Thursday, December 31, 2009

The End of An Era

We just wanted to wish our chairman, Robert M. Morgenthau, good luck on his retirement from the position of Manhattan D.A. This week marks his last in office after 35 years. It is truly the end of an era. We know him well enough to know that he will not be fully retiring from public service and public life, and we hope he spends some of his new-found spare time here with us.

Click here to hear his “exit interview” on WNYC.
Photo by Melanie Einzig

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Decade in Review

Whether you believe that the decade ends in one day or in a year and one day, who can resist the opportunity to review the past 10 years? We’ll leave the big picture stuff to the experts while we focus on the past 10 at MJH.
· 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

Happy Kwanzaa

We wanted to wish all those who are celebrating Kwanzaa this week a meaningful holiday, and also to let you know about a day-long celebration at the African Burial Ground National Memorial downtown. The day will be celebrated with family programs, arts and crafts, music, and dance. The commemoration is free, but reservations are required.

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

Holiday Hours

We wanted to wish you all a Chag Sameach (happy holiday), whether your holiday is just beginning or whether you have finally finished the last of the latkes. Please note that we are open regular hours today (10 a.m.-8 p.m.). Tomorrow we will close at 5 p.m. Friday we are open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Please stop by, or call the box office for tickets (646.437.4202) to hear Josh Nelson and his Kosher Gospel choir.
*Photo: Battery Park City in the winter.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Garden of Stones in Snow

The weekend snow inspired me to run to “Timekeeper,” the new virtual exploration of Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones, to see how the storm was captured on camera. For those of you who haven’t used the spin browser for yourself, you can watch images of the Garden through time lapse photography. So when the snow began at 1:32 on Saturday afternoon, the camera picked up each flake as it alighted on to a stone. As the wind picked up, each hour brought a new layer of white, and at 1 a.m. there were so many flakes that the camera became a shimmering prism through which you could view the Garden. By the time I arrived at work on Monday, the Garden was enveloped in white, yet the boulders themselves were bare. The Garden lay undisturbed in its winter beauty.

If you want to see the Garden Monday through Friday, but can’t swing a visit downtown, be sure to check out the daily photo on the Garden site. I have no doubt that we will be treated to more winter scenes like this one.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mah Jongg Memories

We are very happy to announce that the Museum of Jewish Heritage is creating an exhibition exploring the traditions, history, and meanings of the game of mah jongg in Jewish-American culture. Crack, Bam, Dot! Mah Jongg in Jewish-American Life will be on view May 2 through December 2010.

If you are as big a fan of the game as we are, you are probably asking how you can help. Good news! The project team is seeking to interview men and women about their memories and experiences playing or observing the game. They are also looking for photos of people playing mah jongg. The Museum may use the materials in the exhibition or on the exhibition’s website. If you have photos to loan or memories to share, please contact In the meantime, we wish you many happy games in the new year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Czech out this Menorah!

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

Reasons to Love New York, 2009 Edition

Once again, New York Magazine came out with their Reasons to Love New York issue. We enjoyed coming up with our own reasons so much last year, that we thought we would try to come up with some new ones.

From Abby:
Being able to enjoy wine at dinner in a restaurant and not having to worry about driving home.

Purchasing coffee at a cart from a total stranger, yet mysteriously pining for him when he is not there.

The Brooklyn Bridge – utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing.

From Keika:
Even the average New Yorker knows some Yiddish.

From Lisa:
Mom and Pop stores can still survive and even thrive here despite the big chain stores.
Being able to order Uzbekistani food on the Upper West Side

And here are my thoughts:
NY 1, especially Pat Kiernan.
There is so much to do on any given day, even on December 25 if you are Jewish. Yes, you can go to the movies or out for Chinese food, or you could go to a Museum, to a concert, or both.
The gas lights and brownstones on my street remind me of Henry James, Edith Wharton, and all the other great literary works that are set here.
Tell us your reasons for putting up with the high rents, the small spaces, and the cold weather.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Twilight of the Jewish Vampires

Rabbi David Wolpe’s article last week in the Jewish Journal, Five Reasons Vampires Aren’t Jews is as illuminating as it is amusing. I highly recommend reading it, especially if you find Edward's behavior in New Moon as annoying as I do.

In response to Rabbi Wolpe, I’ve compiled some good news for all the Team Jacob fans out there. While in the Twilight saga, werewolves are of an altogether different tribe, I believe they share more in common with Jews.

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.

Let us know what you think about this important topic...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah

As the song says, the weather outside is truly frightful, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying Hanukkah and all the city has to offer. Downtown, we are especially excited about the opening of the ice skating rink at Battery Park City.

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.

From our kitchens and offices to yours, have a Happy Hanukkah!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

“Is It Getting Hot in Here?”

When I was in high school, I was on the debate team, and the topic my sophomore year was whether sex education should be taught in high school. My partner Mike Nelson and I wrote our briefs using research from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a fine institution promoting sexual health. None of that research prepared me for an evening of “Sexually Speaking with Dr. Ruth.”

After a sexceptional, sextraordinary, and sextremely funny introduction by David Marwell, Dr. Ruth was joined by fearless colleagues Jamie Kenney and Peter Mones who posed the questions to her. Readers of the blog will know that we have been soliciting questions to ask the unflappable Dr. Ruth for two months now. Topics ranged from the proposed coed rooms at Columbia dorms to the downside of hooking up. Dr. Ruth, self-described as “old-fashioned and a square,” believes firmly that people need to know and like one another before jumping into bed together.

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

January and February Programs Now on Sale

As winter approaches, we’re happy to give you another reason to come out from the cold. This January and February, we have plenty of public programs to keep you busy and warm. Whether your interests are in film, music, writing, history, or all of the above, you’ll want to check out the schedule and purchase your tickets early (and often).

* The Afro-Semitic Experience will be perfoming a special Martin Luther King Day concert on January 17.

Monday, December 7, 2009

She said, "Yes!"

Two weeks ago we wrote about the L&O (CI) filming and described the range of events that take place in our spaces, and on Thursday our little old board room was the site of another special event: Jeremy Rauch proposed to Rebecca Stern. Because we are discreet and not like those other gossipy blogs, (the couple should be able to tell friends and family themselves) we will offer these highlights:

Jeremy’s childhood friend Yossi Faber and his fiancée Sarah Gross arrived early to stage the room with a gorgeous bouquet of red roses, a PowerPoint presentation, a poster, and other festive accoutrements. They hid in our office kitchen while Jeremy and Rebecca, who had just toured the Museum, came to the 4th floor.

Yaffa in Operations arranged the magical event with Jeremy who had looked at our website after his father remarked what a beautiful location this neighborhood happens to be.

The staff could barely contain themselves waiting for the couple to come out. And when they did we all erupted in cheers of Mazel Tov and great applause. Ivy observed that the Museum is now part of their family history. They will bring their children to see where they became engaged, and the Museum will be part of a loving memory for generations. All in all, a rather unusual and happy ending to an ordinary Thursday.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hanukkah Party Time

This post is from Rachel Weiss, Assistant Director for Young Leadership and Donor Relations. I asked her to fill us in on next week's huge Hanukkah party. It is truly not to be missed.

We know that all of you are as excited about Hanukkah being around the corner as we are, and that you are looking forward to all the fun festivities! Well, good news for those of you mulling over your many party options…..we have the BEST Hanukkah Party in town right here at the Museum in our beautiful events hall.

Next week on Thursday, December 10th from 8-12 come join the Young Friends and nearly 500 young Jewish professionals in their 20s and 30s to celebrate the Festival of Lights at our Young Friends Annual Hanukkah Party! Don’t miss our live DJ, dancing, open bar, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and amazing raffle prizes. (Editor's note: Think Prada and Jimmy Choo bags, Knicks floor tickets, and more) And on top of all that, go home with a great gift bag filled with Hanukkah goodies. If you’re thinking about what to get that special someone for Hanukkah – look no further – bring them to this classy cocktail party for a night on the town (Editor's note: or come to meet a new special someone, you never know). Hope to see you next week!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Public Service Announcement

Ivy received an e-mail yesterday from the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, letting her know that the office “values the cultural community’s commitment to emergency preparedness and response.” Besides offering the compliment, the office was also encouraging cultural partners, their employees, friends, families, and patrons to sign up for Notify NYC. The OEM folks are the smart people who brought you Ready New York, which encourages New Yorkers to have go bags, emergency kits, and household disaster plans, just in case.

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

Teaching Our History

This post comes from Shiri Sandler, the manager of the Auschwitz Jewish Center, which runs the American Service Academies Program. One weekend last month some of the cadets who have participated in the ASAP program went to Greenwich, CT for a weekend of interfaith dialogue. Shiri was asked to give a sermon at Temple Sholom. The following is an excerpt.

When my first cohort of military students heard that my grandmother is a survivor of Auschwitz- Birkenau, they begged me to bring her in to give testimony. I desperately wanted to, not just because we have our students hear testimony to help them focus on the story of the individual, but also because I selfishly wanted them to think of my grandmother when they went to Birkenau. I wanted my students to remember my great grandmother, whose handmade felt flowers hang in the galleries at the Museum in New York, when they saw the place where she was killed. I wanted them to love my grandmother, remember her story, honor her family, because she is a survivor, I’m her grandchild, and who doesn’t want that for their grandma?

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.
*Photo: Rabbi Mitchell Hurvitz of Temple Sholom, Shiri Sandler, Jesse Faugstad of West Point, Ellyn Creasey of U.S. Naval Academy, Angela Roush of the Naval Academy, Reverend James Lemler of Christ Church.