Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow Day #2

Yep, it's true. The Museum is closed because of the storm. Here is a shot of the Garden of Stones taken at 10 a.m. Friday. Even though you can't see the Garden for yourself today, check out the "Timekeeper" the next time you're here, and see for yourself how the drifts formed.
Happy Purim!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

After a 6 month HSAPbatical...*

It started with a pile of 100 rainbow colored folders sitting behind my desk in a cardboard box.  
In the past, the High School Apprenticeship Program began for me in July when, as a Department mentor for Communications, I worked with high school students who had been attending after-school seminars at the Museum since February. Now, as a Museum Educator co-managing the program, I would be involved with the program from day one, including choosing the 15 students who would become Apprentices: hence the folders. Each one contained a basic application, a teacher recommendation, and not one, not two, but seven essays. For the mathematically challenged, that’s 100 applications, 100 letters, and 700 essays to read. Though daunting, it became apparent early on that this would not be a tedious task—applicants’ essays were filled with passion, curiosity, insight, and depth. What also became apparent was just how difficult this decision was going to be. How do you begin to choose among such incredible candidates?
After several rounds of reading and interviews, the HSAP class of 2010 emerged. I am beyond thrilled at the eclectic, talented, creative, brilliant, and enthusiastic group we have assembled. They come from all five boroughs and have varied interests, cultural backgrounds, and strengths. They bring a multitude of life experiences. Some students are artists, others sporty. Some have travelled far and wide while others tend to keep it local. Some were born and raised in New York and some are new immigrants who have made the city their home. What is most important, however, is something they all have in common: a desire to learn from the Museum and each other and a willingness to share their own ideas. Their commitment to social justice and Holocaust remembrance is both palpable and powerful.
The snowstorm two weeks ago delayed their first meeting, but they met for their first after-school seminar yesterday. Most of them were introduced for the first time. A few observations about this intrepid bunch—they ask a lot of questions (a great sign), they didn’t finish the copious amounts of pizza we ordered (a bad sign--we’ve mentioned before, we’re eaters here, but I guess it’s nothing we can’t work on), and they were enthralled by the Voices of Liberty in the Keeping History Center.  It will be truly wonderful to see how these 15 will form a cohesive and tight-knit group over the next several months. Stay tuned.
*Many thanks to Abby for coining this term...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2nd Generation Stories at the Museum

In January, the Museum of Jewish Heritage embarked on a storytelling workshop for children of Holocaust survivors. This blog was written by the instructor, Terence P. Mickey.

As a child, I would relentlessly tug on my father’s pant leg and beg him to tell me once again the story of the grey and blue pocked scar on his left shoulder. He’d hem and haw at first, but eventually he’d settle into the story, relishing the details of how his Highland Green 1968 Mustang GT fastback (the identical car from “Bullitt,” with Steve McQueen) hit black ice and flipped, how the driver’s window and windshield blew out, how 1968 was the first year for shoulder seat belts, but neither of my parents had worn them that night, and how my mother shot over the hood, while my father dragged his shoulder along the pavement until a snow bank stopped him. The story of the accident was filled with one dramatic detail after another, but the most surprising and amazing fact he saved for the end, when he said, “And that was your parent’s first date.”

As is often the case, that story answers one question, how my father got his scar, but begs another one: What happened next? Or how on earth did my parents fall in love after that catastrophe? From an early age, I was aware of how my favorite stories deepened mystery as well as sometimes satisfied my curiosity. And throughout my life, I’ve craved well-told stories, which is how I made my way to teach in the MothShop Community Program.

The MothShop Community Program, launched in 1999, specifically offers storytelling workshops to the community at large, focusing on high school-age teens and adults from underserved populations. The workshops teach participants how to use the key elements of narrative to shape their life experiences into well-crafted stories. The mission of MothSHOP is to help uncover, craft, and produce stories that might otherwise have been lost. The stories, as with all Moth stories, are true stories. (Read more about the history of the Moth and its programs.)

While not the Moth's classically underserved population, the 2nd generation is underserved in the sense that their stories of childhood spent in the shadow of the Holocaust have not been widely told. The experience of growing up as a child of survivors has all the essential elements of storytelling: structure, character, moral, humor, suspense, conflict, and resolution. The Museum, working in conjunction with the MothShop Community Program, hopes that through participating in the Moth storytelling workshops, the 2nd generation will learn how to use the key elements of narrative to shape their life experiences into well-crafted stories, and that these stories will then be used in educating future generations about the Holocaust.

For the past five weeks, I’ve been working with two volunteer story coaches to prepare our ten participants to share their stories on March 10th at 6:30 p.m. The hardest part of teaching storytelling is asking your students to be vulnerable since the art form is based on revealing and sharing an intimate part of yourself, but everyone in the group has risen to the challenge.

While all of the participants share the common thread of “Second Generation,” and they relate to one another with similar details from their lives – “We never waited on lines either,” or “We had enough food stockpiled in our cabinets to last us a lifetime” – all of the stories have the stamp of the singular on them. While each story may remember a mother or father, they’re equally revealing of a son or a daughter. We have two more classes before March 10th, and I’m looking forward to the surprises and discoveries we’ll unearth in the meantime.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spring Programs On Sale Now

After this very cold and very snowy winter, aren't you ready for spring? We are, and in our opinion, the programs lined up for this spring are not to be missed. A great concert of songs from the Yiddish and Gaelic traditions performed by Irish chanteuse Susan McKeown and the Klezmatics’ Lorin Sklamberg kicks off the season on March 3.

Later that week meet Gaylen Ross, director of the acclaimed, Killing Kasztner, at the screening of the movie on March 7. A segment of the documentary was filmed here and we are excited to welcome Gaylen back to the Museum.

Get in the mood for Passover with our family program, The Macaroons: Let’s Go Coconuts, on March 14. This rock band for kids, the first on the JDub label, will bring great whimsy and big harmonies to Edmond J. Safra Hall.

Pierre Sauvage, documentary filmmaker and child survivor of the Holocaust, will be here during a retrospective of his work March 17-21. The schedule includes excerpts from a new work in progress, And Crown Thy Good: Varian Fry in Marseille, as well as the award-winning Yiddish: The Mother Tongue. Read a preview by Jewish Week arts writer George Robinson.

Author David Sax and cookbook maven Arthur Schwartz shmooze about David’s book, Save the Deli, on March 24. Sax’s quest to save the endangered deli is an intelligent and humorous look at the world of cured meats piled high on rye, soups laden with schmaltz, and other cholesterol hazards.

All events for March and April can be found here. Buy your tickets now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Red Orchestra Rescheduled

Last Wednesday's program, Red Orchestra: The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler, has been rescheduled. It will take place tomorrow night, Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 6:30 PM. Stefan Roloff, whose father was part of the Red Orchestra, is unable to join us, but author Anne Nelson and Museum curator Bonnie Gurewitsch will be here.

Red Orchestra tells the compelling story of an intrepid band of German artists, intellectuals, and bureaucrats, and their dangerous battle to unveil the brutal secrets of their fascist employers.

Tickets are $5, free for Museum members.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Grab Onto This Tiger

Today's post comes from our Communications colleague Lisa Safier. Thanks, Lisa!

The Jewish and Chinese traditions share a respect for the wisdom of past generations, a fondness for Chinese food, and follow an ancient lunar calendar. Due to the differing cycles of the moon, holidays shift each year to different days and sometimes different weeks. Sound familiar? This year the Chinese community will celebrate its New Year of 4708—The Year of the Tiger—beginning on Sunday, February 14. Celebrations will continue for 15 days and encompass many rituals including eating traditional foods, visits with family and friends, and symbolic parades.

Our friends at the Museum of the Chinese in America on Centre Street in Chinatown have many wonderful events planned, including a walking tour where you can witness how the neighborhood transforms itself in preparation for the New Year, and a family program featuring stories, music, and crafts about the Year of the Tiger. See the complete schedule here.

While you’re in the neighborhood, you might also want to visit The Museum at Eldridge Street, based in the 1887 National Historic Landmark Eldridge Street Synagogue. It presents the culture, history and traditions of the great wave of Jewish immigrants to the Lower East Side drawing parallels with the diverse cultural communities that have settled in America.

We’ll close this entry with the traditional Chinese New Year’s expression: Gung Hay Fat Choy! Congratulations and Be Prosperous!

The photo above was found on Creative Commons.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's A Snow Day After All

The Museum will be closing today at 1:30. The progam tonight with Anne Nelson and Stefan Roloff has been cancelled, and we'll be sure to let you know when it is rescheduled. In my search for news and updates from the city, I stumbled across snow day plans in city parks today from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Tomorrow morning, check our web site or call 646.437.4202 to see what our schedule will be for Thursday.

Happy Winter!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Six Degrees of Separation

Tomorrow night (Feb. 10) is the premiere of the four-part PBS program Faces of America with Henry Gates, Jr. Studying immigration and genetics, Prof. Gates examines the family histories of 12 Americans. We are huge proponents of this kind of pursuit, and welcome all viewers (and readers) to take the process a step further by becoming familiar with JewishGen and our Keeping History Center.

Some filming for the program took place here last fall, which Betsy managed, and we are eager to see how the Museum looks. We also think it is pretty spiffy that Meryl Streep is one of the 12 Americans featured. She is one of the voices of our English language audio tour, along with Itzhak Perlman, and we are huge fans of hers.

If you can’t catch the series on your local PBS station, you can watch it on the PBS website beginning Feb. 11. If you do get a chance to watch, tell us what you think.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Love is in the Air

Readers of the blog may recall that we entertained a wedding proposal here in November. There was another one December 24 between Eli Sinnreich and Elizabeth Konigsberg, and last Wednesday Michael Brandwein (brother of MJH staffer Monica Brandwein) proposed to Meira Faratci.

Michael chose the Keeping History Center as the inspiring location and posted his poetic proposal in the “Dreams” section of the KHC website. The charming poem was a reflection on moments in their relationship and ended with Michael on bended knee, asking Meira, “Will you marry me?” What made this proposal particularly unique to the Museum of Jewish Heritage is the box, or rather boxes, from which the ring emerged.

Meira was presented with a Plexiglas box simulating an artifact case. The artifact itself was a ring box and the label accompanying the artifact was a description of the ring it held inside, how the ring came to be presented to Meira, the day and date. You can see the box in the photo. A piece of candy substitutes for the ring.

I am happy to report that so far we are three for three in this recent spate of Museum marriage proposals. I myself have a certain appreciation of them. I became engaged on Dec. 29, 1992 at the Museum of Modern Art and I am positive that not a single other soul was aware of what was happening. Just as we ask our visitors to look more deeply at objects and possibly learn more about themselves and their world, it might be helpful to look at other people the next time you’re in a Museum (especially ours). You just never know what kind of history you might be witnessing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

YouTube is Not Just for Kittens Playing the Piano

Just when you thought the premiere of Lost was the biggest entertainment news of the day, we are happy to announce the addition of several new videos to the Museum’s YouTube channel. Whether you missed a concert or discussion or want to forward a program you enjoyed to a friend, there is something for everyone.

For instance, before you join your office's Oscar pool, we would particularly like to point out the clip of an interview with Quentin Tarantino at the Museum’s premiere of Inglourious Basterds.


photo of Eli Roth, Melanie Laurent, Tarantino, and our director Dr. David G. Marwell

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reunion at the Museum

This post is from Bonnie Gurewitsch, curator of Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, on view through February 21.

The exhibition, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow, is based partly on initial research of Gabrielle Edgcomb, who wrote a book entitled, From Swastika to Jim Crow: Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, which was later made into a very moving film. As we researched and developed the exhibition, we keenly felt the absence of the author who had passed away, for it was she who discovered this story. But because of the initiative of her daughter, Julie, we recently hosted a large family reunion for about 40 members of the Edgcomb clan, who came to the Museum on December 29 to see the exhibition and to celebrate their family.

The family members came to the Museum from all over the United States. Young and old, representing three generations, some had never met before, and others had not seen each other for 30-40 years. Bringing family trees and photographs of ancestors, they happily exchanged family news and figured out relationships as the group gathered in two classrooms on the first floor.

I welcomed the group to the Museum and described the genesis of the exhibition and introduced Steve Fischler and Joe Sucher, of Pacific Street Films, who made the film based on the book and proposed the exhibition idea to the Museum, and who also made the two new exhibition films. The group then went up to the exhibition gallery, where I guided them through the exhibition. They were joined by Ilona Moradof, associate curator, who took photographs and and answered questions.

The Edgcomb family was touched and moved to see Gabrielle's work brought to life so respectfully and vividly. They were delighted to hear that the exhibition will travel to other venues in the country, and we promised to keep them informed of the travel schedule so they can visit in other locations. Julie Edgcomb wrote in her thank you note to me: “ [I] think my mother would have loved the exhibit - it was just excellent. Many of us had never met each other, and the opportunity you all gave us to connect as a family was unique and extraordinarily meaningful to us… we were cherishing the opportunity to actually see each other."