead. I am sure it would be lovely with any leftover filling from your blintzes instead of the taleggio or brie. Of course, who ever heard of leftover blintzes?


Friday, May 22, 2009

"There is hope for your future"

On Wednesday, the Museum hosted one of my favorite events of the year. Since 2006, the Interfaith Living Museum (IFLM) has brought together students from Jewish and Muslim schools in the spirit of learning, compassion, and hope for three months of cooperative learning culminating in a final project. This year Clyde Haberman of the New York Times was there to see the students’ presentation—you can read his lovely article about the evening here.

IFLM is a fantastic program: this year students of the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan and the Islamic Leadership School of the Bronx met several times over the course of the semester and visited each other’s schools, a synagogue, a mosque, and museums (including ours) to learn about each others’ religion and culture. Then they began work on a joint project: their own “museum.” Each student brought in an artifact representative of their heritage—a prayer rug, a family cook book, a photograph—and together created different exhibitions, wrote descriptions and shared the stories associated with their objects.

Every year, I’m so impressed by the insight these children bring to each artifact. Moreover, it warms my heart to see kids, who may at first feel as though they have nothing in common, come together and just be kids. While they take the Living Museum project very seriously, they clearly have a lot of fun together, too. To quote Mr. Haberman’s article “there was every reason to feel that the world stood a chance of becoming a better place if more people were like these schoolchildren.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ask a 5th Grader

We can now let out a sigh of relief. Our toughest and most honest critics are often kids. New York City kids, in particular, have seen a lot by the time they are ten years old. Luckily, they had some pretty nice things to say about the Museum of Jewish Heritage's new exhibit: Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow. The students were asked what they learned, what their overall impressions were, and some other pertinent questions. Here are some highlights from P.S. 178:

“That Jewish people would do anything to help another race that is being mistreated”

“I liked the Jews and blacks coming together.”

“The African Americans and Jews were friends.”

“My experience inspired me because I found out about different black heroes.”

“I was shocked, surprised, and happy all at once.”

“The experience affected me because I saw all of the hardships that Jewish and black people went through.”

“I loved how they taught us about kindness. I just loved the trip.”

“Best Trip Ever! So awesome! (editor's note: this comment was accompanied by a smiley face.)

You, too can be responsible for booking the "best trip ever." For information about school tours click here.
*This photo, by Melanie Einzig, is of another field trip earlier this week.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Howdy Sailor!

Today's blog comes from our very own "Captain" Abby Spilka.

Today kicks off Fleet Week, which, for me, is the official kick-off of summer. The parade of ships began at 11 a.m. up the Hudson River, and includes 13 vessels, including the USS Iwo Jima, a 45-000-ton naval assault helicopter carrier, also known as a “Gator Freighter.” Many ships are open for free tours at the Passenger Ship Terminal on the West Side and at Staten Island’s Stapleton Pier. If you’ve never climbed aboard a carrier and seen one for yourself, it’s pretty remarkable.

While there are always long lines, here are some tips to remember:

  • Lines for smaller vessels are not as crowded.
  • Wear sunscreen and bring a hat because when you stand on line facing water and steel, both reflecting the sun, your skin will show it.
  • Drink plenty of water.
Thousands of servicemen and women from the US Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard come ashore during Fleet Week. Seeing them reminds me of one of my favorite movies of all time, “On the Town,” a film that takes every wonderful thing about New York City and 24-hour shore leave, and makes it appear magical. I think that’s why I enjoy Fleet Week so much. And yes, I confess to swooning every time I see a man in uniform. I personally observe Fleet Week by thanking every member of the armed forces I see for his or her service to our country. While there are not as many sailors in Battery Park City as there are in Times Square, I do manage to thank a few, and of course, I am happy to dispense directions, like “the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down.”

If you are on active duty, please note that during Fleet Week the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is offering 2-for-1 admission from May 20-27 to you and your families. This is a promotion put together with the U.S. Navy and NYC Visit.

It is no coincidence that Fleet Week coincides with Memorial Day, a day in which we honor those who have died while serving our country. This day took on new meaning for me when we worked on the Ours To Fight For exhibition, and I began to see that soldiers were not strangers who go to war, they are neighbors, relatives, friends of friends, and those who made choices I don’t think I could make myself. There are people in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and around the globe serving our country, many in harm’s way each and every day. I wish for the safe return of these men and women.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New York City Celebrates Asian-American Heritage

This week, New York celebrates over 1 million of its citizens with Asian American Heritage Week. If you’re in the mood to soak up some Asian culture in New York, we can recommend Museum of Chinese in America and the Japan Society. If you’re hungry, you could also go to Koreatown, Chinatown, or St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, which has the best Japanese comfort food in town. (There are lots of restaurants up and down the street.) 

Here at the Museum, Asian and Jewish cultures have been known to come together beautifully in our exhibitions. My favorite artifact currently on display is an invitation to a baby naming for Jamie Jaye Qing Qing Malka Leah Levine—a big name for a little person, but with reason. Jamie was born in China, but was adopted by a Jewish family in the United States in 2001. Her parents wished to honor her Chinese, Jewish, and American heritage by giving her a name that combined English, Chinese, and Hebrew.

Another artifact, a visa in English, Japanese, French, Russian, and Lithuanian, pertains to Chiune Sugihara,  a Japanese diplomat serving in Lithuania. Chiune, along with his wife Yukiko, personally wrote travel visas that saved the lives of an estimated 6,000-10,000 Jews. Some say (including Yukiko) that this altruistic deed cost the rising diplomat his position with the Japanese government. When asked why he risked so much to save strangers, Sugihara said “Even a hunter cannot kill a bird which flies to him for refuge.” Around 2,200 of these refugees settled in Kobe, Japan. Friend of the Museum and journalist Masha Leon was among them and described living in Japan as “like heaven.” He was honored by the Israel government as one of the Righteous Among Nations in 1985, one year before his death.

Monday, May 18, 2009

No money? Gnome Matter!

One of the only good things about the recession is that prices have gone way down on flights and hotel rooms. (If you don’t believe me, ask the traveling gnome or William Shatner.) The summer is a great time to visit New York City. If you come in on the weekend there are fewer New Yorkers, since many of them go away on the weekends, so it is easier to get into popular restaurants (many of which have special recession-friendly specials). Secondly, you can enjoy free concerts, films, and my favorite midsummer treat--Shakespeare in the Park.

Of course, you’ll also want to come to the Museum of Jewish Heritage (which Time Out New York calls "one of the most moving cultural experiences in the city"). As an added incentive, on June 14, July 19, and August 2, we’ll be presenting free screenings* at 1 and 3 p.m. of From Swastika and Jim Crow, the film that inspired our new exhibit. No need to reserve, just drop in and enjoy the air conditioning and the amazing view.

*free with the price of admission

Friday, May 15, 2009

Congratulations Graduates!

I was at the West 4th Street subway station the other day when I saw something I haven’t seen in about a year: a young man walked past me in a purple robe, a flat-topped hat, and a smile on his face. No, he wasn’t an eccentric weirdo: he was a graduate! Yes it’s that time of year again; colleges across the country are conferring degrees of every kind to eager students. Recently, Luna Kaufman, who will be appearing at the Museum on June 2 to discuss her new memoir (aptly titled Luna’s Life) was presented with an honorary doctorate from Seton Hall.

After the outbreak of World War II, Luna, her parents, and her older sister were interned in the Krakow Ghetto, then Plaszow, Hasag-Skarzysko, and Leipzig concentration camps. She survived the war, along with her mother, and went on to finish high school and an undergraduate degree in Poland before moving to Israel. In 1952, she made the United States her permanent home. Luna has marked her life in America with optimism and public service, serving as her Temple president, as president of New Jersey State Opera, as a volunteer press coordinator at the 1980 Olympics, and many other roles in state and local government and initiatives, many aimed at Holocaust commemoration and education. We at the Museum are very grateful indeed to have her as a member of our family.

She is a tireless champion of Jewish-Christian understanding, promoting Holocaust education and Judeo-Christian relations. She is the chair emerita of Seton Hall’s Sister Rose Thering Endowment for Jewish-Christian and Holocaust Studies. Sister Rose--a Dominican nun, educator, and activist--was a dear friend of Luna’s and inspired Kaufman to work toward a future in which genocides no longer occur.

And so, “for her personal courage in the face of persecution and her unflagging dedication to interfaith education and human dignity, Seton Hall University proudly awards Luna Kaufman the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.” Congratulations, Luna!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Q&A with author Adam Kirsch

On Wednesday, May 27 at 7 p.m. Nextbook’s Gabriel Sanders will interview author Adam Kirsch about his new book about Benjamin Disraeli at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. However, we couldn’t wait to ask the author a few of our own pressing questions. Join us in a couple of weeks for a more in depth conversation.

Betsy Aldredge: Why did you choose to write about Benjamin Disraeli?

Adam Kirsch: As a literary critic, I was initially drawn to Disraeli as a writer of fiction--he was a successful novelist before he launched his political career, and continued to publish novels even after he became Prime Minister. As I learned more about him, I realized that the same kind of imagination that drove his writing also helped to shape his political ideas and his public image--and his very original ideas about Jews and Judaism.

BA: What most surprised you when researching his life?

AK: The more you learn about the politics and culture of Victorian England, the more impossible Disraeli's achievements seem. It was a time when a small group of aristocrats still governed the country, when public life was saturated with Christianity, and when earnestness and sobriety were prized above all other qualities. How did Disraeli--who had no family connections, who was born a Jew, whose novels are extremely satirical, and who was known as a dandy and a fop--manage to rise to the very top of Victorian society? The combination of genius, determination and simple luck that enabled him to succeed is something no novelist would dare to invent.

BA: How did someone who was born Jewish become Prime Minister? What kind of anti-Semitism did he face despite his conversion?

AK: Until the 1850s, every Member of Parliament had to swear an oath "upon the true faith of a Christian," which effectively banned Jews. Disraeli, however, had been baptized into the Church of England at the age of twelve, along with his sister and two younger brothers--it was his father's decision, to give his children greater opportunities in English life. This meant that, legally, his Jewishness was no obstacle to his political ambitions. In reality, of course, it was still a giant handicap, and it is surprising how much prejudice Disraeli faced even at the very end of his fifty-year-long political career. My book is largely about the way Disraeli tried to turn his Jewishness from an obstacle into a kind of imaginative asset, by changing the way people thought about Jews and Judaism.

BA: What can you tell us about Disraeli as a novelist? What is his fiction like?

AK: Disraeli isn't in the first rank of Victorian novelists--his books aren't as enduring as Dickens' or George Eliot's. But if you have any interest in the politics and high society of 19th-century England, his novels offer a wonderfully irreverent insider's view. His best-known books today are probably Coningsby and Sybil, which he wrote in the 1840s when he was already a Member of Parliament: they make fun of the hypocrisies of party politics and expose the deep class divisions caused by the Industrial Revolution. When it comes to his thoughts on Judaism, the most interesting books are Alroy, a historical romance about an 11th-century Jewish warlord, and Tancred, in which an English nobleman travels to Palestine and gets involved in a kind of proto-Zionist adventure. He is always a very witty writer--his jokes can remind you of Oscar Wilde.

BA: What can we learn from him as a politician and statesman that applies to the political landscape today?

AK: Disraeli was a Tory, the leader of the Conservative Party in British politics. But he was never a conventional conservative--at a time when the Tories stood for aristocratic privilege and opposed democracy, Disraeli was constantly concerned with the poor, the victims of the industrial revolution. His greatest legislative achievement was the Reform Bill of 1867, which extended the right to vote to millions of working-class Englishmen. To him, conservatism meant national unity, the obligation of the rich to govern in the interests of the poor, and above all the glory and power of the British Empire. All these things make him an inspiration to reformist conservatives even today: earlier this year, in an essay on "The Death of Conservatism" in the New Republic, Sam Tanenhaus urged Republicans to look to Disraeli for inspiration.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Please, Mr. Postman

This is from our guest blogger, Abby. She is far more patient and capable of whimsical thought at the Post Office than yours truly.

Yesterday I was at our local Post Office on Whitehall Street. It has only been open a short time, is extremely convenient, and is located just down the block from another new neighbor, California Wine Merchants . There aren’t many specialized wine stores here at the old southern tip of Manhattan, especially choosing to open in this rather dreary economic environment, so I want them to do well. They have weekly wine tastings and carry kosher wine in addition to some wonderful stuff from some of my favorite California wineries. But before Betsy “stamps” her feet to remind me that this is a blog about the post office, let me get back on track. Editor's note: Thank you for getting back on track.

I went to the Post Office to find out why some postcards promoting our program on May 20th, Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found, were being returned. I waited patiently in line, because, hey, you’re at the post office, waiting impatiently in line helps no one. I’m at the head of the line when I realize the song that has just come over the sound system is “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes. I just started smiling. I love moments like this. I turn around to my fellow postal patrons hoping to see some glint of recognition, some connection across the decades. In my quick scan I see a boy of maybe 19 who is packing off a college application – no clue. An older woman who looked kind of troubled, and a man in his 30s who actually makes eye contact with me. Feeling an undeniable need to communicate about this out loud with somebody, anybody, I look at all three of them and say, “It’s Please Mr. Postman. The song. We’re in a post office. It’s ironic.”

Maybe you had to be there. I enjoyed the song very much, and appreciate how much more lively The Marvelettes’ rendition is as opposed to the one by the Carpenters or the Beatles. Because of the wonders of Wikipedia, I subsequently learned that this version was the first song on the Motown label to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart. (That would be in 1961.)

When I reached the counter, the postal clerk explained that the cards had gone through “a machine” upside down that could not read the address of the intended recipient, so the machine read the address of the Museum, and bar coded them to come here. I re-sent them and hope they get to where they’re headed soon. Marie Brenner is a wonderful writer (love her Vanity Fair articles) and a great interviewer, but on May 20th she will be interviewed by WNBC-TV reporter Magee Hickey about her poignant book and her complicated relationship with her brother. Tickets are still available.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Final Frontier

I freely admit that my husband and I ran out to see Star Trek opening weekend (and that nerds that we are, we own all three seasons of the original series on DVD and a couple of seasons of the Next Generation). Yes, as a movie-going experience it was beyond fantastic, but it also made us reflect on the fact that in terms of race relations and world outlook, the original series was way ahead of its time. In it men and women, Caucasians, African Americans, Asians, Russians, and even Vulcans and other alien life forms worked together to make the universe a better place. A great article in the New York Times expands on this vision of the late great Gene Roddenberry.

Of course, while Star Trek is science fiction, we know from the Museum of Jewish Heritage's current exhibition, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, that at the time the show was originally aired (1966) and even a few decades earlier than that, there were pockets of explorers, like the professors and students featured in the exhibit, that overcame the racial boundaries to get to know each other, learn from one another, and indeed to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Monday, May 11, 2009

We're Listening...

When one thinks of heritage, one’s mind tends to drift into the past: black and white photos, grandma’s trunk of clothes in the attic, old family recipes and other mementos of days gone by. But the Museum of Jewish Heritage recognizes that heritage isn’t just the way things were: it’s an ever-present influence on our lives which draws from the past while evolving and developing in a modern world. It is in this spirit that we have been using new tools to express our mission: social media, such as Facebook, companion websites for our exhibitions, and, of course, this blog.
And now we want your help!
If you are a “Fan” of the Museum on Facebook and you have about five minutes, please fill out this spiffy new survey; it's hosted by, so I guess you can say it's a barrel of surveys! (Actually, it’s just a couple of questions to see how you think we're doing and how we can improve.) One lucky survey-taker will be chosen to receive two complimentary passes to the Museum! The bad news: this quiz is for Facebook Fans only. The good news: anyone with a Facebook account can become a Fan! Just click here and then click “Become a Fan” (below the picture of the Museum). You’ll receive occasional updates about the Museum via your Facebook account.
We’d also love to hear from you on our companion website for Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow. The exhibit explores the close relationships that were forged between Jewish refugee scholars and their students at historically black colleges in the American South. On the website’s blog, we are looking to gather stories from you. Who has inspired you? Write in with stories about your mentor: as this exhibit shows us, there’s a lot we can learn from one another’s stories.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Lovely Coincidence

This is a guest blog from Ann Barandes, a devoted and enthusiastic gallery educator. Editor’s note: please also read the very nice article that appeared in Jewish Week today.

My friend, Valorie Jennings, is a gifted listener. At dinner, a week before Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow opened at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, I was summarizing the new exhibit as I hoped Valorie might attend as my guest. She uncharacteristically interrupted and blurted out that her mom, Persis Jennings was an art student in the 1940s at Hampton Institute in Virginia where she continues to live. Valorie further stated that there was a professor, Viktor Lowenfeld (seen here), whom her mom often talked about; in fact, there has been a photo of the two of them on her mom's dresser since Persis' college days.

I seemed to remember the name Lowenfeld from the documentary I had recently seen and from my tour guide. I alerted the museum to this extraordinary example of synchronicity. This yielded Valorie an invitation to the opening.

Little did Valorie or I know that her mom was in a large photo in the main gallery. I discovered this before the evening event. When Valorie arrived for the opening, I rushed her upstairs to the photo. Without hesitation, she recognized her young mother although her back was to the camera. In the photo Persis Jennings is sketching a model and Professor Lowenfeld is smiling down at her work. Persis' classmate and friend, John Biggers, is also seated and sketching.

Our curatorial department was able to identify the other people in the photograph by getting in touch with the photographer (now in his golden years) who is still active in his work in Virginia.

Valorie and I have always shared our diversity. Now our bond is stronger than ever through this worthy new exhibit, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Votes are In

As American Idol is winding down, we're just getting started. Today, the Museum of Jewish Heritage announced the lineup for the Fourth Annual New York's Best Emerging Jewish Artists.

This year’s event will feature host Johnny Lampert and a new line-up of promising performers. Up-and-coming local Jewish artists will take the stage for an evening of comedy, music, and storytelling on Wednesday, June 17 at 7 p.m. The festivities will continue with an after-party and open bar on the third floor terrace overlooking New York Harbor. The after-party is included with the ticket price.

Performers will include musical groups DeLeon and Girls in Trouble, comedian Ray Ellin, and storytellers Sarah Saltzberg and Boris Timanovsky. Ode to Murray Hill, a short film by filmmaker DJ Lubel will also be shown. Moment Magazine will also present a special “Emerging Writer” award to 99-year-old author Harry Bernstein.

Buy your tickets soon, this event sells out every year.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We’re Huge in France

The Museum was recently featured in the French newspaper Le Monde for our Woman of Letters exhibit. (For those of you who parlez français, you can read the article ici…erm…here.)

Le Monde’s deputy literary editor, Florence Noiville, came to see the exhibition a few weeks ago. In the article, she describes Museum visitors looking at a copy of Némirovsky’s manuscript. “Press[ed] close to the glass, [visitors are] fascinated by the thin tight lines, written only hours before the arrival of the Vichy police. It reads of urgency and longing--of paper, of ink, of time...” In this description, I think she truly captures the power of Irène’s writing, and the exhibition.
Noiville also points out that this exhibition is important in that Némirovsky has been a topic of some contention among literary critics and historians. But Emmanuelle Lambert of the Institut mémoire de l'édition contemporaine (IMEC), which co-produced the exhibition with the Museum said "The exhibition hides nothing: its purpose is precisely to raise and confront these questions. The Americans have courageously acted as historians, moving away from reactionary logic and accepting history in all its complexities." 
Courageous? I’ll take that!
(A big merci to staff member Sarah Griswold for her translation from French.) 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo at the Museum: Where Oy Vey Meets Olé

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re kind of big on celebrating heritage here at the Museum. (We think so highly of it, in fact, that it’s in our name.) Today is the fifth of May or Cinco de Mayo. In Mexico, this is a celebration of the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (and is not, as many think, Mexican Independence Day—that’s in September). Here in America, Cinco de Mayo has come to be a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. Revelers across the country will eat Mexican food, listen to Mexican music, and, of course, enjoy that classic drink: tequila. This year, Agave 99 became the first kosher tequila available in New York. The libation was included in a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Tequilaville in mid-town where Jewish leaders and Ambassador Ruben Beltran of Mexico enjoyed mariachi, margaritas, and pastrami burritos (no joke).

With Jewish communities all over the globe, it should come as no great surprise that there is an inveterate Jewish presence in Mexico. Conversos arrived in the country with Cortes in the early 1500s, followed shortly thereafter by Jews attempting to escape the Spanish Inquisition. Unfortunately, the Inquisition followed them and they, along with the indigenous Indian population, were given the “choice” of conversion or death. While many Mexican Jews did convert, they still identified culturally as Jews. (Including artist Diego Rivera, who claimed Converso/Jewish ancestry.) Strong Catholic authority kept Jewish immigration to Mexico to a minimum until the 1860s, when Maximilian I invited German Jews into the country. After that, Mexico saw several waves of Jewish immigration—Russian Jews escaping the pogroms of the 1880s; Sephardic Jews fleeing the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I; and Jewish refugees of Nazism through the 1930s and 40s.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Free Screening This Weekend

The reviews are starting to come out about our new exhibition Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges. While we have been excited for some time now, it is refreshing to hear the great things that critics, visitors, and students have all been saying. If you didn't catch the NY1 segment over the weekend, click here to watch it.

Here is another added incentive to come visit this weekend. On Sunday at 1 P.M., the Museum will present From Swastika to Jim Crow. This film, which aired on PBS in 2000, illustrates the bonds created between Jewish refugee scholars and their students at historically black colleges. It served as inspiration for the exhibition. Screening is free with Museum admission.

Friday, May 1, 2009

We Are (a)MUSEd

Still glowing from last night’s successful opening of Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow, we now have the added pride of announcing some more good news: a Museum-created website, Living Museum, has been honored with a Muse Award, presented by the American Association of Museums.

The Muse Awards recognize outstanding achievement in museum media and are presented to institutions or independent producers which use digital media (such as websites, podcasts, multimedia installations, etc.) to enhance the museum experience and engage new audiences. Not to be too full of ourselves, but The Living Museum does just that; it is an interactive online venue where 5th and 6th grade students in Jewish schools create virtual exhibitions of artifacts that represent their heritage. The program begins with a visit to a local museum where students learn how to carefully study artifacts, and explore the composition of galleries to discover how objects are organized and displayed in a museum. Then, with the help of their parents, students choose meaningful artifacts or heirlooms from home that reflect their family history and Jewish heritage and upload images to the site. Some schools even have “classroom museums” to share these artifacts to their friends and teachers.

Judges described this site as “inspiring,” pointing out that this site engages parents and children to have conversations about their heritage, and helps show that everyone has a story worth sharing.