Friday, October 30, 2009

"...she looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf."

Yesterday, the Museum book club met to discuss The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society. Unanimously recommended, TGLAPPPS explored the joy of reading and discovering new books. Thanks to the Museum, I have made my own recent literary discovery.

Clarice Lispector, a Ukrainian-born Jew who escaped her homeland with her family as a baby, is a legendary figure in Brazil, renowned for her unique writing style, her beauty, and peculiarity. Though she is considered the second most prolific national author of the 20th century in Brazil, she is largely unknown to English-speaking readers. Author Benjamin Moser will discuss his intriguing biography, Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector, on Sunday, November 8 at 2:30 p.m. Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly online audio report, recently spoke with Moser. You can listen to the interview here.

Many of Lispector’s works have been translated into English, so I’m excited to check some of them out of my local library.  Maybe one will be a good book club recommendation…

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The History We Keep

Here are some lovely photos of yesterday's Community Preview of the Keeping History Center, our new interactive visitor experience. We hope you will join us when the Center opens to the public on November 6.

Captions: Top to bottom: Stuyvesant student Wu Chi Tang Zoe; P.S. 234 students: Courtney Lyan; Stella Schneeberg; Viktoria Cegielski; Stuyvesant students Elizabeth Litvitskiy and Mithi Hossain

Photo credit: Melanie Einzig

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top (Kosher) Chef

At a Museum dedicated to heritage, there are few things the staff here loves more than food. In the Communications department alone, countless conversations have revolved around favorite meals, baking tips, and what to eat for lunch. So we were happy to discover a contest that spoke to both our interest in food and in Jewish heritage (and puns): the Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off!

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

Can Do!

Next month, Downtown visitors are invited to stop by the World Financial Center complex to view the 17th Annual Canstruction Competition. Canstruction is a food charity that brings together teams of architects, engineers, and students for a design competition. The teams make giant sculptures from full cans of food. This year’s 30 plus entries will be displayed from November 12 to November 23. The sculptures will then be dismantled and donated to City Harvest.

All visitors are encouraged to bring their own canned goods to donate.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chatting with Hannah Sara Rigler

Today's blog comes to us from Abby, who had a lovely talk with a member of the Museum family.
I am so excited to share this story with you. One of our beloved Gallery Educators, Hannah Sara Rigler, was on her way to the Museum on Thursday with her husband, the Hon. William Rigler, when they had an interesting encounter on an Access-a-Ride bus.
Sandy Blum and her father were also riding the bus, although they were heading to the Intrepid, when she recognized Hannah. “I transcribed a diary of yours in 1976,” she said. Sandy was working at Brooklyn College at the time, and Hannah was working with the Center for Holocaust Studies there. (CHS merged with the Museum in 1991.) The diary, which Hannah donated to the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, was written by Willy Fisher, one of the British POWs who saved her life. Hannah had been on a death march following the evacuation of Stuthoff concentration camp in 1944 and left the line in search of food for her mother and sister when a local boy cried out that she was trying to escape. To draw her pursuers away from the line—she was convinced she would be killed and didn’t want her mother to see it happen— she ran. Miraculously, she eluded her pursuers and hid in a barn when she was discovered by Stan Wells, part of the band of British POWS who hid her. Together they protected her for three weeks. The diary, which describes the discovery of Hannah Sara and what happened when the area was liberated by the Soviet Army in February 1945, lives on the Museum’s second floor. You should know, the POWs were declared Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1988.
Sandy told Hannah that the diary made a tremendous impact on her, to which Hannah replied, “You know, I wrote a book.” As the Access-a-Ride bus dropped off Hannah and her husband, Sandy jumped off the bus, and ran into the Pickman Museum Shop where Warren happily sold her a copy of 10 British Prisoners-of-War Saved My Life. But before Sandy leapt back on to the bus, she and Hannah exchanged phone numbers.
Hannah and her husband came into my office to tell me the story and to opine on other matters of the day. For instance, she knows Daniel Lubetsky, one of our speakers on Nov. 17, because she was close to his father Roman Lubetsky z’l. And she is the only person I know who calls mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson Billy. (She’s known his father a long time, too.) And, she sends Christmas cards to Andy Goldsworthy’s mom. They met when Hannah and her husband planted a tree in the Garden of Stones with Andy. “I taught her the word naches. I told her when you have pride in your children you have naches. And she wrote back that she was still shepping naches for Andy.” And then that led to a discussion of Yiddish and how there seems to be a Yiddish expression for everything, including things you probably don’t need to express.
In our day-to-day lives, it is easy to get caught up in the administravia. But, I have to say, mornings like this one make it all worthwhile.
Pictured: Hannah Sara Rigler and her husband, William Rigler, plant a tree in the Garden of Stones.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

18 Jewish Americans Included in "Only In America" Hall of Fame

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
Barbra Streisand
Irving Berlin
Leonard Bernstein (pictured... can you tell he was one of my votes?)
Steven Spielberg
Estee Lauder
Sandy Koufax
Albert Einstein
Jonas Salk
Rose Schneiderman
Louis Brandeis
Mordecai Kaplan
Isaac Leeser
Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Isaac Mayer Wise
Emma Lazarus
Henrietta Szold
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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Doctor is In

On December 9th, the our favorite psychologist/sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer (who is also a beloved Museum trustee), will answer questions, even embarrassing ones, from singles and couples about dating and relationships. Both warm and knowledgeable, the good doctor is always a delightful presence that sets you at ease and makes you smile. So mark your calendars and come prepared with your most challenging questions! If you wish to post your question anonymously, you may do so right here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Luck O’ the Irish (and the Jewish) Musicians

As you know, I am fascinated by Irish/Jewish connections. Therefore, it is my distinct pleasure to let you know about a concert this Saturday night that the Museum is co-presenting at Symphony Space. Kilts and kippahs welcome!

Saturday, October 24, 8 P.M.

Irish Arts Center presents

If It Wasn't For the Irish and the Jews

A Tribute to Irish and Jewish Influences on Vaudeville and Early Tin Pan Alley

In association with Center for Jewish History, NYU Glucksman Ireland House, American Irish Historical Society, Consul General of Ireland, Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust

For one-night-only, join renowned musician-folklorist Mick Moloney and an all star cast including Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, Kerith Spencer-Shapiro and special guests, for a concert celebration of this charming and unexplored story of good-natured ethnic flux, competition, and cooperation that left a lasting imprint on American popular music.

For more information visit our website.

*John Henderson, area piper, in a photo taken by someone's mom.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wouldn’t You Like to Be Our Neighbor?

In addition to the gorgeous multi-hued leaves in Battery Park, the great restaurants, and the elusive sad panda, Downtown residents have another reason to get out of the house next week. On Wednesday, October 28, the Museum is inviting our Downtown neighbors to preview our exciting new addition, the Keeping History Center. Here's the icing and the cherry on the seven-layer cake: we would love to offer anyone who works or lives Downtown* free admission from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Explore Voices of Liberty, a digital soundscape composed of stories about arriving on American shores or seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Come add your story, too!

Investigate the intersection of art, memory, and time with Timekeeper, a virtual exploration of sculptor Andy Goldsworthy’s stunning memorial Garden of Stones, his only permanent installation in NYC.

Please bring proof of residency or employment in one of the following zip codes: 10004, 10005, 10006, 10007, 10013, 10014, 10038, 10280, 10281, 10282, and 10285.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Four Seasons Lodge

This morning I heard from one of our Trustees, the lovely Rita Lerner, who told me about a new film featuring her dear friend’s mother. While I haven’t seen the documentary, the subject matter sounds fascinating and in keeping with the Museum’s theme of renewal after the Holocaust, so I thought I would share it with you.

Four Seasons Lodge, which will open next month at the IFC Center in the West Village, tells the story of a community of Holocaust survivors who founded a vacation colony in the Catskills. For decades they gathered; the film follows what may be their final summer together. The film documents the Lodgers' passion for living, the tightly bonded friendships that have been forged over the years, and their quest for inner peace. “This is our revenge,” one camper explains. “To live this long, this well, is a victory.”

The theatrical debut will take place on November 11th. The film will run through November 17th.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Congratulations are in Order

We’d like to congratulate Gallery Educator extraordinaire, Sally Frishberg, who will be honored this Sunday night at the theater at Madison Square Garden by Words of Bonds, a program that brings together minority students and Holocaust survivors for discussions about prejudice. We have no doubt that this honor is well deserved, as Sally, a former public school teacher, is so eloquent and compassionate. Mazel Tov!

Pictured here: Sally with students from the Satellite Academy in Manhattan. The students came to tour the Museum, especially items relating to the genocide in Darfur. After the tour led by Sally, students heard from Motasim Adam, president of the Darfur People’s Association of New York City, and wrote letters of hope to children in Darfur.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Angel in Queens

The Museum has had the pleasure of researching and getting in touch with a lot of do-gooders and charitable organizations lately as we prepare for The Morgenthaus: A Legacy of Service. (Check out our website about the exhibition next month which will feature some really amazing organizations that are looking for volunteers.) But today, Betsy sent a story my way today and I just had to share it. CNN has a special page on their website dedicated to CNN Heroes: Ordinary People Extraordinary Impact. One of these heroes is Queens resident Jorge Munoz.

For over four years, Munoz and his family have been feeding those in need 365 days a year. Every weeknight, after he gets home from his job as a bus driver, he brings home-cooked dinners to a designated corner in Jackson Heights and gives food to whomever shows up. On Saturdays he does the same for breakfast, and on Sundays (“his day off”) he brings sandwiches. Munoz estimates that food and gas cost approximately $400 to $450 a week; he and his family are currently funding the operation (now a non-profit called An Angel in Queens) through their savings and his weekly $700 paycheck. To date, he estimates he's served more than 70,000 meals.

So why does Jorge devote so much time to people he doesn’t even know? "I have a stable job, my mom, my family, a house... everything I want, I have. And these guys [don't]. So I just think, 'OK, I have the food.' At least for today they're going to have a meal to eat."

Bravo, Mr. Munoz.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Daniel Gwirtzman's "Tribe" Comes to the Museum

Next Wednesday, the Museum, in conjunction with Nextbook’s Jewish Body Week, will present a world premiere work from the Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company, Tribe. Seen as an Editor’s Pick in this week’s New York Magazine, the piece finds inspiration in Judaism and explores the human body as a source of reflection, strength, humor, and celebration. The Company has received critical acclaim throughout New York and the country. The Village Voice said “It’s great to see imaginative dancing to music like this.” New York Magazine hailed DGDC as “continuing to challenge the limits of what can be explored in modern choreography.”

As an example of this imaginative and original choreography, check out “Coupling,” choreographed by Daniel Gwirtzman. Tickets are still available for Tribe: I hope I’ll see you there next week.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Attention Shoppers

Just in time for retail season, we’re happy to present an intimate discussion with authors Hans J. Sternberg and Eli Evans. The gentlemen will be discussing Sternberg’s family memoir We Were Merchants: The Sternberg Family and the Story of Goudchaux's and Maison Blanche Department Stores on Sunday, October 25 at 2:30 p.m.

This weekend’s Wall Street Journal includes both a review and an excerpt of the book. As the review says, anyone who has been in a department store lately will appreciate the old world charm and superior customer service outlined in the book, which is a warm and compelling account of how Sternberg’s parents, Erich and Lea, fled from Nazi Germany to the United States, embraced their new home, and together with their children built Goudchaux’s into a Baton Rouge legend. The store that eventually became Goudchaux’s/Maison Blanche was an independent retail force during the golden era of the department store and, by 1989, the largest family-owned department store in America.

Following the discussion, please join us for a reception.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Busman's Holiday

Question: Where does a Museum professional go on her day off?
Answer: A museum.

Yesterday was a much appreciated vacation day and I decided to travel upstate a spell to go to Hyde Park. Not only is it a particularly gorgeous area (especially in the fall), but it is home to Springwood, FDR’s family home. Modest as far as mansions go, Springwood ‘s 1945 furnishings truly reflect the personalities of FDR and his mother, Sarah. (Eleanor, apparently, could not wrest aesthetic control of the home away from her mother-in-law, even after Sarah’s death in 1941.)

Adjacent to the mansion is the FDR Presidential Library and museum. Contained therein were personal mementos from the Roosevelt family, the White House (including the president’s desk replete with about a hundred tchotchkes), and even items belonging to adorable little Fala, the Roosevelts’ Scottish terrier. And though it was a day away from work, items pertaining to my professional life seemed to find me. As I ooh-ed and ah-ed over Eleanor Roosevelt’s jewelry collection (it has been said that if you ever need to find me, look for the jewelry), I was pleased to see a silver filigree necklace that had been given to the first lady by her dear friend, Elinor Morgenthau, wife of Henry Morgenthau, Jr..

Henry (who himself has a number of objects in the Roosevelt Museum) was Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury and father to MJH chairman Robert M. Morgenthau. Their extraordinary family will be the subject of the exhibition The Morgenthaus: A Legacy of Service opening November 16.

The trip was indeed a day well-spent. The personal artifacts told the story of a tumultuous and fascinating 12 years in office, as well as the life of a family who overcame enormous personal obstacles. Of course, Roosevelt’s presidency is not without controversy, including his actions leading up to and during World War II. Six decades since his death, this debate is nowhere near solved. We will be examining this often polarizing figure in December at a panel discussion FDR and the Jews.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Calling All Critics

When we’re not talking about work, the Communications department loves to discuss television shows and their cultural implications. I won’t bore you with our thoughts about Top Chef, Dancing with the Stars, or Gossip Girl —although I am excited that most of the gang is going to my alma mater, which by the way has more than one coffee shop in the neighborhood and smaller dorm rooms. Also, I seem to remember spending a lot more time in class and much less time plotting my roommate’s demise. However, we would like to know what you thought about this past Sunday’s controversial episode of the Family Guy in which Lois discovers her Jewish roots. Did they finally cross the line, or was it in good fun? Tell us what you think.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Welcome Back, Panda!

Panda alert! Battery Park’s panda has been spotted after a several week hiatus. Keika, Lisa, and I all spotted the so called Sad Panda at her/his usual spot by the Wall Street bull at lunchtime yesterday (sporting a new pink purse). S/he even waved to Lisa!

Later in the day, Betsy sent this article from New York Magazine’s Daily Intel. Commenters on the site speculate what kept the panda away for so long—was it maternity leave? A bamboo juice detox? A Chinatown getaway? We may never know, but we are very happy to have our panda back.

Photo: Lisa Johnson via Gothamist.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Preview of Coming Attractions: Keeping History Center

This is from Lisa, our Marketing Manager, whom I have been bugging to guest blog for quite some time. While this was worth the wait, I hope she won't think she is off the hook permanently.

Several of my colleagues and I had the wonderful opportunity to be “alpha testers” of the Museum’s soon-to-open Keeping History Center, a space with breathtaking views of New York Harbor that will eventually house several interactive installations. A few days ago, we got to user-test one of the installations, which is called Voices of Liberty, and even in the unfinished space, it was an incredibly moving experience.

Voices of Liberty features brief oral histories of people from different backgrounds and generations relaying their experiences of immigrating to America and their experiences of adapting and becoming an American. There are several stations featuring different themes (i.e., Arriving, First Impressions, Adapting). Each of us got an iPod Touch and a headset. At every themed station, there is a transmitter that sends photos of the speakers and their particular stories to the iPod.

The technology made listening to these stories such a personal experience—as if the people were speaking directly to me, sharing their struggles and lack of freedoms in their home countries and the gratitude and pride they have about their new home here. While viewing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the background, I was very proud, too, both of my Museum and my country. I can’t wait to move on to the “beta test”.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Message From The Twilight Zone

Every year on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, I make a point of watching part of the Twilight Zone marathon on the Syfy channel. No matter how many times I see the same episodes, I am always struck by how contemporary and poignant the writing is, despite the fact that the show celebrated its 50th anniversary last week.

One particularly wonderful episode is called “Deaths-Head Revisited,” which was written as the Eichman trial was going on in 1961. In the episode, a former Nazi captain returns to Dachau where he is put on trial by the ghosts of his victims. The ghosts retain their dignity and humanity and sentence him not to death or to torture, but to remember the atrocities he perpetuated on others. It drives the captain insane, which prompts his doctor to ask why Dachau still stands. This is the closing sentiment delivered by Rod Serling.

"All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes — all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God’s Earth."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Celebrate Sukkot

If you find yourself downtown this week, we invite you to visit a sukkah located around the Museum. There is one at Bowling Green Park right in front of the old Federal Customs House on Monday, October 5 and at the Battery Park Synagogue (380 Rector Place) Saturday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Families of all ages are welcome to visit the JCP Downtown Sukkot block party this Sunday, or stop by their sukkah afternoons and evenings this week. The block party will include live music, arts and crafts, and more.

You can also stop by the Museum to check out the extraordinary Steinberger sukkah on the first floor. Hand-painted by canter Aryeh Steinberger, the seven-paneled masterpiece was hidden in the Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest during the war. It is still a precious family heirloom and is visited by Aryeh’s heirs. (Before you visit, please do take note of our holiday hours.)