Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Downtown Heritage

This past Friday, the Lower Manhattan museum community was enriched with the re-opening of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) at its new location at 215 Centre Street (between Howard and Grand Streets one block north of Canal Street). The opening coincided with the launch of MOCA's 2009 summer program of independent films, pop culture, guided tours, book events, and family activities. (Click here to learn more.)

The new building was designed by renowned artist/designer Maya Lin and juxtaposes the past with the present, creating new spaces while paying tribute to the original structure by leaving the historic courtyard untouched. Visitors during the summer will be able to access sections of MOCA's new core exhibition With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America, which will be on view in its entirety on September 22.

Since 1980 MOCA has been dedicated to promoting dialogue and understanding among people of all cultural backgrounds and bringing 160 years of Chinese American history to life for all people. This new space will allow them to reach more visitors and create more exciting new exhibitions. We’re so pleased to have another heritage Museum downtown (you could even visit both us and MOCA in the same day) and wish our colleagues at the Museum of Chinese in America all the best as they embark on this next step.

For more information, visit http://www.mocanyc.org/.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Free for All


Now that the weather has finally improved, it is a great time to take advantage of all the free events this summer.

All week, the New York Classical Theatre will present free, roving performances of William Shakespeare's King Lear across 25 acres of Battery Park including historic Castle Clinton. Through July 7 at 7 p.m.


Regardless of precipitation, hold the dates Sunday, July 19 and Sunday, August 2 for screenings of From Swastika and Jim Crow, the film that inspired our exhibit. We promise that the students and the professors featured in the documentary are the most inspiring Transformers you'll see all summer. The documentary will be shown at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and is free with admission.


Skip the madness at the multiplex on July 15, which is opening night of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. (You can go the next night when there will be far fewer audience members in pointy wizard hats that block your view). Instead, reserve your free ticket for Un Secret, the well-received French film. Muggles welcome.

Friday, June 26, 2009

People of the Book (Club)

The Museum’s (almost) monthly Staff Book Club met up yesterday…outside! Yes, in a rare break from the moist monotony of the past couple weeks, the sun was shining and the spirit of book discussion was in the air. June’s selection was People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I’ve read many great novels this year, but this was definitely one of my favorites. It tells the story of the Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book expert, who is called by the United Nations to analyze and conserve the recently rediscovered Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the earliest Jewish books ever to contain intricate images of the Passover story. The volume contains clues that hint at its own history and its owners, accidentally deposited in the book over the course of over 400 years—a butterfly wing from the Alps, missing clasps, a white hair, a wine stain, and a salt stain. Each of these items provides important clues to the history of the book, which are revisited in the narrative.

Something I liked about reading this work of fiction was knowing that it’s based (partially) in fact; while the stories related to the book and all the characters are products of Brooks’ imagination, the Sarajevo Haggadah is a real artifact. We do know something about the book’s history in Sarajevo—it was saved once during WWII by a Muslim scholar who risked execution by not handing the book over to the Nazis, and again in 1992 when a librarian (also Muslim) rescued it after Serb forces shelled the National Museum Library. After that, our own director David Marwell met with the president of Bosnia many years ago about putting the Sarajevo Haggadah on display in our very own galleries, but in the end it remained in Bosnia. Below, check out some of the amazing illuminations from this very remarkable artifact.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If you want to read along with the book club, our next selection is The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Best Part of the Job


Yesterday Jamie and I had the honor of meeting Professor Donald Rasmussen, who along with his late wife, Prof. Lore Rasmussen, is featured prominently in Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges. Bonnie, the curator, gave Prof. Rasmussen and his son a tour of the exhibit and was kind enough to let us come along.

The exhibit is a must-see because it is a mostly unknown chapter in history and because of its positive themes. However, I admit that, for the staff, one of the best parts has been the chance to meet and get to know these incredible professors and their former students, all of whom have shared fascinating stories with us.

Prof. Rasmussen was no exception. He told us a very interesting story about when the KKK burned a cross in front of his house in Talladega, Alabama that was meant to scare him and his wife out of voting. He saw it out a window while he was tucking his son and his son’s best friend, who is African American, into bed. He tried to make them feel safe by playing a Tchaikovsky piece to soothe them. The next day they went to vote as planned.

Shortly thereafter he put the remnants of the cross on a wall in his house, “it was quite a conversation piece,” he said as he laughed, but I think what he was trying to show was that he (and his wife who had escaped Germany) would not be intimidated.

To learn more about their experiences at Talladega and about the other professors and students, please stop by and visit us soon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

From Museum to Maharat

Abby brought a great article from The Jewish Week to my attention this morning. It is about Sara Hurwitz who, after completing rabbinic training and a course of Talmudic study under Rabbi Avi Weiss, was made the first ever “Maharat.” The title, used in lieu of “rabbi” is an acronym from four Hebrew words that describe a halachic, spiritual, and Torah leader. The decision is not without controversy, which you can read about here.

We at the Museum are tremendously proud of Hurwitz’s hard work, dedication to her community, and amazing accomplishment… of course we would expect that from one of our own. You see, before she was a maharat, Sara was a Lipper intern (in the inaugural class to be exact). And so, from the MJH family, mazel tov, Maharat Hurwitz!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hoop Dreams


I was watching an interview with Celtics great Bill Russell on the Daily Show last night. He was speaking about his new book, Red and Me, which is about his lifelong friendship with his Jewish coach Red Auerbach. Together they dealt with anti-Semitism and racism and developed a close relationship based on respect and shared experiences. Of course this reminded me of the themes in Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges.

Russell helped break racial barriers by being part of the first African-American starting five in NBA history as well as the first African-American coach in the league, thanks to the help of his mentor and friend.

As part of our exhibit, we are collecting your mentor stories. Please visit the exhibit blog and tell us who inspired you.

Monday, June 22, 2009

From the Amazon to the Golan Heights

We've decided to follow Friday's post about the Jews of Sweden with another segment in our (unofficial) ongoing series, "Jews Around the World." Today: Peru!

Yesterday's New York Times featured a story about Iquitos, a city in the Peruvian rainforest. According to Wikipedia "it is the most populous city in the world that cannot be reached by road." Established by Jesuit missionaries in the 1750s, Iquitos welcomed its first Jews (from places such as Morocco, Gibraltar, Malta, England, and France) in the late 19th century when the area saw a huge economic boom spurred on by the rubber industry. When rubber plant seeds were smuggled out of the Loreto Region and into other countries, however, the city's prosperity lurched to a halt. As for the Jewish population (which consisted mainly of entrepreneurial men), some died of cholera and other diseases, some returned to their countries of origin, and some married local women and raised families but, due to their isolation from Jewish religious and cultural outlets, largely assimilated.

But in the past decade, hundreds of descendents of these original pioneers have reclaimed their Jewish heritage: most among those have moved to Israel. Ronald Reátegui Levy, a local man who has been active in reviving the Jewish community of Iquitos, reflects on his rededication to Judaism after living so long with only a vague concept of his ethnicity. “When I was a child, my mother told me something that forever burned into my mind,” he said. “She told me, ‘You are a Jew, and you are never to forget that.’ ”

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Tonight is one of my favorite Battery Park City events, the Swedish Midsummer Festival, held right in front of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. As you know, we are in favor of learning about and celebrating heritage of all kinds. The Swedish festival includes a maypole procession, folk dances, crafts, games, midsummer wreaths, fiddle music, and delicious treats.


It is free and takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. (So stop by before Shabbat or on your way out of the Museum, which is open until 5 p.m. today)

While complex, the history of Jews in Sweden is also very interesting. When the first Jews arrived, it didn’t start out well, but eventually Sweden welcomed 900 Norwegian Jews, thousands of Hungarian Jews, and almost the entire Danish Jewish community during the Holocaust. That's a good reason to celebrate and to say "tack" [thank you].

Thursday, June 18, 2009

World Refugee Day


This Saturday is World Refugee Day. While it is Shabbat, it is a good time to reflect on how the Jewish people have so often in history been refugees and what we can do to help people of all nationalities and religions who have had to escape conflict, persecution, war, or violence.


Learn more about the current refugee crisis by visiting CNN’s special online feature.


Visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage in person to learn more about Jewish refugee experiences in the 20th century or visit our online collection to search objects related to refugees or social action, like the poster shown here which is a gift of the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Q&A with Prof. Hasia Diner


How American Jews dealt with the aftermath of the Holocaust is a complex subject matter that has inspired decades of debate. Next Wednesday evening at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYU Professor Hasia R. Diner will weigh in on the topic when she discusses her new book, We Remember With Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence After the Holocaust, 1945–1962.

You can read more about Prof. Diner’s findings in an illuminating Q&A in the Forward.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fowl Play

A few nights ago, I met my grandparents for dinner at Battery Gardens Restaurant near the Staten Island Ferry in Battery Park. “Do you know what the turkey is called?” my grandma asked almost immediately after I sat down at their table.

“Pardon?”

“The turkey! Do you know her name?”

At this point, I wasn’t sure if my grandma had gone loopy or if she was a government agent testing me by speaking in code. I assured her I had no idea what on earth she was talking about, so she regaled me with a story.

Apparently, Battery Park is home to a wild turkey and her name is Zelda. She has lived in a tree near the restaurant for about 7 years and occasionally wanders up Wall Street, at which point someone returns her to the park. My grandparents got all this from the bartender. I was simultaneously entertained and skeptical. Was this bartender pulling my grandparents’ legs? Was there a Zelda? I shared this story with Betsy the next day. “What?” she asked delightedly, “A turkey? That sounds like a blog!”

And so, before getting too ahead of myself, I decided to see if this mythical fowl truly existed. Not only does she exist, but she has her own Wikipedia page. Zelda— named after Zelda Fitzgerald who was allegedly once found dazed and confused in Battery Park after a nervous breakdown—has lived in the park since mid-2003, though she is believed to be a Bronx native. Since taking up residence in Lower Manhattan, has been seen as far north as Greenwich Village.

Though it is a bit late-coming, we’d like to welcome Zelda to the neighborhood. We also really and truly hope that she and our local Sad Panda will be close friends if they aren’t already.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Not Available In Stores

Have you ever seen those very long commercials for products “not available in stores?” There’s always a very enthusiastic, loud person extolling the virtues of this wonder-product, demonstrating (to everyone’s astonishment) its efficacy and simplicity. By the end of the commercial, they always throw in a second or third product “absolutely free” and if you “call now” you can receive yet another product you never even knew you wanted. I’m always taken aback by how many “but wait…there’s more” statements I hear in the course of these presentations.

This reminds me very strongly of the Fourth Annual New York’s Best Emerging Jewish Artists which is happening this Wednesday, June 17th at 7 p.m. This has continually been one of our most popular programs, giving audiences a chance to see fresh up-and-coming new artists.

Now, for a $25 ticket ($20 for members) you could see a band and it would be a pretty good deal, but at Emerging you can see two bands plus a host! So already you have DeLeon, Girls in Trouble, and host/comedian Johnny Lampert. But wait; there’s more! We’re also presenting not one but two storytellers. You’ll also be able to see comedian Ray Ellin and a screening of D.J. Lubel’s Ode to Murray Hill… and that’s not all! Did we mention the open-bar after-party and eco-friendly, cloth tote bag full of fun stuff? That’s right: just one ticket gets you two bands, two comedians, two storytellers, a screening, a goody bag, and an open-bar after-party overlooking New York Harbor! You’ve got to admit that’s a pretty fabulous evening for a pretty fabulous price. (And we won’t even make you call in the next 15 minutes…)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Upholding Our Ideals


Today would have been Anne Frank’s 80th birthday, had she had survived the Holocaust. Instead, she shared the same fate as one million other children who perished.


Anne’s diary has been published in 67 languages and is one of the most widely-read books in the world. Her words have the ability of making the tragedy real, especially for young adults because she is not just a number or a victim, but a real girl with talent, love, humor, flaws, and potential. But I think her greatest gift to her readers is her optimism.

Today, just two days after the shooting in Washington, I am especially struck by how much we can still learn from Anne, who wrote these words despite her terrible circumstances:

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.


I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.


I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.


Speaking of optimism during this time, Neshama Carlebach, who performed an interfaith and interracial concert of Freedom Songs with Joshua Nelson and the Green Pastures Baptist Choir at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on Wednesday night, wrote very movingly of the experience:

“Yesterday afternoon, an African-American man died protecting a museum in Washington, D.C. built as a monument against racism. Standing on the auditorium stage of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City last night -- side by side with my African-American brothers and sisters -- I looked beyond the footlights and saw an auditorium filled with men, women and children of all colors and faiths whose combined voices wove a bulletproof vest against hatred.”


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thank You For Your Support


Yesterday was a very difficult day at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Between concern for our colleagues in Washington and our department's job of assuring the public and the media that we are still secure and open for all who want and need to learn about the dangers of intolerance, we didn't have much time to let the tragedy at the USHMM sink in.

Now that I have had time to think, I keep going back to my encounters with visitors yesterday. I thanked the many visitors I met for coming to the Museum and they in turn thanked us for remaining open.

One moment that will stay with me was when one of our visitors found out about the shooting upon leaving the Museum. She was asked by a reporter if she would think twice about coming to our Museum again. She didn't hesitate at all and said, "It is important for me to come here. I am a Jew. And I am not afraid." (click here to watch the clip on Fox news)

Please make a point to visit us, not only because we present the history of the Holocaust in a powerful and personal way, but as a statement that it is more important than ever to support the Museum’s messages and to preserve the history of the Holocaust.


(This photo is of survivor Thea Gottesmann Rumstein with students on Yom HaShoah. Photo by Melanie Einzig)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shooting at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington

We have received a lot of phone calls and emails here at the Museum regarding this afternoon’s shooting at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. Our thoughts are with our colleagues at the USHMM and we wish them continued strength in the wake of this tragedy. The incident in Washington highlights why institutions like ours are so important. It was ignorance and hatred that drove that man, with a gun in his hand, into the Museum. And it is precisely ignorance and hatred that we combat every day.

We are all watching the news along with the rest of the world. Please know the Museum of Jewish Heritage is open. We have a very visible security presence, and we are doing fine. Visitors are streaming in and the performers are here for tonight’s concert: Freedom Songs with Josh Nelson, Neshama Carlebach, and the Green Pastures Baptist Choir.

If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hello. We are open until 8 p.m. tonight.

This morning in the Oswiecim cemetery


Our colleague Shiri Sandler is in Poland for two weeks teaching cadets and midshipmen who are participating in the American Service Academies Program at the Auschwitz Jewish Center. Part of the program involves cleaning up the local Jewish cemetery. The cemetery was re-consecrated after the war, after the Nazis had used the tombstones to pave streets, among other hideous acts. Shiri and the gang had an experience this morning that she shared with a few of us, and we want to share it with you.



This morning, which began blue, sunny, and warm, the cadets/mids and I went to the Oswiecim cemetery to do some cleanup. This group took the view that any cleanup meant something, as it honored the dead and mattered to the community (which community they were thinking of, I'm not sure). They're very into Judaism and we've talked a lot about the importance of death rites in Judaism, so they were happy to get their hands dirty.

When we arrived, they started clearing paths between the salvaged and re-placed tombstones, weeding the memorials of broken grave stones, and generally cleaning up debris, both natural and refuse. After an hour or two, they'd made good headway and the cemetery was beginning to look neater. The paths had been weeded and swept, garbage was in bags, and two of the boys had cleared undergrowth so that the German bomb shelter in the back of the cemetery was accessible. Unfortunately, this also meant that the building next to the cemetery could be seen, which bore recently inscribed Stars of David with "666" written across them. Tomek will, of course, take care of this, in his direct and immediate way. Once basic clean-up was well underway, the AJC intern with us, Joanna, started pointing out gravestones that needed to be placed in the ground.

After placing two tombstones, Roarke, one of the mids and the one I referred to as the "cowboy" before the program began, decided that the fallen and rotten tree lying on the edge of the cemetery needed to go. It is next to the other bomb shelter, which is now used to store tools. As he began moving large pieces of what must have been a massive tree, we realized that the tree was covering a large number of fallen gravestones, both intact and broken (see picture above). Cadets and mids gathered around quickly and began to move the tree and form an assembly line to pass the pieces of the gravestones towards a place where they'd be stored in a more respectful fashion. Mandi, one of the West Pointers, carefully wiped each off as it was placed on the ground.

The thing was, the day had turned ugly. It wasn't the Stars of David or the destroyed cemetery. The clouds had gathered and thunder was rumbling. In Kazimierz, the Jewish section of Krakow, we always tell the groups a story about a wedding that was to take place near the cemetery in the center of the main square there. The bride couldn't get her dowry together in time before Shabbat and so the couple was married after Shabbat had started. God and the local rebbe were angry, and a lightening bolt struck the couple, the earth opened, and the couple was swallowed by the ground. In truth, the wedding was allowed to occur after Shabbat by the rebbe, who determined that human joy and life's events were more important than the laws were. The cadets began to joke today that the story was coming true, that as we were trying to undo this abomination, this act of desecrating the cemetery, that lightening would come down and strike the place where the act had happened.

As it happened, the rain didn't fall until we finished and all the grave stones had been laid out, wiped down, and the debris of the tree removed. We even had time to quickly snap a picture before the skies opened and the lightening came down.

Our time here is never simple. The things we see, from the broken tombstones to the marks on buildings to Auschwitz itself, are ugly. The things they say and the way they act, though, are beautiful. This morning, a future marine who didn't know any Jews until he met the two Jewish cadets on this program and me, unearthed gravestones of Jews who, along with their descendants, are long gone. But the human joy and life, the smiles captured in a group picture and the feeling of connection to each other and to the Jewish community that came along with today's work, live on.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"The voice called, and I went."

A fellow blogger at "This Day in Jewish History," which I frequent, brought my attention to a particular anniversary. Sixty five years ago this week, Hannah Senesh, Jewish-Hungarian-Palestinian poet and British paratrooper, was arrested in Hungary trying to carry out a double mission. For the British, she and other Palestinian volunteers were to help set up escape routes for downed Allied air-crews who had evaded capture; for the Haganah, the Palestinian-Jewish underground army, she was to help organize Jewish resistance to the Hungarian fascists.

Hannah was born on July 17, 1921 into a prominent acculturated Hungarian-Jewish middle class family. Though she excelled at her Protestant secondary school, she also encountered the institutionalized anti-Semitism of pre-war Hungary. Hannah’s answer was to become an ardent Zionist, intent on settling in Palestine. So in September, 1939, she left Budapest for Palestine with only a basic grasp of Hebrew and no preparation for the arduous physical labor that awaited her in her new home. After completing agricultural training in Nahalal, she joined the newly organized kibbutz, Sedot Yam.

In 1943, motivated by worry for her mother, who was still in Hungary, and by the plight of Europe’s Jews, Senesh accepted an invitation to join a unit being trained by the British Army to parachute into occupied Europe. Hannah and two colleagues parachuted into Yugoslavia in March 1944. She crossed into Hungary the second week of June, but was almost immediately captured by the authorities and imprisoned for six months. Her stay in prison became the stuff of legend; she organized her fellow prisoners, taught them Hebrew, and encouraged them with stories of life in Palestine. Her jailers confronted her with her mother, who was arrested in an attempt to extract information from Hannah. In this, as in all other matters, Hannah stood her ground, and when brought to trial for treason at the end of October, refused to plead guilty and seek clemency. She was executed by a firing squad on November 7, 1944 at the age of 23.

A docudrama about Senesh entitled Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh came out last year (its premiere was held at the Museum). Her story is simultaneously paradigmatic and deeply personal. She is Israel’s most important heroine to emerge from the Second World War: a model of strength and selflessness. Yet despite her fame, Hannah Senesh has never before been the subject of a major exhibition. The Museum plans to fill that void next year. An exhibition about Hannah Senesh and her family, friends, and colleagues will allow us to explore the universal themes of her amazing story, without losing focus on the intensely personal story we are telling.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A New Chapter in Shared History


We were very excited to read about Alysa Stanton, our country's first female African-American rabbi, who was ordained over the weekend. We wish her all the best at her congregation in North Carolina. From what I have read about her compassion and energy, she should be a wonderful leader and an asset to the community. Mazel Tov, Rabbi Stanton.


It is a new chapter in African American and Jewish history, something the Museum of Jewish Heritage is exploring and celebrating this year through our new exhibit, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, and through its accompanying public programs.


In fact, this Wednesday night, the Museum welcomes Joshua Nelson , Neshama Carlebach , and the Green Pastures Baptist Choir for Freedom Songs, an uplifting concert of music inspired by Jewish and African American traditions.


We hope you can join us!




Friday, June 5, 2009

Who is Ariella: Museum Intern?

Today's blog comes from Allison Farber, Museum Educator for New Media.

This summer I am happy to be working with Ariella Goldstein, intern and trivia superstar, who will be a senior at Muhlenberg College in the fall. Ariella appeared on the 2009 Jeopardy! College Championship this past month, where she made it to the semi-finals round, which aired on ABC Monday, May 11. On the Jeopardy! website, you can see a video of her talking about her plans for her future career (which include our Museum*). Ariella will be working on the Museum’s Online Collection by researching artifacts and writing new artifact labels.

Her favorite question that she answered on the Jeopardy! was in the "American Authors" category. The clue read:

"He reviewed films & TV for the New Republic before his first book, Goodbye, Columbus, was published in 1959."

Since she had just read Goodbye, Columbus a few weeks earlier for her Jewish-American writing class, Ariella knew the answer was Philip Roth as two of her favorite books are Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint, both by Philip Roth.

Ariella became interested in history and Jewish studies when she attended Hebrew school as a child. She clearly remembers visiting the Museum of Jewish Heritage on a class trip and staying afterwards with her parents to explore more of the exhibitions. After graduation Ariella would like to work in a Jewish museum or an American cultural history museum writing, researching, and creating exhibitions.

If you are interested in becoming a college intern at the Museum, check out our website for programs and opportunities.

*Communications note: If ever you ever find yourself on national TV, particularly on a show that is an American institution, and are able to mention our Museum, that would be dandy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Baked Goods in the Battery

This is why we love the Battery Park Broadsheet—we learn something new about Lower Manhattan every time we read. So when they wrote about Susan Viola, the head baker at Inatteso Café (which we’ve spoken of glowingly in the past) we were thrilled. We also learned something about Inatteso relevant to our own institution: Ms. Viola’s mother, Hilde Klein, was a Viennese-born Holocaust survivor. The recipes, like those for linzer tortes, sacher tortes, and rugelah came from her. "Hilde was an amazing cook and baker," Susan said.

So if you’re in the mood for some fabulous Viennese pastry after lunch at the Museum’s Heritage Café, check out Inatteso! If you feel like trying your hand at some recipes of your own, check out the Pickman Museum shop for cookbooks with a variety of delicious Jewish recipes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Graduates Today, Interns Tomorrow


Last week, we officially welcomed the 2009 High School Apprentices (HSAPs) into the Museum family at their graduation ceremony, which celebrated the culmination of months of learning.

Attended by about 100 people—family, teachers, staff, and friends—the graduation was a truly proud moment for everyone involved. As is tradition (the program is now in its tenth year) graduates wore white rose corsages, representing The White Rose: a group of young people who stood up against Nazism in Germany during World War II. Mira, who runs the program and works closely with the students throughout their time at the Museum, said “Each week, I have witnessed their poise, charm, intellect, and passion for education and I look forward to seeing the contributions they will make to the Museum this summer.” (So do we!)

The guest speaker was Sally Frishberg. Sally was born in Poland in 1934; during the war she and her family were hidden by her Polish Catholic neighbor for two years. She spoke beautifully, from the heart about the importance of individuals working toward making a difference in the world. She recalled three people who single-handedly made a difference in her own life—the German soldier who warned her father of the impending fate of Poland’s Jews; the man who hid her and 14 other people throughout the war; and a woman on the boat to America, who understood Sally’s need for a simple hug and human kindness, even without even speaking the same language. “I believe in human goodness,” Sally said, “I have to. I have grandchildren, and I did not bring them into a world that is dark and cruel. I brought them into a world that is full of kindness and endless possibility.” Even though I’d heard her speak in the past, when I was a Lipper, I was verklempt.

Sally introduced the HSAP speakers, Yoni and Sara— it was the first time two students have spoken together at an HSAP graduation. They described the internship as “a unique and extraordinary opportunity.” “Tikkun Olam means ‘repair of the world’,” they explained. “We have come together, and we are learning every day about what it truly means to repair our world… we will remember these lessons and we will never forget.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Shana Maidel


This is from our guest blogger and colleague, Alice Rubin, who is currently working on the Keeping History Center, a very cool interactive installation that will open at the Museum in the fall.


Welcome Rebecca Rubin, American Girl’s first Jewish historical doll. Years in the making, Rebecca is from the Lower East side circa 1914. She has a lunch box filled with pickles, a bagel, and rugelach and dreams of being a movie star. The New York American Girl store was abuzz this past Sunday with little girls anxious to meet this Hebrew beauty.


One of those girls was my own “shana maidel,” Dinah (seen here). Our whole family feels a special kinship with Rebecca. Dinah declared that Rebecca looked “just like her” while I thought Rebecca’s hazel eyes were similar to mine and her russet colored hair like my grandma Mildred’s. Rebecca is also, like our family, of Russian-Jewish heritage, emigrating ten or so years after us. (Maybe JewishGen will tell me we really are related!) The most exciting part is sharing a last name with such a famous celebrity.


The author who is writing the Rebecca story series is Jacqueline Dembar Greene. Ms. Greene is noted for both her historical and non-fiction books for young readers. She has written several Jewish themed books including the Sydney Taylor Honor award winning Out of Many Waters. Which brings her full circle - Ms. Taylor wrote the seminal children’s story of immigrant Jewish-American life, All of Kind Family, one of my favorites growing-up.


P.S. Don’t tell Dinah, but guess what Grandma’s getting for her next week for her 7th birthday!


Editor’s note: In an interview with Ms. Greene in "Brooklyn Family" she talks about taking a trip to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in order to do research for Rebecca’s story. It's a great way for your American Girls (and Boys) to learn more about the time period, too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Membership Month

Happy June, everyone! It’s Membership Month here at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. If you become a Member when you visit the Museum in June, in addition to all the nifty perks you normally get, you will receive a free copy of To Life: 36 Stories of Memory and Hope. So what are the usual nifty perks? Let’s just look at a Basic Membership…

• Free admission to the Museum including special exhibitions
• Invitations to exclusive Member events including access to some special exhibitions before they open to the public
• Discounted or waived admission to most of the Museum’s plethora of programs
• 15% discount on all items at the Pickman Museum Shop, from books, to music, to Judaica
• 10% discount at The Heritage Café plus free wifi… okay, the wifi is always free, but it’s still pretty cool
• Subscription to the colorful and informative newsletter and programs calendar
• Invitation to the Annual Members’ Hanukkah Sale
• 2 guest passes, so that you can take friends to the Museum

Other memberships, such as Dual, Family, Senior Citizen, and Young Friends, just to name a few, are also available. For more information about any of these packages, click here.

Memberships can be purchased in the Museum at the admissions desk or in the Pickman Museum Shop. (You can also become a member online, but the aforementioned book offer will not apply.)