Thursday, December 30, 2010

Better than the Super Bowl: It’s a Mah Jongg Marathon!

Mah jongg mavens now have a great excuse to do nothing but play for 6 hours. On February 6, which is Super Bowl Sunday, we’ll be hosting a mah jongg marathon to benefit the Museum of Jewish Heritage. As you may know, mah jongg has a long philanthropic history. We can’t wait to put the fun back in fundraiser!

The day begins at 12 noon and will include special theme hours, prizes, and the chance to play a hand or two with some very special guests. So put the chili in the crock pot and bring your best game face. The marathon will conclude at 6 p.m., just before kick-off. All levels are welcome as is creative dress.

Interested parties should register online or by phone (646.437.4224). You can register with a team or by yourself. Then ask friends and family members to sponsor you. You can even create your own fundraising page and send it out to everyone you know.

For more details contact

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Whoa, That Was Some Storm

We have greeted visitors from Texas and Japan over the past two days and each staff member (those who have managed to get in) has a story of commuting by hurdling drifts or shoveling for hours. It’s a stalwart crew we have down here. But yes, indeed, we are open for business.

The National Museum of the American Indian is also open for business, but you wouldn’t know it based on this photo. Now, in their defense, I took this picture this morning. I’m sure their entrance is shoveled, de-iced, salted, and otherwise pristine by now.

And speaking of our snowy neighbors, I received a really fabulous e-mail from our friends at the Museum at Eldridge Street, letting us know they, too, are open for business. Here’s the pic they sent along that just made me smile.

It’s winter break – visit a Museum. And by the way, our cafe serves hot chocolate.

Hope to see you soon.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yet More Jews and Chinese Food

On Nov. 7 we presented a wonderful program on the fascinating topic of Jews and Chinese food with authors Jennifer 8. Lee, Donald Siegel, and Andrew Coe. Since Dec. 25 is just around the corner, we thought you might be interested in this video Forward reporter Allison Gaudet Yarrow put together about our program. It appears on the Jew and the Carrot Blog on the Forward site.

Just a reminder that we are closed this Dec. 25 (a traditional Jews and Chinese food kind-of-day) because it is Shabbat, but we will be open on Dec. 26 for a day of Mah Jongg Mania. Films for grown ups, games for mavens, crafts for kids, and the café is serving Egg Rolls, Vegetable Lo Mein and some other goodies. We open at 10 a.m.

For our family, friends, and fans celebrating the holiday, we wish you a Chag Sameach.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Culture Exchange

This blog is from Monica, one of our Museum Educators.

On Monday, December 6, 18 students from Trinity-Pawling School in Upstate New York visited the Project Mah Jongg exhibition. These students were part of a Mandarin class that had been studying about the game of mah jongg and its Chinese history. The teacher, Amber Rydberg, saw an ad for the exhibition this summer in Time Out New York and decided to take her students to the Museum to learn about the Jewish history of the game.

Although we’ve had adult groups from all over the country come to see the exhibit, this was the first group of students to visit. I was very excited to work with them. When I started the tour I asked them what they had learned about mah jongg. The students were eager to tell me all about the Chinese history of the game. They explained that they had been studying the game in the class and had learned how to play the game two different ways. The students were able to connect what they learned in class to what they saw in the exhibit. They were drawn to the sets, tiles, and the influence of the game in Jewish culture. After I finished the tour the students sat down to play. They played a Chinese version of the game and the teacher explained how the rules differ from the standard American rules.

Amber said, “It was a wonderful opportunity to compare and contrast cultures and see how Chinese culture has influenced other cultures over the years, especially one in our own back yard. They really enjoyed seeing the different sets of mah jongg and actually getting to play it at the museum!”

All in all it was a learning experience for me as well as for these 18 young men.

Photo by Amber Rydberg of some of the students who came to visit the exhibition.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Caution – Completely Nerdy and Cranky Blog Ahead

Ahh, December and the MTA. Remember 2005 when they were giving holiday bonus rides because of some fabulous surplus? Then the transit union was on strike mere weeks later? Oh, if only this blog existed then…I get misty just thinking about it.

Various fares are scheduled to go up December 30, but in the spirit of the season I want to say something positive about the MTA. Starting last Friday, it is now possible to transfer from Lawrence Street – MetroTech to Jay St. Borough Hall in one fell swoop. It means that all the folks in Brooklyn taking the A, C, or F can transfer to an R, and magically they will be at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in two more stops.

Will this transfer make your Manhattan friends say, “Oh, I heard about this new transfer. I will totally come out to Brooklyn to visit you now.” Probably not, but on the other hand, there are far fewer stairs at this new transfer point than there are at the 9th St-4th Ave stop in Brooklyn when transferring to the F. And if you previously ventured into the outside world to walk between the two downtown Brooklyn stations, you can stay underground and reasonably warm.

And for those of you who just took an F to A and then transferred to a 4 to get to the Museum, an entire train has been eliminated.

During these harsh days of winter it is good to plan ahead so that you spend the least possible amount of time outside. And if you are really cold, look at the information about the increasing fares. That should raise your temperature a few degrees.

Photo: Taken Dec. 21, 2005, this was my traveling outfit during the strike. Santa hat resulted in rides with strangers to work everyday, and kept me warm on the cold walks home.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Feelin' Groovy

Yes, it’s true, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed that the 59th Street Bridge be renamed for his predecessor and one of our founding chairmen, the Honorable Mayor Edward I. Koch. We’re delighted that this honor will be bestowed on Mayor Koch while he is still crossing bridges and can say to a cabbie, “Please take the Koch Bridge!” As Mayor Koch himself acknowledged, “It’s not soaring, beautiful, handsome, like the George Washington or the Verrazano,” he said. “It’s rugged, it’s hard working — and that’s me.”

Also in bridge and tunnel news, the State Legislature is voting to name the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel for former Governor Hugh Carey, who will be turning 92. As tenants of the Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority, we can appreciate the ring of the Carey Tunnel. It sounds very homey and grassroots, like the bridge in my hometown named for Karl L. King, composer of many types of music, including more than 180 marches.

Regardless of your preferred route for interboro transportation, we wish these men and their infrastructures many, many years of longevity.

Photo: Sgt. Edward I. Koch leaving for the United States from Hamburg, Germany, 1946. Collection of Edward I. Koch.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Come Out from the Cold This Winter

We know it is hard to take off your fuzzy slippers during the winter and head outside, but we’ve got some really compelling reasons to get off the couch this season. We’re happy to announce that our January, February, and March programs are now on sale. If you have finished your Hanukkah shopping, please feel free to read ahead. If not, bookmark this link and read it later. Not to nag, but you know Hanukkah is almost over, right?

So, back to winter programming... Foreign film enthusiasts will want to take note of the Museum’s Hungarian film festival featuring several Oscar nominated films. Family fare includes The Hatseller and the Monkeys, a special Tu B’shevat musical storytelling performance, and a funky Purim concert by audience favorite Mama Doni.

Other highlights include: NBC’s Martin Fletcher discussion of his wonderful book Walking Israel with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell; the 30th anniversary screening of the landmark film Playing for Time with cast members and the producer; not to mention a plethora of other films, book talks, theater performances, and exhibition previews.

photo: the poster for Fateless, one of the films that will be shown as part of our Hungarian film festival.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

We wish you an enlightening Festival of Lights and a season of miracles. Normally we like to share a latke recipe or two, but this year we have a more personal gift.

Hannah Senesh, at the age of 12, wrote this Hanukkah poem. The handwritten original is in the Fire in My Heart exhibition, and I particularly enjoy her little calligraphed flourishes between stanzas. The poem was written on Dec. 10, 1933 in Budapest. The translation is by George (Gyorgy) Greskovits.

It is Hanukkah, and the candle flames flare
And all Jewish hearts beat, throb, bare.

We recall the image of heroes
The disappeared ancient peoples.

The period of Pharaohs, the Greek oppression
neither could break our will for expression.

We took the Torah, took it with us
We drew faith from it into all of us.

We walked through the plains hungry and thirsty,
but God was with us, so we were never lonely.

And we who stem from such ancestry
should not despair, but continue to fight
as we are reassured by the candle light;
do not quail Israel, there is still hope.

See all of the poems we printed in conjunction with the exhibition available in the Pickman Museum Shop.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Q&A with Yiddish Performer Extraordinaire Eleanor Reissa

Last week Joseph Berger wrote a really fun piece for the New York Times about how Yiddish is living on in the Catskills. We’d like to point out that you don’t have to go as far as the Catskills for a good, hearty dose of the mama-loshen (mother tongue). The Museum is lucky to be hosting Brooklyn-born Yiddish diva Eleanor Reissa in a fantastic Hanukkah program on December 12. We caught up with her to ask her a few questions.

Museum of Jewish Heritage: What first interested you in Yiddish?

Eleanor Reissa: Yiddish was actually my first language, even though I was born in the U.S. My parents were Holocaust survivors and I had one set of grandparents and they and everyone else seemed to speak Yiddish. I learned English in Kindergarten.

Then in later years, when I started looking for work in the theatre, I saw an ad for a role in a play in Yiddish at Town Hall. I auditioned for that, and the rest is history. I worked with some of the greatest Yiddish actors of our time. They taught me a heck of a lot about Yiddish, about theater, and about being a mensh (kind hearted person).

MJH: What is your favorite Yiddish word or expression?

ER: There are so many great expressions. When faced with a hopeless situation one says: ‘Es vet helfn vi a toytn bankess.’ That means ‘It will help as much as putting leaches on a dead person.’ When you are angry, you can say, ‘Di zolst leybn vi a chandelier; hengen bay tog, in brenen bay nacht.’ It translates to: ‘You should live like a chandelier—hang by day and burn by night.’

MJH: What is your favorite Yiddish song and why?

ER: There are so many great songs. I cannot pick one. There are 50 songs for every mood. They each, in their own way, appeal to an emotion, need, desire, longing, or joke. They run the gamut from aleph to zed. How can you choose your favorite child?

MJH: What is it like to sing for an audience that doesn’t speak the languguage?

ER: It is a challenge to transmit and implant these beautiful gems of this precious, living language in people who are unaware of what is possible. The concert is completely focused on the people that do not understand Yiddish and by the end of the concert, they all think that they understand way more than they thought at first. I think registration at Yiddish classes around the city pick up after these concerts. The language is so accessible and so communicative, it practically speaks by itself.

MJH: What do you wish people knew about Yiddish music?

ER: I wish that people realized that it is a living language, not a dusty old relic that speaks to the past. The lyrics and music are as contemporary and modern as the artist. Yiddish is a language that will welcome you in and make you feel full, as though you just had a good meal...

MJH: What would you like the audience to experience at your concert on December 12?

ER: I want them to light up, to be thrilled at the opportunity of being included in this afternoon with such a great band. Frank London, Brian Drye, Patrick Farrell, Rex Benincasa, and Marty Confurius are extraordinary artists. When I rehearse with them I always feel so lucky to simply be in the room with them and to sing with them is a great gift.

MJH: How do you plan on celebrating Hanukkah this year?

ER: Definitely with latkes — one of my major weaknesses.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Keeping Time with Andy Goldsworthy

Long-time reader, first-time staff blogger Deputy Director Ivy L. Barsky lets us know about a surprise visit from a special guest.

The creative team continues to meet on a regular basis about the concept design for the next phase of the Keeping History Center (KHC). On a break from one of these meetings last month, imagine what it meant to all of us to see Andy Goldsworthy sit down at Timekeeper.

Andy often visits the Museum when he's in the New York vicinity, but he hadn't been by in the last year to see our interactive addition to his New York masterpiece, Garden of Stones. Working with Potion and C&G Partners on Timekeeper, we were all very mindful of Andy and our visitors while we were developing it. Knowing how he cares about time--as much or more of a medium in his work as wood or stone--we were confident that the very notion of Timekeeper would be attractive to him. Nonetheless, the fact that he loves it as much as we do, and even noted what respect it has for the Garden, made us feel pretty good about what we have accomplished.

While the lush trees of summer are gone from the Garden, now is a good time to see fall transition into winter real time, while Timekeeper can take you back through hours, days, weeks and seasons. Scroll back, too, to see the planting of the oak saplings seven years ago. Sadly, a surprising number of those who planted with us are no longer here. But that's just another strong reminder of why we're here, how important it is to remember, and that we are all a vital part of the history we keep.

[Editor's note: You can always keep an eye on the Garden by checking out the daily image.]

Photo of Andy Goldsworthy by Jared Schiffman.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On the Road with Jennifer Roberts

Jennifer Roberts, assistant registrar and mah jongg maven, has written today’s blog describing what is actually involved when we travel an exhibition. Who knew?

Our temporary exhibitions are quickly becoming avid travelers. Traveling an exhibition is a great opportunity to share the stories we tell with audiences across the country. Months of planning and organizing go into preparing an exhibition to travel. The Registrar’s Office oversees many of the tasks including preparing contracts, arranging shipments, and providing detailed installation instructions, all before the exhibit arrives at the next venue. Once the necessary arrangements are made, we head off to the hosting venue to help with the installation.

I recently spent three days in Orangeburg, South Carolina installing Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow at the IP Stanback Museum and Planetarium on the campus of South Carolina State University. Having worked on this particular exhibition since its original installation, I was familiar with all the necessary components, save one: the gallery itself. Each venue has a unique gallery space, meaning that the layout varies from place to place. While these changes present new challenges, they also mean that the exhibit will take on a refreshing transformation in each new space. At the Stanback, the staff had already installed the graphics and empty artifact cases according to their specific floor plan. After answering a few technical questions (and having lunch!) I was free to begin condition reporting, one of my primary responsibilities when traveling with an exhibition. That and acting as a resource for the venue’s staff.

Condition reporting requires examining the artifacts closely and comparing their current condition to the recorded condition from the previous venue to determine if there have been any changes. It can be a long and detailed process, but condition reporting is an important step when installing any exhibition. Once the condition reports were complete, we placed the artifacts on their specially made mounts and placed the artifacts in the cases. After taking a few gallery photos and saying goodbye to my colleagues, I returned to New York confident that the exhibit would be a success in its new location.

Editor’s note: If you’re in South Carolina, see Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow through Jan. 3, 2011. It will be at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie beginning February 3.

Photo by Jennifer Roberts.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Groundbreaking Lanzmann Epic “Shoah” to be Re-Released in Theaters

To mark the 25th anniversary of the release of French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann’s 9.5 hour documentary, Shoah, it will be shown at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and at the IFC Center in December. Some of you may recall that in 2005, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the film, Claude Lanzmann made a rare New York appearance at the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. We screened Shoah as well as his film Pourquoi Israel? While here he also hosted a very special master class for filmmakers that week.

The movie does not use historical footage, rather it is a compilation of one-on-one interviews not only with Holocaust survivors, but with witnesses and accomplices. During our screening David Marwell said, “We are honored to be the host for the 20th anniversary of this landmark film. Shoah has had a profound impact on the way people look at the Holocaust. Claude Lanzmann opened the door for filmmakers to deal with the Holocaust in a serious and unflinching way.”

Interestingly, a statement is attributed to Mr. Lanzmann on the Arts Beat blog of the New York Times, in which he says: “Museums come to terms with death and institute forgetting as well as memory. On the contrary, ‘Shoah,’ because it is an incarnation, because nothing will ever replace Abraham Bomba’s tears, Filip Müller’s reverberating voice, or the minute-by-minute description of the executions in Treblinka by the Unterscharführer Franz Suchomel or Polish train conductor Henrik Gavkowski, ‘Shoah’ is an absolute barricade, the true wall against oblivion.”

I was chatting with David about this interpretation of museums like ours. David and Claude spent quite a bit of time together during the week of screenings in 2005 so I wasn’t surprised when David said, “While I know that Claude Lanzmann delights in being provocative, his comment on museums is simply wrong (at least in the context of our Museum). There is really no denying that we stand with him at the barricade and contribute essential fortification against forgetting.”

It's our blog, so we get the last word.
Photo courtesy New Yorker Films

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Go-To Book for the People of the Book

Every once in a while a book comes along that captures the wisdom of the ages. The Big Jewish Book For Jews: Everything You Need to Know to be a Really Jewish Jew may not do that exactly, but no matter what your level of observance, it will make you laugh out loud at appropriate and inappropriate moments. Do not attempt to read this book while drinking an egg cream unless you want bubbles up your nose.

Authors Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman, the force behind the classic humor books Yiddish with Dick and Jane and How to Raise a Jewish Dog, offer invaluable instruction on such topics as how to purchase, make, and serve too much food, how to build an ark, how to play mah jongg, and how not to accept the first table you’re shown at a restaurant. Luckily, the authors will be at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on December 5 at 1 p.m. to set us all straight. Tickets are only $5. Members get in for free.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Avoid the Mishegaas*—Shop Online

If you are anything like me, you are starting to panic that Hanukkah is just around the corner. You probably have yet to buy bubkes ** and don’t know where you will find the time to do so between now and December 1. Luckily, you can trade your guilt for gelt and quickly. The Pickman Museum Shop has just expanded its online offerings.

There is something for everyone on your list, even your picky nieces and nephews. One of my favorite items includes the Shalom Sesame Hanukkah DVD starring Jeremy Miller from Growing Pains. It features “Dreidel of Fortune,” and a hilarious cameo by Joan Rivers. Pair it with some Jewish silly bandz and you will once again be the cool aunt or uncle.

For hard-to-shop for mothers- and sisters-in law, there are terrific mah jongg inspired gifts including custom mah jongg sets, cocktail napkins, and jewelry. Speaking of jewelry, we also carry Michal Negrin’s beautiful line. Fathers, brothers, and husbands will appreciate a wide assortment of books that range from presidential history to the cultural history of chop suey and beyond.

Shop now and receive free shipping through December 15. See the website for details.

(Yiddish translations according the The Joys of Yiddish: * craziness; ** literally beans, figuratively nothing)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring Our Veterans

Ever since we began work on Ours To Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War in 1999, veterans have had a special place in my heart. I often write blogs about active duty personnel, but I wanted to say a little something about the great men and women we met during the project.

As Robert Morgenthau wrote in his introduction to the exhibition’s companion volume Ours To Fight For: American Jewish Voices from the Second World War, there is an intimate connection between the stories told in our Core Exhibition and the stories told in Ours To Fight For. “Those who survived the Holocaust would not be able to tell their story if it had not been for the men and women who served.”

Bernard Branson, a gunner in the U.S. Army Air Corps, was one of these people. He told us about a request from a Lt. Levine. “He asked all of us to give up our dog tags… he could change the 'H' on our dog tags for Hebrew to either 'C' or 'P' for Protestant or Catholic… my feeling was I wanted those sons of bitches to know that the bombs that were dropping, there was a Jew up there doing it.”

Judge Burton Roberts, who recently passed away, remembered arriving in Anzio. He was told how fortunate he was to be joining a division that had “200 percent casualties.” He recalled: “So I was trying to figure out…that means that you get wounded once or you get wounded twice or you get killed once, and then you get killed a second time.” He went on to see action as an infantryman, rescued comrades under fire, was wounded, and received two Bronze Stars for valor.

We also met the irascible Pearl Scher who was stationed as a Marine at Camp Lejeune, NC, and says that being in the service taught her “how to be a Jew.”

These three stories are taken from interviews with more than 400 Jewish vets of World War II. WWII veterans are passing away at the same rate as survivors. Ours To Fight For provides a tremendous service by permitting men and women of that generation to talk about their experiences, and to share those experiences with their families.

You can get to know some of these vets on the Ours To Fight For site. Our exhibition opens today at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. It is on view until May 8, 2011.

Wherever you are today, I hope you will take some time to think about our veterans, not only the ones from WWII, but from all wars and conflicts, whether fought long ago or the ones still being waged.

Photo: Graduation Day at Thunderbird Field. Collection of Philip Topiel

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hannah Senesh Remembered

In light of Hannah Senesh’s yahrzeit, Shalom TV will be airing Hannah Senesh Remembered, a special feature on view through December 4th throughout the United States and in Canada. This program will feature films created for our exhibition by award-winning documentarian Roberta Grossman.

Visit and click on "Find Us" for station information. The program can also be found in the category of "Judaism and Culture" on Free on Demand television. We are grateful to Shalom TV for marking the occasion of Hannah's death by celebrating her life.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Educating Educators and Saying Thanks

We are wrapping up a very exciting and educational week at the Museum. On Tuesday, we welcomed more than 200 educators for an annual Professional Development Day. Those gathered watched A Film Unfinished, a documentary that examines a film made in 1942 in the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazis as well as footage discovered later that showed how the propaganda was staged. MJH archivist and curator Bonnie Gurewitsch led the post-film discussion.

That afternoon Judith Cohen, Director, Photographic Reference Collection at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, led a discussion of work by Jewish photographers, revealing how important these pictures are when teaching about Holocaust history. The perspective captured by Jews with cameras is far different than the story told by Nazi photographers, she explained. A quiet but important addition to the audience was two people signing, provided by the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Sign Language Interpreting Services.

The day’s instruction was made possible, in part, by a generous gift from the Young Friends of the Museum.

And on Wednesday night we hosted our annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner, honoring our more than 250 volunteers who donate at a minimum, 45,000 hours annually. We don’t say it enough, but we could not do the work we do without our volunteers. The dinner was preceded by a book fair featuring authors from our Speakers Bureau and Gallery Educator corps. It was such a success, we want to plan a larger one in the future that will enable visitors to meet our Museum family and learn about their stories. Stay tuned.

Photo: Surveying curriculum between speakers. Photo by Caroline Earp.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Downtown Deal for Tourists

The Museum of Jewish Heritage and some of our other neighbors are rolling out the welcome mat for tourists this fall and winter. We are very excited to be taking part in the Downtown Culture Pass. The Culture pass is a three-day ticket that provides admission, shop discounts and other benefits at eight Lower Manhattan museums plus historic tours from Wall Street Walks.

Participating organizations include the Fraunces Tavern Museum, Museum of American Finance, Museum of Jewish Heritage, National Museum of the American Indian, The New York City Police Museum, 9/11 Memorial Preview Site, The Skyscraper Museum, Tribute WTC Visitor Center, and Wall Street Walks.

For the single price of $25 for adults (18+), $15 for youths (13-17) and $5 for children (6-12), the Downtown Culture Pass will grant each ticket holder unlimited admission and/or other discounted benefits for three full days to any and all participating museums, plus discounted tours conducted by Wall Street Walks. The pass may be purchased online at, or in person at the Museum of American Finance or here at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

If you are reading this and you are a tourist, be sure to plan your trip soon. The deal runs through February 28. If you are a local, please pass this onto your friends and families who may be visiting you this holiday season.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why Go to Vermont for Foliage? Come to Battery Park City Instead

It's true. This is the current view outside of the Museum. Sure, we usually talk about the sunsets over the water, but for the past couple of weeks we have been treated to this gorgeous display of color.

As a fan of fall, I delight in being greeted by ever-changing tones and hues each morning. I plan to store the memory for the future, when the bare trees stand guard in the frozen days of January.

Until then, enjoy the portrait of Mother Nature, courtesy of Caroline Earp.

Good Fortune

This weekend, we invite you to partake in an important Sunday ritual with us--eating delicious Chinese food. As part of our Jews and Chinese Food day, which features a lively panel discussion and walking tour of Chinatown, Esprit Events Catering will be selling delectable Kosher Chinese cuisine in the café. Don't moo goo gai pan-ic. Plan your trip now.

Friday, October 29, 2010

How Tweet It Is

The Museum of Jewish Heritage is now on Twitter. Follow us and learn about ticket offers, sightings of the Sad Panda, and other tweet-worthy events. If you performed here, attended a program or exhibition here, or rollerbladed by us, follow along. If you have suggestions of folks we should follow, send them along in a comment below.

We are MJHNews. We promise not to Tweet too often, but if we are overtaken by a pun we just have to share, look out.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Overheard in the Gallery

Every now and then we like to share with you interactions we hear in the gallery. Today’s tidbit is relayed by Bonnie Unger, Museum Educator for Internships, who was walking through the galleries with a group of 2nd graders from P.S. 149 in Brooklyn.

Bonnie: What language do you see on the wall? [Note to reader, it was Hebrew.]

2nd Grader: Florida.

It just made us smile.

Photo: The Marine Terrace Hotel in Miami, Florida, 1940s. Gift of Henry Weintraub

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Around the World in Thirty Days

We just wanted to point out that our November calendar is particularly diverse. In just one month we will be exploring the culture, food, history, and people of Italy, China, Austria, America, and Hungary. Tickets for all programs are $10 or less. We’ll even check your bags for free, and our café fare is superior to anything you’d get in the airport. Thank you for flying downtown.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We Knew Her When!

Today I had lunch with the author of The Bookseller’s Sonnets, a fabulous mystery that follows the journey of an artifact from Tudor England through Nazi Germany to present day New York City. The artifact in question, a diary written by the daughter of Sir Thomas More, counsel to Henry VIII, lands on the desk of a curator at the not at all fictional Museum of Jewish Heritage. If you enjoyed Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book or Dara Horn’s The World To Come, this is your kind of read.

Andi Rosenthal, MJH Communications Department Alumna (1999-2004), is the author of the book and I am interviewing her this Sunday at 1 p.m. During our lunch in The Heritage Café, we discussed the little known historical figure of Margaret More, who was just as educated as her brothers since her father was dedicated to knowledge and couldn’t fathom depriving his girls of an education.

Margaret and Daniel, the Jewish bookseller who befriends her, have the kind of relationship that I can see on screen or performed as an opera. Forbidden love never gets old. And neither do books about museums in Lower Manhattan that examine the Holocaust within the context of 20th century Jewish life.

We’re going to have a great conversation on Sunday. Join us!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mah Jongg is not just for Grandmas

The Wall Street Journal has just published this fantastic article about hip, young women who play mah jongg. The article mentions that at a certain museum (ours), staff members play during their lunch hour and even go to cool bars and cafés in Brooklyn to play and drink wine or old fashioned cocktails. I think it is safe to say that it’s all true.

Despite my mom’s original misgivings when I started playing 10 years ago that my love for the game meant I was destined turn into my grandmother at a young age, as the Journal reports, the game is experiencing some new popularity among my peers, none of whom will be retiring in Florida anytime soon. I can see why. The game makes for a great night out or night in. I also have to mention that it makes for a really cool exhibit, and a terrific Hanukkah gift for the hipster in your life.

*Image: Courtesy of Ruth Unger, President, National Mah Jongg League. Photograph by James Shanks Photography

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Free Inspiring Film

This is from Lisa who watches a lot of documentaries, so she knows a really wonderful one when she sees it.

If you’re looking for an inspiring film to see, please come to the Museum this Wednesday evening, October 20, for a special free screening of Teenage Witness: The Fanya Heller Story.

In this documentary, Ms. Heller recounts her Holocaust experiences to inner-city teenagers who are themselves struggling with very harsh existences. I saw this documentary when it aired on PBS last spring and was completely drawn in and moved by how Ms. Heller and these teenagers connect with each other in such a deep and empathetic way about struggle, survival, and hope.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Up In The Air

Elissa Schein is the director of public programs. She had a rather unique experience last week and we asked her to share it with us.

Every day as I approach the Museum on foot, I marvel at its beautiful architecture and privileged location on the water overlooking the Statue of Liberty. I never get tired of the views from our windows. For the last eight years I have watched the river in all its moods and seasons, and marveled at the dwarf oak trees that have taken root in our Garden of Stones. Our Museum seems to have organically grown from this soil, the stone walls and hexagonal shape in understated contrast to the vertical skyline of Manhattan in the distance. The Robert M. Morgenthau Wing, the newest addition to the Museum and the first construction project to break ground in this downtown neighborhood after 9/11, stands with dignity and resolve on the shoreline.

Last week I had the rare opportunity to fly over the Museum in a helicopter as part of a film shoot. We flew down from upstate NY along the Hudson River, on a picture perfect late fall afternoon. At around 5 PM, just as the beautiful late afternoon light began to take hold, we approached lower Manhattan and the Museum came into view. I saw the horizontal lines of the building and beautiful landscaping from an entirely new perspective, and smiled thinking about all my friends and colleagues, and how that lovely place has changed my life.

There was a figure perched on the rooftop of the Museum. Standing there was our chairman, Robert M. Morgenthau, the subject of an upcoming documentary and the reason for the film shoot. The cameraman focused on this distant spot, with Robert M. Morgenthau saluting the helicopter as we passed overhead. We rounded the Statue of Liberty flying low, within just a few feet of that indomitable lady, and approached the Museum again. I could swear that I saw her wink at me as we went past, maybe even saluting back to Mr. Morgenthau with a slight dip of her torch as if to say, "Keep up the good work." We seem a perfect match, Lady Liberty and New York's Living Memorial to the Holocaust, good neighbors engaged in a perpetual dialogue, providing a sacred space, and inspiring many generations with an enduring message of hope for our future.

One of my friends, Caroline Earp, was also looking out at me from inside the Museum as we flew by, and snapped this picture of the helicopter which she sent to me afterwards with the following message: "Can you believe you are in there?"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Much More about Hannah Senesh

This week's curator talk with Dr. Louis Levine about Fire in My Heart: The Story of Hannah Senesh was just fascinating, but if you didn’t get a chance to see it, or if it left you wanting to know even more, we’d like to recommend two options. We just launched a beautiful website where you can read Hannah’s poetry, explore artifacts, view a timeline of Hannah’s life, and much more. We’d also like to invite you to view the award-winning documentary Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh at the Museum on October 31, November 21, 28, or December 19. There will be two screenings each day at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The film is free with admission. Click here for the full public programs schedule.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


We are happy to announce that the Heritage Café has a brand new gourmet dairy* menu complete with freshly baked croissants, sushi, quiche, pressed paninis, bagels and cream cheese, made-to-order breakfast burritos, macaroni and cheese, fancy salads, lattes, and more.

Stop by for a nosh created by Esprit Events Catering and your stomach will go from oy vey to joy vey!

All dishes are carefully prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws and certified Cholov Israel by the Orthodox Union.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Coming Down to the Wire

The final days before an exhibition opens are always quite exciting, and this week before the opening of Fire in My Heart: The Story of Hannah Senesh has been no exception. Lou Levine, curator and project director, while preparing two lectures to present to Gallery Educators about Hannah’s life, took time out to record the audio for the 14 artifact explorations that will be on the website.

We chose artifacts from Hannah’s childhood and adolescence in Budapest, her young adulthood in the Land of Israel, and a few items from her mission to Hungary. No photos of Hannah exist once she was captured, so we set the mood with, among other things, the last note she wrote to her mother.

The artifact explorations give us the opportunity to present more detail about an object or a photo, the kind of information that there is never enough room to include in the exhibition. While listening to Lou talk about the artifacts, I learned things that I just wouldn’t know otherwise.

For instance, there is a picture of Hannah and her brother Gyuri (Giora) taken in Tel Aviv in February 1944. It is the last picture taken of them, and it is the last time they see each other. When Gyuri received the photo, he inscribed the back of the photo: “How good and pleasant it is for siblings to be together. February 1944 Tel Aviv” and sent it to Hannah. She responded: “How good! Hannah 1944 March 10,” and returned the photo to him. Although the photo, which captures a smiling pair of siblings sharing what only siblings can know, had been published often, the original photo was discovered in Gyuri’s desk after his death in 1995. Only in researching this exhibition did Lou discover the inscriptions on the back of the photo.

This Wednesday, when the exhibition opens to the public, Lou will be giving a talk about Hannah at 7 p.m. where he will reveal more of what he discovered while researching the short but intriguing life of Hannah Senesh. Save the date.

Photo: Hannah Senesh and her brother Gyuri (Giora), Tel Aviv, 1944. Collection of the Senesh Family.

Monday, October 4, 2010

November and December Programs Now on Sale

If you like laughter, mah jongg, Chinese food, family fun, and Yiddish songs, and you crave compelling books, beautiful films, and provocative plays, thoughtful conversations, and important new scholarship, you’ll love the new season of public programs at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. I don’t want to give everything away —don’t you hate when a movie preview does that? — but it is sure to be a busy couple of months.

Photo: Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, will be one of the speakers at Jews and Chinese Food on November 7.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Over Ninety and Nifty

We’re kvelling, but not at all surprised, that according to New York Magazine two of the most influential New Yorkers over the age of 90 are members of the Museum of Jewish Heritage family. We’d like to offer a hearty Mazel Tov to our chairman Robert M. Morgenthau and to journalist and philanthropist Ruth Gruber. Learn more about Mr. Morgenthau in our special exhibition The Morgenthaus: A Legacy of Service. For more on Dr. Gruber, check out the new film about her life, Ahead of Time.

photo by Jake Chessum

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jews and Baseball

I preface this blog with the following disclaimer: I did not grow up in a baseball household, but I did live in Los Angeles in 1974, so l do remember that sunny late afternoon when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run against the Dodgers, tying the Babe’s record, and I recall that same season when Mr. Brownlee, our social studies teacher, let us listen in class to the Dodgers when they played the Oakland A’s in the World Series.

This is the foundation on which my baseball knowledge is built. Yet, I so adored the movie Jews and Baseball at the Museum Sunday, I can only imagine what a true devotee would think. Well actually, I have a clue. A scholar (or was he a sports writer?) informs us early in the film that baseball can be found in the Bible. In fact, it is the very first sentence of Genesis… "In the big inning…”

We hear from rabbis, historians, journalists, baseball icons, their children and grandchildren and even more personalities who talk about what it was like to be Jewish and love baseball. These scenes are artfully juxtaposed with interviews with Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax as they tell what it was like to be Jewish and PLAY baseball. Hearing in their own words how they made their decisions not to play ball on Yom Kippur was as enlightening as it was entertaining.

Rabbi Michael Paley comments on the similarities between Judaism and baseball. He likens the optimism of Judaism to spring training. The ethical affirmations of Judaism (having faith despite knowing there is evil in the world) is the spiritual equivalent of “We’ll get ‘em next year.” The values transmitted through Judaism from generation to generation are not unlike transmitting the love of the game from one generation to the next. The most prevalent theme, perhaps, was taking pride in what the Jewish people have achieved, especially if one of them became the youngest person inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (Sandy Koufax, at age 36 years and 20 days).

On Sunday it didn’t rain, the film was great, the house was nearly sold-out, and there were baseball-inspired snacks – it was a grand slam. If you missed the film here, our friends at the JCC of Manhattan are showing it Oct. 5 and it opens in wide release Nov. 5. Consider taking a Met fan; she could probably use a good laugh right about now.

Photo of Sandy Koufax.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Neighbor

We wanted to wish the Museum of Chinese in America a very happy anniversary. You can celebrate with them today. They are offering free admission through 5 p.m. They are also giving away gifts throughout the day including 2 –for- 1 passes for future visits, mooncakes for the first 100 visitors, and other special surprises.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Get your cold beer and hot dogs here!

We’re happy to announce that this Sunday’s screening of Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story will include some very special guests. Esprit Events Catering will be selling kosher hot dogs, beer, and soda in the lobby before and after the program.

Play ball!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We Are the People in Your Neighborhood

Before the rain chased us and all of our events calendars away, Lisa, Betsy, Ginny, and I spent a good portion of last Sunday at the Battery Park City Block Party. Because this is Battery Park City, the block party took place next to the marina just across the street from the Winter Garden. This is our neighborhood after all.

This coming Sunday (9-19), meet the whole Communications staff, including Keika, when we hang out with our friends at Harmony on the Hudson, the annual day-long family music festival presented by the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy. There will be music by Tom Chapin and Friends, the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra will crank up the big band and swing tunes, there will be art activities and games for kids, and if you’ve never seen the Double Dutch Divas perform their wild, heart stopping jump rope acrobatics, you won’t want to miss it. Just watching them is an aerobic activity. The festivities begin at 1 p.m.

This weekend’s gateway to fun is in Robert Wagner Park, so if you’re planning a visit to the Museum to see David Marwell interview Thomas Buergenthal at 2:30, stop by our table and say hello.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Spectacular Sukkot

New York Magazine is sponsoring a really cool sukkah design contest. Architects from all over the world submitted their designs and they range from simple and modern meditation huts to whimsical and over-the-top Doctor Seuss inspired structures. The top 12 will be displayed in Union Square September 19 and
2oth. Check out the designs and cast your vote. The sukkah with the most votes will be displayed in Union Square through October 2.

Seen here: one of my favorites, Shim Sukkah by tinder, tinker, Sagle, Idaho
Image courtesy of Sukkah City

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ahead of Time

Now that the Rosh Hashanah dishes are clean and put away, it is a great time to go to the movies and learn about a truly remarkable woman, Ruth Gruber. The Angelika Film Center is showing a documentary about her life, entitled Ahead of Time, through September 16. Click here to learn more and to watch the trailer or click here to read the review in the New York Times.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Jewish History on the South American Slopes

This blog comes from one of our Gallery Educators, Joy Rosenberg, who just took a fascinating ski trip to Chile where she encountered some very interesting Jewish history in unlikely places. This is just one of her stories.

Last month 15 members of my ski club flew 11 hrs to Santiago, Chile and then drove 1 hour up into the Andes mountains to the Valle Nevado ski resort, one of South America’s premier skiing areas. Our summer is their winter. We were thrilled to leave behind a sweltering heat wave and trade it in for cloudless blue skies and abundant sun shining down on magnificent mountains buried in tons of pristine white snow.

In Valle Nevado my ski instructor was Alberto Stern Britzmann whose father, Eduardo Stern Honig, was the visionary who built the Valle Nevado ski resort 22 years ago. For 2 hours, while skiing, I was enthralled by this young man’s amazing story, beginning with his grandparents’ (both maternal and paternal) escape from Nazi Germany in early 1939. Alberto’s parents were avid skiers and both studied architecture in the Universidad de Chile. It was his father’s dream to build a ski resort there. Eduardo went to France to study mountain architecture where he met up with a French group who were developing the Les Arcs ski resort in the French Alps. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with cancer. After receiving treatment in New York, he was told he should return to his beloved Chile to die peacefully. He did return but upon being home, he rallied. Before he died in 2000, Eduardo was able to successfully fulfill his dream of building Valle Nevado.

This image is of a memorial to Eduardo Stern Honig.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What We’re Cooking Up for the New Year

We always try to provide a recipe around the holidays to share in the communal spirit. This Rosh Hashanah is no exception, except there is a twist. The recipe comes from a brand new cookbook, written by MJH supporter extraordinaire June Hersh, that combines so many wonderful ingredients that we wanted you to get a sneak peek. Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival (Ruder Finn 2010), began, as June tells us, as a book of recipes, but became a book of stories documenting remarkable people and their ability to nurture and nourish their families despite their own unimaginable experiences.

How is this cookbook different from all other cookbooks? There are inspiring stories of Holocaust survivors who share memories of unforgettable meals that they recall from childhood…right down to the bisel of salt. Their recipes are included, as well as creative takes on these culinary gems by Daniel Boulud, Arthur Schwarz, and Joan Nathan and others.

What can we say? It’s food for the soul. Learn more about this exciting project.

Our holiday offering is Sally Rosenkranz’s Honey Cake. Sally, from Radom, Poland, was 13 when she was taken to the camps. She was liberated at Bergen-Belsen, and after the war met fellow survivor, Sol Rosenkranz. They moved to Stuttgart when Sally discovered she still had family there. Her mother died in the Holocaust, but Sally learned how to cook and bake from her Aunt Toby, always refining her own creations, according to her daughter, Rita. Much more of Sally and Sol’s story can be found in the book.

Yields: Two 9-inch Loaves, 12 to 16 slices each
Start to Finish: Under 1 ½ hours
½ cup brewed coffee, cooled
3 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon powdered cloves (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons powdered ginger (optional)
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups dark honey
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped walnuts or almonds
1 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease two 9-inch loaf pans or a 16 x 11 x 4-inch baking pan. Brew the coffee and set it aside to cool.

In a medium bowl sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs on medium speed, gradually adding the sugar and beating for several minutes, until the mixture turns a pale yellow. Beat in the oil, honey and cooled coffee. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, beating on low speed to prevent the flour from flying out of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium and beat for several minutes, until a smooth thick batter is formed. Stir the chopped nuts into the batter. If adding raisins, stir them in at this time.

Fill the prepared pans halfway with batter. The cake rises considerably when baking. (Any extra batter can be used to make delicious muffins). Bake at 325 degrees for 1 to 1¼ hours until the top of the cake is a cinnamon brown, but not burnt, and a bamboo skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before slicing.

We wish you and yours a sweet new year.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

NYPD Prepares for the Holidays

Artifacts from the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s collection were on display at the Police Department City of New York’s High Holy Days briefing this week at One Police Plaza. Police Commissioner Hon. Raymond W. Kelly and Chief Chaplain Rabbi Dr. Alvin Kass offered remarks, among others.

Photo by Jennifer Roberts

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Holiday Season at the Museum

While there is a lot to celebrate this fall at the Museum of Jewish Heritage including new exhibitions, family programs, parties, performances, and baseball season, we’d like you to be aware of our holiday hours before you plan your trip to see us. The Museum will close at 3 p.m. on September 8, 17, 22, and 29 and will be closed on September 9, 10, 23, 24, and 30, and October 1. We suggest you visit early and often, especially if you’d like to shop at the Pickman Museum Shop for something special for the holidays.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Now in 3-D

This post is from our web and technology-savvy colleague Allison.

The Museum’s Online Collection just got a bit more interesting with the inclusion of 3D artifacts and page flipping books. Museum staff chose some of our most visually interesting and powerful artifacts to display as 3D objects. Now you can spin and zoom into this double-decker Hanukkah menorah used by two families during World War I or flip through a chilling children’s book designed to teach anti-Semitism. Discover these and other 3D artifacts and books here. Other improvements to the website include the ability to see if an artifact is on display in the museum, better searching capability, and the option to share interesting artifacts on Facebook, Twitter, or on another social media platform.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Something Old to Look Like New

We’re very happy to announce that the Museum was just chosen for a 2010 Conservation Treatment Grant Award that will go toward conservation of wedding contracts (ketubbot). The treatment is to be done by paper conservator Caroline Rieger at Rieger Art Conservation. A ketubbah can be a simple paper or very elaborate hand-painted work, but they are always precious in the eyes of their owners and to our Museum which celebrates Jewish culture and continuity.

*image: just one of the many ketubbot in our collection. Learn more about this and other items in the collection.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bidding a Fond Farewell

Today is the last day to see Egon Schiele’s “Portrait of Wally,” here at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. After tonight at 8 p.m., the famous painting will be sent to Vienna where it will reside at the Leopold Museum. If you are curious about Wally’s background, there will be a fascinating panel discussion tonight featuring some art restitution experts who will trace the painting’s past and put it into historical context.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Community Service Project

This blog is from Devina, our intern this week.

Every summer, the HSAPS organize and take part in a community service project. This year we met with Holocaust survivors from a group called Self Help for a day of tours, games, and companionship. As we walked through the Museum, my partner for the afternoon told me her story and how she believes that she is the youngest survivor of Auschwitz. I was in shock that she wanted to explore the 2nd floor (which deals with The War against the Jews) of the Museum after I gave an overview of all floors. She doesn’t have any children because she was afraid that they would face the same kind of anti-Semitism that she did . There’s no one to continue speaking about her after she passes, but I told her I would carry on her story and tell those who are willing to listen.

The community service project was a great way for us to interact with and get to know survivors. Throughout the internship, we have heard a survivor speak every week, and there have been so many different views and stories of this horrible time. The project showed me personally that although survivors have been through so much hardship, they can still have a positive outlook . They enjoyed playing Pictionary with us, they were really engaging, and they also shared funny stories. I want to thank the Community Service committee (Rebecca, Javier, Jairo, Freddy, and Mayra) for allowing me and my fellow HSAPs to be a part of their project.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Welcome to A Taste of Our Heritage

This blog is from our HSAP of the week, Laila. In addition to being a big help to the Communications department this week, we very much enjoyed her cooking, too.

This year the High School Apprentices chose to share their heritage in a language that everyone speaks--food!

The 15 HSAPS come from all different countries around the world including China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Jamaica, Colombia, Ecuador, and many more. But, since we’re all so busy, we don’t get to learn much about each other.. So, every year the HSAPs plan an event that celebrates heritage. This year, we all brought food that we feel represents our background. We also brought in an artifact and music to complement our food offering. Each HSAP’s display included their traditional dish, the artifact, and the flag of their country, or in my case… flags. I am of Dominican and Egyptian descent. To illustrate both of my cultures I brought in an Egyptian artifact and Dominican food. I brought in a miniature Sphinx because as soon as someone sees a sphinx or a pyramid, they automatically think of Egypt. I also brought mashed plantains with fried cheese to share. This food definitely represents my Dominican heritage because when I go to the Dominican Republic, this is all I eat for breakfast and sometimes dinner. Also, I have tons of plantains growing in the back of my house in Dominican Republic. I was worried that no one would like it but it turned out to be a hit.

I think “A Taste of Our Heritage” took us out of our comfort zones, in a good way. Sampling all of the different foods helped us learn a lot about each other, which was our ultimate goal. Unfortunately, this event leaves us on a bittersweet note since the summer is close to an end, and we will soon have to part from each other. But, as a happy reminder of our global feast, we collected the recipes and created our own cookbook to keep.

Kudos to the heritage event committee: Oseia, Devina, Siddiqa, Haja, and Ollie and our program leaders Jamie and Bonnie.

Photo of the HSAPS. Laila is in front in the red dress.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

September-October Programs Announced

We just announced our September and October public programs, and it is sure to be a thought-provoking New Year at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Whether you enjoy baseball, science, fashion, mah jongg, or kids programming, there is something for every interest. Check out the schedule and purchase your tickets early as many programs sell out in advance.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Who Is That Gorgeous Redhead?

Wally’s arrival last week was very exciting, to be sure. Highlights include seeing the portrait for the first time as it was handed over from Immigration Customs Enforcement to the Leopold Foundation, admiring the delicacy of the brushstrokes, and watching it be hung with the greatest of care on our third floor. We even managed to get a non-flash photo with three of our four staff redheads next to it.

Following the dramatic ceremony held here last Thursday there was a long line to see the painting; it extended far into The Morgenthaus: A Legacy of Service. The week’s activities were chronicled by a documentary film crew that has been working on the film for at least three years. In fact they came here to film in 2008, long before we knew Wally would be visiting.

Members of the staff who attended the ceremony last week told me they felt like they were a part of history, but my favorite line was this: “I went home and told my mom how that moment was going to stay with me.” It was definitely a day that reminded us why we do the work we do.

There has been a lot of press generated by the ceremony, and I invite you to Google, Bing, or Yahoo “Portrait of Wally” to read it. I warn you, however, that if you do an image search of Portrait of Wally on you will be shown an image of Wally from Scott Adams’ cartoon Dilbert, and that just made me laugh out loud. It also made me appreciate that the world is full of interesting connections, including those I would not necessarily make myself.

Photo of speakers from the ceremony held last week. From left: Robert Morgenthau, Andre Bondi, Howard Spiegler, Ray Kelly, Jim Hayes, Preet Bharara, David Marwell. Photo by Melanie Einzig.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Portrait of Wally" On View for a Limited Time

You may be wondering why the blog has been quiet for the past few days. We’ve been gearing up for a very exciting guest who is arriving this Thursday. Egon Schiele’s Portrait of Wally will be on display at the Museum of Jewish Heritage from July 29-August 18. Abby will post some behind-the-scenes stories soon, but trust us, you should go ahead and plan your trip to the Museum to see the portrait before it goes back to Austria in a few weeks.

caption and credit:
Egon Schiele
(Tulln 1890 - 1918 Wien)
Bildnis Wally Neuzil, 1912
Portrait of Wally Neuzil, 1912
Öl auf Holz
Oil on wood
32,7 x 39,8 cm
Leopold Museum, Vienna

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stepping Back into History

This blog is from William, our intern this week.

One of the perks of working as an HSAP is that we go on a trip every week. Whether it’s The Jewish Museum or a ferry ride to Liberty Island, each of these trips has some connection to Jewish heritage and more importantly, to our own thoughts and impressions. This past week, we went to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. I was especially excited about this trip because not only do I live on the Lower East Side, I live very close to this museum and as a neighborhood resident, I felt a special connection to the trip. I came to America at a very young age and the Lower East Side is all that I’ve ever known. Growing up in an apartment, I was very fortunate because most of my mom’s friends did, in fact, live in tenements. When we visited them, we would all squish together into a small room of a two-room apartment occupied by 10. To say that I felt uncomfortable would be an understatement. So as you can imagine, going on a tour of the Tenement Museum was a big deal for me. I’ve been on the tour a couple of times but each time I visit, I always learn something different, discover something new, and see something I’ve never seen before.

During the tour, we got to see what it was like to actually live in a tenement back in the day. Through buildings preserved for educational purposes from decades ago, we were able to go into three different tenements. When I was standing in one of the tenements, I actually felt as if I went back several decades years and experienced what these people had to go through. Russians, Germans, and all different groups of people were forced to live together, to work and respect each other all for one common goal-- the hope for a better life. This reminded me of the Museum’s mission of tikkun olam, (repair of the world). Repairing the world doesn’t have to mean huge group efforts ; it can be the little things like helping an elderly person carry the groceries or even saying “good morning” to a neighbor. These small random acts of kindness are what make this world a beautiful place and a hopeful one. That’s basically what the people living in tenements did for each other. When the tour was over, I wasn’t inspired or especially moved, but I felt blessed. Seeing what people had to deal with in the past made complaining about how bad my room is seem so selfish and ignorant. I guess ignorance really isn’t bliss.

Overall, the trip was a great experience because I was able to see what a tenement really was , and why it’s considered a historical landmark today. What I find especially amazing is that though the Lower East Side as well other areas in NYC are going through gentrification, there are landmarks such as the Tenement Museum that never let us forget our history. Lastly, realizing all the hardships people were able to overcome, if we take the chance to change circumstances, imagine all we could do.