Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Game is Afoot

Last week, while playing mah jongg in the Project Mah Jongg exhibit during my lunch break, I exclaimed to my colleagues, “I can’t believe I get paid for this!” While we can’t offer visitors a salary just for playing, we are just itching for you to stop by for a pick-up game or a lesson.

Visitors are welcome to play at the game table in the exhibition at any time when it is open to the public. If you don’t have four people in your party, have the visitor services staff give us a call upstairs to see if anyone is free to play.

Scheduled mah jongg pick-up games with a Museum representative will be held every Wednesday through August 26th at 1 p.m. Lessons will be offered at 12 noon on July 28th, and August 25th. A fall schedule for pick-up games and lessons will be posted here toward the end of the summer.

All pick-up games and lessons are free with Museum admission.

Image: the scene of the crime. Photo by Melanie Einzig.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Graduates

The new class of High School Apprentices graduated last Wednesday, and with that came the culmination of four months of seminars, tours, and immersion into Jewish history; the room was alive with energy. The audience of devoted family, teachers, friends, and HSAP Alumni listened to remarks from Ivy Barsky, Elizabeth Edelstein, and Gallery Educator and hidden child Sally Frishberg about what kind of impact these 15 adolescents would make on the world. The Apprentices are trained to give tours to young people all summer, to teach them about Jewish culture and history, while making them feel a part of the Museum.

I’m still kvelling (to feel great pride) over Javier Medina’s speech on behalf of the graduates. I will not excerpt the entire speech, but I will share my favorite part:

On the first floor, there’s an artifact displayed called a huppah. It’s a tent of sorts, decorated with Hebrew writing and symbols. At traditional Jewish weddings, the bride and groom are wed under the huppah, which is usually held up by poles and is open on the sides. The fact that the huppah is open on all sides is meant to show that the couple, united under the Jewish faith, is still open to the world and all its elements.

In a similar way, this museum is a sort of huppah for all of us here. We are united under the cause of continuing the mission of this museum. While doing so, however, we stay open to the different cultures of the world, as many of them can connect to Jewish heritage. For example, there is currently a special exhibition about the Chinese game mah jongg, and how it is a part of Jewish culture. Forging connections like that is one of our primary roles in this museum.

To Javier, Jairo, William, Clarisse, Frederick, Devina, George, Rebecca, Laila, Siddiqa, Dashawn, Mayra, Haja, Oseia, and Okeem I say welcome to the Museum family, and thank you for sharing in our belief that there is hope for our future.

Friday, June 25, 2010

We miss you already M9 and W train!

This Sunday, we say goodbye to our friends the M1, the M9, the M6 (now subsumed by the M5) and our old faithful, the W train. Due to MTA budget cuts, it will be even more challenging to make your way to Lower Manhattan.

On the bright side, the M20, which currently terminates at the Museum, will now continue to South Ferry, where you can pick up the M15, the R, and the 1.

In advance of the mishegas, here are two maps created by the MTA to help us all figure out where we’re going.

Perhaps this is the time to consider the Tao expression: The journey is the reward.

Image courtesy Creative Commons via http://www.onlineuniversities-weblog.com

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Remembrance of Things Past

Today’s blog is by Lisa.

Today the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust welcomed a delegation of staff and interns from the Tribute WTC Visitor Center. The Tribute Center is an institution dedicated to sharing a traumatic period of history through the voices of survivors, family members, eye witnesses, and others who want to bear witness to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Like our Museum, they depend on first-person accounts to convey the significance of this history. Their guide this morning was our Gallery Educator and Holocaust survivor Sol Rosenkranz, who at age 92,works out with a personal trainer and just makes us all smile whenever we see him.

I had the opportunity to visit the Tribute Center last month and found it imbued with humanity and love, and an incredibly profound experience. The Tribute Center offers both gallery tours and walking tours of the World Trade Center site that provide a powerful way to understand the events of 9/11 in context. Our staff has been invited to tour their galleries in August, and I encourage people from everywhere, especially New York City, to visit. Learn more about this important neighbor of ours.

Photo of Sol and our visitors from the Tribute Center by Abby.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Love a Piano

While strolling around Battery Park you may encounter a panda or a wild turkey. We’re now accustomed to such sights, but imagine our surprise at learning that we now have a piano right in the middle of the park. It is part of an art installation by Luke Jerram and the charitable organization Sing for Hope. Some 60 pianos have been scattered throughout the city. The pianos are not just art to be seen, their ivories are meant to be tickled. Passersby are encouraged to play the piano and upload videos photos, and stories about the pianos. After the project all pianos will be donated to schools and community groups.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Taking a Moment to Celebrate

If you watched the Chicago Blackhawks win their Stanley Cup, you know that each player of the team, the coach, and other assorted extras get to skate around the rink hoisting the 34.5lb cup honoring Lord Stanley. In fact, each member of the winning team gets to be in possession of the cup for one day to take it to his hometown or, in the case of Mark Messier, to a “Gentlemen’s Club.”
Alice Rubin wrote about our Muse Award a couple of weeks ago, but last week members of the project team went out to celebrate with the award. I’m pretty sure that this group is not taking the glass plaque to our local “Gentlemen’s Club,” but if you see them with it there, please let us know.

Standing left to right: MJH’s own Allison Farber and Alice Rubin (Alice is holding the actual award); Potion’s Jared Schiffman and Philip Tiongson; between them is Andy Green, sound designer; Jonathan Alger from C&G Partners, and Ivy Barsky (MJH Deputy Director). The celebration took place at Clo, an interactive wine bar at the Time Warner Center with interactivity designed by Jared and Philip. The wine list can be sorted by price, region, varietal, and by tasting notes. It took me more than a few minutes to get the hang of using the pointer, and to me it distracted from valuable wine drinking time, but once I had my glass I enjoyed searching the notes. Did I mention the wine list is projected on to the table in front of you?

If you appreciate interactive design with less alcohol, be sure to check out the award-winning Voices of Liberty. The celebration continues for Potion, which was chosen as a finalist in the National Design Awards Interactive Design category.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics

This Sunday, a group of 15 medical students and 15 law students will embark on what is sure to be a life changing journey. They will be taking part in the inaugural Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics program. FASPE, under the auspices of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, is a groundbreaking two week program that takes place in New York, Berlin, and Poland. During the program, which is facilitated by faculty from Yale, the students explore contemporary ethical issues facing their professions using the Holocaust and the conduct of their professions in Nazi Germany as a framework for study.

FASPE participants will begin orientation at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on June 20. Orientation will include visiting the Museum’s exhibits, meeting with Holocaust survivors, and working with FASPE staff and guest scholars. The first leg of the European portion is in Berlin, where the Fellows will have the opportunity to study the city’s historical and cultural sites. Educational workshops will take place at the House of the Wannsee Conference, the site where, in 1942, representatives of State and Nazi Party agencies convened to discuss and coordinate plans for the “Final Solution” — a group that included nine lawyers. The Fellows then travel to Krakow, Poland, where they will explore the city’s rich Jewish, Catholic, and Polish history. The Fellows will meet with Righteous Among the Nations (rescuers) before departing for Oświęcim, the town the Germans called Auschwitz, where they will tour Auschwitz-Birkenau and work with the distinguished educational staff at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

This summer, a pilot program will be held for seminary and journalism students, and in 2011, FASPE will pilot a program for business students.

We look forward to hearing from the participants when they return. In the meantime, watch a video and read more about FASPE on their website.

*image of the House of the Wannsee Conference

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Summer of Renewal

Today’s blog is written by our colleague Kim Steinle-Super from Public Programs, who makes a darn good case for visiting (and working) at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Every staff member at the Museum has been asked “Isn’t working at a Holocaust museum depressing?” Providing a satisfactory answer is tricky. On one hand, our dedication to the Museum’s mission of remembering the Holocaust is renewed daily. But, while we work to remember the past, we also recognize and commemorate Jewish contributions to culture and society which have aided the healing process and fostered the creation of a vibrant Jewish legacy.

The summer is a season of renewal at MJH and this year we are celebrating Jewish resilience and examining our cultural legacy. A tour of the Museum this season may include a few experiences not typically expected from a Holocaust museum: the clacking of tiles and laughter that resonate through the third floor rotunda as part of the recently opened Project Mah Jongg exhibition, fresh growth on the oak trees in Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones, and optimistically sunny views of the Statue of Liberty while listening to stories of survival and perseverance in Voices of Liberty.

This mood is perhaps best reflected, however, in our upcoming public programs. If you have never been to the Museum, attending a Terrace Talk or joining us in the theater for a summer Film Club screening at the end of your visit is the perfect way to round out an evening and get a taste of how we are working to promote Jewish culture. Our Terrace Talks are a newly expanded summer series of book programs featuring some of the best titles recently published on Jewish history and faith, accompanied by a dialogue with their celebrated authors. With the harbor as dramatic backdrop, Terrace Talks expand on the issues addressed in these books by facilitating an intimate discussion with the author and revitalizing the historical dialogue.

This year we have also introduced an interactive Film Club featuring a range of critically acclaimed, provocative, and even humorous films, including the opening night pick at the New York Jewish Film Festival and a 2010 Academy Award Nominee, among others. After an event, look us up on Facebook to continue the discussion, let us know your thoughts, and tell us how the themes examined in the films relate to your own story. [Editor’s note: Our Film Club sponsors are providing discounts on food, beverages, and entertainment all summer. Just show your stub and receive discounts galore. You don’t need to take advantage the same day you see the movie.]

As we quickly approach the official start to summer, I encourage you to find time to take a look at what the Museum has to offer this season. I am confident that the undeniable optimism felt in our galleries, at our programs, and by our staff will convince you that a beautiful summer day is the perfect time to visit our Museum.

Photo by Keika Shimmyo of our first Terrace Talk on May 5.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Reflections on the Year Just Past

June 10 marks the one year anniversary of the shooting of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. We have been talking about it here in the offices and everyone responds, “Has it been one year already?”

It has been one year since a sanctuary of remembrance was violated in a brutal way.

It has been one year since the family of Officer Johns said goodbye to a husband and a father.

It has been one year since our colleagues first wept for their fallen brother.

It has been one year since we felt vulnerable in our own home.

It has been once year since total strangers flocked to our doors and told us when they heard what happened in Washington, they had to come visit our Museum of Jewish Heritage.

It has been one year since we pledged anew to combat hate and intolerance at every turn.

That day of sadness resonates like few others, but we are comforted by the resilience of the human spirit knowing that our Museum, the Museum in Washington, and all institutions dedicated to Holocaust remembrance continue to teach and engage visitors in a way that honors all victims of hatred.
Our thoughts are with all who knew and loved Officer Johns. May his memory continue to be a blessing.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Celebrating the Land of the Rising Sun

This lovely post is from our colleague Keika.

It seems that summer is a time to celebrate the diverse cultures in New York City. Many of the countries represented here each have a day to celebrate their rich culture and traditions and share it with their fellow New Yorkers. This is one of the many beauties of New York City. This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend Japan Day in Central Park. This year’s celebration also marked the 150th anniversary of the First Japanese Diplomatic Mission to New York. This occasion was commemorated with a Samurai Parade, in honor of the parade 150 years ago, when New Yorkers lined the streets to see a delegation of Japanese diplomats and samurai warriors walk down Broadway for the first time.

Sunday’s event was put together by the Japanese community of New York, and included free samplings of Japanese food, Kabuki face painting, origami and calligraphy lessons, live musical and dance performances, and even a station where you could take a photo with Hello Kitty! But what made this event different from others was the spirit of thanks – the Japanese community of New York wanted to give back and simply say, “Thank You, New York” and “Thank you, America.” Over 50,000 people were in attendance this year, and many were not Japanese. Many came to learn more about Japanese culture, and to see this eagerness to learn about a different culture is something that is unique to New York. This is why institutions such as the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which teach understanding and the celebration of culture, are important.

This event also reminded me of the recent immigration ceremony that took place at the Museum a couple of weeks ago, where 127 people from 47 countries became U.S. citizens. See blog posting here. Witnessing that ceremony not only made me proud and grateful to be a U.S. citizen, it also made me proud of my Japanese heritage.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Interfaith Living Museum 2010

Last Wednesday evening, the Museum’s Education Department hosted the Interfaith Living Museum Exhibition. As Liz Edelstein, director of education, says, “The exhibition is the culminating event of a year of study by communities of four schools – Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan, Al-Ihsan Academy (Queens), Kinneret Day School (Bronx), and the Islamic Leadership School (Bronx).” Liz stresses that she chose to say “communities” rather than students because the learning engaged students, teachers, and parents. “We saw students from the different schools and faiths interacting as friends, we heard them speak knowledgably about their own and their new friends’ artifacts, we saw families engage each other in conversation and get to know one another over dinner, and I think we all experienced a sense of a new, interfaith community having been forged,” she says.

The students brought in artifacts from home and organized them into galleries with their own themes: “Family Roots,” “Holiday Symbols,” “Books from the Past,” “Pictures of the Past,” “Jewelry of the Generations,” “Creative Crafts,” and “Household Ornaments.” Each student/curator discussed his or her artifact with an enthusiastic audience of parents, teachers, friends, and MJH staff.

The catalog features text as well as artifact labels and other descriptions, including some pretty insightful commentary from our Jewish and Muslim students:

From Books from the Past: The story our artifacts tell is of history, and what happened in the past. It is special because we have had a special connection to it. We study history because we don’t want to repeat bad things that have happened.

From Pictures of the Past: All of these artifacts tell us stories about the histories of our families. The things in our past tell us about our similarities and differences.

To this we say Amen and Amin.

Above: Tanima Rahman of the Al-Ihsan Academy and Alex Shinder of the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan show each other prayer books treasured by their respective families. Photo by Elena Olivo.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The News from Poland

Our colleague Shiri Sandler, manager of international programs, is in Poland this week teaching the cadets and mid-shipmen participating in the American Service Academies Program (a program of the Auschwitz Jewish Center). You read about them in the staff blog of May 26. These fine men and women, future military leaders of the United States Air Force, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard, take part in this program to study the Holocaust and discuss how their future choices can have historic consequences. More importantly, perhaps, is that with Shiri as their guide, they walk in the footsteps of those who suffered in the camps, hearing about their experiences and taking in these sites of human destruction.

The group left last Friday, and for those of you who check worldwide weather, it has rained non-stop. In fact, Poland is flooded. Shiri has been in touch regularly and today she described a particular moment that, like the Interfaith Living Museum, reminds us that those who work at the Museum, visit the Museum, and learn from the Museum, have the ability to shape humanity at large.

From Shiri:
“We're on the bus leaving Belzec. Given the state of the roads and the flood water, I'm pleased we made it there at all. It’s raining; it’s been raining with only intermittent breaks for the whole trip. The Sola has more than overflowed its banks and the latrines in Birkenau are filled with water.

At Birkenau, as we always do, we said Kaddish at crematoria five, where I've been told my great grandmother probably died. After, we sang Ani Ma'amin (more on this and my students' startling reaction to it to come when I'm not on my blackberry in a van in the rain). Later that day, one of the Jewish girls suggested that she would have liked to also have said the Lord's Prayer at the crematoria. No one had suggested this before and I liked the idea.

Just now, leaving Belzec in a gray rain, where the stones of the monument look almost hazy and the sky was moving so quickly that it felt that we were outside of time, we said Kaddish together, Jewish and non-Jewish voices alike. Then, one of the Southern boys led us in the Lord's Prayer. As I looked around the group, I watched them bow their heads and heard their voices rise up around me, blocking out the cars and the wind. Christian words, plaintive words, at a Jewish site. And after, the sound of a lone cadet singing "Taps."

I know I always say it’s a human tragedy, but just now, as they prayed in their own language, with their own words, for people who believed in a different god, I felt it - the loss it is for those who aren't tied to it, the common humanity of us all.”

A meaningful thought to end this week.

Photo: Shiri and the cohort of cadets and mid-shipmen at the Auschwitz Jewish Center dinner last week. Photo by Melanie Einzig.

On a Roll

This Sunday is the 10th annual Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Festival on the Lower East Side. The festival, which is run by our friends at the Museum at Eldridge Street, celebrates the cultural contributions and traditions of the Chinese and Eastern European Jewish communities in America. In addition to free performances and presentations by Chinese and Jewish musicians, dancers, folk artists, language teachers, and food presenters, our very own Mah Jongg maven and curator, Melissa Martens will chat about the Project Mah Jongg exhibition. And, of course, there will be kosher egg rolls and egg creams! Join us from 12-4 p.m.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Newest Americans

This is from Lisa, who did a terrific job organizing the immigration ceremony that took place at the Museum last week. It was truly one of the most moving things I've experienced since working at the Museum—and that says a lot. After the ceremony, we invited the new citizens to tour the Museum, especially the Voices of Liberty installation in the Keeping History Center.

Last Thursday, the Museum had the great honor of hosting a citizenship ceremony for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. There were 127 citizen candidates—men and women who ranged in age from 19 to 78 and hailed from 47 countries. It was an incredibly moving experience to see the joy in these people’s faces as they accepted the rights and responsibilities of becoming an American citizen. Hearing the roll call of their countries of origin and then followed by their individual names, you couldn’t help but be proud of the strength and richness of America’s diversity, and that we have more in common than in difference.

Three men in the armed services were among those receiving their citizenship, including Specialist Phong Nguyen who originally comes from Vietnam and is pictured here. After the ceremony, he chose to have a friend take his picture while he stood in front of the Museum’s distinguished menorah. For me, this picture captures the essence of this very special event, the collective pride everyone felt, and the unique mosaic that is America. (Thank you for sharing this photo, Specialist Nguyen.)

Click here to read our Director's remarks on this important occasion.