Monday, November 30, 2009

Hanukkah is Closer than You Think

We know it’s rainy and you are still recovering from the piles of dishes and mounds of food over the weekend, but Hanukkah is fast approaching. What should you do? Why not spend “Cyber Monday” with us and complete all your Hanukkah shopping from home? As an added bonus, the Pickman Museum Shop is happy to offer free domestic shipping on all internet and phone orders (and in-store purchases over $50). That’s right. Send your dreidels to Denver, your menorahs to Michigan, and your cookbooks to Cleveland for no extra gelt (or guilt). Leave the schlepping to us.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

If you have been to visit the Keeping History Center, I am sure you have a favorite testimony in “Voices of Liberty” that moved you in some way.

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

As Seen on TV

Yesterday was very exciting at the Museum of Jewish Heritage as we welcomed our friends from “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” While we weren’t privy to all of the details, we do know that the crew was especially moved going through our exhibition, and our second floor, with the addition of a computer or two, was transformed into an archive. These pictures illustrate the extreme makeover of our staff lounge. It is remarkable how those brilliant prop masters and set designers were able to make our 2003 lounge into a city agency office. I am particularly enamored of the cluttered desk and ancient files.

Our colleague Rachel reports that Jeff Goldblum was friendly and affable, saying hello to one and all. A student group visiting yesterday, undoubtedly familiar with his work in “Jurassic Park,” enjoyed seeing him on their field trip.

In addition to TV and film work, the various spaces of the Museum are available for private functions, such as Bar/Bat Mitzvah receptions, family reunions, and other important life cycle events. Consider having your next special event at the Museum.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Extended by Popular Demand

I’m happy to report that we have something else to be thankful for this holiday season. One of my favorite exhibitions, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, has been extended. It will now close on February 21.

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

Our Very Own Shop Around the Corner (of the Lobby)

Do you love the Museum? Do you have a penchant for retail? Well you’re in luck; the Pickman Museum Shop is looking for volunteers!

Working in four-hour shifts, volunteers will assist in the day-to-day operations of the shop as well as support visual merchandising, marketing, and special events. The shop complements the Museum’s exhibition and program schedule by providing an assortment of related titles and objects, offering visitors a wide range of material to enhance each Museum visit. Volunteers are entitled to a 25% discount in the shop, as well as free admission to MJH and other museums with their spiffy MJH ID.

For more information, please contact Tammy Chiu or call her at 646.437.4367.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Morgenthaus: A Legacy of Service, Now Open!

We’re very pleased to announce that our new exhibition, The Morgenthaus: A Legacy of Service is now open. You’ve seen the film trailer, and perhaps read about it on the New York Times website or seen it on New York 1, but now you can come to the Museum in person and be inspired by three generations of a remarkable family devoted to public service.

Photo: Our Director Dr. David G. Marwell with Robert M. Morgenthau, and Museum Trustee Judah Gribetz at the opening of the exhibition. Photo by Melanie Einzig.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Generation to Generation

Joanna Kliger, a member of our Young Friends board, gave a stirring speech at last week’s Generation to Generation Dinner. Three generations of Joanna’s family attended, including her grandmother and her dad. Below is an excerpt of Joanna’s speech:

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.

*Photo: Joanna with her grandmother. Photo by Melanie Einzig.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Q&A with translator and author Peter Balakian

Peter Balakian, the translator of his great-uncle's memoir Armenian Golgotha will be speaking at the Museum on December 2. He was kind enough to let us reprint an excerpt of an interview he did with his publisher. It's a fascinating subject and an important book, so we hope you will join us to hear more about it in person.

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

“Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!” *

This special Veterans Day post is from Abby, but on behalf of the whole staff of the Museum, we thank all those who are serving our country.

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

Marking Kristallnacht

Yesterday, on Kristallnacht, we hosted a very moving ceremony that culminated in the return of a 16th century bible to the Jewish community in Vienna. The bible had been stolen on Kristallnacht 71 years ago.

Witnessing this act of justice was an apt way of commemorating the day. Click here for our Director’s introductory remarks and here for the New York Times story about the event.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Yasher Koach, Yankees!

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 Sephardic Soul at Symphony Space on Saturday

This tip is from Lisa, who loves a good world-music concert.

With the weather getting grayer and chillier, being transported by the lush Mediterranean mix of Sephardic music performed by one of the genres finest singers is a nice way to spend an evening. The acclaimed Israeli artist Yasmin Levy will give a concert this Saturday night, November 7, at Symphony Space in Manhattan.

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.

For more information and tickets, click here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Best of the Best

You may be a little tired of listening to us kvell about the Keeping History Center, so here is a non-biased opinion. This week’s issue of Time Out New York said the Keeping History Center is one of 5 must-see exhibits opening this month. According to them, it’s a Museum Bonanza, so stop by and see us, Jane Austen, FDR, Eero Saarinen, and more.
*Photo courtesy of C&G Partners

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More about the Morgenthaus Now Online

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.
*Photo: New York Cares volunteers

Monday, November 2, 2009

Within OUR Walls: Idan Raichel Performs at MJH

Due to popular demand, the Museum has added a third Idan Raichel concert on Wednesday, November 11 at 9:30 p.m. , which is a good thing, since the November 10th and first November 11th show are sold out. This late show provides fans one more chance to see Idan and his band of international performers bring their one-of-a-kind sound to Edmond J. Safra Hall.

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.