Friday, January 29, 2010

The Perfect Pitch with PR Icon Howard J. Rubenstein

Today's blog comes from Rachel Weiss, our development colleague, who is the Assistant Director of Development for Young Leadership & Donor Relations.

Wednesday night the Young Friends Division of the Museum held a networking event for public relations and marketing professionals with Howard J. Rubenstein, a true pioneer of the PR industry. The reception and remarks were held in Rubenstein’s executive offices and the night started off with a scrumptious reception for attendees where they had the opportunity to mingle with each other and Mr. Rubenstein.

A leader in his own right, Mr. Rubenstein offered the Young Friends some pearls of wisdom about how to be successful in the industry (love what you do, stay positive, and listen to advice – even if you don’t take it). He described several turning points in his career and his “inside baseball” experiences with NY Yankees Owner, George Steinbrenner, who has been a client of Mr. Rubenstein for an astonishing nearly 30 years. Quite remarkable when you think about Mr. Steinbrenner’s history of hiring, firing (and sometimes re-hiring) his executives and staff. Mr. Rubenstein also mentioned that forming relationships with media mogul Rupert Murdoch and former NY Governor Mario Cuomo were life- changing events that opened many doors for him. He stressed that building and maintaining relationships throughout one’s life is important in any business and you never know when a relationship can turn into a business opportunity.

Particularly interesting was Rubenstein’s perspective on how crisis management is of the utmost importance, and how that age-old saying “honesty is the best policy” still holds true. Rubenstein pointed to the recent debacle that Tiger Woods got himself into with numerous allegations of philandering, and his seeming lack of response and inability to “come clean”. Rubenstein told attendees that he always insists on his clients telling him the truth and that no amount of “spin factor” can wash away a tarnished reputation without a bit of fessing up to the deeds done.

Our recent networking event is just one type of program that the Young Friends offer throughout the year. Fun holiday parties, educational events about our latest ground-breaking special exhibits, and more, so check it out! Next up is our Annual Purim Party on February 24th at La Pomme (37 W. 26th Street) and it’s sure to be a festive night, so save the date and come celebrate with us!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. According to the United Nations, which first designated the commemoration in 2005, this year’s theme is “The Legacy of Survival." Their educational initiatives this year emphasize the universal lessons that the survivors will pass on to succeeding generations. With fewer survivors alive to tell their stories, it is of primary importance to share this legacy with people everywhere to encourage respect for diversity and human rights for generations to come.

We invite all to visit the Museum today to remember, reflect, and to learn. We are free with suggested donation this evening from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Cologne Connection

Thomas Ritzerfeld, a graduate of the University of Cologne, has spent December and January interning with the Collections and Exhibition department. Tall, thin, and with a small amount of stubble, Thomas was full of wonder when asked to describe his experience, both here at MJH and in our humble city. “The diversity of the workplace…and the city,” he said without hesitation. “I work with 23-year-olds and survivors of the Holocaust…and I live near Harlem. Here, people take pride.” He is friendly with the guy who sells newspapers and frequents a local bagel place in his neighborhood, noting that in Germany, “bagels are just round bread.”

Thomas worked on a range of projects during his tenure, everything from transcribing Holocaust testimony to translating German papers into English. Utilizing his sports knowledge (his degree is in English and sports), he researched photos taken during the Maccabee Games, and contributed to staff development by teaching a beginning German class. He is grateful to Esther and the staff for “exposing me to as many great experiences as possible.” When not interning, he took “a million” photos, visited other museums, and went on a tour of Jewish Brooklyn. Gallery Educator Talya Gitin was his host for the winter.

Thomas met a former MJH intern in Germany, who happened to be wearing a Yiddish “I Heart NY” t-shirt, and that’s how he was introduced to the Museum of Jewish Heritage. This intern recommended him and it’s only fitting then that Thomas will be succeeded by another Cologne intern he recommended; she starts February 1. On that day, Thomas will start student teaching at a school in Bonn.

Next week, though, Thomas gets to show off the city he loves when his parents visit NYC for the first time. Thomas plans to keep in touch with the Museum via Facebook. “I was a fan before I got here!” he says, and considers Facebook “a living comment book.”

These are just some of Thomas' photos.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What We're Reading Now: The End of the Jews

Those that know me know that I prefer Handel to hip-hop, but I just loved the Museum's book club choice this month: The End of the Jews by Adam Mansbach. The book is so much more than a multi-generational family epic, a look at race, ethnicity, art, love, creation, and hip-hop culture. I can't fully do it justice, so you should read it for yourself and then come hear the author speak at the Museum on February 21 with journalist Joan Morgan.

As you may know, we are very interested in what you think about our book club picks, and we're always looking for suggestions of new books to read.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And the winners are...

It may feel like we do a lot of celebrating on the blog, but life is short, and it is important to celebrate when you can. The Jewish Book Council announced its winners recently, and on the list are names the Museum knows well. Today we congratulate some special National Jewish Book Award Honorees.

The iconic Ruth Gruber earns the 2009 Jewish Book Council Lifetime Achievement Award for her amazing body of work. We love Ruth, and adore the fact that as she continues to receive accolades, she shows no signs of slowing down.

Hasia R. Diner, who joined us last June, received the American Jewish Studies Celebrate 350 Award for We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence
after the Holocaust, 1945‐1962

Sarah Houghteling, who was here last February, was a finalist for the JJ Greenberg Memorial Award for Fiction for Pictures at an Exhibition.

Already gracing the shelves of the Pickman Museum Shop is the grand prize winner: Melvin I. Urofsky, winner of the Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year for his biography, Louis D. Brandeis: A Life.

Mazel Tov to all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What Can We Do For Haiti?

After two days, Mother Nature’s wrath is still unimaginable. The images, the testimony, and the sheer devastation in Haiti have left us at a loss. Many members of the staff have asked how to help. This humanitarian crisis is an opportunity to reflect on tzedakah, a word that means both justice and charity.*(Please see reflection below – I didn’t want to get sidetracked.) From writing out a check to sending a text, the world community is taking action. We encourage all readers to donate to one of the many organizations providing relief to the area. And our thoughts and prayers are with members of our Museum family who themselves have family and friends in Haiti.

The Jewish Community Relations Council has compiled a list of organizations that will send contributions to Haiti. For the more technologically astute reader, the Red Cross is taking $10 donations for its Haiti relief efforts from donors who text "HAITI" to "90999." Wyclef Jean's YĆ©le Haiti charity is asking donors to text “YELE” to 501501 for a $5 donation toward earthquake relief efforts. The donations are added to your cell phone bill.

*And now back to tzedakah. From our friends at My Jewish To Jews today, the term tzedakah connotes giving charitable contributions, but the term originates in another realm. In the Bible, tzedakah means “righteous behavior” and is often paired with “justice.” In Jewish thought and tradition, material support for those in need is not a matter of “charity”--a term that implies generosity beyond what may be expected--but a requirement.

Of course, social and economic realities of 2010 have blurred the lines of who is in need. With government programs in place, does the individual still need to take initiative? Does one focus on assisting needy Jews or helping all in need? And how does one address issues of social injustice and poverty?

These are good questions to ponder when time is not of the essence, but to quote an advertising campaign of days gone by: Just Do It!

The tzedakah box pictured is a gift of Elsie O. Sang in memory of Philip D. Sang. Learn more on our collections site.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Living Artifacts

This post comes to us from Assistant Curator Nadine Shatzkes. On behalf of the Museum, we'd like to wish the artifact lenders a very hearty Mazel Tov!

Periodically some of the artifacts on display in the Core Exhibition of the Museum are temporarily returned to families to be used in celebration of important family rituals and events. On Monday, January 11, staff members from the Department of Collections and Exhibitions deinstalled such a “living artifact.”

A beautiful bris cloth, on loan from the family of Rose Abovitz Takce and Jacob Boltax, has been on display in the Life Cycle case since June 2007. Rose Abovitz Takce embroidered the cloth in Russia in 1904 for the circumcision ceremony of her son David. Her father, Chaim Abovitz, stenciled the Hebrew for her. Her descendants continue to use the cloth upon the birth of sons. It has been removed from display and returned to the family upon the birth of a boy. The textile will return to the Museum for reinstallation after the bris.
*Photo of family member Jason W. Greenspan with the textile at his bris in 1974.

Not Just Lip(per) Service

In my senior year of college, my writing professor was worried. Over the past three years she had trained a small group of fiction writers and poets in the ins and outs of technique and style. But now she had to convince us that we all wouldn't publish the Great American Novel immediately upon graduating and that utilizing our skills in a professional capacity wasn't selling out.  In her senior colloquium, she required attendance at the Purchase College Job and Internship Fair. There I met Rebecca, who introduced me to the Museum of Jewish Heritage's Lipper Internship--the rest is history. My life was so transformed by my experience that I decided I wanted to pursue a career as a museum professional.

After two and a half wonderful years in the MJH Communications department, I was offered a position in Education where I would manage the very same internship that gave me my start: it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I began in November and jumped right in interviewing candidates from across the Northeast. I became more and more excited as I realized each one would bring a unique and important perspective to this program. My colleague Bonnie and I quickly found the best 15 people for the job.

For the past nine days, these brave souls have worked nearly 10 hour days (including Sunday) in an intensive training where they have met with Museum staff, heard testimony from Holocaust survivors, and have learned methods for teaching middle and high school students, both from artifacts in the Museum's collection and from lesson plans. I know from experience how draining--physically, emotionally, and intellectually--this program can be. I understand how it feels to be called upon to present an artifact you have never seen to a group of your peers on the second day of training and the sheer panic that sweeps over you as you think "Already? You want me to do this already?"

In spite of all of this, the Spring 2010 class of Lipper Interns has embraced these challenges with determination, poise, and curiosity. In training sessions, they ask intelligent and thought-provoking questions and work hard to perfect the presentations and tours they will give over the course of the semester. I know that they even work together after their formal lectures and practices to study together and to give one another encouragement and feedback. I have continually been impressed by their insights, compassion, and obvious camaraderie.

Today is their last day of training, and it will be sad not to see them every day. But I am comforted not only in knowing that they will be back here for tours, but that they will educate over 2,000 students about the Holocaust over the course of the semester. This work is not only important, but absolutely crucial; they are in the position to inspire the children they encounter to learn more about injustice and what they can do to make a difference. These incredible interns are now part of the Museum family and, through their actions, are a part of this "living memorial." I am honored that they have chosen to join MJH in its mission and I could not be more proud of all of them.

If you are interested in applying to the Lipper Internship, click here for an application, or contact me for additional information.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What a Deal!

We, at the Museum, want to help you start off your New Year right. Every Sunday in January and February, all those who purchase a ticket to a public program will receive free admission to the galleries. The offer is valid only for the day of the program for which the ticket is purchased.
Come for a concert, discussion, or film, and stay for the day. You'll be glad you did!
* CD cover for the Afro Semitic Experience. They'll be playing at the Museum on Sunday, January 17.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Importance of Memoirs: Q&A with Fanya Gottesfeld Heller

Holocaust survivor and Museum Trustee Fanya Gottesfeld Heller is a generous supporter of Holocaust education. This year, the 11th Annual Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Conference for Educators looks at the use of memoirs and diaries in teaching history. Elizabeth Edelstein, Director of Education, sat down with Fanya to talk about her memoir “Love in a World of Sorrow: A Teenage Girl’s Holocaust Memoirs.”

What motivated you to write your memoir?

We have to appreciate and accept our differences. When we don’t know each other, there is a lack of trust, there is suspicion. This breeds hate and brings intolerance. It is also important to me to leave the message to our children and grandchildren to save them from becoming bystanders or perpetrators. I also wrote it to show that we didn’t go like sheep to the slaughter; to show that we fought even in impossible, treacherous circumstances. I wanted to explain things to my children. My children knew some things about me but not everything. I wanted to explain to them why I did some things when they were growing up and why I didn’t do others. Children of survivors don’t have it easy.

Was there anything unexpected that resulted from writing your memoir?

Originally I didn’t even want to publish the memoir and it ended up I am teaching and loving it. I found out that I have a rapport with teenagers. I was their age during the Holocaust. I feel like if I help even one person, I am doing something worthwhile.

Do you recommend that young people keep journals?

Yes. I kept a journal for a long time. Journals are helpful because you can look back and see things you did, things you wanted to do and didn’t, mistakes you made. It is a way to reflect. It’s also a place to reveal your inner thoughts in a way you can’t do in other places.