Friday, April 30, 2010

Ode to the Anthora and Leslie Buck

Lisa Safier's cup of tea led to her writing today's blog.

A couple of weeks ago I opened the cabinet in the office kitchen to get a cup for tea. Usually the cups are some vague, gray, stippled design. But on this particular day, to my astonished delight, there was a batch of traditional New York City coffee cups—the iconic blue and white Greek motif. I realized that these once ubiquitous cups are now a rare sight in our gentrified Gotham. I took a Greek motif cup to keep next to other mementos on my desk.

Today in The New York Times, I read about the passing of the iconic cup’s designer. His name was Leslie Buck, né Lazslo Büch, a Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He came to New York after the war, changed his name, and with his brother started Premier Cup, manufacturing paper cups. In the 60s, he joined the Sherri cup company, which wanted to gain major stake in the NY paper cup market. Mr. Buck realized that most diners were owned by Greeks and a design that hearkened to the Greek flag would be very appealing. The Anthora (yes, this icon has its own name!) was born. The rest, as they say, is history…Jewish history…American history…and possibly Greek history.

After reading the article, I turned over the memento cup on my desk and smiled…along the bottom inside rim it says Premier Cup.

May Mr. Buck’s memory be a blessing.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Today is National Poem in Your Pocket Day

As National Poetry Month winds down, it seems like a good time to give you an update on the subject of our next upcoming exhibition, A Fire in My Heart: The Story of Hannah Senesh. Known the world over as the author of Eli, Eli, Hannah Senesh came of age as a promising poet in cosmopolitan Budapest. In 1939, she immigrated to the Land of Israel and became a pioneering kibbutznik. In 1943, she volunteered to parachute behind enemy lines to aid Hungary’s embattled Jews, and was executed the following year at the age of 23. Almost immediately, Senesh became a national hero to the fledgling Jewish community in Palestine. Through her diaries, poems, photographs, and few remaining possessions— to be shown at the Museum of Jewish Heritage for the first time—a life extinguished far too soon is revealed.

Roberta Grossman, the filmmaker of Blessed is the Match, the first documentary feature about Hannah Senesh, is creating new films for the exhibition, and Hannah’s nephews David and Eitan Senesh have provided the exhibition team with magnificent artifacts, photos, letters, and journals. The exhibition design is being refined and there is a palpable energy in the air. Whether a member of Education, Public Programs, or Collections and Exhibitions, it is not unusual to hear a colleague relate a new fact or anecdote about Hannah’s life, often while carrying a dog-eared or Post-It noted copy of Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary The First Complete Edition.

In honor of the day, here is Hannah’s poem, Blessed is the Match.

Blessed is the match consumed
in kindling flame
Blessed is the flame that burns
in the secret fastness of the heart.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop
its beating for honor’s sake.
Blessed is the match consumed
in kindling flame.

Written in Sardice, Yugoslavia, May 2, 1944; translated from the Hebrew by Marie Syrkin

Photo courtesy David and Eitan Senesh

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is It May Already?

Things have been a little hectic here lately, but hectic in a good way I am reminded. Just in time for the opening of Project Mah Jongg (opening to the public next Tuesday, May 4), we have launched the website at You might notice that it is a little breezier, a little more light-hearted, and a bit more tongue in cheek than our normal fare. It was great fun to work on, and we’re excited to see how people respond.

We’ve also been populating the Pickman Museum Shop website with all things mah jongg. Be one of the first to buy your very own box of kosher Project Mah Jongg custom fortune cookies. Share in the wisdom of fashion icon Isaac Mizrahi, sex therapist and Trustee Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and our own senior curator for exhibitions Melissa Martens as you nosh on a box between rounds of mah jongg. Each box is $8 and contains 6 cookies.

Our May programs kick off this weekend with the PEN World Voices Festival. There are three different programs on Sunday alone, and our guests will include Ben Okri at 1 p.m., Salman Rushdie and Adam Gopnik (among others) at 2:30 and Ariel Dorfman at 4:30. Louis Begley will be here May 5 to discuss the Dreyfus Affair and kick off our Terrace Talks series, and Ruth Reichl spends Mother’s Day with us talking to Daphne Merkin. Take a look at the whole schedule here, and stay tuned for more updates during our exciting next few months.

Product shot by Trevor Messersmith

Friday, April 16, 2010

Overheard in the Galleries

I was working with a French filmmaker on the second floor today when we ran into a group being led by one of our Lipper interns, Avi. This young man was standing in front of the Jewish Resistance gallery and proceeded to talk about his grandparents. “My grandfather survived Auschwitz,” he said, “and my grandmother lived in the forest with her family – there were about 200 people in her group. They were called partisans.”

He went on to explain other forms of Jewish resistance, but I was focused on how he had explained what happened to his grandparents during the war. It reminded me of the Passover exhortation: “In every generation, each of us should feel as though we ourselves had personally gone forth from Egypt.” He has taken this personal family history and made us feel as connected to it as he is.

Clyde Haberman wrote a great piece in the Times this week discussing the problem of who will tell the survivors’ stories after they are gone. “More and more, though, survivors are not the principal bearers of their own stories,” he wrote. “That responsibility is falling with greater urgency to their children and … to their grandchildren.”

Listening to our Lipper intern speak with such passion I felt confident that these stories will be remembered long after the survivors’ grandchildren have grandchildren, and that, without a doubt, should give us all hope for the future.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

His Grandfather Would Be Proud

This post comes to us from colleague Rachel Weiss, who wants to let us know about a pretty amazing Young Friend, Rob Jordan.

For nearly 10 years the Young Friends of the Museum have hosted a myriad of social, educational, networking, and philanthropic events ranging from our festive, not-to-be-missed Purim and Hanukkah parties, to behind-the-scenes tours of groundbreaking special exhibitions with our curators, and exclusive networking seminars with titans of industry. The Young Friends mission is to preserve Holocaust memory and celebrate Jewish heritage, and increasingly over the last few years the Museum has looked to the Young Friends to help raise funds to support the Museum’s growing outreach and education programs.

We want to give a special shout out to Young Friends Board Member Rob Jordan, who has found the most exciting way yet to raise money for the Museum.

On May 2, Rob will challenge himself by participating in the ultimate seven-mile obstacle course called the Tough Mudder’s Race (, following a friend’s advice to try something this year that scares him. Rob will literally be running through fire pits, hiking up and down mountain terrain, trudging through swamps, scaling walls, and pushing himself to the max all to support the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

For those of us who are not channeling our inner Evel Knievel, Rob’s inspiration speaks for itself:

His grandfather’s yahrzeit is this month, and Rob wanted to honor his grandfather, Saul Jurysta, a Holocaust survivor, by taking part in the most hardcore obstacle course we’ve ever hear of to prove that if his grandfather can survive the horrors of the Holocaust, that he can make it through the ringer at Tough Mudder.

Rob’s goal is to raise $18,000 for the Museum and so far he’s already raised over $6,200. To view Rob’s fundraising webpage or to help him reach his goal by making a donation, go to .

On behalf of the Young Friends Board and the Museum staff – GO ROB! We are rooting for you and know you can make it to the finish line!

Photo of Rob with his cousin Danielle and their granddad Saul.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sunday is Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day

We are approaching the most solemn day of the year at the Museum. This Sunday, April 11 we invite visitors to come to the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust to talk with and learn from Holocaust survivors. Admission is waived on Sunday so that everyone may share this experience. Survivors will be in the galleries from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Hearing their first-hand testimony is inspiring and makes us think about how fortunate we are and how much more work we as a society need to do.

If you can’t make it to the Museum, we will, for the first time ever, be streaming the Annual Gathering of Remembrance (AGR) from Temple Emanu-El. The AGR brings together more than 2,000 people, including survivors, dignitaries, and people of all ages for the city’s largest and oldest Holocaust commemoration. The audio is accessible here at 3 p.m. on Sunday. We’ve never tried something like this before, but Temple Emanu-El streams their services regularly, and we are excited to make the AGR available to so many people, especially since the event became over-subscribed more quickly than usual this year.

Wishing you a meaningful Yom HaShoah.

Taiwan visitors at the Museum last Yom HaShoah. Photo by Melanie Einzig.