Friday, July 31, 2009

Today in Birthdays

I think the stars must have been uniquely aligned on July 31, 1919, as it is a birthday shared by two honorable men—Manhattan District Attorney and Museum Chairman Robert M. Morgenthau (as mentioned on David's blog) and Primo Levi.

An Italian-Jewish chemist, Primo Levi was a member of the Italian resistance before he was captured and deported to Auschwitz. In his struggle to reach home and freedom, Levi’s post-liberation experiences ring true with many survivors. Levi was born in Turin, Italy, in 1919. He was arrested as a member of the anti-Fascist resistance, and then deported to Auschwitz in 1944. Levi's experience in the death camp and his subsequent travels through Eastern Europe are the subject of his two classic memoirs, Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening, as well as Moments of Reprieve. “The first thing that needs to be said about Primo Levi,” as John Gross remarked in The New York Times, “is that he might well have become a writer, and a very good writer, under any conditions; he is gifted and highly perceptive, a man with a lively curiosity, humor, and a sense of style.” Dr. Levi retired from his position as manager of a Turin chemical factory in 1977 to devote himself full-time to writing. Dr. Levi visited hundreds of schools to share his testimony with students and continued to write memoirs, short stories, articles, and essays until his death in 1987.

On August 19, author Sam Magavern will be at the Museum to discuss his new biography called Primo Levi’s Universe, which weaves together Levi’s life and works to paint a picture of his world view as well as a multi-faceted, remarkable man. Tickets are available here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

See you in September

This fall, the Museum will be abuzz with book programs, family programs, panels, and performances. Not to brag, but it’s not often one stage hosts award-winning authors, renowned scholars, talented performers, and world premieres within the span of two months. If you just can’t wait until September, don’t forget we’re going to have some fabulous book programs in August. If you can’t wait until August, you can always check out past programs on our YouTube channel.

Tickets are available online now or, if you like good old-fashioned phone calls, you could always call the box office at 646.437.4202.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Blessing to One Another

In 2006, the Museum presented the exhibition A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People. Curated by Xavier University, the Hillel Jewish Student Center of Cincinnati, and the Shtetl Foundation, the exhibition chronicles the late pontiff’s lifelong relationship with the Jewish people and includes a replica of the Western Wall where visitors can leave prayers in the cracks of the wall with the promise that they will be delivered to the actual Wall in Jerusalem someday.

Last week, Rabbi Abie Ingber and Bill Madges delivered more than 25,000 prayers (collected from visitors who saw the exhibit in Pittsburgh, Chicago, here in New York, Rapid City, South Dakota, Kansas City, Missouri, Philadelphia, St. Petersburg, Florida, and Los Angeles) to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

While on display at MJH, the Museum displayed the note left by Pope John Paul II at the Western Wall in Jerusalem during his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2000. The prayer reads (in part):

We are deeply saddened

by the behavior of those

who in the course of history

have caused these children of yours to suffer,

and asking your forgiveness

we wish to commit ourselves

to genuine brotherhood

with the people of the Covenant.

Born Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II made strides in ameliorating the often strained relationship between Jewish and Catholic communities. He grew up in Wadowice, Poland, a town where a quarter of his classmates were Jewish. He was especially close to Jerzy Kluger, the son of the president of Wadowice’s Jewish community and they remained close friends until the pontiff’s death in April 2005. As Bishop of Krakow, he participated in the Second Vatican Council’s dramatic change in the Church’s relationship with other religions and established close and personal ties with the Jewish community in his city. As pope, he publicly apologized for the persecution of Jews by Catholics over the centuries. He was first pope in history to enter a Jewish house of worship when he visited the Great Synagogue in Rome, and frequently met with Jewish leaders, openly condemned anti-Semitism, and commemorated the Holocaust.

Many thanks to our colleagues for bringing the prayers and hopes of so many to Jerusalem. We wish the exhibition continued success as it tours museums and universities across the country.